The Exceptional Qurʾān: Flexible and Exceptive Rhetoric in Islam’s Holy Book is a synchronic, theoretical study of the Qurʾānic complex of exception and flexibility. Through analyses of central rhetorical devices, including direct exceptions, recurring standardized arguments with a dispensatory aim, and modifying hypotheticals within the Qurʾān’s legal discourse, the author argues that this complex seems to be – if not entirely unique – articulated in a new and deliberate manner as compared to previous scriptures such as the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: The Qurʾān continuously negotiates a balance between strictness and leniency, between principle and dispensation. Joining its philological and semantic results with the system theoretical framework of American anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport, The Exceptional Qurʾān furthermore considers how such rhetorical strategies contributed to the persistence and long-term durability of the Qurʾān as a system, becoming the successful founding document of a religious community and discursive tradition.
“Dr. Christiansen’s excellent study offers an unusual but highly revealing window on to the Qurʾān. The Exceptional Qurʾān shows convincingly how the Qurʾān, theorized as a living, adaptive system, makes use of exceptions as a strategy for responding to its environment. Her investigation ranges across Qurʾānic vocabulary processes, and dynamics, and offers a sophisticated theoretical lens for thinking about the Qurʾān as a text and also about the ways it functioned in its original social setting.”
- Dr. Joseph E. Lowry, University of Pennsylvania
“The Exceptional Qurʾān strikes a rare balance between fine-grained philological scholarship and bold theoretical endeavour. The author, Johanne Louise Christiansen, demonstrates that the Qurʾān has been misrepresented as the binary, dichotomous text par excellence. Subsequently, she reveals that the Qurʾān employs an ‘exceptional’ rhetoric that allows for legal and ethical flexibility in a stream of discourse that also aims to signal strictness and timeless principles. This work is a great contribution to Qurʾānic studies.”
- Dr. Thomas Hoffmann, University of Copenhagen