The Koran – al-Qurʾān
The Koran – in more technical publications also written Quran or Qurʾān – is a religious text from the Late Antique Middle East, written in a special variety of the Arabic branch of the Semitic languages, the so-called Arabiyya. Since the 7th century AD it has come to be regarded as the “holy book” of the religion of Islam. The text is known from a small number of manuscripts dated to the 7th and 8th centuries AD, and from a large number of manuscripts dated to later centuries. It is also, crucially, preserved in a particularly resilient oral tradition, a tradition which arguably is as ancient as the manuscript tradition, and in some respects probably older.
The Koran is a famous book. It is also a controversial book – an object of high reverence by some, and outright hate by others. For the organisers of this seminar, the Koran is first and foremost an ancient text and a valuable document from an extremely interesting historical period. Both the historical context of the Koranic text itself, and the later impact of the text as a holy text for a community of believers, is a truly fascinating story and a story which ought to be common knowledge amongst believers and non-believers alike – no less so in this divisive day and age.