Whither Girard and Islam?

Reflections on Text and Context


  • Vanessa J. Avery Sacred Heart University and Hartford Seminary




Rene Girard, Islam, Qur'an, Mimetic Theory, Sacrifice


Despite attempts to bring scholars of Islam into dialogue with Girard’s theories of mimetic desire, scapegoating, and religious sacrifice, the scholarship on this topic is still extremely limited. In this article, Avery first expands on Wolfgang Palaver’s assertion in his short piece on Girard and Islam for The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence that declares Islam as part of the Abrahamic revolution against sacrifice. Avery then offers two reasons for why Girardian theory has not gained more interest from scholars of Islam, addressing biblical parallels in the context of the Qur’an, and Islam’s seeming departure from a sacrificial paradigm. Avery offers Girard’s mimetic desire as the discrete portion of Girard’s theory that resonates with the nature of Islamic texts, and also avoids the possible pitfalls of colonizing Islam with Judaic or Christian presumptions.

Author Biography

Vanessa J. Avery, Sacred Heart University and Hartford Seminary

Vanessa Avery holds a PhD from the University of Exeter, and is an Instructor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University and Hartford Seminary.


bu-Rabi’, Ibrahim M. 1994. “Review of Violence and Sacred in the Modern World, edited by Mark Juergensmeyer.” The Muslim World Book Review 14 (4): 40–42.

Cragg, Kenneth. 2004. A Certain Sympathy of Scriptures. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press.

Bakhos, Carol. 2012. “Genesis, The Qur’an and Islamic Interpretation.” In The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, edited by Craig Evans, Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, 607–32. Leiden: Brill.

Girard, René. 2001. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. Translated by James G. Williams. New York: Orbis.

———. 2010 [2007]. Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre. Translated by M. Baker, Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Juergensmeyer, Mark. 1992. Violence and the Sacred in the Modern World. London: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd.

Levine, Amy-Jill. 2014. Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi. New York: HarperOne.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, ed. 2015. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. New York: HarperOne.

Palaver, Wolfgang. 2013. “Mimetic Theories of Religion and Violence.” In The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence, edited by Michael Jerryson, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Margo Kitts, 533-53. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williams, James G. 2012. Girardians: The Colloquium on Violence and Religion, 1990-2010. Zurich, Berlin: LIT Verlag.



How to Cite

Avery, V. (2016). Whither Girard and Islam? Reflections on Text and Context. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 45(3-4), 29–34. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v45i3-4.31361