Introduction to the Qur’an

Explore the myth and mystery of the Qur'an and consider how the reality of this extraordinary religious and cultural tradition has shaped the lives of its followers for more than 1400 years.
Introduction to the Qur’an is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 50.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Incomplete Analysis Introduction to the Qur’an was well presented and informative. The lectures highlighted the personal nature and application of Islamic religious teaching. With a more in depth study of Islam, the events of history and present day conditions in the Muslim world a fuller view of the teaching of the Quran would have been informative. The societal application of the Qur’an and Islam were overlooked. The course was finished on the very day that the Taliban reestablished Shaira control of the country resulting in chaos and fear. Democracy is not allowed in the teaching of the Qur’an. Believers submit to Allah as a slave submits to the will of the master. Right living provides reward and is defined by others with penalty for error. Non-believing infidels are removed, enslaved or submitted to inferior status. It would be helpful to offer worldview comparisons and outcomes with other religions.
Date published: 2021-08-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Soothing Features At a time when Submission in the West is in a Daawa (marketing) gear, the course is delivered as a bedtime story for curious kids, the Great Courses may want to withdraw religious courses that are not comparative and do not include all aspects of the religion, including past and present dogma-inspired human rights practices.
Date published: 2021-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Introduction to the Qur'an A Brilliant work! Money well spent. Have viewed several times to better understand the revelations in the Qur'an. The Qur'an loves GOD. Mary, the mother of Jesus, has her own chapter & is considered, 1 of 4 perfect women. To know only one religion is to know none. To know the beliefs of others is to better understand who 'We' ourselves are. I invite you to purchase this Video.
Date published: 2021-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an excellent course, a very important subject in our present world. The delivery was good, it was clear and concise and yet was an in depth presentation. Good Prof.
Date published: 2021-07-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from When the apologists become much too apologetic While I enjoyed the series, it seemed that much of what he spent his time doing was pretending to be neutral about his subject but was actually selling his subject and proselytizing with near-childlike enthusiasm and exuberance. But I did learn much more about the Qur'an than I knew before and for that I am grateful. While I would recommend the series to a friend, I would not recommend it without the caveat that the title of "Introduction to the Qur'an" is a bit misleading and that perhaps a more accurate title would be something along the lines of "Joyfully Selling the Qur'an."
Date published: 2021-06-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The lecturer tends to avoid controversial issues He completely fails to mention the satanic verses incident while even quoting the qur’an 53:19-23. Takes far too timid of an approach in adressing the violent/intolerant nature of qur’an/islam as clearly shown by the following verses: 4:89, 8:12, 9:5, 9:29, 9:73, some of which might be rationalized taking into account the context, surely not all. Also, I would have liked the author to at least mention the principle of abrogation (2:106, 16:101) and the medinan verse abrogating the more peaceful meccan verses. One might argue he had only 12 lectures and therefore a lack of time, however I feel there was enough time and it could have been more wisely used.
Date published: 2021-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but incorrect pronunciation a distraction While the course was fine, the one issue I have revolves around his poor pronunciation of Arabic, two prominent examples being the incorrect pronunciation of Yathrib and Zayid ibn Thabit. While this may seem to be nitpicking, knowledge of Arabic is acknowledged to be an absolutely critical component of truly understanding the Quran and Islam and it will inevitably call the teacher's expertise into question. That being said, there wasn't anything particularly controversial or inaccurate which would mislead someone with a desire to be introduced to the Quran so, as a beginner's course, it was effective.
Date published: 2021-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great run through of various aspects The course was a great introduction. Various aspects touched on that, although a member of the society which uses this as its guidebook, i was not aware of. The history and various structures and backgrounds of the book explored and done so with great respect. The professor was great. He treated the subject matter with both sides of the discussion. with reverence and with objectivity. The course only skims the surface of the various aspects and i did search for more in depth explorations like Sufism, but sadly not present. I would recommend this to others as there is something new in here if you are keen to understand a subject which is tainted by todays current climate.
Date published: 2021-01-06
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Combining literary, theological, and historical approaches, these 12 episodes are a rich introduction to the Qur'an that clarifies and adds nuance to our understanding of it, and that offer a rare opportunity to hear this influential text recited aloud by an award-winning reciter who brings the ancient book's beautiful language to life for believers and the curious alike.


Martyn Oliver
Martyn Oliver

The Qur'an is an endlessly fascinating, complicated, often misunderstood text. It is also a beautiful, moving text full of moments of tenderness, authority and mystery.


American University

Martyn Oliver is a Senior Professorial Lecturer at American University, where he also serves as the director of the Undergraduate Religious Studies and Arab World Studies programs. He received his B.A. in Religion from the University of Puget Sound and his Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from Boston University. In 2015, he was the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As a scholar of religion and Islam, Dr. Oliver has published widely in both academic and popular publications. He is recognized for his expertise on Islam in American culture, and he has had speaking engagements with the U.S. Department of State and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Dr. Oliver has also made media appearance on CBS and NPR. From 2009 to 2013, he served as the president of the American Religion and Literature Society.

By This Professor

Introduction to the Qur’an
Introduction to the Qur’an


Finding a Path into the Qur’an

01: Finding a Path into the Qur’an

Why study the Qur’an? Dr. Martyn Oliver explores the myth and mystery of the Qur’an, including the origins of this most central of Islamic texts, God’s perfect word as revealed by Muhammad. For believers, the Qur’an and its divinity are certain, but for the scholar, the text is not so neatly defined.

30 min
7th-Century Mecca: Religion and Oral Tradition

02: 7th-Century Mecca: Religion and Oral Tradition

Ancient Mecca and its surroundings, into which the Qur’an was born, was a place founded economically and socially upon a diverse range of customs, traditions, and peoples. Examine the religious history of the region and the ways in which this cosmopolitan city undoubtedly influenced the messages of the Qur’an.

23 min
The Qur’an Becomes a “Book”

03: The Qur’an Becomes a “Book”

Muhammad, like most of the people in 7th-century Mecca, was illiterate. What challenges of interpretation for modern scholars are presented by translation from oral tradition to written text, and again from that text into other languages? Was anything lost (or added) in translation between the death of Muhammad and the first canonized text of the Qur’an two hundred years later? Perhaps.

36 min
From Mecca to Medina: The Revelation Transforms

04: From Mecca to Medina: The Revelation Transforms

Learn how the Meccan verses are both radical and evangelical—an economic and cultural threat to Mecca, but also statements of a powerful ideology defining Allah as sole creator and ultimate judge. Later verses of Medina focus, as did Muhammad, on the development of an enduring and cohesive community of diverse peoples, eventually uniting much of the Arabian Peninsula. In these origins of the revelation is where the history of Islam is born.

25 min
God and Tawhid: Divine Nature in the Qur’an

05: God and Tawhid: Divine Nature in the Qur’an

What does the Qur’an tell us about God? Cultures throughout human history have speculated about the essence of the divine. As we move into the content of the Qur’an itself, we explore the nature of an experiential God, who is both the narrator and central focus of this revelation to Muhammad.

36 min
The Qur’anic Creation Story

06: The Qur’anic Creation Story

Origin myths provide insight into the values of a people. While the Qur’an lacks a traditional “in the beginning” narrative, it reveals a number of stories about the first humans and divine creation. Learn here about Satan’s fall from grace, his arrogant disobedience of God’s command, and his promise to lure humans into the selfsame fall.

27 min
Judgment Day and the End Times: Yawm ad-Din

07: Judgment Day and the End Times: Yawm ad-Din

Did Dante Alighieri model his Divine Comedy after the Qur’anic descriptions of heaven and hell? In this lecture, we will delve into the regional history; the co-existing theologies; and finally, the actual Qur’anic depictions of both a beautiful garden of endless, sensual bliss and, for the less deserving, a fiery pit of eternal torment.

25 min
Abraham, Moses, and Qur’anic Faith

08: Abraham, Moses, and Qur’anic Faith

In both Christian and Jewish traditions, Moses and Abraham are held as prophets and ideal examples of faith. In this lecture, discover how these Biblical characters appear in the Qur’an in ways that cement Muhammad’s role as prophet, and Mecca’s place as the geographic center of Islam.

28 min
Prophethood in the Qur’an: Jesus and Others

09: Prophethood in the Qur’an: Jesus and Others

We will learn that numerous other Biblical figures also appear in the Qur’an, including Jesus, Mary, Noah, and Joseph (of Genesis). Each account has parallels to the stories presented in the Christian and Jewish traditions, but the Qur’anic versions emphasize the oneness and exclusive divinity of God.

27 min
From the Qur’an to Islam: Creating a Practice

10: From the Qur’an to Islam: Creating a Practice

How did the Five Pillars of Islam grow from deep roots in the Qur’an? How might the words and deeds of the Prophet provide insight for believers? Finally, what role does this struggle to understand, from the Arabic word ijtihad, play in the ritual practices that define Islam? Delve into each pillar and its Qur’anic origins, as well as the substantial interpretive history of Islam.

29 min
Sharia and Jihad: The Qur’an as Legal Text

11: Sharia and Jihad: The Qur’an as Legal Text

The untranslated words sharia and jihad might best be understood as “searching for God’s will” and the “universal struggle for justice,” rather than the simplistic, and thus fundamentally inaccurate, concepts of judicial law and holy war. Consider the complex meaning of each term, and how it is further explicated through a rich history of fatwa, or legal opinion.

26 min
Qur’anic Philosophy, Theology, and Mysticism

12: Qur’anic Philosophy, Theology, and Mysticism

The final lecture in this outstanding series reflects on the extensive philosophical, theological, and mystical underpinnings of Qur’anic study. Dr. Oliver speaks powerfully about the role of personal struggle to live according to God’s will—a struggle that shapes the religious life of individual Muslims and Islamic communities alike around the world.

40 min