Angelika Neuwirth

The Koran as a Text from Late Antiquity - A European Approach

Angelika Neuwirth
Foto: Angelika Neuwirth

Angelika Neuwirth, born in 1943, has been a Professor of Arabic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin since 1991, in addition to leading the research project Corpus Coranicum – text documentation and historical-critical commentary on the Koran – at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Angelika Neuwirth studied Arabic studies, Semitic studies, and classical philology at the Freie Universität Berlin as well as in Tehran, Göttingen, Jerusalem and Munich. After her postdoctoral qualification as a university lecturer, she worked as a guest professor at the University of Jordan in Amman from 1977 to 1983. From 1994 to 1999, she was the director of the German Oriental Society’s Orient Institute Beirut and Istanbul. Along with numerous essays, her most recently published books are The Koran as a Text from Late Antiquity – a European Approach (Verlag der Weltreligionen, Berlin 2010) and The Koran – First Volume: Early Meccan Suras. Poetic Prophecy. Commentary with translation by Angelika Neuwirth (Verlag der Weltreligionen, Berlin 2011).

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English world rights (Oxford UP)


Is the Koran a purely Islamic text and therefore foreign to predominantly Christian and Jewish cultures? Or rather, is it a new and wilful voice in the chorus of debates on Late Antiquity during which the theological foundations of Judaism and Christianity were also laid?

It is not the Koran that we have to remodel due to the discovery of new scripts or with the aid of linguistic experiments: we have to make significant changes in Western perspectives on the Koran if we want to comprehend its revolutionary recency. Angelika Neuwirth, Director of the research project, Corpus Coranicum, a textual documentation and historical-critical commentary on the Koran at the Berlin-Brandenburg Akademie der Wissenschaften, interprets the Koran as a text of Late Antiquity, an epoch which was also decisive in European cultural history. The Koran can thereby be recognized as a familiar text that could easily form part of “European heritage”, were it not for its division from unbiased perception by ancient prejudices.

With this volume, Angelika Neuwirth opens her long commented edition of the Koran that will be published by the Verlag der Weltreligionen in 2011.


»With Angelika Neuwirth, the Koran has been freed of its late Islamic tradition and the process of its development has become visible […] The achievement of this approach consists of […] re-organizing all the myths and misunderstandings that have crept into interpretations of the Koran over the course of the centuries on the part of Muslims as much as scholars of Islamic studies […] this book will certainly define ongoing Islamic studies and the discussion on the right interpretation of the Koran in the coming years and decades, not only in the West but also in the Islamic world.« Deutschlandradio Kultur

»This book is an invitation to all Occidentals and Orientals who consider Islam as much a European heritage as Christianity and Judaism. « Berliner Zeitung

»This book […] serves to whet our appetite for what will follow, but, as a scholarly tome on its own, it is a major enunciation of a scholarly approach to the Qur’an, unrivalled by any other work that has appeared for probably the past 100 years, at least in its overall scope, analytical depth, unified vision and intellectual rigour. […] Overall, there is no doubt that this book represents an impressive expression of the state of the art in the scholarly study of the Qur’an.« Religion, Andrew Rippin, University of Victoria, Canada © 2011, Andrew Rippin