Suggested Interpretive Exercises
Engaged readers, whether on their own, in a class, or in a reading or discussion group, may wish to undertake some interpretive exercises to advance their understanding of the Qurʾan as a text. Appendix A offers a detailed outline of the structure of the Meccan suras according to Neuwirth’s analysis, with suggestions for reading the structure of these suras in terms of the chronological unfolding of the Qurʾan. Appendix B presents summaries of the ring structures present in suras 2 and 5. It is always recommended that more than one translation be used and that outlines of each sura be made while reading, noting repeated terms and formulas as a guide to the structure of the text. Some additional suggestions for activities are provided below.
In a course or in a discussion group, participants can adopt or become the guardian of one or more suras of the Qurʾan. This means the participant takes responsibility for understanding the text of a particular sura, its literary and historical context, and perhaps something about its interpretive tradition. To make this more interesting, in a follow-up exercise, a participant may decide to adopt one Meccan sura and one Medinan sura and then be responsible for comparing and contrasting the two. Out of fairness, instructors or discussion leaders who adopt this activity will probably want to assign suras randomly, excluding the shortest and longest suras to make sure that everyone has a text of at least 10 or 12 verses but not over 100 (thanks to Bruce Lawrence for this suggestion).