A book like this cannot come about without the support of many talented people and generous institutions, and it is a pleasure to take the opportunity here to express my thanks for that support.
The idea of a literary introduction to the Qurʾan started some years ago with a suggestion by Rick Todhunter. I sharpened the concept of a chronological reading of the Qurʾan in a course taught over several years, with stimulating feedback from my students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Among my research assistants, Aya Okawa contributed brilliant charts of Qurʾanic chronology, and Brannon Ingram worked ably to obtain permission for illustrations. Several colleagues and graduate students provided astute criticisms of earlier drafts; many thanks to Bruce B. Lawrence of Duke University, Peter Wright of Colorado College (whose UNC dissertation opened a stimulating window on the rhetoric of the Qurʾan), Timur Yuskaev of Hartford Seminary, and Tehsin Thaver of UNC for their helpful comments. Zafar Ishaq Ansari of the International Islamic University (Islamabad) made important critical observations at an early stage. Azizan Baharuddin of the University of Malaya and her colleagues gave a generous reception to materials from chapter 4. Two anonymous readers for UNC Press made helpful suggestions for improving the argument. I appreciate all these readers’ comments, and if I have not always followed them, any defects in this presentation are entirely my own responsibility.
My editor at UNC Press, Elaine Maisner, has been incredibly patient and supportive of this project. Thanks to her and all the hard-working staff at the press, who set the standard for quality academic publishing. I would also like to thank Raymond Farrin of the American University of Kuwait for kindly sharing with me the proofs of his forthcoming study of early Arabic