Nicolai Sinai


Professor of Islamic Studies; Fellow of Pembroke College

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute / Pembroke College


Research Interests:

  • Literary aspects of the Qur’an
  • The Qur'an's engagement with earlier Jewish, Christian, and ancient Arabian traditions
  • Islamic scriptural exegesis 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.

Audiovisual content:

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).

Further info:

Co-editor, Journal of the International Qur'anic Studies Association (from issue 3 onwards).

Member of Programming Committee and Publications and Research Committee, International Qur'anic Studies Association.

Photograph of Nicolai Sinai
List of site pages