Canceled: Save the Date for the 'Translating the Qur'an Into English' Lecture Feb. 20

Shawkat Toorawa, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar.
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Shawkat Toorawa, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar.

CANCELED: Due to unexpected circumstances, the lecture by Shawkat Toorawa, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, that had been planned for Feb. 20 is canceled. 



New full translations of the Qur'an into English now appear every year. These (and preceding) translations continue to fall well short in one very important way: they ignore the acoustic qualities of the original — cadence, rhythm, assonance, sound cluster and end rhyme, and accordingly do not explore fully the possibilities afforded by English style, English form and even English type and typography.

In this talk, Toorawa will show how this can be attempted, and possibly achieved, in translations of several Qur'anic chapters, including Joseph (12), the Cave (18), Mary (19), Solace (94) and Sincere Belief (112). In addition to rhyme, rhythm and cadence, Toorawa will demonstrate and showcase the possibilities, advantages and gains of using what he calls storyboarding, nesting, alternation and reiteration.

Sponsors include the Phi Beta Kappa Society, our country's oldest and most prestigious honor society, founded in 1776, and the Visiting Scholars Program, for which the local chapter (Alpha of Arkansas) organizes events. The U of A chapter president Daniel Levine (WLLC/CLST) is coordinating this year's program.

In addition to support from the national office of Phi Beta Kappa and local Phi Beta Kappa chapter, the following six U of A units are co-sponsors of Toorawa's visit: Arabic Program, Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Honors College, King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Religious Studies.

Toorawa is professor of Arabic literature, professor of comparative literature and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at Yale University. Toorawa's book, Ibn Abi Tahir Tayfur and Arabic Writerly Culture (2005), focused on a bookman in ninth-century Baghdad. His edited and co-edited collections include Arabic Literary Culture, 500-925 (2005); The Western Indian Ocean: Essays on Islands and Islanders (2007); Islam: A Short Guide to the Faith (2011); The City That Never Sleeps: Poems of New York (2015); The Hajj: Pilgrimage in Islam (2016); and Anglophone Muslim Women Writing (2021). In preparation is the Edinburgh Companion to Qur'anic Literary Studies. His translations include A Time Between Ashes and Roses: Poems (2004) by the contemporary Arab poet Adonis, and Consorts of the Caliphs: Women and the Court of Baghdad (2015) by the 13th-century historian Ibn al-Sa'i.

Forthcoming is The Devotional Qur'an: Surahs and Passages from the Heart of Islam. For the past decade, Toorawa has been co-executive editor of the Library of Arabic Literature, an initiative to edit and translate significant texts of the pre-modern Arabic literary heritage (NYU Press).


For further information, contact professor D.B. Levine, Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures, at


Daniel B. Levine, University Professor
Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures


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