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Did the Qur'an sound different to its first auditors than it does now?

Clare Wilde is the latest Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
06 March 2015
dr. Clare Wilde
dr. Clare Wilde

Clare Wilde arrived in Groningen several weeks ago, upon completion of her obligations at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The American Qur'an expert and church historian is the latest Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, starting as per February 2015. She was hired as a specialist in Islamic Origins, in the Department of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Origins. Welcome, Clare!

Congenial atmosphere

Her first impressions of the city and the faculty are very positive: “I have been struck by the vibrant feel of Groningen as a student city, and also the helpful and warm atmosphere - from shop keepers to university personnel. In the city itself, the markets, beer, cheese, parks, canals and bells all contribute to this very congenial atmosphere… But also the faculty has been incredibly welcoming. Both lecturers and students seem to be both very engaged with their work, while also enjoying a good 'work-life' balance. And, while I am accustomed to seeing bikes used for sport, I am not yet used to seeing commuter traffic on bicycles!”

Rosalind Franklin Fellowship

The Rosalind Franklin Fellowship has been initiated by the RUG as a financial instrument to promote the advancement of talented international researchers at the highest levels of the institution. The ambitious programme has been running since 2007 and has, ‘RUG-wide’, financed over seventy fellows already. The RFF programme attracts the best researchers from all over the world to perform research in their own field of research. The Rosalind Franklin Fellowship concerns a tenure track position, which implies that it leads to a full professorship, if the fellow meets the requirements.


Clare brings her own specific package of expertise and research to Groningen. Her research interests lie at the intersection of Qur'anic and Late Antique Studies. She has studied Religious Studies at Princeton, Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam in Rome and obtained her PhD in Church History (Syriac, Arabic and Latin traditions) from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. A subsidiary interest of Clare regards the reception history of the Qur'an - in both Islamic and Christian traditions.

How did the Qur'an sound to its first auditors?

Clare: “I am fascinated by questions like: How can we hear the Qur'an as its first auditors did? What languages, or prophetic narratives, or history, do we need to know to understand this Arabic recitation as its first audience did? Even if it is possible to hear the Qur'an as its first auditors did, do people today 'need' to know how the Qur'an was first understood? For, much like Renaissance artists depicting biblical scenes with landscapes familiar from their own surroundings, contemporary concerns inform modern readings of the Qur'an.”

Understanding of the Qur'an

“As a Rosalind Franklin Fellow, I hope to help foster dialogue with colleagues at the university and beyond about the contemporary relevance of a nuanced understanding of the Qur'an - from seventh century (CE) Arabia to its reception and interpretation, by different communities, over the centuries. I look forward to developing courses, arranging conferences and public lectures, and engaging with student groups interested in topics relating to Islam in the Netherlands and the world.”


Clare is especially looking forward to teaching classes and collaborating with colleagues. And, other than that, she looks forward to exploring the area around Groningen: “Yes, I am keen to visit the Frisian Islands (Waddeneilanden) together with my partner. We are really curious how wadlopen compares to exploring the New Zealand wilderness!”

Last modified:25 July 2023 1.04 p.m.
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