Suppose our knowledge of the Quran began only recently with the discovery of mysterious scrolls in a desert cave. Suppose there was no Islamic history and no Muslim community to help us understand this book. Is it conceivable, then, that we might mistake it for the central text of a long-vanished apocalyptic community whose ideas about the next world, colorful and extraordinary as they appear, nonetheless make perfect sense in the context of perhaps the most pervasive literary genre of late antiquity, the epic?
How do people understand the Quran to be divine revelation? What is it about this book that inspires such devotion in the reader/believer? Todd Lawson explores how the timeless literary genres of epic and apocalypse bear religious meaning in the Quran, communicating the sense of divine presence, urgency and truth. Grounding his approach in the universal power of story and myth, he provides a unique appreciation of the unparalleled status and unique charisma of the Quran as a religious text and monument of world literature.
`Did James Joyce know the Quran? Todd Lawson brilliantly demonstrates how the Quran anticipates literary modernism as both epic and apocalypse. Its epic voice encompasses a vast temporal and spatial canvas - the cosmos, creation, humanity, time, history - while its chapters, singly and collectively, evoke an apocalyptic musicality. The `end', as Lawson reminds us with lapidary prose unfolding insight upon insight, can be instrumental as well as temporal. The apocalyptic vision of the Quran underscores its true `end': to herald and expedite a just community living in accordance with God's will, enjoying both peace and prosperity. This innovative book charts new ways of reading literary modernism as Quranic commentary on a grand scale...' -- Bruce B. Lawrence, Marcus Family Humanities Professor of Religion Emeritus, Duke University `In this rich and erudite study of the epic and apocalyptic aspects of the text, Lawson adopts and elucidates many of the habits of ancient readers, and the result is a greater appreciation for the Quran's sweeping aesthetic, literary and spiritual grandeur.' -- Kristin Zahra Sands, Professor of Religion, Sarah Lawrence College `Lawson investigates features of the apocalyptic mode...with great insight and critical sensitivity. He provides at once an appreciation of the Quran's literary power and a window into the profound religious experience of the Quran's audience and of early Muslims.' -- Devin Stewart, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Emory University `Infuses the field of Quranic Studies with a breath of fresh air. An engaged academic, Todd Lawson demonstrates through his scholarship the Quran's own self-disclosure as a revelation that is open to all humanity. The avenues of interpretation that the work opens up have the potential to occupy generations. Not only does Lawson's contribution show how both Muslims and non-Muslims can participate meaningfully in reading the Quran, the work is a vivid reminder of a prophetic saying on the virtues of the Quran: its wonders will never cease, and scholars will never be satiated by its study.' -- Mahan Mirza, Professor of the Practice, Contending Modernities, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Keough School of Global Affairs `The Quran, Epic and Apocalypse offers numerous fresh and important insights regarding Islam's most sacred text. Grounded in meticulous analysis of the Quran's religious and literary dimensions, this volume takes an entirely new direction in identifying and studying its epic and apocalyptic qualities. It is a must-read for anyone interested in comparative religious studies, or indeed in cultural and literary history.' -- Sebastian Gunther, Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Gottingen `By attending to the Quran's epic as well as its apocalyptic voice, Todd Lawson proposes to liberate Western readings of Muslim scripture from their current obsessions. It is difficult to imagine a timelier or more necessary scholarly intervention. And when the Quran finally acquires the audience it deserves, i.e., one capable of bracketing theological pre-commitments (pro or con) and appreciating it for the re-visionary work of...literature that it is, Professor Lawson's book will be recognized as a major contribution towards that long overdue cognitive shift.' -- Peter Matthews Wright, Associate Professor and Chair, Colorado College Department of Religion
Todd Lawson is Emeritus Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto. He has taught in the field of Islamic Studies for over forty years and published numerous books and articles in Quranic Studies and related topics. He lives in Montreal.