Photo of Professor Bruce Lawrence

Professor Bruce Lawrence

Visiting Al-Qasimi Professor in Islamic Studies

Bruce B. Lawrence is a scholar of Islamic studies, linguistically trained in Arabic, Persian and Turkish at Princeton, then Yale. He has written or co-written, edited or co-edited, and also translated some 17 books, all published either by major university presses or, in three instances, commercial presses. His early publications explored the terrain of Muslim speculative thought (kalam) and also comparative religions, especially Islam and the Indic traditions. After the Iranian revolution, he engaged the notion of Islamic fundamentalism in a prize-winning monograph, Defenders of God (1989), at the same time that he undertook the translation into English of a Persian classic, Morals for the Heart (1992). Subsequently he worked on a variety of topics, including the Qur’an in a series: Books that Changed the World. His contribution, The Qur’an – A Biography(2005), has been translated into 19 languages.

He has won numerous scholarships, garnered academic awards (including one from the leading Turkish NGO on women, TURKADD, in February 2012, for his monograph, The Qur’an – A Biography), and generated intense debates through his publications. Beyond Duke, he has taught at Aligarh Muslim University, Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, and the University of Oxford. Retired from Duke after 40 years of service in 2011, he now teaches part-time at Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University in Istanbul. A lifelong traveler, speaker and resident in many parts of Asia and Africa marked by Islam, he has always been fascinated with how much, and how little, is conveyed about the Qur'an in translation. Since 2014 he has been working with Dr. Rafey Habib (Rutgers) on a fresh rendition of the Qur’an that pays attention to all three constitutive elements of its successful translation: accuracy, clarity and rhyme. Due to the lack of the last – lyrical, performative sound – the Qur’an in English has remained largely a closed book for Anglophone readers/listeners.