March 2014 newsletter

Greetings from the IEQ team! This update contains the following four sections:

Editorial Team Updates
Monthly Excerpt
Status of the Current Volume (Volume 2)
Upcoming Events

The IEQ Editorial Team is very pleased to welcome aboard Dr. Joseph Lumbard as Associate Editor. Dr. Lumbard (PhD Yale University, 2003) is Chair of Islamic and Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. His research interests in Islamic intellectual traditions include a special emphasis on Muslim-Jewish and Muslim-Christian relations, Sufism, and Islamic philosophy. He is a translator, contributor, and editor of the forthcoming HarperCollins Study Qur’an (2015), the editor of the 2004 volume Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition, and is completing two monographs on Ahmad al-Ghazali in the broader Persian Sufi tradition.

Earlier this year, the IEQ Editorial Team was very pleased to welcome aboard Hasan Spiker as a Contributing Editor. Spiker grew up in Cambridge, England and is a student of Sayyid Quṣayy Abu al-Siʿd, one of the rare inheritors of the later Ottoman curriculum in its fullness. He is a Hafiz as well as a trained reciter of the Qur’an, and has been studying the Islamic sciences (in particular, traditions of mystical philosophy) for well over a decade. His research with a number of foundations and academic institutions has been mainly focused on aspects of the ʿaqliyyāt (“rational sciences”). He has translated two volumes of Said Nursi’s famous exegesis Risale-i Nur into English, and divides his time between Amman, Jordan and Granada province, Spain.

See more biographical notes of the editorial team (vols. 1 and 2 inclusive).

Each month, this newsletter features a different excerpt of the completed text, in order to give a sense of the texture of the project, the sources engaged, and the work as a whole. This month we feature an excerpt from the Volume 1 entry on Babil (Babel), the ancient Mesopotamian city in present-day Iraq:

Bābil (Babel in English, from Akkadian bāb-ilu, “gate of god”, through Biblical Hebrew Bavel) is considered to be a derivative of balbala, infinitive noun of balbal, meaning confusion, thus named because here the tongues were confounded when the tower built by Nimrūd was destroyed (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:102). Another opinion about the confounding of tongues is that when Allah Most High decided to differentiate the children of Ādam (q.v.) by language, He swept all mankind by wind into the plain that was afterward called Bābil, where they were given their separate languages, and were then scattered again in the same way (see Language and Speech) (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn, sub b-l-l; cf. Genesis 11:5-8). Abū ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-Barr (368-463/978-1070) held that the best account regarding the confounding of languages is the narration from Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), that when Nūḥ (q.v.), upon him peace, landed at the bottom of Mount Jūdiyy (see Ark; Mountains), he founded the city and gave it eighty names. One day their language was confounded into eighty languages, Arabic being one of them; some of them could no longer understand one another (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:102). Elsewhere in his exegesis, al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273) reiterates that it was in Bābil that Nimrūd built his Tower and adds further details: it was 5000 cubits high, 3000 cubits wide, and two farsakh (approximately nine kilometers) long (see Weights and Measures). It is this tower that was destroyed by Allah, either via an earthquake or by a wind as stated in Q 16:26: Those before them devised plans, but Allah destroyed their building from its foundations, so its roof fell down on them from above them, and the chastisement came to them from whence they did not perceive. People’s tongues were confounded into seventy-three languages due to the terror of the day. Until then there had been only one language, identified as the primordial Syriac (suryāni). There is an echo of Genesis 11:5-8 in this explanation, which al-Qurṭubī narrates on the authority of Wahb b. Munabbih (d. ca.111/730) and Muqātil b. Sulaymān (d. 149/767). The latter states that when Nimrūd built a great fire to cast into it the Prophet Ibrāhīm (q.v.), upon him peace, who emerged from it unscathed, the people rushed to inform Nimrūd—but their tongues were confounded, they did not understand each other, and they spoke in seventy different tongues (Muqātil, Tafsīr, sub Q 21:69).

IEQ Volume 2 contains 105 entries, beginning with “Beauty” and ending with “Drowning”, and is scheduled to be completed in Summer 2015. 15 percent of this volume has already been completed, with 65 entries currently in process. To watch the editorial process proceed, see the frequently updated list of available/in process/completed entries of Volume 2.

Earlier this month, the IEQ General Editor visited Regina, Canada, organizing sales at the local mosque. Upcoming events include trips to Ottawa, Chicago, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. Watch our website for details on these events and other updates. As always, your prayers for the project are well-appreciated.

To donate to the project, to support a scholar, or to sponsor an entry, please get in touch (