Nicolai Sinai


Professor of Islamic Studies; Fellow of Pembroke College

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute / Pembroke College


Research Interests:

  • The literary and intertextual study of the Qur’an
  • Islamic exegesis of the Qur’an and scriptural hermeneutics in general
  • Philosophy and theology in the Islamic world

Courses Taught:

– FHS Islamic Religion (together with Christopher Melchert).

– Additional Arabic: Islamic texts (for students of Arabic as a subsidiary language).

– Introduction to Islamic studies for 1st year MPhil students (together with Christopher Melchert).

– Various undergraduate and graduate options on the Qur'an, Qur'anic exegesis, and the history of philosophy and theology in the Islamic world.

Recent Publications:

(Downloads of some of the following publications are available at


Articles, book chapters, review essays etc.:

  • "Qurʾānic Self-Referentiality as a Strategy of Self-Authorization”, in Self-Referentiality in the Qurʾān, edited by Stefan Wild, Wiesbaden 2006, pp. 103–134.
  • “Orientalism, Authorship, and the Onset of Revelation: Abraham Geiger and Theodor Nöldeke on Muhammad and the Qurʾān”, in “Im vollen Licht der Geschichte”: Die Wissenschaft des Judentums und die Anfänge der kritischen Koranforschung, edited by Dirk Hartwig et al., Würzburg 2008, pp. 145–155.
  • "The Qurʾan as Process", in The Qurʾān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu, edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx, Leiden 2010, pp. 407–439.
  • "Spinoza and Beyond: Some Reflections on Historical-Critical Methodology", in Kritische Religionsphilosophie: Eine Gedenkschrift für Friedrich Niewöhner, edited by Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann and Georges Tamer, Berlin 2010, pp. 193–214.
  • "Die klassische islamische Koranexegese: Eine Annäherung", Theologische Literaturzeitung 136 (2011), pp. 123–134.
  • "An Interpretation of Sūrat al-Najm (Q. 53)", Journal of Qur'anic Studies 13 (2011), pp. 1–28.
  • "Religious Poetry from the Quranic Milieu: Umayya b. Abī  l-Ṣalt on the Fate of the Thamūd", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 74 (2011), pp. 397–416.
  • "Hisham Djait über die 'Geschichtlichkeit der Verkündigung Muḥammads'", Der Islam 86 (2011), pp. 30–43.
  • "'Weihnachten im Koran' oder 'Nacht der Bestimmung'? Eine Deutung von Sure 97”, Der Islam 88 (2012), pp. 11–32.
  • "When Did the Consonantal Skeleton of the Quran Reach Closure?", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 77 (2014), pp. 273–292 and 509–521.
  • "The Qur'anic Commentary of Muqātil b. Sulaymān and the Evolution of Early Tafsīr Literature", in Tafsīr and Islamic Intellectual History: Exploring the Boundaries of a Genre, edited by Andreas Görke and Johanna Pink, Oxford 2014, pp. 113–143.
  • "Gottes Wort und menschliche Deutung: Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von islamischer Schriftauslegung und historischer Kritik", in Deutung des Wortes – Deutung der Welt im Gespräch zwischen Islam und Christentum (Beiheft zur Berliner Theologischen Zeitschrift), edited by Andreas Feldtkeller and Notger Slenczka, Leipzig 2015, pp. 151–171 (available here).
  • "Historical-Critical Readings of Abrahamic Scriptures", in The Oxford Handbook of the Abrahamic Religions, edited by Adam Silverstein and Guy Stroumsa, Oxford 2015, pp. 209–225.
  • "Al-Suhrawardī on Mirror Vision and Suspended Images (muthul muʿallaqa)", Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 25 (2015), pp. 279–297.
  • "Der Koran", in Islam: Einheit und Vielfalt einer Weltreligion, edited by Rainer Brunner, Stuttgart 2016, pp. 132–166 (available here).
  • "Al-Suhrawardī’s Philosophy of Illumination and al-Ghazālī", Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 98 (2016), pp. 272–301.
  • "Reading Sūrat al-Anʿām with Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā and Sayyid Quṭb", in Reclaiming Islamic Tradition: Modern Interpretations of the Classical Heritage, edited by Elisabeth Kendall and Ahmad Khan, Edinburgh 2016, pp. 136–159.
  • "Inheriting Egypt: The Israelites and the Exodus in the Meccan Qurʾān", in Islamic Studies Today: Essays in Honor of Andrew Rippin, edited by Majid Daneshgar and Walid Saleh, Leiden 2016, pp. 198–214.
  • "The Unknown Known: Some Groundwork for Interpreting the Medinan Qur'an", Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph 66 (2015–2016), pp. 47–96 (available here).
  • (with Helmer Ringgren) "Qurʾān",
  • (with W. Montgomery Watt) “Muhammad”,
  • "Going Round in Circles", review essay on Michel Cuypers, The Composition of the Qur’an: Rhetorical Analysis, and Raymond Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation: A Study of Symmetry and Coherence in Islam’s Holy Text, Journal of Qur’anic Studies 19 (2017), pp. 106–122 (author's manuscript available here).
  • “Processes of Literary Growth and Editorial Expansion in Two Medinan Surahs”, in Islam and its Past: Jahiliyya, Late Antiquity, and the Qur’an, edited by Carol Bakhos and Michael Cook, Oxford 2017, pp. 69–119.
  • “The Qurān”, in Routledge Handbook on Early Islam, edited by Herbert Berg, Abingdon and New York 2017, pp. 9–24.
  • “Die arabisch-persische Philosophie bis zur Mongolenzeit (13. Jh.)”, in Handbuch der Iranistik, vol. 2, edited by Ludwig Paul, Wiesbaden 2017, pp. 462–470.
  • "The Eschatological Kerygma of the Early Qur’an", in Apocalypticism and Eschatology in Late Antiquity: Encounters in the Abrahamic Religions, 6th-8th Centuries, edited by Hagit Amirav, Emmanouela Grypeou, and Guy Stroumsa, Leuven 2017, pp. 219–266 (uncorrected typescript available here).
  • “Two Types of Inner-Qur’anic Interpretation”, in Exegetical Crossroads: Understanding Scripture in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Pre-Modern Orient, edited by Georges Tamer et al., Berlin 2018, pp. 253–288.
  • “Muhammad as an Episcopal Figure”, Arabica 65 (2018), pp. 1–30.

Co-edited volume:

  • Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx (eds.), The Qurʾān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu, Leiden 2010.

Further Info:

Chair of Programming Committee and member of Publications and Research Committee, International Qur'anic Studies Association (

Introducing the Qur'an (series of four brief talks introducing central aspects of current research dealing with the historical context and literary character of the Islamic scripture).

Photograph of Nicolai Sinai
List of site pages