Reciting in the Early Islamic Empire (7ᵗʰ‒9ᵗʰ centuries)

Third IDEO Conference in Cairo (and on Zoom)

icon-calendar October 16ᵗʰ‒18ᵗʰ, 2020

Keynote Speaker: Prof. Devin J. Stewart, Emory University (Atlanta)

Scientific coordination: Anne-Sylvie Boisliveau (IDEO, Strasbourg) & Asma Hilali (Lille)

The questions raised by the topic of recitation are many and sometimes difficult to define, as Devin Stewart summed up perfectly in his concluding remarks. The first difficulty is methodological: we are talking about a fundamentally oral phenomenon of which we are looking for traces in written texts. The different contributions showed the diversity of the existing material:  lapidary inscriptions, ostraca, papyri and manuscripts. The information concerning recitation is either contained in more or less codified marginal or interlinear notes, or to be deducted from the verbs used to describe the way in which the content of the text is transmitted.

More fundamentally, the topic of recitation forces us to reconsider the definition of what a text is. The case of the homily is paroxysmal: learned by heart from possibly written notes, then pronounced with more or less loyalty to the initial project, taken in notes by some listeners during or after the hearing, then written by a professional author according to established literary canons, then put into circulation in a version that may be reread by the person who delivered it. In this case, what is the “text” of this homily? The Coptic Eucharistic prayers, after having been required to be improvised for a long time, stabilized under the influence of linguistic changes and dogmatic quarrels. The text of the Qurʾān developed and stabilized at the same time as it was disseminated, both in written and oral forms.  In other later cases, the transmission of some texts maintained the illusion of an oral transmission, through reading or reciting, while the actual process happened entirely through in written form.

Unfortunately, the online format did not allow us to make place for recitation in Zoroastrianism, Judaism or in Byzantium. One issue that could not be discussed either was the power of the recited words. The recited proclamation of a text has a different impact from its reading, public or private. Can this impact be studied? More generally, what are the aims of recitation? Teaching, transmission, piety, aesthetics, acquisition of good deeds, reinforcement of the authority of the text by the dramatization of its recitation?

All these questions will be the topic of MIDEO 37 (2022). The deadline for sending your contributions is February 1st, 2021. Please click here for more details…

A sparkle in the debate about the word ʾāmīn

Jean Druel, “A sparkle in the debate about the word ʾāmīn used in supplication and its rules in Arabic, by ʾAbū Muḥammad Ibn al-Ḫaššāb (d. 567/1172), an annotated translation”, in Beata Sheyhatovitch & Almog Kasher (editors), From Sībawayhi to ʾAḥmad Ḥasan al-Zayyāt: New angles on the Arabic linguistic tradition, Leiden & Boston: Brill, pages 123‒140.

How to talk about Islam in a Catholic newspaper?

Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner

Journalist at La Croix

icon-calendar Sunday February 16ᵗʰ, 2020


We asked Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, who was in charge of the section on Islam for several years at the newspaper La Croix, to reflect on her experience. Knowing practically nothing about Islam when she accepted that position, she embarked on the adventure to cover both the Islamic-Christian dialogue and Islam in France. Through meetings and many field visits, she built for herself a comprehensive address book (the large Islamic associations, mosques and cultural centers, Muslims or non-Muslim thinkers and Islamic Scholars, believers and sceptics) and she developed for herself a course of action: to deal separately with Islam and Islamic-Christian dialogue, to take seriously the religious motivations behind the violence sometimes committed in the name of Islam, to talk about the Eastern Christians of the East without pinning what they experiment in the East on the situation in France, not to give a voice to those who use verbal abuse on social networks.

The constructive and nonviolent management of religious pluralism is certainly an issue as important as the global warming today. Catholics have a role to play in this field because they know what it means to believe and they can understand what is a faithful rationality confronted to the questions posed by the contemporary world.

A first reading of Le Coran des historiens (Cerf, 2019)

Adrien de Jarmy

PhD candidate at Sorbonne Université, IDEO/IFAO Fellow

icon-calendar Tuesday February 11ᵗʰ, 2020

While the classical Muslim exegetical tradition considers the Qurʾān as a starting point, and focuses on clarifying its obscure points by referring to the life of the Prophet and His sayings, the contemporary tendency of many researchers in the West is to consider it as a point of arrival. In other words the Qurʾān is the product of Late Antiquity, which collects previous religious, philosophical and cultural traditions. A third tendency is to study the Qurʾān alone, outside of its Late Antique context and outside of the Islamic tradition.

This Coran des historiens chooses the second approach, that of the context of Late Antiquity, excluding the studies of researchers such as Jacqueline Chabbi or Michel Cuypers who study the Qurʾān for its own sake, or the school of Angelika Neuwirth who does not reject the Islamic tradition as a source of interpretation of the text.

The point of view of Guillaume Dye, one of the two editors of the book, is that the Qurʾān is a complicated, composite text, neither the work of a single man, nor a closed book, but an open collection that builds up gradually in discussion with this Late Antiquity context. Contrary to the Islamic hagiography which gives the Caliph ʿUṯmān (d. 35/656) the role of editor of the text in its final consonantical version, Guillaume Dye identifies the reign of the Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Mālik (d. 86/705) as the political and cultural context that most influenced the text.

The Coran des historiens consists of one volume of twenty historical studies and two volumes of a systematic analysis of the entire Qurʾānic text. It is an essential tool for researchers and readers of the Qurʾān, regardless of their approaches and beliefs.



We organise seminars and conferences:

  1. A public seminar, devoted to the Classical Arab-Muslim culture. About two sessions monthly, either in Arabic, or French or English. Free of charge and open to all. Subscribe here to receive the invitations. Click here to read the reports of the previous sessions.
  2. The Massignon Seminar, a research seminar for the members of the Institute.
  3. International conferences, in Cairo or elsewhere, whose proceedings are published in MIDEO. Click here to read the reports of these conferences.
  4. Since 2018, IDEO is also co-organizer of the monthly series of conferences “Midan Mounira”, alongside with the French Institute of Egypt, the CEDEJ and the IFAO. Click here to see the reports of the sessions proposed by IDEO.