The Qur’ān and its Disbelievers

According to the majority Muslim scholarly opinion, the first revelation of the Qurʾān occurred when the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, was in retreat at the cave of Ḥirāʾ, some fifteen kilometers from the Kaʿba, the ancient House of God rebuilt by the Prophets Ibrāhīm and his son Ismaʿīl, upon them peace, approximately twenty-five hundred years prior to this event; the last verses of the Qurʾān were revealed in 632, a few days before the death of the Prophet in Madina, the oasis town to which he had migrated in 622.

During the twenty-three year period of the revelation of the Qurʾān and ever since then, it has drawn two fundamental responses: (i) belief in its heavenly origin, which simultaneously entails belief in the veracity of the Messenger to whom it was revealed, and (ii) disbelief in its self-referential claim to be the actual Speech of Allah Most High and consequently denial of the Prophethood of Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace. This article explores, in brief, various aspects of the second response in three categories of works: (i) polemical works on the Qurʾān; (ii) works by the Orientalists; and (iii) the contemporary academic studies of the Qurʾān that are based on an implicit or explicit disbelief in its Divine authorship. The article also seeks to explore inherent connections between these three categories and provides historical background to their emergence.

Keywords: The Qurʾān and its disbelievers; Jewish and Christian responses to the Qurʾān; Polemical works on the Qurʾān; Orientalism; neo-Orientalism; the Qurʾān and Orientalism; teaching of Islam in the Academy; academic discourse on the Qurʾān.