The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is pleased to announce a new publication in print and online:

Scripts and Scripture: Writing and Religion in Arabia circa 500–700 CE
Edited by Fred M. Donner and Rebecca Hasselbach-Andee
Late Antique and Medieval Islamic Near East 3
Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2022
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-61491-073-2
ISBN (e-book): 978-1-61491-074-9
Pp. xxii + 287; 55 figures, 10 tables, 2 maps
To purchase or download:

How did Islam’s sacred scripture, the Arabic Qur’ān, emerge from western Arabia at a time when the region was religiously fragmented and lacked a clearly established tradition of writing to render the Arabic language?

The studies in this volume, the proceedings of a scholarly conference, address different aspects of this question. They include discussions of the religious concepts found in Arabia in the centuries preceding the rise of Islam, which reflect the presence of polytheism and of several varieties of monotheism including Judaism and Christianity.

Also discussed at length are the complexities surrounding the way languages of the Arabian Peninsula were written in the centuries before and after the rise of Islam—including Nabataean and various North Arabian dialects of Semitic—and the gradual emergence of the now-familiar Arabic script from the Nabataean script originally intended to render a dialect of Aramaic.

The religious implications of inscriptions from the pre-Islamic and early Islamic centuries receive careful scrutiny. The early coalescence of the Qur’ān, the kind of information it contains on Christianity and other religions that formed part of the environment in which it first appeared, the development of several key Qur’ānic concepts, and the changing meaning of certain terms used in the Qur’ān also form part of this rich volume.


List of Figures
List of Abbreviations and Sigla
List of Contributors
Maps of Arabia and Adjacent Regions


  1. Scripts and Scripture in Late Antique Arabia: An Overview. Fred M. Donner.
  2. The Oral and the Written in the Religions of Ancient North Arabia. Michael C. A. Macdonald.
  3. The Religious Landscape of Northwest Arabia as Reflected in the Nabataean, Nabataeo-Arabic, and Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscriptions. Laïla Nehmé.
  4. One Wāw to Rule Them All: The Origins and Fate of Wawation in Arabic and Its Orthography. Ahmad Al-Jallad.
  5. ʿArabī and aʿjamī in the Qurʾān: The Language of Revelation in Muḥammad’s Ḥijāz. Robert Hoyland.
  6. Scripture, Language, and the Jews of Arabia. Gordon D. Newby.
  7. Script, Text, and the Bible in Arabic: The Evidence of the Qurʾān. Sidney Griffith.
  8. Language of Ritual Purity in the Qurʾān and Old South Arabian. Suleyman Dost.
  9. The Invention of a Sacred Book. François Déroche.
  10. Script or Scripture? The Earliest Arabic Tombstones in the Light of Jewish and Christian Epitaphs. Kyle Longworth.
  11. Religious Warfare and Martyrdom in Arabic Graffiti (70s–110s AH/690s–730s CE). Ilkka Lindstedt.
  12. Writing and the Terminological Evolution of the Qurʾānic Sūrah. Adam Flowers.
  13. The Adversarial Clansman in Qurʾānic Narrative and Early Muslim Antipatrimonialism. Hamza M. Zafer.