Pieter Coppens

NISIS PhD candidate at the Faculty of Religious Studies and Theology, Utrecht University. Research project: Crossing Boundaries: Encounters with God and the Otherworld in Mystical Commentaries on the Qurʾān. Keywords: Qurʾān exegesis - Eschatology - Sufism.

Crossing Boundaries: Encounters with God and the Otherworld in Mystical Commentaries on the Qurʾān

This project will explore ṣūfī understandings of some key verses in the Qurʾān that deal with the relation between this world (dunyā) and the otherworld (ākhira). In 'mainstream' Islamic thought there is a tendency to hold on to a strict dichotomy between God and His creation, and to imagine Paradise and Hell as physical places, separated in time and space from present life, that will be only reached after death and resurrection. Muslim mystics have challenged this separation from a very early stage, by claiming the crossing of boundaries through mystical experience of God (in the form of theophany or mystical union) or indeed of Paradise and Hell (heavenly journeys, eating fruits from Paradise in this world).

The various understandings of these key verses will be studied taking into account the influence of ṣūfī hermeneutics, mystical theories about the soul and the cosmos, as well as the historical and intellectual atmosphere in which the ṣūfī Qurʾān commentaries were written. By examining mystical Qurʾān commentaries from the fourth to the eight century AH, this research seeks to understand the differences in the interpretation of these verses in relation to the broader development of Sufism in this pivotal era in Islamic history. Thus, besides contributing to the history of Islamic eschatology, new light will be shed on the history of Sufism and Qurʾān exegesis in general.


Pieter Coppens (1983) obtained a BA and MA degree (both cum laude) in Arabic Language and Culture at Radboud University Nijmegen. His current PhD research is part of the larger research project The Here and the Hereafter in Islamic Traditions (HHIT), which is under supervision of prof.dr. Christian Lange (Utrecht University).

Email address: p.coppens@uu.nl

Last Modified: 10-04-2015