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Sicut Euangelia sunt quatuor, distribuerunt continentiam eius in quatuor libros: On the Division of Iberian Qur’ans and Their Translations into Four Parts

From the book The Latin Qur’an, 1143–1500

  • Juan Pablo Arias Torres


In the prologue to his trilingual Qur’an (Arabic-Castilian-Latin), Juan de Segovia pointed out that among the defects of Robert of Ketton’s Latin translation was the fact that it did not adopt the division of the text into four books that, in his words, the Muslims used in their holy book “in imitation of the Gospels.” Thereafter, despite the weakness of his reasoning, this four-part structure for the Qur’an was widely accepted in European Christian intellectual circles, and it would be reflected in the writings they produced, whether translations or anti- Islamic polemics. That said, this division that we observe in Quranic manuscripts from the Iberian Peninsula, including the complete translation of the Qur’an in the famous T 235 manuscript, derives exclusively from the Islamic tradition and the Quranic sciences. This tradition of dividing the Qur’an into four parts also presents some distinctive features that have not yet been sufficiently explained. The goal of this chapter is to show that this particular way of organizing the Qur’an can be explained by looking at the work of Andalusi scholars such as al-Dānī (fifth/eleventh century), as well as to show how it spread and was faithfully transmitted by the different Islamic communities in Spain, from one generation to the next, up to the end of the seventeenth century.

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