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How an Italian Friar Read His Arabic Qur’an

How an Italian Friar Read His Arabic Qur’an

(p.78) How an Italian Friar Read His Arabic Qur’an
Dante and Islam
Thomas E. Burman
Fordham University Press

Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS ar. 384, a copy of the Qur‘ān written in the eastern Mediterranean, contains two sets of Latin marginal notes from the thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries. Careful comparison of the second set of these notes with Riccoldo of Monte Croce’s Contra legem saracenorum of about 1300 makes clear that this Dominican missionary-traveler is their author, and that he wrote the notes as he prepared his treatise against Islam. As he thus read the Qur’an in Arabic, he was also reading Mark of Toledo’s Arabic translation of it from a hundred years earlier, as well as the anonymous Liber denudationis, an earlier Iberian refutation of Islam. Indeed, what we see in Riccoldo’s notes in MS ar. 384 is the work of a scholar who both interrogated the Qur’ān by means of a long-tradition of Christian polemical reading and interrogated that tradition of reading through a remarkably minute analysis of the Arabic text of Islam’s holy book.

Keywords:   Riccoldo of Monte Croce, Qur’an, Islam, Polemic, Dominicans

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