New Books in Islamic Studies Interview: Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar

I recently spoke with Kristian Petersen at New Books in Islamic Studies about my book Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar. NBnIslamicStudiesOur conversation is now available online here. It was a great opportunity for me to go over the book once more and I’m very glad to have been included in this excellent series. Looking forward to the many other forthcoming conversations coming down the line.

Journal of Sufi Studies: Al-Qushayrī and His Legacy


Journal of Sufi Studies 2.1 (2013)
Special Issue: Al-Qushayrī and His Legacy

In early 2010 Matthew Ingalls (University of Puget Sound) and I imagined a scholarly panel dedicated to the study of Abū l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072) and the legacy that he left behind that would appear at the American Academy of Religion. We contacted fellow scholars in the field and were able to convene such a session for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), which met that year in Atlanta, Georgia.  Afterwards we worked with Erik Ohlander, the Executive Editor of the Journal of Sufi Studies, to have these papers considered for a special issue of the journal. Following some years of work that issue has finally come to fruition. The special issue now features the revised and expanded versions of the papers first presented at the AAR as well as an introduction co-authored by Ingalls and myself.

More information on my article, which deals with the manuscripts possibly related to al-Qushayrī’s Major Qur’an Commentary, can now be found on the project page for al-Tafsīr al-kabīr.

The articles included in the JSS special issue on “Al-Qushayrī and His Legacy” are as follows:

Martin Nguyen and Matthew Ingalls, “Introduction: Al-Qushayrī and His Legacy” (p. 1-6)
Kristin Zahra Sands, “On the Subtleties of Method and Style in the Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt of al-Qushayrī” (p. 7-16)
Martin Nguyen, “Al-Tafsīr al-kabīr: An Investigation of al-Qushayrī’s Major Qur’an Commentary” (p. 17-45)
Francesco Chiabotti, “The Spiritual and Physical Progeny of ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī: A Preliminary Study in Abū Naṣr al-Qushayrī’s (d. 514/1120) Kitāb al-Shawāhid wa-l-amthāl” (p. 46-77)
Alan Godlas, “Influences of al-Qushayrī’s Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt on Sufi Qur’anic Commentaries, Particularly Rūzbihān al-Baqlī’s ʿArāʾis al-bayān and the Kubrawi al-Taʾwīlāt al-najmiyya” (p. 78-92)
Matthew Ingalls, “Recasting al-Qushayrī’s Risāla in Fifteenth-Century Egypt” (p. 93-120)

The other articles in the special issue of the Journal of Sufi Studies may be accessed here.

A Study on the Disconnected Letters of the Qur’an

An article of mine has just been published in the Journal of Qur’anic Studies. In it, I explore the problematic history of Western scholarship on the meaning of “the disconnected letters” (al-ḥurūf al-muqaṭṭa’a) of the Qur’an before turning to the multitude of interpretations that have appeared across the historical Sunni tradition.

I first conceived of the study during my initial dissertation research on al-Qushayrī and his commentary of the Qur’an, Laṭā’if al-ishārāt. Once, I completed that work I immediately resumed my investigation of the disconnected letters and eventually produced the present study. Two acknowledgements, which are regrettably absent from the published version of the article, are in order. First, I presented an earlier version of this work at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and would like to thank my colleagues in attendance for their helpful advice and insights. Second, I shared this piece again in a departmental seminar at Fairfield University where I benefited immensely from the inquiries and comments of my fellow faculty members.

Further details of the study can be found on The Disconnected Letters project page. The article appears in the Journal of Qur’anic Studies, vol. 14 no. 2 (2012), pp. 1-28. A copy of the article can also be accessed here.

Book: Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar

Several copies of my new book Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar: Abū’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī and the Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt arrived today at the office. This work, which has evolved over the years from an idea into a prospectus into a dissertation into a book, is finally in print. I am indebted to many colleagues and friends for their help and support in composing this work. My thanks to you all.

Sufi Master and Qur'an Scholar by Martin Nguyen

While I knew how the book would appear well before it arrived (it is a handsome tome), I was unaware of the readers’ comments that would appear printed on back. They read:

“The detailed analyses and the vast cumulative data presented in Nguyen’s work have produced a fresh, original, thorough and well-articulated book. It has the potential to become one of the main textbooks in the study of Sufism as well as, more generally, in the fields of hermeneutics and medieval Muslim culture.”
-Sara Sviri, Department of Arabic and Department of Comparative Religions, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“This excellent book is the first in-depth study in English of one of the monuments of Sufi Qur’an commentary, the Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt of Abū’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī. Clearly written and well-annotated throughout, this timely study brings to light some important and hitherto unexplored aspects of the celebrated Sufi theologian of Nishapur.”
-Annabel Keeler, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

The praise is generous and undeserved, but heartening nonetheless.

The book has been published by Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies. My experience working with them has been absolutely superb. For more information on the book, including availability, please visit my Lata’if al-ishārāt project page on this site.