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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Prof. Dr. Walid Ahmad Saleh

Prof. Dr. Walid Ahmad Saleh

University of Toronto
Islamic Studies
External Senior Fellow
Alexander von Humboldt Fellow
June - August 2020

Room 02 011a
Phone +49 (0) 761-203 97424
Fax +49 (0) 761-203 97451


Professor Walid Saleh is a specialist on the Qur’an and the history of its interpretation. He has published extensively on the Qur’an, Qur’anic exegesis, apocalyptic literature, and mirabilia Islamic literature. He is also a specialist on the reception of the Bible in Islam, and has published extensively on the Bible in Islam. His first book was The Formation of Classical Tafsir Tradition (2004), the second In Defense of the Bible (2008). 

Professor Saleh has written over 30 articles on the history of Qur’anic exegesis. He was the first to write on the gloss (hashiya) in Qur’anic exegesis. He is currently working on a history of the genre that attempts to offer a synthesis of the advances that has occurred in the field in the past 20 years. 

Professor Saleh is also a specialist on Arabic paleography and has edited several medieval texts. He also follows closely the Arabic scholarly literature on the Qur’an and the Qur’anic exegesis tradition. 

Professor Saleh is DAAD alum and studied with the later Professor Albrecht Noth in Hamburg. He is the recipient of Konrad Adenauer Prize from the Humboldt Foundation for the year 2017. He will be working on the history of Qur’anic exegesis while in Freiburg.


Selected Publications

  • “Rereading al-Ṭabarī through al-Māturīdī: New Light on the Third Century Hijrī.” Journal of Qur’anic Studies, vol.18, no.2 (2016): 180 – 209.
  • “A Piecemeal Qur’ān: Furqān and its Meaning in Classical Islam and in Modern Qur’anic Studies.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol.42 (2015): 31 – 71.
  • “The Gloss as Intellectual History: The Ḥāshiyahs on al-Kashshāf.” Oriens, vol.41, no.3-4 (2013): 217 – 259.
  • “Marginalia and the Periphery: A Tunisian Modern Historian and the History of Qur’anic Exegesis.” Numen, vol.58, no.2-3 (2011): 284 – 313.
  • “Preliminary Remarks on the Historiography of Tafsir in Arabic: A History of the Book Approach.” Journal of Qur’anic Studies, vol.12, no.1-2 (2010): 6 – 40


FRIAS Research Project

A History of Qur’anic Exegesis

Of all the major Islamic Studies subfields, the Qur’an commentary tradition (Tafsir) remains a discipline without a historical narrative of its development or a history of the hermeneutical theories that were developed across the centuries. For the past 15 years I have been working incrementally to write such a history. The building blocks of this history are now complete and what is needed is a book-length narrative to frame and present this genre and its development from its inception to the modern period. The book will be both a history of the development of the genre of Qur’an commentary (both classical and modern) and an introduction to the field. More significantly, it will be an analytical intellectual history of the hermeneutical theories developed by Muslim exegetes. The book is based on an extensive survey of the literature of Tafsir (Qur’an commentary), both published and in manuscript collections in the world. 

The book has three different methodological approaches: historical, regional histories, and hermeneutical discussions. The historical analysis will chart where and how the craft of Qur’an commentary developed and who were the major players in this history. The regional approach will highlight the importance of certain centers for the story of Tafsir: Nishapur, Cairo, Tabriz and Istanbul, and then back to Cairo (with the printing age). The book will also have chapters on the theoretical hermeneutical debates, and an analysis of the theories of commentary that were developed by exegetes.