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Encyclopaedia of 
the Qur^an 



Jane Dammen McAuliffe, General Editor 

Brill, Leiden — Boston 




Khaled M. Abou El Fade, University of 

California at Los Angeles 
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Mohammed A. Bamyeh, Macalester 

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Carolina at Wilmington 
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of Islamic Studies, Hyderabad 
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di Napoli "L'Orientale" 
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Brannon M. Wheeler, University of 

LuTZ WiEDERHOLD, University Halle- 
Clare Wilde, The Catholic University of 

A.H. Mathias Zahniser, Asbury 

Theological Seminary 
Kate P. Zebiri, University of London 



Paganism see age oe ignorance; 



see sheets; scrolls 

Pairs and Pairing 

Any aspect of the language and style of 
the Qiir'an in which pairs are perceived as 
a structural element in the composition of 
the Qiir'an (see form and structure of 
the (JUr'an), such as any form of paral- 
lelism or repetition, pairs of synonymous, 
synthetic or antithetic terms or concepts, 
double divine epithets (see god and his 
attributes) as well as aspects of the 
number two or use of the dual form 


Ethical dualism 
Throughout the Qiir'an, an antithetic or 
dual parallelism is observable in the 
admonitions to humankind (see exhor- 
tations), in the descriptions of an indi- 
vidual's fate on the day of judgment (see 
LAST judgment) as well as of the two 
possible final destinations for people, 

paradise (q.v.) and hell (see hell and 

Admonitions to believe in and obey God 
and his apostle (see belief and unbelief; 
messenger; obedience), to repent (see 
repentance and penance), to enjoin 
what is right and to prohibit what is wrong 
(see virtues and vices, commanding and 
forbidding), to be grateful (see grati- 
tude AND ingratitude), to do right and 
to follow the right path as revealed to hu- 
mankind are usually presented as a prom- 
ise followed by a corresponding threat: 
"He who follows the right path (see path 
OR way) does so for himself, and he who 
goes astray (q.v.) errs against himself" 
{q_ io:io8; cf. also Q_ 17:15; 39:41); "Those 
who disbelieve and obstruct (others) from 
the way of God will have wasted their 
deeds. But those who believe and do the 
right, and believe what has been revealed 
to Muhammad (see revelation and 
inspiration), which is the truth (q.v.) from 
their lord, will have their faults pardoned 
by him and their state improved" (q 47:1-3; 
cf also Q_ 5:9-10; 35-6, 40-2; 9:67-72; 10:7-9; 
22:50-1; 32:18-20; 35:7; 48:5-6; 57:19); 
"Whoever does good does so for himself, 
and whoever does wrong bears the guilt 
thereof" (cj 41:46; cf also q 16:90; 
40:39-40; 45:15; 92:5-11); "If you obey God 


will give yoii a good reward; but if you 
turn back... lie will punish you with griev- 
ous affliction" (5^48:16; cf. also o 13:18; 

48:17; see REWARD AND PUNISHMENT); "It is 

better for you to repent. If you do not, 
remember that you cannot elude (the grip 
of) God" (q^ 9:3; cf also C3 4:141-7); 
"Remember, your lord proclaimed: 'If 
you are grateful I shall give you more; 
but if you are thankless, then surely my 
punishment is very great"' (q_ 14:7; cf. also 
0.2:152; 39:7). 

The choices that human beings face are 
described as one between two paths, the 
path of rectitude (sabil al-rushd) or the 
straight path (sabll mustaqim), on the one 
hand, and the path of error (q.v.; sabil al- 
ghayy), on the other: "Did we not give him 
[i.e. humans] two eyes, a tongue, and two 
lips, and show him the two highways? " 
(al-najdayn; q_ 90:8-10; cf. also q 7:146; 76:3). 
As a norm of distinction, the believers are 
described as the "people of the right hand" 
(ashdb al-maymana / ashdb al-yaniTn) whereas 
the unbelievers are described as the "peo- 
ple of the left hand" (ashdb al-mash 'ama/ 
ashdb al-shimdl, o 56:8-9, 27-56; 90:17-9; see 
LEFT HAND AND RIGHT hand). By the Same 
token, the believer is compared to one who 
can hear and see whereas the unbeliever is 
said to resemble a person who is deaf and 
blind (e.g. o 11:24; 40-58; cf also Q_ 30:52-3; 

35:19; 43:40; 47:23; see SEEING AND HEAR- 
ING; VISION AND blindness; hearing and 
deafness). In those qur'anic passages 
where human responsibility appears to be 
completely eclipsed and where human des- 
tiny is said to depend on the will of God, it 
is God who either guides individuals 
rightly or leads them astray ((j 6:39; 7:30, 
178; 14:4; 16:93; 35:8; 39:36-7), decreases or 
increases people's fortunes [rizq, C> 13:26) 
and means [rizq, Q_ 30:37), has mercy (q.v.) 
on people or punishes them (o 5:18, 40; 
17:54; 29:21; 41:43; 48:14; see FREEDOM and 

Similar dual parallelisms are to be ob- 
served when it comes to the reckoning of 
an individual's deeds on the day of judg- 
ment. "On that day people will be sepa- 
rated so that he who disbelieves will bear 
the consequence of his unbelief; and he 
who does the right will straighten out the 
way for his soul, so that God may reward 
those who believed and did what was good, 
by his grace. Surely he does not love un- 
believers" (0 30:43-5; cf also cj 11:105-8; 
20:74-6; 22:56-7; 30:14-6; 33:73; 39:71-4; 
42:7); "[Only] those whose scales are 
heavier in the balance will find happiness. 
But those whose scales are lighter will per- 
ish and abide in hell forever" ((j 23:102-3; 
cf also o 7:8-9; 101:6-9; see weights and 
measures); "[Many] faces will that day be 
bright, laughing and full of joy; and many 
will be dust-begrimed, covered with the 
blackness (of shame)" (c3 80:38-41; see JOY 
AND misery). 

On the day of judgment, the evil-doer 
will receive the book (q.v.; al-kitdb) contain- 
ing the record of his deeds in his left hand 
or from behind his back, whereas the obe- 
dient will be given it in his right hand 
(0 69:18-32; 84:7-12). The sijjin, the books 
where the deeds of the evil-doers are listed, 
is contrasted with the 'illiyyun, the book 
where the deeds of the pious are listed 
(Q, 83:7 f ; see HEAVENLY book). An excep- 
tion to this strict dual parallelism is to be 
found in cj 56 where humankind is said to 
be separated at the last judgment into 
three classes, the "people of the right side" 
(ashdb al-maymana), the "people of the left 
side" (ashdb al-mash'ama) and "those pre- 
ceding" (al-sdbiqdn) . "Those are the ones 
brought near (al-muqarrabun), in gardens of 
delight, a multitude from the former 
(times) and a few from the later (times)" 
(0 56:11-4). Those who belong to this 
class — the first converts to Islam, the 
prophets (see prophets and prophet- 
hood) or any person of outstanding virtue 


according to al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144; 
Kashshaf, ad loc.) and al-BaydawI (d. prob. 
'ji&Z I'J,!^-']; Anwar, ad loc.) — are given tlie 
higliest reward in paradise. 

Qur'anic descriptions of liumanity's two 
final destinations also evidence a pair 
structure. A description of the joys of par- 
adise or the torments of hell is, as a rule, 
followed by the antithetic description of 
the respective other. For example, 
"Certainly hell lies in wait, the rebels' 
abode where they will remain for eons, 
finding neither sleep (bard) nor anything to 
drink except boiling water and benumbing 
cold: a fitting reward. They were those 
who did not expect a reckoning, and re- 
jected our signs (q.v.) as lies (see lie). We 
have kept account of everything in a book. 
So taste (the fruit of what you sowed), for 
we shall add nothing but torment. As for 
those who preserve themselves from evil 
and follow the straight path (al-muttaqina), 
there is attainment for them: orchards and 
vineyards, and graceful maidens of the 
same age (see HOURls), and flasks full and 
flowing. They will hear no blasphemies (see 
blasphemy) there or disavowals: A rec- 
ompense from your lord, a sufficient gift" 
{q_ 78:21-36). The parallelism is, however, at 
times, asymmetric. Depending on the con- 
text, either the description of hell or of 
paradise is more detailed. Such an asym- 
metric antithesis is to be observed in C3 55, 
where the fate of the unbelievers in hell is 
described in four verses (q 55-39) 4I) 43j 
44), whereas the fate of the believers in 
paradise is described in eight verses 
(o 55:46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60), where- 
upon there follows another description of 
the garden of the same length (q 55:62, 64, 
66, 68, 70, 72, 74, 76; cf Gilliot, Parcours 
exegetiques, 91-111). Having two sets of 
gardens for two classes of believers would 
seem to be confirmed by the parallel two 
classes of gardens in C) 56:10-38 (Abdel 
Haleem, Context, 91 f; see garden). 

Pairs of concepts and terms 
Pairs of synonymous as well as synthetic 
concepts are to be found in the description 
of Muhammad and earlier prophets as 
"bearers of warnings and bringers of happy 
news" {muhashshir [wa-] mundhir/mubashshir 
nadhir/bashir [wa-]nadhir; Q^ 2:iig, 213; 4:165; 
5:19; 6:48; 7:188; 10:2; 11:2; 17:105; 18:56; 
25:56; 33:45; 34:28; 35:24; 41:4; 48:8; see 
WARNER; GOOD NEWs); of the book of 
Moses (q.v.; kitdb Musd) as a "way-giver and 
a grace" (q.v.; imdm wa-rafima; C3 11:17; 
46:12; see imam); of the Torah (q.v.) and 
the Gospel (q.v.) as containing "guidance 
and light" (nuran wa-hudan / hadan wa-nurun) 
for humans (c3 5:44, 46; 6:91; cf 42:52); and 
of the earlier revelations and the Qur'an as 
a "guidance and grace" (hudd wa-rahma) for 
those who believe (c3 6:154; 7:52, 154, 203; 
10:57, et al.; hudd wa-bushrd, cj 27:2; hudd 
wa-shijd', C3 41:44; hudd wa-dhikrd, o 40:54). 
To the prophets God gave "wisdom (q.v.) 
and knowledge" [hukm wa-'ilm, c) 12:22; 
21:74, 79; 28:14; see KNOWLEDGE AND 
learning). Another pair of terms fre- 
quently referred to in the context of earlier 
revelations is "scripture and wisdom" («/- 
kitdb wa-l'hikma, q_ 2:231; 4:54, 113; 5:110; 
see SCRIPTURE AND THE C)Ur'an). The pair 
of terms "wealth and (male) children" (nidi 
wa-banun/ amwdl wa-banun/ amwdl wa- 
awldd/mdl wa-walad/an 'dm wa-banun) signi- 
fies wealth of this world (e.g. o 9:55, 69; 
17:6; 18:46; 23:55; 26:88, 133; 34:35, et al.; 
see children). As a pair of antithetic con- 
cepts, the verses to be understood clearly 
(muhkamdt) are contrasted with the para- 
bolic verses of the Qur'an (mutashdbihdt) as 
mentioned in O 3:7 (see ambiguous). 

Contrasting pairs such as "heaven (see 
HEAVEN AND sky) and earth (q.v.)," "sun 
(q.v.) and moon (q.v.)," "day and night" 
(q.v.; see also day, times of), "east and 
west," "land and sea," "known and un- 
known (see HIDDEN and the hidden)," 
"before and after," "life (q.v.) and death 


(see DEATH AND THE dead)" — all signify- 
ing the entirety of creation (q.v.) or 
"all" — are employed to describe God's 
unicity, omnipotence (see power and 
impotence) and omniscience. To God 
belongs all that is in the heavens and the 
earth [mdji l-samdwdt wa[~mdji] l~ard, 
Q_ 2:116, 284; 10:55, 68; 14:2; 16:52; 18:14, 
et al.; cf. also C3 35:44); his kingdom extends 
over the heavens and the earth (c) 7:158, 
185; 9:116; 10:66; 13:16; 24:42, et al.); God 
holds the keys of the heavens and the earth 
[maqdlid al-samdwdt wa-l-ard; q 39:63; 42:12); 
he is the light (nur) of the heavens and the 
earth (<J 24:35); his are the armies of the 
heavens and the earth [junud al-samdwdt 
wa-l-ard, q 48:4, 7; see ranks and orders), 
and his seat extends over heavens and 
earth {wasi'a kursiyyuhu al-samdwdt wa-l-ard, 
Q_ 2:255; see THRONE OF god); and he pro- 
vides people with food and sustenance 
[from the heavens and the earth] (q 10:31; 
16:73; 27:64; 31:20; 34:24; 35:3; 45:5, 13). 
The fact that God created the heavens and 
the earth (q 2:117; 9:36; 10:3; 11:7; 12:101; 
14:10, 19, 32, et al.; variation: God created 
the heavens and the earth and all that lies 
between them [wa-md baynahumd], q 15:85; 
21:16; 25:59; 30:8; 32:4; 37:5; 38:27; 44:38; 
46:3; 50:38) and that he brings to light 
what is hidden in the heavens and the 
earth (q 27:25) indicate his omnipotence, 
whereas his omniscience is indicated by 
his knowledge which encompasses all that 
is in the heavens and the earth (q 5:97; 
11:123; 14:38; 16:77; 17:55; 18:26; 21:4, 
et al.) — there is not the weight of an atom 
"on the earth and in the heavens" that is 
hidden from him (q 10:61; 31:16). His 
omniscience is further indicated by the fact 
that he knows "what is hidden and what is 
evident" [al-ghayb wa-l-shahdda, q 6:73; 9:94, 
105; 13:9; 23:92; 32:6; 39:46; 59:22; 62:8; 
64:18), what humans "hide and disclose" 
(i.e. q 2:33, 77; 16:19, 23; 21:110; 27:25, 74; 
28:69; 33:54; 36:76; 60:1; 64:4; 87:7), and 

what was before humans and what lies be- 
hind them [md bayn aydihim wa-md khalfahum, 
q 2:255; 20:110; 21:28; 22:76). God's unicity 
is indicated by the fact that all things that 
move on the earth and in the heavens bow 
down before him (q 13:15; 16:49; 22:18; 
24:41; 57:1; 59:1, 24; 61:1; 62:1; 64:1; see 
semblance is the most sublime in the heav- 
ens and the earth (q 30:27). By the same 
token, the gods of the unbelievers are said 
to be without any power over the heavens 
and the earth, nor do they have any share 
in them (q 34:22; 38:10; see polytheism 
AND atheism). Moreover, God is the first 
and the last (al-awwal wa-l-dkhir), the tran- 
scendent and the immanent [al-^dhir wa- 
l-bdtin, q 57:3). God's omnipotence is 
further evident in that he created "the sun 
and the moon" (q 10:5; 13:2; 16:12; 21:33; 
22:61, et al.), and made "the day and the 
night" an alternation (q 10:6, 67; 13:3; 
16:12; 17:12; 23:80; 24:44; 25:47, 62, et al.), 
that he enables people to travel over "land 
and sea" [Ji l-barr wa-l-bahr, q 10:22; 17:70; 
cf. also q 27:63), that he gives life and 
death (q 9:116; 10:31, 56; 23:80; 30:19; 
40:68; 44:8; 45:26; 50:43; 53:44; 57:2), 
makes happy and morose (q 53:43), and 
that he is the lord of the east and the west 
{rabb al-mashriq wa-l-maghrib, q 26:28; 73:9; 
rabbu l-mashriqayn wa-rahb al-maghribayn, 
q 55:17; rabbu l-mashdriq wa-l-maghdrib, 
q 70:40; wa-lilldhi l-mashriq wa-l-maghrib, 
q 2:115, 142). 

Pairs of contrasts such as "sky and 
earth," "sun and moon," "day and night," 
as well as of similar terms such as "fig and 
olive" are also encountered in oaths: "I call 
to witness the rain-producing sky and the 
earth which opens up" (q 86:11-2); "I call 
to witness the sun and its early morning 
splendor, and the moon as it follows in its 
wake, the day when it reveals its radiance, 
the night when it covers it over, the heav- 
ens and its architecture, the earth and its 


spreading out" (q 91:1-6); "I call the night 
to witness when it covers over, and the day 
when it shines in all its glory" (c3 92:1-2); 
"I call to witness the fig and the olive" 
(q_ 95:1). Idols are described as those who 
can neither harm nor profit their worship- 
pers (md Idyadurruhu wa-md Idjanfa 'uhu, 
Q, 22:12; cf. also Q^ 5:76; 6:71; 10:18, 106; 
20:89; 21:66; 25:55; 26:72 f.; 34:42; see 

IDOLS AND images). 

Contrasting this ephemeral world with 
the enduring hereafter serves to admonish 
humankind to concentrate on the latter 
(see eschatology). "O people, the life of 
this world is ephemeral; but enduring is the 
abode of the hereafter" (q 40:39); "What- 
soever has been given you is the stuff this 
life is made of, and (only) its embellish- 
ment. What is with your lord is better 
and abiding. Will you not understand?" 
(o 28:60; cf also Q_ 8:67; 16:96; 30:7; 
33:28-9; 42:20; 57:20). 

The contrasting pair of "light and dark- 
ness" describes the benefit which the 
Prophet and the revelation bring to hu- 
mankind: "An apostle who recites before 
you the explicating revelations of God that 
he may bring those who believe and do the 
right out of darkness (q.v.) into light" 
(c3 65:11; cf. also o 14:5); "It is he who sends 
down resplendent revelations to his votary, 
that he may take you out of darkness into 
light" (q 57:9; cf also C3 14:1). 

Double divine epithets 
Double divine epithets occur frequently at 
the end of verses, particularly in the longer 
suras. At times, these have little or no rel- 
evance to the verses they are attached to; 
in other instances the phrases are appro- 
priate to the context. Numerous pairs of 
terms describing God consist of synonyms, 
such as the double epithet al-rahmdn al- 
rahim "most benevolent, ever-merciful" of 
the basmala (q.v.) formula which occurs in 
five further instances (ci 1:3; 2:163; 27:30; 

41:2; 59:22); "all-forgiving and ever- 
merciful" (ghajurmhim, q_ 2:173, 182, 192, 
199, 218, 226; 3:31, 129; 4:23, 25, et al.; al- 
rahim al-ghajur, q 34:2; al-ghajur dhu l-rahma, 
C3 18:58; see forgiveness); "all-forgiving 
and forbearing" [ghajiir halim, q 2:225, 235; 
3:155; 5:101; halim ghafir, q_ 17:44; 35:41); 
"all-forgiving and loving" [al-ghaJur al- 
wadud, o 85:14); "benign and forgiving" 
['afuww ghajur, q 4:43, 99; 22:60); "forgiving 
and ever-merciful" [tawwdb rahim, q 4:16, 
64; 49:12; cf 9:104, 118); "compassionate 
and ever-merciful" {ra'uf rahim, q 2:143; 
9:117, 128; 16:7, 47; 22:65; 57:9; 59:10); 
"ever-merciful and loving" {rahim wadud, 
q 11:90); "just and merciful" [al-barr al- 
rahim, q 52:28); "all-knowing, all-wise" 
['alTm hakim, q 4:11, 17, 26, 92, 104, iii, 170; 
8:71, et al.; hakim 'alim, q 6:83, 128, 139; 
15:25; 27:6; 43:84; 51:30); "all-knowing and 
cognizant" ['alim khabir, q 4:35; 31:34; 49:13; 
66:3); "all-wise and cognizant" [al-hakim 
al-khabu; q 6:18, 73; 34:1); "sublime and 
great" ([al-]'aliyy [al-]kabir, q 4:34; 22:62; 
31:30; 34:23; 40:12); "great and most high" 
[al-kabir al-muta'dl, q 13:9); "sublime and 
supreme" [al-'aliyy al-'a^im, q 2:255; 
42:4); "powerful and mighty" [[al-]qawiyy 
fal-]'aziz, Q. 11:66; 22:40, 74; 33:25; 42:19; 
57:25; 58:21); "worthy of praise and glory" 
(hamid ?najid, q 11:73). Moreover, God is 
humankind's only friend and advocate 
[waliyy shaji', cf. q 6:51, 70; mawlan nasir, cf. 
q 22:78; waliyy nasTr, cf q 4:123, 173; 29:22; 
33:17; 42:8, 31; 48:22; see CLIENTS and 


Other combinations of adjectives refer- 
ring to God complement each other, such 
as "all-hearing and all-knowing" (fal-Jsami' 
fal-J'alim, q 2:127, 181, 224, 227; 3:34, 35, 
121; 4:148; 5:76; et al.); "all-hearing and 
all-seeing" [[al-] sami' [al-] basir, q 4:58, 134; 
17:1; 22:75; 31:28; 40:20, 56; 42:11; 58:1); 
"[God is] near and answers" [qarib mujib, 
q 11:61); "all-hearing and all-near" [sami' 


qarib, 5) 34:50); "judge and all-knowing" 
[al-fattdh al-'alim, cj 34:26); "the one and tiie 
omnipotent" [al-wdhid al-qahhdr, (J 13:16; 
14:48). Other pair epithets describe dif- 
ferent aspects of God, such as "mighty 
and all-wise" [fal-]'aziz fal-]hakim, q 2:129, 
2og, 220, 228, 240, 260; 3:6, 18, 62, 126, 
et al.); "mighty and all-knowing" {fal-]'aziZ 
[al-J'alim, Q_ 6:96; 27:78; 36:38; 40:2; 41:12); 
"mighty and worthy of praise" (a/- 'aziz 
al-hamid, q_ 14:1; 34:6; 85:8); "mighty and 
ever-merciful" ([al-]'aziz [al-]rahim, C3 26:9, 
68, 104, 122, 140, 159, 175, 191, 217; 30:5; 
32:6; 36:5; 44:42); "mighty and all-forgiv- 
ing" ([al-J'aztz [al-]ghajur, Q^ 35:28; 67:2; 
al-'aziz al-ghaffdr, q 38:66; 39:5; 40:42); 
"all-knowing and all-powerful" [[al-]'alim 
[aL-]qadir, a 16:70; 30:54; 35:44; 42:50); "all- 
knowing and forbearing" ['alTm halim, 
q 22:59; 33:51); "infinite and all-knowing" 
[wdsi' 'alim, q 2:115, 247, 261, 268; 5:54; 
24:32); "infinite and all-wise" [wdsi' hakim, 
q 4:130); "responsive to gratitude and 
all-knowing" [shdkir 'alim, q 4:147); "all- 
forgiving and rewarding" [ghajur shakur, 
q 35:30, 34; 42:23); "rewarding and for- 
bearing" {shakur halim, q 64:17); "benign 
and all-powerful" ('afuww qadir, q 4:149); 
"self-sufficient and forbearing" [ghaniyy 
halim, q 2:263); "self-sufficient and praise- 
worthy" [ghaniyy hamid, q 2:267; 4:131; 14:8; 
22:64; 31:12, 26; 57:24; 60:6; 64:6; see 
praise); "living self-subsisting (or: sustain- 
ing)" [al-hayy al-qayyum, q 2:255; 3:2); "the 
creator and all-knowing" [al~khalldq al- 'alTm, 
q 15:86; 36:81); "compassionate and all- 
wise" (tawwdb hakim, q 24:10); "all-wise and 
praiseworthy" [hakim hamid, q 41:42); "all- 
high and all-wise" ['aliyy hakim, q 42:51). 

Aspects of the number two and uses of dual forms 
The Qiir'an frequently mentions that God 
created pairs of everything — humans, 
beasts and even fruits (q 6:143-4; 13:3; 
35:11; 36:36; 42:11; 43:12; 51:49; 53:45; 
55:52; 75:39; 78:8; see ANIMAL life; 


commanded Noah (q.v.) to take a pair of 
every species into the ark (q.v.; cf. q 11:40; 
23:27). At the end of days God will create 
people a second time: "We created you 
from the earth and will revert you back; 
and raise you up from it a second time" 
[tdratan ukhrd, q 20:55; cf. with variations 

q 10:4, 34; 21:104; 27:64; 29:19, 20; 30:11, 

27; 50:15; 85:13); "They say: 'O lord, twice 
you made us die, and twice you made us 
live. We admit our sins (see sin, major and 
minor). Is there still a way out?"' (q 40:11). 

Those who believe in God and his apostle 
are said to receive twice as much of his 
bounty and their reward will be dupli- 
cated: "What you give on interest to in- 
crease (your capital) through other people's 
wealth (see usury) does not find increase 
with God; yet what you give in alms and 
charity (zakdt, see almsgiving) with a pure 
heart (q.v.), seeking the way of God, will be 
doubled" (q 30:39; cf. with variations 
q 2:245, 261, 265; 4:40; 28:54; 34:37; 57:11, 
18, 28; 64:17). By the same token, the pun- 
ishment of those who commit acts of 
shamelessness will be doubled: "O wives of 
the Prophet (q.v.), whosoever of you com- 
mits an act of clear shamelessness, her 
punishment will be doubled. That is easy 
for God [to do] . But whoever of you is 
obedient to God and his apostle, and does 
right, we shall give her reward to her two- 
fold; and we have prepared a rich provision 
for her" (q 33:30-1; cf. with variations 
q 9:101; 11:20; 17:75; 25:69). Similarly, the 
unbelievers call for those who led them 
astray to suffer double punishment: "They 
will say: 'O lord, give him who has brought 
this upon us two times more the torment of 
hell'" (q 38:61; cf also q 7:38; 33:68). 

The number two also occurs in numerous 
legal regulations (see law and the 
qUR'AN). A borrower deficient of mind or 
infirm or unable to explain requires two 
male witnesses to draw up a debt contract 



{q_ 2:282; see debt). The same number of 
witnesses is proscribed when one dictates 
liis last will (q 5:106-7; see inheritance) as 
well as in the case of divorce (c3 65:2; see 
marriage and divorce). Divorce is 
revocable two times after pronouncement; 
thereafter the husband has either to keep 
the wives honorably or part with them in a 
decent manner (c3 2:229). Following di- 
vorce, mothers should suckle their babies 
for a period of two years if both parents 
agree on this (c3 2:233; cf. also o 31:14; see 
wet-nursing; fosterage). Two honor- 
able men are required to determine a live- 
stock of equivalent value as atonement for 
the one who purposely kills game during 
pilgrimage (q.v.; Q_ 5:95; see also hunting 
AND fishing). The share of the male child 
in inheritance is equivalent to that of two 
female children (q 4:11). 

The number two also plays a role in some 
of the qur'anic parables such as the par- 
able (q.v.) of the two men, one of whom 
owns two gardens (<j 18:32-44); the story 
of the two gardens of the Sabaeans 
(Q, 34-I5"7j ses sheba), or the parable of 
the two men (c3 16:76). Furthermore, we 
have the episode of the two men who 
feared God ((J 5:23) as well as those pas- 
sages where God is said to have made two 
bodies of water flow side by side (mamja 
l-bahrayn), one fresh and sweet, the other 
brine and bitter, and to have placed a bar- 
rier (q.v.) between them (cf. c) 25:53; 27:61; 
35:12; 55:19 f ; see barzakh). The number 
two also occurs in the creation account 
given in c) 41:9-12, which differs from the 
other qur'anic accounts of the creation of 
the world in saying that God created the 
earth in two days rather than the more 
usual six; the creation of firm mountains 
and the means of growing food was com- 
pleted in four days and the creation of the 
seven heavens in two days. 

Contrast and dualism feature obviously 
throughout (j 55. The frequent use of the 

dual has bafHed commentators and schol- 
ars alike, who often argued that the dual 
forms were demanded by the scheme 
obtaining there for verse juncture (N61- 
deke, Neue Beitrdge, 10; Horovitz, Paradies, 
55; Mtiller, Untersuchungen, 132; see lan- 
guage and style of the qur'an; 

Wansbrough [qs, 26-7] argued that there 
was a "juxtaposition in the canon of two 
closely related variant traditions, contami- 
nated by recitation in identical contexts or 
produced from a single tradition by oral 
transmission." In their respective investiga- 
tions of q 55, Neuwirth (Symmetrie und 
Paarbildung) and Abdel Haleem (Context) 
have shown that most dual forms are to be 
explained by the grammatical context of 
the sura (see grammar and the cjur'an). 
The addressees of the challenging question 
of the refrain in the dual, for example, 
"Which, then, of your lord's bounties do 
you deny?" — which is repeated thirty-one 
times throughout the sura — are humans 
and jinn (q.v), introduced in verses 14 and 
15 (for the pair of humans and jinn see also 

a 7:38; 32:13; 4i:25> 29; 46:18; 72:5-6; 
114:6). There are only two dual forms that 
are not to be explained by the immediate 
context. The use of duals in Q^ 55:17, "The 
lord of the two easts and the two wests," 
refers to the two extreme points on the 
horizon where the sun rises in the winter 
and in the summer, and where it sets in the 
winter and in the summer. As for the dual 
form "two gardens" [jannatdn, C) 55:46 and 
62), which is also not to be explained by 
the immediate context, Neuwirth and 
Abdel Haleem follow the suggestion of al- 
Farra' (d. 207/822) that the notion of two 
gardens represents perfect eternal bliss 
(cf Varva , Ma'am, iii, 118). 

Verse pairs 
Pairs of verses which either together form 
complete sentences or can be identified on 



the basis of exact parallelism or strict met- 
rical regularity (see rhymed prose) are the 
smallest stylistic entities of the Qiir'an 
(Neuwirth, Studien, 176 f). Examples of 
pairs of verses characterized by strict 
parallelism and a metrical regularity are to 
be found in oaths (q.v.; Q^ 81:15-6, 17-8; 
86:11-2; 100:4-5), in eschatological scenes 
(q 52:9-10; 70:8-9; 89:21-2; 101:4-5), in 
descriptions of the last judgment 
(q, 89:25-6), and in ethical admonitions 
(c^ 89:17-8, 19-20; see ETHICS and the 
(jur'an). Other pairs of verses fulfill only 
one function such as metrical regularity or 
strict parallelism. In another type of verse 
pair the second verse consists of a mere 
repetition of the first verse: "Surely with 
hardship there is ease. With hardship there 
is ease" (cj 94:5-6; cf also 74:19-20; 75:34-5; 
78:4-5; 82:17-8; 102:3-4). Other verse pairs 
consist of antitheses: "But no, you prefer 
the life of the world. Though the life to 
come is better and abiding" (q 87:16-7; cf. 
also Q, 51:54-5; 75:20-1; 86:13-4; 91:9-10; 
95:4-5). Pairs of verses in which the second 
verse repeats or complements a portion of 
the first verse are to be classified as syn- 
thetic parallelism: "Read in the name of 
your lord who created, created man from 
an embryo" (q 96:1-2; cf also C3 2:149-50, 
184-5; 37-20-1; 106:1-2; see BIOLOGY AS THE 

creation and STAGES OF LIFE). Numerous 
pairs of verses that are characterized by 
synthetic parallelism also show grammati- 
cal and semantic parallelism: "Some of 
them listen to you: But can you make the 
deaf hear who do not understand a thing? 
Some of them look toward you: But can 
you show the blind the way even when they 
cannot see?" (q 10:42-3). Parallel style is 
also found within one verse: "Bad women 
deserve bad men, and bad men are for bad 
women; but good women are for good 
men, and good men for good women" 
(q, 24:26); "Men should not laugh at other 
men, for it may be they are better than 
they; and women should not laugh at other 

women, for they may perhaps be better 
than they" (c3 49:11; see laughter; 
mockery). Other pairs of verses, although 
not characterized by antithetic parallelism 
themselves, constitute antithetic parts of 
larger groups of verses: "Then he whose 
scales [of good deeds] shall weigh heavier 
will have a tranquil life. But he whose 
scales [of good deeds] are lighter will have 
the abyss for an abode" ((J 101:6-9). An 
example of an entire sura being character- 
ized by parallelism is q 109: "Say: 'O you 
disbelievers, I do not worship what you 
worship, nor do you worship what I wor- 
ship. Nor am I a worshiper of what you 
worship, nor are you worshipers of what I 
worship. To you your way (dinukum), to me 
my way (dim)'" (see religion; worship; 
religious pluralism and the 5)ur'an). 

The Indian Qiu''an commentator Amin 
Ahsan Islahi (b. 1906), who, like most 
twentieth-century Muslim thinkers (see 
AND contemporary) Considers the suras 
as organic unities, proposes that most of 
the Qiir'an consists of "sura-pairs" that 
have closely related themes and comple- 
ment each other. With this, he further 
developed the idea of his teacher, Hamid 
al-Din al-Farahl (1863-1930), who had 
argued that each sura has a central theme, 
called 'amud, around which the entire sura 
revolves. Islahi holds that only adjacent 
suras may form pairs and, given that the 
notion of complementarity underlies his 
concept of sura-pairs, he identifies several 
types of complementarity, such as brevity 
and detail, principle and illustration, dif- 
ferent types of evidence, difference in 
emphasis, premise and conclusion, and 
unity of opposites. These pairs are then 
said to constitute seven "sura groups" (for 
a critical appraisal, cf. Mir, Islahl's concept 
of sura-pairs). 

Sabine Schmidtke 


Primary: BaydawT, Anwar; Farra^ Ala'dm; A. A. 
IslaliT, Tadabbur-i Qur'dn, Lahore 1967-80; 
ZamakhsharT, KashshdJ. 

Secondary: M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Context and 
internal relationships. Keys to qnr'anic exegesis. 
A stndy of Sural al-Rahmdn (Qiir'an chapter 55), 
in Hawting and Shareef, Approaches, 71-98; Fr. 
Buhl, Uber Vergleichungen iind Gleichnisse im 
Qur'an, inActa orientalia 2 {1924}, i-ii; Chr. 
Daxelmijller, Dualismus, in K. Ranke (ed.), 
Enzyklopddie des Mdrchens. Handwbrterbuch zur his- 
torischen und vegleichenden Erzdhlforschung, Berlin 
1975-2003, II vols., iii, 903-18; S. El-Saleh, La vie 
future selon le Coran, Paris 1971, 1986^; C. Gilliot, 
Parcoiirs exegetiqnes. De TabarT a RazT (soiirate 
55), in Etudes arabes. Analyses-theorie. [Section 
d'arabe, Universite Paris VIII] (1983), 86-116; 
J. Horovitz, Das koranische Paradies, in Scripta 
universitatis atque bibliothecae Hierosolymitanarum 
[Orientalia etjudaica] I {1923), 1-16 [article no. 
VI]; L. Kinberg, Muhkamdt and mutashdbihdt 
(Koran 3/7). Implication of a kor'anic pair of 
terms in medieval exegesis, \n Arabica 35 {1988), 
143-72; M. Mir, Coherence in the Qur'dn, Indiana- 
polis 1987; id., Islahl's concept of siira-pairs, in 
MWJ^ (1983), 22-32; id.. The surahs as a unity. A 
20th-century development in Qiir^an exegesis, in 
Hawting and Shareef, Approaches, 211-24; FR. 
Miiller, Untersuchungen zur Reimprosa im R'or'dn, 
Diss., Bonn 1969; A. Neuwirth, Symmetric und 
Paarbildung in der koranischen Eschatologie. 
Philologisch-stilistisches zu Surat ar-Rahmdn, in 
Melanges de PUniversite Saint-Joseph 50 (1984), 
447-80; Th. Noldeke, JVeue Beitrdge zur semitischen 
Sprachwissenschaft, Strasbiirg 1910; S.J. O'Shaugh- 
nessy. Three pairs of men in the Spiritual exercises 
and the C^iu^'an, in Philippine studies 29 (1981), 
535-48; R. Paret, Tlliyyun, in El', iii, 1 132-3; 
V Vacca/ed., Si djdjl n. in El', ix, 538; A.T 
Welch, Kur'an, in El", v, 400-29; id.. Sura, in El', 
ix, 885-9; H. Zirker, Der Koran, ^ugdnge und 
Lesarten, Darmstadt 1999, 148-52. 

Palms see DATE palm; agriculture and 



An illustrative story teaching a lesson. The 
word for parable, mathal (pi. amthdl, often 
used with a form of the verb daraba/ 
yadribu, "to strike," "to coin"), occurs nu- 
merous times in the Qiir'an and evidences 
a much broader semantic range than does 

the English word "parable." For Arabic 
literature in general, mathal can be trans- 
lated by such terms as simile, similitude, 
example, parable, allegory, proverb, motto, 
apothegm, aphorism, fable and maxim (see 
also similes; literary structures of 
THE c^ur'an). This range of meaning for 
mathal also characterizes other Semitic lan- 
guages, e.g. Hebrew mashTil; Aramaic matld. 
Although mathal generally describes any 
item of discourse featuring one object or 
event illuminating another (usually) less 
tangible reality by comparison, some amthdl 
in the Qiir'an do not involve comparison at 
all (e.g. C3 25:8-9; 36:78). Furthermore, 
some exegetes have included as amthdl sto- 
ries involving the supernatural and para- 
normal, such as Adam naming the animals 
(q 2:30-4; see ADAM AND EVE; animal 
life), a crow instructing Adam's son about 
the burial of his brother ((3 5:27-31; see 
CAIN AND abel) andjesus (q.v.) calling 
down a table (q.v.) from God (c) 5:112-5). 

In their complex of meaning, amthdl com- 
prise one of the most significant categories 
of cjur'anic discourse (see form and 


AND STYLE OF THE our'an). A prophetic 
hadlth (tradition) includes amthdl among 
the five main categories of qur'anic revela- 

hadith AND THE q^ur'an). A statement 
attributed to 'All b. Abi Tahb (q.v.; d. 41/ 
661) says that sunan, "patterns of behavior" 
and amthdl comprise a fourth of the Qtir'an 
(see sunna). The legal theorist al-Shafi'l 
(d. 204/820) held that valid legal analysis 
(ijtihdd) requires knowledge of the amthdl of 
the Qiir'an (cf. SuyutI, Itqdn, chap. 63, iv, 

44; see LAW AND THE CJUr'an). 

Al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505) notes that, for 
some, amthdl serve to clarify and support 
doctrines and laws by making them con- 
crete through comparison with known 
events and objects in the everyday life of 
the receptor (SuyutI, Itqdn, iv, 45). They 
assist in giving advice, in motivating and 


restraining behavior, and in reflecting upon 
and determining trutli by bringing to mind 
sometliing that can be pictured and sensed. 
The Qiir'an insists, however, that only tlie 
knowledgeable will fully grasp their mean- 
ing (o 29:43; see KNOWLEDOE AND LEARN- 

iNo; scholar). 

If parable in its qtir'anic context can be 
defined to include similitudes (extended 
explicit comparisons), example stories (fea- 
turing positive or negative characters to be 
emulated or avoided), parables (metaphors 
extended in a narrative; see metaphor; 
narratives) and allegories (featuring a 
series of related metaphors), then the fol- 
lowing amthdl can be classified as parables: 
the fire [at night] (53 2:17; see fire); the 
downpour (c) 2:19); the deaf, dumb, and 
blind (q 2:171; see seeing and hearing; 
VISION AND blindness; hearing and 
deafness); the sprouting seed (c3 2:261); the 
rock with thin soil (q 2:264); the hilltop 
garden (q 2:265; see gardens); the freezing 
wind (q 3:117; see air and wind); the pant- 
ing dog (q.v; q 7:176); the harvested bounty 
[q_ 10:24; see grace; blessing; suste- 
nance; agriculture and vegetation); 
senses: dead and alive (() 11:24); 'he futile 
reach ((J 13:14); the smelting foam [q_ 13:17); 
the good and the corrupt trees (o 14:24-7); 
the slave and the free man ((J 16:75; see 
slaves and slavery); the mute slave and 
the jtist master (q 16:76; see justice and 
injustice); the complacent town (q 16:112; 
see punishment stories); the man with 
two gardens (q 18:32-44); the water and 
vegetation (q 18:45); the light (q.v.) of God 
(q 24:35; treated allegorically by exegetes); 
the desert mirage (q 24:39); the darkness 
on the sea (q 24:40); the spider's (q.v.) 
house (q 29:41); the master and his slaves 
(q 30:28); stark contrasts (q 35:19-22; see 
pairs and pairing); the unbelieving town 
(q 36:13-29); the slave with several masters 
(q 39:29); the verdure that withers 

(q 57:20); the upright crops (q 48:29); the 
book-laden donkey (q 62:5); and the 
blighted garden (q 68:17-34). 

The most significant narrative parables 
include "the man with two gardens," "the 
tmbelieving town" and "the blighted gar- 
den." Each occupies a prominent place in 
its respective sura. The first (q 18:32-44) is 
clearly identified as a mathal. God provides 
one of two men with two prosperous gar- 
dens supplied with abundant water. The 
fortunate man turns greedy and brags to 
his apparently landless colleague about his 
garden's produce, exuding confidence that 
his future is secure. He fears neither God 
nor the last judgment (q.v.; see also piety; 
fear). The other man, who professes never 
to have associated anything with God, 
warns him that his arrogance (q.v.) 
amounts to luibelief (see belief and 
unbelief; gratitude and ingratitude). 
Though poor in this world, this good man 
will receive God's reward in the next (see 
REWARD and PUNISHMENT). He warns his 
wealthy counterpart that his gardens coidd 
be destroyed. When the gardens are stid- 
denly destroyed, the hand-wringing pro- 
prietor expresses regret that he trusted in 
anything but God. The moral of the tale 
becomes explicit in q 18:46: "Wealth (q.v.) 
and sons (see children) are the adorn- 
ment of the present world; but the abiding 
things, the deeds of righteousness (see 
good deeds), are better with God in re- 
ward, and better in hope." Al-Suhayll 
(d. 581/1185) transmitted a tradition in 
which the historical details of this story are 
given, inchiding the names of the two 
men, Tamllkha and Futis (Suhayll, Ta'rif, 


The "tmbelieving town" (q 36:13-29) also 
starts out as a clearly labeled mathal. The 
people of a city reject the messengers (see 
messenger) God sends, saying they are 
simply citizens like themselves and not 


prophets (see prophets and prophet- 
hood). The people associate an evil omen 
with the messengers and threaten to stone 
them (see portents; foretelling). An 
obedient citizen from the margins of the 
city comes and affirms the mission of the 
messengers. He urges the people of the 
city to obey their message since the mes- 
sengers serve without reward and have 
received God's guidance (see obedience; 
astray). He then rehearses his own good 
fortune in believing in the one God. He 
enters paradise (q.v.) praying for his people 
(see intercession; prayer). The city ends 
in destruction while the thematic unit con- 
taining the parable ends with God's lam- 
entation over the people's rejection of his 
messengers (<J 36:30-2). Two traditions 
connect this parable with the city of 
Antioch and name the three messengers. 
One tradition makes the messengers dis- 
ciples of Jesus: Simon, John and Paid (see 
apostle). It names the obedient citizen 
Habib and reports that he was stoned to 
death (see stoning). 

While "the blighted garden" (c) 68:17-34) 
is not specifically designated a mathal, its 
comparison is explicit: God has tried 
Muhammad's opponents as he tried "the 
people of the garden" (q 68:17). These 
people confidently resolve to get up in the 
morning and harvest their garden, resolv- 
ing to leave nothing for the poor (see 
POVERTY AND THE poor). But when they 
approach their garden, they find it dev- 
astated. A just person among them chides 
the others for not praising God (see praise; 
laudation; glorification of god). 
They respond by confessing their guilt and 
blaming each other. In the end they ex- 
press hope for a restoration of an even bet- 
ter garden from God. The thematic unit 
containing the parable concludes with 
C3 68:34, "Surely for the godfearing shall be 
the gardens of bliss with their lord." 

Exegetes have cited reports that the garden 
actually existed in Yemen (q.v). 

Some typical features of qur'anic par- 
ables follow. The truths they illustrate are 
usually stated explicitly. Taken largely from 
the agricultural and commercial worlds of 
seventh-century Arabia, they tend to be 
related by exegetes to historical events (see 
HISTORY AND THE our'an). Many are 
based on natural phenomena (see nature 
AS signs). Their themes include justice and 
communal responsibility (see justice and 
injustice; community and society IN 
THE our'an), the proper stewardship of 
wealth (see property), the protection 
of the disadvantaged, the fleeting nature 
of this world's blessings, the certainty of 
divine judgment, and the importance of 
acknowledging the oneness and sover- 
eignty of God. God is a prominent player 
in most of the parables and they frequently 
stress the oneness of God (see god and his 
attributes) — even when it is not the 
main point of the comparison. 

A.H. Mathias Zahniser 

Primary: Ibn KatliTr, Tafsh\ ed. Ghunaym; Ibn 
Qayyim aX-^s^wziYja., Amthdl al-Qur'an, ed. M.B. 
'Alwan al-'AlllT, Baghdad 1987; Suhayll, Ta'rif; 
SuyutT, liqdn, chap. 63, iv, 44-52 (for amthdl); 
Zarkashi, Burhdn, Cairo 1957. 
Secondary: Bell, Commentary; F. Buhl, Uber 
Vergleichungen und Gleichnisse im Qur'an, in 
,4059 (1924), i-ii; M.A. Khalaf Allah, j4/^Kn 
al-qasasifi l-Qur'dn, Cairo 1965; Neuwirth, Siudien; 
L.I. Ribinowitz, Parable, in C. Roth and 
G. Wigoder (eds.). Encyclopaedia judaica, 16 vols., 
Jerusalem 1971-, xiii, 71-7; R. Sellheim, Mathal, 
in El", vi, 815-25; M. Sister, Metaphern und 
Vergleiche im Koran, in Mitieilungen des Seminars 
fUr Orientalische Sprachen zu Berlin. 2 Abt. Westasia- 
tische Studien 34 (1931), 103-54; K.R. Snodgrass, 
Parable, inJ.B. Green, S. McKnight and I.H. 
Marshall (eds.). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 
Downers Grove, IL 1992, 592-601; Speyer, 
Erzdhlungen, 426-38 (Das Gleichnis im QpranJ; 
J. alSuhhani, Majahim al-Qur^dn. Tafsir mawdu'i 



lil-Qur'dn. ix. Dimsat al-amthat wa-l-aqsdmji 
i-Qur'dn al-kanm, Q_om 2000 (very useful); A.T. 
Welch, Kur'an, in £/-, v, 400-29. 

Paraclete see muhammad; names of the 
prophet; christians and Christianity; 

POLEMIC and polemical LANGUAGE 


The abode of the souls of the righteous 
after their death, heaven; also, the garden 
of Eden. In the Qtir'an, descriptions of the 
hereafter appear in relation to the arrival 
of a day, "the hour" (al-sd'a), "reckoning 
day" (jawm al-hisdb), "the day of judg- 
ment" (yawm al-din), "the last day" (al-yawm 
al-dkhir), or "the day of resurrection" 
(yawm al-qijdma), in which every individual 
is resurrected and has to face up to his or 
her deeds and be judged accordingly 
((J 52:21, "... Every man shall be pledged 
for what he earned..."). The descriptions 
of heaven and hell, which are very often 
adduced as opposites, are interwoven with 
descriptions of deeds that lead to reward 
or punishment; together they contribute to 
an understanding of the way divine provi- 
dence operates: the righteous are rewarded 
and directed to the good abode, while the 
evil doers are punished and find themselves 
tortured in hell. All will happen when "the 
day" or, "the hour," comes (c) 19:75-6; 
79:35-41; and more; see good deeds; evil 
deeds; reward and punishment; last 

The hereafter is portrayed in the Qtir'an 
as an eternal physical abode (see eter- 
nity), and its permanent dwellers are pre- 
sented as living, sensible human beings. 
The descriptions use worldly concepts, of 
the kind that can be readily understood by 
humans. These, among more general as- 
pects related to Islamic eschatology (q.v.), 
are partially found in general books about 

Islam or in the few studies dedicated to the 
subject. They are widely described in early 
Islamic sources, either in the form of 
hadiths, dreams or theological and mystical 
inquiries (see theology and the q^ur'an; 
SUFISM AND THE q^ur'an). The following 
survey, however, is limited to the Qtir'an 
and focuses on the qur'anic verses that treat 
the blessed part of the hereafter. Emphasis 
has been put on philological aspects insofar 
as the image of the qur'anic paradise is 
depicted through its names. The edifying 
purpose of the heavenly delights is rep- 
resented by listing the groups that will re- 
side in paradise, the deeds that lead their 
performers to the ultimate bliss and the 
pleasures bestowed upon the blessed. 
Following these lines, no comparison has 
been made between the Meccan and 
Medinan suras (see chronology and the 

The names oj the gardens 
Janna: In the Qur'an the term used most 
frequently for paradise isjanna (cf. the 
Hebrew ^fln. Gen 2:8: "And the lord God 
planted a garden [gan] in Eden"; see also 
Y^aXsh, Judaism, 34, especially note 2). The 
word Janna means literally garden (q.v.) and 
Muslim philologists and commentators 
treated it as an Arabic word, derived from 
the roolj-n-n, which means "to cover, to 
conceal, to protect." Al-Raghib al-Isfahani 
(fl. early fifth/eleventh cent.; Mufraddt, 204) 
definesjfl;z7za as any garden, the trees of 
which hide the soil (a similar explanation is 
offered by Abu 1-Walid Marwan Ibn Janah 
[d. 441/1050] in Sepher Haschoraschim, 96). 
Al-Raghib al-lsfahani further suggests that 
the word jflnna was chosen to indicate para- 
dise either because it resembles worldly 
gardens or because its bliss is hidden from 
people's eyes, as stated in C3 32:17: "No soul 
knows what comfort is laid up for them 
secretly, as a recompense for that they were 
doing" (Arberry, ii, 18). The word janna 



also appears in the Qiir'an with reference 
to the primordial garden, the dwelling 
place of Adam (c3 2:35; see adam and eve) 
and also in the meaning of a worldly gar- 
den (q 2:264-5). 

Although most commonly used (over 
eighty times), janna is not the only word in 
the Qiir'an that conveys the idea of para- 
dise. Its plural (orm, janndt, appears over 
forty times, of which about half occur in 
combination with other terms: janndt 'adn 
(six times), janndt al-na'mi (seven times), 
janndt firdaws/ al-firdaws (once each), 
janndt/jannat al-ma'wd (once each). Other 
words presented in the commentaries as 
indicating paradise are ddr al-saldm (twice), 
ddr/jannat al-khuld (once each), ddr al- 
muqdma (once), maqdm amin (once), maq'ad 
al-sidq (once), ddr al-muttaqin (once), ddr al- 
qardr (once), tubd (once), 'illiyyun/ 'illiyyin 
(once each), rawda/rawddt janndt (once 
each), husnd (four times), as well as numer- 
ous verses in which al-ddr al-dkhira/ al-dkhira 
is interpreted to mean paradise. This 
variety of names imderlies the numerous 
traditions presented in the exegetical lit- 
erature concerning the different facets of 

Firdaws: According to words ascribed to 
al-Farra' (d. 20"]/ 822), firdaws is an Arabic 
word (quoted in Jawhari [d. 398/1007], 
Sihdh, iii, 959; cf Tdj al-'arus, viii, 392). This 
is, however, an exceptional opinion. The 
commentaries on o 18:107 focus on the 
foreign origin of the name, which means 
garden in Greek or Syriac (SuyutI, Durr, 
iv, 279; Tdj al-'arus, viii, 392), and Ibn 
Janah [Sepher Haschoraschim, 419) connects 
it with the Yiehrevi pardes (see foreign 
vocabulary). Various commentaries also 
present a prophetic tradition, according to 
which the janna consists of a hundred lev- 
els, among which the firdaws is the best. 
God's throne (see throne of god) is situ- 
ated above the firdaws and from it spurt the 
rivers of paradise (Tabarl, Tafsir, xvi, 30; 

Qurtuhl, Jdmi', xi, 68; Suyuti, Durr, iv, 279; 
and see Zaghlul, Aiawsu'a, iii, 363; iv, 514). 
Another prophetic tradition states that the 
firdaws consists of four gardens, two made 
of gold and two of silver (Tabarl, Tafsir, 
xvi, 30; cf. Zaghlrd, Mawsd'a, iv, 502, and 
the commentaries on q 55:62 mentioned 

'Adn: The biblical name Eden (Gen 2) is 
treated in Islamic sources as deriving from 
the root '-d-n, which means "to be firmly 
established and have a long duration" 
(al-Raghib al-lsfahani, Mufraddt, 553; cf 
Qtirtubi, j'fl;nz', x, 396; Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Hddi l-arwdh, 142; see also the 
detailed study of 'adn in the meaning of a 
mineral [ma'dan] in Tamari, Iconotextual 
studies, chaps, i and 2). The plural form 
(janndt 'adn) is used to indicate width 
{Chittwhi, Jdmi', x, 396). Fakhr al-Din al- 
RazI (d. 606/1210; Tafsir, xx, 25, ad (3 16:31) 
says thaX janndt denotes the palaces and the 
gardens, whereas 'adn conveys its eternity. 
Commentaries on (J 13:23 cite a prophetic 
tradition proclaiming that in the janna 
there is a palace, the name of which is 'adn. 
It is surrounded by towers and meadows, 
and has five thousand (or ten thousand) 
doors. Each door opens onto five thousand 
gardens (or twenty-five thousand beautiful 
women), and only prophets (see prophets 
AND prophethood), righteous people, 
martyrs (q.v; shuhadd'; see also witnessing 
AND testifying) and upright imams (see 
imam) are allowed to enter it (Qiirtubl, 
Jdmi', ix, 311; SuyiitI, Durr, iv, 65). As 
stated about the firdaws, 'adn is also defined 
as the center of the janna [Qurtuhl, Jdmi', 
ix, 311; X, 396; SuyutI, Durr, iv, 65; cf 
Zaghlrd, Adawsii'a, iv, 502). Other verses 
that mention 'adn emphasize the luxuries 
it offers. C3 18:31, for example, reads: 
"Those — theirs shall be gardens of Eden, 
imderneath which rivers flow; therein they 
shall be adorned with bracelets of gold 
(q.v.), and they shall be robed in green 



garments of silk (q.v.) and brocade, dierein 
reclining upon couches — O, how excel- 
lent a reward! and O, how fair a resting 

llliyyun/ 'illiyyin [q_ 83:18-21): Most com- 
mentaries deal with the location of the 
'illiyyun, and combine it with the basic 
meaning of the root of the word, namely 
height and glory. Thus 'illiyyun appears as 
lofty degrees surrounded by glory; as the 
seventh heaven (see heaven and sky), 
where the souls of the believers stay; as 
the lotus tree in the seventh heaven (see 
ascension; agriculture and vegeta- 
tion); as a green chrysolite tablet contain- 
ing the deeds of people that hangs beneath 
the throne; as the most elevated place, the 
dwellers of which can be seen only as spar- 
kling stars up in the sky; as the residence of 
the angels (see angel), or the celestial host 
(TabarsI, Majma', xxx, 71; Qiirtubl, j^amT, 
xix, 262-3). Other terms derived from the 
same root that indicate high degrees in 
paradise are al-darajdt al-'uld (q 20:75) and 
janna 'dliya (c) 69:22; 88:10). 

Jannat/Janndt al-ma'wd, "garden/s of the 
refuge": the abode of Gabriel (q.v; Jibrll) 
and the angels, or of the souls of the 
shuhadd ' (hoth in Wahidi, Wasit, iv, ig8, ad 
Q. 53- '5)' ^i" °f green birds that contain 
the souls of the shuhadd' (Von Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Hddi l-arwdh, 142), or yet, the 
residing place of the believers in general 
(VVahidi, WasTt, iii, 454, ad q 32:19; see 
BELIEF AND UNBELIEF). Nothing is said 
about its location. 

Ddr al-saldm (q 6:127; 10:25): the abode 
(ddr) of everlasting security and soundness 
(saldma), or the janna (= ddr) of God, saldm 
being one of God's names (see god and 
HIS attributes; peai;e), derived from his 
immunity from any kind of evil (Wahidi, 
Wasit, ii, 322; cf al-Raghib al-lsfahani, 
Mufraddt, 421-2; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, 
Hddl l-arwdh, 142; see good and evil). 
Similar is the meaning given to the term 

maqdm amin [(j_ 44:51), presented as the 
future dwelling of the righteous, and 
interpreted to mean the eternal world of 
security and immunity from fear (q.v.) and 
death (Muqatil, Tafsir, iii, 825; cf Ibn 
Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Hddl l-arwdh, 145-6; 
see HOUSE, domestic and divine). 

Ddr al-khuld occurs in q 41:28 in the 
meaning of hell (see hell and hellfire), 
whereas jan/zai al-khuld is mentioned in 
Q_ 25:15 in the meaning of paradise, both 
aiming at an eternal existence. Muqatil 
(d. 150/767) gives the same meaning to ddr 
al-muqdma (c) 35:35). He defines the latter as 
ddr al-khulud, the place where people stay 
forever (Muqatil, Tafsir, iii, 558; cf. Ibn 
Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Hddi l-arwdh, 141). 

Maq'ad al-sidq (q 54:55), the place of 
goodness promised to the righteous: Ibn 
Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350; Hddl 
l-arwdh, 146-7) considers it, as well as the 
term qadam al-sidq (cj 10:2), as one of the 
names of paradise. 

Janndt/jannat na'im / al-na'im: The name 
conveys the variety of pleasures (ni'am) 
offered in paradise (Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Hddl l-arwdh, 145; see blessing). 
The commentaries that deal with the term 
concentrate mainly on the issue of com- 
pensation. Fakhr al-Din al-RazI [TafsTi; xxii, 
49, ad q 5:65) deals with two kinds of hap- 
piness (see joy and misery). One is the 
removal of sins (see sin, major and 
minor; repentance and penanc;e) and 
the other is the bestowal of reward. Na'lm, 
in al-Razi's opinion, is to be understood as 
the latter. In several cases na 'Tm is identified 
viixhjirdaws (for example, Wahidi, WasTt, iii, 
356, ad C3 26:85). 

Ddr al-dkhira appears mostly in contrast 
with the present world (al-dunydj . q 40:39 
juxtaposes the transience of the present 
world with the stability of the hereafter 
(al-dkhira), and defines the latter as ddr al- 
qardr. cj 16:30-1 mentions ddr al-dkhira to- 
gether with ddr al-muttaqm a.nd janndt 'adn. 



and c) 29:64 defines it as the abode of fife 
(q.v.; hayawdn), meaning eitlier tlie abode of 
eternal life, or the eternal abode (Wahidi, 
Wasit, iii, 425-6; cf Ibn Q_ayyim al- 

Jawziyya, Hddi l-arwdh, 144). 

Tuba (q 13:29): A common tradition, cited 
by most commentators, states tfiat tiibd is a 
tree vajanna (Wahidi, Wasit, iii, 15, 16; 

Jawharl, Sihdh, i, 173; cf. Zaghlrd, Mawsu'a, 
iii, 360). An attempt to show a foreign ori- 
gin may explain the statement that tubd 
meansjanna in the Ethiopian/Indian lan- 
guage (Wahidi, Wasit, iii, 16; SuyutI, Durr, 
iv, 67). Other explanations, however, treat 
tubd as an Arabic word, meaning good, the 
eternal ultimate stage in janna (al-Raghib 
al-Isfahanl, Mufraddt, 528; Tdj al-'arus, ii, 
i8g; for the usage of tubd in Persian poetry, 
see Schimmel, Celestial garden, 18-9). 
(Al-)husnd is often interpreted to mean 

janna (for example Wahidi, Wasit, ii, 104, 
544; in, 13, 68, ad o 4:95; 10:26; 13:18; 
16:62), but also as the ultimate good and as 
tfie vision of God {Tdj al-'arus, xvii, 142; see 
FACE OF god). 

The number of the gardens 
Q. 55-46 mentions two gardens awaiting 
those who fear God. The commentators 
offer several ways to distinguish one gar- 
den from another. Al-Qiirtubl (d. 671/1272; 
Jdmi', xvii, 177) cites the following explana- 
tions: one garden was created especially for 
the individual, the other was inherited; one 
garden is for the destined, the other for his 
wives (see MARRIAGE AND divorce); one 
garden is his home, the other his garden; 
one has the lower palaces, the other the 
upper ones. Abu Hayyan (d. 745/1344; 
Bahr, x, 67) adduces similar ideas, among 
which he suggests that one garden is for 
those who obey God (see obedience), the 
other for those who refrain from sin; one is 
for the jinn (q.v.), the other for people. Al- 
TabarsI (d. 548/1154; Majma', vi, lOi) men- 
tions one garden inside the palace and 

another outside. Al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505; 
Durr, vi, 163) presents a prophetic tradition, 
according to which both gardens reach the 
width of a hundred years walking distance 
(cf. o 3:133, which compares the width of 
the janna to that of heaven and earth; for 
Jewish parallels see Y^aiA^, Judaism, 214), 
and both gardens have fruitful trees, flow- 
ing rivers, and wonderful fragrances. Al- 
Wahidi (d. 468/1076; WasTt, iv, 225) cites 
al-Dahhak as saying that one garden is for 
the believers who worshiped God secretly 
and the other for those who worshiped him 
openly. Verse 62 of the same sura (c) 55) 
also mentions two gardens. Most commen- 
taries refer to these two as additional gar- 
dens, assuming altogether the existence of 
four gardens: two gardens of trees and two 
of plants and seeds; two gardens for the 
"foremost in the race" (sdbiqun) and "those 
brought near" (al-muqarrabun), two for the 
"people of the right hand" [ashdb al-yamin; 
see LEFT HAND AND RIGHT hand); the first 
two (v 46) are 'adn and na'Tm, the other pair 
(v 62) the Jirdaws and ddr al-ma'wd; the first 
two are of gold and silver, the others are of 
sapphire and emerald (Qurtubi, Jdmi', xvii, 
183-4; "^f- Tabarl, Tafsir, xvii, 89-91; SuyutI, 
Durr, vi, 161-3; for a stylistic analysis of 
these verses, see Noldeke, Koran, 45; 
Schimmel, Celestial garden, 17-8; Abdel 
Haleem, Context, 89-93). 

The inhabitants of paradise 
Surat al-Waqi'a ("The Event," (^ 56), 
which describes the day of resurrection 
(q.v.), mentions three groups of people as 
the future inhabitants of paradise: (i) "the 
people of the right hand" {ashdb al-may- 
mana, q 56:8), who are more commonly 
referred to as ashdb al-yamin (c) 56:27, 38, 
90, gi; cf The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate 
Shabat, 63a); (2) "the foremost in the race" 
{al-sdbiqun, q 56:10); and (3) "those brought 
near" [al-muqarrabun, q 56:11). 
Ashdb al-yamin/ al-maymana: q 56:28-38 



give a picturesque description of the re- 
wards awaiting tlie ashdb al-jamin: "Mid 
tliornless lote-trees and serried acacias, 
and spreading sliade and outpoured 
waters, and fruits abounding unfailing, 
unforbidden, and upraised couclies, per- 
fectly we formed them, perfect, and we 
made them spotless virgins, chastely amo- 
rous, like of age for the companions of the 
right hand." The commentaries explain 
their name in three ways: those who, on 
the day of judgment, will receive the re- 
cord of their deeds in their right hand (cf. 
C) 17:71; 69:19; 84:7; see book), those who 
are strong, and those whose belief is il- 
luminated by the light of God (all in Razi, 
Tafsir, xxix, 143, 163). 

Al-sdbiqun: Q^ 9:100 reads: "And the out- 
strippers (sdbiqun), the first of the emi- 
grants and the helpers (see emigrants and 
helpers), and those who followed them in 
good doing, God will be well pleased with 
them and they are well pleased with him; 
and he has prepared for them gardens un- 
derneath which rivers flow therein to dwell 
forever and ever." The common identifica- 
tions of the sdbiqun, adduced in the com- 
mentaries, are of two kinds: those who 
lived prior to the arrival of Muhammad 
(RazI, Tafsir, xxix, 149) and those who con- 
tributed to Islam in its first stages. Among 
the latter, the following are mentioned: 
those who prayed toward both qiblas (see 
q^ibla), those who participated in Badr 
(q.v), those who took part in Hudaybiya 
(q.v.) or, more generally, those who lived 
during Muhammad's lifetime (all in 
Wahidi, Wasit, ii, 520). Fakhr al-Din al- 
RazI, who prefers to identify the sdbiqun as 
those who performed the emigration (q.v.) 
with Muhammad, states that the sdbiqun are 
the most elevated in paradise (RazI, Tafsir, 
xvi, 172, ad <J 9:100). In his commentary on 
c) 56:10-1, al-RazI [Tafsir, xxix, 147) defines 
the sdbiqun as the most exalted among the 
muqarrabUn, higher than ashdb al-yamin, the 

most elevated among the muttaqun (ibid., 
148), and those who will reach paradise 
without judgment (ibid., 144). 

Muqarrabun: in c) 3:45 Jesus (q.v.; 'Isa) is 
considered one of the muqarrabun. In 
o 4:172 the angels are the muqarrabun, while 
in Q 56:10-26 the muqarrabun are identified 
as sdbiqun, and the description of the re- 
wards bestowed upon them seems the most 
highly detailed in the Qur'an: "In the gar- 
dens of delight . . . upon close-wrought 
couches reclining upon them, set face to 
face, immortal youths going round about 
them with goblets, and ewers, and a cup 
from a spring (see CUPS AND vessels), no 
brows throbbing, no intoxication (see 
intoxicants; wine), and such fruits as 
they shall choose, and such flesh of fowl as 
they desire, and wide-eyes houris (q.v.) as 
the likeness of hidden pearls, a recompense 
for that they labored. Therein they shall 
hear no idle talk (see gossip), no cause of 
sin, only the saying peace." 

Other verses promise heavenly delights to 
additional groups: Two groups often men- 
tioned (over fifty times each), are (i) "the 
godfearing" (al-muttaqun/ alladhma ttaqu) 
and (2) "those who believed and performed 
righteous deeds" [alladhma dmanU wa- 'amilu 
l-sdlihdt; for detailed descriptions of the 
bliss bestowed upon each of the groups see 
Q_ 44:51-7 and (J 2:25 respectively). Also 
mentioned are "the inhabitants of para- 
dise" [ashdb al-janna, over ten times; see e.g. 
c) 2:82; 10:26), and the "pious" [abrdr, six 
times; see piety). 

Deeds that lead their performers to paradise 
The general term "righteous deeds" 
(sdlihdt) is mentioned about sixty times in 
the Qiir'an, always as a guarantee to entry 
into paradise, q 4:122-4 read: "But those 
that believe, and do deeds of righteousness, 
them we shall admit to gardens under- 
neath which rivers flow, therein dwelling 
for ever and ever . . . and whosoever does 



deeds of righteousness, be it male or fe- 
male (see gender), believing — they shall 
enter paradise ..." (cf. Q, 3:195, and see also 
the description of the mu'minun in C3 8:2-4). 
ft 7:157-8, among other verses, emphasize 
the belief in God and his messenger as a 
guarantee of prosperity. C3 2:112 restricts 
good fate to "those who submit their will to 
God," namely Muslims, and implicitly 
excludes Jews and Christians from being 
potential dwellers in paradise (see JEWS 
AND JUDAISM; (;hristians and Christian- 
ity). q_ 13:20-3 and q 70:22-35 mention a 
list of conditions, the fulfillment of which 
is necessary to gain entry into paradise. 
Other verses focus on particular deeds that 
ensure reaching paradise, such as praying 
(c) 2:277; 4:162; 27:3; see prayer), almsgiv- 
ing (q.v.; C) 3:134; 27:3), belief in the last 
day (q 58:22; 65:2), fear of the last day 
(O. 76:10), obedience (q 3:132; 4:13), grati- 
tude (q 3:144; see gratitude and ingra- 
titude), patience (q 76:12; see trust and 
patience; trial), restraint of rage and 
forgiving the evil of other people (c) 3:134; 
see anger; forgiveness), fulfillment of 
vows (q 76:7; see vow; breaking trusts 
and contracts; contracts and 
alliances), support of the needy (q 76:8; 
see POVERTY AND THE poor), participation 
in the emigration [hijra, c) 3:195), in Huday- 
biya (cf. () 48:18), and in jihad (q.v; i.e. 
C3 2:218; 3:195; 4:95; 8:74; 9:20; 61:11-2). 

Rewards in paradise 
The bliss bestowed upon the dwellers of 
paradise may be divided into two types: 
sensual pleasures and spiritual ones. 

Spiritual pleasures: Here one can find gen- 
eral expressions, such as God's pleasure 
[ridwdn, C3 3:15; for the personification of 
ridwdn in Persian poetry to mean the 
heavenly doorkeeper of paradise, see 
Schimmel, Celestial garden, 16-8; see 
PERSIAN literature AND THE qUR'AN), 
forgiveness (q 3:136), acquittal of evil deeds 

(q 3:195; 48:5), divine protection from the 
evil day (cf. <j 76:11), praise of God (see 
laudation; praise) and greetings of 
peace (q 10:9-11; cf 56:26). q 10:26 
promises al-husnd and zjydda "to the good- 
doers" (lilladhina ahsanu). Al-husnd is inter- 
preted to mean paradise and zijdda is 
interpreted to mean looking at God's face 
(al-Raghib al-Isfahani, Mufraddt, 386; 
Wahidi, WasTt, ii, 344-5; SuyutI, Durr, iii, 
331-2). The ability to look at the face of the 
lord can be drawn from additional verses. 
q 83:15 proclaims that those who do not 
believe will be "veiled from their lord." In 
the commentaries on this verse several tra- 
ditions are adduced to indicate that if veil- 
ing is a sign of divine anger, unveiling, 
namely the permission to see God, is a sign 
of divine contentment (Wahidi, Wasit, iv, 
446; see veil). A more straightforward 
verse is q 75:22-3: "Upon that day (resur- 
rection day) faces shall be radiant, gazing 
upon their lord." (The issue of permission 
to see God became controversial and was 
widely discussed in theological and mysti- 
cal circles; see Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, 
Hddi l-arwdh, 402-77; Ajurl, Tasdlq; 
Gimaret, Ru'yat Allah; Baljon, 'To seek 
the face of God,' 254-66; Schimmel, 
Deciphering, 238.) Further aspects of spiri- 
tual pleasures can be drawn from the 
verses that deal with the fate that awaits 
the martyrs (shuhadd'): "Count not those 
who were slain in God's way as dead (see 
path or way; expeditions and battles; 
fighting), but rather living with their lord, 
by him provided, rejoicing in the bounty 
that God has given them, and joyful in 
those who remain behind and have not 
joined them, because no fear shall be on 
them, neither shall they sorrow, joyful in 

blessing and bounty from God " 

Sensual pleasures: The most frequently 
mentioned reward (over fifty times) focuses 
on rivers flowing beneath gardens, q 47:15 
describes four rivers flowing in paradise: 


"... Rivers of water unstaling, rivers of 
milk (q.v.) unchanging in flavor, and rivers 
of wine — a deliglit to the drinkers, rivers, 

too, of honey (q.v.) purified " (Scliimmel, 

Celestial garden, 15, points out that "The 
idea of the four rivers which flow through 
Paradise may have helped late architects to 
conceive the canals as they flow through 
the gardens of Iran and Mughal India, for 
it was said by the court poets of this time 
that every part of the royal garden was in 
some way a similitude of Paradise." See 
also Tamari, Iconotextual studies, chap. 3.) 

Thoroughly studied, but also criticized in 
non-Islamic circles, is the topic of the 
women granted the faithful as a celestial 
reward in the qur'anic paradise (see the 
bibliographical references mentioned in 
the notes of Wendell, Denizens of para- 
dise). Compared to the carnal, sensuous, 
highly detailed descriptions of women 
awaiting the righteous adduced in hadlth 
literature, the qur'anic text is restrained 
(see HADITH AND THE q^ur'an). It mentions 
purified women {azwdj mutahhara, q 2:25; 
3:15; 4:57), "wide-eyed houris" {[bi-]huT 'in, 
Q. 44-54J 52-20; 56:22; but see the exegesis 
of these verses for the various understand- 
ings of the phrase), maidens with swelling 
breasts, equal in age [kawd'ib atrdban, 
Q. 7^-33) ^""^ amorous virgins equal in age 
[abkdr 'uruban atrdban, q 56:36-7). 

Other rewards that await one in heaven 
are young boys serving wine [wilddn 
mukhalladiin, q 56:17; yd'.iQ; ghilmdn, 
(J 52:24), sofas to lean against [surur, 
a 15:47; 37:44; 43:34; 52:20; 56:15; 88:13; 
furush, q 55:54; 56:34; al-ard'ik, q 18:31; 
36:56; 76:13; mfraf, Q. 55:76), green gar- 
ments of silk and brocade (q 18:31; 76:21), 
gold/silver bracelets (q 18:31; 22:23; 35:33; 
76:21), fruit [thamara, q_ 2'.2%Ja.kiha, q_ 36:57; 
38:51; 43:73; 44:55; 52:22; 55:11, 52, 68; 
56:20, 32; 8o:^j;fawdkih, c) 37:42; 77:42, 
especially dates and grapes; see date 
palm), wine that does not intoxicate {khamr. 

Q. 47:15; ka's, Q. 37:45; 52:23; 56:18; 76:17; 
78:34; shardb, o 38:51; 76:21), vessels of 
silver and goblets of crystal (q 76:15), 
plates/trays of gold (c3 43:71), pleasant 
weather (q 76:13), shade (q 4:57; 36:56; 
56:30; 76:14; 77:41), provision [rizq, Q, 37:41; 
65:11; cf 40:40), palaces (q 25:10), and 
whatever the souls desire and in which the 
eyes delight (q 43:71; cf 50:35). Such 
pleasures and those like them are often 
defined as " [the great] triumph" [fawz, 
Q. 4:13; 5:119; 9:72, 89, 100; 45:30; 48:5; 
57:12; 61:12; 64:9; 85:11), mostly with 
emphasis on their eternal existence. 

These heavenly delights became an issue 
that has often been used for polemical piu"- 
poses against Islam. These descriptions 
"angered theologians for centuries . . . the 
large-eyed virgins, the luscious fruits and 
drinks, the green couches and the like 
seemed too worldly to most non-Muslim 
critics" (Schimmel, Deciphering, 238, espe- 
cially note 44). The following words, as- 
cribed to the so-called 'Abd al-Maslh 
al-Kindl (probably third/ninth cent.), 
may give an idea about the nature of the 
non-Muslim reaction: "All these [descrip- 
tions of paradise in the Qiir'an] suit only 
stupid, ignorant and simple-minded peo- 
ple, who are inexperienced and unfamiliar 
with reading texts and understanding old 
traditions, and who are just a rabble of 
rough Bedouins accustomed to eating des- 
ert lizards and chameleons" (cited in 
Sadan, Identity and inimitability, 338, from 
al-Kindl's book, which, "transcribed by 
Jews into Hebrew characters and trans- 
lated from Arabic into Latin, taught the 
Spanish Christians how to fight Islam in 
the most vigorous and harsh way"; see also 
notes 12 and 39). 

Although comparison between the Meccan 
and Medinan suras appears as one of the 
central features in the examination of 



the Qiir'an, as it relates to paradisiacal 
descriptions, such a comparison seems 
superfluous. The components that com- 
prise the descriptions of paradise of both 
periods are similar, and even though the 
issue of the last day is less prominent in the 
suras of Medina (q.v.), one common con- 
cept underlies all the descriptions. This is 
the idea of a direct proportion between 
deeds and rewards that furnishes the 
eschatological status of the individual. It 
can be considered the leitmotiv of all the 
celestial descriptions found in the Qi_ir'an 
and the key to understanding the spirit of 

Leah Kinberi 


Primary (Although each of the hadlth collections 
has a chapter of paradisiacal descriptions, al- 
ways with references to qur'anic verses, there are 
also collections dedicated solely to the subject; 
the following list includes only these specialized 
collections.): 'Abd al-Malik b. Habib (d. 238/ 
853), Wasf al-firdaws, Beirut 1987 (a hadlth col- 
lection dedicated solely to paradise); AbQ Hatini 
al-RazT, Ahmad b. Hamdan, Kitdb al-^inaji 
l-kalimdt al-isldmiyya al-'arabiyya, ed. H.b.F. al- 
HamdanT, 2 vols., Cairo 1957-8, ii, 196-205; Abu 
Nu'aym al-Isfahanl, Wasf al-j anna, Beirut 1988 
{a hadlth collection dedicated solely to paradise); 
al-Ajuri, Abu Bakr (d. 360/970), al-Tasdiq bi- 
l-na^ar ild lldh ta'dldfi l-dkhira, Riyadh 1985; 
Atafayyish, Muhammad b. Yusuf, al-Junnaji 
wasf al-janna, Oman 1985 (a hadlth collection 
dedicated solely to paradise); BukharT, Sahih, 
ed. Krehl, ii, 314-7; iv, 239-45, 247"5'^5 trans. 
O. Houdas and W. Margais, El~Bokhdri. Les 
Traditions islamiques, 4 vols., 1903-14; ii, 306-13, 
315-8, 438-43; al-GhazalT, Abu Hamid 
Muhammad, al-Durra al-Jakhira, ed. and trans. 
L. Gautier, La perle precieuse (ad-dourra al-fakhira) 
de Ghazdli. TraitS d'eschatologie musulmane, Geneva 
1878, repr. Amsterdam 1974; id., Ihyd' 'uldm al- 
dm, 4 vols., Bulaq 1289/1872, repr. Cairo 1933, iv, 
455-67 (Book XL); trans. T.J. WiiAgt, Al- Ghazdli. 
The remembrance of death and the afterlife. Kitab 
Dhikr al-mawt wa-ma ba'dahu. Book XL of The 
revival of the religious sciences, Ihya' \ilum al-dln, 
Cambridge, UK 1989, 232-61; Ibn Abl al-Dunya 
(d. 281/894), Waf al-janna wa-md a'adda lldh 
min al-na'im, Amman 1997 (a hadlth collection 

dedicated solely to paradise); Ibnjanah, Sepher 
Haschoraschim, Berlin 1896; Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Hddi l-arwdh ild bildd al-afrdh aw wasf 
al-janna, Beirut 1991; al-Jaw^harT, Isma'll b. 
Hammad, al-Sihdh, Beirut 1956; Muqatil, TafsTr; 
Muslim, Sahih, iv, 2174-2206; Qiirtubl, ^flm/'; 
al-Raghib al-Isfahanl, Mufraddt, Beirut 1992; 
RazT, TafsTr; SuyutT, Durr; Tabarl, Tafsir; TabarsT, 
Majma'; Taj al-'arus; Wahidl, Wasit; M. Wolff, 
Muhammedanische Eschatologie. 'Abd al-Rahim b. 
Ahmad al-Q{idi, Kitab ahwal al-qijama, Leipzig 
1872, 105-15 (Arabic text), 185-205 (Ger. trans.); 
Abu Hajir Zaghlul (ed.), Mawsu'at atrdf al-hadith, 
Beirut 1989. 

Secondary: M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Context and 
internal relationships. Keys to qur'anic exegesis. 
A study of Surat al-Rahman (Qiir'an chapter 
55), in Hawting and Shareef, Approaches, 71-98; 
Arberry; The Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem 1979, 
Tractate Shabat; M.S. Baljon, 'To seek the face of 
God' in Koran and hadlth, in ao 21 (1953), 
254-66; J.E. Bencheikh, Le voyage nocturne de 
Mahomet, Paris 1988, 81-119; van Ess, tg, iv, 
543-61 (on eschatology); L. Gardet, Djanna, in 
El^, ii, 447-52, and the bibliography there; 
D. Gimaret, Ru yat Ahah, in Ei^, viii, 649; 
J. Horovitz, Das koranische Paradies, in Scripta 
universitatis atque bibliothecae Hierosolymitanarum 
[Orientalia et Judaica] i (1923), article no. VI 
Q^p. 1-16]; A.I. Y^aX&h, Judaism, and the Koran, New 
York 1954 (repr. 1962); L. Kinberg, Interaction 
between this world and the afterworld in early 
Islamic traditions, in Oriens 29/30 (1986), 285-308 
(for bibliography concerning eschatological 
themes in the Qiir^an see note 2; for the issue of 
life after death, notes 3 and 5); T Noldeke, The 
Koran, in Ibn Warraq (ed.). The origins of the 
Koran, Amherst, NY 1998, 36-63; F. Rahman, 
Major themes of the Qur'dn, Chicago ig8o; J.B. 
Ruling, Beitrdge zur Eschatologie des Islam, 
Inaugural-Dissertation, Leipzig 1895, 32-40 
(qur'anic discussion), 64-8 (extra-qur'anic discus- 
sion); J. Sadan, Identity and inimitability 
Contexts of inter-religious polemics and solidar- 
ity in medieval Spain, in the light of two pas- 
sages by Mose Ibn "^Ezra and Ya'aqov Ben 
Efazar, in los r6 (1994), 325-47; A. Schimmel, 
The celestial garden in Islam, in E.B. Mac- 
dougall and R. Ettinghausen (eds.). The Islamic 
garden, Washington, DC 1976, 13-39; i^-' 
Deciphering the signs of God, Albany, NY 1994; 
H. Stieglecker, Die Glaubenslehren des Islam, 
Munich 1959-62, 768-73; S. Tamari, /conoie'x^urt/ 
studies in the Muslim vision of paradise, Wiesbaden/ 
Ramat Gan 1999; C. Wendell, The denizens of 
paradise, in Humaniora islamica 2 (1974), 29-59 
(notes 3, 9, 13 and 16 mention some of the 
most prominent studies of the first halt of the 



twentieth century that deal with the qiir'anic 
paradise, such as those of J. Horovitz, E. Ber- 
thels, D. Kiinsthnger, and E. Beck). 

Parchment see writing and writing 
materials; sheets; scrolls 

Pardon see forgiveness 


Those who beget or bring forth children. 
Terms designating "parents" in the Qiir'an 
are wdliddni and abawdni, respectively the 
dual form of wdlid, "father, one who begets 
a child" (the passive al~mawlud lahu indi- 
cates "to whom the child is borne"; wdlida, 
"mother, one who brings forth a child," 
appears in both the singular and the plural; 
umm/ummahdt also designate "mother"), 
and the dual form of ah, "father" (the sin- 
gular means "nurturer," see Robertson- 
Smith, Kinship and marriage, 142; Lane, 10; 
in certain verses the plural aia' means 

Natural aspects of parenthood are par- 
ticularly identified throughout the Qiir'an 
with maternal functions, pregnancy, giving 
birth (q.v), breastfeeding and weaning (e.g. 
Q, 16:78; 39:6; 53:32; 58:2; see also biology 
as the creation and stages of life). 
(3 2:232-3 calls upon divorced mothers to 
fulfill their natural role as nurses whereas 
the role of fathers is limited to supplying 
the nursing mother and the nursling with 
economic support (see lai;tation; 
maintenance and upkeep). Moreover, 
maternal emotions of love (q.v.) and 
solicitude find emphatic expression in the 
qur'anic story of Moses (q.v.; o 28:7-13; 
20:38-40; cf Stowasser, Women, 57-8; 
Giladi, Infants, 14-5). In two verses, q 7:150 
and 20:94, Aaron (cj.v.; Harun) calls his 
brother "MUsd ibn umma, " thus attributing 
him to their mother ("to implore his 

mercy," cf. Tabarl, Tafsir; Zamakhshari, 
Kashshdf; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, ad loc.) rather 
than to their father as could have been ex- 
pected in a patrilineal system (see e.g. q 8:75; 
33:6 where blood relatives are referred to 
as iilu l-arhdm, arhdm being the plural of 
rahim, "womb"; see also patriarchy; 
family). When, in q 31:14 and 46:15, 
Muslims are commanded to honor both 
parents (see below), it is the (biological) role 
of the mother that is emphasized ("His 
mother beneath him in weakness upon 
weakness"; cf. Pickthall, Koran; Ibn Kathir, 
Tafsir, ad loc), implying that it serves best 
to justify or explain the commandment. 

As reproduction is (implicitly) presented 
as the goal of marriage (q 4:1; 7:189; see 
marriage and divorce; sex and sex- 
uality; children), both parents are 
depicted as bringing up their children 
(q 17:24,... kamd rabbaydni saghiran); fathers 
are described as having intimate knowl- 
edge of their sons (q 6:20) and seeking 
comfort from their descendants as well as 
from their wives (q 25:74). 

Several verses from the second Meccan 
period onwards (see e.g. q 4:36; 6:151; 
17:23-4; also q 31:13-4; cf Ibn Kathir, 
Tafsir, ad q 4:36: "For God made parents 
the reason for the servants to come into 
existence.") contain a recurring formula in 
which the commandment "to be good to 
one's parents" (wa-bi-l-wdlidayni ihsdnan) is 
presented as second in importance only to 
the commandment "to worship no god but 
Allah" (cf. Lev 19:2-4; q 2:83; on the ap- 
parent infiuence of the Hebrew decalogue 
on the Qtir'an in this regard, see Roberts, 
Social laws, 46-9; see also idolatry and 
idolaters; polytheism and atheism; 
scripture and the quR'AN). Nevertheless, 
in cases of conflict, that is, when one's par- 
ents "strive hard with you that you may 
associate with me that of which you have 
no knowledge" (q 29:8), and submission to 
God prevails, the duty to obey parents be- 



comes void (see also C3 31:13-5 from the 
third Meccan period [Noldeke] or early 
Medinan [Bell]). This is exemplified par- 
ticularly through qur'anic references from 
the second Meccan period onwards to the 
conflict between Abraham (q.v.; Ibrahim) 
and his people, including his pagan father 
(e.g. (J 9:114; 19:41-8; 37:83-98). o 21:51-70 
describes a dramatic clash in which 
Abraham uses the expression of exaspera- 
tion uffin lakum ("fie on you," c) 21:67) 
which, according to o 17:23, Muslims are 
never to direct at their parents (cf. (j 46:17). 
In several verses (e.g. (J 14:41; 26:86) 
Abraham is depicted as praying for his 
father, but unable to evoke divine response 
(q, 60:4). Noah (q.v.; Nuh) prays similarly, 
to no avail, for his sinfid son (q^ 11:45-6). 

In contrast to the tension between him 
and his (polytheist) father, Abraham's 
relationship with his own (believing) son is 
harmonious. Abraham is depicted as ask- 
ing God to give him " [one] of the right- 
eous" (mina l-sdlihina) and is indeed granted 
a "mild-tempered" (halTm) son who, being 
"one of the enduring ones" {mina l-sdbinna; 
see TRUST AND patieniie), is ready to obey 
God's command and be sacrificed for his 
sake [q_ 37:100-7; see obedience; Isaac; 

Thus, Muslims are guided to prefer loy- 
alty to God above the fulfillment of filial 
duties, "to be witnesses for God, even 
though it be against yourselves, or your 
parents and relatives..." (c3 4:135). In any 
case, they are warned, "neither their rela- 
tions nor their [polytheist; cf. Jaldlajn, ad 
loc] children will profit them on the day of 
resurrection" (the Medinan (3 60:3; cf. Ibn 
Kathir, Tafsir, ad loc; see also the Meccan 
Q, 70:11-2; 80:34-5). On the other hand, 
"those who believe and whose progeny 
have followed them in belief" are assured 
that God will "cause their progeny to be 
united with them [in paradise; ci. Jaldlayn, 
ad loc.]" ((J 52:21; for a detailed discussion 

see Tabari, Tafsir; ad loc; also c) 13:23; 
40:8; and Motzki, Das Kind, 399 n. 42; see 


Attitudes of parents towards their chil- 
dren are also reflected in the Qiir'an, some 
of whom are strongly criticized from the 
point of view of monotheist morality (see 
children). Although sons (and property) 
are acknowledged as signs of divine be- 
nevolence (see grace; blessing), they are 
also regarded as temptation for the believ- 
ers (Motzki, Das Kind, 398). For example, 
there is a legend in which one of God's 
servants, al-Khidr (cf. Tabari, Tafsir, ad 
c) 18:74), kills a youth: "Have you taken an 
innocent life, not in return for a life?" 
Moses asks, adding: "Surely you have com- 
mitted a thing unheard of" (q 18:74). The 
unnamed servant of God then explains the 
act by saying that "his [i.e. the youth's] 
parents were believers and we feared that 
he might impose upon them arrogance 
(q.v.) and unbelief" [q_ 18:80; cf Ibn 
Kathir, Tafsir, ad loc: "Their love for him 
might make them follow him in disbelief;" 
see khadir/khidr). 

In Mecca (q.v.), the Qiir'an had frowned 
on help based on ties of kinship (see 
O'Shaughnessy, Qiir'anic view, 37-8), but 
in the Medinan period, when blood ties 
and the duties they impose are again 
emphasized (see blood and blood clot), 
a few verses were dedicated to parent- 
descendant relationships from the 
viewpoint of mutual socioeconomic re- 
sponsibilities (see c;oMMUNiTY and society 
IN the q^ur'an; ethics and the q^ur'an; 
economics). Reciprocal inheritance rules 
find a relatively detailed formulation in 
C) 2:180 and 4:7, II (see also inheritance). 
In (H 2:215 Muslims are encouraged to sup- 
port their parents economically, as well as 
relatives and such members of the com- 
munity as are in need, e.g. "orphans (q.v.), 
the poor (see poverty and the poor) and 



the follower of the way (see journey)." 

Prohibitions of marriage between, 
among others, males and their own moth- 
ers (as well as their non-maternal wet 
nurses, see lactation; wet nursing), and 
between males and their own daughters 
(as well as their own wives' daughters, see 
fosterage) are enumerated in o 4:23 (see 
PROHIBITED degrees), c) 33:6, wherein the 
Prophet's wives (see wives of the 
prophet) are referred to as the "mothers" 
of the believers, was understood to mean 
that they were not allowed to remarry after 
Muhammad's death (wa-azwdjuhu umma- 
hdtuhum = wa-hurmat azwdjihi — hurmat 
ummahdtihim 'alayhim, cf. Tabarl, TafsTr, ad 
loc.). See also guardianship. 

Avner Giladi 

Primary: Ibn Kathlr, Tafsir, Riyadh 2000 (abr.); 
Jaldlayn; TabarT, TafsTr; ZaniakhsharT, Kashshaf. 
Secondary: M.H. Benkheira, Donner le sein 
c'est comme donner le jour. La doctrine de 
I'allaitenient dans le sunnisme medieval, in si 92 
(2001), 5-52; A. Giladi, Infants, parents and wet 
nurses. Medieval Islamic views on breastfeeding and their 
social implications, Leiden 1999; H. Motzki, Das 
Kind und seine Sozialisation in der islamischen 
Familie des Mittelalters, inj. Martin and 

A. Nitschke (eds.), ^ur Sozialgeschichte der Kindheit, 
Munich 1986, 391-441; Th.J. O'Shaughnessy, 
The qur'anic view of youth and old age, in ZDMG 
141 (1991), 33-51; R. Roberts, The social laws of the 
Qur'dn, London 1925; W. Robertson Smith, 
Kinship and marriage in early Arabia, London 1907; 

B. Stowasser, Women in the Qur'dn, tradition and 
interpretation, Oxford 1994. 

Parody of the Qiir'an 

Literary composition attempting to imitate 
the language and style of the Qiir'an. 
Parodies of the Qin-'an (sing, mu'dradat al- 
Qur'dn) have been known in Islamic history, 
but no authentic and complete texts of 
them have come down to us. What Islamic 
sources have recorded of them in snippets 
shows imitation that is obviously weak, 

grossly ludicrous and vastly inferior to the 
Qur'an in language, style and content (see 
language and style of the qur'an; 

FORM and structure OF THE QUR'aN; 
making the parodies themselves the object 
of ridicule. 

When the qur'anic challenge to disbeliev- 
ers to produce a discourse like it (o 52:33-4) 
or to fabricate ten suras (q.v.; q Ii-I3) or 
even one sura (<^ 10:38) like it was not met, 
the Qiir'an affirmed that, even if humans 
and jinn (q.v.) combined their efforts, they 
would be unable to produce a similar 
Qrir'an (q^ 17:88; see provocation). 
Islainic doctrine holds that the Qiir'an is 
God's speech (q.v.) and, as such, it is char- 
acterized by inimitability (q.v.; ijdz) and is 
thus the prophet Muhammad's miracle 
(q.v; mu'jiza) and evidence of his prophecy 
(see PROPHETS and prophethood; word 
of god; book; createdness of the 

In Muhammad's lifetime, the most fa- 
mous parodist of the Qiir'an was Musay- 
lima (q.v.). Known in Muslim writings as 
"the liar" (al-kadhdhdh), he claimed proph- 
ecy in Yamama and held authority in east- 
ern Arabia until he was killed in 11/633 ^^ 
the war against apostates (see apostasy) 
waged by the first caliph (q.v.), Abu Bakr. 
As recorded in al-Tabarl (d. 310/923) and 
other Muslim sources, Musaylima's parody 
consisted of rhyming prose verses of un- 
equal lengths (see rhymed prose), in 
which oaths (q.v.) were often made, refer- 
ence was made to the wonders of life and 
nature (see nature as signs), a God called 
Allah and al-Rahman was invoked (see 
GOD AND his ATTRIBUTES) and Very few 
regulations were posited (see virtues and 


The parody has a hollow ring to it, even 
when echoing a qur'anic turn of phrase, 
because it lacks a sublime subject. It has 
been suggested, however, that the Islamic 



tradition has handed down "weak" exam- 
ples of Mnsaylinia's prowess in order to 
make liim look ridiculous. This argument 
contends that the Islamic tradition would 
not have termed him the "Liar" and 
expended the energy to make him the 
object of ridicule if he had been incap- 
able of producing good verses or good 
rhymed prose in the style of the sooth- 
sayers, that could reasonably be compared 
to the Qur'an (cf. Gilliot, Contraintes, 


Ibn al-Muqaffa' (executed in 139/756), 
whose acclaimed prose writings and trans- 
lations attest to his command of Arabic, is 
said to have tried to imitate the Qiir'an but 
apparently abandoned the attempt, ac- 
knowledging its difficidty (cf. van Ess, tg, 
ii, 35-6). Fragments of his polemic against 
Islam and the Qiir'an are quoted in the 
refutation of the Zaydi Imam, al-Qasim b. 
Ibrahim (d. 246/860) and citations from 
the parody of the Qiir'an attributed to 
him are quoted by the Zaydl Imam, 
Ahmad b. al-Husayn al-Mu'ayyad-bi-Uah 
(d. 411/1020). 

Another early attempt to imitate the 
Qtir'an is attributed to Nashi 1-Akbar 
(d. 239/906), a Murji'ite who was close to 
the Mu'tazills (q.v): he is said to have died 
while trying to write an imitation of the 
Qiir'an (cf. van Ess, tg, iv, 146). Yet an- 
other early parodist was the renowned 
poet Abu 1-Tayyib Ahmad b. al-Husayn 
(d. 354/965), known as al-Mutanabbi, 
"the woidd-be prophet." He parodied the 
Qiir'an in his youth and led some beguiled 
Syrian Bedouins (see bedouin) in a revolt 
that ended in his imprisonment in 322/933 
and his recantation. In adult life, he often 
dismissed that experience as a youthful 

The skeptical, blind poet Abu l-'Ala' al- 
Ma'arri (d. 449/1057) was falsely accused 
of parodying the Qur'an in his al-Fusul 
wa-l-ghdydt, a work which praises God and 

offers moral exhortations. Only volume 
one of this book is extant, displaying a 
masterful style in rhyming prose disposed 
in chapters (fusul), with paragraphs that 
have endings (ghdydt) with a regular rhyme. 
In this work's rhyme scheme, these para- 
graphs all end in one letter of the alpha- 
bet, which is different for each chapter; 
additionally, each paragraph has sentences 
that rhyme or partly rhyme in other letters. 
This elaborate rhyming scheme, however, 
is not that of the Qur'an. 

It is interesting to note that we have at- 
testations of Muslims admitting the pos- 
sibility of compositions better than the 
Qur'an up through the third/ninth cen- 
tury. Ibn al-Rawandi (d. ca. 298/9 lO-i) 
wrote in his Kitdb al-^umurrud, "In the 
words of Aktham al-Sayfl, we find better 
than: "Lo! We have given you al-kawthar 
[q, 108:1]" (cf van Ess, tg, vi, 472-3; 
Gilliot, L'embarras). In the traditional 
Islamic perspective, (j 108 is considered a 
great marvel (cf. Gilliot, L'embarras; see 
marvels). Further, the Persian Mu'tazill 
Murdar (d. 226/821) refused the inimitabil- 
ity of the Qur'an (van Ess, tg, iii, 608) and 
said that "people are able to bring some- 
thing similar to this Qur'an, or even more 
eloquent than it" (cf. van Ess, tg, v, 33, text 
12 for the Arabic; see also Abdul Aleem, 
'Ijazu'l-Qur'an for the names of some 
poets who denied the linguistic inimit- 
ability of the Qur'an, or who criticized 
it and tried to surpass it in composition 
and style). 

The attempt at imitating the Qur'an has 
continued up until the present day. In 1995, 
unknown individuals anonymously offered 
four "suras" on the Internet to meet the 
Qur'an's challenge but, after Muslim pro- 
test, their website was closed by the server 
in the United States, although it continues 
in the United Kingdom. 

IssaJ. BouUata 



Primary: al-Ma'arrl, Abu l-'Ala^ Ahmad b. 
'Abdallah b. Sulayman, al-Fusul wa-l-ghdydtji 
tamjid Allah wa-l-mawd'i^, ed. M.H. ZanatT, Beirut 
[1938]; Tabarl, Ta'nkh, ed. Ibrahim (1979^), iii, 
272-3> 283-4, 300- 

Secondary: Abdul Aleem, 'Ijazu'l-Qiir'an, in la 7 
(1923), 64-82, 215-33 (see esp. 228-33 for parodies 
and critics of the Qiir'an); J. van Ess, Some 
fragments of the Alu'dradat al-Qur'dn attributed to 
Ibn al-Muqaffa', in W. al-Qadi (ed.), Sludia 
arabica el islamica. Feslschriflfor Ihsdn 'Abbds, Beirut 
1981, 151-63; id., tg; C. Gilliot, L'embarras d'un 
exegete musuhnan face a un palimpseste. 
MaturTdi et la sourate de I'Abondance [al-Kawiar, 
sourate 108). Avec une note savante sur le com- 
mentaire coranique d'Ibn al-Naqib (m. 698/ 
1298), in Feslschrifl G. Endress, Peeters (forth- 
coming); id., Muhammad, le Goran et les 
"contraintes de I'histoire," in Wild, Texi^ 3-26; 
Goldziher, Ms, trans. G.R. Barber and S.M. 
Stern, ii, 363-5; com/ 
suralikeit/(as of 2004 this site has an index page 
from which the [now five] "suras" may be 
accessed separately, under the following titles: 
Surat ad-Du'a [new]; Surat al-Iinan; Surat 
at-Tajassud; Surat al-Muslimoon; Surat 

Parties and Factions 

Divisions within groups. The Qiir'an has a 
relatively rich and varied, but not precisely 
differentiated, vocabulary which refers to 
parties or factions within larger communi- 
ties or groups (see community and 
SOCIETY IN THE q,ur'an). Although the 
words and phrases concerned are some- 
times used in the Qiir'an in an apparently 
neutral way, for example, with reference to 
groups among the believers themselves 
(see BELIEF AND UNBELIEF), they are often 
employed there in a derogatory sense or in 
polemic against opponents. The opponents 
are accused of dividing their religion (q.v.) 
into factions, and a contrast is often made 
with the actual or ideal unity of the believ- 
ers (see RELIGIOUS pluralism AND THE 
cjur'an). The value of the united com- 
munity (ummaj of the believers is stressed; 
in some passages believers are urged 

not to take intimates or friends among 
outsiders (e.g. Q_ 3:118; 5:51; see friends 
AND friendship) and marriage relation- 
ships with outsiders are regulated (see 
marriage and divorce; social 

We do not receive the impression that the 
parties and factions that are referred to 
exist in any formal or organized sense and 
their identity is usually not specified pre- 
cisely. For instance, q 3:23 mentions a fac- 
tion (fanq) among "those who have been 
given a part (nasib) of the book (q.v.)," 
whereas two other passages which use this 
latter phrase (c3 4:44, 51) lump them all 
together as "idolaters" (see idolatry and 
idolaters) and followers of error (q.v.). In 
other passages factions are alleged to exist 
among opponents designated generally as 
"idolaters" [mushrikun; see also polytheism 
AND atheism) or "hypocrites" [mundjiqun; 
see HYPOt:RiTEs and hypocrisy). 
Although the Qiir'an does contain the 
names of groups such as the "Emigrants" 
(muhdjirun), "Helpers" [ansdr, see emi- 
grants and helpers), and "believers" 
(mu'minun), they are not generally referred 
to using the vocabulary of party and 

Among the words indicative of divisions 
and distinctions, the most obvious are hizb 
(pi. ahzdb, which Noldeke postulated as a 
loan word from Ethiopic; see foreign 
vocabulary), td'ifa, shi'a (pi. shiya') and 
derivatives of the rootf-r-q. All can be 
understood with the general meaning of 
"party" or "faction." Other words occur 
less frequently and sometimes their exact 
meaning is unclear: for example, the plural 
form zubur in o 23:53 is sometimes inter- 
preted as "sects" or "factions" (firaq, 
tawd'if) but how the word, which is un- 
derstood as the plural form of znbur, comes 
to mean that is a problem (see psalms). In 
some passages the different words appear 



to be used interchangeably and ran- 
domly — hizb being a variant of td'ifa, 
zubur of shijia', etc. 

Hizb in its singular, dual and plural forms 
appears nineteen times. The party of God 
(hizb Allah) is victorious or successful 
fe 5-56; 58:22) while the party of Satan 
{hizb al-shaytdn, see devil) is lost (q 58:19). 
The single umma of the believers is con- 
trasted with the splits among their oppo- 
nents who have made their affair into 
zubur, each hizb rejoicing in what it has 
(Q, 23:52-3). Similarly, q 30:31-2 appeals to 
the believers not to be like the opponents 
called mushrikun who divided their religion 
and became parties (shijia'J, each fiizb re- 
joicing in what it has. (J 38:13 identifies the 
ahzdb (uld'ika l-ahzdb) as a series of peoples 
who had rejected the prophets sent to them 
(see PROPHETS AND prophethood), and 
the context of "the day of the a/fzdb" in 
q 40:30 suggests the same reference al- 
though it is frequently understood as an 
allusion to the "battle of the ditch" in the 
year 5/627 (cf. Paret, Kommentar, 233, 
wherein he posits that in o 38:11-3 and 
40:5, 30-3, the expression "ahzdb" in used 
in the Ethiopic sense of "pagans"; see also 
people of the ditch). 

Sura 33, Surat al-Ahzab ("The Clans"), is 
explained in the commentaries and sira 
reports (material on the life of the Prophet; 
see SIRA AND THE q^ur'an) as containing a 
number of allusions to the events associ- 
ated with the battle of the ditch when vari- 
ous parties (ahzdb) among the opponents of 
the Prophet, are said to have united to 
facilitate an attack on the Muslims in 
Medina (q.v.). The Qiiraysh (q.v.) of Mecca 
(q.v.), the Arab tribe of Ghatafan, and the 
Jewish tribe of Qurayza (q.v.) within 
Medina are especially mentioned (see 
THE cjur'an). C3 33:20 is often understood 
as referring to some hypocrites (mundjiqun) 

who tried to persuade the followers of the 
Prophet that the ahzdb had not really re- 
treated and that they would come again, 
while (3 33:22 reflects the believers' rec- 
ognition that the coming of the ahzdb was 
simply what the Prophet had promised 

ShT'a (q.v.) and shiya' occwr eight times. It 
sometimes seems to be a fairly neutral ex- 
pression: Moses (q.v.) had a shT'a (c) 28:15) 
and there was a shi'a of Noah (q.v.; 
Q. 37'83)- On the other hand, the believers 
are contrasted with opponents who have 
"divided their religion and become par- 
ties" (cj 6:159 and 'ijO'.'yz: Jarraqd dinahum 
wa-kdnu shijia'an; in the latter passage the 
opponents are referred to as mushrikun, cf. 
a 30:31). 

Similarly, derivatives oi f-r-q, which occur 
frequently, sometimes appear with refer- 
ence to the believers. The one occurrence 
oi jirqa, which in Islamic literature is a 
common term for a "sect," refers to a unit 
among the believers: "the believers should 
not all go out together to fight; of every 
jirqa of them a td'ifa should remain behind 
to acquire religious knowledge" (c) 9:122; 


fighting), q 9:117, too, refers to God's 
having turned in forgiveness to (tdba 'aid) 
"the Prophet and the Emigrants and 
Helpers who followed him in the hour of 
difficulty (sd'at al-'usra) after the hearts of a 

fariq among them had almost turned away" 
(see heart; forgiveness). There are 
many passages containing formations from 

f-t'-q, however, which call upon the believ- 
ers to avoid division and disagreement in 
religion and which show those as char- 
acteristics of the opponents (e.g. q 6:159 
and C3 30:32 cited above; also C3 3:103, 
105; 6:153; 42:13; see OPPOSITION to 

Td'ifa and its dual forms appear twenty- 
three times. It may be a more neutral 



expression, used more or less randomly to 
refer to groups or parties among the People 
of the Book (q.v.; o 3:69, 72), the believers 
(Q. 3-I54) 4-102, etc.), the hypocrites (4:81, 
113; 9:66; 33:13, etc.) and others, in the past 
and the present. 

Stress on the divided nature of the op- 
ponents, therefore, may be seen as part of 
the polemical language characteristic of 
the Qur'an. In non-cjur'anic and post- 
qur'anic Arabic, too, shi'a, jirqa, and td'ifa 
often reflect the negative implications of 
fragmentation and division contrasted with 
the positive value of unity (umma,jamd'a). 
They are the product oi Jitna (strife within 
the community) and in modern Arabic 
al-td'ijiyya is a common translation of "sec- 
tarianism." It may be that this echoes 
SunnI values in particular, since among the 
Shrts one does find al-shi'a and al-td'ifa (the 
latter also among the Sufis), sometimes 
qualified by an epithet such as al-muhaq- 
qiqa, used in expressions of self-designation 
(see sHi'iSM AND THE (JUr'an; sufism and 
THE cjur'an). In the reports about early 
Islam, too, the word shi'a is used quite neu- 
trally to indicate the supporters of a par- 
ticidar individual: not only was there a shT'a 
of 'All (see 'ali b. abi talib), but also of 
'Uthman (q.v), Yazid and others. As for 
hi^b (party), the Kharijis (q.v.) referred to 
their non-Khariji opponents as the parties 
(ahzdb; on their derivation of this negative 
connotation of ahzcib from the Qiir'an it- 
self, see van Ess, tg, ii, 462; see also 

OPPOSITION TO Muhammad). The 
usage of hizb (party) has been influenced 
not only by the qur'anic hizji Allah (which 
has become the self-designation of the 
modern Shi'i activist group, Hizbollah) 
but also by modern concepts of political 

The typical allusiveness of the qur'anic 
style (see language and style of the 
(JUr'an) combines with its use of polemic 

to make identification of the groups con- 
cerned, specification of their character- 
istics and even confirmation of their 
existence, difficult. Polemic involves distor- 
tion and exaggeration of the opponents' 
positions and standard polemical accusa- 
tions, such as idolatry, following error, dis- 
tortion of scripture (see sc;ripture and 
THE q^ur'an; forgery), and inventing lies 
about God (see lie), are transferable be- 
tween different opponents. Furthermore, 
the terminology is not specific to the con- 
temporaries of the Qiir'an. As is evident 
from the examples cited above, words like 
ahzdb and shi'a are used in the Qiir'an with 
reference to groups in the past as well as 
the present and the same is true of des- 
ignations like muhdjirun ("emigrants") and 
ansdr ("helpers"). In the Qiir'an, Lot (q.v.) 
describes himself as "a muhdjir to my lord" 
(q.v.; o 29:26) and the apostles of Jesus 
(q.v.) call themselves "ansdr of God" 
(0 3:52; 61:14; see apostle). "Hypocrite," 
the usual understanding of mundfiq, is a 
common term in monotheist polemic (e.g. 
Matt 23 passim). 

In the commentaries on the Q.ur'an (see 
medieval) and other traditional Islamic 
literature such as the material on the life of 
the Prophet {sua material), nevertheless, 
the parties and factions alluded to in the 
Qiir'an are identified in the context of 
Muhammad's career. For example, the 
ahzdb, as already indicated, are associated 
with the battle of the ditch, while the 
Emigrants and Helpers are identified as 
groups among the supporters of the 

The frequent occurrence and relative 
richness of the relevant vocabulary, the 
several accusations that opponents have 
divided their religion, the emphasis on the 
unity of the believers, and the measures 
designed to distinguish the believers from 
outsiders may reflect the appearance of the 



qur'anic materials in a situation of intense 
religious fragmentation and division. To 
the extent that parties and factions really 
existed beyond the realm of polemic, they 
could be understood as indicative of a re- 
ligious society prone to the generation of 
numerous groups with the character of 
nascent sects. John Wansbrough (Sectarian 
milieu) identified the proliferation of barely 
distinguishable confessional groups as 
characteristic of the sectarian milieu out 
of which he considered Islam to have 
emerged to become eventually a major 
distinct tradition within monotheism. 

In certain historical situations the ten- 
dency towards internal divisions and splits, 
which is a characteristic of the monothe- 
istic (and perhaps other) religious tradi- 
tions, may be intensified. The situation in 
Palestine around the beginning of the 
Christian era perhaps offers a parallel and 
the tendency to fragmentation, observable 
in certain modern right- and left-wing 
political movements, may also be relevant. 
Social and political circumstances as well 
as the character of the religious movement 
within which the divisions are generated 
are important for understanding the phe- 
nomenon of sectarianism. 

The literary description in works other 
than the Qiir'an — for example works of 
qur'anic commentary and prophetic 
biography — of the society in which the 
Prophet lived does not explicitly support 
the thesis of the sectarian milieu. To the 
extent that groups within it are identified, 
they are classified by their relationship and 
attitude to the Prophet (muhdjirUn, ansdr, 
munafi/jun) or as monotheists (Muslims, 
Jews, hanlfs; see hanif; jews and Judaism; 
see also christians and Christianity) 
contrasted to idolaters (mushrikUn) . With 
some exceptions, we do not generally find 
in this literature reports about the Prophet 
arguing fine points of monotheist doctrine 
or behavior with groups in his environment 

or those groups being associated with one 
or more identifying doctrines or practices. 
This is in contrast with the way in which 
parties like the Pharisees and Sadducees 
appear in the gospels and other sources 
from the early Christian period. 

In contrast, the Qiir'an itself contains 
numerous references to, and statements 
about, typical monotheist issues such as 
the validity of intercession (q.v.), belief 
in the last day (see last judgment; 
eschatology; apocalypse), the status of 
Jesus (see trinity; anthropomorphism; 
POLYTHEISM AND atheism) and questions 
of ritual purity (q.v.). This material can be 
seen as indicative of a situation in which 
these issues were topics of argument and 
polemic between parties and factions 
with common concerns and concepts. 
While we should be careful about trans- 
forming the qur'anic polemic too read- 
ily into statements of fact, its language 
and ideas do seem consistent with a 
society particularly subject to sectarian 

Gerald R. Hawting 

Primary: Ibn Ishaq-Guillaiime; TabarT, Tafsir (on 
the verses referred to in the article); Waqidi, 

Secondary: van Ess, tg; Horovitz, KU, 19; D.B. 
MacDonald, Hizb, in Ef, iii, 513-4; Th. Noldeke, 
Neue Beiirdge ziir semitischen Sprachwissenschaft, 
Strassburg 1990, 59 n. 8; Th. F. O'Dea, Sects 
and cuks, in International encyclopedia of the social 
sciences, 17 vols., New York 1968, xiv, 130-6; Paret, 
Kommentar, 233-4 (°^ ft ^^'•^l)'-> ^- al-Sayyid, 
Majahim al-jama'dtji l-isldm, Beirut 1984, 25-44 
(for the qur'anic terminology, see esp. 30-1, shi'a, 
jariq, td'ifa; 34-5, 39, hizif/ahzdb);]. Wansbrough, 
The sectarian milieu, Oxford 1978; W.M. Watt, 
Muhammad at Medina, Oxford 1956. 

Partisan see friends and friendship; 


Partition see veil; barrier; barzakh 



Partners [of God] see polytheism 


Party of God see parties and 
factions; friends and friendship 

Party of Satan see parties and 
factions; enemies 

Path or Way 

That along which one passes to reach a 
destination. The concept of the path or 
way (of God) — expressed by derivatives 
of several roots (sabil, sirdt, tanq, min- 
hdj) — pervades the Qur'an and is related 
to several basic notions of Islam such as 
right guidance (hudd or hiddya; see astray), 
the religious law [shana; see law and the 
(JUr'an) and jihad (q.v.). When the Qiir'an 
uses this last notion (which connotes 
"struggle" and is often rendered as "holy 
war") in conjunction with the concept of 
the path or way of God, it is expressed 
exclusively by the term sabil and only in a 
set phrase, "in the way of God" (Ji sabili 
lldhi). This phrase — with or without 
"jihad" — occurs only in Medinan suras 
(q.v; see also chronology and the 
(JUr'an) and comprises about one-third of 
the occurrences of sabil. The analysis of 
the contexts related to jihad shows that all 
the basic aspects of the concept of "holy 
war" had already been laid down in the 
earlier qur'anic passages (see also 
fighting; war). 

The frequency of the above-mentioned 
terms varies greatly — sabil, 176 occur- 
rences; sirdt, forty-five; tanq (or tariqa), nine; 
minhdj, once — but, as a rule, they are 
treated as synonyms by the Arabic lexico- 
graphers and commentators who explain 
the meaning of any given one of these 
terms through another. The only term that 
expresses virtually nothing but the notion 

of "the way of God" is sirdt (the sole excep- 
tion being q 7:86), while only five occur- 
rences of tarlq are related to the notion in 
question (see (^ 4:168, i6g; 46:30; 72:16, 
al-tariqa). About thirty occurrences of sabil 
are unrelated to this notion, the most fre- 
quent phrase being "a man of the road" 
fibn al-sabil), a traveler who should be 
helped (see journey). 

Several points are worth mentioning 
about this group of terms. First, only one 
occurrence of sabil (o 80:20) can be posi- 
tively attributed to the early Meccan 
period and it has nothing to do with the 
notion of "the way of God." All other 
occurrences of such terms are divided 
equally between the later Meccan and 
Medinan suras. Second, two of them (sabil, 
minhdj) belong to common Semitic stock 
and some scholars suggest that they are 
loan words from Aramaic or Hebrew (see 
FOREIGN vocabulary). A third term (sirdt) 
is an established loan word from Latin (i.e. 
strata). Third, three of them [sabil, sirdt 
and minhdj) are the only qur'anic utiliza- 
tions of the corresponding root letters, an 
uncommon event in Arabic (which gener- 
ally uses midtiple derivatives of the tri- 
literal roots), and tariq (tariqa), too, very 
nearly falls into this category. All three 
observations point in one direction, 
namely, that the notion of the way, or path, 
is a late addition to the vocabulary of the 
Qiu-'an (see language and style of the 
(^ur'an; form and structure of the 
(JUr'an), most probably a replica of the 
analogous biblical and post-biblical con- 
cept (see SCRIPTURE and the q^ur'an). 

Let us now follow more closely the 
process of the formation of the concept of 
"the way of God" in the qur'anic message. 
The first stage is Meccan. If we take the 
majority of the Meccan contexts, the 
notion in question appears within the 
concept of the prophetic mission as the 
realization of the lord's (q.v.) guidance of 



his creatures. The phrase "the way of 
God" has several lexical manifestations 
(e.g. sirdt Allah, o 42:53; sabil Allah, passim; 
sirdt rabbika, "the way of your lord," 
(J 6:126). Additionally, one finds "the ways 
of your lord" [subul rabbika, q 16:69) and 
"the way of the mighty, the glorious one" 
[sirdt al~'azizi l-hanndi, o 14:1; 34:6). It is also 
used with personal pronouns, as in "your 
way" [sirdtaka, Q_ 7:16; sabTlika, Q_ 10:88; 
sabilaka, Q 40:7), "his way" [sabilihi, ^ 6:117, 
153; 14:30), or "my way" (sirdti, q 6:153; 
sabili, Q_ 12:108). 

There are several aspects of the notion 
introduced in the later Meccan suras. The 
"way of God" is the result of the lord's 
guidance (cf ^ 14:12; 16:15; 28:22; 29:69; 
76:3). It is the "way of righteousness" [sabil 
al-rushd or rashdd; cf. q 7:148; 40:38) and 
also the "straight" or "even" path. Of the 
two synonymous epithets, the first 
(mustaqim) is more frequent in the Qiu''an, 
being used either with sirdt (twenty-one 
occurrences; cf. especially the contexts of 
Q, 6:126, 153; 7:16) or with tariq (q_ 46:30). 
The second epithet is used either in the 
attributive phrase sirdt sawijy (cf. C3 19:43; 
20:135), or in the genitive phrase: sawd' al- 
sirdt [q_ 38:22) or sawd' al-sabil {q_ 28:22; 
60:1). Being originally "the way of God," it 
connotes the path of the true believers, of 
the righteous or the blessed, an idea which 
is also expressed in several other basically 
synonymous ways (c) 1:7; 31:15). AH these 
themes are continued in the Medinan suras 
as well, the only addition being that "the 
way of God" is equated with the sunna 
(q.v.) and the law (q 5:48), which accords 
with the general character of these suras, 
in which legal prescriptions are given (see 
forbidden; boundaries and precepts; 



The set of basic qur'anic notions is char- 
acterized by a kind of conceptual dualism, 
in which almost every positive term has its 

negative counterpart (see pairs and 
pairing). This feature applies also to "the 
way of God," which is contrasted to the 
other way, the way of the tdghut, usually 
interpreted by Muslim commentators as 
Satan {shaytdn; see devil). This latter way is 
opposed to the way of God (cf. (J 4:76; see 
enemies), and is the way to hell (cf. Q_ 37:23; 
4:169; see HELL AND hellfire). It is the 
path of error (q.v.; ghayy) opposed to the 
path of righteousness (as in c) 7:146: "If 
they see the path of righteousness, they 
shall not choose it for [their] path; but if 
they see the path of error, they shall choose 
it for [their] path, because they disbelieved 
our signs fdydt]"; see belief and un- 
belief), as well as the way of the ignorant 
{q_ 10:89; see ignorance), of the wrong- 
doers (q 7:142; see EVIL deeds) and of 
the wicked (o 6:55; see sin, major and 
minor). It is noteworthy that a number of 
contexts show the interplay of the singular 
and plural forms, an interplay which em- 
bodies the opposition of the single straight 
path and many corrupt ways (see, for in- 
stance, q 6:153: "And that this my path is 
straight (sirdt mustaqiman); so follow it, and 
follow not [other] paths (subul) lest they 
scatter you from his path" ('an sabilihi; see 
religious pluralism and the ^ur'an). 

Yet, the concept of the two opposing 
ways, one of God and the other of Satan, 
one leading to paradise (q.v.) and the other 
to hell, or of the one right path contrasted 
with many wrong ways, is second in the 
Qur'an to another concept, that of the 
right way and deviating from it, or, in other 
words, losing it (daldla). This latter concept 
is devoid of even the slightest trace of 
dualism. This deviation is the residt of one 
and the same will, that of the lord, who 
guides (yahdi) whom he pleases and leads 
astray (yudillu) whom he pleases. At the 
same time, unbelievers and Satan can 
block (sadda) people from the right path. 
The exact understanding of the reasons 



which govern human choice between the 
right path and the wrong path rests on 
one's interpretation of the complicated 
problem of the relation between predes- 
tination and human free will in the Qur'an 


The second stage is Medinan. The new 
idea generated in the Medinan suras is the 
notion of fighting or struggling "in the way 
of God" (fi sabTli lldhi), for God's cause or 
the idea of holy war (jihdd). In literary 
Arabic the phrase^ jaAf/?^ "in the way 
of. . . " (which has a parallel in post-biblical 
Hebrew bi-sh'bil), acquires the same techni- 
cal prepositional meaning as "for the sake 
of, because of" (cf. Jastrow, Dictionary, s.v.). 
It is not accidental, then, that in the 
Meccan suras the preposition, "fi, " is 
used — instead of the phrase "Ji sabili" (see 
c) 29:69: "Those who fight/struggle 
[jdhadii] for our cause [find], we will surely 
guide [nahdi] to our paths fsubulandj"). 
Nonetheless, as it is used in the Qiir'an 
almost exclusively in the above expression, 
it has become inseparable from the con- 
cept of holy war in Muslim tradition. The 
only exception relates to the conceptual 
dualism mentioned above, as it juxtaposes 
holy war with its opposite (see (J 4:76: "The 
believers fight fyuqdtiliina] in the way of 
God and the unbelievers fight in the way 
of the tdghiit. Fight therefore against the 
friends of Satan [shaytdn]; surely the guile 
of Satan is ever feeble."). 

The phrase "in the way of God"/"in his 
way" occurs in the Qiir'an forty-nine 
times. The verbs most frecjuently used with 
it connote "fighting": qdtala (fifteen occur- 
rences, e.g. q 2:190; 3:13; 4:75; 9:111; 61:4; 
73:20) as well as jdhada and its derivatives 
(fourteen occurrences, e.g. cj 2:218; 5:35; 
8:74; 9:20; 61:11). It is worth mentioning 
that both substantives derived from this 
latter root, ji/idd and mujdhid, which are so 
full of symbolic meaning in subsequent 
Muslim tradition, are already used in the 

Qiir'an in this context (see for the former 
q 9:24; 60:1; for the latter Q 4:95). 

The qur'anic usage stresses the readiness 
to give one's own life for the cause of God 
as one of the most important aspects of 
the concept of jihad and assures that those 
who are killed "in the way of God" go 
straight to paradise (see (J 2:154: "And say 
not of those slain fmanyuqtalu] in the way 
of God, 'They are dead'; rather they are 
living, but you are not aware"; cf. also 
Q. 3:i57> 169, 195; 22:58; 47:4; see 

At the same time, the qur'anic message 
specifies another possible way of partici- 
pating in jihad, namely, by giving money 
and everything one possesses for the cause 
of God; the verb anjaqa "to spend" occurs 
seven times in this context (q 2:195, 261, 
262; 8:60; 9:34; 47:38; 57:10). There is even 
a synthetic formula coined in the Medinan 
suras which joins the two ways of jihad in 
a unified concept, "to fight in the way of 
God by one's wealth and one's life" {^jdhada 
fi sabili lldhi bi-amwdlihi wa-nafiihi; cf. (j 8:72; 

These are the qur'anic formulations of 
the concept of jihad, from which Muslim 
scholars developed an impressive theory of 
holy war that was, in some variants of 
Muslim doctrine, subsequently raised to 
the status of the sixth "pillar" (rukn) of 
Islam, next to the famous five [shahdda [see 
WITNESS TO faith], prayer [q.v.], fasting 
[q.v.], almsgiving [q.v] and pilgrimage 
[q.v.]; see also faith). 

Suinming up, the concept of "the way of 
God" has two distinct meanings in the 
Qiir'an, that of obedience (q.v.) to the 
revealed law which governs all aspects of 
the life of a true believer and that of 
fighting and giving one's wealth and life for 
the cause of God which assures martyrs 
direct access to paradise without waiting 
for the day of resurrection (q.v.) and 
without passing through the purgatorial 



stage of the "suffering of the grave" ['adhdb 
al-qabr, see last judgment; death and 
THE dead; es(;hatology'). 

Patriarchs see prophets and 
prophethood; children of Israel; 
noah; Abraham; moses 

Dmitry V. Frolc 

Primary (For tlie classical Muslim exegesis of the 
concept, see the commentaries noted below to 
the passages cited in the article. The chapters on 
jihad in the major collections of hadlth, in 
expositions of Islamic law and in treatises on 
Muslim doctrine also give a sense of the 
emergence of the concept of "struggle" in the 
"way of God."): 'Abd al-Baqi {s.w. for further 
details on the usage and meaning of the terins); 
Abu Hatim al-RazT, Ahmad b. Hamdan, Kitdb 
al-^Tnafi l-kalimdt al~isldmijiya al-'arabijiya, 2 vols, 
in I, ed. H.b.F. al-HamdanI, Cairo 1957-8, ii, 
215-8; BayhaqT, Shu'ab al-imdn, 7 vols., Beirut 
1990, iv, 3-64 {for jihad in Muslim doctrine); 
BukharT, Sahlh, ed. Krehl, ii, 198-270; Fr trans. 
O. Houdas and W. Margais, El-Bokhdri, Les 
traditions istamiques, 4 vols., Paris 1903-14, 281-379; 
Eng. trans. M.M. Khan, 9 vols., New Delhi 
19845, iv, 34-276 (chapter on jihad; this collection 
of hadlth, available in many editions, is an 
English translation with parallel Arabic text); Ibn 
Kathlr, Tafsir; Jaldlayn; Lisdn al-'Arab (s.w. for 
further details on the usage and meaning of the 
terms); Muslim, Sahih (see the chapter on jihad); 
Shali'i, al-Umm, Beirut 1988, 8 vols, in 4, 159-69 
(for jihad in Islamic law); SuyutT, Durr; TabarT, 
Tafsir; ZamakhsharT, Kashshdf. 
Secondary: C.E. Bosworth, Sabil. I. As a reli- 
gious concept, in EI^, viii, 679; M. Jastrow, 
Dictionary of the targumim. Talmud Babli and Teru- 
shalmi and midrashic literature^ 2 vols., New York 
1950, ii, 1514; M. Khadduri, War and peace in the 
law of Islam, Baltimore 1955; Ch. A. Mawlawi, 
A critical exposition of popular jihad, Calcutta 1985; 
A. Morabia, Le gihdd dans Vlslam medieval, Paris 
1993; A. Noth, Heiliger Kricg und Heiliger Kampf in 
Islam und Christentum, Bonn 1966; R. Peters, 
Djihad. War of aggression or defense? in Akten 
des VII Kongresse filr Arabistik und Islamwissenschaft, 
Gottingen 1976, 282-9; '^d., Jihad in medieval and 
modern Islam, Leiden 1977; F. Schwally, Der 
heilige Krieg des Islam in religionsgeschicht- 
licher und staatsrechtlicher Bedeutung, in 
Internationale Monatsschriftfur Wissenschaften, Kunst 
und Technik ir (1916), 678-714; E. Tyan, Djihad, in 
EI', h, 538-40. 

Patience and Self- Restraint see 

trust and patience 


A social structure characterized by the 
supremacy of the father in the clan or fam- 
ily. References to patriarchy in the Qiir'an 
cluster around three concerns: (i) the roles 
of patriarchal authority in ordinary social 
relations (see social interactions), i.e. 
roles circumscribed in various ways (see 
family; parents); (2) the patriarch as an 
ideal religious figure, expressed through 
narratives (q.v.) and allegories drawn from 
the biblical tradition (see literary 


AND THE our'an); and (3) the question as 
to whether divinity could possess patri- 
archal attributes (see GOD and his 
attributes; anthropomorphism). 

Patriarchal authority in. ordinary social relations 
While the Qiir'an highlights patriarchy as 
a desired status, it also surrounds it with 
limits. On more than one occasion the 
Qur'an mentions progeny in the same 
sequence in which it lists other aspects of 
worldly material wealth (q.v.; cf. e.g. (j 3:10, 
116; 8:28; 9:69, 85; 19:77; 34:35; see also 
children; grace; blessing). Clearly pa- 
triarchal kinship (q.v.) structures are privi- 
leged. Not having progeny, especially male 
(see gender), is a sign of misfortune, and 
in the stories of patriarchs such as 
Zechariah (q.v.) or Abraham (q.v.), God 
reveals his merciful nature by offering sons 
to his pious followers in their old age, 
when they had despaired of the possibility 
(c3 19:2-7; 11:71-3). Muhammad himself was 
of course without a male heir and in the 
Qrir'an God compensates the Prophet for 
this lack of proper patriarchal status with a 
special domicile within paradise (q.v.; 



C3 108; see also family of the prophet; 


The value of male progeny, as explicitly 
stated in Zechariah's case, is clearly con- 
nected to the need to assure the welfare of 
the house of the patriarch after his passing 
away. This obligation is evident in the 
many edicts on honoring both parents, 
which permeate the cjur'anic text (o 2:180; 
4:11; 31:14). Likewise, when the social roles 
of patriarchy are detailed (as in Surat al- 
Nisa', "The Women," e.g. o 4:1-42, 127-30), 
the discussions deal with such central con- 
cerns to family law (see law and the 
(JUr'an) as rules of inheritance (q.v.), mar- 
riage, polygamy (see marriage and 
divorce), property (q.v.) rights and the 
status of orphans (q.v.). 

While the important passages in the 
fourth sura admit of a variety of interpre- 
tations (see feminism and the q^ur'an), it 
is impossible to understand them apart 
from a conception of patriarchy as a type 
of authority (q.v.) justified by social respon- 
sibihties, rather than simply by privilege. 
Polygamy, for example, is discussed only in 
connection with the need to protect or- 
phans' trusts {q_ 4:3; see also coNCtJBlNES; 
WIVES OF THE PROPHET). Similarly, the 
edicts on the prerogatives of men over 
women are conditional on the ability of 
men to maintain more exacting virtue (q.v.; 
see also virtues and vices, commanding 
AND forbidding) and sustained financial 
support for the family (0,4:34, 24-5; 65:6; 
see maintenance and upkeep): the man is 
forbidden to expel his wife, separate from 
her or claim their common domicile with- 
out good cause, which is usually under- 
stood to be verifiable sexual infidelity 
[Jahisha, o 4:15-6; 65:1-2; see chastity). 

As it sanctified the property of women, 
the Qiir'an explicitly prohibits a man from 
unlawfully claiming any part of a woman's 
inheritance or even claiming back his 
"gifts" to her (see bridewealth), all of 

which automatically become an inviolable 
part of the woman's property (o 4:19-20). 
Generally, men are expected to be in con- 
trol of their temper (see anger); and all 
further discussions of patriarchy which 
detail social obligations beyond faith 
(q.v.) itself make patriarchal authority 
dependent on its ability to uphold domes- 
tic justice (see JUSTICE and injustice), as 
well as to dispose income and charities 

The patriarch as an ideal religious figure 
Patriarchy also appears in the Qiir'an in 
an idealized form, a form associated most 
directly with the requisites of transinitting 
common wisdom (q.v.) and proper religion 
(q.v.). Allegorized in the stories of pre- 
Islamic patriarchs (see pre-islamic Arabia 
and the q^ur'an), the prototypical char- 
acter in this regard is the sage Luqman 
(q.v.). He instructs his son to adopt mono- 
honor his parents, seek out rightful coin- 
pany, appreciate the divine source of all 
life, worship (q.v), bear adversity with for- 
titude (see trial; trust and patience) 
and stand up to derogation, while at the 
same time maintaining modesty (q.v.) 
throughout life (q 31:13-9). 

Likewise, the Qiir'an portrays several 
biblical prophets, such as Abraham, Noah 
(q.v), Jacob (q.v.), Zechariah and others as 
having served mainly as transmitters of 
monotheistic faith to their sons specifically 
and to kin generally (e.g. q 2:130-5; 
14:35-7). The authority of patriarchy is 
assaulted, however, when it conveys the 
"wrong" wisdom. For example, the Qiir'an 
frequently denounces habitual, unthinking 
worship of idols (see idols and images; 
IDOLATRY and IDOLATERS), which their 
worshippers justified by the fact that the 
idols had been passed on to the tribe by 
their forefathers (cf e.g. c) 2:170; 5:101-4). 
This dual approach to patriarchy as both 


a vehicle for and obstacle to disseminating 
divine messages suggests that patriarchal 
hierarchy could even be reversed, in ac- 
cordance with the principle of progress in 
human knowledge (see knowledge and 
learning). This is evident in Abraham's 
assertion of a pedagogic posture toward 
his own father. In that case, Abraham 
leaves home as he asks God to forgive his 
idol-worshipping father (<J 19:41-7; cf. 
14:41; see azar). A late qur'anic sura fur- 
ther shows Abraham disavowing interces- 
sion (q.v.) and disowning his father 
((J 9:114). The possibility of the son show- 
ing the way to the patriarch is likewise evi- 
dent in the story of Joseph (q.v.), which 
culminates in a complicated image of the 
prophet raising his parents to the throne 
while they simultaneously prostrate them- 
selves in front of their young son (q 12:100; 
see BOWING AND prostration). 

Patriarchal attributes and divinity 
As it distinguishes Islam (q.v.) from both 
Christianity (see christians and Chris- 
tianity) and pre-Islamic paganism, the 
Qiir'an affirms from its earliest verses and 
consistently thereafter a highly abstract 
conceptualization of divinity. This requires 
rejecting the notion that God can be ap- 
prehended with references to experienced 
realities, including fatherhood. Indeed, one 
of the main early theological differences 
between Islam and Christianity (see 
POLEMICAL language) concerns the 
Qiir'an's denunciation of the concept of 
"God the father" and its vehement asser- 
tion of the humanity of Jesus (q.v.), who is 
regarded as a mere messenger (q.v.) rather 
than God's son (esp. C3 4:171; 5:17, 75; 9:30; 
19:34-5, 88-93; 112). This stance can like- 
wise be understood in the context of 
Islam's early battle against paganism, 
which was defined by immediacy to divin- 
ity. From an early point the Qiir'an 

affirms as a logical precept that an appro- 
priate concept of a high God means that 
God could not possibly be apprehended in 
terms of human relations. Thus if God is 
eternal (see eternity), the divine could 
not have been "born," and if God is om- 
nipotent (see POWER AND impotence), 
there is no need for God to emulate the 
human methods of bringing forth life, e.g. 
begetting progeny (cf. c) 112). The divine 
simply brings being out of nothingness 
(Q, 19-35; '^f- 16:40; 40:68; see cosmology). 
Therefore patriarchal attributes, while 
meaningful in terms of social relations, 
social responsibilities and the requisites of 
knowledge transmission (see community 
and society in the qur'an), could, when 
applied to God, only dilute or render 
inconsistent the necessarily abstract con- 
ceptualization of the divine. 

Mohammed A. Bamyeh 

Primary: Ibn Taymiyya, Fiqh al-nisd\ Beirut 
1989; al-Manstir bi-llah 'Abdallah b. Hamza, 
Risatat at-thabdtji md ^ald l-banin wa-l-bandt, Sa'da 
2000; MawardT, Kitdb al-Nafaqdt, Beirut 1998; 
al-Turtushl, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. al-Walld, 
Birr al-wdlidayn, ed. M. 'Abd al-Hakim al-Qadi, 
Beirut 1986. 

Secondary: A. Degand, Geschlechtsrollen und 
familiale Strukturen im Islam, Frankfurt-am-Main 
1988; M. Shahrtir, Mahwa usuljadida lil-Jiqh al- 
isldmi. Fiqh al-mar'a, Damascus 2000. 

Patron see clients and clientage 
Pauses see recitation of the our'an 


State of tranquility or quiet. Peace (al- 
saldm) plays an important role in the 
Qiir'an and in Muslim life, yet as a term 
and a concept it is most commonly paired 
with religious warfare, commonly termed 


jihad (q.v.). This is unfortunate, since the 
word "peace" and related cognates from 
the Arabic root s-l-m reflect a semantic 
field of considerable depth and sophistica- 
tion. Indeed, much of the emphasis and 
language of the Qiir'an mirrors a similar 
complexity found in Christian and Jewish 
scripture (see si;ripture and the our'an). 
In order to indicate the principal dimen- 
sions within this semantic field, four dis- 
tinctive foci need to be examined: the 
theological, eschatological, prophetic and 

Theologically, the justification for the 
conceptual position of peace in Islam rests 
finally and ultimately in the character of 
God (see GOD AND HIS attributes): it is 
a spiritual quality attributed to his very 
nature [cd-saldm, q 59:23). Hence, God pro- 
vides an inner peace to those whom he 
guides (cf. (3 6:125-7) and welcomes the true 
believer to the garden (q.v.) of righteous- 
ness (see paradise) with "Enter it in 
peace" (cf. (J 50:31-4). God also bids greet- 
ings to be made to the Prophet with peace 
(q 33:56). In a series of parallelisms on 
peace designed for intensification (see 
language and style of the quR'AN; 

God begins peace with Noah (q.v), del- 
egates it to Abraham (q.v.), imparts it to 
both Moses (q.v.) and Aaron (q.v), instills it 
in Elijah (q.v.) and concludes, with a 
heightened flourish, by including all mes- 
sengers as the beneficiaries of the divine 
bestowal of peace ((J 37:79-181). Moreover, 
peace itself attends the coming down of 
the QjLir'an on the Night of Power (q.v; 
Q, 97:1-5; see also revelation and inspi- 
ration) and tranquility (saklna; see 
shekhinah) is a spiritual gift sent down by 
God (cf C3 9:26, 40; 48:4, 18). In short, the 
text gives ample justification for the Mus- 
lim claim that peace is a fundamental 
component in God's relationship with 

Second, the Qiir'an elaborates consider- 
ably on peace in its language dealing with 
matters of the end-time (see eschato- 
logy; apocalypse): At the end of time, 
the heavens will be rolled up like a scroll 
(q, 21:104), angels (see angel) will descend 
and God will reign (q 25:25-6). Then will 
come the day when the book of deeds will 
be opened (cf q 17:71; see heavenly 
book) and each soul will stand on its own 
before God in judgment (i.e. q 30:14-6; 
82:1-15; see LAST judgment; interces- 
sion); believers will no longer fear (q.v.; 
q 7:49) nor experience terror (q 27:88-90) 
nor suffer grief (q 21:97-103; see belief 
AND unbelief). Significantly, they will have 
joy (see joy and misery) and peace 
(q 36:55-8) because, as believers in the 
book (q.v.), all will be judged by its stand- 
ard (q 28:85-7). The Qiir'an insists that 
peace must be assumed to be the wish of 
all people, even if it is quite possible they 
might use it deceitfully (q 8:61-2). Such 
language underscores the key role that 
peace played in qur'anic notions of the 
future (cf q 7:96). 

Third, a functional notion of peace 
played a role both in defining Muham- 
mad's career and in shaping his attitude 
towards the people with whom he had to 
deal. This is often reflected in the suras 
that treat his dealings with tribal peoples 
(see ARABS; bedouin). In the late Medinan 
period (see chronology and the 
quR'AN), the Bedouins are castigated for 
their ignorance of the Prophet's purposes 
(q 9:97); they itch for a fight and then evap- 
orate when the Prophet decides to negoti- 
ate the submission of the enemy (cf. 
q 48:17), as if fighting (q.v.) was an end in 
itself. The urban wealthy, who make jour- 
neys in winter and summer to other places 
(see caravan; seasons), should acknowl- 
edge that they coidd not do this without 
God providing them both plenty and 
peacefulness (q 106:1-5; see grace; 



BLESSiNu). Like all Muslims, Muhammad 
was enjoined to make peace between quar- 
reling believers (q 49:9), a requirement 
made even more telling by the fact that 
God is delighted with the believers when a 
treaty replaces conflict with the uncon- 
verted Meccans (q 48:18). As a governing 
policy, the dictum, "But if the enemy in- 
cline toward peace, do you also so incline" 
(q_ 8:61) must have posed difficult choices 
for the Prophet, especially in determining 
what "incline" might mean in any given 
context. His decisions must have also been 
made with one eye on the available history 
of the prophets who went before him (see 
narratives; prophets and prophet- 
hood), for they are deemed examples 
(q. 43:28, 56, 57). Indeed, it is evident that 
the Prophet's relationship to this provi- 
sional peace shifted considerably through- 
out his career. In the first Meccan period, 
he appears as a warner (q.v.) and teacher 
(cj 71:10, 25; see teaching); his role then 
shifts to that of a deliverer a la Moses 
((J 20:44, 47, 77) in order to face the forces 
that militate against the truth (q i6:i2o) in 
the third Meccan period. In the late 
Meccan period, he reacts against violence, 
and, finally, moves to military jihad during 
the Medinan period (q 4:95-6). 

Finally, peace operates in a social and 
political milieu (see community and 
society in the cjur'an; politics and 
THE cjur'an). Peace is a matter of public 
policy, as C3 4:91 implies: "If they do not 
back away from you, and offer you peace, 
and temper their hands, then seize and kill 
them." This justifies fighting those who 
attack (c) 22:39), those who fight against 
Muslims (c) 2:190), but requires proper 
intelligence about the motives of those 
against whom war (q.v.) is carried out 
((J 4:94). Judging from the Qiir'an, the 
principles that guided the use of jihad in- 
dicate that it had no universally perceived 
meaning; it functioned against a back- 

ground of peace as one of the tools for 
bringing about the formation of the com- 
munity of believers [umma; see belief and 
unbelief) and was applied contextually by 
the Prophet. Hence it is probable that it 
functioned primarily within the commu- 
nity's task of establishing the umma. Only 
later would it develop into a sophisticated 
military element of state policy, which car- 
ried it in quite different directions, and 
added several other layers of legal and 
political interpretation to its history. Still, 
enough has been said to indicate that 
qur'anic peace was of such complexity that 
it could give rise to that history after the 
time of the Prophet. 

Earle H. Waugh 

Y. Friedmann, Tolerance and coercion in Islam, 
Cambridge 2003; M. Khaddiiri, War and peace in 
the law of Islam, Baltimore 1975; G. Mensching, 
Toleranz und Wahrheit in der Religion, Heidelberg 
1955; tran.s. H.J. Klimkeit, Tolerance and truth in 
religion. Mobile, AL 1971; I.H. Qiireshi, The 
religion of peace. New Delhi 1930; E.H. Waugh, 
Peace as seen in the Qur'dn, Jerusalem 1986. 

Pearls see metals and minerals 

Pen see vv^riting and vi'RITINg 

Penalty see reward and punishment; 
chastisement and punishment 

Penance see repentance and 


Pentateuch see torah 

People of Midian see midian 

People of Scripture see people of 
THE book; scripture and the cjur'an; 




People of the Book 

People of the Book [i.e. scripture] is the 
literal translation of ahl al-kitdb, a qur'anic 
term used to designate both Jews and 
Christians (see jews and Judaism; 

lectively or separately — as behevers in a 
revealed book (q.v). 

When ahl appears in a construction with 
a person it means his blood relatives (see 
family; kinship; people of the house), 
but with other nouns it acquires wider 
meanings, for instance, ahl madhhab are 
those who profess a certain doctrine or 
follow a particular school of law; ahl al- 
isldm are the Muslims (see law and the 
q^ur'an; community and society in the 
c)Ur'an). The term ahl al-qur'dn, which ap- 
pears in the hadith literature (see hadith 
and the (3Ur'an), refers, according to Ibn 
Manzur [Lisdn al-'Arab, s.v. ahl) to those 
who memorize and practice the Qtir'an. 
He adds that "these are the people of God 
and his elect," in other words, the 
Muslims; as such, the term may at first 
glance seem synonymous to "ahl al-kitdb. " 

The term has also alternative forms that 
do not change its fundamental meaning, 
that is to say, people who possess a "book" 
presumably of a divine origin or to whom 
such a book or part of it "was given" 
[alladhina utu l-kitdh or alladhma dtu nasTban 
mina l-kitdbi, e.g. q 2:144-5; 3:19-20, 23; 
4:44, 47,131; 5:5, 57; 6:20 and similar ex- 
pressions: e.g. C3 2:146; 42:14). The idea is 
implied also in narratives (q.v.) wherein the 
circumstances in which "the book" was 
given to its respective recipients are men- 
tioned (e.g. Q 6:91-2, 154-7; 35-25)- In all 
these cases, the "giving" or "sending down 
(tanzil)" of the book means a special act of 
grace (q.v.) on the part of God who chose 
certain people, or communities, to be the 
recipients and custodians of his word (see 
word of god; revelation and 

inspiration). The actual act of the trans- 
mission of the book to its recipients was 
made through the mediation of a prophet- 
messenger (see prophets and prophet- 
hood; messenger). In the case of the Jews 
this was Moses (q.v.; Musa, C3 6:91; 11:110) 
and in the case of the Christians it was 
Jesus (q.v.; 'Isa, Q^ 3:44-8). It is possible to 
regard other prophets, especially David 
(q.v.; Dawud, Q_ 4:163; 17:55), as instrumen- 
tal in delivering a book to the Jews (cf. 
Q, 2:87; see also children of Israel). 
Sometimes the books are specified by their 
names [tawrdt, injTl, zabur, respectively; see 
torah; gospel; psalms) in addition to 
being identified as "the book" (al-kitdb, e.g. 
o 4:105; 5:68, no; 41:45). 

According to the Qiir'an, since the Jews 
and Christians were chosen to be the re- 
cipients of the book, they were expected to 
follow its contents and to be worthy of be- 
ing its custodians ((J 5:68; 40:53). On the 
whole, however, the Qiir'an regards the 
"People of the Book" as unworthy of this 
particular divine attention and benevo- 
lence (see also blessing). This is chiefiy 
because they intentionally ignored the rev- 
elation given to Muhammad, of which 
they should have good knowledge (q^ 5:i9) 
41-4). If the People of the Book were to 
refer to the true book that was given to 
them, they woidd find that it confirms 
[musaddiq, q 5:48; 6:91-2; 46:12) 
Muhammad's message. Acting obstinately, 
however, they "concealed," "changed" and 
"substituted" (q 2:174; 4:46; 5:13, 41) the 
true information in their book, in order to 
justify their opposition to the Prophet, thus 
joining hands with the polytheists (mush- 
rikun, e.g. o 98:1; see forgery; polemic 

AND polemical LANGUAGE). 

The term ahl that the Qtir'an uses in or- 
der to describe a group of people — a 
family, a tribe, a community (see tribes 
AND clans; community and society in 
THE quR'AN) — is used in the case of ahl 



al-kitdb in an almost unique way, conveying 
tlie idea of a religious community which is 
identified by its scriptures. The usual usage 
of the term, which denoted people of a 
certain locality (Yathrib, Medina, Madyan; 
cf Q^ 33:13; 9:101, 120; 15:67; 20:40; 28:45; 
see midian) or mode of settlement [ahl al- 
qurd, Q^ 7:96-8; see city) or family [ahl [al-J 
bayt, C3 11:73; 28:12; 33:33), was borrowed 
by the Qur'an to indicate a group of peo- 
ple who follow the teaching of a book, a 
scripture of divine origin. This is made 
very clear when the Qiir'an refuses to 
accept the exclusive claim of the Jews to 
the ancestry of Abraham (q.v.; Ibrahim): 
"Abraham was not a Jew nor was he a 
Christian but he was a hanif (q.v.), a 
Muslim, and he was not one of the poly- 
theists (see polytheism and atheism; 
IDOLATRY and IDOLATERS). Surely the 
people who are nearest to Abraham are 
those who followed him and this Prophet, 
and those who have believed..." ((j 3:67-8). 

Although the Qiir'an attributes the an- 
cestry of the Jews to Abraham's grandson 
Jacob (q.v.; or son, q 11:71), the text is far 
more interested in their and the Christians' 
affiliation to the revealed scriptures. These 
revealed scriptures are in the form of a 
kitdb, a "book." This term must have been 
well known to the people of western 
Arabia long before the time of the 
Prophet, since it is used freely in the 
Qiir'an (see orality and writing in 

PRE-iSLAMic). In the light of recent schol- 
arship that indicates a fair degree of in- 
teraction of Arabic-speaking peoples with 
other Semitic linguistic communities, it is 
likely that the word itself, kethdb hak-kdthub 
in Hebrew and kethdbah in Aramaic, would 
also have been well known in some circles 
there. The Jews in Yemen (q.v.) and 
Babylonia as well as the Aramaic (Syriac) 
speaking Christians may even have used it 

to denote the Bible in general. The Jews 
used the term torah she-hi-ketdb to identify 
the written law, the Pentateuch. Both parts 
of this term were likely known in the 
Arabian environment, and the Qiir'an 
refers to them separately, kitdb and tawrdt, 
in almost interchangeable fashion. It is 
clear in the Qiir'an that the kitdb was actu- 
ally a written text and it is possible to read 
some qur'anic references as indicating that 
its revelation differs from the former 
"books" only by the fact that it was orally 
transmitted and not written down (see 
orality; recitation of the q^ur'an). 
The majority of qur'anic references, how- 
ever, make clear that its message cannot be 
different from that of its predecessors and 
that it also had to be recorded in a book, 
identical with, and also confirming and 
bringing to perfection, the former books 
(Watt-Bell, Introduction, 142 f). "[God] has 
sent down to you the book with the truth 
confirming what was sent before it, and he 
sent down the Torah and the Gospel afore- 
time as guidance for the people, and he 
sent down the fmqdn" (q 3:3-4; see 
criterion). Nevertheless, in spite of this 
clear identification, the term ahl al-kitdb is 
still reserved in the Qur'an for the follow- 
ers of the Torah and the Gospel (injil). In 
one instance, the text is more specific, 
when it identifies the Christians by the 
term ahl al-injTl (q 5:47). 

Thus, the holy book of the Jews and the 
Christians, the kitdb, assumed the place of 
the locality or blood relations as the pri- 
mary point of identification for a particu- 
lar group of people. By doing so, the 
Qur'an followed its main doctrine of the 
community of believers, namely the over- 
arching structure created by the bond of 
religion (q.v). Just as the community of 
Muhammad's followers was that of 
mu'minun (and, less frequently, muslimun) 
bound together by its revelation, the Jews 
and Christians were religious communities 



as well, bound together by their respective 

Since the divine origin of these revela- 
tions was not questioned (though in their 
present state these texts represent only a 
defective version of the original), it follows 
that ahl al-kitdb deserve special treatment 
by the community of believers. Exegesis of 
c) 9:5 and 9:29 has elaborated upon a 
seeming qur'anic distinction between the 
treatment of "People of the Book" and 
"polytheists" (mushrikun) as defeated mili- 
tary opponents of the believers (see 
fighting; expeditions and battles). 
Rather than the polytheists' choice be- 
tween death and "submission," the believ- 
ers may accept a settlement from the 
"People of the Book" that allows them to 
live within the Muslim polity without nec- 
essarily converting to Islam. But it is in- 
cumbent upon the community of believers 
to use force of arms, if necessary, in order 
to compel ahl al-kitdb to settle into the legal 
status fixed for them (<j 9:29; Kister, 'An 

Most references to ahl al-kitdb in the 
Qiir'an are polemical. These peoples (or, 
frequently, the "disbelievers" from among 
them) are basically the enemies of the 
Muslims, who wish that the former accept 
their revelation in the Qiir'an. They are 
jealous of the Muslims because God had 
chosen to send them a prophet as well 
(q 2:105-9). On the other hand, the Qiir'an 
also seeks common ground between 
Muslims and ahl al-kitdb. In {) 2:62 we find 
the assertion that "Jews, Christians and the 
Sabi'ln (see sabians), whoever has believed 
in God and the last day (see last judg- 
ment; apocalypse), and has acted up- 
rightly (see good deeds; virtues and 

have their reward with their lord (q.v.): fear 
(q.v.) rests not upon them, nor do they 
grieve (see joy and misery)." The search 
for common ground with the People of the 

Book reflected in this verse appears even 
more clearly in C3 3:64: "O People of the 
Book, come to a word (that is) fair between 
us and you, (to wit) that we serve only God, 

that we associate nothing with him " 

The later qur'anic revelations, given at 
the time of intensive polemical encounters 
at Medina, reduced the base for such com- 
mon ground with the Jews and the 
Christians to two: pure monotheism and 
belief in the day of judgment (or the "last 
day"). It seems, however, that these two 
principles, even if the People of the Book 
acknowledged them, were not enough to 
outweigh the doctrinal differences between 
the parties. The Qiir'an accuses both Jews 
and Christians of polytheism, because of 
the Christian doctrines of the Trinity (q.v.) 
and of the divine sonship of Jesus and the 
Jewish claim that 'Uzayr (see ezra) was the 
son of God. The latter accusation is enig- 
matic and no satisfactory explanation has 
yet been offered for it. The name of 'Uzayr 
does not appear in this form in any Jewish 
text, and the idea of God having a son is 
not only completely alien to rabbinic 
thought of the time, but it was also the 
major area of conflict between mainstream 
Judaism and Christianity. But since the 
Qiir'an speaks about the sonship of 'Uzayr 
as an apparently known and accepted fact 
(Q, 9-30: "The Jews say that 'Uzayr is the 
son of God and the Christians say that the 
Messiah [al-masih] is the son of God..."), it 
might mean that there was a concrete 
group of people who called themselves 
Jews and attributed sonship to a person 
called 'Uzayr. The fact that the context of 
this assertion is the sonship attributed by 
the Christians to the Messiah (al-masih), is 
likely significant. The preceding verse 
((J 9:29) calls on the believers to fight 
against those "who do not believe in God 
or in the last day. . . of those who have 
been given the book" (min alladhina Utu 
l-kitdb). Following immediately is the verse 



about the polytheistic doctrines of tlie Jews 
and the Christians. It is clear first, that the 
Prophet is absolutely sure about the issue 
of 'Uzayr and second, that this passage 
does not speak about a difference of doc- 
trine between the two communities but 
about the difference in the appellation that 
each one of them used for the son of God. 
The Christians call him al-maslh, the Jews 
'Uzayr. The solution of the riddle is rather 
simple: The likely source of the name 
'Uzayr is the Hebrew word '0<;ct; rather 
than an Arabic diminutive. Taking into 
consideration that the only way to render 
the long e in Hebrew is by the diphthong ay 
in Arabic, 'Uzayr would represent the 
transliteration of the Hebrew 'Ozer into 
Arabic. 'Ozer in Hebrew means "helper," 
or even "savior." The word appears in bib- 
lical and post-biblical soiu'ces alone and 
together with words derived from the root 
y-sh- ' denoting salvation, too. (At the begin- 
ning of the i8 Benedictions, the most im- 
portant Jewish prayer, God is called: "king 
[melek], helper ['ozer], savior [moshi'a], pro- 
tector fmagen].") In other words, the 
Qvir'an, when speaking abotit Jews and 
Christians as those to whom the book was 
given, speaks about two similar groups, 
both of whom believed in the son of God 
as the savior, with only one difference: each 
referred to him under a different title, the 
Jews called him '»<;«■ and the Christians 
masih (see salvation). 

The problem of 'Uzayr has a wider im- 
plication in regard to the question of the 
identity of the Jews in the Medinan con- 
text (see MEDINA; chronology and the 
(JUr'an). Based on the qur'anic material 
alone it is very possible that at least some of 
these Jews (if not all of them) represented a 
sect with a distinct messianic doctrine, who 
regarded the Messiah as the son of God 
and called him "the savior," "the helper" 
('ozer, 'uzayr). This could well be the reason 
why many times the term ahl al-kitdb refers 

to both Jews and Christians, and one can- 
not always be sure if a certain reference in 
the Qiir'an refers to Jews, to Christians or 
to both. In all the thirty-one verses of the 
Qiir'an with a direct reference to ahl al- 
kitdb there are only two references that can 
be identified as referring specifically to 
Jews and to Christians, respectively. In 
o 4:153-5, the People of the Book ask the 
Prophet to bring down to them a book 
from heaven (see provocation; oppo- 
sition TO Muhammad); in doing so they 
follow the example of their forefathers 
who, even after they were given the evi- 
dence (bayyindt), made the golden calf (see 
CALF OF gold) and persisted with the re- 
bellion (q.v.) against God, and his prophets. 
The other case is q 4:171, where ahl al-kitdb 
are clearly Christians. Here the Qiir'an 
urges them to speak about God with truth, 
and not to exaggerate in their religion. 
Jesus ('Isa) was only a messenger of God, 
even though he was created when God cast 
his spirit (q.v.) into Jesus' mother (see 
Mary). He is 'Isa son of Maryam, that is to 
say, not 'Isa son of God. But even in these 
two cases one cannot be sure that the 
Prophet is not speaking about two very 
similar groups, each of whom exalted Jesus 
as a messianic figure and "son of God," 
but under two different titles: "Maslh" 
(Messiah) and 'Ozer" (Savior). From the 
qur'anic references, it appears that the 
"Nasara" were those who termed him the 
"Messiah," while the "Yahud" called him 
"Savior." Both are attacked in the qur'anic 
discourse for saying that God has a son; 
they differ only in the name which they use 
to identify him. From this reading of the 
qur'anic references to the "Yahud," it 
would appear that they should not be 
equated with post-exilic Judaism which 
had categorically rejected any association 

In what follows, the qur'anic verses 
dealing strictly with ahl al-kitdb will be 



summarized without reference to either 
hadlth or commentary, i.e. witliout exe- 
getical interference. To begin, the second 
and third suras contain a number of 

(J 2:105 — tliose wlio disbelieve from 
ahl al-kitdb and the polytheists (mushrikun) 
do not like the fact that the believers 
receive God's goodness and favor. 
^ 2:109 — many ahl al-kitdb are jealous of 
the Muslims and wish they woidd become 
unbelievers. C3 3:64 — the Qiir'an calls 
on ahl al-kitdb to accept monotheism as a 
common ground of belief with the 
Muslims. Q_ 3:65 — ahl al-kitdb cannot 
claim Abraham for themselves since the 
Torah and the Gospel were revealed only 
after his time. (Since Abraham plays a 
major part in both Judaism and Christian- 
ity, the verse cannot be identified with 
either one.) C3 3:69 — a group of ahl al- 
kitdb wish to lead the Muslims astray (q.v.), 
but they mislead only themselves. 
Q, 3:70-1 — ahl al-kitdb axe asked why they 
disbelieve in the signs (q.v.) of God and 
confuse truth (q.v.) with falsehood (see lie). 
C3 3:75 — there are some individuals from 
ahl al-kitdb who are trustworthy, others who 
are not. These even lie about God himself. 
Q, 3:98-100 — ahl al-kitdb disbelieve in 
God's signs and turn the believers away 
from his path. The believers are warned 
that some of those "to whom the book has 
been given" wish to render them unbeliev- 
ers. Q^ 3:100-14 — it would have been much 
better if ahl al-kitdb were to believe but 
most of them are transgressors. The 
Muslims will defeat them. They are des- 
tined to permanent humiliation because 
they disbelieved in God's signs and killed 
the prophets. But not all ahl al-kitdb are the 
same: some recite God's revealed verses 
while prostrating in the night (see bowing 
AND prostration; vigils) and believe in 
God and the last day. (Only the commen- 
taries identify either Jews or Christians 

with these verses.) c) 3:199 — among ahl 
al-kitdb there are those who believe in God 
and in what was revealed to them as well as 
in what was revealed to the Prophet. God 
will properly reward them, q 4:123-4 — re- 
ward and pimishment (q.v.) depend on 
one's actions. They are not dependent on 
the convictions of either ahl al-kitdb or the 

The fourth sura, al-Nisa' ("The 
Women"), includes three significant and 
lengthy paragraphs, o 4:153-9 — ahl al- 
kitdb ask the Prophet to bring down for 
them a book from heaven. This is a sign of 
their audacity, for in the past they asked 
Moses to give them a clear sign of God, 
and even after they were struck by lighten- 
ing they made the calf (al-'ijl). God lifted 
the mountain over them, ordered them to 
keep the sabbath (q.v.), and took from them 
"a firm compact" (see covenant). They 
will be punished for violating the compact, 
for their disbelief in the signs of God, for 
their killing of the prophets, speaking 
against Mary and for claiming to have 
killed the Messiah, 'Isa. In fact, they never 
killed or crucified him (see crucifixion); 
instead, God caused him to ascend to him: 
"And there are no People of the Book but 
will surely believe in him before his death, 
and on the day of resurrection (q.v.), he 
will be regarding them a witness (see 
intercession; witnessing and testify- 
ing)." (This is the only clear reference to 
Jewish material, though it is not clear 
whether the reference here is to the events 
of the past or to some current controversy. 
Q^ 4:157 contains a reference to those who 
have differences of opinion about Jesus or 
have doubts concerning him, and, having 
no clear knowledge about him, they follow 
uncertain opinions. This verse cannot be 
attributed to either Jews or Christians but, 
unlike the other verses of a historical 
nature, this one seems to refer to the pres- 
ent and reflect differences of opinions 



regarding the nature of Christ among 
Christians and Judeo-Cliristian groups.) 
c) 4:171 — ahl al-kitdb are warned not to 
exaggerate in their religion and regard 
Jesus only as a messenger (q.v.) of God and 
his word conveyed to Mary from a spirit 
which God cast into her. God is one, he is 
exahed above liaving a son (see GOD and 
HIS attributes; anthropomorphism); he 
has all that is in heaven and earth (see 
power and impotence). (The verse seems 
to refer to the Christians but could well 
hint at a controversy concerning the nature 
of Christ among local Christian or pseudo- 
Christian groups, perhaps a distant echo of 
the debate in the institutionalized 
Byzantine church.) 

In the first relevant reference in the fifth 
sura (q 5:15), ahl al-kitab are informed that 
God's messenger has arrived revealing all 
that they had been concealing from the 
"book." God sent the light (q.v.) to them 
and a "clear book." c) 5:19 — ahl al-kitab 
are told that God's messenger came to 
make things clear for them and as a 
bringer of good tidings (see oood news) 
and a warner (q.v.). q 5:59 — ahl al-kitab 
are asked if they reproach the Muslims for 
their belief in what has been sent to them 
and what was sent before and for their be- 
lief in God. The implication is that what- 
ever God has sent to them is identical with 
whatever was sent aforetime, o 5:65 — if 
ahl al-kitdb were to become believers God 
would forgive their sins (see forgiveness; 
SIN, MAJOR and minor) and cause them to 
enter paradise (q.v.). (j 5:68 — ahl al-kitdb 
are called upon to keep the Torah and the 
Gospel; the Prophet's revelation causes 
many of them to increase their arrogance 
(q.v.) and disbelief, o 5:77 — ahl al-kitdb are 
urged not to exaggerate in their religion, to 
speak only the truth about God, and to 
beware of following the ways of those who 
in the past have strayed from the straight 
path. (The verse is reminiscent of Q^ 4:171, 

but without the apparently Christian 

In (3 29:46-7, the Muslims are to debate 
with ahl al-kitdb in a positive manner (see 
debate and disputation) and stress the 
common belief in the one God and in 
what had been revealed to ahl al-kitdb (in 
the past) and the Muslims (at present). A 
book (kitdb) was revealed to the Prophet 
similar to the other book that was revealed 
in the past and in which ahl al-kitdb believe. 
Some of them will believe in this book, 
too. Only the unbelievers deny the signs of 
God (see gratitude and ingratitude). 
C) 33:26 — God caused the Muslims to be 
victorious over ahl al-kitdb, who were com- 
pelled to forsake their towers (saydsihim) . 
(According to tradition the verse and its 
context has to do with the "battle of the 
trench [or ditch] " and ahl al-kitdb here re- 
fers to the Jews who fought against the 
Prophet; see people of the ditc;h.) 
o 57:29 — ahl al-kitdb have no power over 
any part of the bounty of God who is the 
sole possessor of all his bounty, which he 
bestows on whomsoever he wishes. 

<J 59:2 is a somewhat ambiguous passage 
which deserves more extended attention: 
The believers were victorious over some ahl 
al-kitdb by the grace of God and caused 
them (i.e. the disbelievers from the People 
of the Book) to evacuate their homes and 
forts after they had thought that these were 
impregnable (and Muslims did not think 
that the People of the Book could be de- 
feated). God put fear in their hearts and 
they destroyed their homes with their own 
hands. For the Muslims this victory came 
unexpectedly. (The verse is usually under- 
stood to refer originally to the expulsion of 
the Jews of the Banu Qaynuqa' [q.v.] 
which was revised and extended after the 
expulsion of the Jews of the Banu al-Nadir 
[see nadIr, banu al-; cf Bell, Commentary, 
ii, 363-4]. The verse speaks about those of 
the "People of the Book who have disbe- 



lieved." They were the ones whom God 
expelled from their dwellings. The attribu- 
tion of the reference to a certain clan of 
Jews is a reasonable assumption; the 
Qur'an does not, however, use the word 
"jiahud, " but the more general term ahl al- 
kitdb. It is clear that the verse does not 
speak about doctrinal differences but about 
physical confrontation, which was given a 
religious garb. The group of ahl al-kitdb 
who took part in this confrontation are 
defined only as "unbelievers" and there is 
no other hint about their identity.) 

(J 59:11 is also one of those verses that 
refer to ahl al-kitdh in the context of the 
Prophet's physical confrontation with his 
opponents. It speaks about the hypocrites 
(alladhina ndfaqu) who promise "their broth- 
ers" from "those who disbelieve from 
among ahl al-kitdb" that they will go into 
exile with them if expelled and assist them 
if attacked (see hypocrites and 
hypocrisy). The passage adds that they 
are liars. (Again, according to the standard 
histories, this verse refers to the hypocrites 
of Medina before the expulsion of the 
Banu al-Nadir. There is nothing in the 
verse itself to back this presumption. 
Again, the verse uses the general term "the 
unbelievers from among the People of the 
Book" which, without any polemical con- 
text, is far from being specific. Yet, it is 
clear from the context and from the verses 
immediately following this verse, that the 
Qur'an is speaking about a war [q.v.] in 
which their opponents fought the Muslim 
faithful "in fortified towns and behind 
walls" [a 59:14].) 

Sura 98 is completely dedicated to the 
"imbelievers of the People of the Book" 
and the polytheists. The eight verses of the 
sura speak about the union between these 
two groups, who were given the oppor- 
ttinity for salvation when the "evidence" 
(bayyina) of a true Prophet came to them 
"reciting pure scrolls (or sheets)" [yatlu 

suhufan mutahharatan, see sheets; scrolls). 
Those who were given the book (alladhina 
utu l-kitdba) separated (or had differences of 
opinion?) only after the evidence had come 
to them. They were ordered to worship 
God exclusively and observe the prayer 
(q.v.) and the payment of zi^kat (see 
almsgiving). Those of ahl al~kitdb (who 
disbelieved) and the polytheists are the 
worst of all creatures and are destined to 
abide in the fire of hell [jahannam; see hell 
AND hellfire). Ill Comparison, those of 
them who do believe and do good deeds 
are the best of all creatures and are to 
dwell eternally in the garden (q.v.) of Eden 
wherein the rivers fiow. (The sura repre- 
sents a summary of the Qur'an's attitude 
to ahl al-kitdb: those who believe share the 
good fortune of all other believers. By be- 
lieving the Qtir'an means acceptance of 
the Prophet as one who recites holy writ- 
ing, as the evidence (hujja) and the practice 
of the two main ordinances of Islam: 
prayer [saldt] and the prescribed payment 
of z<ikdt. Humanity is thus divided into two 
camps: the saved ones are the believers 
who are also the best of all creatures fkhayr 
al-bariyya] — they inherit heaven; and the 
worst of all creatures, who are the unbe- 
lievers of ahl al-kitdb and the polytheists, 
who inherit hell). 

Except for a few cases, therefore, ahl al- 
kitdb in the Qtiran does not necessarily 
refer to either Jews or Christians. Even if 
such identification can be made, especially 
in the case of Jews, it is not clear to what 
kind of Jews or Christians the text refers, 
unless there is clear reference to past his- 
tory. It is very possible that, in addition to 
rabbinic Jews (from Yemen and Baby- 
lonia?), the Prophet came into contact with 
messianic groups who identified themselves 
asyahud. Based on the qur'anic text it is 
impossible to be more specific about the 
identity of ahl al-kitdb with whom the 
Prophet had ideological, doctrinal and 



physical confrontations. Part of them he 
succeeded in making behevers while 
against others he had to fight to the end. 
The main subjects of the doctrinal con- 
frontations were, first, the validity and 
truth of Muhammad's prophecy and, sec- 
ond, the meaning and true nature of 
monotheism. Whether defined as Jews or 
Christians, ahl al-kitdb were, by the end of 
the Prophet's lifetime, accused of having 
forsaken the true monotheistic religion of 
old prescribed in their books and of having 
adopted polytheistic doctrines that put 
them in the same camp as the mushrikun (cf. 
McAuliffe, Persian exegetical evaluation, 

104-5). S^^ ^ls° BELIEF AND UNBELIEF; 

faith; children of Israel; religious 


M. Sharon 

Primary: Lisan al-'Arab; TabarT, Tafsir, Beirut 
1984 [the following is a list of references to ahl 
al-kitdb in al-Tabari's TafsTr indicating the cases 
of their identification as Jews (J), Christians (C), 
or neither (N): a 2:105 (N); 2:109 (J); 3:64 (C,J) 
3:65 (C,J); 3:69 (J,C andj only); 3:70 (N); 3:71 
(C,J); 3:72 (J of Medina); 3:75 (C,J); 3:98 (C,J or 
J only); 3:99 (C,J, or J only); 3:110 (C,J); 3:113 
(J who converted to Islam); 3:199 (G,J); 4:123 
(G,J); 4:153 (J); 4:159 (G,J); 4:171 (C,J or C only); 
5:15 (C,J); 5:19 (N); 5:59 (J) 5:65 (C,J); 5:68 (J); 
5:77 (G J) 29:46 (C); 33:26 (J); 57:29 (N or J); 59:2 
(J of B. Nadir); 59:11 (J of B. Nadir); 98:1 (G,J) 
98:6 (N)]. 

Secondary: Z. Abedin, Al-dhimma. The non- 
believers' identity in Islam, in Islam and Christian- 
Muslim relations 3 (1992), 40-57; M. Ayoub, 
Dhimmah in Qiir'an and hadlth, in Arab studies 
quarterly 5 {1983), 172-82 (stresses that the term 
ahl al-dhimma is not qur'anic, and that the usage 
of ahl al-kitdb for Jews and Christians may sug- 
gest a certain level of equality of faith between 
the People of the Book and the Muslims; cf. esp. 
178); id., 'Uzayr in the Qiir'an and Muslim tradi- 
tion, in W.M. Brinner and S.D. Ricks (eds.). 
Studies in Islamic and Judaic traditions, 2 vols., 
Atlanta 1986, i, 3-18; Bell; id.. Commentary; 
I. Goldziher, Ahl al-kitab, in El', i, 184-5; ^^ J- 
Kister, 'Anyadin {Qur'an IX. 29). An attempt at 
interpretation, in Arabica 11 (1964), 272-8; 

H. Lazarus-Yafeh, 'Uzayr, in El^, x, 960; J.D. 
McAuliffe, Persian exegetical evaluation ot the 
ahl al-kitdb, in MW 73 (1983), 87-105; A. A. Sache- 
dina, Jews, Christians and Muslims according to 
the Qur'an, in Greek Orthodox theological review 31 
(1986), 105-20 (especially pp. 105, 107-8, 114, 118); 
G. Vajda, Ahl al-kitab, in Ei^, i, 264-6; W.M. 
Watt, Muhammad at Medina, Oxford, 1962, 192 f; 
Watt-Bell, Introduction, 141 f 

People of the Gave see men of the 

People of the Ditch 

The Qiir'an mentions the mysterious 
People of the Ditch (ashdb al-ukhdUd) 
saying that "slain were the People of 
the Ditch — the fire abounding in 
fuel — when they were seated over it and 
were themselves witnesses of what they did 
with the believers" ((J 85:4-7). The Qiir'an 
adds that they were tortured in this way 
only because they believed in God "to 
whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens 
and the earth, and God is witness over 
everything" (o 85:8-9). 

The expression "People of the Ditch" is 
the single detail of this whole passage that 
has been stibject to differing interpreta- 
tions. Consequently, most exegetical works 
contain an interpretation of this phrase. 
Some are based on a long hadlth (see 
hadith and the cjur'an) in which 
Muhammad tells the story of a boy who is 
learning magic (q.v.) from a magician. But, 
after meeting a monk (see monasticism 
and monks), the boy became a true be- 
liever in God. Subsequently, the boy was 
tortured by the king in order to make him 
abandon his faith, and after his death the 
king had ditches dug and burned those 
who followed the boy's religion (Mtislim, 
Sahih, iv, 2299-301, no. 3005). 

In contrast, some other reports consider 
this passage an allusion to the martyrdom 



of the Christians of Najran (q.v.) by order 
of the king Dliu Niiwas, which, according 
to Christian sources, took place around 523 


Dhu Nuwas, the last Himyarite king, con- 
verted to Judaism and changed liis name to 
Joseph (see JEWS and Judaism; south 

he learned that there were some Christians 
in Najran, he went there, intent upon forc- 
ing them to convert to Judaism. At their 
refusal, Dhu Nuwas had one or more 
ditches dug, in which wood was put and a 
fire was lit. All of the Christians, number- 
ing in the thousands (eight, twenty or even 
seventy), refused to renounce their faith 
and adopt that of the king, so they were 
thrown into the fire alive. According to 
certain reports, only one of the people of 
Najran, named Daws Dhu Tha'laban, was 
able to escape. He reached the Byzantine 
court where he sought assistance. Some 
reports refer to the dimensions of the ditch 
or of the fire, or add that among the peo- 
ple slain there was a woman with a two- 
months-old baby who miraculously spoke 
and convinced her to accept the torment 
(Muqatil, Tafsir, iv, 648). 

According to some interpretations, the 
expression "People of the Ditch" alludes 
instead to three kings, Dhu Nuwas in 
Yemen, Antiochus in Syria and Nebu- 
chadnezzar in Iraq or Persia. A tradition 
explains the qur'anic passage as referring 
to an Abyssinian prophet who summoned 
his people to faith but the people, who re- 
fused to listen to the prophet, dug a ditch 
and threw the prophet and his followers in 
it (MajlisI, Bihar, xiv, 439-40). A report 
attributed to 'All b. Abi Talib (q.v.; d. 40/ 
661) includes another version: the ditch 
was dug by a Mazdean king who decided 
to permit incestuous marriages, but when 
his people opposed this innovation, the 
king, failing to convince them, had them 
thrown into the burning ditch. 

Modern research has proposed other 
interpretations. The story of the People of 
the Ditch mentioned in the Qtir'an could 
be an allusion to the men in the furnace in 
Daniel 3:15 f, as already suggested by al- 
Tabarl (d. 310/923; Tafsir, xxix, 132-3) and 
other exegetes. Alternatively, it may refer 
to the members of Qiiraysh (q.v.) slain by 
the Prophet's army at Badr (q.v.). It may 
also simply be a generic allusion to those 
damned to hell (Paret, Kommentar, 505-6; see 
reward and punishment; hell and 

Roberto Tottoli 

Primary: 'Abd al-Razzaq, Tafsir, ii, 362-4; Ibn 
Hablb, Muhammad b. Habib Abu Ja Tar, Kiidh 
al-AIuhabbar, ed. I. Lichtenstaedter, Hyderabad 
1942, 368; Ibn Ishaq, Sira, ed. al-Saqqa, i, 34-7; 
Ibn Kathir, Biddya, ii, 129-32; id., Tafsir, 4 vols., 
Beirut n.d., iv, 777-81; al-MajlisT, Muhammad 
Baqir, Bihar al-anwdr, Beirut 1983, xiv, 438-44; 
MaqdisT, al-Mutahhar b. Tahir, al-Bad' wa-l- 
tarikh, ed. C. Huart, 6 vols., Paris 1899-1919, iii, 
182-3; Mujahid, Tafsir, ed. Abu 1-Nll, 718-9; 
Muqatil, Tafsir, iv, 647-8; Mushm, Sahih, iv, 
2299-301, no. 3005; QiimmT, Tafsir, Beirut 1991, 
ii, 442; SuyutT, Durr, 8 vols., Cairo 1983, viii, 
465-70; Tabarl, Tafsir, Cairo 1968, xxx, 131-6; id., 
Ta'rTkh, ed. de Goeje, i, 919-26; TabarsT, Afa/ma ', 
10 \'ols., Beirut 1986, x, 593-4; Tha'labl, Qisas, 


Secondary: Horovitz, KU, 12, 92-3; A. Moberg, 
Uber einige chrisiliche Legenden in der islamischen 
Tradition, Lund 1930, 18-21; R. Paret, Ashab 
al-ukhdud, in EI-, i, 692; id., Kommentar, Kohl- 
hammer 1980, 505-6; Speyer, Erzdhlungen, 424. 

People of the Elephant 

The phrase in the first verse of C3 105 
(Surat al-Fll, "The Elephant"), from which 
alfil ("the elephant") provides the term by 
which that sura is known. The verse is ad- 
dressed directly to the prophet Muham- 
mad: "Have you not seen how your lord 
has dealt with the People of the Elephant 
(ashab al-fil)?" The short sura of five verses 



is early Meccan (see chronology and 
THE cjur'an) and it describes an expedition 
in which one of the mounts was an ele- 
phant and which was miraculously anni- 
hilated by God, who sent flocks of birds 
against the invading host. The sura leaves 
unknown both the identity of the People 
of the Elephant, the objective of the in- 
vading force, and the motives behind the 

What was left obscure in the sura was 
illuminated with great precision by the 
Arabic Islamic historical and exegetical 
tradition. Ashdb al-Jil were Abyssinians (see 
Abyssinia); the leader was Abraha (q.v.); 
the target was Mecca (q.v.) and the Ka'ba 
(q.v.); the name of the elephant was Mah- 
mud, its "driver" (sd'is) was Unays; the 
guide of the expedition was Abu Righal; 
the elephant stopped at al-Mughammas 
and woidd not proceed towards Mecca; the 
route of the elephant, darb al-Jil, was 
charted from Yemen (q.v.) to al- 
Mughammas; the Prophet's grandfather, 
'Abd al-Muttalib, was involved in negotiat- 
ing with Abraha; and even Qiiraysh (q.v.), 
as Hums, were associated with the failure 
of the expedition of the People of the 
Elephant against the Ka'ba; Abraha died a 
dolorous death and was carried back to 

It is equally difficidt to accept or reject 
any of the above data as provided by the 
Arabic Islamic tradition. Yet a modicum of 
truth may be predicated since, as is clear 
from the first verse of the sura, the episode 
was a recent one and was probably still 
remembered by the Prophet's older 
Meccan contemporaries, who might well 
have been the first tradents of the later 
historical and exegetical tradition. Indeed, 
the so-called "Year of the Elephant," 'dm 
al-Jil, marked the inception of one of the 
Arab pre-Islamic eras (see pre-islamic 
ARABIA AND THE q^ur'an). The Islamic 
profile of the episode consisted in associat- 

ing the year of the expedition with the 
birth date of Muhammad; Umm Ayman, 
Muhammad's nurse, was said to have been 
a captive from the defeated Abyssinian 
host; and Muslims were expected to 
stone the tomb of Abu Righal at 
al-Mughammas. The sura itself yields only 
the following: the expedition of the People 
of the Elephant was a serious and impor- 
tant event; the destruction of the invading 
host was theologically presented, effected 
by God himself; and since the sura was 
addressed to the Prophet, the implication is 
that he or his city or Qiiraysh benefited 
from this divine intervention on their be- 
half. Hence, the failure of the expedition of 
the People of the Elephant sheds much 
light on the pre-Islamic history of Qiiraysh 
and on the pre-prophetic period of 
Muhammad's life. 

Attempts to invoke the epigraphic evi- 
dence from south Arabia to shed light on 
the People of the Elephant have failed. 
The Murayghan inscription commemo- 
rated a victory, not a defeat, for the 
Ethiopians and the site of the battle was 
very far from Mecca. Additionally, these 
attempts have been gratuitously plagued by 
the involvement of the Prophet's birth 
date — traditionally considered 570 
c.E. — with the date of the expedition, 
mounted by the People of the Elephant. 
An alternative approach towards negotiat- 
ing the imprecision of the sura, namely, 
the exegesis of the Qiir'an by the Qiir'an 
(tafsTr al-Qur'dn bi-l-Qur'dn), has been more 
fruitful and successful. Many medieval 
Muslim scholars considered q 106 
("Qiiraysh") not a separate sura but a con- 
tinuation of C3 105. The unity of these two 
suras, however, had not been seriously con- 
sidered until the present writer published 
an article to that effect in 1981. Accepting 
the unity of the two suras al-Fil and 
Quraysh, and setting them against the back- 
ground of the history of western Arabia in 



the sixth century, based on authentic con- 
temporary sources, yield the following con- 
clusions on the People of the Elephant and 
their expedition: 

They were Abyssinians, not Arabs, thcfil 
being an African not an Arabian animal; 
their leader was either Abraha or one of 
his two sons who succeeded him, Yaksum 
or Masruq; the destination no doubt was 
Mecca and the Ka'ba, referred to in verse 
c) 106:3; the destruction of the Ethiopian 
host may be attributed to the outbreak of 
an epidemic or the smallpox. Its destruc- 
tion was Mecca's commercial opportunity 
in international trade, now that it could 
safely conduct the two journeys (see 
caravan; journey): the winter journey to 
Yemen and the summer one to Syria (q.v.; 
bilcid al-shd?n); let the Meccans, therefore, 
worship the lord of the "house" (the 
Ka'ba; see house, domestic and 
divine), who made all this possible 
(cj 106:3-4). The true motives behind the 
expedition remain shrouded in obscurity 
but they must be either or both of the fol- 
lowing: (i) Retaliation for the desecration 
of the cathedral/church, built by Abraha 
in San'a'; or (2) the elimination of Mecca 
as an important caravan city on the main 
artery of trade in western Arabia. 

Whatever the motive behind the expedi- 
tion of the People of the Elephant was, the 
qur'anic revelation that refers to them in 
C3 105 remains the sole reliable evidence for 
the importance of Mecca in the sixth cen- 
tury, clearly implied in the fact that the 
ruler of south Arabia found it necessary to 
mount a major military offensive against it. 
The destruction of the Ethiopian host is 
also the sole reliable evidence that explains 
the enhanced prosperity of Mecca as a 
result of long-distance international trade, 
through which the future Prophet of Islam 
benefited, materially and otherwise, in the 
fifteen years or so, during which he led the 
caravans before his prophetic call (see 

prophets and prophethood; revela- 
tion AND inspiration) aroimd 610 c;.E. 

Irfan Shahid 

Primary: Ibn Ishaq, Sira, ed. M. 'Abd al-Hamid, 
4 vols., Cairo 1937, i, 46-65; RazT, TafsTr, Beirut 
1985, xxxii, 96-110; Tabarl, Ta'rlkh, trans. C.E. 
Bosworth, The history of al-Taban. v. The Sdsdnids, 
the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen, New York 
1999, 212-32 (cf. T. Noldeke's earlier translation 
and commentary, Geschichte der Perser und Araber 
zur ^eit der Sasaniden, repr. Graz 1973, 195-220). 
Secondary: A.F.L. Beeston, Notes on the 
Muraighan expedition, in BSOAS 17 (1954), 389-92 
(has been invalidated by 'Abdel Monem Sayed, 
Emendations to the Bir Murayghan inscription, 
in Seminar for Arabian studies 18 [1988], 131-43); 
L.I. Conrad, Abraha and Muhammad, in BSOAS 
50 (1987), 225-140; P. Crone, Meccan trade and the 
rise oj Islam, Princeton 1987; A. al-Nasser and 
A. al-Ruwaite, A preliminary study of darb 
al-feel. Route of the Elephant, in Atldl 11 (1988), 
145-72; A.-L. de Premare, Les elephants de 
Qadisiyya, in Arabica 45 (1998), 261-9; V Sahhab, 
Ilaf Quraysh. Rihlat al-shitd' wa-l-sayf, Beirut 1992; 
I. Shahid, Two qur'anic suras. Al-Fil and 
Quraysh, in W. al-Qadi (ed.), Studia Arabica et 
Islamica. Festschrift for Ihsdn Abbds, Beirut 1981, 

People of the Heights 

Qrir'anic eschatological designation for 
people not destined for hell. The term 
al-a'rdf (pL of 'urf) in ^ 7:46 and C) 7:48 
(where it appears in the construct, 
ashdh al-a'raf: "the companions — or 
people — of al-a'rdf") has been variously 
understood as "elevated place, crest, to 
distinguish between things, or to part 
them." Al-a'rdf [\he name of the seventh 
sura of the Qiir'an) also signifies "the 
higher, or the highest," and "the first or 
foremost," hence the source of the English 
term "[the People of] the Heights," and of 
M.H. Shakir's [Holy Qur'dn, 140-1) transla- 
tion as "the Elevated Places." Finally, the 
exegetical tradition has indicated a con- 
nection with the triliteral Arabic root for 



"knowledge" ('-r-f; see e.g. Tabari, Tafsir, 
xii, 450, ad cj 7:46, reporting a tradition 
from al-Suddl: "It is named "al-a 'rdf" 
because its companions 'know' — ja 'ri- 
Juna — humankind."). 

The classical works of exegesis (see exe- 
medieval) list a number of interpretations 
of both "al-a'nlf" and "the people of "al- 
flVo/;" Al-Tabarl (d. 310/923) reports a tra- 
dition that identifies the "veil" (q.v.; hijab) 
of C3 7:46 that separates those destined for 
heaven (see garden) from tliose destined 
for hell (see HELL and hellfire) as both 
"the wall" (al-siir) and "the heights" [al- 
a'rdf; Tabari, Tafsir, xii, 449, ad C3 7:46; cf. 
Muqatil, Tafsir, ii, 38-9, ad (3 7:46; see 
eschatology). a slight variation of this 
tradition is that "al-a 'rdf" is the "wall" or, 
alternately, the "veil," "between the garden 
and the fire" (q.v.; ibid.; see also barrier). 

The exegetical tradition regarding the 
identity of the "men" {rijdl) or the "com- 
panions" (ashdb) of al-a'rdf is also multi- 
valent: while some have posited angels 
(q.v.; cf. i.e. Tabari, Tafsir, xii, 459, ad 
Q^ 7:46), the majority has maintained that 
these individuals are human beings (chil- 
dren of Adam: Tabari, Tafsir, xii, 452, ad 
Q, 7:46) — be they martyrs (i.e. those who 
"were killed in the path of God"; cf. 
Tabari, Tafsir, xii, 457, ad cj 7:46; see 
martyrs; path or way), or virtuous hu- 
mans or people whose good and evil works 
are equal (see good deeds; evil deeds). 
This latter understanding is arguably the 
dominant one, as the "men" on al-a'rdf 
(c) 7:46) have been understood to be those 
who "have not [yet] entered [paradise]" 
((J 7-46): "the people of al-a'rdf" (ashdb al- 
a'rdf) have been viewed as persons whose 
good and evil works are of equal quality 
(see weights and measures). Thus, they 
should not merit paradise by the former or 
hell by the latter (cf. e.g. Tabari, Tafsir, xii, 
452, ad (J 7:46) — nor merit it as prophets 

or angels (see prophets and prophet- 
hood; angel; cf RazI, Tafsir, xiv, 93, 
where the argument is put forth that the 
People of the Heights cannot be martyrs, 
as the description found in ^ 7:46, that 
"they will not have entered [heaven] , but 
they have an assurance" is explained as not 
applying to prophets, angels or martyrs; 
also, ibid., 94, where mention is made of 
the view, attributed to al-Hudhayfa and 
others, that the People of the Heights will 
be the last people to enter heaven; see 


They are thus in the "intermediate" state 
between salvation (q.v.) and damnation, for 
o 7:47 ("When their gaze will be turned 
towards the companions of the fire they 
will say, 'Our lord, do not put us with the 
wrongdoing people'") is also understood to 
refer to these people of al-a'rdf [ci. Tabari, 
Tafsir, xii, 452-4, ad c) 7:46; see justice and 
injustice; freedom and predestination; 
destiny; fate). Finally, Sufi mystics have 
used the term to express a condition of the 
mind and soul when meditating on the 
existence of God in all things (see sufism 
AND THE OUr'an). 

Modern scholarship reflects the range of 
interpretations to be found in the classical 
exegetes. T Andrae [Der Ursprung, 77) wrote 
that they were probably dwellers in the 
highest degree of paradise "who are able 
to look down on hell and on paradise." Bell 
(Men, 43), however, finds no linguistic jus- 
tification for this claim, unless an unusual 
metathesis of the Arabic root letters of the 
verb "to raise up" [r-f < '-r-f of "al-a'rdf") 
is assumed. Some interpreters imagined 
that al-a'rdf was a sort of limbo, using the 
term harzakh (q.v.) for the patriarchs and 
prophets, or for the martyrs, and those 
whose eminence gave them sanctity. 

Western translations of the Qiir'an reflect 
the lack of exegetical consensus regarding 
the phrase "al-a'rdf." \^\ii\e. some transla- 
tors of the Qiir'an prefer to retain the 



Arabic ''al-a'raf" as the title of C3 7, others 
have attempted to translate the term, and 
have used their translations as the title of 
(J 7: e.g. Arberry (176-7) used "The 
Battlements" and "The Ramparts," and 
Pickthall (Koran, 121) "Tlie Heights" ( cf 
Dawood, Koran, 112-3). Some rather more 
involved translations are the "Wall 
Between Heaven and Hell" (Ahmad Ali, 
Qur'dn, 137; e.g. his rendition of c) 7:46: 
"On the wall will be the men (of «/- 
a'raf)..."; and of C3 7:48: "Tlie men of al- 

a'rdf will call [to the inmates of Hell] "). 

Two earlier writers, Sale [Koran, 151) and 
Rodwell [Koran, 297-8), had simply used 
al-a'rdfas the title. Sale named q 7 "Al 
Araf " and did not divide the sections. He 
wrote, "... men shall stand on al araf who 
shall know every one of them..."; and 
"... those who stand on al araf shall call 

unto certain men " Rodwell called it 

"Al Araf": "and on the wall Al Araf shall be 
men..." (q 7:46; cf. his footnotes: "On this 
wall [the name of which is derived from 
Arafa, 'to know', with allusion to the em- 
ployment of those upon it] will stand those 
whose good and evil works are equal, and 
are not, therefore, deserving of either 
Paradise or Gehenna..."; q 7-48: "... and 
they who are upon Al Araf shall cry to 
those whom they know..."). The French 
scholar Kasimirski also retained the 
name "al-a 'raj", as the title of q 7, and he 
rendered the relevant phrase of q 7:46: 
"... sur I'Alaraf. ..." 

William M. Brinner 

Primary: Muqatil, Tafsu; RazT, Tafsu; Tabarl, 

Secondary; A. Ali, Al-Qiir'dn. A contemporary transla- 
tion, Princeton, NJ 1984/1994; T. Andrae, Der 
Ursprung des Islams und das Christentum, Uppsala 
1926; Arberry; Bell, Commentary, i, 232-3; id., The 
men of the A'raf, in MW 22 (1932), 43-8; B. Carra 
de Vaux, Barzakh, in El-, i, 1071-2; N.J. Dawood, 

The Koran. With parallel Arabic text, London 1956', 
I990;J. Horowitz, Das Koranische Paradies, 
Jerusalem, in Scripta Universitatis atque bibliothecae 
Hierosolymitanarum (Orientalia etjudaica) (1923), 
1-16 (no. VI); Th.P. Hughes,^ dictionary of Islam, 
New York 1885, 20-1; M. Kasimirski, Le Koran, 
Paris 1844; Lane, 2015 [pt. v]; R. Paret, al-A'raf, 
in Ei^, i, 603-4; ^*i-! Kommentar, 160; Pickthall, 
Koran; J.yi. Rodwell, The Koran, intr. G. Margo- 
liouth, London 1973^ (1861), 297-8; G. Sale, 
The Koran... the Alkoran of Alohammed, London 
1734 (notes by EM. Cooper, prefixed^ life of 
Mohammed, 1885); M.H. Shakir, Holy Qur'dn, 
Elmhurst, NY 1992; M.M. Zaki, Barzakh, in 
EO, i, 204-7. 

People of the House 

Literally, "(the) people of the house" (ahl 
al-bayt), a family, a noble family, a leading 
family and, most probably, also those who 
dwelt near the house of God (see house, 
DOMESTIC AND divine), the Ka'ba (q.v.). 
Without the definite article "fl/-, " it means 
"household" (see family; kinship; 


In Shi'l (see shi'ism and the quR'AN) as 
well as SunnI literature the term ahl al-bayt 
is usually understood to refer to the family 
of the Prophet (q.v.). In the Qiir'an the 
term appears twice with the definite article 
(Q, I' -73) 33-33) ^tid once without it [ahl 
bayt, q 28:12). 

According to the lexicographers, when 
ahl appears in a construction with a person 
it refers to his blood relatives (see blood 
and blood t;LOT), but with other nouns it 
acquires wider meanings: thus the basic 
meaning of ahl al-bayt is the inhabitants of 
a house (or a tent). They tised to call the 
inhabitants of Mecca (q.v.; ahlmakka) "the 
people of God" as a sign of honor (for 
them), in the same way that it is said "the 
house of God" (bayt Allah). Ahlmadhhab are 
those who profess a certain doctrine; ahl 
al-isldm are the Muslims, and so on (see 
for additional examples, Lisdn al-Arab, 
s.v. ahl). 

The Qtir'an freqtiently tises ahl to denote 



a certain group of people. Sometimes the 
word is connected witli the name of a 
place, and in these cases the term refers to 
the inhabitants of that place, such as: ahl 
yatkrib, "the people of Yathrib" (q 33:13) or 
ahl al-madina, "the people of Medina" (q.v.; 
q 9:101); ahl madyan, "the people of 
Midian" (q.v.; q 20:40; 28:45). Sometimes 
the term is used to denote the people of 
unidentified locations such as ahl qarya, 
"the inhabitants of a town or village" 
(q 18:77; cf 29:31, 34), ahl al-qurd, "towns- 
people, dwellers of the villages" (q 7:96-8; 
12:109; 59:7; see city). At other times the 
word ahl refers to certain groups of people 
typified or identified by some ethical or 
religious characteristics, as in ahl al-dhikr, 
"people of the reminder" (q 21:7; see 
memory) or ahl al-ndr, "people of the (hell-) 
fire" (q 38:64; see hell and hellfire). Or 
it has the meaning of "fit for," in which 
case the word describes an individual, not 
a group, such as ahl al-taqwd, "(a person) fit 
for piety" (q.v.; q 74:56), or ahl al-maghjira, 
"(a person) fit for forgiveness" (q.v.; 

a 74:56). 

The term ahl al-bayt falls into one or more 
of these categories, namely people who 
belong to a certain house in the literal or 
socio-political meanings of the word. At 
least in one case (q 33:33), however, its 
identification with the Prophet turned the 
term into a major issue in qur'anic exegesis 
and tradition literature (see exegesis of 

The qur'anic usage of ahl al-bayt is as 

In q 11:73 — tl^^ story of Abraham 
(Ibrahim) and the divine messengers. 
When the patriarch's wife is informed that 
she is going to give birth to Isaac (Ishaq) 
and Jacob (Ya'qub), she reacts by saying: 
"Alas! Shall I bring forth when I am old 
and my husband here an old man? Verily 

this is a thing strange" (q 11:72). The angels 
respond: "Do you think the affair of God 
strange? The mercy and blessing of God 
be upon you, O people of the house ..." 
(rahmatu lldhi wa-barakdtuhu 'alaykum ahla 

In q 28:12 — situated in the story of the 
rescue of the infant Moses (Musa) by 
Pharaoh's (Fir'awn) wife. The phrase ap- 
pears without the definite article: Moses' 
sister asks, "Shall I direct you to a house- 
hold who will take charge of him (the 
infant Moses) for you? ..." (hal adullukum 
'aid ahli baytin yakfulunahu lakum). 

In q 33:33 — "God simply wishes to take 
the pollution from you, O people of the 
house and to purify you thoroughly" 
(innamd yuridu lldhu li-yudhhiba 'ankumu l-rijsa 
ahla l-bayti wa-yutahhirakum tathimn). 

The first two verses, q 11:73 ^"^^ q 28:12, 
were understood by almost all Muslim 
commentators to mean family, in the first 
case Abraham's family and in the second 
the prophet Moses' family. In the case of 
q 33:33, however, the word bayt most prob- 
ably means not a family but the Ka'ba, the 
house of God; thus the term ahl al-bayt 
would seem to mean the tribe of Qiiraysh 
(q.v.) or the Islamic community in general, 
as suggested by R. Paret (Der Plan, 130; cf. 
Bell, Qur'dn, ii, 414 n. 3; Lisdn al-'Arab). 
The tribe of Qiiraysh was explicitly 
called ahl al-bayt in an early Islamic tradi- 
tion recorded by Ibn Sa'd: "Qiisayy said to 
his fellow tribesmen, 'You are the neigh- 
bors of God and people of his house'" 
[innakum jTrdn Alldh wa-ahl baytihi; Ibn Sa'd, 
Tabaqdt, i/i, 41, 1. 16). In this sense the term 
assumes an even wider meaning: it in- 
cludes all those who venerated the Ka'ba. 
This original meaning was neglected in 
favor of the more limited scope of the 
Prophet's family, and q 33:33 became, 
consequently, the cornerstone for both 
Shi'l and 'Abbasid claims to the leadership 



of the Muslim community (see politics 
AND THE our'an). Tlie Slil'a (q.v.) claimed 
that the verse speaks about the divine choice 
of the 'Alid family and their preference to 
all the other relatives of the Prophet. To be 
sure, the idea of divine selection was 
accepted also by the so-called non-Shl'l, 
or Sunni, tradition. Thus the Prophet is 
made to say: "God created human beings, 
divided them into two parties, and placed 
me in the better one of the two. Then he 
divided this party into tribes (see tribes 
AND clans) and placed me in the best of 
them all, and then he divided them into 
families [buyiit, lit. "houses") and placed me 
in the best of them all, the one with the 
most noble pedigree" [khayruhum nasaban; 
Firuzabadl, Fadd'il, i, 6). Within this con- 
cept of selection, there is a wide area of 
variation. The tendency of the Shi'a has 
always been to carry the list of the divine 
selection further down, so as to achieve 
maximum exclusivity. 

One of the most widespread traditions 
quoted by Shi'l as well as Siinni sources in 
relation to the interpretation of (j 33-33 is 
the so-called hadith al-kisd'. Through the 
many variations on this hadith, the idea of 
the "holy five" was established. The 
Prophet is reported to have said: "This 
aya was revealed for me and for 'All (see 
'alI b. abi talib), Fatima (q.v.), Hasan 
and Husayn." When the verse was re- 
vealed, the tradition goes on to say, the 
Prophet took a "cloak" or "cape" [kisd', 
meaning his robe or garment; see 
clothing), wrapped it around his son- 
in-law, his daughter and his two grand- 
children and said: "O God, these are my 
family (ahl bayti) whom I have chosen; take 
the pollution from them and purify them 
thoroughly." The clear political message in 
this tradition was stressed by additions 
such as the one in which the Prophet says: 
"I am the enemy of their enemies (q.v.)," 
or invokes God, saying: "O God, be the 

enemy of their enemies" (authorities 
quoted in Sharon, Ahl al-bayt, 172 n. 6). 

To the same political category belong the 
various traditions which consider assis- 
tance and love for the ahl al-bayt a religious 
duty and enmity towards them a sin. "He 
who oppresses my ahl bajt," the Prophet 
says, "or fights against them or attacks 
them or curses them, God forbids him 
from entering paradise (q.v.)." In another 
utterance attributed to the Prophet he says: 
"My ahl bajt can be compared to Noah's 
(q.v.) ark (q.v), whoever rides in it is saved 
and whoever hangs on to it succeeds, and 
whoever fails to reach it is thrust into hell" 
(Firuzabadl, Fadd'il, ii, 56-9; 75-87). 

Once the idea of the "chosen five" or the 
selected family was established as the main 
Shi'l interpretation of the term ahl al-bayt, 
there was no reason why the idea of 
purification (see cleanliness and 
ablution; ritual purity), which appears 
in the qur'anic verse, should not be con- 
nected in a more direct way to the divinely 
selected family. In addition to ahl al-bayt, 
one therefore finds terms such as al- 'itra 
al-tdhira and al-dhuriyya al-tdhira, "the pure 
family," or also "the pure descendents," an 
expression that is more than reminiscent of 
the holy family (i.e. Jesus [q.v], Mary [q.v.] 
and Joseph) in Christianity. And as if to 
accentuate this point, Fatima and Mary 
are explicitly mentioned together as the 
matrons of paradise and Fatima is even 
called al-batul, "the virgin" (see sex and 
sexuality; abstinence; chastity), a 
most appropriate description for the 
female figure in the Islamic version of the 
holy family (see McAuliffe, Chosen). 

When the 'Abbasids came to power, they, 
too, based the claim for the legitimacy of 
their rule on the fact that they were part of 
the Prophet's family. Concurrently, there- 
fore, the meaning of the term ahl al-bayt 
underwent modifications in opposite direc- 
tions. While the Shi'a moved towards the 



formulation of the idea of tlie "lioly five," 
or the "pure family" described above, the 
'Abbasids strove to widen the scope of this 
family to include 'Abbas, the Prophet's un- 
cle, stressing that women, noble and holy 
as they may be, could not be regarded as a 
source of nasab and that the paternal uncle 
in the absence of the father was equal to 
the father (see oender; inheritance). 
The extension of the boundaries of ahl 
al-bayt under the 'Abbasids followed an 
already existing model. The hadiths speak- 
ing about the process of God's selection 
stop at the clan of Hashim to include all 
the families in this clan, the Talibids as 
well as the 'Abbasids. Such traditions can 
be even more explicit, specifying that the 
families included in the Prophet's ahl al-bayt 
are "dl 'All wa-dl Jafar wa-dl 'Aqil wa-dl al- 
'Abbds" (Muhibb al-Din al-Tabari, 
Dhakhd'ir al-'uqbd, i6). 

Not all the commentators accepted the 
idea that the term ahl al-bayt in o 33:33 is 
associated with the Prophet's family in the 
sense that the contending parties wished. 
Alongside the above-mentioned inter- 
pretations, one finds the neutral inter- 
pretation that ahl al-bayt means simply 
the Prophet's wives [nisd' al-nabi; see wives 
OF THE prophet). And as if to stress the 
dissatisfaction with the political and par- 
tisan undertones of the current exegesis, 
one of the commentators stresses that ahl 
al-bayt are the Prophet's wives, "and not as 
they claim" (Wahidi, Asbdb, 139-40; 
Sharon, Ahl al-bayt, 175 n. 15). 

As may be expected, a harmonizing ver- 
sion also exists which interprets the term 
ahl al-bayt in such a way that both the 
Prophet's family and his wives are in- 
chided. To achieve this end, the term ahl 
al-bayt was divided into two categories: the 
one, ahl bayt al-suknd, namely those who 
physically lived in the Prophet's home, and 
ahl bayt al-nasab, the Prophet's kin. The 
qur'anic verse, according to this interpreta- 

tion, primarily means the Prophet's house- 
hold, namely, his wives. But it also contains 
a concealed meaning (see polysemy), 
which the Prophet himself revealed by his 
action, thus disclosing that ahl al-bayt here 
inchided those who lived in his home, such 
as his wives, and those who shared his 
pedigree. They were the whole (clan) of 
Banu Hashim and 'Abd al-Muttalib. 
Another version of this interpretation 
states that the Prophet's ahl al-bayt included 
his wives and 'All (Lisdn al-Arab). 

In Arabic literature the term ahl bayt is 
used generically to specify the noble and 
influential family in the tribe or any other 
socio-political unit, Arab and non-Arab 
alike (see Arabs). The nobility attached to 
the term is sometimes stressed by connect- 
ing it to the word sharaf. The word bayt on 
its own could mean nobility (wa-bayt al- 
'arab ashrafuhd) says Ibn Manzur [Lisdn al- 
Arab, s.v. bayt). The usage of ahl al-bayt for 
denoting leading families in the Age of 
Ignorance [q.v.; jdhiliyya) as well as under 
Islam was very extensive. Two examples 
will suffice to make the point. Ibn al-Kalbl 
(d. ca. 205/820) says that Nubata b. 
Hanzala, the famous Umayyad general, 
belonged to a noble family of the Qays 
'Ayalan "and they are ahl bayt commanding 
strength and nobility" (wa-hum ahlu baytin 
lahmn ba's wa-sharaf). The same is said 
about non-Arabs. Speaking abotit the 
Byzantine dynasties (see Byzantines), Ibn 
'Asakir (d. 571/1176) mentions ten ahl 
buyutdt. The Barmakids are referred to as 
"from the noble families of Balkh" [min ahl 
buyutdt Balkh; references in Sharon, Ahl 
al-bayt, 180-1). 

It is noteworthy that the tisage of the 
phrase "people of a/the house" (Ar. ahl 
bayt) to denote the status of nobility and 
leadership is not unique to the Arabic lan- 
gtiage (q.v.) or Arab culture. It is rather 
universal: the ancient Romans spoke about 
the patres maiorum gentum, namely, the elders 



of the major clans or houses. The tradition 
concerning this Roman expression goes 
back to the early days of the Roman mon- 
archy, when the Roman senate was com- 
posed of 100 family elders: Tarqniniiis 
Priscns, the fifth king of Rome (n 616-578 
B.C.E.), enlarged the number of senate 
members by another lOO elders who were 
called "the elders of the minor houses" 
[patres minorum gentium; Elkoshi, Thesaurus, 
279). In the Bible, the usage of the word 
"house" (hdyit) to denote a family is very 
common. Moreover, in many cases, the 
"house" is named after an outstanding per- 
sonality, and has a similar meaning as the 
Arabic ahl al-bayt (e.g. Gen 17:23, 27; Mum 
25:15; cf. Brown et al.. Lexicon, logb-iioa). 
The most famous of such "houses" is the 
"house of David" (betk David). When used 
in this way, the word has the same meaning 
as the English "house" in reference to a 
royal family or a dynasty in general. 

It is only natural that imder Islam the 
members of the caliphs' families were 
called ahl al-bayt. 'Abdallah, the son of 
Caliph 'Umar, referring to his sister's son 
(the future caliph) 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, 
says: "He resembles us, ahl al-bayt, " which 
means to say that the Umayyads referred 
to themselves as ahl al-bayt. In a letter 
written by Marwan II to Sa'ld b. 'Abd al- 
Malik b. Marwan during the rebellion 
against Caliph Walld II (125-6/743-4), the 
future caliph referred twice to the 
Umayyad family as ahl hayt and ahl al-bayt 
(for the reference see Sharon, Ahl al-bayt). 

It may be concluded that once the caliph- 
ate had been established, the pre-Islamic 
Arabic (jdhili) practice of calling the lead- 
ing and noble families of the tribes ahl al- 
bayt was extended to each of the four 
families of the first caliphs. But since 'All's 
caliphate was controversial, the definition 
of his family as ahl al-bayt was not shared 
by the whole Muslim community. The 
Umayyads and their Syrian supporters (see 

Syria) questioned the legitimacy of 'All's 
rule, with the result that his Iraqi partisans 
(see iRACj) and the Shi'a not only 
emphasized the ahl al-bayt status of 'All's 
descendents but also gave the term a spe- 
cific and exclusive meaning. In this way, ahl 
al-bayt acquired a religious overtone, and 
in time lost its generic meaning. Once the 
term was attached to the Prophet's person, 
the road was open for qur'anic exegesis, 
originating in Shi'i circles, to establish its 
origin in the Qiir'an itself. All the politi- 
cally charged interpretations of the 
qur'anic phrase ahl al-bayt emerge because 
its original meaning was either deliberately 
or unintentionally forgotten. Yet one 
should also take into account that such 
interpretations of the term in connection 
with the Prophet's family woidd have been 
impossible had the term not been used 
generally as meaning family or kinsfolk. 

On the other hand, it is doubtful whether 
in the Qtir'an the term ahl al-bayt (with the 
definite article) means family. R. Paret, 
who differentiates between the general 
term ahl al-bayt and the specific one, sug- 
gests that it literally meant "the people of 
the house," namely those who worshipped 
at the Ka'ba. In all cases in which the term 
al-bayt appears in the Qiir'an, it refers only 
to the Ka'ba sanctuary (q 2:125, 127, 158; 
3:97; 5:2, 97; 8:35; 22:26, 29, 33; 52:4; 
106:3). Al-bayt may appear on its own or 
with an adjective, such as al-bayt al-'atiq 
(c3 22:29, 33), al-bayt al-ma'mur (q^ 52:4) or 
al-bayt al-hardm (i.e. (j 5:97). Paret goes on 
to suggest that the fact that the ahl al-bayt 
under discussion (c3 33:33) is mentioned in 
the context of cleaning from pollution falls 
well within the idea of the purification of 
the Ka'ba by Abraham and Ishmael (q.v.; 
Isma'll), which can be found elsewhere in 
the Qiir'an. One may therefore quite safely 
conclude, Paret continues, that in the two 
cases where ahl al-bayt appears in this form 
in the Qtir'an, the original meaning must 



have been the "worshippers of the house," 
the Ka'ba, as prescribed by Islam (Paret, 
Der Plan, 128: ^'Anhdnger des islamischen 
Ka'ba-Kultes"). Along this line of thought, it 
would not be far-fetched to suggest that the 
original meaning of the term before Islam 
was the tribe of Qiiraysh in general and 
that this is what is meant in q^ 33-33- As to 
o 11:73 ^^^^ connection with the Ka'ba is 
less certain. 

To sum up, the meaning of ahl al-bayt in 
the Qur'an follows the accepted usage of 
the term in pre- and post-Islamic Arab 
society. It denotes family and blood rela- 
tions as well as a noble and leading 
"house" of the tribe. Only in the case of 
Q, 33-33 does the term seem to have an- 
other, more specific meaning". 

M. Sharon 

Primary: Abu 'Ubayda, Ma'mar b. al-Muthanna 
al-Tayml, Tasmiyat azu)dj al-nabi wa-awlddihi, ed. 
K.Y. al-Hut, Beirut 1985; M.H. FlruzabadT, 
Fadd'il al-khamsa, 2 vols., Beirut 1393/1973; 
Hakim al-Haskani, 'Ubayd Allah b. Abdallah, 
Shawdhid al-tanzil li-qawd'id al-tafdilji l-dydt al- 
ndzilaji ahl al-bayt, ed. M.B. al-Mahmudl, 2 vols, 
in r, Beirut 1974; Ibn AbT 1-Dunya, Abdallah b. 
Muhammad, al-Ishrdf Ji manzil al-ashrdf, ed. N.A. 
Khalaf, Riyadh 1990; Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqdt, ed. 
Sachau; Lisdn al-'Arab; al-MaqrlzT, Ahmad b. All, 
Ma'rifat md yajibu li-dl al-bayt al-nabawi min al-haqq 
'aid man 'addhum, ed. M.A. Ashur, Cairo 1973; 
SuyutT, Ihyd' al-mayyit bi-fadd'il ahl al-bayt, ed. 
K. al-FatlT, Beirut 1995; al-Tabarl, Muhibb al- 
Dm Abu 1-Abbas Ahmad b. Abdallah, Dhakhd'ir 
al-'uqbdji mandqib dhawi l-qurbd, Beirut 1973, 16; 
Wahidi, Asbdb. 

Secondary: A. A. Abd al-Ghanl, al-Jawhar al- 
shafjdf fi ansdb al-sdda al-ashrdf. Nasi al-Husayn, 
2 vols., Damascus 1997; M.M. Bar-Asher, 
Scripture and exegesis in early Imami Shiism, Leiden 
1999 (see 94-7 for discussion of q^ 55-315 a clas- 
sical locus for Shl'i exegesis of the hadith al-thaqa- 
layn, i.e. the two things of "weight" that 
Muhammad left with his community: the Qur'an 
and either the sunna [q.v.] of Muhammad or the 
People of the House); Bell, Qur'dn; F. Brown, 
S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English 
lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford 1959, 

logb-iioa; G. Elkoshi, 'Thesaurus proverbiorum et 
idiomatum /fl^z'/zor?/?7z, Jerusalem 1981, 279; 
I. Goldziher, C. van Arendonk and A.S. Tritton, 
Ahl al-bayt, in Ei^, i, 257-8; M.A. Isbir, Ahl bayt 
rasulAlldh. Ft. dirdsa haditha, Beirut 1990, 1993; 
W. Madelung, The succession to Muhammad. A study 
of the early caliphate, Cambridge 1997, esp. 13-5; 
J.D. McAuliffe, Chosen of all women. Mary and 
Fatima in qur'anic exegesis, in Islamochristiana 7 
{1981), 19-28; M.T. MudarrisT, al-Nabi wa-ahl 
baytihi. Qudwa wa-uswa, 2 vols., Beirut 1993; 
R. Paret, Der Plan einer neuen, leicht komnien- 
tierten wissenschaftlichen Koran J^ersetzung, in 
E. Littmann, Orientalische Studien Enno Littman, ed. 
R. Paret, Leiden 1935, 121-30; M. Sharon, ^A/ 
al-bayt — People of the House, in /am/ 8 {1986), 
169-84 (contains further references); id.. Black 
banners from the ^aj/, Jerusalem/Leiden 1983, 
75-82; id.. The development of the debate 
around the legitimacy of authority, in jsai '^ 
(1986), 121-41 (contains additional bibliography 
on the topic); id., The Umayyads as ahl al-bayt, in 
ysA/ 14 (1991), 116-152 (also contains additional 

People on the Left see left hand and 
RIGHT hand; last judgment; book 

People on the Right see left hand 
and right hand; last judgment; book 

People of the Thicket 

An English rendering of the Arabic phrase 
ashdb aTayka that occurs in four Meccan 
suras (q 15:78; 26:176; 38:13; 50:14). No 
consensus exists about the identity of these 
people who suffered the fate of punish- 
ment by destruction for their unbelief (see 


stories). There are at least five different 
theories about the identity of these people 
who are associated with the prophet 
Shu'ayb (q.v.). Some exegetes consider 
them to have been the inhabitants of a 
place called Madyan (see midian) or, sec- 
ondly, a subgroup of a people called Mad- 
yan; it is also posited that they are another 
people altogether, a second people to 
whom the prophet Shu'ayb was sent (i.e. in 



addition to Madyan), wliile a fourtli al- 
ternative suggests that al-ayka was a village 
(balad), namely, the village of al-Hijr 
(which is also the title of a qur'anic sura, 
Q_ 15; see hijr). The fifth theory that is put 
forward suggests that they are simply 
Bedouins [ahl al-bddiya, people of the desert; 
see bedouin). Lexicographers define ajka 
and its plural ayk as tangled vegetation or a 
dense forest or wood, hence the English 
"thicket" or, in Muhammad Asad's transla- 
tion, "wooded dales." Others add that it 
consisted of a particular palm tree, al-dawm 
in Arabic (see date palm). The early exe- 
gete Muqatil b. Sulayman (d. 150/767; see 


medieval) explains that al-dawm is in fact 
al-muql (Theban palm; TafsTr, ii, 434). 

This inability to identify precisely the 
People of the Thicket is further compli- 
cated by the variant readings for al-ayka 
(see READINGS OF THE qur'an). Al-Farra' 
(d. 207/822) discusses the disappearance of 
the alif in two of the four verses which 
mention the ashdb al-ayka. According to 
him, al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728), 'Asim 
(d. 127-8/745) and al-A'mash (d. 148/765) 
all read al-ayka with an a/j/^ throughout the 
entire Qiir'an. The people of Medina 
(q.v.), however, read in two cases (in 
Q, 26:176 and q 38:13) layka instead of al- 
ayka (Farra', Ma'am, ii, gi; see also reci- 
tation OF THE q^ur'an; orality and 
writing in Arabia). Abu Hayyan 
(d. 745/1344) neatly summarizes this dis- 
cussion, referring to the analogy of Mecca 
(q.v.) as makka in C3 48:24 and bakka at 
Q, 3:96, adding that "layka" wa.s rejected by 
the major exegetes. Abu Hayyan explains 
that the alifoi the definite article was not 
written down, and that caused the fatha 
(the vowel "a") to be shifted to the letter 
lam. As a consequence, the hamza (the 
glottal stop) was dropped completely in 
these two verses (see Arabic langliage). 
This resulted in some scholars' thinking 

that layka was derived from the radicals 
l-y-k (instead of '-y-k). That suggestion, in 
turn, gave rise to the notion that Layka was 
a village located in the larger area of al- 
Ayka (Abu Hayyan, Bahr, vii, 36). 

Whatever the identification or the lin- 
guistic meaning of the word al-ayka may 
be, the qur'anic importance of the People 
of the Thicket reflects their exemplification 
of a typical Meccan theme: a people who 
disregarded their prophet and who con- 
sequently perished. The People of the 
Thicket are but one of such peoples whose 
plight ended in destruction for not heeding 
God's message. The leading classical exe- 
gete al-Tabari (d. 3 10/923) narrates that 
these people received a particularly harsh 
punishment since God first sent fire on the 
People of the Thicket for seven days, from 
which there was no refuge. After the fire, 
God sent a cloud as if to protect them and 
to offer them relief by the suggestion of 
water, but, in the end, they were annihi- 
lated by the fire that came out of the cloud 
(Tabarl, Tafsir, vii, 530-1; likewise the 
Khariji Hud b. Muhakkam, Tafsir, ii, 354 
and the Shi'i al-TusI, Tibydn, 350; see 


Beeston ("Men of the Tanglewood") pro- 
vides some evidence that they were mem- 
bers of the Dusares cult of ancient 
northwestern Arabia, a vegetation deity 


5^ur'an). Speyer [Erzdhlungen, 253), on the 
other hand, suggests that ayka may refer to 
the tamarisk that Abraham (q.v.) had 
planted near Beersheba [Gen 21:33; see 


John Nawas 

Primary: Abu Hayyan, Balu; ed. Beirut; Farra', 
Ma'am; Hud b. Muhakkam, Tajsir; Kisa'T, Qisas, 
trans. W.M. Thackston, The tales of the prophets of 
al-R'isa'i, Boston 1978, 204-8; al-Raghib al- 
Isfaham, Mufraddt; al-Samln al-Halabl, Ahmad b. 



Yusuf, ^Umdat al-huffa^Ji lafsir ashraf al-aljcl^, ed. 
M.B. 'Uyun al-Sud, 4 vols., Beirut 1996, i, 144; 
Tabarl, Tafsn, Beirut 1992, vii, 530-1; ix, 471; 
Tha'labT, Qisas, trans. W.M. Brinner, Lives of the 
prophets, Leiden 2002, 274-7; T^'sT, Tibyan. 
Secondary: A.F.L. Beeston, The "Men of the 
Tanglewood" in the Qiir'an, in JSS 13 (1968), 
253-5; tJ.E. Bosworth, Madyan Shu'ayb in pre- 
Islamic and early Islamic lore and history, in JSS 
29 (1984), 53-64; Horovitz, KU, 93-4, 119-20; id.. 
The qur'anic prophet Shu'aib and Ibn Tai- 
niiyya's epistle concerning him, in Aiuseon 87 
{1974), 425-40; Speyer, Erzdhlungen. 

People of Tubba' see tubba'; 


Permitted see forbidden; lawful and 


Persecution see corruption; 

Perseverance see trust and patience 

Persian Literature and the Qiir'an 

The influence of the'an on Persian 
language and hterature has been pervasive 
but at the same time, diffuse and often me- 
diated, making it difficuk, in the absence of 
methodologicaUy rigorous studies of the 
matter, to quantify or assess precisely. 
Persian poetry and prose belles lettres of the 
fourth/tenth to fifth/eleventh centuries, 
though of "Islamicate" expression, looked 
for the bulk of its subject matter to the pre- 
Islamic Middle Persian traditions of min- 
strelsy and lyric poetry, advice literature 
(andarz), epic and romance (which typically 
assert the values of the old Sasanian nobil- 
ity over and above, or in addition to, 
Islamic ones) as well as translations of 
Sanskrit and Parthian tales. Persian poetry 
did, of course, adapt particulars from 
Arabic literary models: for example, the 
imitation of the nasib and rahil of the pre- 

Islamic Arabic qasida (see poets and 
poetry; orality and writing in 
Arabia) by Manuchihri (d. ca. 432/1041) 
and, later on, the reworking of the Majnun- 
Lajld cycle by Nizami (d. 605/1209) and 
scores of subsequent Persian, Turkish and 
Urdu poets (see literature and the 

The Arabic'an, being in another 
language and in an inimitable category (see 
inimitability; arabic language; 
language and style of the our'an) 
above literature, rarely provided the initial 
inspiration for Persian literary texts, 
though it did help shape the lexical, sty- 
listic and moral contours of the emerging 
literature of Islamicate expression in 
greater Iran, especially through Persian 
translations and tafsTrs of the text begin- 
ning in the fourth/tenth century or even 
earlier (see translations of the qur'an; 
EXEGESIS of the q^ur'an: classical and 
medieval; traditional disciplines of 
cjur'anic study; grammar and the 
cjur'an). The practice, however, of profes- 
sional poetry within the milieu of the 
princely courts — the source of most liter- 
ary patronage — was often regarded as 
inherently secular or even im-Islamic, 
which initially discouraged the extensive 
incorporation of scriptural or religious 
subjects in literature. Some early Persian 
poetry, patronized by the eastern Iranian 
feudal nobility (dihqdns), evinces a strong 
concern with sukhun (modern sukhan), well- 
considered and carefully crafted speech of 
philosophical or ethical nature (see 
THE our'an). In the fifth/eleventh century 
religious poetry, of either popular expres- 
sion (e.g. the quatrains of the Sufi saint 
Abu Sa'id-i Abl 1-Khayr [d. 440/1049]; see 
sufism and the qur'an) or sectarian bent 
(the qasidas, of the Isma'lll preacher Nasir-i 
Khusraw [d. ca. 470/1077]; see shi'ism and 
the cjur'an), achieved canonical status 



within specific textual communities. Sana'i 
of Gliazna (d. ca. 525/1131), appealing 
consciously to the example of Hassan b. 
Thabit (d. before 40/661), managed to 
attract the patronage of the mystically- 
minded religious scholars ('ulanid) in 
Khurasan. Here Sana'i achieved a reputa- 
tion for combining the practice of poetry 
(shi'r) with the preaching of religion (shar') 
and was subsequently able to secure the 
patronage of Bahramshah to pursue such 
mystico-didactic poetry at the Ghaznavid 
court (Lewis, Reading, 171-87; see teaching 
AND PREACHING THE q^ur'an). The tension 
between court and cloister nevertheless 
remained a concern two hundred years 
later, as revealed in the belabored distinc- 
tion that Sultan Walad of Konya (d. 712/ 
1312) makes between the poetry of profes- 
sional poets and the poetry of saints 
{Mathnawi-yi waladi, 53-5 and 211-2; see 

By the end of the sixth/twelfth century, 
allusions (talmihdt) and quotations (iqtibds) 
from Qiir'an and hadith (see hadith and 
THE our'an) jostled with Greek philosophy 
and Iranian mythopoesis for authority, as 
indicated in the following verse (bayt) of 
Jamal al-Dln-i Isfahan! (d. 588/1192): rah hi 
Qur'dn ast kam khwdn harza-yi Tundniydn/asl 
akhbdr ast mashnaw qissa-yi Isfandiydr, "The 
path is through Qiir'an; do not read the 
nonsense of the Greeks so much!/The 
source is akhbdr; do not listen to the story of 
Esfandiyar." The conscious and direct ap- 
peal to qur'anic authority in Persian poetry 
reached its peak in the seventh/thirteenth 
to eighth/fourteenth centuries. Subsequent 
to this, qur'anic motifs tend to assume 
more metaphorical and elastic qualities, in 
part because of the aesthetic ideals of the 
"Indian" style of poetry but also because 
the QjLir'an had so thoroughly permeated 
the tradition that qur'anic allusions might 
evoke famous secondary or tertiary literary 
texts in Persian, rather than pointing the 

reader to the Qiir'an itself. From the 
Safavid era onwards, Shi'i sacred history 
and ritual, as embodied in the mythopoet- 
ics of Husayn's martyrdom (see people of 
THE house; family of the prophet; 
martyrs) and the passion play (ta'ziya), 
informs the poetry of religious expression 
whereas the gradually secularizing literary 
canon of the late nineteenth and twentieth 
centuries reflects nationalist and modernist 
agendas as well as the influence of Euro- 
pean letters (see also politics and the 

The Arabic element in Persian language and 

The bulk of the Iranian nobility appear to 
have converted to Islam in the third/ninth 
century, imtil which time Zoroastrians (see 
magians) continued composing works in 
Middle Persian, an Indo-European lan- 
guage written in a script derived from 
Aramaic. By the fourth/tenth century 
(neo-) Persian had itself emerged as a 
vibrant literary language, written in the 
Arabic script (q.v.) and widely patronized 
throughout the eastern areas of greater 
Iran (Khurasan, Afghanistan and 

The frequency of occurrence of lexemes 
of Arabic origin in Persian has been cal- 
culated (though on the basis of a rather 
limited corpus) at only about 10% in the 
fourth/tenth-century and 25% in the 
sixth/ twelfth-century. The ratio of Arabic 
loanwords to native Persian lexemes in the 
entire lexicon has, however, been calcu- 
lated for texts of the fourth/tenth century 
at about 25 to 30% and for the sixth/ 
twelfth century at around 50% ( Jazayery, 
Arabic element, 117). The increased pen- 
etration and use of loanwords from Arabic 
reflects at least in part the influence of the 
Qiir'an on Persian literature and society, 
though this naturally depends a great deal 
on the topic and genre of writing. During 



the Safavid era Arabisms come into vogue 
in bureaucratic langtiage and tire volumes 
of religious writing (in wliich tlie vocabu- 
lary of Arabic and the Qur'an are pro- 
portionally higher) while Arabic itself 
paradoxically waned as a living literary 
language in Persia (Perry, Persian in the 
Safavid period, 272, 276). In the middle of 
the twentieth century, it was estimated that 
words of Arabic origin occur at an average 
frequency of approximately 45%, though 
the percentage is far below this in poetry 
and higher for technical subjects relating to 
religion, philosophy or law ( Jazayery, 
Arabic element, 118). Since that time, how- 
ever, conscious efforts to use Persian roots 
for caiques and new coinages (e.g. Qur'dn- 
pazhuhi, or "Qiir'anic studies," a term from 
the ig8os), encouraged by the Persian 
Academy of Language (Farhangistan) in 
Iran, have gradually led to a perceived 
(though as yet seemingly undocumented) 
decrease in this percentage. 

Since lexical and morphological borrow- 
ing from Arabic occurred through a variety 
of social nexuses and institutions (military 
garrisons, government administration and 
registers, princely courts, religious courts, 
mosques and Sufi lodges, the Nizamiyya 
colleges, etc.; see mosoue), this does not 
measure the direct influence of the Qur'an, 
per se. Persian poetry borrowed from 
Arabic poetry the obligatory use of rhyme 
(see RHYMED prose), the conventions and 
terminology of rhetoric (see rhetoric 
AND the qur'an) and prosody and the ba- 
sic categories and thematics of the qasida 
and the ghazul (which latter, however, 
Persian poets adapted from a thematic into 
a specific fixed-form genre). Likewise, cer- 
tain metaphors, motifs or rhetorical con- 
ceits can be traced to particular literary 
models or Arabic proverbs (see the cata- 
logues in Shamlsa, Farhang-i talmihdt, and 
Damadi, Aiaddmin-i mushtarak; see meta- 
phor). Among the most influential Arabic 

models for classical Persian literature we 
may note the panegyric qasidas of al- 
Mutanabbl (d. 354/965); the wine (q.v.) 
odes of Abu Nuwas (d. 198/8 lo); the liter- 
ary anthologies of al-Tha'alibi (d. ca. 
427/1038); the artistic prose works of Ibn 
al-Muqaffa' (d. 142/760) and Badi' al- 
Zaman al-HamadhanI (d. 398/1008); the 
philosophic and scientific treatises of Abu 
'All Ibn Sina (d. 428/1037) and al-BirunI 
(d. 443/1051; see SCIENCE and the c^ur'an; 


cjur'an); and works of mystico-didactic 
orientation by authors such as al-QiishayrI 
(d. 464/1072) or especially al-Ghazali 
(d. 505/1 1 11). It should be noted that sev- 
eral of these figures were ethnic Iranians 
and/or composed some of their works in 
Persian, a fact that doubtless played a role 
in facilitating the assimilation of Arabic 
literary traditions into Persian. 

Arabic courtly literature may therefore 
have played a larger role than the Qiir'an 
itself in the Arabicization of Persian lit- 
erature. Nevertheless, adoption of the 
Arabic script, adaptation of Arabic literary 
forms and the acceptance of a large body 
of Arabic-origin lexemes into both litera- 
ture and everyday speech may all be read 
as indices of the oblicjue influence of the 
Qur'an on Persian, insofar as the Qiir'an 
created the prerequisite conditions for 
Arabic to become an administrative, re- 
ligious, scientific and literary lingua franca 
in greater Persia. 

Translations of the Qiir'an in Persia 
Though some poets of the seventh/ 
thirteenth century, such as Sa'dl and 
RumI, would routinely compose original 
macaronic verse in Arabic and Persian, 
those literate in Persian (including 
Persophilic Turks, Mongols and Indians as 
well as ethnic or native Persian-speakers; 



cjur'an) might nevertheless remain 
imperfectly tutored in the Arabic of the 
Qur'an. We are told that Shaykh Ahmad of 
Jam [Spiritual elephant, 31-2), before his re- 
pentance at the age of twenty-two (ca. 
463/1070), was unable to recite even the 
al-hamd (a familiar name in Iran for C3 i, 
Sural al-Fatiha; see praise; fatiha). In one 
ghazal, Sana'l portrays a beautifid boy who, 
though newly repentant and celibate, 
previously spent his time at the taverns 
(the khardbdt, often associated with the 
Magians/mH^Aflft), had never before man- 
aged to memorize a short sura like q 95 
and had in fact been so debauched that he 
would even invent short pseudo-suras to 
declaim as if by heart (Sana'i, Diwdn, 
1021-2; see memory; recitation of the 

We inay infer from such statements that, 
while a basic knowledge in Arabic of at 
least some suras of the Qiir'an was ex- 
pected of literate Persian-speaking Mus- 
lims (to say nothing of the large number of 
Persian scholars of religion and law, many 
of whom trained in Arabic in the Niza- 
miyya and other madrasas from the fifth/ 
eleventh century onward; see law and 
the cjur'an; theology and the (JUr'an), 
there was nevertheless a need to translate 
the Qiir'an for Persian Muslims. Many 
Persians apparently preferred to encounter 
the text in Persian, with the help of Persian 
commentaries and bilingual dictionaries/ 
guides such as the Wujuh-i Qur'an written in 
558/1163 by Abu 1-Fadl Hubaysh of Tiflis. 
Abu Bakr-i Nayshaburi, who wrote his 
TafsTr-i surdbddi circa, 470-80/1077-87 in 
simple, fluent Persian prose, indicates that 
had he written it in Arabic, it would have 
needed a teacher to give an accurate and 
agreeable Persian translation [targum, 
Sajjadi, Guzida'i, 199). Abu 1-Futrdi-i RazI 
indicates in his voluminous Qiir'an com- 
mentary, Rawd al-jindn wa-ruh al-jandn (com- 
posed over the years 510-56/1116-61) that 

he chose to write a commentary in Persian 
and one in Arabic but began with the for- 
mer, for which there was more demand 
(Sajjadi, Guzida'T, 205). From Sultan 
Walad's remark in 700/1301 (Rabdbnd?na, 
414) that all the legal schools allow the rit- 
ual prayers (namdz) to be recited in Persian 
and that the Hanafis allow this even for a 
person who is capable of reciting them in 
Arabic, it would seem that Persian was pre- 
ferred even for rote liturgical situations (see 
prayer; ritual and the qur'an). 

Medieval sources attribute the first 
Persian translation of a portion of the 
Qiir'an — the Fatiha, for use in the saldt 
prayers (see prayer formulas) — to the 
first Persian believer, Salman-i FarsI, who 
supposedly attained the Prophet's tacit ap- 
proval for this practice (see companions of 
THE prophet). Salman is said to have 
translated the Arabic basmala (q.v.) using an 
entirely Persian lexicon, as hi ndm-i yazddn-i 
bakhshdjanda. However apocryphal the 
Salman story may be, Abu Hanifa, whose 
eponymous legal tradition was dominant in 
pre-Safavid Iran, did permit translation of 
the Qur'an for those who did not know 
Arabic well and although this position was 
not universally accepted, a large number of 
Persian translations of the Qur'an exist 
from both the medieval and modern 

A fragmentary Persian translation (of 
Q_ 10:61 through C) 14:25) tentatively dated 
to the early fourth/tenth century docu- 
ments an intermediate stage in the transi- 
tion from popular accentual to the new 
quantitative Persian metrics. This transla- 
tion (Raja'i, Pull) presents the Arabic text 
of the Qur'an broken into blocks (perhaps 
paragraphs or pericopes), each followed by 
the corresponding passage in a sonorous 
Persian that alternates between rhymed 
prose, quasi-accentual and quantitative 
metrics. This translation does not dem- 
onstrate a strong concern for consistency 



in the Persian, ranging from an exact ren- 
dering in some places, to paraplirase in 
otliers, to a somewhat free interpretation 
in still others. Indeed, in another very 
early interlinear Persian translation 
(RiwaqI, Qiir'dn-i quds), which is otherwise 
quite accurate, the Persian of the basmala 
often changes from sura to sura, becoming 

bi ndm-i khudd-ji mihrbdn-i rahmat-kundr 
bi ndm-i khudd-ji ritzi-ddddr-i rahmat-kundr 

(e-g- Q. 7) 
bi ndm-i khudd-yi mihrbdm-yi bakhshdyanda 

(e-g- a 6i) 

bi-ndm-i khudd-yi ruzi-dahanda-ji bakhshdyanda 
(e-g q 34) 

We might predict lexical variety from one 
Persian translation of the Qiir'an to an- 
other on the basis of regional or dialectical 
idiosyncrasies but such internal variation 
quite possibly reflects the fluidity of the 
Islamic homiletic tradition and the author- 
ity of orally delivered, or perhaps even 
prompt-book Persian "targums" for in- 
dividual suras, as delivered by different 
popular preachers in Iran. Al-Jahiz (d. ca. 
254/868) tells of a contemporary, the pop- 
ular bilingual preacher Musa b. Sayyar 
al-Aswari, who would read a verse of the 
Qiir'an aloud to his class and then com- 
ment upon it in Arabic to the Arabs, sitting 
together at his right, and then turn to the 
Persians, sitting at his left, and repeat his 
comments for them in Persian [Baydn, i, 

In addition to stand-alone translations, 
many Persian works of exegesis also con- 
tain translations of the Qiir'an. The mid- 
fourth/tenth century Tarjuma-yi tafsir-i 
Tabari, a loose adaptation of material from 
al-Tabarl's (d. 310/923) commentary and 
his history, which might be more accu- 
rately described as "the Samanid Persian 
Commentary project," also includes an 

elegant and accurate Persian translation of 
the Qiir'an. The Samanid ruler, Mansur 
b. Null (r. 350-66/961-76), received a forty- 
volume manuscript in Arabic of al- 
Tabari's works from Baghdad but finding it 
difficult to read it, commissioned several 
Transoxanian scholars to translate it to 
Persian. Probably because it was an official 
state project, and to avoid any theological 
objections, al-Mansur sought and received 
fatwas declaring the permissibility of 
translating the book for those who do not 
know Arabic. This "translation" of al- 
Tabarl's tafsir remained prestigious and 
infiuential but did not by any means end 
the market for new Persian tafsirs, scores 
of which — from various theological 
standpoints — survive from the medieval 
and early modern period (see Muhammad- 
Khani, Tafslr-i Qur'an; see exegesis of 
THE qur'an: classical and medieval), 
some of them consisting primarily of a 
Persian rendering of the qur'anic text, 
such as the Tafsir of Abu Hafs Najm al- 
Dln-i Nasafi (d. 538/1143). Mention should 
be made of Maybudl's popular Sufi tafsir, 
Kashf al-asrdr wa-'uddat al-abrdr (written 
520/1126), which incorporates the com- 
mentary of his teacher, Ansarl of Herat 
(see below), and features a three-step ex- 
egesis: first a literal translation of the sura 
in question, then a traditional grammatico- 
lexical analysis and explanation of the cir- 
cumstances of revelation (see occasions 
OF revelation) and, finally, a mystical- 
esoteric reading (see polysemy; literary 


Many theoretical works on fiqh, lay manu- 
als about ritual observance (not a few in 
verse) and compilations oi fatwa^ were 
composed in or translated to Persian, 
beginning no later than the Ghaznavid 
period but becoming especially important 
in the Safavid era, when they assisted in 
the Shl'lfication of the populace. Such 
works often contain translations and 



glosses of some Qiir'an verses (see 
Barzigar, Fiqh, 1048-51). Though the 
Islamic Republic of Iran has placed 
greater emphasis on the study of Arabic in 
the curriculum, perhaps a dozen new 
Persian translations of the Qiir'an ap- 
peared in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Formal features and imagery of the Qiir'an in 

Persian poetry 
Persian prose texts of the fourth/tenth to 
fifth/eleventh centuries generally ignore 
rhetorical artifice and ornamentation. By 
the seventh/thirteenth century, however, 
rhymed prose (saj') became de rigeurm 
Persian belles lettres, largely inspired by the 
secular example of Hamadhanl's Maqdmdt, 
and relying heavily on the morphological 
parallels of loanwords from Arabic. The 
application of saj' to devotional texts, 
such as the Mundjdt (intimate prayers) of 
'Abdallah Ansari of Herat (d. 481/1088), 
may also reflect the stylistic inspiration of 
the Arabic Qiir'an or a Persian translation 
(e.g. Raja'l, Pull) which tried to create simi- 
lar prose cadences and rhymes in Persian. 
Persian narrative poems conventionally 
begin with a section (hamd) of several lines 
invoking and praising God. These doxolo- 
gies, especially in the early period, tend not 
to emphasize the terminology of specific 
Islamic doctrine and theology but to ex- 
pound God's transcendence in a general- 
ized Persian vocabulary. It had, in fact, 
already been the practice to begin Middle 
Persian texts with the formula "In the 
name of God" (pat ndm-i Yazddn), though 
the practice received further authority 
from the Qvir'an as well as the specific 
wording of the Arabic bas7nala, which 
usually appeared as a prefatory formula on 
the opening page of Persian texts. NizamI 
moved the conventional basmala from its 
place at the head of the text as a discon- 
nected prose formula and embedded it, 
with some metrical elasticity, as a quotation 

(tadminj into the opening line of verse in 
his Makhzan al-asrdr (ca. 572/1176?): bism-i 
af Jldhi l-rah[a]mdni l-rahim/hast kilid-i dar-i 
ganj'i hakim, "In the name of God, the mer- 
ciful, the compassionate/is the key to the 
door of the treasure of the wise one." This 
practice was frequently emulated by sub- 
sequent poets composing in this same 
meter (sari'), some of whom repeat the 
phrase as a litany throughout ten or more 
opening lines of the poem (Khazanadarlu, 
Manzuma, 15-25). 

Immediately following the opening in- 
vocation and doxology, the poet typically 
includes sections in praise (na 't) of the 
Prophet (an additional section dedicated to 
the imams often appears in the works of 
Shfl authors; see names of the prophet; 


prophethood) and a subsequent section 
recalling the Prophet's mi'rdj (see ascen- 
sion). These sections occasionally refer- 
ence or allude to phrases in the Qiir'an 
(e.g. qdba qawsayn, Q^ 53:9), though they 
draw in the main on extra-qur'anic elabo- 
rations. Illumination and illustration (see 
iconoclasm; ornamentation and 
illumination) were an integral feature of 
the Persian literary tradition, at least for 
manuscripts produced by royal courts, and 
some themes from the Qur'an and its as- 
sociated lore regularly recur in the min- 
iature tradition, including the prophet 
Muhammad riding Buraq on the mi'rdj and 
Joseph (q.v.) being rescued from the pit (see 
benjamin; brothers and brotherhood). 
Though illustrations of the Prophet and 
'All do occur (e.g. Mirza 'All's depiction of 
the Prophet and 'All with Hasan and 
Husayn in the ship of faith, ca. 1530, 
included in the Houghton/Shah Tahmasp 
Shdhndma; see 'ali b. abi talib), the scenes 
depict extra-qur'anic material, probably to 
avoid the iconic representation of sacred 
Furthermore, one may point to specific 



images or concepts which stem from the 
Qiir'an but occur in various literary con- 
texts, both sacred and profane, without 
necessarily evoking a specific verse of the 
Qiir'an. Examples of this might include 
allusions to Israfll and tlie blast of the 
trumpet of resurrection (q.v.; multiple 
qiu''anic references, e.g. (J 50:20; see also 
apocalypse). The generative letters kdf 
and nun, which joining together form the 
divine command kun, "Be!" as e.g. in the 
phrase kunfa-yakun in Q^ 2:117 (see crea- 
tion; cosmology), are evoked in the 
opening line of Asadi's Garshdspndma (writ- 
ten 458/1066), as follows: sipds az khudd 
izad-i rahnamdy / hi az kdf wa nun kard giti bi- 
pdy, "Thanks to God, the guiding lord/ 
who by the letters B and E set up the 
world." Discrete ideas and images from the 
Qiir'an are most commonly used as com- 
plementary terms in similes and meta- 
phors. Nizaml's Majnun, for example, finds 
himself in a garden with flowing rivers, like 
Kawthar, reminiscent of (J 108 and the 
definitions of al-kawthar elaborated in the 
hadith and ?fl/i»Titerature (see gardens; 
springs and fountains). 

Historical and exegetical works, such as 
the so-called translation of al-Tabarl's 
tafsa; provided details about the lives of the 
qur'anic prophets in Persian from at least 
the middle fourth/tenth century. Never- 
theless, Persian panegyric poetry through 
the fifth/eleventh century contains infre- 
quent mention of the prophets, with the 
exception of Nasir Khusraw's poetry in 
praise of 'All and the Fatimid imams, 
which alludes often to the stories of the 
prophets (Purnamdarian, Ddstdn-i 
paydmbardn, 7-35). Persian imitations of the 
Arabic "stories of the prophets" (qisas al- 
anbiyd') genre are common, the most popu- 
lar being the fifth/eleventh century prose 
work of Abu Ishaq Ibrahim of Nayshabur, 
though there are also some in verse. Entire 
poems are also dedicated to single pro- 

phetic figures, such as Moses (q.v.), 
Solomon (q.v.), etc. Nizaml's portrayal of 
Alexander (q.v.) in his Iskandarndma draws 
upon the qur'anic Dhu 1-Qarnayn (o 18:83 
f.) for the image of Alexander as explorer/ 
conqueror, but also relies on the Alexander 
romance of pseudo-Callisthenes and me- 
dieval Persian literatiu'e of Zoroastrian 
provenance for the image of Alexander as 
philosopher and prophet. 

The depiction of Jesus (q.v.) in Persian 
poetry derives primarily from the Qiir'an 
and tafsTr as well as from the qisas al-anbiyd' 
literature and Arabic poetry (Aryan, 
Chihra-yi masih, 11, 96). It is worth noting 
the existence of a complete Judeo-Persian 
translation of the Pentateuch from 13 19 
c.E. (there are also earlier fragmentary ver- 
sions), and Judeo-Persian poems in praise 
of Moses, Solomon and other Hebrew 
prophets from the fourteenth century on- 
ward; Jewish Persian scholars appear to 
have been consulted by Birunl and others 
and may constitute an independent source 
of Isrd'iliyydt (i.e. Jewish and Christian lore; 
see JEWS and Judaism; c.hristians and 


PEOPLE OF THE book) for Persian literature 
(Rypka, History, 737-8). Despite their 
familiarity with all these ancillary sources, 
Persian mystical poets nevertheless con- 
tinued to think of the Qiir'an as the Ur- 
source for human knowledge of the 
prophets. The qur'anic encounter between 
Moses and an unnamed servant (later 
identified with Khidr; see khadir/khidr) 
endowed by God with knowledge that 
gives him superior insight (q 18:65-82; see 
held as a paradigm of the relationship of a 
disciple to his Sufi master. Sultan Walad 
[MathnawT-yi waladT, 41-2) compares the 
relationship between Jalal al-Din RumI 
(d. 672/1273) and Shams-i Tabriz! (disap- 
peared ca. 645/1248) in terms of Moses 
and Khidr. RumI, meanwhile, sees the 



Qiir'an as primarily a veliicle to attain 
similar prophetic insight, when he speaks 
[Mathnawi, i, 1537-8) of the mystic "states of 
the prophets, those fish of the pure sea of 
divine majesty... When yon escape into the 
true Qiir'an, yon mix with the soul of the 

The Joseph narrative, described as "the 
best of stories" (ahsan al-qasas) in C3 12:3 
(see narratives), was the primary 
qur'anic narrative reflected in longer 
poems in Persian. In the late fifth/eleventh 
century two renditions of the story of 
Joseph (Yusuf ) and Potiphar's wife (invari- 
ably named Zulaykha in the Persian texts, 
drawing on extra-qur'anic lore) appeared: 
a prose version doubtfully attributed to 
'Abdallah Ansarl in the Ams al~mundin wa- 
shams al-majdlis and a verse recitation, for- 
merly attributed to Firdawsi but perhaps 
by AmanI (fl. fifth/eleventh cent.). That 
this story was not thought of as a literary 
adaptation of the Qiir'an text but rather as 
an elaboration of the Isrd'Tliyydt and a 
springboard for the poet's imagination can 
be seen in both the famous mystical elabo- 
ration by JamI (d. 898/1492), which goes 
far beyond and changes the focus of the 
"best of stories," and the politically pro- 
gressive rendition of 1239/1823 by the 
Tajik poet, Hozicj of Bukhara. 

Direct references to the Quran in Persian literature 
From the seventh/thirteenth century, mys- 
tico-didactic poetry became the dominant 
(though not exclusive) genre of Persian 
poetry, frecjuently presenting the stories of 
the prophets (including the biography of 
Muhammad; see sira and the cjur'an) 
and the saints [aqtdh or abddl) in verse. Such 
poetry might be thought of as the most 
intense locus of qur'anic influence on 
Persian, though it draws as much, if not 
more, upon hadlth and slra, the Isralliyjidt, 
the homiletic traditions of official preach- 
ers (khatih), street preachers (wd'i^) and 

story-tellers (qussds), Sufi manuals and 
other vernacular and oral sources, 
however much these may all have seen 
the Qiir'an as their ultimate locus of 

Ritual use of the Qiir'an is, naturally, 
attested in Persian literature, especially 
with respect to healing and funerals (e.g. 
Shaykh Ahmad, Spiritual elephant, story 13; 
see burial; medicine and the q,ur'an). 
S a'dl (Gatoan, 132) tells several jokes about 
muezzins and others reciting the Qiir'an 
poorly or in an ugly voice. One man with a 
particularly bad voice explains he receives 
no salary but chants for the sake of God; 
for God's sake, don't chant, he is told. 
Hafiz (d. 792/1391), who claims the ability 
to recite the Qiir'an by heart in all fourteen 
canonical recitations [chdrdah riwdyat, 
Diwdn, i, 202; see readings of the 
cjur'an), documents the still very common 
practice of swearing an oath upon the 
Qur'an in everyday speech (Hafiz, Diwdn, i, 
892; see oaths): nadidam khwushtar az shi'r-i 
tu hdfiz/bi-Qur'dn-i ki andar sina ddri, "I have 
never seen poetry more beautiful than 
yours, Hafiz!/By the Qur'an which you 
carry within your heart!" Elsewhere, 
humorously consoling himself over the 
inability of pious ascetics to comprehend 
his debauchery (rindi), Hafiz alludes to the 
belief that demons flee from people who 
recite the Qur'an [Diwdn, i, 392; see devil; 
jinn; asceticism). Recitation of the verse 
wa-inyakdd (c) 68:51) was believed to act as 
a prophylactic to the effects of the evil eye 
(see eyes), as a line of Humam-i Tabrlzl 
(d. 714/1314) attests: dar hdl wa-inyakdd bar 
khwdnd har kas ki na^ar fikand bar way, "Imme- 
diately whenever anyone cast a glance 
upon him, he would recite vua-inyakdd." 

Poetry and secular prose attest a Persian 
vocabulary for the uttering of pious for- 
mulas, which though perhaps derived from 
the exegetical or theological literature, as- 
sumed a vernacular form of expression 



(see EVERYDAY LIFE, THE Q^Ur'aN In). We 

find phrases such as istirjd'-kundn (BayhaqI, 
Tdrikh, 953), meaning "while reciting the 
verse innd lilldh wa-innd ilayhi rdji'un," as per 
Q_ 2:156. B^uml's Mathnawi [i, 50) argues the 
primacy of intention when it comes to tlie 
utterance of the istithnd, a term derived 
from Idyastathnuna [q_ 68:18), meaning the 
recitation of in shd' Alldh as enjoined in 
^ 18:23-4: ay basi n-dwarda istithnd hi guft/ 
jdn-i u bdjdn-i istithnd-stjuft, "The soul of 
many a person is one with istithnd even 
witliout verbalizing the istithnd aloud." 

The word qur'dn itself appears frequently 
in Persian poetry, pronounced, of course, 
according to Persian phonology (e.g. qor'dn) 
and behaving as a nativized Persian word, 
without the Arabic definite article (al-). 
Shi'l translators of the text into Persian, 
following the descriptive adjective given in 
q 50:1 and o 85:21 typically title it Qur'dn-i 
majTd. A Middle Persian word, however, 
meaning book or document, nubi[\he me- 
dial labial consonant is unstable, appearing 
also as nupT or nawl), also appears in clas- 
sical Persian poetry as an alternate proper 
name for the Qtir'an ("the scripture"; see 
book; names of the CiUR'AN). In 485/1092 
Asadl-yi Tusi writes in his Garshdspndma (3): 
nubi mu'jiz urd zi izad paydm, "The scripture 
inimitable, his message from God." Sana'l 
(Diwdn, 1061) says: jam' kard in rahi-t shi'r-i tu 
rd/cun nubi rd guzida 'uthmdn hard, "This 
servant of yours gathered your poetry, just 
as 'Uthman compiled the scripture" (see 
collection of the quR'AN). Several lines 
of ^urmh At athnawihegm with the phrase 
dar nubi..., "In the scripture...," such as 
this line (vi, 656) which glosses the phrase 
yudillu bihi kathiran wa-yahdi bihi kathiran 
from q 2:26 as follows: dar nubifarmdd k-in 
Qur'dn zi dil/hddi-yi ba'di u ba'dird mudill, "In 
the scripture [God] said that this Qtir'an, 
with respect to the heart (q.v.)/guides 
some and misleads some" (see astray; 
error; freedom and predestination). 

Quotations from the Qiir'dn in Persian literature 
Perhaps because of the difficidty of setting 
quotations from Arabic of more than a 
word or two within one of the established 
Persian meters, poets frequently allude to 
particular verses of the Qiir'an by an 
abbreviated name, often deriving from the 
commentary tradition, though Persian 
poetry does not always use qur'anic verses 
in a particularly pious context. In an early 
poem about the virtues of 'All, Kisa'l of 
Marw (b. 341/953) refers in one line to the 
dyat-i qurbd (q 17:26 and C3 30:38) and in 
another to the dyat al-kursi, a conventional 
name for q 2:255 (but sometimes alluding 
to q 57:4; see verses; throne of cod). He 
even quotes a few phrases from the Qiir'an 
in Arabic [Kisd% 93, 95). Sa'di [Bustdn, 76) 
writes around 654/1256: basd kas bi ruz 
dyat-i sulh khwdnad/ dm shab dmad sipah bar 
sar-i khufta rdnad, "Many a person will read 
the peace (q.v.) verse in the daytime/ 
When night comes, he'll charge the army 
against the sleeping [foe]." This allusion to 
the dyat-i sulh, or "peace verse," has been 
identified with (j 49:9-10 (e.g.fa-aslihu bayna 
akhawaykum), though c) 4:128 (al-sulh khay- 
run) has also been suggested (see also 
enemies; fighting; day and night). 
Nasir-i Khusraw seems to intend two sepa- 
rate verses, (J 48:10 and (J 48:18, by his ref- 
erence to the dyat-i bay 'at in the following 
Vine: yik ruz bikhwdndam zi Qur'dn dyat-i 
bay'at/k-izad bi Qur'dn guft ki bud dast-i man az 
bar, "One day I read the verse of allegiance 
from the Qtir'an how God said in the 
Qiir'an that my hand was the upper one." 
The Perso-Arabic ^\irsLse ydr-i ghdr, "the 
friend in the cave (q.v.)," alluding to (3 9:40 
as well as the extra-qur'anic amplifications 
of the story of Abu Bakr accompanying 
the prophet Muhammad on his migration 
to Medina (q.v.; see also emigration; 
opposition to Muhammad), is proverbially 
and hyperbolically used in Persian poetry 
to describe exemplary friendship or dis- 



cipleship (see friends and friendship). 

As noted above, Arabic prosody differs 
considerably from Persian and it requires 
some versatility to set extended Arabic 
phrases witliin tlie metrical constraints of 
Persian verse. Poets nevertheless managed 
to find ways to do this without altering the 
qur'anic text, except for slight licenses 
(such as elision of the definite article al-), 
and, of course, vocalizing the words ac- 
cording to Persian phonology and prosody. 
The first to include citations from the 
Qiir'an extensively was Sana'l, who in the 
context of discussing the mi'rdj, for exam- 
ple, embeds md zdgha l-basar from q 53:17 in 
one poem {Diwdn, 568), and weaves the 
words alladhi asrd and aqsd from (J 17:1 into 
another (Sana'l, Hadiqa, 195). 'Attar (d. ca. 
617/1221) manages within a Persian hemis- 
tich of only fifteen syllables [Diwdn-i 'Attar, 
774) to incorporate two Arabic quotations, 
of six and of five syllables in length, re- 
spectively, from the "light (q.v.) verse" 
[dya-yi nur, Q_ 24:35): ay chirdgh-i khuld az in 
miskhdt-i muzlim kun kindr/td shawi nurun 'aid 
nurin ki lam tamsas-hu ndr, "O lamp (q.v.) of 
the highest heaven, avoid this gloomy 
niche/That you may become "light upon 
light" though "no fire (q.v.) touched it." In 
part dtie to the subject matter, but also in 
part due to the fact that it constitutes two 
perfect feet of the ramal meter, Rumi 
quotes the phrase md ramayta idh ramayta 
from C3 8:17 in at least ten separate places 
in his Mathnawi. 

Persian poems quoting extensively from 
the Qiu''an or focusing on qiu"'anic themes 
came to be seen tongue-in-cheek as Persian 
scripture. An illuminated manuscript of 
Jaml's Haft Awrang copied probably in 
Mashhad between 1556-65, introduces the 
poem Yusuf u ^ulaykhd (folio 84b-85a) with 
three lines inset in a roundel, including the 
following hemistich: nazm-lst ki mirisdnad az 
wa/iy paydm, "It is verse that conveys a mes- 
sage of revelation." Sana'i's Hadlqat al- 

haqiqa incorporates many Arabic phrases 
quoted from the Qiir'an and for this reason 
has even been described as Qur'dn-i pdrsi, 
the "Persian Qur'an." The Mathnawi oi 
Rumi has likewise been styled as stich, in 
lines variously ascribed to Jam! or Shaykh 
Baha'l (Nicholson, Mathnawi, vii, xi, and 
Schimmel/trans. Lahouti, Shukuh-i shams, 
846-7) and the following or similar lines are 
frequently inchided as a frontispiece or 
title-page to nineteenth century printings 
of the Mathnawi: 

man chi guyam wasf-i dn 'dli-jindb / nut 

payghambar wall ddrad kitdb 
mathnawi-yi mawlawi-yi ma 'nawT/hast 

Qur'dn-i bi lafz-i pahlawi 
How suitably to praise his eminence?/Not 

prophet, yet he has revealed a book! 
The mystic Mathnawi oi Mawlawi/is a 

Qiir'an expressed in Persian tongue! 

A variant reading of this line appears 
playfully blasphemous: man namiguyam ki 
dn 'dli-jindb/hast payghambar wall ddrad kitdb, 
"I am not saying of his eminence/he is a 
prophet. Yet he has a book (q.v.)!" 

Rumi's Mathnawi often performs a non- 
traditional exegesis of the Qiir'an byjiix- 
taposing various qur'anic verses together. 
In discussing Hamza, the Prophet's uncle, 
and his bravery in battle, the Mathnawi (iii, 
3422) poses this question: Ma tu Id tulqu bi- 
aydikum ild/tahluka khwdndi zi payghdm-i 
khudd, "Have you not read 'Do not cast 
yourselves by your own hands in/ruin' 
from the message of God?" A few lines 
further on, Rumi alludes to this same verse 
o 2:195, as tahluka (obviously for the hapax 
legomenon al-tahluka, "ruin"), and quotes a 
conjugated Arabic verb (Id tulqu) from it, 
while alluding in the following line to an- 
other verse ((J 3:133) from an entirely dif- 
ferent sura, by cjuoting its initial Arabic 
verb (sdri'u): dnki murdan pish-i chashm-ash 
"tahluka"-st/amr-i "Id tulqu" bigirad u bi 



dast//w-dnki murdan puh-i u shudfath-i 
bab/"san'u" ayad mar u ra dar khatdb 
[Mathnawi, iii, 3434): "He whose eyes see 
dying as 'ruin'/^Vill seize hold of tlie com- 
mand 'do not be cast'// And lie wlio sees 
dying as an opening door/'Vie witli one 
another' will be addressed to him." 

The mystical ethos infecting much of 
Persian poetry for the last 750 years con- 
trasts the restrictive and prescriptive out- 
look of the ascetic [zHhid; see asceticism), 
the preacher (wd'i^), the jurisprudent 
[faqih; see law and the cjur'an), the 
judge (qddi), the vice officer (muhtasibj and 
other figures of qur'anic and Islamic au- 
thority, with the more expansive attitude of 
the lover ['ashiq; see love), the mystic 
('drif), the rogue (rind) and so on. By and 
large, it is the latter group whose inter- 
pretation and daily implementation of the 
Qur'an is recommended as closer to the 
inner meaning (ma'nd), in contradistinction 
to the outward form (sura). For this reason, 
one must read the Qiir'an with spiritual 
insight and open eyes [Mathnawi, vi, 4862). 
RumI compares the meaning of the 
Qi_ir'an to a human body — the soul of 
both are hidden within and might not be 
discovered by people who live in very close 
proximity to it, even for a lifetime [Math- 
nawi, iii, 4247-9). Thus, literalists see only 
words in the text of the Qiir'an, remaining 
blind to the illumination of the scriptural 
sun [Mathnawi, iii, 4229-31). Hafiz [Diwdn, i, 
34) rails against the hypocritical use of re- 
ligion and the Qiir'an, urging us to drink 
wine and act disreputably, but not to wield 
the Qiir'an as a weapon, as others do in 
their duplicity (ddm-i tazwir ma-kun chun 
digardn (kir'dn rd). A work of expressly 
ethico-didactic intent, Sa'dl's Gulistdn, does 
quote from the Qiir'an and hadith more 
than forty times but also argues that "the 
purpose of the revelation of the Qur'an is 
the acquisition of a good character, not the 
recitation of the written characters" 

[Gulistdn, 184; see piety). Thus, canonical 
works of classical Persian literature which 
frequently cite and appeal to the authority 
of the Qur'an argue on the whole for an 
interiorization of the Qur'an in the life of 
the believer as opposed to a rigid or in- 
stitutional imposition of scriptural laws. 

Franklin Lewis 

Primary; Sliaykh Ahmad-i Jam, Alaqdmdt-i 
zhandih pTl, ed. H. Moayyad, Tehran 1340 Sh./ 
1961, 1345 Sh./l966'^; trans, and ed. H. Moayyad 
and F. Lewis, The spiritual elephant and his colossal 
feats. Shaykh Ahmad-e Jam, Costa Mesa, CA: 
Mazda Publishers (forthcoming); Asadi-yi TiisT, 
Garshdspndma, ed. H. Yaghma'T, Tehran 1316 
Sh./l937; 'Attar-i NayshaburT, Farld al-Dln, 
Diwdn-i Attdr, ed. T. Tafadduli, Tehran 1345 
Sh./l966; al-Bayhaqi, Abii 1-Fadl Muhammad, 
Tdrikh-i Bayhaqi, ed. ^A.A. Fayyad, Mashhad 
1971; Hafiz, Shams al-Din Muhammad, Diwdn-i 
Hdfii, ed. P.N. KhanlarT, 2 vols. Tehran 1359 
Sh./l98o, 1362 Sh./l983^; Jahiz, iJflj'aK; Kisa'i-yi 
MarwazT, Kisd^-yi Marwazi. ^indigi, andisha wa 
slar-i d, ed. M. Amln Riahl, Tehran 1367 
Sh./i988; 'A. Riwaqi (ed.), Qur^dn-i quds. Kuhan- 
tarin bar-garddn-i Qur'dn bijdrsi, 2 vols., Tehran 

1364 Sh./r985; Jalal al-Dm RiimT, Kulliyydt-i 
shams,yd diwdn-i kabir, ed. B. Furuzanfar, 10 vols., 
Tehran 1957-67; id., The Mathnawi of Jatdlu'ddm 
RumJ, ed. R. Nicholson, 8 vols., Cambridge 
1925-40 (cited by book number, verse number); 
Sa'dT, Bdstdn-i Sa'di. Sa^dindma, ed. G.H. Yusufl, 
Tehran 1989; id., Gulistdn, ed. G.H. YusufT, Tehran 

1365 Sh./i986; Sana'T, Diwdn-i hakim Abu l-Majd 
Alajdud b. Adam. Sand'T-yi GhaznawT, ed. M.T 
Mudarris-i RadawT, Tehran 1341 Sh./ig62, 1362 
Sh./i983-; Sultan Walad, MathnawT-yi waladT. 
Inshd'-i Bahd al-Din b. Mawldndjaldl al-Din Muham- 
mad b. Husayn-i BalkhT. Aiashhur bi Mawlawi, ed. 

J. Huma'T, Tehran 1316 Sh. 71937; id., Rabdbndma, 
ed. 'A.S. Gurdfaramarzl, Tehran 1369 Sh./l98o. 
Secondary: A. AdharnQsh, Tdrikh-i tarjuma az 
'arabi bifdrsi (az dghdz ta ^asr-i SafawT). i. Tarjuma- 
hd-yi Qur'dni, Tehran 1373 Sh./l994; Q. Aryan, 
Chihra-yi masTh dar adabiyydt-ifdrsi, Tehran 1369 
Sh./l990; H. Barzigar-i-Kishtli, Fiqh dar adab-i 
farsT, in H. Anusha (ed.), Ddnishndma-yi adab-i 
fdrsT. ii. Farhangndma-yi adabi-yifarsT, Tehran 1376 
Sh./l997, 1043-56; id., Hadrth dar adab-i farsT, in 
H. Anusha (ed.), Ddnishndma-yi adab-ifdrsT. ii. 
Farhangndma-yi adabi-yi fdrsT, Tehran 1376 
Sh./l997, 514-23; S.M. Bayghi, The first avail- 
able Persian interpretation of the Qiu''an known 



as the Tarjumah TafsTr-i-TabarT [the Persian trans- 
lation of al-Tabari's interpretation ot the 
Qiir'an), in. Hamdard Islamicus 19/4 (1996), 31-44; 
R. Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the medieval period. 
An essay in quantitative history, Cambridge 1979; 
J.C. Biirgel, Conquerant, philosophe et 
prophete. L'image d'Alexandre le Grand dans 
I'epopee de Nezami, in C. Balay et al. (eds.), 
Pand-o Sokhan. Melanges offerts a Charles-Henri de 
FouchScour, Tehran 1995, 65-73; '^^■y The feather of 
Simurgh. The "licit magic" of the arts in medieval 
Islam, New York 1988; id., Die Profanierung 
sakraler Sprache als Stilniittle in klassischer ara- 
bischer Dichtung, in Ibn an-Nadim und die mit- 
telalterliche arabische literatur. Beitrdge zum I Johann 
Wilhelm Fuck-Kolloquium, Wiesbaden 1996, 64-72; 
S.M. Damadi, Maddmin-i mushtarak dar adab-ifarsT 
wa 'arabT, Tehran 1379 Sh./2000; M. Danish- 
pazhuh and S.H. Sadat-Nasirl (comps. and eds.), 
Hizdr sdl-i tafsir-i farsi. Sayri dar mutun-i kuhan-i 
tafsm-yi pdrsT. Bd shark wa-tawdihdt, Tehran 1369 
Sh./i99o; 'A. A. Halabl, Ta'thir-i Qur'dn wa hadith 
dar adabiyydt-ifdrsi, [Tehran] 1371 Sh./i992; S.'A. 
Hayrat-i SajjadT, Guzida'T az ta'thir-i Qur'dn bar 
nazm-ifdrsi, Tehran 1371 Sh./i992; 'A. A. Hikmat, 
Amthdl-i Qur'dn. Fasl-i az tdrikh-i Qur'dn-i karim, 
Tehran 1332 Sh./i954; M..T. Ja^farT, Az daryd 
bi-daryd. Kashf al-abydt-i Alathnawi, [Tehran] 
1364-5 Sh./i985-6; M.A. Jazayery, The Arabic 
element in Persian grammar. A preliminary 
report, in Iran. Journal of the British Institute of 
Persian Studies 8 {1970), 115-24; M/A. Khazana- 
darlZi, Manzuma-hd-yifarsT, Tehran 1375 Sh./ 
1996; B. Khurramshahi (ed.), Ddnishndma-yi 
Qur'dn wa Qur'dn-pazhuhi, Tehran 1377 Sh./i998; 
R. Levy, A prose version of the Yusuf and 
Zulaikha legend. Ascribed to Plr-i Ansar of 
Harat, in jras n.s. (1929), 103-6; F. Lewis, 
Golestan-e Sa'di, in E. Yarhsater (ed.). Encyclo- 
pedia Iranica, xi, fasc. I {2001), 78-86; id., Hafez 
and rendi, in E. Yarhsater (ed.), Encyclopedia 
Iranica, xi, fasc. 5 {2002), 482-91; id., Reading, writ- 
ing and recitation. Sand 'T and the origins of the Persian 
ghazal. Ph.D. diss., U. Chicago 1995; id., Rumi. 
Past and present. East and west, Oxford 2000; 
W. Madelung, Religious trends in early Islamic Iran, 
Albany, NY 1988; R. Milstein, K. Riihrdanz and 
B. Schmitz, Stories of the prophets. Illustrated manu- 
scripts of Qisas al-anbiyd', Costa Mesa 1999; 'A.M. 
Mu'adhdhinT, Dar qalamraw-i dftdb. Muqaddima'T 
bar ta'tkfr-i Qur'dn wa-hadith dar adab-i pdrsi, 
Tehran 1372 Sh./i993; 'A. A. Muhammad-KhanI, 
TafsTr-i Qur'an dar adab-i FarsT, in H. Anusha 
(ed.), Ddnishndma-yi adab-i farsi. ii. Farhangndma-yi 
adabi-yifdrsi, Tehran 1376 Sh./i997, 383-94; S.B. 
Muzhdahl, Qiir'an wa adab-i farsT, in H. Anusha 
(ed.), Ddnishndma-yi adab-i farsi. ii. Farhangndma-yi 
adabi-yi farsi, Tehran 1376 Sh./i997, 1080-119; 

J. Perry, Persian in the Safavid period. Sketch for 
an etat de langue, in C. Melville (ed.), Safavid Persia, 
London 1996, 269-83; T. PurnamdarTan, Ddstdn-i 

paydmbardn dar kulliyydt-i shams. Shark wa tafsir-i 
'irfam-yi ddstdn-hd dar ghazal-hd-yi mawlawi, Tehran 
1364 Sh./i995; A. 'A. Raja'i (ed.), Puli miydn-i 
shi'r-i hijd'Twa 'arudi-yi farsi dar qurun-i awwal-i 
hijri. Tarjuma-T dkangin az dujuzw-i Qur'dn-i majid, 
Tehran 1353 Sh./i974; J. Rypka (ed.). History of 
Iranian literature, Dordrecht 1968; C. Saccone, 
Viaggi e uisioni di re, sufi, profeti. Storia tematica della 
letterature persiana classica, Milan 1999; S. Diya 
l-Dln-i Sajjadl (comp.), Dibdcha-nigdri dar dak qarn, 
Tehran 1372 Sh./i993;J. Salmasl-zada, Tdrikh-i 
tarjuma-yi Qur'dn darjahdn, Tehran 1369 Sh./i98o; 
A. Schimmel, The triumphal sun. A study of the 
works of Jalaloddin Rumi, London 1980, Albany 
1993^^; ed. and (Pers.) trans. H. Lahouti, Shukuh-i 
Shams, Tehran 1367 Sh./i988, 1382 Sh./2003^; 
S. ShamTsa, Farhang-i talmihdt. Ishdrdt-i asatm, 
ddstdni, tdrikhi, madhhabi dar adabiyydt-i farsi, 
Tehran 1366 Sh./i987; M.J. YahaqqT, et al. (eds. 
and comps.), Farhangndma-yi Qur'dnT. Farhang-i 
bardbar-hd-yifarsT-yi Qur'dn bar asds-i 1^2 nuskha-yi 
khatti-yi kuhan-i mahfuz dar kitdbkhdna-yi markazT-i 
dstdn-i quds-i radawt, 5 vols., Mashhad 1372-1375 


Title of the ancient rulers of Egypt. 
Pharaoh [Ar.fir'awn) means literally "(the) 
Great House" in Egyptian and was per- 
haps pronounced something like^flr^^o or 
pdr'd\ It designated part of the palace 
complex at Memphis and came, through 
metonymy, by the mid-second millennium 
B.C.E., to refer to the king of Egypt him- 
self, just as "the Porte" came to refer to the 
Ottoman sultan some three millennia later. 
The Arabic Yerydcvin^g^ fir'awn, corresponds 
most closely to the Syriac^r 0/7 and be- 
cause current scholarship considers it 
unlikely that pre-Islamic poetic references 
to Pharaoh are authentic, the term seems 
to have entered Arabic literary culture 
through the Qiir'an. According to the tra- 
ditional chronology of the qur'anic revela- 
tions, the term appears as early as the first 
Meccan period (see chronology and the 
q^ur'an; foreign vocabulary). 



The term occurs in the Qiir'an seventy- 
four times; it never appears in Surat Yusuf 
{(J 12, "Joseph"), the Joseph (q.v.) narrative, 
where "king" is used instead (see kings 
AND rulers), but occurs repeatedly in the 
many references to Moses (q.v.; and Aaron 
[q.v.] and the Children of Israel [q.v.]) in 
Egypt (q.v.). The story of Moses and 
Pharaoh takes its place among the many 
in the qur'anic corpus that depict former 
human civilizations refusing to believe 
their divinely sent prophets or revelations, 
as a result of which they were destroyed 
(see PUNISHMENT stories; prophets 
AND prophethood; revelation and 
inspiration). The lesson for Muhammad's 
contemporaries is that they, like Pharaoh's 
people (dljir'awn or qawmjir'awn) and the 
people of 'Ad (q.v.) or Thamud (q.v.), the 
peoples of Noah (q.v). Lot (q.v.), Midian 
(q.v.) and others, will be destroyed by God 
if they continue refusing to believe their 
prophet (see gratitude and ingrati- 
tude; lie; belief and unbelief). 

Pharaoh is an evil king but his people as a 
whole are condemned in more than a 
dozen verses. The "people of Pharaoh," or 
"house of Pharaoh" (dljir'awn), did not 
believe God's signs ((j 3:11; 8:52, 54). They 
imposed upon the Israelites (band isrdfl) the 
worst of punishments: destroying their 
sons while allowing the women to live 
(c3 7:141; 14:6). In C3 7:127, however, it is 
Pharaoh himself who sets this policy in 
response to the complaints of his notables 
(al-mala'u min qawmi jir'awna) . As a residt, 
the "people of Pharaoh" suffer the most 
severe punishment of the fire (q.v; 
Q, 40:45-6). This eternal fate (see eternity; 
reward and punishment) does not con- 
tradict their destruction by drowning (c[.v.; 
Q, 8:54; 10:90; 17:103; 20:78; 28:40). 

The ubiquitous qur'anic paradigm of the 
destroyed or "lost/past peoples" (al-umam 
al-khdliya) who did not obey God (see 
obedience; generations) did not hinder 

developments in plot and detail in the vari- 
ous renderings of the theme within the 
Qiir'an. In o 10:90, Pharaoh declares at 
the moment of his doom in the sea: "I 
believe that there is no god aside from the 
one in which the Children of Israel believe, 
and I am a submitter (wa-and mina 
l-muslimina)." Despite his submission, how- 
ever, according to C3 11:98, Pharaoh will 
lead his people to hellfire (see hell and 
hellfire) on the day of resurrection (q.v.). 
The example of Pharaoh's profession of 
belief was used in the kaldm discussions of 
whether the conversion of a sinner on the 
point of death was possible (cf. q 4:18; with 
relation to the case of Pharaoh, see van 
Ess, TG, iv, 581; see theology and the 
our'an). Although most classical exegetes 
judged his conversion to be too late, others, 
such as Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 638/1240), 
deemed Pharaoh to have been saved 
through his final act of conversion (see 
Gril, Personnage, 39, 49-50, 52). In the 
Qiir'an, Pharaoh is cruel and arrogant, 
transgressing limits (q^ 20:24, 43; see 
arrogance; boundaries and prei;epts). 
He considers Moses bewitched [mashur, 
c) 17:101), or mad [majnun, Q_ 26:27; see 
insanity; jinn). When his advisors set out 
to prove Moses and his signs wrong, they 
are quickly convinced of the reality and 
unity of God, as a result of which Pharaoh 
threatens to mutilate and crucify them 
(q 7:124; 20:71; 26:49). Pharaoh accuses 
Moses of being ungrateful for having 
grown up in the royal court ((J 26:18-9) 
and threatens anyone who will choose a 
god aside from himself (q^ 26:29). 

In q 28:4, Pharaoh's sins are enumerated 
(see SIN, MAJOR AND minor): he exalted 
himself overly much, divided the people 
into groups or castes, tried to weaken one 
of these by killing their sons, and generally 
caused corruption. Haman (q.v.; cf. biblical 
book of Esther) is Pharaoh's only named 
advisor (c3 28:8, 38) but Moses comes to 



Korah (q.v.; Qarun; cf. Jium 16:1-35) along 
with Pharaoh and Haman with divine 
signs and proofs (o 29:39; 40:23-4). 
Pharaoh commands Haman to build a 
tower that will reach into heaven so that 
Pharaoh can prove Moses' claims about 
God false (q 28:38; 40:36-7). Pharaoh's 
claim to power is associated with the power 
and sustenance of the Nile (q 43:51). He 
proclaims in ci 79:24, "I am your highest 
lord" (and rabbukum al-a'ld). His wife, how- 
ever, unlike the wives of Noah and Lot, 
demonstrates her righteousness by praying 
that God deliver her from Pharaoh and his 
sinful people and build her a house in "the 
garden" (q.v.; (j 66:10-1). As these examples 
illustrate, there is a great deal of variety in 
the qur'anic accounts of Pharaoh; there is 
need for much further research into the 
qur'anic intertextuality of the many rendi- 
tions and references to the story of Moses 
and Pharaoh in Egypt. 

The exegetical literature expands these 
brief qur'anic references and mini- 
narratives into long and wonderful tales in 
which both known (scriptural) and other, 
surprising (i.e. non-scriptural) characters 
and personages and themes extend the 
breadth and depth of the story. In later 
Islamic literatures, especially Arabic lit- 
erature, Pharaoh became a symbol of 
arrogance and evil. 

Reuven Firestone 

Primary: Ibn Kathlr, Qisas; Kisa'T, Qisas; TabarT, 
Tafsu; Beirut 1984, by verses; id., Ta'rTkh, ed. de 
Goeje, 444-58, 467-82; Tha'labi, Qisas, Beirut 
n.d., 147-77. 

Secondary: van Ess, tg; D. Gril, Le personnage 
coranique du Pharaon d'apres I'interpretation 
d'Ibn 'Arabi, in AI 14 (1978), 37-57; Horowitz, 
-fft^; Jeffery, For. vocah.; A.H.Johns, "Let my 
people go." Sayyid Qiitb and the vocation of 
Moses, in Islam and Christian Muslim relations i 
(1990), 143-70 (on the modern use of the image 
of Pharaoh); D. Redford, Pharaoh, in D.N. 

Freedman (ed.), 'The Anchor Bible dictionary, 6 vols., 
New York 1992, v, 288-9. 

Philosophy and the Qitr'an 

Although not a philosophical document in 
the strict sense, the Qiir'an has been at the 
center of the most heated philosophical 
and theological controversies in Islam. 
Now, if by philosophy is meant wisdom 
(sophiii) or rather love of wisdom, as un- 
derstood by Pythagoras, who coined the 
term philo-sophos, the Qiir'an itself attests to 
the merit of acquiring wisdom (q.v; hikma) 
as a gift from God. For as q 2:269 puts it: 
"He [God] gives wisdom to whomever 
he wills," adding that indeed "whoever 
receives wisdom has received an abun- 
dant good" (see gift-giving; grace; 

More specifically, hikma refers in a num- 
ber of verses to the Qiir'an itself as a 
divine revelation (see revelation and 
inspiration; names of the cjur'an) to 
Muhammad (q 4:113; 54:5; 62:2) or to his 
predecessors, such as Lucjman (q.v.; 
q 31:12), David (q.v.; q 38:20) and Jesus 
(q.v; q 3:48; 5:110). In the latter two verses, 
Jesus is said to have been taught by God 
the Torah (q.v.) and the Gospel (q.v.) as 
well as the hikma, which appears to refer to 
the "sapiential" books of the Hebrew Bible 
(i.e. "wisdom literature"), generally attrib- 
uted to Solomon (q.v.). In one verse 
(q 43:63), Jesus is simply reported to have 
said: "I have come to you with the wis- 
dom," and to have brought "the clear 
proofs" (see proof). 

The broader meaning of the term phi- 
losophy in ordinary usage may be said to 
correspond to the activity of speculation, 
reflection or rational discourse in general. 
Thus, the Oxford dictionary defines "to phi- 
losophize" as "to speculate, theorize, mor- 
alize," whereas Aristotle tended to describe 



wisdom (sophia) as the study of certain 
principles and causes, and first philosophy 
(i.e. metaphysics) as the study of first prin- 
ciples and causes [Aletaphysics, 14 f: bk. 
A.gSib In. 29 f ). 

In the Qiir'an, the terms reflecting (tafak- 
kur), considering (na^ar), pondering (i'tibdr) 
and reasoning ('aql) are frequently used in 
what can only be described as a teleologi- 
cal context, intended to illustrate God's 
creative power (see creation), his sov- 
ereignty (q.v; see also kings and rulers) 
and the rationality of his ways (see 
intellect), as we will see in the next sec- 
tion, which deals with philosophical meth- 
odology and the Qiir'an. 

There is thus a. prima facie case for the cor- 
relation of philosophy and the Qiir'an, as 
this article proposes to show. As a matter of 
history, however, there were from the earli- 
est times vast differences of opinion among 
Muslim exegetes (see exegesis of the 
q^ur'an: classical and medieval), jurists 
and other scholars, on the justifiability of 
applying rational discourse, the paramount 
expression of philosophical methodology, 
to the text of the Qiir'an, whether in the 
form of exegesis (tafsTr) or interpretation 
(ta'wil). Al-Tabari (d. 310/923), one of the 
earliest and most learned commentators of 
the Qur'an, prefaces his commentary by 
referring to those scholars who were re- 
luctant to engage in exegesis "out of fear of 
error (q.v.), inadequacy or liability to sin" 
(Tabarl, Tafsir, i, 46). He then quotes a say- 
ing of Ibn 'Abbas (d. 68/687), cousin of 
the Prophet, to the effect that "he who dis- 
cusses the Qur'an by recourse to opinion 
(ray), let him occupy his place in hell." 
Without endorsing this opinion in full, 
al-Tabarl [Tafsir, i, 42) comments that this 
prohibition bears on "exegesis (tafsir) by 
recourse to reprehensible but not praise- 
worthy opinion." He, then, invokes the 
authority of Ibn Mas'ud (d. 32/652-3) and 
other scholars in support of the permis- 

sibility of tafsir and quotes C3 38:29, which 
reads: "It is (i.e. the Qur'an) a blessed book 
that we have sent down to you, that they 
may ponder its verses and that those pos- 
sessed of understanding may remember" 
(see memory; remembrance; reflection 
AND deliberation). This is followed by 
c) 39:27, which reads: "We have given 
humankind every kind of parable (see 
parables) in this Qur'an that perchance 
they might remember." These verses, 
al-Tabarl comments, show that "the 
knowledge of tafsir and the exposition of 
its senses is obligatory." For, "pondering, 
taking stock, remembrance and piety 
(q.v.)," he adds "are not possible without 
the knowledge of the meanings of the 
[qiir'anic] verses, grasping and under- 
standing them." He then speaks of the two 
varieties of sound tafsir: (i) that which rests 
on the traditions of the Prophet, provided 
they are well-accredited and sound (see 
sunna; hadith and the our'an); and (2) 
that which meets the rules of the soundest 
demonstration (burhdn) and is grounded in 
the knowledge of the meaning of words 


language), poems (see poetry and 
poets), proverbs and different dialects 
(q.v.) of the Arabs (q.v.). To this doubly 
logical and linguistic criterion should be 
added, according to al-Tabari, material 
derived from the ancients (salaf), including 
the Companions of the Prophet (q.v.), their 
immediate successors and other learned 
scholars (see scholar). 

On the second question of interpretation 
(ta'wil), al-Tabarl reviews the conflicting 
interpretations of o 3:7, which refers to 
those parts of the Qur'an which are pre- 
cise in meaning (muhkamdt) and those 
which are ambiguous (q.v.; mutashdbihdt), 
then goes on to state: "As for those in 
whose heart there is vacillation, they follow 
the ambiguous in it, seeking sedition and 
intending to interpret. No one, however, 



except God knows its interpretation. Those 
well-grounded in linowledge say, we believe 
in it; all is from our lord." Whether the 
phrase "those well-grounded in knowl- 
edge" should be conjoined to God raises a 
serious grammatical question that was at 
the center of the controversy which pitted 
liberal and conservative scholars against 
each other (see knowledge and learn- 
ing). According to al-Tabarl (Tafsir, i, 214), 
Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795) ^'^'^ 'A'isha, 
wife of the Prophet (see wives of the 
prophet; 'a'isha bint abi bakr), chose 
the reading which stops at God; whereas 
Ibn 'Abbas and Mujahid b. Jabr (d. 104/ 
722) allowed for the conjunction of God 
and those well-grounded in knowledge. 
Al-Tabarl himself appears to opt for the 
first reading, reserving the knowledge of 
the ambiguous parts of the Qtir'an to God. 
As for the distinction between the muhkamdt 
and mutashdbihdt parts, he holds the view 
that al-muhkam is that of which the learned 
know the interpretation; whereas al- 
mutashdbih is that of which no one but God 
has any knowledge, which is essentially a 
restatement of what Q, 3:7 explicitly states. 
The only clarification he offers is that "am- 
biguous" references bear on such questions 
as "the time of the (second) coming of 
Jesus, son of Mary (q.v.), the coming of the 
hour, the end of the world and such like" 
CTabarl, Tafsir, i, 209; see last judgment; 

Philosophical methodology and the Qiir'dn 
The investigation of the relation of phi- 
losophy to the Qtir'an compels us to dis- 
tinguish between two aspects of this 
relation, the methodological and the sub- 
stantive. As regards the latter, any corre- 
spondence of the qur'anic teaching with 
the classical philosophical tradition on 
such questions as the origin of the world 
(see cosmology), the nature of God (see 
god and his attributes), human destiny 

(q.v.; see also fate; reward and punish- 
ment) and the nature of right and wrong 
(see good and evil), is purely accidental; 
the method(s) used by traditional philoso- 
phers to arrive at these conclusions is 
entirely different. The crux of the meth- 
odological relation, on the other hand, 
consists in the degree to which the Qiir'an 
calls upon the believers to "consider, reflect 
on, or ponder" the creation, as a means of 
discovering the secrets of this creation, 
leading up to the knowledge of God, his 
omnipotence, his wisdom, and his sover- 
eignty in the world. Thus, o 7:185 asks: 
"Have they not considered the kingdom of 
the heavens (see heaven and sky) and the 
earth (q.v.) and all things that God has cre- 
ated?" In <i 88:17 f , it is asked: "Will they 
not consider the camels, how they were 
created (see camel); heaven how it was 
raised up, the mountains, how they were 
hoisted and the earth, how it was leveled?" 
(see animal life; agriculture and 
vegetation; nature as signs). 

In these and similar verses, a teleological 
message is more explicitly preached: by 
refiecting on the creation of the heavens 
and the earth, "people of understanding" 
are said to perceive that the creation of 
the heavens and the earth is not in vain 
(q 3:190-1). In Q_ 2:164, it is stated that: 
"Indeed, in the creation of the heavens 
and the earth, the alternation of night 
and day (see day and night); in the 
ships that sail the seas with what profits 
humankind; in the water (q.v.) which 
God sends down from the sky to bring the 
earth back to life (q.v.) after its death 
[...] — surely in these are signs (q.v.) for 
people of understanding" (see also pairs 
and pairing). 

In a number of verses, such as C3 59:2 (cf. 
C3 39:21), people of "understanding" or of 
"perception" are urged to "ponder" or 
take stock (fa-'tabirU) of the wonders of 
creation and the calamities which befall 



the unbelievers (see punishment stories; 
course to the God-given light of reason. In 
token of this divine light, God is said in 
Q^ 2:31-2 to have taught Adam (see adam 
AND eve), his deputy on earth (see caliph), 
the names of which the angels themselves 
were ignorant (see angel). 

The Qiir'an also speaks of people who 
reason (ja 'qulun), and accordingly are 
capable of obeying God or worshiping 
him (see obedience; worship). In fact, 
the expressions "they reason" or "you rea- 
son" occur forty-six times in the Qiir'an. In 
this context, it is assumed that, prior to 
revelation, as a well-known tradition of the 
Prophet (hadith) has it, humankind par- 
took of a natural religion (din al-jitra) into 
which they were born and were subse- 
quently made Jews, Christians or Muslims 
by their own parents (see religious 

No wonder, then, that the Qtir'an has 
defined the rules of debate between rival 
groups in terms of rational argument or 
good counsel (see debate and disputa- 
tion). Thus, the Prophet is urged in 
c) 16:125 to "call to the way of your lord 
(q.v.) with wisdom and mild exhortation 
and argue with them in the best manner" 
(see invitation; exhortations). It is this 
call, which, following the period of con- 
quest, was historically at the basis of the 
debates with Christians. The earliest such 
instance is the debate between a Christian 
and a "Saracen" on the question of free 
will and predestination (see freedom and 
predestination). This debate is attributed 
to Theodore Abu Qiirra (d. 2 10/826), 
Bishop of Harran, or his teacher, St. John 
of Damascus (d. 130/748), the last great 
doctor of the Orthodox Church (cf. Sahas, 
John of Damascus). Another instance is the 
debate in which Abu Ya'qub b. Ishaq 
al-Kindl (d. ca. 252/866) has given a 

"Refutation of the Christian Trinity," 
which has survived in the rebuttal of the 
Jacobite Yahya b. 'Adi (d. 363/974). The 
Mu'tazill (see mu'tazilis) al-Jahiz (d. 255/ 
868-9), al-Kindi's contemporary, has pur- 
sued the same theme in his own "Refuta- 
tion of the Christians." An anti-Islamic 
polemical tract which pitted the Nestorian 
(see christians and Christianity) 'Abd 
al-Maslh al-Kindl against the well-known 
Muslim scholar, 'Abdallah al-HashimI, 
had a broader impact, since it denigrated 
the Islamic rites of pilgrimage (q.v.), the 
qur'anic account of the pleasures reserved 
to the righteous in paradise (q.v.) and 
the expeditions of the Prophet against 
Quraysh (q.v; cf. yiuir, Apology; see expe- 
ditions AND battles; fighting; war). 

Apart from his anti-Trinitarian polemic 
(see trinity; polemic and polemical 
language), Abu Ya'qub b. Ishaq al-Kindi 
was the first Muslim philosopher to es- 
pouse the cause of the total compatibility 
of philosophy and Islam. For him, phi- 
losophy is the highest human art, which 
seeks "the knowledge of the first or true 
one (al-haqq) who is the cause of every 
truth (q.v.)." Now, in so far as the aim of 
both philosophy and revelation, embodied 
in the Qtir'an, is the purstiit of trtith, it 
follows, according to al-Kindl, that the 
"seeker of truth" should be willing to look 
for it from whatever source, even if that 
source was "races (q.v.) distant from us and 
nations different from us," by whom he 
imdoubtedly meant the Greeks (Fakhry, 
History, 70; see strangers and foreign- 
ers). He concedes, however, that although 
religious trtiths belong to an order of 
"divine wisdom," which is higher than 
"human wisdom," the truths preached by 
the prophets (see prophets and prophet- 
hood) are not different from those taught 
by the philosophers. 

Contrary to the claims of his predeces- 
sors or contemporaries, such as Malik b. 



Anas (d. 179/796) and Ahmad b. Hanbal 
(d. 241/845), al-Kindi then goes on to 
argue that the Quran itself, which embod- 
ies that higher divine wisdom, is not averse 
to tlie use of reasoning or argument which 
is the core of the method used by tlie plii- 
losophers. To illustrate this point, he refers 
to a passage in the Qiir'an which bears on 
the mystery of resurrection (q.v.), ques- 
tioned by the infidel (see uncertainty) 
who asks: "Who brings the flowers back to 
life, once they are withered?" In response 
the Qiir'an states: "He who originated 
them the first time and has knowledge of 
every creation" ((J 36:79) and goes on to 
add: "It is he who produces fire from green 
trees for you" and as such is able to bring 
the contrary from its contrary, fire (q.v.) 
from green trees, life from its opposite, and 
is accordingly able to create or re-create as 
he pleases. Thus, al-Kindi concludes, "the 
truth to which Muhammad, the truthful, 
may God's blessings be upon him, has 
summoned, added to what he has received 
from God almighty," can be demonstrated 
by recourse to rational arguments, which 
only the fool can question. "People of 
sound religion and intelligence" cannot, 
therefore, doubt the need to resort to ra- 
tional discourse or interpretation (ta'wil) in 
the attempt to understand the ambiguous 
passages of the Qiir'an. He then illustrates 
this point by referring to o 55:6, which 
reads: "And the stars and trees prostrate 
themselves" to God, to show how every- 
thing, including the outermost sphere, 
referred to in this verse as the stars, sub- 
mits to God (Fakhry, History, 81; see 

The earliest theological controversies 
Al-Kindi, who was known for his Mu'tazill 
sympathies, lived at a time when theologi- 
cal controversies had defined to some 
extent the course which philosophy and 
theology (kaldm) were to take (see theo- 

logy AND the cjur'an). In concrete his- 
torical terms, the earliest controversies cen- 
tered on such questions as grave sin [kabira; 
see SIN, major and minor), faith (q.v.; 
imdn) and free will and predestination 
(qadar). Although those controversies had 
definite political undertones, the argu- 
ments that bolstered them were ultimately 
grounded in the cjur'anic text (see politics 
AND THE ^ur'an). The first of these ques- 
tions was raised by the Kharijis (q.v.), who 
split from the main body of the army of 
'All, the fourth caliph (d. 40/661; see 'ali 
B. abi talib), charging him with commit- 
ting a grave sin (kabira), by exposing his 
legitimate claims to the caliphate to ques- 
tion, upon consenting to the so-called ar- 
bitration (q.v.), following the battle of Siffln 
(q.v.; 37/657). The Kharijis' charge against 
'All was later generalized to apply to any 
Muslim who committed a grave sin, politi- 
cal or other: such an individual was con- 
sidered to become thereby an apostate 
deserving of death ('All himself was killed 
by a Khariji at the mosque of Kufa in 
40/661; see apostasy). In the heat of 
ensuing controversy, the Murji'is trod a 
moderate path, arguing that genuine faith 
cannot be determined in this life but 
should be deferred — hence their name of 
Murji'is or "Deferrers" — and accordingly 
should be left to God (see deferral). 
Almost simultaneously, the Qadarls raised 
the question of free will and predestina- 
tion, designated by the ambiguous term of 
qadar, meaning human or divine power 
(see POWER AND impotence). 

This last question had a profound politi- 
cal significance during the early Umayyad 
period. The early Q_adarls, such as Ma'bad 
al-juhani (d. after 83/703) and Ghaylan 
al-Dimashql (d. 116/743), challenged the 
Umayyad caliphs' claims that their actions, 
however vile or cruel, were part of the di- 
vine decree (gadd' wa-qadar) and could not 
for that reason be questioned. Although 



both Ma'bad and Ghaylan were killed by 
the order of the caliphs, 'Abd al-Malik 
(r. 65-86/685-705) and Hisham (r. 105-25/ 
724-43), respectively, the former rider, 
assailed perhaps by understandable doubts, 
is reported to have put the whole cjnestion 
of qadar to the eminent religious scholar, 
al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728), whose re- 
sponse has survived in a famous "Treatise 
on qadar" (cf Fakhry, Fikr, i, 17-28). In this 
treatise, al-Hasan al-BasrI draws exten- 
sively on the Qiir'an, which, according to 
him, supports unquestionably the thesis of 
free will, or human qadar, as a prereqiusite 
of religious obligation (taklif) — a thesis 
which is also endorsed by reason or sound 
commonsense. For "God almighty," he 
writes, "is too just and equitable (see jus- 
tice AND injustice) to cause the human 
servant to be blind and then order him to 
see, then tell him: 'Or else, I would punish 
you'; cause him to be deaf and then say to 
him: 'Hear or else I will torture you'" (see 
vision and blindness; seeing and hear- 
ing). For "this is too obvious," al-BasrI 
adds, "to be misunderstood by any reason- 
able person" (Fakhry, Fikr, i, 24). He then 
proceeds to inveigh against the false in- 
terpretations, proposed by those who con- 
tinue to question these propositions, by 
whom he undoubtedly meant the "deter- 
minists" (jabriyya), such as Jahm b. Safwan 
(d. 128/745), Dirar b. 'Amr (of the middle 
second/eighth century) and others. 

The significance of this treatise, despite 
the doubts concerning its authenticity, is 
that it is the earliest instance of recourse to 
the Qiir'an in the attempt to resolve the 
controversy over the question of qadar, des- 
tined to become one of the pivotal issues 
in philosophical and theological circles. 
Interestingly enough, al-Hasan al-BasrI, 
who quotes the Qiir'an extensively, does 
not refer to the hadlth in this treatise but 
supplements the qur'anic quotations by 
commonsense or rational arguments. 

Other scholars of the period, such as 
Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795), founder of one 
of the four Siinnl creeds [niadhhabs; see 
creed; law and the cjur'an), tended to 
reject absolutely the application of deduc- 
tion or independent reasoning to qur'anic 
questions. Asked once what he thought of 
the qur'anic references to God's sitting on 
the throne (as in e.g. q 7:54; 10:3; 13:2; see 


Malik is reported to have answered "The 
sitting is well-known; its modality is un- 
known. Belief in it is a duty and question- 
ing it is a heresy [or innovation] (bid'a)." 

This rigid traditionalism and deference to 
the authority of the revealed text was out- 
stripped in the next century by Ibn Hanbal 
(d. 241/855), founder of another one of the 
four creeds, when in 212/827 the 'Abbasid 
caliph al-Ma'mun (r. 198-2 18/8 13-33) pro- 
claimed two doctrines to be official — i.e. 
the preeminence of 'All (see shi'ism and 
THE our'an; shi'a) and the createdness of 
the Qiir'an (q.v; khalq al-Qur'dn) — a pro- 
nouncement that set the stage for the 
notorious mihna or inquisition (q.v.). When 
the concurrence of all the religious judges 
and scholars in the Mu'tazill thesis of the 
creation of the Qiir'an was demanded, Ibn 
Hanbal rejected this thesis with utter 
single-mindedness. Jailed, scourged and 
humiliated in a variety of ways, he refused 
to change his stand that the Qiir'an was 
the "eternal and uncreated speech (q.v.) of 
God" (see also word of god; 

By Ibn Hanbal's time, however, the im- 
pact of Greek philosophy was beginning 
to be felt in theological and philosophical 
circles. The translation of the first three 
parts of Aristotle's Organon, i.e. the Cate- 
gories, the Interpretations and the Prior analy- 
tics, as early as the eighth century by 
'Abdallah b. al-Muqaffa' (d. 139/756) — or 
his son Muhammad, presumably from 
Persian — had opened the door wide for 



theological and philosophical discussions 
in an unprecedented manner. (Some time 
after, even the grammarians felt com- 
pelled to jump into the fray and question 
the authority of Aristotelian logic as 

Greek philosophy and Aristotelian logic 
had been at the center of theological 
controversies among Syriac-speaking 
Jacobites and Nestorians centuries before 
at Antioch, Edessa, Qinnesrin and Nisibin, 
and contacts between Muslim and Chris- 
tian scholars had been common since at 
least the time of the above-mentioned St. 
John of Damascus. Not surprisingly, the 
first theological movement in Islam was 
spawned as early as the second/eighth 
century by Wasil b. 'Ata' (d. 131/748), dis- 
ciple of the illustrious al-Hasan al-BasrI. 
This rationalist movement was fully 
developed by the great theologians of the 
third/ninth century, Abu 1-Hudhayl (d. ca. 
235/849), al-Nazzam (d. ca. 226/845), 
al-Jubba'i (d. 303/915) and others. Even 
contemporary philosophers, like the afore- 
mentioned al-Kindi, were sympathetic to 
the Mu'tazill cause. The teaching of that 
school centered around the two principles 
of divine unity and justice, which the 
Mu'tazilis supported by recourse to reason, 
which they, like the philosopher al-Kindl, 
believed to be perfectly compatible with 
the teaching of the Qi_ir'an. They also 
believed, like the philosophers in general, 
that right and wrong can be determined 
by reason and are not, as their opponents 
contended, matters of divine injunction 
or prohibition (see commandments; 
forbidden). Divine revelation, embodied 
in the Qi_ir'an, simply confirms the validity 
of such principles and this confirmation is 
a divine grace or favor (lutf) that God "dis- 
penses to humankind, so that whoever per- 
ishes would perish after a clear proof [had 
been given] and those who survive would 
survive after a clear proof" (o 8:42). 

The Ash'an onslaught on the philosophers 
Some of the philosophers who succeeded 
al-Kindl did not evince the same deference 
to the revealed text. Thus, Abu Bakr al- 
RazI (d. ca. 318/930) rejected the whole 
fabric of revelation as superfluous and held 
that the God-given light of reason was suf- 
ficient for solving human philosophical, 
moral and practical problems (see ethics 
and the our'an). The source of all wis- 
dom was, for him, Greek philosophy, as 
expounded particularly by Plato, "the mas- 
ter and leader" of all the philosophers. 
Al-RazI substituted, on essentially philo- 
sophical (Platonic) grounds, five co-eternal 
principles, i.e. the creator (bdri), the soul, 
space, matter and time, for the unique God 
of the Qi_ir'an. 

By the fourth/tenth century, the philo- 
sophical scene was dominated by the 
names of the great system-builders and 
Neoplatonists, al-Farabi (d. 339/950) and 
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (d. 428/1037), who 
constructed an elaborate metaphysical and 
cosmological scheme, which they presented 
as an alternative to the Islamic system of 
beliefs. This Neoplatonic scheme had a 
remote resemblance to the qur'anic world- 
view and was received from the start with 
suspicion by the traditional scholars and 
the masses at large. 

The arch-enemies of the Neoplatonists 
during this period were the Ash'ari theo- 
logians, whose leader, Abu 1-Hasan al- 
Ash'ari (d. 324/935) had been, up to the 
age of forty, a Mu'tazill theologian of pro- 
found erudition. His disenchantment with 
the Mu'tazila, we are told, was inspired by 
a call of the Prophet to tend to the (Mus- 
lim) community (ir'a ummati). Without 
abandoning the Mu'tazill methodology of 
rational discourse, al-Ash'ari was thor- 
oughly committed to Hanbali traditional- 
ism. The leading Ash'ari theologians of 
the fifth/eleventh and sixth/twelfth cen- 
turies, such as al-BaqillanI (d. 403/1013), 



al-Baghdadi (d. 429/1037), al-Juwaynl 
(d. 478/1085) and al-Ghazall (d. 505/ 
mi) pursued al-Ash'arl's line of anti- 
Mvi'tazilism and Neoplatonism in an 
unabated manner. 

AI-Gliazali and al-Juwaynl, Iris master, 
were tlie most notable standard-bearers of 
the Ash'ari onslaught on the Muslim phi- 
losophers, represented by al-Farabi and 
Ibn Sina, with Aristotle as their master. 
Al-Ghazall accuses those philosophers of 
irreligion (kufr) on three scores: the eternity 
(q.v.) of the world, God's knowledge of 
particulars and bodily resurrection. Thus, 
when they profess to prove the existence of 
God as creator of the world, the philoso- 
phers, according to him, are guilty of dis- 
simulation (talhls) since an eternal universe 
does not require a creator. They also 
impugn the perfection of God when they 
limit his knowledge to that of imiversals 
and are finally unable to demonstrate the 
resurrection of the body. On all those 
scores, none of the arguments of the phi- 
losophers are convincing or conclusive and 
the only recourse left to the conscientious 
searcher, according to al-Ghazall, is the 
Qur'an, whose authority on all these ques- 
tions is indisputable. For the Qiir'an stipu- 
lates in unmistakable terms that God is the 
sovereign and all-knowing creator of the 
world in time (q.v.) and ex nihilo, who is 
able to do whatever he pleases. He is, in 
addition, the sole agent, who operates 
directly and miraculously in the world 
without reference to secondary or natural 
causes (Ghazall, Tahafut, question 17). 

Ibn Rushd's anti-Ash 'ari polemic and the defense 

of Aristotle 
The philosopher who pursued those ques- 
tions relentlessly and confronted al- 
Ghazall's onslaught head-on was the great 
Aristotelian philosopher and Maliki judge, 
Ibn Rushd (Averroes; d. 595/1198) of 
Cordoba, Spain. In his Fasl al-maqdl, 

"Decisive treatise," Ibn Rushd begins by 
defining philosophy as the art of "inves- 
tigating entities and considering them in so 
far as they manifest the maker; I mean in 
so far as they are made." From this pre- 
mise, he draws the inference that "existing 
entities actually manifest the maker... and 
the more complete their status as made 
(masnu'a) is known, the knowledge of their 
maker is more complete" (Ibn Rushd, Fast, 
27). After reviewing a series of qur'anic 
verses, which call on humankind to "con- 
sider" or "reflect on" creation, he con- 
cludes that scripture (al-shar'), by which he 
clearly means the Qiir'an, has not only 
exhorted humankind to investigate "exist- 
ing entities" but has actually regarded such 
investigation as obligatory. 

As a good jurist, to whom we owe a 
major juridical treatise, Biddyat al-mujtahid, 
the "Primer of the accomplished scholar," 
Ibn Rushd proceeds next to draw a close 
analogy between juridical and rational 
deduction (qiyds) and to defend the use of 
the latter as perfectly legitimate. In fact, 
rational deduction is more appropriate 
than juridical. For, as he asks, who indeed 
is more worthy of our esteem than he who 
investigates the very nature of existing 
entities insofar as they manifest their 
maker — by whom he obviously meant 
the philosopher. 

Now, whoever wishes to know God, as 
the maker of existing entities, must begin 
by mastering the rules of deduction and 
distinguishing between the three modes of 
deduction, the demonstrative used by the 
philosophers, the dialectical used by the 
theologians (al-mutakallimun) and the rhe- 
torical used by the masses at large. These 
rules, as everybody knows, are embodied in 
Aristotle's logical treatises, especially the 
Posterior analytics, known in Arabic sources 
as Kitdb al-Burhdn, the "Book of Demon- 
stration." Ibn Rushd is emphatic that, of 
these modes, the demonstrative is the 



highest. Fully conscious of the aversion to 
the study of logic and the other so-called 
"foreign sciences" in theological and popu- 
lar circles, Ibn Rushd proceeds to defend 
such a study on the ground that the con- 
scientious searcher cannot dispense with 
the assistance of his predecessors, "regard- 
less of whether they share in our religion 
or not" (Ibn Rushd, Fasl, 31). Moreover, 
logic, being simply a tool or "instrument of 
thought," has no specific religious char- 
acter or national affiliation. Accordingly, it 
is our duty, he states, to look into the books 
of the ancients (by whom he meant the 
Greeks; see generations; orality and 
WRITING in ARABIA), and to examine what 
they have said about existing entities, and 
then determine the extent to which it con- 
forms with the "principles of demonstra- 
tion." "If we find," he writes, "that some of 
it is accordant with the truth, we should 
receive it gladly from them and thank 
them. If, on the contrary, it is not accor- 
dant with truth, we should draw attention 
to it, warn against it and excuse them" 
(ibid., 33). In stressing the "formal" char- 
acter of deduction or logical discourse, Ibn 
Rushd cites the example of the lawful 
slaughter (q.v.) of animals, which is entirely 
independent of the instrument (dla) used 
(see also lawful and unlawful; con- 
secration OF animals; sacrifice). 

It is to be noted that, in drawing a paral- 
lel between juridical and rational deduc- 
tion, Ibn Rushd exploits skillfully the 
ambiguity of the term qiyds, which derives 
from a root meaning "to measure" and 
does not occur in the Qvir'an at all (see 
measurement). Juridical qiyds had been 
used from earlier times as a means of 
enunciating legal decisions on matters on 
which the Qur'an was silent, by recourse to 
the method of analogy, accurately denot- 
ing resemblance (shabah) rather than de- 
duction. What justified analogy in legal 
decisions was actually the reason ('ilia) 

which the parallel cases had in cominon. 
Thus, jurists, on the whole, were not will- 
ing to proceed beyond particular cases. 
Their procedure was, in other words, 
purely inductive; whereas rational qiyds was 
deductive and conformed to the syllogistic 
rules Aristotle and the Greek logicians had 
laid down. Al-Kindl, the first genuine 
Islamic philosopher, had used a more 
accurate term to translate the Greek syl- 
logismos, i.e. al-jdmi'a, which, over time, fell 
out of use and was replaced by the am- 
biguous term qiyds. 

Deduction or qiyds was thus recom- 
mended by the philosophers who, like the 
Mu'tazilis, were willing to apply the 
rational canons of proof to the qur'anic 
text. Faced with the anthropomorphisms 
and incongruities of that text, the two 
groups felt compelled to resort to another 
rational device, interpretation (ta'wil), 
which, as we have seen, the Qiir'an had 
allowed where "ambiguous" verses were 

Of the philosophers, no one exploited the 
method of interpretation in his theological 
treatises as thoroughly as Ibn Rushd. After 
explaining that by interpretation is meant 
eliciting the real meaning underlying the 
figurative connotation of scriptural terms, 
Ibn Rushd proceeds to argue that this 
method is explicitly recommended in that 
famous passage (q 3:7) which speaks of the 
Qiir'an as a revelation from God, "with 
verses which are precise in meaning 
(muhkamdt) and which are the mother of 
the book (q.v.) and others which are am- 
biguous (mutashdhihdt) .'^ The latter are then 
said to be the object of interpretation by 
"those in whose heart there is vacillation" 
and are in quest of sedition. Contrary to 
al-Tabarl's already-mentioned reading, 
however, Ibn Rushd proposes the con- 
junction of both "God and those well- 
grounded in knowledge," referred to in 
the last part of the verse, as equally com- 



petent to undertake the interpretation of 
tlie ambiguous parts. 

By those well-grounded in knowledge, 
Ibn Rushd is categorical: only the philoso- 
phers, or "people of demonstration" as he 
calls them, are meant. That definitely 
excludes the two lower classes: that of the 
theologians, the "dialectical," and the 
masses at large, the "rhetorical" class. 

In his other theological treatise, al-Kashf 
'an mandhij al-adilla, the "Exposition of the 
methods of proof," written in 576/1 i8o as 
a sequel to the Fasl, Ibn Rushd lays down 
the rules or "canon of interpretation," as 
he calls it, in a systematic way. The texts of 
scripture (shar'), he explains, fall into two 
major categories: (i) Those which are per- 
fectly explicit and do not need any inter- 
pretation, corresponding to that part the 
Qiir'an has called "precise in meaning" 
(muhkamdt); and (2) Those in which the in- 
tent of the scripture is one of allegory or 
representation and which fall into four 
parts: (a) in which the allegory or repre- 
sentation (mithdl) is too abstruse to be 
understood by any except the especially 
gifted; (b) which is the opposite of the for- 
mer and in which the allegory or repre- 
sentation is readily understood; (c) which is 
readily recognized to be an allegory, but 
the significance of that allegory is known 
with difficulty; and (d) which is the oppo- 
site of the former, or that in which the 
significance of the allegory is readily rec- 
ognized. The sense in which it is an alle- 
gory is, however, only known with difficulty 
(see polysemy). 

The first part (a), Ibn Rushd goes on to 
explain, should be accepted at face value 
by the theologians and the masses at large. 
The second part (b) may be interpreted 
but its interpretation should not be di- 
vulged to the public (see secrets; hidden 
AND THE hidden). The third part (c) may 
be divulged as a means of explaining the 
allegorical intent of scripture and the rea- 

son why it is expressed in the form of an 
allegory. The fourth part (d) may not be 
interpreted for fear that such interpreta- 
tion may lead to "wild opinions," such as 
those in which the Siifis and their ilk are 
liable to indulge (see sOfism and the 

Logic as an instrument of thought 
In matters of both interpretation and 
deduction, it is clear that logic plays a pre- 
ponderant role. Zahiri scholars, however, 
such as Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1064), Ibn 
Qiidama (d. 620/1223) and Ibn Taymiyya 
(d. 728/1328) were averse to the use of 
logic or deduction in any form or guise. 
Some commentators of the Qiir'an, such 
as al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144), tended to 
accord grammar a more preponderant role 
than logic in their qur'anic exegesis. The 
Ash'aris, despite their anti-Mu'tazill and 
anti-philosophical sympathies, did not 
exclude the use of deduction or logical 
methods of proof in theological disputa- 
tions altogether. This is illustrated by al- 
Ash'ari's own treatise, Istihsdn al-khawdji 
'ihn al-kaldm, "Vindication of the use of 
theological discourse" and al-Ghazali's 
own attitude to logic in his anti-philosoph- 
ical works. Here, as is explicitly stated in 
Tahdfut al-faldsifa, the "Incoherence of the 
philosophers," a clear-cut distinction is 
made between logic as an "instrument of 
thought" and the philosophical sciences, 
such as physics and metaphysics (see 
science and the C)UR'an). The former is 
perfectly innocuous from a religious view- 
point; whereas the latter contains the bulk 
of the philosophers' pernicious proposi- 
tions which are "in conflict with the fun- 
damentals of religion (i.e. Islam)." 

In fact, apart from this friendly conces- 
sion, al-Ghazali bequeathed to posterity 
a very lucid and systematic treatise on 
Aristotelian logic entitled the Miydr al-'ilm, 
"Criterion of knowledge." Even more to 



the point, he developed in anotlier treatise, 
al-Qustds al-mustaqitn, the "Straiglit bal- 
ance," a variety of logic which may be 
termed qur'anic, which, according to him, 
was proposed by God, taught by Gabriel 
(q.v.) and used by both Abraham (q.v.) and 
Muhammad (Ghazali, Qustds, 12). 

This qur'anic logic rests on three prin- 
ciples, according to al-Ghazall: (i) the 
principle of parallelism; (2) that of con- 
comitance; and (3) that of disjunction. He 
illustrates the first principle by referring to 
Abraham's challenge in the Qi_ir'an to 
Nimrod (q.v.), who arrogated to himself 
the title of divinity in these words 
((J 2:258): "God brings the sun (q.v.) from 
the east, so bring it up from the west!" 
Being unable to meet this challenge, Nim- 
rod's arrogation of divinity is logically 

The second principle of concomitance is 
illustrated by reference to the qur'anic dic- 
tum, "Were there in them both [i.e. the 
heaven and earth] other gods than God, 
they would surely have been ruined" 
(<J 21:22). Since they have not been ruined, 
we are justified in concluding that there is 
no god but God. The logical form of this 
argument, according to al-Ghazall, is that 
of the conditional syllogism: If A then B; 
but not-B, therefore not-A. An instance of 
the third principle of disjunction is the 
question asked in the Qiir'an: "Say, who 
provides for you (see sustenani;e) from the 
heaven and the earth?" followed by the 
answer: "Say, God and you or we are 
either rightly guided or in manifest error" 
((J 34:24). From this, we are justified in 
inferring that God is the provider and we, 
as well as the infidels who question this 
proposition, are in manifest error. 

It is not without interest to note that, in 
developing this system of qur'anic logic, 
al-Ghazall actually refers to his two other 
treatises of conventional logic, Mijdr al- 

'ilm, the "Criterion of knowledge" and the 
shorter Alihakk al-na^ar, the "Touchstone of 
speculation," in which, he says, he had re- 
futed the ten deceptions of Satan (see 
devil), which he does not list [Qustds, 42 f ). 
The chief advantage of the principles he 
has given in al-Qustds consist, according to 
him, in the fact that they are bound to con- 
firm our faith in Muhammad as the infal- 
lible teacher (see impeccability), as 
against the Shl'limam (q.v.), who is in tem- 
porary occultation, as al-Ghazall has also 
asserted in his autobiography, al-A'Iunqidh, 
the "Deliverance from error." Moreover, 
the logic of the Qustds, he goes on to argue, 
will be found to be suitable "for measuring 
(or testing) the arithmetical, poetical, phys- 
ical, juridical and theological sciences, as 
well as any real science, which is not purely 
conventional" (ibid., 53). 

Notwithstanding this wild claim, it is 
clear, we believe, that a careful analysis of 
this alleged qur'anic logic would reveal that 
it differs little formally from the traditional, 
Aristotelian scheme al-Ghazall himself had 
expounded in the "Criterion of knowl- 
edge" and elsewhere. The only difference 
between the two systems consists simply in 
the type of qur'anic instances he cites to 
illustrate his specific logical points. The 
syllogistic rules in both cases are really 
the same. 

God, his existence and his attributes 
The most overwhelming impression the 
Qur'an leaves on its reader is God's utter 
uniqueness, his omniscience and his sov- 
ereignty or lordship. In the prefatory or 
opening sura (Surat al-Fatiha; see fatiha), 
God is described as the "Lord of the 
worlds... master of the day of judgment" 
(o 1:2, 4) and in the near-final Surat al- 
Ikhlas (c) 112), God is said to be "the only 
one, the everlasting, who did not beget 
and is not begotten. None is his equal" 



(o 112:1-4). This last point is stated more 
dramatically in these words: "Nothing is 
like unto him" (o 42:11). 

As regards God's existence, the Qiir'an 
provides its readers with ample evidence 
which later theologians and philosophers 
were able to exploit to the full in formulat- 
ing systematic proofs of his existence. In 
the process, they were divided into three 
groups: (i) Those who favored the argu- 
ment from temporal creation (huduth) or 
the argument a novitate mundi; (2) those who 
favored the argument from contingency 
(jawdz) or possibility (imkdn); and (3) those 
who favored the teleological proof, or the 
argument from providence, as Ibn Rushd 
was later to call it. 

The Ash'arls and the Mu'tazills, who be- 
lieved the world to consist of compounds 
of atoms and accidents, which do not 
endure for two instants of time, argued 
that the world was created by an act of 
divine fiat (amr), which the Qiir'an has 
expressed in these words: "Be and it [the 
world] comes to be" (<J 2:117, etc.). Al- 
Kindi, who was the first philosopher to 
formulate the first argument, held that 
both the world and its temporal duration 
are finite, and accordingly must have a 
beginning (muhdath). As such, the world, 
being muhdath, must have an originator, 
muhdith, who created it in time. 

The argument from contingency was 
developed by Ibn Sina, who argues in his 
al-ShiJd', the "Book of healing" (and that of 
al-JVajdt, "Salvation"), that the series of 
existing entities, being contingent or pos- 
sible, terminates in a being who is non- 
contingent or necessary, whom he calls for 
that reason the necessary being; otherwise 
that series would go on ad infinitum, which 
is absurd [Majdt, 271 f ). The Ash'ari al- 
Juwaynl opted for this argument in his lost 
JVi^dmijijia treatise, as we are told by Ibn 

Ibn Rushd favored the teleological argu- 
ment, which is supported by the most 
overwhelming evidence and is truly char- 
acteristically qur'anic. This argument, 
which is the most accordant with the pre- 
cious book, as Ibn Rushd has put it, rests 
on the premise that everything in the world 
is necessarily ordered in accordance with 
the dictates of divine wisdom, so as to 
serve the existence of humankind and their 
well-being on earth. Thus, he invokes 
verses q 78:6-14, which ask: "Have we not 
made the earth as a wide expanse, and the 
mountains as pegs and [have we not] cre- 
ated you in pairs? . . . Have we not built 
above you seven mighty heavens; and cre- 
ated a shining lamp (q.v.); brought down 
from the rain-clouds abundant water?" 
Similarly, he invokes c) 25:61, which reads: 
"Blessed is he who placed in the heavens 
constellations (see planets and stars) 
and placed therein a lamp and an illumi- 
nating moon (q.v.)." He finally cites verses 
C) 80:24-32, which read: "Let humankind 
consider its nourishment. We have poured 
the water abundantly; then we split the 
earth wide open; then caused the grain to 
grow therein, together with vines and 
green vegetation... for your enjoyment and 
that of your cattle" (cf. Ibn Rushd, Kashf, 
152, 198 f; see grasses; agriculture and 

All these and similar verses prove, accord- 
ing to Ibn Rushd, the existence of a wise 
creator, who has determined willfully that 
the world and everything in it was intended 
to be subservient to the existence and well- 
being of humankind. 

A closely related argument that is em- 
bodied in the Qiir'an, according to Ibn 
Rushd, is that of invention (ikhtird'). This 
argument is supported by a series of verses, 
such as o 22:73 which reads: "Surely, those 
upon whom you call, beside God, will 
never create a fly, even if they band 



together" (see polytheism and atheism; 
IDOLS AND images), Or Q_ 7:185, which 
reads: "Have they not considered the 
kingdom of the heavens and the earth and 
all the things God has created?" Having 
been invented or created, Ibn Rushd con- 
cludes, the world must have an inventor or 
creator, who brought it into being, in the 
first instance. 

For these and other reasons, Ibn Rushd 
was critical of the first two traditional 
arguments. To begin with, the argument 
from the temporal creation of the world as 
formulated by the Ash'arl in particular and 
the mutakallimun in general, rests on the two 
premises of temporality (huduth) and the 
atomic composition of existing entities. 
Now, neither of these premises is demon- 
strable in a conclusive way and each is too 
abstruse to be readily understood by the 
learned, let alone the masses at large. As a 
good Aristotelian, Ibn Rushd was opposed 
to the thesis of atomic composition of sub- 
stance as well as the creation of the world 
in time, expressed in the Arabic sources 
as temporality (huduth), the antithesis of 

Secondly, the argument from contingency 
or possibility runs counter to the incon- 
trovertible maxim that everything in the 
world is causally determined by its wise 
creator, or maker, who did not abandon it 
to the vagaries of chance [ittifiq; Ibn 
Rushd, Kashf, 200 f ). Here and elsewhere, 
Ibn Rushd inveighs on two fundamental 
grounds against al-Ghazall and the 
Ash'arls in general for repudiating the con- 
cept of causality: That whoever repudiates 
the necessary causal correlation between 
existing entities (a) repudiates divine wis- 
dom, and (b) repudiates the very concept 
of reason, which is nothing but the faculty 
of apprehending causes (Ibn Rushd, 
Tahdfut, 522). 

As for the attributes of God, the Muslim 
philosophers and theologians alike were 

inspired by the qur'anic verse which states: 
"Were there other deities than God, they 
[i.e. the heavens and the earth] would have 
indeed been ruined" (q 21:22); as well as 
q 23:91, which reads, "God did not take 
to himself a child and there was never 
another god with him; or else each god 
would have carried off what he created, 
and some of them would have risen 
against the others." 

The anti-Trinitarian implications of the 
first part of the second verse are not dif- 
ficult to see. Accordingly, as mentioned 
above, many of the debates with, or pole- 
mical writing against, the Christians, 
turned on the question of the Trinity. The 
Neoplatonists among the philosophers, 
such as al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, inspired by 
the teaching of Plotinus (d. 270 c.E.), built 
their cosmology and metaphysics around 
the pivotal concept of "the one" or "the 
first" [being] . Thus, al-Farabi, the founder 
of Muslim Neoplatonism, opens his opus 
magnum, al~Madina al-Jadila, the "Virtuous 
city," with a discourse on the first (being), 
who is the first cause of all existing entities, 
is free from all imperfections and is entirely 
distant from everything else. In addition, 
he has no equal or partner (shank), has no 
opposite and is therefore utterly unique. 
His uniqueness, al-Farabi goes on to argue, 
follows from the fact that "his existence, 
whereby he is distinct from all other exist- 
ing entities, is nothing other than that 
whereby he exists in himself" (Farabi, 
Madina, 30). In short, God's uniqueness is 
synonymous with his existence, which is 
identical with his essence. 

Another sense of unity, as applied to the 
first being, is then given as indivisibility, 
from which al-Farabi infers that he is in- 
definable since the parts of the definiendum 
are reducible to the causes of its existence 
or its components, which in the case of the 
first being is impossible. 

Other Neoplatonists, including Ibn Sina, 


followed al-Farabi's example in asserting 
the unity, indivisibility and indefinability of 
the first being, whom Ibn Sina calls the 
necessary being. Ibn Sina, however, denied 
that the necessary being has an essence, 
exposing himself to the vehement stric- 
tures of Ibn Riishd, Aquinas and others, 
who regarded the identity of existence and 
essence in God as incontrovertible. That 
identity was in a sense the hallmark of 
God's uniqueness. 

The other attributes, known collectively 
as the seven attributes of perfection, con- 
sisted of knowledge, life, power, will, 
speech, hearing and sight. Those attributes 
were regarded by the philosophers and the 
Mu'tazUis, despite allegations by their 
opponents to the contrary, as identical 
with the divine essence (dhat), whereas the 
Ash'arls regarded them as distinct from 
that essence. The most heated controversy 
raged around the two active attributes of 
speech and will. With respect to the first 
attribute, the controversy centered on the 
question of how God's eternal speech can 
be embodied in a temporal document, i.e. 
the Qiir'an. With respect to the second 
attribute, the question was asked: How can 
God will the creation of the universe in 
time, without a change in his essence? 

In response to the first question, the 
Mu'tazilis simply asserted that the Qiir'an, 
as God's speech, was created in time — re- 
jecting the rival Hanball thesis of its eter- 
nity — on the ground that this would 
entail a multiplicity of eternal entities. 
For them, the only eternal entity is God, 
who is entirely one and whose attributes 
are identical with his essence. For that 
reason, the Mu'tazilis labeled themselves 
as the "people of divine unity and justice." 
The Hanbalis and the Ash'arls, relying 
on the qur'anic references to the Qiir'an 
as the "preserved tablet" (q.v.; C3 85:22) and 
the "mother of the book" (c3 3:7; 13:39; 
43:4) insisted that, as Ahmad b. Hanbal put 

it: "The Qiir'an is God's eternal (qadim) 
and uncreated speech," a position to which 
he stuck adamantly, despite the persecution 
and vilification to which he was exposed, 
in the wake of the afore-mentioned in- 
quisition (milma) imposed by the caliph 

Faced with the problems which the cre- 
ation of the world in time raised, the 
Hanbalis took an entirely agnostic line, 
whereas the Ash'arls took the more sophis- 
ticated line of proposing that God created 
the world in time by an act of eternal will. 
That thesis was rejected by the philoso- 
phers on the ground that, as Ibn Rushd 
was to argue in his rebuttal of al-Ghazall, 
God's eternal will entails logically an eter- 
nal creation, which the Ash'arls rejected. 
For the world to come into being in time, 
subsequent to God's willing it from all 
time, entails the absurdity that an infinite 
lapse of time intervened between his will- 
ing and his action due to some outward 
impediment or some deficiency on his part. 
It follows, as Ibn Rushd argues, that the 
world, as the product of God's willing and 
doing, must be supposed to have existed 
from all time, or as the Latin scholastics 
were later to put it, to be the product of 
God's creatio ab aeterno, or eternal creation. 
For, of the two modes of creation or origi- 
nation of the world, the "continuous" and 
the "discontinuous" (dd'im and mun(jati'), as 
Ibn Rushd calls them, the former — con- 
tinuous — creation (ihddth dd'im) is more 
appropriately predicated of God, whose 
creative designs can never be thwarted by 
any impediment or deficiency (Ibn Rushd, 
Tahdfut, 162). 

Notwithstanding, Ibn Rushd was never 
fully reconciled to the concept of eternal 
will, as predicated of God. He accuses 
al-Ghazall of conceiving of divine will as 
analogous to human will and asserts that 
the modality of God's will, like the modality 
of his knowledge, is unknowable (ibid., 149). 



The other attributes of life, power and 
knowledge, asserted so dramatically in the 
Qur'an, did not, on the whole, raise serious 
problems. Hearing and sight were likewise 
asserted on the authority of the Qur'an 
which speaks of God as all-seeing (basir) 
and all-hearing (samf). For the philoso- 
phers, such as al-Kindi and Ibn Rushd, 
those two attributes are predicable of God 
on the ground that his knowledge encom- 
passes all objects of cognition, whether 
intelligible or perceptible. 

The creation of the world 
The Qiir'an speaks of God's creative 
power in the most dramatic terms. He cre- 
ated the world in six days and then sat 
upon the throne (q^ 7^54; 10:3; 32:4: 57:4); 
he creates by a sheer act of divine fiat, for 
if he wills anything, he bids it to be and it 
comes to be (c3 2:117; 16:40; 36:82; 40:40). 
He has created "everything in truth" 
[q_ 45:22; 46:3), for "we have not created 
the heavens and the earth and what lies 
between them as sport," as Q_ 44:38 puts it. 
What the purpose of creation is, is left un- 
defined but in o 51:56, it is stated, "I have 
not created the jinn (q.v.) and humankind 
except to worship me." The ?nutakaUimun, 
almost without exception, interpreted the 
Qur'an to mean that God created the 
world ex nihilo and in time. A variety of 
terms are used in the Qur'an to highlight 
God's creative might, such as creator 
(khdliq), cleaver (jatir), originator (badi', 
mubdi'), fashioner (bdri') and so on. 

Although the philosophers did not ques- 
tion the fact of creation or bringing the 
world into being, they tended to steer clear 
of the term khdliq (creator) and khalq (cre- 
ation) and to substitute for the first such 
terms as AGn'(al-Razl), sdni' {Von Rushd), 
muhdith (al-Kindi) and for the second ibdd ' 
(Ibn Sina), ihddth or ydd (Ibn Rushd), and so 
on. Al-Kindi went so far as to coin the two 
terms mu 'ayyis — "maker," from ajsa (to 

be), the antonym of laysa — and the 
parallel term muhawwi — from the Arabic 
pronoun huwa, "he," or its Syriac 
equivalent — to express God's role as the 
creator of the world out of nothing. 

The Neoplatonists, as we have seen, sub- 
stituted for the concept of creation that of 
emanation (sudiir,fayd), derived ultimately 
from Plotinus, founder of Greek Neo- 
platonism, and his successor, Proclus. The 
universe, according to the emanationist 
view, is not the product of God's creative 
power or will, in the strict sense, but an 
eternal and necessary emanation or 
procession from God's very substance. 
According to this emanationist view, God 
(the one or first, i.e. being) generates, by an 
eternal act of overflowing, the first intellect 
(nous), followed by a series of intellects, 
culminating in the tenth or active intellect, 
followed by the soul (psyche) and finally 
matter. The lower world consists of an 
infinite variety of compounds of form and 
matter, whose simplest ingredients are the 
four elements of Aristotelian physics, fire, 
air (see AIR and wind), water and earth. 

The philosophers questioned whether the 
Qur'an explicitly supports the mutakalli- 
mun's concept of creation (khalq), ex nihilo 
and in time. Ibn Rushd, who rejected the 
Avicennian thesis of emanation while re- 
taining the concept of eternal creation 
(ihddth dd'im), as we have seen, argues that a 
number of verses in the Qur'an, such as 
C3 11:7, imply, on the surface, the eternity of 
the universe. That verse reads: "It is he 
who created the heavens and the earth in 
six days, and his throne was upon the 
water," which implies the eternity of water, 
the throne and the time that measures 
their duration. Similarly, verse C3 41:11, 
which states that "he arose to heaven while 
it was smoke," implies that the heaven was 
created out of a pre-existing matter, which 
is smoke, rather than out of nothing as the 
mutakallimUn claim (Ibn Rushd, Fast, 42 f). 



What rendered tiie concept of eternity 
entirely nefarious from tlie Asli'ari point of 
view in particular and that of the mutakalli- 
mun in general was the contention that it 
appeared to entail a limitation of God's 
power to act freely, to create or not create 
the world at any time of his own choosing. 
The philosophers, including Ibn Rushd, as 
we have seen, rejected this contention on 
the ground that eternal creation was more 
in keeping with God's perfection. It en- 
sured that creating the world involved no 
change in his essence and that his power, 
being infinite, could not be barred by some 
impediment or deficiency from bringing 
the world into being from all time. 

Contrary to the philosophers, God's 
creation of the world, like his other ac- 
tions or decisions, was represented by the 
mutakallimiin as miraculous, or independent 
of any conditions other than the divine 
will, spoken of in the Qiir'an as the divine 
command (amr). For this reason, they were 
led to reject the Aristotelian concept of 
necessary causation, insofar as it entailed 
that other causes or agents, whether vol- 
untary or involuntary, operated in the 
world beside God. For al-Ghazali [Tahdfut, 
276), who held that God is the sole agent, 
that claim runs counter to the consensus 
of the Muslim community that God is able 
to do whatever he pleases in a miraculous 

On the question of the end of the world, 
the philosophers tended to assert the post- 
eternity (abadiyya) of the world, as a coun- 
terpart to its pre-eternity (aziliyja, qidam). 
They were charged on this account by al- 
Ghazall with heresy (q.v.) or innovation 
(q.v.; tabdi'), rather than the more serious 
charge of irreligion [takfir; see belief and 
unbelief). For the philosophers, whether 
Neoplatonists, like Ibn Sina, or Aristote- 
lians, like Ibn Rushd, the post-eternity of 
the world was a consequence either of the 
eternity of prime matter and time (as 

Aristotle held) or the eternal procession of 
the universe from the one (as Plotinus 
held). The two major exceptions were al- 
Kindi, who adhered, as we have seen, to 
the qur'anic view of creation in time and 
ex nihilo (huduth) and al-RazI, who main- 
tained a central metaphysical conception 
of five coeternal principles (see above: mat- 
ter, space, time, the soul and the creator; cf. 
Fakhry, History, 121). Al-RazI adhered to a 
picturesque view of the creation of the 
world by the creator (al-bdri') out of the 
three co-eternal principles of space, time 
and matter to serve as the stage upon 
which the soul's infatuation with a sister 
co-eternal principle, matter, could be 
requited. Once the union of these two 
sister-principles is achieved, the soul is led 
eventually to rediscover its original essence 
as a denizen of the intelligible world, 
through the therapeutic function of phi- 
losophy; the material world will then, 
according to al-RazI, cease to exist and 
the soul will in Platonic fashion regain its 
original abode in the higher world (Fakhry, 
History, lOi). 

The mutakallimiin without exception re- 
jected the thesis of post-eternity as inimical 
to God's unlimited creative power. Their 
position was in line with those qur'anic 
verses, such as Q^ 55:26-7, which explicitly 
indicate that nothing remains forever: once 
the world is destroyed or ceases to exist, all 
perishes except the "face of your lord" (see 
FACE OF god). 

Ethics and eschatology 
The Mu'tazilis were the first genuine moral 
theologians of Islam. Their ethical specu- 
lation bore, from the start, on such fun- 
damental issues as the justice of God, the 
nature of right and wrong, the capacity 
(istitd'a) or power of the agent to act freely 
and the genuine meaning of responsibility 
(q.v.) or accountability, as a logical corol- 
lary of free will. 



The precursors of the Mu'tazills in the 
first/seventh century, known as the Qada- 
rls, were the first to challenge the tradi- 
tionalist view that all human actions are 
predetermined by God, for which the hu- 
man agent cannot be held responsible. The 
early Umayyad caliphs, as we have seen, 
welcomed the determinists' view as a 
means of justifying their repressive poli- 
cies, contending that, however cruel or 
heinous, their crimes or transgressions 
were part of the divine decree fqadd'), 
which cannot be questioned. 

For the Mu'tazills, who rationalized what 
was in part a natural response to the politi- 
cal excesses of the Umayyads, God, who is 
just and wise, cannot perpetrate or sanc- 
tion actions which are morally wrong. To 
substantiate this claim, they undertook to 
demonstrate that God was truly just, that 
human actions are known to be right or 
wrong in themselves, and that the human 
agent is both free and responsible for his 
deeds and misdeeds. 

Despite their rationalist stand on these 
issues, the Mu'tazills sought a basis for 
these propositions in the Qiir'an. Apart 
from this, a careful perusal of the qur'anic 
verses which bear on all three questions 
would reveal that the textual evidence is 
equally weighted in favor of both inde- 
terminism and determinism and allows for 
divergent interpretations, as in fact the his- 
tory of Islamic theology (kaldm) shows. 

Although justice is not predicated in posi- 
tive terms of God, there are numerous 
verses in the Qiu''an, which assert that: 
"God [or your lord] is not unjust to the 
[human] servants" (cf. c) 3:182; 41:46). In 
C) 28:50, 46:10, etc., God is said "not to 
guide the unjust people [aright]," and in 
(J 16:90, God is said to "enjoin justice, 
charity and giving to kinsmen (see kin- 
ship)," reinforced by the statement that 
"he forbids indecency (see modesty; 

ADULTERY AND forniciation). Wrong- 
doing and oppression (q.v.)." 

Overwhelmed by the parallel spectacle 
of God's absolute power and majesty, as 
depicted in the Qiir'an, the determinists 
(jabriyya) and traditionalists could not rec- 
oncile themselves to the notion of God 
submitting, like human agents, to a higher 
canon of right and wrong. In fact, they 
adhered to the maxim that right is pre- 
cisely what God commands, evil what he 
has prohibited, and accordingly his actions 
cannot be described as either just or un- 
just. As al-Ghazali has put it, to predicate 
justice or injustice of God is as frivolous as 
predicating playing or frolicking of the 
wall or the wind. 

The Mu'tazills insisted from the start, 
however, that responsibility entailed the 
ability of the agent to discriminate be- 
tween good and evil, right and wrong. In 
addition to such discrimination, the agent 
should be able to choose freely; otherwise 
no merit would attach to his actions, which 
would be no different from mechanical or 
involuntary reactions, such as convulsions, 
trembling or the like. 

The two qur'anic terms on which the 
Mu'tazills seized to describe the intrinsic 
property of goodness or badness predi- 
cated of human actions were al-ma'ruf, 
"approved," and al-munkar, "disapproved." 
Demanding or commanding the "ap- 
proved" and prohibiting the "disapproved" 
were then posited as one of their five fun- 
damental principles (see virtues and 
VICES, commanding and forbidding). 

If we turn to the qur'anic text, we will 
find that right actions are, in general, spo- 
ken of as acts of obedience (td'at), vicious 
actions as acts of disobedience (q.v.; 
ma'dsin). The term applied frequently to 
the first category of action is birr, "right- 
eousness," khayr, "goodness," qist, "equity," 
or ma 'ruf, "approved," whereas the term 



applied to the second category is ithm, 
"wickedness," wizr, "burden, sin," or 
munkar, "disapproved" (see OOOD deeds; 
EVIL deeds). 

In a number of verses, the Qtir'an speaks 
in laudatory terms of people who discrimi- 
nate between those two categories. Thus, 
(J 3:104 reads: "Let there be among you a 
nation calling to goodwill (al-khajr), bid- 
ding the right (al-ma 'rUfJ and forbidding 
the wrong (al-munkar) . These are the pros- 
perous." In q 3:114, the People of the Book 
(q.v.) are commended as those "who be- 
lieve in God and the last day, bid the right 
and forbid the wrong, hastening to do the 
good deeds." In the next verse, it is stated 
"that whatever good they do, they will not 
be denied it. God knows well the godfear- 
ing" (see fear). The deontological implica- 
tions of this and similar verses are clear; 
the distinction between good and evil, right 
and wrong is explicit and God's pleasure or 
displeasure consequently is explicit, too. 

As for human responsibility for freely 
chosen actions or, as the Qiir'an puts it, 
what an individual has "earned" or 
"acquired" [kasaba and iktasaba), the 
Qur'an is categorical that the righteous 
and the wicked are bound to meet with 
their appropriate punishment or reward in 
the hereafter (see eschatology). Thus, 
q 42:30 reads: "Whatever calamity might 
hit you is due to what your hands have 
earned (kasabat)." o 2:281 reads: "Fear a 
day when you will be returned to God; 
then each soul will be rewarded [fully] for 
what it has earned, and none shall be 
wronged." Similarly, C3 2:286 reads: "God 
does not charge any soul beyond its capac- 
ity. It will get what it has earned and 
will be called to account for what it has 

Set against these and similar verses, there 
are numerous verses in the Qiir'an which 
support the contrary or determinist thesis. 

according to which God's decrees are 
irreversible and unquestionable. Thus, 
Q. 54-49 reads: "We have created every- 
thing in measure (bi-qadarin)" and q 13:8, 
which reads: "Everything with him is 
according to a certain measure." Finally, 
q 64:11 reads, "No disaster befalls you 
on earth or in yourselves but is in a book 
before we created it." 

The concepts of measure and book in 
these and other verses clearly indicate that 
human actions, as well as their conse- 
quences, are part of the divine decree and 
will not escape God's ineluctable reckoning 
on the day of judgment. The book in ques- 
tion appears to be identified with the "pre- 
served tablet" (q 85:22), on which the 
Qur'an was originally inscribed and is the 
embodiment of the divine decree, which 
admits of no alteration (see heavenly 
book; revision and alteration). This 
is forcefully brought out in q 85, called 
appropriately Surat al-Buruj, "The Con- 
stellations," which asks rhetorically in verse 
g: "To whom belongs the dominion of the 
heavens and the earth?" adding "God is 
witness of everything" (see witnessing 
and testifying). Then, after assuring the 
righteous of their well-earned reward in 
heaven, and the unbelievers of their even- 
tual consignment to hell, the supreme pre- 
rogative of God, "the lord of the glorious 
throne," is reasserted and the wicked are 
reminded that "the vengeance (q.v.) of 
your lord is surely terrible." (q 85:12). 

As far as the theological controversy is 
concerned, the early determinists, such as 
Jahm b. Safwan (d. 128/745) and al- 
Husayn b. Muhammad al-Najjar (d. mid- 
dle of the third/ninth century), as well as 
the whole class of Ash'aris, adhered to a 
theodicy in which God's creative power 
was absolute and his decrees irreversible. 
Thus, al-Ash'arl writes in Kitdb al-Ibana, 
the "Book of clarification": 



We believe that God Almighty has created 
everything by bidding it to be, as he says 
[in Q^ 16:40]: "Indeed, when we want a 
thing to be, we simply say to it 'Be' and it 
coines to be; that there is nothing good or 
evil on earth except what God has pre- 
ordained;... that there is no creator but 
God and that the deeds of the creatures 
are created and pre-ordained by God, as 
he says [in o 37:96]: "God created you and 
what yon make." 

As regards the imiversal sway of provi- 
dence, al-Ash'arl continues: 

We believe that good and evil are the prod- 
uct of God's decree and pre-ordination 
(qadd' wa-qadar) . . . and we know that what 
has missed lis could not have hit us, or 
what has hit us could not have missed us 
and that the creatures are unable to profit 
or injure themselves without God's leave 
(Ash'arl, Ibdna, 23 f; McCarthy, Theology, 
238 f ). 

The leading Ash'arl doctors of the next 
two centuries, such as al-Baqillanl (d. 403/ 
1013), al-Baghdadi (d. 429/1037), al- 
Juwaynl (d. 478/1085) and al-Ghazall 
(d. 505/1 III), developed and systemized 
the teaching of the master. To rationalize 
this deterministic view, they developed an 
"occasionalist" theory according to which 
the world consists of indivisible particles 
(atoms) and accidents, which God continu- 
ously creates and recreates as long as he 
wishes their compounds to endure. When 
God wishes them to cease to exist, he just 
stops the process of continuous creation or, 
as some Ash'aris had put it, he creates the 
accident of annihilation (fand') but in no 
substratum and then the world woidd cease 
to exist at once. Justice and injustice, as 
al-Ash'ari had taught, consisted in what 
God commands or prohibits, and humans 

have no share in the production of their 
actions, which the Mu'tazills had attrib- 
uted to them, considering people to be free 
agents. To moderate the extreme deter- 
minism of Jahm b. Safwan and his follow- 
ers, however, they made a purely verbal 
concession, based on those qur'anic verses, 
which, as already mentioned, speak of 
acqiusition or earning (kasaba, iktasaba) the 
merits or demerits of the actions by the 
agent. They continued to hold, nonethe- 
less, that God creates both the choice and 
the action. 

In the field of eschatology, the Qiir'an 
had depicted the fate of humans in the 
hereafter in such dramatic terms, espe- 
cially in the Meccan suras, that pious souls, 
especially among ascetics and mystics (see 
asceticism; saint), were later obsessed 
with the spectacle of hell and its horrors 
drawn in these suras; while others, espe- 
cially poets, dwelt on the delectable plea- 
sures of the garden (q.v.), reserved for the 
righteous in the life to come. Thus, a num- 
ber of suras bear such expressive titles as 
"The Earthquake" (Surat al-Zalzala, q gg), 
"The Calamity" (Surat al-Qari'a, C3 lOi), 
"Worldly Increase" (Surat al-Takathur, 
Q, 102), "The Chargers" (Surat al-'Adiyat, 
C3 100), "The Clear Proof" (Surat al-Bayy- 
ina, o g8) and "The Overwhelming Day" 
(Surat al-Ghashiya, q 88) to highlight the 
picture of hell and its horrors (see hell 
AND hellfire). People on the last day are 
said to be "like scattered butterflies and 
the mountains like tufted wool" (() 101:4-5) 
and "faces on that day shall be downcast, 
laboring and toiling; roasting in a scorch- 
ing fire; given to drink from a boiling 
spring" (q 88:2-5; see springs and foun- 
tains). By contrast, the righteous are 
promised the most bounteous rewards in 
glowing terms, as in q 88:8-16: "Faces on 
that day shall be blissful; well-pleased with 
their endeavor; in a lofty garden; wherein 



no word of vanity is heard (see gossip); 
wherein is a flowing spring; wherein are 
upraised couclies, and cups passed round 
(see CUPS and vessels), and cusliions in 
rows, and carpets spread out." 

For the Muslim pliilosopliers, life after 
death raised the most acute questions (see 
TION). Some, like al-Kindl, concurred with 
the mutakallimun in adhering to the thesis of 
bodily resurrection and the attendant plea- 
sures or tortures of paradise or hell, as em- 
bodied in the Qiir'an. In support of this 
thesis, al-Kindl quotes o 36:78 f, which 
refer to God's supreme power to "bring the 
bones back to life, once they are withered 
and to bring opposites from opposites," as 
he does in causing fire to come from green 
trees (q_ 36:80). 

Other philosophers, such as al-Farabi 
and Ibn Sina, while conceding the immor- 
tality of the soul, were embarrassed by the 
qur'anic thesis of bodily resurrection. 
Accordingly, they tried to interpret this 
resurrection in a variety of ways, which the 
mutakallimun found unacceptable. For al- 
Farabl, the soul's fate after leaving the 
body will depend on the degree of its 
apprehension of true happiness and its 
vocation as an inhabitant of the intelligible 
world. Upon separation from their bodies, 
souls will partake of a growing measure of 
happiness, as theyjoin successive throngs 
of kindred souls in the intelligible world. 
Those souls, however, whose happiness 
consisted in clinging to bodily pleasures in 
this world, will continue to pass from one 
body to the other endlessly. Wayward souls 
will continue to be embodied in lower 
material forms until they have degenerated 
to the bestial level, whereupon they will 
simply perish. What adds to the misery of 
such wayward souls, as they pass through 
this cycle of transmigration, is the per- 
petual agony which they will suffer upon 

separation from the body and its pleasures, 
for which they will continue to yearn, until 
they perish completely (Farabi, Ahl al- 
madina, 118). 

Al-Farabl's spiritual disciple and succes- 
sor, Ibn Sina, was committed to the view, 
adhered to by almost all the Muslim phi- 
losophers, especially the Neoplatonists 
among them, that the soul's perfection 
consists in achieving "conjunction" (ittisdl) 
with the active intellect. This is the pre- 
condition of true happiness and the war- 
rant of the soul's becoming, once it fulfilled 
its intellectual vocation, a replica of the 
intelligible world to which it originally be- 
longed, prior to its descent into the body. 
Those souls which have fallen short of this 
condition, by virtue of their attachment to 
the body and its cares, will suffer misery 
consequent upon the unwanted separation 
from the body. But once they are freed 
from this misery by attaining the level of 
apprehension proper to them, they will be 
able to partake of that intellectual pleasure 
which is "analogous to that blissful condi- 
tion proper to the pure, living entities (i.e. 
spiritual substance) and is greater and 
nobler than any other pleasure" (Ibn Sina, 
Najdt, 330). 

Ibn Sina, however, recognizes in addition 
to this intellectual condition of which the 
soul will partake upon separation from the 
body a scriptural (shar'T) one, that resur- 
rection "which is received from scripture 
(shar') and can only be demonstrated by 
recourse to the holy law (shan'a) and assent 
to prophetic reports" (ibid., 326). "Thus, 
the true law," Ibn Sina writes, "which 
Muhammad our Prophet has brought us, 
has set forth the nature of the happiness 
and misery in store for the body" (ibid., 
326; see JOY AND misery). Ibn Sina does 
not call into question this bodily happiness 
but continues to hold that there is a 
higher intellectual happiness which the 



"metaphysical philosophers" are intent on 
seeking in "proximity to God," which the 
mystics (Sufis) have placed at the center 
of their teaching and which is confirmed, 
according to Ibn Sina, by the "true holy 
law" of Islam. 

Ibn Riishd, despite his divergence from 
Ibn Sina and the Neoplatonists generally, 
tended to agree with this conciliatory 
position. Resurrection or survival after 
death (ma'dd), as he prefers to call it, is a 
matter on which "all the religious laws or 
creeds are in agreement and which the 
demonstrations of the philosophers have 
affirmed." After distinguishing three 
Islamic views of happiness and misery, 
which although generically different only 
in point of duration, degree of corporality 
or spirituality, he goes on to argue that the 
crass corporal resurrection entertained by 
the vulgar is untenable. According to that 
view, the sold, upon resurrection, will be 
reunited to the same body it dwelt in dur- 
ing its terrestrial existence. How is it pos- 
sible, he then asks, for the same body 
which was reduced to dust upon death, 
then changed into a plant on which an- 
other man has fed, and then turned into 
semen which gave rise to another person, 
to enter into the makeup of a resurrected 
person? It is more reasonable, Ibn Rushd 
holds, to assert that the risen sold will be 
united on the last day to a body, which is 
analogous, but not identical, with its origi- 
nal body (Ibn Rushd, Tahdfut, 586). In fact, 
religious creeds are in agreement regarding 
the reality of survival after death, he goes 
on to explain, but are nevertheless in dis- 
agreement on its modality (sifa). Some 
creeds, by which he probably meant the 
Christian, regard it as spiritual, whereas 
others, by which he meant Islam, regard it 
as doubly corporeal and spiritual. If, how- 
ever, we probe the difference between the 
various creeds on this question, we will 
find, he argues, that they are reducible to 

the mode of "representation" (tamthil) or 
idiom used by each one of them in describ- 
ing the misery or happiness reserved to the 
wicked or righteous in the life to come. To 
the extent that corporeal representations 
are more effective in commanding the as- 
sent of the masses at large, they are prefer- 
able to purely spiritual representations that 
are appreciated only by the intellectually 
gifted, including the philosophers in gen- 
eral. Thus it appears, he writes, "that the 
(corporeal) representation found in this our 
own region (i.e. Islam) is more effective in 
leading to understanding, where the major- 
ity of humankind are concerned, and in 
moving their soul in that direction... 
whereas spiritual representation is less 
effective in moving the souls of the masses" 
(Ibn Rushd, Kashf, 244). lUuminationist 
(Ishraqi) philosophers, such as al-Shirazi 
(d. 1050/1641), who recognized the har- 
mony of philosophy and mysticism 
(Sufism) for the first time in Islamic history, 
tended to follow the lead of Ibn Sina on 
this and similar questions. 

This article has shown that the Qiir'an 
speaks in the first place of wisdom (hikma), 
both in the Greek sense of sophia and the 
Semitic or biblical sense of divine revela- 
tion to Muhainmad, Jesus and the Hebrew 
prophets. In the second place, it urges the 
believers to contemplate the wonders of 
creation, to reflect, to consider and ponder 
the mysterious ways of God. Such con- 
templation, reflection, consideration and 
pondering are the hallmarks of the philo- 
sophical method as it was applied to the 
theological and ethical questions which 
preoccupied the mutakallimun and the phi- 
losophers from the earliest times. 

The major problems around which con- 
troversy in theological and philosophical 
circles turned centered on such questions 
as the existence of God, the creation of the 



world, the destiny of humans in the here- 
after and the rationality and justice of 
God's ways as creator and providential 
rtiler of the world. As the controversy be- 
tween the philosophers and the theologians 
intensified, the latter split into two rival 
groups, the pro-philosophical, led by the 
Mu'tazills, and the anti-philosophical, led 
by the Hanballs and the Ash'aris. Naturally 
enough, both groups sought support in the 
Qiir'an for their conflicting interpretations 
of those ambiguous passages which bear 
directly or indirectly on the problems in 
question. Some theologians and jurists 
confined the prerogative of interpreting 
the so-called "ambiguous" passages of the 
Qur'an to God; others, including some 
philosophers, extended this prerogative to 
the learned or specially gifted, as Ibn 
Rushd has done. 

The status of the Qiir'an itself and 
whether it was created in time (makhliiq) or 
was eternal (qadim) raised, from the third/ 
ninth century on, the most acute questions 
and led to endless recriminations between 
some theologians, such as the Mu'tazilis, 
and those jurists and tradition-mongers 
(muhaddithun), such as Ibn Hanbal and his 
followers, who insisted that the Qiir'an was 
"the eternal and uncreated word of God," 
relying in the last analysis on those pas- 
sages in the Qiir'an itself which speak of 
the "mother of the book" and the "well- 
preserved tablet," in reference to the origi- 
nal codex on which the Qiir'an was 
inscribed since all time. The Ash'aris, who 
sought an intermediate position between 
the Mu'tazills and the Hanballs, tried to 
resolve the conflict by distinguishing be- 
tween the "significations" (daldldt) of the 
words in which the Qur'an is expressed 
and the actual words themselves, written 
CODICES OF THE q^ur'an) or recited (see 
RECITATION OF THE ^Ur'an), which could 

not as such be eternal or uncreated, since 
they belonged to the category of perish- 
able accidents. Some philosophers, includ- 
ing Ibn Rushd, subscribed to this view. In 
popular Muslim consciousness, however, it 
is fair to say that the Hanbali view, which 
stresses the sanctity and inimitability fi'jdz) 
of the qur'anic text, may be said to have 
triumphed, and the Qur'an continues to- 
day to be regarded by the vast majority of 
Muslims as the miraculous word of God 
(see miracles; marvels). Contemporary 
scholars, such as the late Pakistani Fazliir 
Rahman (d. 1988) and the Egyptian Nasr 
Hamid Abu Zayd, who attempted to draw 
a line of demarcation between the human 
and divine aspects of the qur'anic text, or 
to apply the canons of literary or "higher 
criticism" to that text (see contemporary 
critical practices and the qur'an), 
have been either reprimanded or declared 
infidel (kdfir; see exegesis of the qur'an: 

post-enlightenment academic STUDY 
OF THE qur'an). This has served as a 
warning to other contemporary liberal 
scholars or philosophers to avoid this 
highly sensitive subject altogether. 

Majid Fakhry 

Primary: Aristotle, Metaphysics, ed. and trans. 
H.G. Apostle, Bloomington 1966, 1973^; al- 
Ash'arT, Abu 1-Hasan 'All b. Isma'il, al-Ibdna 'an 
Usui al-diydna, ed. F. Husayn Mahmud, Cairo 
1997; Eng. trans. R.J. McCarthy, The theology of 
al-Ash'an, Beirut 1953; al-Farabl, Abu Nasr 
Muhammad b. Muhammad, Ard^ ahl al-madina 
al-jddila, ed. A. Nader, Beirut 1959; al-Ghazali, 
Abu Hamid Muhammad b. Muhammad, al- 
Qustds al-mustaqwi, ed. M.A. al-Zu'bT, Beirut 
1973; id., Tahdfut al-faldsifa, ed. M. Bouyges, 
Beirut 1927; al-Hasan al-Basrl, Abu Sa'id b. Abl 
1-Hasan, Risdlafi l-qadar, in M. Fakhry, al-Fikr 
al-akhldqi l-'arabT, 2 vols., Beirut 1978, 1986, i, 
17-28; Ibn Rushd, Abu 1-Walld Muhammad b. 
Ahmad, Biddyat al-mujtahid wa-nihdyat al-muqtasid 
[English]. The distinguished jurist's primer, trans. 


A.Kh. Nyazee, 2 vols., Doha 1994-6, Reading 
2000; id.. Fast al-maqdl, ed. A. Nader, Beirut 1961; 
id., al-Kashf ^an mandhij al-adilla, ed. M. Qasim, 
Cairo 1961; id., Tahafut al-tahdfut, ed. M. Bouyges, 
Beirut 1930; Ibn Slna, Abu 'All al-Husayn b. 
'Abdallah, Kitdb al-Najdt, ed. M. Fakhry, Beirut 
1985; al-Jahiz, al-Radd 'ala 1-nasara, in A.S.M. 
Hariin (ed.), Rasd'il al-Jdhix, 4 vols., Cairo 1979, 
iii, 301-51; TabarT, Tafsir, Cairo 1954-68. 
Secondary: I. Bello, The medieval Islamic controversy 
between philosophy and orthodoxy. Ijmd ^ and ta 'wTl in the 
conflict between al-Ghazdli and ibn Rushd, Leiden 
1989; D. Black, Logic and Aristotle's rhetoric and 
poetics in medieval Arabic philosophy, Leiden 1990; 
H. Corbin, History of Islamic philosophy, trans. 
L. Sherrard, London 1993; van Ess, TO; 
M. Fakhry (ed.), al~Fikr al-akhldqi l-'arabi, 2 vols., 
Beirut 1986; id., A history of Islamic philosophy. 
New York 1983; id. (trans.). The Qur'dn. A modern 
English version, Reading 1998; O. Leanian, /I com- 
panion to the philosophers, ed. R. Arrington, Oxford 
1999; id.. Key concepts in eastern philosophy, London 
1999; R Morewedge (ed.), Islamic philosophical 
theology, Albany 1979; id. (ed.). Islamic philosophy 
and mysticism. New York 1981; W. Muir, The apol- 
ogy of al-Kindi, London 1882; S. Nasr and 
O. Leaman (eds.). History of Islamic philosophy, 
London 1996; K. Reinhart, Before revelation. The 
boundaries of Muslim moral thought, Albany 1995; 
N. Reseller, The development of Arabic logic, Pitts- 
burgh 1964; ^vp'piTi, Approaches; D. Sahas, J^o/m 
of Damascus on Islam, Leiden 1972; W.M. Watt, 
Islamic philosophy and theology. An extended survey, 
Edinburgh 1985; H. Wolfson, The philosophy of 
the kalam, Cambridge, MA 1976. 


Exhibiting loyalty to parents (i.e. filial 
piety) or manifesting devotion to God. Tlie 
concept of piety in Arabic can be conveyed 
by the non-qur'anic terms wara' and z^hd, 
and the qur'anic words birr, taqwd and ihsdn. 
(For zuhd as ethics, see Kinberg, Znhd; see 
also ETHICS AND THE c)Ur'an. Ihsdn is often 
used to express filial piety and understood 
by the commentators as birr; see Rahman, 
Major themes, 42.) The following focuses on 
the terms birr and taqwd, which are treated 
in the Qiir'an as crucial components of 
true belief (see belief and unbelief). 

Those who practice birr, the abrdr, and 
those who have taqwd, the muttaqun, or 

alladhina ttaqu, are mentioned among the 
future dwellers of paradise (q.v.; c) 82:13; 
68:34). The most comprehensive definition 
of the term birr is given in q 2:177: "It is 
not piety (al-birr) that you turn your faces 
to the east and to the west. [True] piety is 
[this] : to believe in God and the last day 
(see LAST judgment; apocalypse; 
eschatolooy), the angels (see angel), the 
book (q.v.), and the prophets (see prophets 
AND prophethood), to give of one's sub- 
stance, [however cherished,] to kinsmen 
(see kinship), and orphans (q.v), the needy 
(see poverty and the poor), the traveler 
(see journey), beggars, and to ransom the 
slave (see slaves and slavery), to per- 
form the prayer (q.v.), to pay the alms (see 
almsgiving). And they who fulfil their cov- 
enant (q.v.), when they have engaged in a 
covenant, and endure with fortitude mis- 
fortune, hardship and peril (see trust and 
patience; trial), these are they who are 
true in their faith (q.v.), these are the truly 
godfearing [al-muttaqun; see also fear)." 
This list touches upon interpersonal re- 
lationships as well as human-divine rela- 
tionships, and in this sense it agrees with 
the definition of piety as it appears in 
Webster's new twentieth century dictionary: 
(i) devotion to religious duties and prac- 
tices; (2) loyalty and devotion to parents, 
family, etc. 

For a more profound understanding, 
however, of the references to piety in the 
Qrir'an, one should examine the qur'anic 
correlation between birr and taqwd. The 
ending of c) 2:177 mentions the muttaqun, 
"the godfearing," and refers to them as 
those who fulfill all the duties presented in 
the first part of the verse, namely those 
who practice birr, o 2:189 is even clearer 
about the similitude between birr and 
taqwd: "... Piety (al-birr) is not to come to 
the houses from the backs of them (see 
piety is to be godfearing (al-birru mani 



ttaqd); so come to the houses by their doors, 
and fear God; haply so you will prosper." 
In both verses cited above, comparisons 
are made between the true believers and 
the others, either Jews and Christians (see 


Christianity) or the pre-Islamic Arabs 
[jdhilia; see age of ignorance; south 


early Muslims who did not have the shana 
(see PATH or way; law and the q^ur'an) 
to follow (Qvirtubl, j'amr, ii, 237, 345). Birr, 
in both verses, presents duties, the perfor- 
mance of which indicates true belief, de- 
fined as being godfearing or possessing 
taqwd. Furthermore, o 5:2 mentions birr 
and taqwd as two complementary elements 
of proper conduct: "... Help one another 
to piety (al-birr) and fear of God (al-taqwd); 
do not help each other to sin and enmity 
(see SIN, major and minor; enemies). And 
fear God; surely God is terrible in retribu- 
tion" (see also (j 58:9). The commentators 
on this verse distinguish one term from the 
other by stating that birr implies duties one 
should perform whereas taqwd refers to 
actions from which one should refrain 
(Wahidi, Wasit, ii, 150). This may be used 
to illuminate the way the two terms relate 
to each other and to clarify the way the 
Qur'an understands piety. Birr is the in- 
clusive term for ethics; it underlies the 
pleasing conduct in daily communal life; it 
is anchored in and stimulated by the feel- 
ing of fear of the one God (taqwd), which is 
fear of the consequences of actions that 
violate the values included under birr (see 


and forbidding). 

Leah Kinberg 

Primary: Ibn al-JawzT, at-Birr wa-t-sita, Beirut 
1993; Qiirtubl, Jam?'; WahidT, Wasit. 
Secondary: Arberry; Izutsu, Concepts; id., God and 
man in the Koran, Tokyo 1964; L. Kinberg, What is 

meant by zatid, in a'/6i (1985), 27-44; F- Rahman, 
Major ttiemes oj the Qur'dn, Chicago 1980. 


see animal life 


A journey to a holy place, and the religious 
activities associated with it. The words 
most often translated as pilgrimage, both 
in the Qiir'an and with regard to Muslim 
ritual (see ritual and the cjur'an), are 
haj] and 'umra. The word hajj occurs nine 
times in five different verses (in c) 2:189, 
three times; in C3 2:196, three times; and 
once each in o 2:197, Q^ 9:3 and c) 22:27), 
'umra twice in one verse only (o 2:196) but 
there are also a number of related nominal 
and verbal forms for each. With reference 
to Muslim practice, hajj is sometimes dis- 
tinguished as the major pilgrimage, 'umra 
as the minor, but whether one is speaking 
of the Qiir'an or of Muslim practice, the 
word pilgrimage is not really an adequate 
indication of what fiajj and 'umra involve. 
The English word commonly suggests a 
journey to a sacred place made as a re- 
ligious act. The focus is on the journey 
itself, even though the pilgrim may par- 
ticipate in religious ceremonies and rituals 
once the object of the pilgrimage has been 
reached. Those who make hajj and 'umra, it 
is true, have nearly always traveled long 
distances to Mecca (q.v.) in order to do so, 
and a substantial part of the journey has to 
be made in the sacral state known as ihrdm, 
but it is the rites and ceremonies that are 
performed after arriving that really con- 
stitute the haj] or the 'umra. If consideration 
is restricted to the relevant qur'anic pas- 
sages without reference to Muslim practice, 
it is questionable how far they evoke the 
idea of pilgrimage as journey, although it 
could not be ruled out that traveling to 
perform haj] or 'umra is envisaged. 



The traditional Arabic lexicographers 
associate the verbal forms hajja and i'tamara 
with the idea of travelling to a place (es- 
pecially the sanctuary; see ka'ba) for the 
purpose of a visit (ziyara) but that possibly 
reflects standard Muslim practice and may 
not be an accurate guide to the basic 
meaning of the words. The roots h-j(-j) (or 
h-w-j) and '-m-r occur in other Semitic lan- 
guages apart from Arabic but it is difficult 
to determine basic meanings for them. The 
use of cognate words to elucidate the 
meaning of hajj and 'umra is complicated by 
the fact that Semiticists sometimes use 
Arabic materials influenced by Islam to 
attempt to clarify the vocabulary of, say, 
Hebrew or south Arabian. H-j(-j), it has 
been suggested, has a number of possible 
meanings including procession, round, 
dance or festival. It has been argued that 
basically it refers to the act of dancing or 
processing around an altar or other cultic 
object, and that that relates to the ritual 
of the circumambulation (tawdf) of the 
Ka'ba, which is an important part of both 
hajj and 'umra. In the Bible the Hebrew haj 
is usually translated simply as festival or 
feast, although it could involve the par- 
ticipants in journeying to the place, Jeru- 
salem or elsewhere, where the haj was to be 
held (e.g. Exod 23:14-7; Deut 16:16). In that 
light the Arabic hajj might be understood 
as a "pilgrim festival." The root '-m-r is 
harder to document in any sense securely 
related to the Arabic 'umra. 

As well as the nine qur'anic attestations 
of haj], c) 3:97 proclaims hijj (sic) al-bayt {bajt 
referring to the house or sanctuary associ- 
ated with Abraham; see Abraham; house, 
DOMESTIC and divine) as a duty owed to 
God for anyone who can find a way to it 
(mani statd'a ilayhi sabilan). This is the verse 
that is understood as establishing the 
obligation (fard) for every Muslim to make 
hajj at least once in his lifetime; possible 
justifications for failing to meet the obliga- 

tion are discussed in commentary on the 
phrase "for anyone who can find a way to 
it." Generally, hijj is seen as no more than a 
dialectical variant of hajj without signifi- 
cance as to meaning, although there are 
some attempts to make distinctions in 
meaning between the two vocalizations. 
C3 2:158 uses the verbal forms hajja and 
i'tamara (man hajja l-hajta awi 'tamara). q 9:19 
has the noun hajj, apparently indicating 
someone making hajj, in the context of a 
rhetorical question: "Do you count provid- 
ing water for him who makes hajj, and hab- 
itation of al-masjid al-hardm (see profane 
and sacred), as comparable with believing 
in God and the last day and making jihad 
(q.v.) in the way of God (see path or way; 
LAST judgment; faith)?" The references 
to hajj and 'umra sometimes occur in the 
context of more extended passages which 
contain regulations for those making them 
or which relate in some way to the sanctu- 
ary at which they take place. The cjur'anic 
verses do not, however, contain sufficient 
detail to enable us to use them as a blue- 
print even for those rituals to which they 
allude, and there are many aspects of the 
Muslim sanctuary and its pilgrimage cer- 
emonies to which no allusion is made in 
the Qiir'an. The detailed Islamic regula- 
tions regarding these pilgrimages, there- 
fore, do not depend primarily upon 
qur'anic passages. 

Furthermore, it sometimes seems that 
there is a degree of tension between 
Muslim practice or legal doctrines and 
some of the qur'anic materials. The com- 
mentators, naturally, attempt to interpret 
the verses and the more extended passages, 
and to address the problems which they 
raise, with the Muslim forms of hajj and 
'umra in mind. They assume that the pas- 
sages are concerned with the Ka'ba at 
Mecca and its related sacred places and 
that they not only refer to, but to some 
extent provide a warrant for, the hajj and 



the 'unira as we know them from Muslim 
law and practice (see LAW and the cjur'an). 

In some cases, however, the qnr'anic 
materials are problematical from that point 
of view, and much of the interest in read- 
ing the commentaries on the verses relat- 
ing to hajj and 'umra consists in observing 
how the texts are accommodated to later 
Muslim assumptions. In general, it seems 
that while there are definite points of con- 
tact (e.g. in terminology and some proper 
names) between the qnr'anic passages and 
the pilgrimages as we know them from 
Muslim law and practice, it cannot be said 
that all the scriptural passages fit easily 
with the normative Muslim forms of hajj, 
'umra, and the sanctuary with which they 
are associated. The following examples 
illustrate some apparent disjunctions and 
some of the interpretative strategies that 
seem to be adopted in order to overcome 

O 2:158 reads: "Al-Safa and al-Marwa 
(see safa and marwa) are among the signs 
(sha'd'ir) of God. Whoever makes haj] of 
the sanctuary (al-bayt) or 'umra, no wrong 
attaches to him if he makes circumam- 
bulation of the two (Idjundha 'alajhi an 
yattawwafa bi-himd). Whoever performs 
something good voluntarily (wa-man 
tatawwa'a khayran), God recognizes and 
knows (it)." Commentators here unani- 
mously identify al-Safa and al-Marwa as 
the two small elevations known by those 
names in Mecca, the former just to the 
south-east, the latter to the north-east, of 
the mosque which contains the Ka'ba, 
about 400 yards apart. The ritual of the 
Muslim haj] and 'umra includes a seven- 
times-repeated passage between al-Safa 
and al-Marwa, part of which has to be 
covered at a faster than walking pace. For 
that reason the ritual is ordinarily referred 
to as the sa'y (literally, "run"). The com- 
mentators, usually without discussion, 
identify the Islamic sa'y with the circum- 

ambulation implied in the Qiir'an's an 
yattawwafa bi-himd even though the Islamic 
ritual here can only questionably be de- 
scribed as a circumambulation. In discus- 
sions of the ritual in hadith (see HADITH 
AND THE our'an) and jurisprudence (fiqh) 
it is usually referred to as sa'y but tawdfis 
not infrequent. The major issue discussed 
in connection with this verse, however, is 
why it is stated that "no wrong attaches to" 
(Idjundha 'aid) the person who makes the 
tawdfof^ al-Safa and al-Marwa when it is 
virtually unanimously accepted in Islam 
that the ritual is an integral part of both 
hajj and 'umra. A well-known report tells us 
that 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr asked 'A'isha (see 
'a'isha bint abi bakr) whether it meant 
that no wrong accrued to a person who 
did not make the tawdfhetween them, 
an interpretation which she strongly 

There are several variant reports in- 
tended to explain how something which is 
regarded as meritorious, and by most as 
obligatory, should be described as incur- 
ring no wrong [jundh is often glossed as 
ithm, "sin"; see sin, major and minor). 
Most attempt to do so by referring, with 
variant details, to a group, which before 
Islam avoided al-Safa and al-Marwa 
because they were associated with idolatry 
(see idolatry and idolaters; poly- 
theism AND atheism) and therefore had 
qualms about making the tawdfoi them in 
Islam. The wording of the verse was in- 
tended to reassure them that God did not 
disapprove of the rite once its idolatrous 
associations had been removed. Another 
"occasion of revelation" (see occasions of 
revelation) report refers to a group that 
did make this tawdfheiore Islam and were 
puzzled when God ordered the tawdfoi the 
Ka'ba (o 22:29 is understood to mean that) 
but did not mention the two hills. They 
asked the Prophet whether there was any- 
thing wrong in making the tawdfoi al-Safa 



and al-Marwa and then the verse was 

Some claimed that the passage between 
the two elevations is not an obligatory part 
of the ritual of haj] and 'umra and, in 
addition to suggesting that the verse may 
be read "there is no harm in not making 
circumambulation of the two," wanted to 
see its concluding words, "whoever vol- 
untarily does something good, God is 
thankful and cognizant," as a reference to 
the voluntary nature of this saj/tawaf. 
That was rejected by the majority who 
insisted that the ritual is an integral part 
of both hajj and 'umra, and said that the 
concluding words of the verse allude to 
those who make a voluntary hajj or 
'umra — it has nothing to do with al-Safa 
and al-Marwa. Among those who insisted 
that the ritual was obligatory, there were 
differences of opinion about the conse- 
quences of failing to perform the passage 
between al-Safa and al-Marwa when mak- 
ing the obligatory once-in-a-lifetime hajj 
(hijjat al-isldm): can missing it be compen- 
sated for by a recompense (Jidya) of a 
blood offering (see sacrifice) like some of 
the other rites, or does it require a return 
to Mecca in person to perform it? There 
are conflicting views on this point. 

Similar problems arise concerning the 
command at the beginning of the long 
verse C3 2:196: "Complete the hajj and the 
'umra for God." Commentary on this 
phrase is fundamentally concerned to es- 
tablish the distinction between tiajj and 
'u7nra (what rituals each involves) and with 
the issue of whether, as the wording might 
imply, the 'umra is obligatory (fard wdjib) 
like the hajj, or merely voluntary as the 
majority view in Islam holds. 

Some proponents of the voluntary nature 
of 'umra read that word in the nominative 
case, giving the sense, "complete the hajj 

but the 'umra is for God " Others who 

hold this understanding of the voluntary 

nature of 'umra maintained the standard 
reading, with 'umra in the accusative, but 
argued that "complete" (atimmu) means 
"complete it when you have undertaken to 
perform it." To the accusation that that 
could mean that the haj] also is voluntary, 
they responded by arguing that it is (j 3:97 
and not this verse which establishes the 
obligatory nature for every Muslim of at 
least one haj). Those who held the 'umra to 
be obligatory preferred the standard read- 
ing and supported their argument with 
hadiths in which the Prophet included 
'umra among the obligatory things 
required of a Muslim. Their opponents 
rejected the validity of those hadiths 
and countered with ones proclaiming 
the opposite. 

The continuation of q 2:196 then pres- 
ents a different problem regarding the ac- 
commodation of the text to extra-qur'anic 
considerations. One immediately notice- 
able and surprising feature in the com- 
mentaries is the amount of attention given 
to the meaning of the expression "if you 
are detained" (fa-in uhsirtum) in the regula- 
tions about what should be done if you are 
unable to fulfil the verse's initial command 
to "complete the hajj and the 'umra for 
God." Generally it is agreed that this 
means, "if you are detained when you have 
undertaken to make hajj or 'umra." In that 
case, according to the verse, the person 
prevented from fulfilling the injunction 
made at its opening must make "a con- 
venient [animal] offering" (ma staysara mina 
l-hadj; see consei;ration of animals) and 
must remain in the sacral state of ihrdm 
("do not shave your heads") until the ani- 
mal offerings arrive at the time and place 
for slaughter (q.v; hattd yablugha l-hadyu 
mahillahu). There is, however, quite com- 
plex discussion about the circumstances 
that may lead to detention. Does it mean 
only such things as illness (see illness and 
health), injury to one's mount, and 



financial difficulties (see poverty and the 
poor); does it refer only to detention by an 
enemy (see enemies) or a human agent 
such as a ruler; or does it cover all of these 
possible causes? Those questions are re- 
lated to the fact that it is widely accepted 
that this verse was revealed at the time 
when the Prophet and his companions 
were prevented by his Meccan opponents 
from completing an intended 'umra on 
which they had started (see opposition to 
Muhammad). Most of the reports about 
that incident say that the Prophet ordered 
his companions to slaughter the animal 
offerings (hadj) at al-Hudaybiya (q.v.) 
where they had been stopped. Most agree 
that al-Hudaybiya was outside the sacred 
territory (the haram; see sacred pre- 
cincts), that the Prophet did not imply 
that he and his companions had any fur- 
ther obligations once the hady had been 
slaughtered, but that in the following year 
he went to Mecca and performed an 'umra 
(known as 'umrat al-qadd' or 'umrat al-qadiyja, 
"the 'umra of completion"). This tradition 
seems to conflict with the regulations set 
out in q 2:196 concerning someone who is 
"detained" from completing hajj or 
"umra — that abandoning the sacred state 
should not take place until the animal 
offerings reach their time and place for 
slaughter. The complex and detailed dis- 
cussions in the commentaries on this verse 
display varying attitudes as to whether 
priority should be accorded to the tradi- 
tion about the Prophet's behavior at al- 
Hudaybiya, to the regulations set out in the 
verse (and further elaborated by some of 
the scholars), or to practicality. Generally 
the Malikis emphasize the importance 
of the tradition about al-Hudaybiya as a 
model for someone intending to make 
'umra but who is then prevented from com- 
pleting it through detention by an enemy. 
Anyone detained by any other cause must 
not leave the consecrated state (except in 

the case of an illness the treatment of 
which necessitates this) until he has 
reached Mecca and performed an 'umra. 
Al-Tabarl's (d. 310/923; Tafsir, ad loc.) 
account of the Maliki understanding of 
o 2:196 and of the way in which they relate 
it to their doctrine is, however, hard to un- 
derstand and does not seem completely 
logical. Others give priority to the wording 
of the verse and some attempt to harmo- 
nize it with the Hudaybiya tradition by 
excluding detention by an enemy from the 
cases covered hyfa-in uhsirtum. In general, 
the complex arguments of the commenta- 
tors on this part of the verse may be un- 
derstood as the result of their attempts to 
interpret it in the light of existing practice, 
law and other material regarded as rel- 
evant for determining practice. 

A further example of the difficulties 
which arise when attempting to interpret 
the qur'anic material with the Muslim ritu- 
als in mind is provided by c) 2:198-9. 
C3 2:198 tells believers that after making 
ijdda (fa-idhd afadtum) from 'Arafat (q.v.) 
they should remember God by al-mash'ar 
al-hardm; the next verse orders them to 
"then" make ijada from where the people 
make it (thumma ajidu min haythu afdda 
l-ndsu). In the Muslim hajj rituals, 'Arafat, a 
hill about twenty-five kilometers to the east 
of Mecca, is the site of the ceremony of 
the wuquf, without which, according to sev- 
eral traditions and legal authorities, hajj is 
invalid. The vuuquf, the "standing" ritual, 
takes place on the flat ground on the side 
of the hill towards Mecca on the 9th of 
Dhu l-Hijja. Outside the Qiir'an the name 
of the hill often occurs in the form 'Arafa, 
and the commentators discuss and offer 
various explanations for the seemingly 
feminine plural form of the name in the 
Qur'an and for its etymology: associating it 
with the verb 'arafa, "to know, to recog- 
nize," they relate various stories involving 
earlier prophets (especially Adam or 



Abraham) who recognized people or things 
there (see ADAM and eve). 

The attempted identification of al-mash 'ar 
al-hardm is more complex and, to some ex- 
tent, inconsistent. ^Z-ma.yA'flr is imderstood 
to mean the same as al-ma 'lam, "a place in 
or by which something is known, a place in 
which there is a sign" — here, a place in 
which rituals of the hajj take place. State- 
ments attempting to locate al-mash 'ar al- 
hardm give various specifications. Common 
to many of them is the idea that it is as- 
sociated with al-Muzdalifa, the destination 
of a procession (ifdda) from 'Arafa in the 
Muslim hajj. The simplest statement is of 
the form "all of al-Muzdalifa is al-mash 'ar 
al-hardm." Others are more specific but at 
the same time more confusing, while some 
seem to indicate a much wider area. For 
example, Ibn 'Umar is reported to have 
said when he stood "at the furthest part of 
the hills (jibdl) adjoining 'Arafat" that "all 
of it is mashd'ir to the furthest point of the 
haram." In notable reports cited by al- 
Tabarl, Ibn Jurayj seems not to know the 
location of al-Muzdalifa while 'Abd al- 
Rahman b. al-Aswad said that he could not 
find anybody who could tell him about 
al-mash'ar al-hardm. Al-Tabarl comments on 
these traditions in ways which limit their 
apparent significance. The verbal noun 
ifdda, literally a "pouring out" or "pouring 
forth," is imderstood as referring to a sort 
of hasty procession when the pilgrims pour 
forth from one place, where they have been 
gathered together, to another. The name is 
given to various "processions" involved in 
the hajj ceremonies, but it most commonly 
refers to that to al-Muzdalifa from the 
plain in front of the hill of 'Arafa. At al- 
Muzdalifa the pilgrims spend the night 
before going to Mina on the next day. It 
may be this which leads to the attempts to 
identify al-mash 'ar al-hardm in connection 
with al-Muzdalifa. There is then a problem 
with the command, "then make ifdda from 

where the people make ifdda, " at the begin- 
ning of q 2:199, since it comes after the 
phrase "when you have made ifdda from 
'Arafat" in q 2:198. Some understand the 
same fdda, i.e. that from 'Arafat to al- 
Muzdalifa, to be referred to in both pas- 
sages and see the latter command as 
addressed specifically to the Qiiraysh (q.v.) 
of Mecca who, in the Age of Ignorance 
{q.v.;jdhiliyja), belonged to a group called 
the Hums. The Hums, we are told, re- 
garded it as beneath them to go outside the 
haram at the time of the hajj. Since 'Arafat 
lies outside the sacred area, they would not 
go to join in the ifada thence like the rest of 
the people. That explains the apparent 
difficulty of having the command intro- 
duced after the allusion which suggests that 
the duty had already been fulfilled. 
Another approach is to see the ifdda com- 
manded in the second passage as different 
from that in the former: while the former is 
that from 'Arafa to al-Muzdalifa, the latter 
is that from al-Muzdalifa to Mina (some- 
times called the dajfd'). The command is 
understood as addressed to the Muslims 
generally while "the people" (al-nds) is 
interpreted as a reference to Abraham. 
Al-Tabarl himself prefers this second pos- 
sibility even though it is a minority one and 
even though it involves explaining how the 
collective nds coidd refer to a single indi- 
vidual. His reasoning is that he does not 
think that God would say "when you have 
made the ifdda" in the previous verse and 
then begin this one with the words "then 
make ifdda" if the same ifdda was meant 
both times. 

In q 2:203 the "numbered days" (ayydm 
ma'duddt) on which we are commanded to 
remember God are generally identified as 
the so-called ayydm al-tashriq of the Muslim 
hajj, the three days spent at Mina following 
the slaughter of the animal offerings there. 
The following statement that no sin (ithm) 
is incurred by those who "make haste in 



two days" (man ta'ajjala Ji jawmayn) nor by 
those who "delay" (man ta'akhkhara), so long 
as there is fear (q.v.) of God, is generally 
understood to mean that there is nothing 
wrong with departing from Mina after two 
days nor with doing so after three. Since 
the latter is the normal accepted practice, 
however, that raises the same question 
which we have seen asked about the 
qur'anic reference to al-Safa and al- 
Marwa: why would God say that no sin 
is incurred by doing something regarded 
as a normal part of the haj] rituals? An 
alternative way of interpreting this 
verse — that it is alluding to the Muslim 
belief that a properly accomplished hajj 
frees the pilgrim from some or all of his 
sins, and that that applies whether one cuts 
short the ayjdm al-tashnq or remains at 
Mina until they have finished — is prob- 
ably to be understood as an attempt to 
avoid the difficulty inherent in the previous 

The mention in C3 3:96 of the "first house 
(bajt) ... at Bakka," which is naturally 
understood as a reference to the Ka'ba at 
Mecca (Makka), involves the commenta- 
tors in variant explanations as to why the 
Qur'an uses the form Bakka. It seems obvi- 
ous that all of the suggested explanations 
are simply attempts to account for some- 
thing of which the commentators had no 
real knowledge, and the way in which it is 
done — e.g. by reference to the crowding 
[izdihdm, a word the root of which is said to 
have the same meaning as that of bakka) of 
the people in the circumambulation of the 
Ka'ba — again illustrates the way in which 
the commentators attempt to relate the 
qur'anic material to the Muslim pilgrimage 

Finally in this connection there may be 
noted the difficulties the commentators 
have with the expression al-hajj al-akbar, 
"the greater hajj,'" in C3 9:3 ("a proclama- 
tion from God and his messenger to the 

people on the day of al-hajj al-akbar^). Here 
there is considerable diversity in interpre- 
tation of the phrase: some wish to explain 
it as referring to a particular day or par- 
ticular days of the hajj rituals — the day of 
the "standing" at 'Arafa, the day of the 
slaughter of the victims, etc.; most associ- 
ate it with the hajj led by Abu Bakr imme- 
diately following the conquest of Mecca by 
the Prophet, but some with the "Farewell 
Pilgrimage" (q.v.) led by the Prophet him- 
self in the last year of his life, and they give 
variant explanations of why the one or the 
other should be called al-hajj al-akbar; yet 
others explain it by reference to the distinc- 
tion between the "major" pilgrimage (the 
hajj) and the "minor" pilgrimage (the 'umra 
which may, allegedly, be called al-hajj al- 
asghar), or between a hajj combined with an 
'umra and a hajj performed alone. Again it 
seems obvious that the commentators have 
no real understanding of the phrase but try 
to make sense of it by aligning it with 
Muslim practice and, in this case, with tra- 
ditions relating to the life of the Prophet. 
It might be argued that, in spite of dis- 
junctions of the sort illustrated above, the 
qur'anic materials nevertheless reflect 
institutions and practices that are not radi- 
cally different from those of Islam. Much 
of the qur'anic terminology, after all, is 
used also in Muslim law and ritual prac- 
tice, and the few proper names that occur 
(al-Safa, al-Marwa, 'Arafat) are those of 
places in or near Mecca. On the other 
hand, it might be thought that the relative 
paucity and lack of detail of the qur'anic 
verses concerning hajj and 'umra make it 
impossible to judge the extent to which 
they envisage the same rites in the same 
places as does classical Islam. Not only are 
some rites and places which are of major 
importance in Muslim practice (e.g. Zam- 
zam, Mina, the wuqiif, the stoning ritual; 
see stoning; springs and fountains) not 
mentioned at all in the Qiir'an, those 



names which do occur may not indicate 
the same things as they do in classical 
Islam. The traditional accounts of how the 
Meccan sanctuary and the rites associated 
with it came to be incorporated into Islam 
assume a basic continuity. According to 
tradition, the Prophet took over the Ka'ba 
and the other places in the vicinity of 
Mecca and did not radically change the 
rituals which at the time constituted the 
haj] and the 'umra. He cleansed them of 
the idolatry which polluted them and re- 
stored the pristine monotheism which had 
existed when Abraham built the Ka'ba 
and summoned humankind to make hajj 
and 'umra, but apart from that he made 
only minor and marginal alterations 
(see hanIf). 

Some scholars have suggested that the 
changes involved in the identification of 
the Meccan sanctuary as the Muslim sanc- 
tuary were more significant. Following 
Snouck Hurgronje and Wellhausen, many 
have argued that the evidence points to a 
unification of a number of originally dis- 
tinct and independent holy places and ritu- 
als in a way that focused them on the 
Ka'ba at Mecca. According to that view, 
the hajj originally had nothing to do with 
Mecca or the Ka'ba but concerned Mount 
'Arafa and other holy places at some dis- 
tance from Mecca. It was the "umra which 
was originally the ritual associated with the 

The phrasing of () 2:158 with its apparent 
concern to reassure the hearers that tawdf 
of al-Safa and al-Marwa was an accept- 
able part of haj] or 'umra has sometimes 
been explained by reference to that idea: it 
reflects an early stage in the process in 
which the rituals of the 'umra came to be 
incorporated in the hajj and perhaps mir- 
rors the objections of those who ques- 
tioned the validity of that incorporation. 
(For a different approach, see Burton, 
Collection, 12, 16, 30-1.) 

A particularly difficult passage in (j 2:196 
might also reflect such a development. 
Following the section, discussed above, 
which establishes rules for those "detained" 
from meeting the command to "complete 
the hajj and the 'umra for God," we then 
read: "and when you are in security, then 
whoever enjoys/benefits from the 'umra 
to/for/imtil the hajj (man tamatta 'a bi-l- 
'umrati ild l-hajji), then [there is incumbent 
upon him] a convenient [animal] offering 
(ma stajsara mina l-hadji)." 

"When you are in security" (fa-idhd amin- 
tum) is understood as meaning "when the 
circumstances which detained you no lon- 
ger pertain." Commentary then concerns 
itself with the knotty issue of what is 
meant by the tamattu ' referred to in the fol- 
lowing phrase. In their discussions com- 
mentators and other traditional scholars 
also use the forms mut'a and istimtd' and 
they reflect a variety of understandings of 
what the phrase means. The relevant 
phrase in {) 2:196 (man tamatta'a bi-l-'umrati 
ild l-hajji) is difficult to translate, and at- 
tempts to interpret it reflect ideas current 
in Islamic practice or legal theory. 

What most interpretations have in com- 
mon is that tamattu' [or istimtd' or mut'a) 
involves a premature abandonment of the 
consecrated state on the part of the pil- 
grim. For example, one of the most com- 
mon understandings of the concept is that 
the pilgrim has begun by intending to per- 
form both 'umra and hajj and has stated that 
intention when he adopted ihrdm. On ar- 
riving at Mecca before the hajj has started 
he performs an 'umra and then leaves the 
state of ihrdm, thus removing restrictions 
regarding such things as toilet, dress and 
sexual activity (see sex and sexuality; 
RITUAL purity). He remains in this nor- 
mal, desacralized state until the time for 
the hajj arrives, when he once more enters 
ihrdm and remains in the sacralized state 
until the hajj is over. For that break in ihrdm 



he is liable to the penalty of an offering or 
something in lieu of it. 

The issue is a contentious one and the 
traditions report disputes about it among 
the Companions and Successors (see 


this qur'anic verse which treats tamattu ' in a 
rather matter-of-fact way even though it 
does say that an offering must be made by 
anyone who takes advantage of it, and in 
spite of traditions which tell us that the 
Prophet told his Companions to avail 
themselves of mut'a (but one often involv- 
ing a different understanding of it to that 
just summarized) at the time of the 
Farewell Pilgrimage, there are reports that 
some Companions and caliphs (see 
caliph) disapproved of and even forbade 
it. The caliph 'Umar figures prominently 
in such reports. Nevertheless, the SunnI 
schools of law (madhhabs) all recognize the 
validity of the procedure and the Shl'is (see 
shI'ism and the qUR'AN) cven recommend 
it as the preferred way of performing hajj. 

A related verbal form occurs in (J 4:24 
(md stamta'tum bihi minhunna), where it 
clearly refers to the sexual enjoyment of 
women by men, and the word mutd is more 
widely known as the name of a form of 
temporary marriage (q.v.), where the con- 
tract specifies for how long the marriage 
will last (see also marriage and divorce). 
This form of marriage, as is well known, is 
generally rejected by Sunni Islam but it is 
accepted as valid by the Shi'a. In order to 
distinguish between it and the mut'a that 
may be involved in making pilgrimage it is 
sometimes called mut'at al-nisd' and the lat- 
ter mut'at al-haj]. Traditional scholarship 
and many modern scholars have insisted 
on the essential distinctness of the two 
forms of mut'a. 'Ata' b. Abl Rabah is 
quoted as insisting that the mut'a connected 
with haj] is so called because it involves 
making 'umra during the months of the hajj 
and "enjoying" or "benefiting from" the 

'umra for (or until?) the hajj; it is not so 
called, he insists, because it makes per- 
mitted the enjoyment of women (wa-lam 
tusamma l-mut'a min ajli annahu yuhallu bi- 
tamattu'i l-nisd'). Some modern scholars, 
however, have argued that the two mut'as 
were originally closely connected, essen- 
tially that the premature abandonment of 
ihrdm in the case of mut'at al-hajj was in- 
tended to allow the pilgrim to resume nor- 
mal sexual activity and that the temporary 
liaisons allowed by mut'at al-nisd' were 
associated with the making of hajj. The 
evidence and competing views have been 
extensively investigated by Arthur Gribetz. 

It may be that this qur'anic passage also 
reflects the merging in early Islamic times 
of the previously distinct rituals of haj] and 
'umra. The preferred way of performing 
hajj and 'umra — whether both separately, 
both combined, or one of them only — is 
much discussed and variously evaluated in 
Muslim law. A few scholars have gone fur- 
ther and envisaged more radical discon- 
tinuities in the development of the Muslim 
sanctuary and the rituals associated with it. 
Some have suggested the transference not 
only of ideas but also of ritual practices 
and nomenclature from other places to 
Mecca at a time in the emergence of Islam 
considerably later than the death of the 
Prophet. The qur'anic materials are not 
inconsistent with such theories which, 
however, really depend on other evidence 
regarding the development of the sanctu- 
ary and the rituals associated with it in 
early Islam. 

Gerald Hawting 

Primary: BukharT, Sahih, ed. Krehl, 384-443, 
443-51; Fr. trans. O. Houdas and W. Mar^ais, 
Et-Bokhdri. Les Traditions islamiques, 4 vols., Paris 
1903-14, i, 493-567, 568-78; Ibn Abl Zayd al- 
(^ayrawanl, La risdla ou epUre sur les elements du 
dogme et de la toi de Vistdm selon le rite mdtikite^ trans. 

L. Bercher (with Ar. text), Algiers 1948°, chap. 
28, 140-51; TabarT, Tafsir. 

Secondary: Burton, Collection; N. Calder, The say 
and Xhejabin. Some notes on Qiir'an 37:102-3, in 
jss 31 (1986), 17-26; P. Crone, Meccan trade and the 
rise of Islam, Princeton, NJ 1987, 168-99; 
M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Le pelerinage a la 
Aiecque, Paris 1923; A. Gribetz, Strange bedfellows. 
Mut'^at al-nisa' and mut'at al-hajj. A study based on 
Sunm and Shi'T sources of tafsir, hadith andfiqh, 
Berhn 1994; G.E. von Grwncha.wui, Muhammadan 
festivals, New York 1951; G.R. Hawting, The 
origins of the Mushm sanctuary at Mecca, in 
G.H.A. JuynboU (ed.). Studies on the first century of 
Islamic society, Garbondale, IN 1982, 23-47; 
H. Lazarus-Yafeh, The religious dialectics of the 
Hadjdj, in id. (ed.), Some religious aspects of Islam, 
Leiden 1981, 17-37; ^- Pansera, Alcuni precisa- 
zioni sull'espressione al-mas'ar al-kardm, in Rso 24 
{1949), 74-7; F.E. Peters, The hajj. The Muslim pil- 
grimage to Alecca and the holy places, Princeton, NJ 
1994; J. Rivlin, Gesetz im Koran. Kultus und Ritus, 
Jerusalem 1934, 21-49; U. Rubin, The great pil- 
grimage of Muhammad. Some notes on sura ix, 
in JSS 2"] (1982), 241-60; id.. The Ka'ba. Aspects 
of its ritual functions and position in pre-Islamic 
and early Islamic times, in jSAlQ (1986), 97-131; 
C. Snouck Hurgronje, Het Mekkaansche Feest, 
Leiclen 1880; part. Fr. trans.: Le pelerinage a la 
Mecque, in G.-H. Bousquet andj. Schacht (eds.), 
Selected works of C. Snouck Hurgronje, Leiden 1957, 
171-213; It. trans.: II pellegrinaggio alia Mecca, Turin 
1989; J. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, 
Berlin r897^ 


Deep abyss. The qur'anic term hdwiya, the 
"pit, abyss," is related to the verb hawd, 
yahwi, "to fall," and is generally understood 
as one of the names of hell (see hell and 
hellfire). It occurs once in Surat al- 
Qari'a ("The Great Calamity," Q^ lOi), a 
text which depicts the cataclysmic events of 
the apocalypse (q.v.; o 101:1-5) and the 
weighing of humankind's deeds on the day 
of judgment (o 101:6-11; see last judg- 
ment; GOOD deeds; evil deeds; weights 
AND measures; reward and punish- 
ment). Two parallel conditional sentences 
describe the fate of humankind as a result 
of this weighing: Whoever's deeds weigh 
heavy will enter paradise (q.v.; (J 101:6-7) 

and whoever's deeds weigh light will enter 
hell (c) 101:8-11). While the overall purport 
of the stira (q.v.) seems clear, verse g and 
the term hdwiya in particular have puzzled 
commentators. It reads fa-ummuhu hdwiya, 
which may be construed as "Then his 
mother will be hdwiya (adj.)"; "Then his 
mother will be a hdwiya (indefinite noun)"; 
or "Then his mother will be Hdwiya (defi- 
nite proper noun)," alternatively "Then 
Hdwiya will be his mother." In recognition 
of the difficulty of rendering the verse 
accurately. Bell [Qiir'dn, ii, 674 n. 6) retains 
the term hdwiya, then explains it in a foot- 
note. Paret describes the passage as "a 
bizarre play on words" (Paret, Rom?nentar, 

There are three main explanations of this 
verse in Islamic tradition (see Tabari, 
Tafsir, xxx, 282-3; Tabarsi, Majma', x, 
679-80; Zamakhsharl, Kashshdf, ad loc). 
The most widely accepted is that hdwiya is 
a proper noun, one of several names of 
hell, and that umm here is used metaphori- 
cally to mean "refuge," as in q 5:72: wa- 
ma'wdhu l-ndru, "Then his refuge will be 
hell." According to the second interpreta- 
tion, attributed to the Companion Abu 
Salih (see companions of the prophet), 
umm here means umm al-ra's, "the crown of 
the head," and the verse as a whole, "The 
crown of his head will fall," referring to 
sinners' being pitched into hell head first. 
The third interpretation, attributed to 
Q_atada (d. ca. 117/735)) connects the verse 
with the idiomatic expression hawat um- 
muhu, literally, "his mother has fallen," 
said of a man in a dire situation, some- 
thing like the English expression "his goose 
is cooked." Al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144) 
adds that hawat ummuhu, "May his mother 
fall!" is a curse (q.v.) wishing for a man's 
demise. This is similar to the more com- 
mon curse thakalatka ummuka, "May your 
mother be bereft of you!" According to 
this interpretation, the verse would mean. 

"Then his mother will fall," figurative for 
"Then he will perish." 

Sprenger [Mohammad, ii, 503) held that 
this last interpretation was the correct 
explanation of the word. Fischer (Qpran- 
Interpolation; Zn Sura 101,6) also adopts 
this view and further suggests that the sura 
originally ended with c) 101:9. In his view, a 
later reader, puzzled by verse 9 and in- 
terpreting hdwiya as referring to hell, added 
the following two verses to make this clear: 
wa-md adrdka mdhiya — ndrun hdmija, "But 
how should you know what that is?! A 
scorching fire." Goldziher (Introduction, 29 
n. 37) endorses Fischer's interpretation and 
remarks that a true, critical edition of the 
Qur'an shoidd note such interpolations. 
C. Torrey (Three difficult passages, 466-7) 
rejects Fischer's explanation for several 
reasons. It is imlikely, in his view, that the 
Companions or early Muslims would have 
been mystified by the Arabic usage of this 
passage, as opposed to being puzzled by its 
content or interpretation. The attention to 
rhyme and rhetorical construction 
throughout the sura (see rhetoric: and 
THE cjur'an; lanouage and style of the 
qur'an; form and structure of the 
(JUr'an), including the odd modifications 
to produce a rhyme in -iya, paralleled in 
the forms kitdbiya (c) 69:19, 25) and sultdniya 
(o 69:29), also in rhyme position — and, 
we may add, hisdbiya, q 69:20, 26 and 
mdliya, (j 69:28 — suggests that the final 
passage is not incongruous with the rest of 
the sura (ibid., 467-68). Torrey interprets 
the phrase as an intentional pini, rather 
than an interpolation designed to explain a 
misunderstood expression, drawing both 
on the expression hawat ummuhu but at the 
same time interpreting hdwiya as a name 
for hell. Torrey (Three difficidt passages, 
470), holding that the most probable hy- 
pothesis when an odd theological term 
appears in the Qiir'an is that it is a foreign, 
borrowed term, suggests that hdwiya is a 

borrowing from Hebrew howd, "disaster" 
[ha 47:11; Ezek 7:26; see foreign vocab- 
ulary; THEOLOGY AND THE Q^UR'an). Bell 
[Qur'an, ii, 674 n. 6) accepts Torrey's analy- 
sis, minus the Hebrew connection, adding 
a note to his translation explaining the lui- 
translated term hdwiya: "i.e. childless; a 
phrase implying that the man will perish, 
or at least meet misfortune. The added 
explanation, however, takes hdwiya as a 
designation for Hell." Paret agrees with the 
first part of Torrey's interpretation but 
considers the link with Hebrew question- 
able. Jeffery objects to Torrey that the bib- 
lical passages in question do not describe 
hellfire specifically and are therefore un- 
likely to have served as a basis for this text. 
On the argument that this is a very early 
passage, he considers it unlikely to be re- 
lated to the Jewish tradition but to the 
Christian tradition instead (see JEWS AND 
He proposes, tentatively albeit, two 
Ethiopian words from the root combina- 
tion h-wy, hewdy, meaning "the fiery red 
glow of the evening sky," or hwe, meaning 
"fire, burning coal" (Jeffery, For vocab., 
285-6). These are both imlikely because the 
Ethiopic h corresponds to the Arabic h and 
not A. Jeffery also notes that Mainz sug- 
gested the Syriac hewdyeh, "his life," refer- 
ring to the Messiah (cf. Mainz, Review, 
300; see jEsus); this is also unlikely, for the 
same reason. 

Bellamy (Fa-ummuhu) proposes an emen- 
dation of Q^ 101:9, suggesting that it should 
readfa-ummatun hdwiya, meaning, "Then a 
steep course downward" (sc. into hell shall 
be his). In other words, he understands 
hdwiya here to mean "falling" or "dropping 
off precipitously." This emendation is im- 
plausible for several reasons. First, it upsets 
the parallelism between the two condi- 
tional sentences in C3 101:6-9. Just as the 
pronoun huwa ("he") in the apodosis of the 
first conditional sentence (verse 7) refers 


back to man ("whoever") in the protasis 
(verse 6), so does the attached pronoun -hu 
in ummuhu ("his mother") in the apodosis of 
the second conditional sentence (verse 9) 
refer back to man ("whoever") in the pro- 
tasis (verse 8). Removing the pronoun up- 
sets the balance between the two. Second, 
from the perspective of form criticism, the 
emendation woidd render this passage odd 
in comparison witlr similar oracular texts 
in the Qiir'an. 

The construction X * md X * wa-md adrdka 
md X: * r, "X. What is X? And how do you 
know (lit. 'what made/let you know') what 
X is? (X is) Y" (see Sells, Sound and mean- 
ing, 410-3) is a standard form in the oracu- 
lar stylistic repertoire of pre-Islamic 
soothsayers (q.v). The full form consists of 
(i) the mention of an obscure or ambigu- 
ous term, (2) a rhetorical question concern- 
ing that term, (3) a second, more emphatic, 
rhetorical question concerning that term, 
and (4) a definition or explanation of that 
term. Repetition of the initial term neces- 
sarily creates a strong rhyme and rhythmi- 
cal pattern. In the Qiir'an, the full form 
occurs only three times (c3 69:1-3; 82:14-9; 
101:1-3). In other passages, (2) is omitted, 
producing the pattern X * wa-md adrdka md 
X: *r(Q 74:26-7; 83:7-8; 83:18-9; 86:1-2; 
90:11-2; 97:1-2; 104:4-5). In yet other pas- 
sages, (3) is omitted, producing the pattern 
X*mdX: *r{fi 56:8, 9, 27, 41). The pas- 
sage under examination exhibits a reduced 
form of the md adrdka construction:ya-am- 
muhu hdwiya * wa-md adrdka md-hiya * ndrun 
hdmiya, "And how shoidd you know what 
that is?! A scorching fire" (o 101:9-11). It 
differs from other instances of the md 
adrdka construction in that it does not actu- 
ally repeat the ambiguous term (hdwiya), 
substituting the pronoun hiya, "she, it," 
instead: wa-md adrdka md-hiya. This feature 
probably helped suggest to Fischer (Qpran- 
Interpolation) that verses lO-ii represent 
an interpolation. The use of reduced 

forms of this construction is, however, 
quite common, and the use of the pronoun 
here may be due to the presence of the 
same construction in full at the beginning 
of the sura (verses 1-3). 

This construction is characterized by 
what Sells (Sound and meaning) terms se- 
mantic openness: The initial term, which is 
then defined, is necessarily ambiguous. For 
this reason. Sells leaves qdri'a and hdwiya 
untranslated in his discussion of this sura. 
Bellamy's emendation renders the initial 
term u?nmatun hdwiya, "a descending path," 
or "a steep course downward." An indefi- 
nite noun modified by an adjective would 
be an anomaly with regard to this oracular 
form in the Qiir'an. Most initial terms oc- 
curring in the md adrdka construction are 
definite nouns, unmodified: al-hdqqa 
(0 69:1-3), al-tdriq (c3 86:1-2), al-'aqaba 
(0 90:12), al-qdri'a (q 101:1-3), al-hutama 
(o 104:4-5). Other terms are nouns without 
the definite article but nevertheless definite 
and unmodified: saqar (q^ 74:26-7), sijjin 
(q 83:7-8), 'iUiyydn (q 83:18-9). Ambiguous 
terms that consist of two words are all con- 
structs: ashdb al-maymana (c) 56:8), ashdb al- 
mash'ama [q_ 56:9), ashdb al-yamin (cj 56:27), 
ashdb al-shimdl (q 56:41; see LEFT hand and 
RIGHT HAND),ja»™ al-fasl (q_ 77:13-4), jflHJm 
al-din (q 82:17-8), laylat al-qadr (q 97:1-2; see 
NIGHT OF power). It is unlikely that the 
ambiguous phrase presented, questioned 
and then defined would be a noun modi- 
fied by an adjective. Adjectives are circum- 
scribing, narrowing modifiers and most 
often occur in the definitions that follow 
the rhetorical question rather than in the 
ambiguous terms themselves. For example, 
sijjin and 'illiyyun are both defined as kitdbun 
marqum..., "an engraved book" (q.v.; 
Q. 83:7-9, 18-20); al-tdriq is defined as al- 
najmu l-thdqib, "the piercing star" (q 86:1-3; 
see PLANETS AND STARs); al-hutama is 
defined as ndru lldhi l-mdqada, "the kindled 
fire (q.v.) of God" (c3 104:4-6) and, here, the 


term in question (al-hdwiya) is defined as 
ndrun hdmijia, "a scorcliing fire" (o ioi:ii). 
The emendation is tlius probably wrong: 
hdwiya is not an adjective modifying the 
previous noun but a predicate; the ambigu- 
ous initial term is the final word hdwiya 
alone. It is worth adding that several of the 
other ambiguous terms in such passages 
also have the iorrajd'ila (see grammar and 
THE cjur'an), such as al-hdqqa (c) 69:1-3) 
and al-qdri'a; as do ambiguous terms 
occurring in oracular passages which do 
not exhibit the md adrdka construction, such 
as al-wdqi'a (q^ 56:1), al-tdmma (c) 79:34) and 
al-ghdshiya {q_ 88:1). Three other terms that 
occur in this construction and are devoid 
of the definite article all appear to be 
proper nouns. The terms saqar (c3 74:26-7) 
and sij]Tn (c) 83:8) are names for hell and 
'illiyyun (q 83:19) is a name for heaven. The 
term hdwiya is likely to be a proper noiui 
referring to hell. 

It is well known that many verse-final 
words in the Qtir'an are modified in form 
to fit the rhyme scheme (see rhymed 
prose; 'SiwyvLtl, Itqdn, ii, 214-7; Miiller, 
Untersuchungen; Stewart, Saj') and Ibn al- 
Sa'igh al-Hanafi (d. 776/1375) cites hdwiya 
as an example of this phenomenon. In his 
view, hdwiya is an instance of a rare or odd 
word's being used in place of a common 
one for the sake of rhyme (SuyutI, Itqdn, ii, 
216). In my view, hdwiya, literally "falling 
(fem.)," is a cognate substitute understood 
as equivalent to huwwa, mahwan, or mahwd, 
all meaning, "pit, chasm, abyss." Many 
such cognate substitutes appear frequently 
in the Qiir'an: tadtil (c) 105:2) for daldl 
(Miiller, Untersuchungen, 46-50; see error; 
astray); Idghiya (c3 88:11) for laghw (ibid., 
24-6; see gossip); amin (q_ 44:51; 95^3) for 
dmin (ibid., 54-59), and so on. Modifications 
for the sake of rhyme are evident in several 
verses of Surat al-Qari'a [q_ lOi) itself. As 
Sells (Sound and meaning) has shown in 
detail, rhyme and rhythm are crucial fea- 

tures of the sura, so it is reasonable to 
suggest that such inodifications occur. In 
verse 7, the active participle rddiya, literally 
"approving, pleased," appears with the 
meaning of the cognate passive participle 
mardiyya, "approved, pleasant." The pro- 
noun hiya occurs as hiyah in final position 
in verse 10; the two words md and hiyah 
are also joined here to form one rhythmic 
iniit or foot: md-hiyah. Hdwiya woidd be 
an additional cognate substitute. More- 
over, the morphological pattern of 
hdwiya — Ja'ila — occiu's frequently in such 
cognate substitutions: kdshifa (o 53:58) for 
kashf QAuWer, Untersuchungen, 26-8); kddhiba 
{(^ 56:2) for kadhih (ibid., 20-4; see lie); bi- 
l-tdghiya (c) 69:5) for bi-tughydnihim (ibid., 
16-20); and al-rdjifa (q, 79:6) for al-rajfa 
(ibid., 30-3). A parallel example is the term 
al-hutania, also a name for hell, that occurs 
in a md adrdka construction (q^ 104:4-5). It 
appears to be a cognate substitute for a 
form such as al-hdtima or al-hattdma and 
conveys the general meaning of "the 

The most plausible interpretation of the 
term ummuhu is that which takes umm as a 
metaphorical term for (destined, final) ref- 
uge or abode (see fate; destiny; freedom 
AND predestination). This interpretation 
is in keeping with other passages of the 
Qiir'an that state that while heaven is the 
dwelling place of those who have faith 
(q.v.) and do good works, hell is the refuge 
or final place of the evildoers (see good 
and evil). The most common term used 
in this fashion is ma'wd, "refuge," which 
refers to the abodes of humankind in the 
afterlife: heaven in cj 32:19, 53:15; 79:41 and 
hell in c) 3:151, 162, 197; 4:97, I2i; 5:72; 
7:16; 9:73, 95; 10:8; 13:18; 17:97; 24:57; 
29:25; 32:20; 45: 34; 57:15; 66:9; 79:39. 
Similar terms include mathwd, "abode," 
which refers to hell in Q_ 3:151; 6:128; 16:29; 
29:68; 39:32, 60, 72; 40:76; 41:24; 47:12; 
mihdd, "cradle, bed," which can also refer 



to hell (cf. o 2:206; 3:12, 197; 7:41; 13:18; 
38:56); and ma'db, "end, goal, place where 
one ends up," which refers to hell in 
C) 78:22, 38:55. Torrey (Three difficult pas- 
sages, 469) states that the use of the term 
"contained the grimly ironical assurance 
that (the hearer's) acquaintance with 
Hawiya would not be merely temporary; 
she would be his permanent keeper and 
guardian." In any case, perhaps closest to 
umm in this context is mawld, "master," used 
to refer to hell in C3 57:15: "Your refuge is 
hell (al-nar); it will be your master, and 
what an evil destiny it is!" 

DevinJ. Stewart 

Primary: SuyutT, Itqdn; TabarT, Tafsir, ed. 'All; 
TabarsT, Majma'; ZamakhsharT, Kashshdf; Zar- 
kashT, Burhdn. 

Secondary: Bell, Qur'dn;^ Bellamy, Fa-ummuhu 
hdwiyah. A note on surah 101:9, iwJAOS 112 
(1992), 485-7; T. Fahd, La divination arabe, 
Strasbourg 1966; id., Sadj'. I. As magical 
utterances in pre-Islamic Arabian usage, in iv^', 
viii, 732-4; A. Fischer, Eine Qpran-Interpolation, 
in C. Bezold (ed.), Orientalische Studien Theodor 
Moeldeke zum siebzigsten Geburtstag (2. Marz igo6), 
2 vols., Giessen 1906, i, 33-55; id., Zu Sura 
101,6, in ZDMU 60 (1906), 371-74; I. Goldziher, 
Introduction to Islamic theology and law, trans. 
A. and R. Hamori, Princeton 1981 (trans, of 
Vorlesungen Uber den Islam, Heidelberg 1910); 
Jeffery, For. vocab.; E. Mainz, Review of C.G. 
Torrey, The Jewish foundations of Islam, in Der 
Islam 23 (1936), 299-300; F.R. Miiller, 
Untersuchungen zur Reimprosa im Koran, Bonn 
1969; Paret, Kommentar; M. Sells, Sound and 
meaning in Sdrat al-qdri'ah, in Arabica 40 (1993), 
403-30; Sprenger, Mohammad; D.J. Stewart, ^fl^'in 
the Qur'an. Prosody and structure, in JAL 21 
(1990), 101-39; C.G. Torrey, Three difficult pas- 
sages in the Koran, in TW. Arnold and R.A. 
Nicholson (eds.), A volume of Oriental studies pre- 
sented to E.G. Browne, Cambridge 1922, 457-71, 
e.sp. 464-71. 

Place of Abraham 

A location in Mecca (q.v.) at which 
Abraham (q.v.) is believed to have stood 
and/or prayed. The station or place of 

Abraham (maqdm Ibrahim) is cited twice in 
the Qiir'an. c) 2:125, "Take the station of 
Abraham as a place of prayer" (q.v; wa- 
ttakhidhu min maqdmi Ibrdhima musallan) and 
d 3:97, "In it [the house of God, i.e. the 
haram sanctuary in Mecca] are clear signs 
(q.v), the station of Abraham." Most have 
read (J 2:125 as an imperative (referring 
to the Muslim community), rather than in 
the past tense wa-ttakhadhu, "and they 

Opinions vary about the area to be con- 
sidered as the station, whether, for exam- 
ple, it is all of the sacred territory of 
Mecca or, more narrowly, the haram (see 


Most, however, have identified the station 
with a stone bearing the footprints of 
Abraham located within the haram a short 
distance from the Ka'ba (q.v.). Identifying 
the station with a stone, however, leaves a 
grammatical awkwardness due to the pre- 
position min, "from," in c) 2:125. The verse 
coidd be rendered "Take within the station 
of Abraham a place of prayer," or "Take a 
part of the station of Abraham as a place 
of prayer." 

For those who identify the station as a 
stone, there are a number of stories about 
how Abraham's footprints came to be im- 
pressed on it. For some, Abraham stood on 
a stone (or a water jug) when Ishmael's 
(q.v.) dutiful second wife once washed 
Abraham's head. But following a more 
commonly held story, while Abraham and 
Ishmael were building the Ka'ba, 
Abraham stood on the stone in order to 
reach the upper parts of the Ka'ba walls. 
According to a third story, Abraham stood 
on the stone when he called upon human- 
kind to perform the pilgrimage (q.v.; 
(J 22:27). A fourth version has Abraham 
praying at the stone as his qibla (q.v), turn- 
ing his face to the Ka'ba door (see espe- 
cially ¥ires,tone. Journeys). 

A hadith (Bukhari, Sahih, 8, Saldt, 32; ed. 
Krehl, i, 113; trans. Khan, i, 395) links the 



revelation of o 2:125 to 'Umar b. al- 
Khattab who, during tlie Prophet's farewell 
pilgrimage (q.v.), said, "O messenger of 
God, if only we were to take the station of 
Abraham as our place of prayer." Shortly 
thereafter q 2:125 was revealed (see hadIth 

TION). Other hadlths (Bukhari, Sahih, 8, 
Saldt, 30; ed. Krehl, i, 113; trans. Khan, i, 
389, 390; ii, 670) report that the Prophet 
performed the circumambulation (tawdf) 
around the Ka'ba and offered a two-rfl^'a 
prayer (see bowing and prostration; 
RITUAL AND THE our'an) behind the 
station (of Abraham) and then per- 
formed the traversing (say) of Safa and 
Marwa (q.v.). 

The stone identified as the station is some 
60 cm wide and 90 cm high and has been 
placed in different locations within the 
haram in the course of the centuries. For a 
time it was placed in a box on a high plat- 
form to keep it from being swept away in 
floods. The stone cracked in 161/778 and 
the 'Abbasid caliph al-Mahdl (r. 158-69/ 
775-85) had it repaired with gold braces. In 
256/870 the broken pieces of the stone 
were thoroughly restored (as reported in 
detail by al-Fakihl, an eyewitness [see 
Kister, A stone] ; al-Fakihl noted some 
Himyar letters on the stone; see south 
arabia, religion in pre-islamic; arabic 

In the nineteenth century the station was 
a little building with a small dome, while 
the Saudi reconstructions of the haram in 
the mid-twentieth century have replaced 
that building with a small hexagonal glass- 
enclosed structure, within which the stone 
can be seen. (For photographs of the sta- 
tion as it was about one hundred years ago, 
see Nomachi and Nasr, Mecca, 19, 50, 
igo-i; Wensinck andjomier, Ka'ba, plates 
ix and x; Frikha and Guellouz, Mecca, 32-3, 

Robert Schick 

Primary: Bukhari, Sahih, ed. Krehl; trans. M.M. 
Khan, Medina 1971. 

Secondary: R. Firestone, ^0H;7?(y.'j in holy lands. 
The evolution of the Abraham-hhmael legends in 
Islamic exegesis, Albany 1990; A. Frikha and 
E. Guellouz, Afeccfl. The Muslim pilgrimage. 
New York 1979; M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, 
Le pelerinage a la Mekke, Paris 1923, 102-9; 
G. Hawting, The origins of the Muslim 
sanctuary at Mecca, in G.H.A. Juynboll {ed.}. 
Studies on the first century of Islamic society, Car- 
bondale, IN 1982, 23-47; ^- Kister, Makam 
Ibrahim, in Ef, vi, 104-7; id., Makam Ibrahim. 
A stone with an inscription, in Museon 89 (1971), 
477-gi; A.K. Nomachi and S.H. Nasr, Mecca the 
blessed, Medina the radiant. The holiest cities of Islam, 
New York 1997; A.J. Wensinck/J. Jomier, Ka'ba, 
in Ef, iv, 317-22. 


Supernatural events inflicted upon the 
Egyptian Pharaoh {q.v.; Jir'awn) and his 
nation and delivered by Moses (q.v). 
Reference to the Egyptian plagues appears 
in the Qtir'an approximately twenty times. 
Identification of the actual plagues them- 
selves appears only once ((J 7:133). 

The most detailed qur'anic accounts of 
Moses' interaction with the Egyptian 
Pharaoh appear in <j 7:100-41 and 
c) 20:1-77. These largely resemble the 
account in the biblical book of Exodus 
[Ex 7:14-12:30), in which God sends Moses 
to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; 
when Pharaoh refuses to acquiesce, God 
sends down ten plagues as piniishment and 
as enticement for him to relent. In the 
Qiir'an, the plagues appear not as 
"plagues" but as "signs" (q.v.; dya, pi. ciydt). 
The difference in nomenclature points to 
the Qiir'an's understanding of their func- 
tion, a function different than that in the 
Bible. In the Qiir'an it seems the main 
purpose of these dydt is not to punish 
Pharaoh for refusing to free the Israelites 
(see CHILDREN OF ISRAEL). Rather, these 
events are first and foremost signs attesting 
to God's omnipotence and omnipresence, 
which Pharaoh has previously refused to 



acknowledge. In fact, the account of 
c) 20:1-77 suggests that the freeing of the 
slaves is itself punishment; Pharaoh, we are 
told in c) 20:43, had become exceedingly 
rebellions (see disobedience; arrogance) 
against God and so God sent Moses and 
his brother (see aaron) to him with God's 
signs. Other qur'anic references to Moses 
and the signs mention neither the slaves 
nor their redemption at all. This omission 
indicates that the bringing of signs that 
would prove God's power (see power and 
impotence) to Pharaoh, and not the free- 
ing of the slaves per se, was Moses' main 
charge (0,7:103; 10:75; 11:96-7; 23:45; 28:4, 
32; 29:39; 40:23; 43:46; one exception to 
this appears in ^ I4-5)- 

Because of this different understanding 
of the purpose of these events, some decid- 
edly non-plague events are included in the 
Islamic lists. The Qiir'an, in C3 17:101, puts 
the number of signs at nine but does not 
specify what they are. In (j 7:133, the 
Qur'an identifies five of these, though 
without any further elaboration, as whole- 
sale death, locusts, lice, frogs and blood 
(cf. the ten plagues in the Bible). Qiir'anic 
exegetes present various explanations of 
the remaining four. Some scholars identify 
these with four other signs mentioned in 
the Egyptian context: famine (q.v.), dearth 
of everything (c) 7:130), Moses' hand turn- 
ing white and his staff turning into a ser- 
pent (q 7:107-8; Tabari, Tafsir, ix, 30-40; 
Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, iv, 357; see rod). Others 
maintain that the four are Moses' hand, 
staff, and tongue — presumably a refer- 
ence to his speech impediment — and the 
sea — presumably a reference to its split- 
ting and allowing the Israelites to walk 
through unharmed while the Egyptians 
drowned (Tabari, Tafsir, xv, 171-2). Yet oth- 
ers replace Moses' tongue with generalized 
obliteration (ibid.). 

Horovitz [ku, 20) points out that Psalms 
105:25-36 and the first century C.E.Jewish 

historian Josephus (in his, Antiquities, book 2, 
chapter 14) recoimt only nine plagues, as in 
the Qiir'an, rather than Exodus' ten. Both 
lists differ from the Qiir'an's list as well as 
from each other. 

Shari L. Lowin 

Primary: Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 7 vols., Beirut 1966; 
al-Kisa'l, The tales of tfle prop/lets of al-Kisa'i, trans. 
W.M. Thackston, Boston 1978, 226-32; Tabari, 
Tafsir, 30 vols., Beirut 1984; id., Ta'rikh, ed. de 
Goeje, i, 459-68, trans. W.M. Brinner, The history 
oj Tibari. Hi. The Children of Israel, Albany 1991, 
43-53; Tha'labi, Qisas, trans, and annot. W.M. 
Brinner, ^Ard'is al~majdlisfi qisas al-anbiyd' or "Lives 
of the prophets," heiden 2002, 316-26. 
Secondary: Horovitz, KU; A. Jeffrey, Aya, in EI^, 
i, 773-4; Speyer, Erzdhlungen, 278-81; R. Tottoli, 
Vita di A'lose secondo le tradizioni islamiche, Palermo 

Planets and Stars 

Celestial bodies. Not unexpectedly, refer- 
ences to celestial phenomena in the Qtir'an 
were influenced by the contemporary 
knowledge of these phenomena in the 
Arabian peninsula. The ancient Arabs, 
prior to their contacts with Persian, Indian 
and Greek science (beginning in the 
second/eighth century), had developed 
over the centuries their own popular rather 
than "scientific" knowledge of the sky and 
celestial phenomena (see pre-islamic 


THE (jur'an). From the third/ninth centtiry 
onward, Arabic lexicographers collected 
this astronomical information in special 
monographs, the so-called anzea 'books. 
The ancient Arabs knew the fixed stars and 
the planets, though the current words for 
"star," kawkab and najm, were used indis- 
criminately and with no distinction be- 
tween the two. Several hundred stars 
were known by name (cf. Kimitzsch, 
Untersuchungen) and there were indigenous 
names also for the planets (cf. Eilers, 



Planetennamen). Seasons (q.v.) and periods of 
rain and drouglit were connected witli tlie 
observation of the acronychal settings and 
simidtaneous heliacal risings of certain 
stars or asterisms, the so-called anwa' (c{. 
Pellat, Anwa'), while the stars were used 
for orientation (ihtidd') in the migrations 
of the Bedouins (see bedouin) by night 
(see DAY AND night; months). But from 
all this lore only one star is mentioned 
in the Qtir'an by name, al-shi'rd (see 
below, under "Defined stars"; see also 

It is noteworthy that many words used in 
the Qiir'an in connection with celestial 
phenomena later became part of the tech- 
nical vocabulary in Arabic-Islamic "sci- 
entific" astronomy. Such words are burj (pi. 
buruj), "the constellations," or "signs," of 
the zodiac {q_ 15:16; 25:61; 85:1; in ^ 4:78 
[fi burujin mushayyadatin] , however, buruj i?. 
used in the sense of "towers");^/a;»; "dawn" 
(C) 2:187, etc.; see day, times 0¥);falak, 
"sphere, orbit" [q_ 21:33; 36:40; cf Hartner, 
Yalak); gharaba, "to set" (i.e. Q_ 18:17, 86), 
and derivations [ghurub, "setting": 5) 20:130; 
50:39; and maghrib, "place of setting, west": 
C3 2:115, etc.); khasafa, the moon (q.v.) "is 
eclipsed" [q_ 75:8); kawkab (pi. kamdkib), 
"star" (o 6:76, etc.); mandzil, "stations," or 
"mansions" of the moon (q^ 10:5; 36:39; cf. 
Kimitzsch, al-Manazil); ?nashriq, "east" 
[q_ 2:115, etc.); najm (pi. nujum), "star" 
((J 16:16, etc.; also in (J 55:6, where the pre- 
ferred interpretation of al-najm is "star[s]" 
rather than "plants," or "grasses" [q.v.]; 
cf. Paret, Kommentar, 465); al-qamar, "the 
moon" (c3 6:77, etc.); al-shams, "the sun" 
(q.v.; o 2:258, etc.); shihdb (pi. shuhub), "fire" 
((J 15:18; 37:10; 72:8-9; but in context rather 
more specifically "shooting star, meteor"); 
tala'a, "to rise" (i.e. (3 18:17, etc.) and deri- 
vations [tulii', "rising": Q_ 20:130; 50:39; and 
matla\ "rising" of the dawn: <J 97:5; also 

?natli', "place of rising" of the dawn: 
C3 18:90); and ufuq (pi. djaq), "horizon" 
(a 41:53; 53:7; 81:23). 

Items of astronomical interest 

The order of the universe 
God has created the heavenly abode as 
"seven heavens," samdwdt (c3 2:29; 17:44; 
23:86; 41:12; 65:12; 78:12), which are ar- 
ranged in layers one above the other, 
tibdqan (5) 67:3; 71:15), or in paths or 
courses, tard'iq (q^ 23:17; see heaven and 
sky). While, on the one hand, this strongly 
reminds one of Greek cosmology (q.v.) 
with the famous spheres superimposed 
above each other, it is, on the other hand, 
imlikely that any echo of this Aristotelian- 
Ptolemaic theory had ever come to the 
knowledge of seventh-century Arabia. 
Also, the Greek system needs eight spheres 
for the sun, moon, the five planets and the 
fixed stars, whereas the Qiir'an speaks of 
only seven. So the qur'anic seven heavens 
do not seem to belong to cosmology or 
astronomy, but rather to theological specu- 
lation and may be compared to the seven 
heavens mentioned in the "Testament of 
the XII Patriarchs" [Lev 3) and in the 
Talmudic literature (see theology and 
THE qtJR'AN). Similarly it remains an open 
question whether the courses (tard'iq) of 
C3 23:17 really refer to the courses of the 
sun, the moon and the five planets. Very 
interesting in this connection is also 
C3 21:33: "[God created] ... and the sun 
and the moon, each of them moving in a 
sphere" (... wa-l-shamsa wa-l-qamara wa- 
kullun ji Jalakin yasbahiin; cf. also q 36:40). 
This seems like an echo of Greek cosmol- 
ogy: each celestial body moves in its own 
sphere. But here again we hesitate to un- 
derstand the Qur'an's statement in such a 
strict scientific sense. The sun, moon and 
the stars are, at his command, "made to 
serve [humans]" {musakhkhardt, o 7:54; cf. 
14:33; 16:12; 31:20; 45:13). Sun and moon 



were created as a means for calculating 
time (q.v.) by years and months [husbdnan, 
ci 6:96; or bi-husbdn, c) 55:5; cf. 10:5). For 
this purpose, God divided the moon's 
course into "mansions" [mandzil, Q, 10:5; 
36:39) and the heavens into "constella- 
tions," or, more specifically, "the zodiacal 
signs" [buruj, (J 15:16, 25:61). It remains un- 
determined whether the Qi_ir'an here refers 
to the complete system of the twenty-eight 
lunar mansions as developed in later 
Arabic writings or to some unspecified 
mansions only. The oldest known text 
showing the complete list of the twenty- 
eight lunar mansions is reported by 'Abd 
al-Malik b. Habib on the authority of 
Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795-6; cf Kunitzsch, 
'Abd al-Malik). As far as the constellations 
are concerned, what evidence we have for 
seventh-century Arabia indicates an aware- 
ness of only some of the constellations of 
the — originally Babylonian — zodiac. 
The complete system of twelve constel- 
lations or, respectively, signs, became 
known only after contact with Greek sci- 
ence (cf. Hartner-Kunitzsch, Mintaka). 

Further qur'anic citations indicate that 
observation of the new moons (al-ahilla) 
was used to determine time and the date 
for pilgrimage (q.v.; C3 2:189). The stars 
served for orientation by night (ihtidd'J on 
land and sea (i.e. (J 6:97; 16:16; cf. also 
C3 6:63; 27:63; see journey). Mention is 
frequently made of a "fire" [shihdb, pi. 
shuhub) in the sky, which is thrown at some 
satans trying to listen secretly to the dis- 
course of the angels {q_ 15:17-8; 37:6-10; 
67:5; 72:8-9; see angel; devil). It is quite 
probable that this "fire" in the sky 
describes shooting stars, i.e. meteors. 
Shihdb later became the still current 
Arabic term for "shooting star." The 
"myth of the shooting stars" {Sternschnup- 
penmythus; cf. UUmann, Jieger, 73-6) became 
a favorite motif in post-classical Arabic 

Unspecified stars 
In several of the oldest suras (see chron- 
ology AND THE our'an). Oath formulas 
(see oaths; language and style of the 
cjur'an) appear — such as "By the heaven 
with its constellations" [wa-l-samd'i dhdti 
l-buruj, q 85:1), "By the sun and its light in 
the morning" [wa-l-shamsi wa-duhdhd, 
(391:1), "By the moon when it is full" [wa- 
l-qamari idhd ttasaqa, (J 84:18) — which are 
all easily understandable. In some cases, 
however, an oath is sworn by some star 
which remains undefined, as in "by the 
heaven and the one coming by night" 
[wa-l-samd'i wa-l-tdriqi, (J 86:1), where the 
ambiguous phrase, "the one coming by 
night" (al-tdriq), may refer to a star or, as 
some say, to the morning star, which would 
be Venus. But al-tdriq is explained in c) 86:3 
as "the star brightly shining" (al-najmu 
l-thdqibu), which — by analogy to C3 37:10, 
where thdqib is the epithet of shihdb, a 
shooting star — may also here describe a 
shooting star or meteor. The setting of any 
star could be meant by (J 53:1: "By the star 
when it sinks" (wa-l-najmi idhd hawd); 
alternatively, it could specifically refer to 
the setting of the Pleiades [al-najm is re- 
ported as an Arabic name for the Pleiades; 
cf. Kunitzsch, Untersuchungen, no. 186), 
or — if hawd is interpreted as a sudden, 
quick, falling — as a meteor shooting 
down. Q 56:75, "I swear by the mawdqi' oi 
the stars" (fa-Id uqsimu bi-mawdqi'i l-nujumi), 
is also ambiguous: mawdqi' could be the 
places where the stars set on the western 
horizon, or places where meteor showers 
come down. Further undefined celestial 
phenomena are the star (kawkab) seen in 
the night by Abraham (q.v; (j 6:76; see 
Gilliot, Abraham) and the eleven stars 
(kawkab) seen by Joseph (q.v.), together with 
the sun and the moon [q_ 12:4; on this topic 
cf. Joseph's dream in Gen 37:9; see also 
dreams and sleep; visions). 



Defined stars 
Only once is a star mentioned in tlie 
Qiir'an by its old Arabic name: "Has the 
one who turned away [from God's mes- 
sage] not been infiarmed that ((J 53:33) ••• 
and that he is the lord of al-shi'rd?" [wa- 
annahu huwa rabbu l-shi'rd, cj 53:49)- Al-shi'rd 
is the star alpha Canis Maioris, Sirius, the 
brightest fixed star in the sky. The impli- 
cation is that Sirius was adored by some 
Arab tribes in the Age of Ignorance 
(c^.v.jjdhilijja), the time before Islam (cf. 
Kimitzsch, al-Shi'ra); here it is now stressed 
that God, the creator of all beings, is also 
the lord of Sirius, so that the adoration of 
stars has come to an end (see polytheism 
AND atheism; idols and images; 
creation). A clear case is also 5) 81:15-6, 
where an oath is sworn by the five planets 
(i.e. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and 
Saturn; cf Ibn Qutayha., Anwd', 126, 6-8; 
Ibn Sida, Mukhassas, ix, 36,14-5; Ibn al- 
Ajdabi, Azmina, 90-4): "I swear by the 
[stars] retrograding,/travelling [and] hid- 
ing" (fa-Id uqsimu bi-l-khunnas/ al-jawdn 
l-khunnas) . These three epithets refer to the 
characteristic qualities of the planets: ret- 
rogradation, their travelling (as opposed to 
the fixed stars, which always keep their 
position relative to each other; similar 
terms are sometimes found in later litera- 
ture: al-kawdkib al-jdriya, wkas, i, 580 [col. 
b, 11. 29-30]; al-nujum al-jdrijdt, UUmann, 
Maturwiss., 387) and their "hiding" in the 
light of the sun when they come near it 
(cf. Ibn a\-fii}^Aa)ol, Azmina, 94,11). 

Paid Kunitzsch 

Primary: Ibn al-Ajdabl, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. 
IsmaM, al-Azmina waA-anwa\ ed. 'I. Hasan, 
Dama.scus 1964; Ibn Qiitayba, Kitdb al-Anwd\ ed. 
M. Hamidullah and Ch. Pellat, Hyderabad 1956; 
Ibn Sida, Abu 1-Hasan 'All b. Isma'il al-MursT, 
Kitdb al-Mukhassasfi l-lugha, 17 \'ols. in 9, Bulaq 
1316-21/1898-1903, vol. ix. 

Secondary: W. Eilers, Sinn und Herkunft der PUine- 
iennamen, Miinchen 1976; C. Gilliot, Abraham 
eut-il un regard peccamineux? in E. Chauniont 
et al. (eds.), Melanges Gimaret. Autour du regard, 
Leuven 2003, 33-51; W. Hartner, Falak, in El^, ii, 
761-3; id. and P. Kunitzsch, Mintakat al-burudj, 
in El", vii, 81-7; P. Kunitzsch, 'Abd al-Malik ibn 
Hablb's Book on the stars, in zgaiw 9 (1994), 
161-94; II (1997), 179-88; id., al-Manazil, in 
El", vi, 374-6; id., al-Shi'ra, in El", ix, 471-2; id., 
Untersuchungen .jMr Sternnomenklatur der Araber, 
Wiesbaden 1961; Paret, Kommentar; Ch. Pellat, 
Anwa', in El", i, 523-4; M. Ullmann, Die Natur- 
und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam, Leiden 1972; id., 
Der Neger in der Bildersprache der arabischen Dichter, 
Wiesbaden iqqS; WKAs. 

Plant(s) see agriculture and 


see humor; laughter 


Something given as security for the sat- 
isfaction of a debt or other obligation; the 
contract incidental to such a guaranty. The 
term commonly translated as "pledge" 
appears three times in the Qtir'an in three 
different forms: rahm (<j 52:21), rahina 
(c) 74:38) and rihdn (q 2:283). Al-Qiirtubl 
(d. 671/1272), in his_Jami', reports that the 
term in Q^ 2:283 is also read by Ibn Kathir 
and Ibn 'Amr as ruhun, by 'Asim b. Abl al- 
Najud as ruhn and by Abu 'All al-FarisI as 
rahn (see readings of the our'an; reci- 
OF THE CJUr'an). 

Exegetes interpret the uses of "pledge" in 
C) 52:21 and Q_ 74:38 as being parallel. In 
his Tafslr, Abu 1-Layth al-Samarc[andl 
(d. 375/985) interprets both verses to refer 
to the day of resurrection (q.v.) on which 
all souls will be pledged and weighed for 
the works of each person (see good deeds; 
EVIL deeds; last judgment). Ibn Kathir 
(d. 774/1373; Tafsir, ad loc.) says the mean- 
ing of both verses is that a person cannot 


carry the sins of another with liis good 
deeds (see sin, major and minor). 
Modern interpretations (see exegesis of 
THE q^ur'an: early modern and con- 
temporary) also stress that these verses 
militate against the idea of saintly or pro- 
phetic intercession (q.v.; see also saint; 
prophets and prophethood). 

C3 2:283 is the focus for exegesis about the 
legality of giving a pledge or "pawn" in the 
case of an exchange when no witness or 
writer is present to draw up a document of 
the exchange (see witnessing and testi- 
Qiirtubl [Jdmi', ad loc.) defines a pledge as 
the legal retention of a specific object, in 
lien of a document, mitil the price is paid. 
Legal theorists raise several points of dis- 
pute beyond this basic characterization (see 

In hxa Ahkdm on C3 2:283, Ibn al-'Arabi 
(d. 543/1148) reports that Mujahid, based 
on a literal reading of q 2:283, is of the 
opinion that a pledge can only be used 
when an exchange is made while traveling 
(see journey). Ilkiya 1-HarrasI (d. 504/ 
mo; Ahkdm al-Qur'dn, ad loc.) cites a report 
that the prophet Muhammad once made a 
pledge to a Jew (see JEWS and Judaism) in 
Medina (q.v.), thus demonstrating that 
pledging while not traveling is permitted. 

There is also disagreement over the legal 
status of the pledge once it is in the hands 
of the party receiving it. According to 
al-Shafi'l (d. 204/820), the pledge is only 
in lieu of a document of contract. The 
recipients of the pledge, therefore, are not 
responsible for its upkeep; but neither are 
they allowed usufruct or confiscation of the 
pledge if the contract for which the pledge 
is made is not fulfilled by the giver of the 
pledge. The Hanafis and Malikis hold that 
the party receiving the pledge is respon- 
sible for its upkeep, may use and benefit 
from the pledged item, and is entitled to 
keep the pledge if the giver of the pledge 

does not fulfill the contract in the speci- 
fied time (see breaking trusts and 

Other areas of dispute include: whether 
an item jointly owned may be pledged by 
only one of the owners or by both of them 
for different transactions; whether a debt 
(q.v.) can be pledged; to whom the pledge 
can be entrusted; the circumstances in 
which a slave or a slave's manumission 
may be pledged (see slaves and 
slavery); and what happens when the 
person receiving the pledge dies before 
the fulfillment of the contract (see 
inheritance). See also covenant for 
"pledge" in the sense of testament, com- 
mitment or covenant. 

Brannon M. Wheeler 

Primary: Abu 1-Laytli al-SaniarqanclT, TafsTr; 
Ilkiya l-Marrasi, Ahkdm al-Qur'dn, 4 vols., Beirut 
1984-5; Ibn al-'Arabi, ^Mflm; Ibn KathTr, Tafsir; 
Qurtubi, Jdmi\ 

Secondary (for brief, synthetic discussions of the 
pledge in legal theory): E. Sachau, Aluham- 
medanisches Recht, Berlin 1897, 319-35, and Index, 
868, s.v. "Pfandrecht"; D. Santillana, htituzioni di 
diritio musulmano malichita, 2 vols., Rome 1938, ii, 
464-83, and Index, 763, s.v. "rahn"; J. Schacht 
(ed.), G. Bergstrdsser's Grundzuge des islamischen 
Rechts, Leipzig 1935; id., An introduction to Islamic 
law, Oxford 1964. 

Poetry and Poets 

Composition in metrical and rhymed lan- 
guage; and those who compose such com- 
positions. By the time the Prophet was 
born, Arabic poetry had long been the key 
cultural register of the language. Other 
literary forms, particularly oratory and 
story telling, had important cultural roles 
but it was poetry that dominated (see 

literary struc:tures of the our'an; 
orality and writing in Arabia). It is 
uncertain when this poetry (shi'r), which 


has no functional parallel in any of the 
other Semitic languages (see rhymed 
prose), first came into being, but it is rea- 
sonably clear that its original forms, rhyme 
patterns, meters and thematic conventions 
were largely fixed by the early part of the 
fifth century c.E. (the time of the earliest 
surviving pieces). There were to be devel- 
opments after that, but they built on the 
foundations already in place. In later times 
the overarching themes were thought to be 
panegyric, lampoon, lament, love, descrip- 
tion, self-glorification and aphoristic say- 
ings; but such broad categorizations give 
little idea of the detailed thematic richness 
we find in the surviving corpus. 

It is clear that most of this poetry is 
essentially tribal poetry; that the tribes 
were nomadic and dependent on their 
camels and, to a lesser extent, on their 
horses, sheep and goats (see camel; 
ANIMAL life); that they lived in the desert 
and semi-desert and the surrounding 
mountains (see Arabs; bedouin; nomads); 
that the tribes frequently fought each other 
(see fighting; war; expeditions and 
battles); that life was at all times per- 
ceived as hard and dangerous; that intra- 
tribal and intertribal relationships had led 
to a complex code of conduct both for 
men and for women (see community and 
society in the q^ur'an; social inter- 
actions); that there was an ethical code 
based on the notion of muruwwa (see 
ETHICS AND THE ^ur'an); but that, in con- 
trast, with few exceptions, religious ideas 
were relatively little developed (see 
religion; south arabia, religion in 
pre-islamig), with the vagaries of a rarely 
benevolent fortune and the ever-present 
menace of death and, particularly, un- 
timely death consuming the tribesman's 
thoughts (see fate). There was an ambiva- 
lent view of settlements (see city): they 
were the source of necessities not found 
in the desert and of imported luxuries 

such as wine (q.v; see also intoxic;ants); 
but they were thought to be unhealthy 

There were also poets in the settlements 
themselves; for example, al-Samaw'al b. 
'Adiya at Tayma', 'Adiyy b. Zayd at al- 
Hlra, and an older contemporary of the 
Prophet, Umayya b. Abl 1-Salt at al-Ta'if. 
None of the poets of the settlements, how- 
ever, achieved the fame and status of the 
great Bedouin poets. It was to the latter 
that the Lakhmid rulers of al-Hira and 
their rivals the Ghassanids of southern 
Syria turned when they wanted some 
panegyric (see Byzantines; christians 
AND Christianity). By the beginning of 
the seventh century c.E. their patronage 
enabled successful poets such as Maymun 
b. Qays al-A'sha to become itinerant trou- 
badours. Al-A'sha was not the only master 
poet to be a contemporary of the Prophet. 
Others were Zuhayr b. Abl Sulma, Labid 
b. Rabi'a, 'Amir b. al-Tufayl and Durayd 
b. al-Simma. There were many more not 
of the highest rank. 

Some seventy-five years ago, Gibb (Arabic 
literature) succinctly summed up some of 
the key reasons for the success of pre- 
Islamic poetry: 

[But] its appeal lies far more in the fact 
that, in holding the mirror up to life, it pre- 
sented an image larger than life. The pas- 
sions and emotions and portrayals were 
idealized in content and expression — in 
content because it presented the Arabs to 
themselves as they would have liked to be, 
immeasurably bold and gallant and open- 
handed, and in expression because these 
ideal images were clothed in rich, sono- 
rous and evocative language, and given 
emotional intensity by the beating rhythms 

and ever-recurring rhyme (p. 25) All of 

these subserved [the poet's] main purpose, 
so to stimulate the imaginative response 
of his audience that the poem becomes a 



dialogue between them, a dialogue in 
which the audience are alert to grasp the 
hints and allusions compressed within the 
compass of his verse and to complete his 
portrait or thought for themselves (p. 26). 

Factors such as these were instrumental not 
only in ensuring the success of the poetry 
in its own time but in providing it with an 
appeal that still grips Arabic-speaking 
hearers today. 

None of this is likely to have troubled the 
Prophet greatly, but there were two aspects 
of poetry that must have been deeply dis- 
turbing to him. The first is that it was a 
short step from lampoon to obscenity or, 
much worse, to the uttering of curses (see 
curse). Poets' invective was common and 
caused much ill will. The second aspect is 
more complex and more serious. From the 
beginning the Arabs had linked their poets 
with magic (q.v.) or, at least, preternatural, 
non-human forces (see devil; jinn; 
insanity). There is ample evidence that 
poets (and likewise kdhins, soothsayers 
[q.v.]) were believed to have a preternatu- 
ral driving force, given various names: 
khalil (euphemistic "friend, companion"; 
see FRIENDS AND FRIEND SHlp),jm72 and 
even shaytdn — the Greek daimon. We do 
not rely on late sources for evidence on 
this. Al-A'sha, for example, several times 
refers to his demonic alter ego by the pet 
name 7nishal, "the elocjuent tongue." 

It is against this background of the pre- 
ternatural and of magic that one should 
view what the Qiir'an has to say about 
poetry and the poets. The key words found 
in the text are shd'ir, "poet" (c3 21:5; 37:36; 
52:30; 69:41), shi'r, "poetry" (q^ 36:69), 
majnun, "possessed by a jinn" (q 15:6; 26:27; 
37:36; 44:14; 51:39, 52; 52:29; 54:9; 68:2, 
51; 81:22), jmnfl, "possession by a jinn" 
(q 7:184; 23:25, 70; 34:8, 46) and also 
kdhin, "soothsayer" (5^52:29; 69:42). Be- 

cause of overlapping (q 37:36, for example, 
has the phrase shd'ir majnun), they involve 
nineteen passages, which fall into two 
kinds: (i) Those in which unbelievers are 
depicted as declaring that a prophet is a 
poet, a soothsayer, or possessed; and 
(2) those in which there is a strong denial 
of such claims. 

Most of the passages are found in suras 
thought to be early or middle Meccan, 
though there are also three from the late 
Meccan period (see chronology and the 
cjur'an). They are obviously of a polemi- 
cal kind, though a surprising luimber are 
linked to eschatological material (see 
eschatolocy). There is no Medinan pas- 
sage of this kind. The objections are nor- 
mally put into the mouths of Muhammad's 
Meccan opponents (see opposition to 
Muhammad), though in the case of majnun, 
two of the passages refer to Pharaoh (q.v.) 
and Moses (q.v.), and two to Noah (q.v.) 
and his opponents. The general picture is 
therefore that Muhammad is not alone as a 
prophet in facing such objections. The pas- 
sages specifically referring to shd'ir (and 
also kdhin), however, relate to Midiammad 
rather than anyone else. The objections of 
the Prophet's opponents are vividly summed 
up in q 21:5: "No! They say, 'Tangled 
nightmares. No! He has invented it. No! 
He is a poet. Let him bring us a sign, just 
as the ones of old were sent with signs'." 

The slightly earlier q 52:29-31 is a par- 
ticularly striking passage. First, there is a 
firm denial that Muhammad is either a 
kdhin or majnun. This is then countered by a 
suggestion by his anonymous opponents 
that he is a shd'ir: "So give the reminder 
(q.v.). By the grace of your lord you are 
neither a soothsayer nor one possessed. Or 
they say, A poet for whom we await the 
ill-doings of fate.' Say, 'Wait. I shall be one 
of those waiting with you'." In addition to 
using three of the key words, the passage 



has rayh al-manun, "the ill-doings of fate," a 
phrase that has various parallels in pre- 
Islamic poetry. 

The conclusion to be drawn from such 
passages is that there was a great deal of 
verbal sparring and polemic on both sides 
in Mecca (q.v.) and that the Prophet's 
opponents did not hesitate to call him "a 
poet," a "soothsayer," "one possessed" (and 
much else that is of no direct concern 
here). This makes good sense if the words 
are being used because of their pejorative 
background. The alternative suggestion 
that Muhammad's opponents could not 
differentiate between poetry, the utterances 
of kdhins and passages from the Qiir'an 
does not bear close scrutiny. 

The Qiir'an also makes it clear that 
poetry is not an appropriate vehicle for the 
transmission of God's message by the 
Prophet. Q^ 36:69-70 runs: "We have not 
taught him poetry. That is not proper for 
him. This is only a reminder and a recita- 
tion that is clear, that he might warn those 
who are alive and that the word may be 
proved true against the unbelievers." In 
short, not only was the Prophet not pos- 
sessed, either as a poet or anything else; in 
addition, poetry was not suitable as the 
register of the revelation (see revelation 
AND inspiration; recitation of the 

These passages thus determine the posi- 
tion of the Prophet and the revelation 
vis-a-vis poetry but they say nothing about 
other poets. For that we must turn to the 
final section of (j 26 and in particular 
to C3 26:224, which gives the sura its 
name — "The Poets." Verses 224-7 ^''^ 
usually thought to be Medinan (whereas 
the rest of the sura is considered to be 
middle Meccan) but there is no cogent 
reason for this view, apart from the final 

"Shall I tell you of those on whoin the sa- 
tans descend? They descend on every sin- 
ful liar (see lie). They listen, but most of 
them are liars. And [there are] the poets, 
those who go astray (q.v.) follow them. 
Have you not seen how they wander in 
every valley, and how they say what they 
do not do? That is not the case with those 
who believe and do righteous deeds and 
remember God often and help themselves 
after they have been wronged. Those who 
do wrong will surely know by what over- 
turning they will be overturned" 
(q, 26:221-7). 

The passage is usually thought of as begin- 
ning at Q^ 26:224 but in view of the verses 
on shd'ir and majniin mentioned above, it 
seems likely that the reference to al- 
shaydtln, "satans," in verse 221 is a typically 
oblique introduction to verse 224. Clearly 
poets are denounced but, as the passage is 
rhetorical (see rhetoric; and the 
q^ur'an), the strength of the comment is 
very much a matter of interpretation. The 
view that it is a severe one seems to rely to 
some extent on views formed on the pas- 
sages already discussed. If, however, one 
takes the view that C3 26:225-6 refer to 
the poets rather than to "those who go 
astray," one may reasonably take the view 
that it exempts at least some poets from 

The possibility offered by o 26:227 that 
some poets might be or become righteous 
fits in with the evidence of the sira, the 
biography of the Prophet (see sira and 
THE our'an), and stories about the poets 
themselves, though there is much that can- 
not be taken at face value. It would appear 
that the well established, though minor, 
poet Hassan b. Thabit, of the Medinan 
tribe of Khazraj, composed poetry for 
the new community from the year 5/627 
onwards (though quite what material this 



was is now difficult to determine: at a 
conservative estimate 70% of his Diwcin is 
spurious). Also active on behalf of the 
Muslims was Bujayr b. Zuhayr b. Abi 
Suhna, who eventually persuaded his 
brother Ka'b b. Zuhayr to drop his oppo- 
sition to Islam. Ka'b then came to the 
Prophet, submitted and recited his eulogy 
Bdnat su'fid, much to the delight of Muham- 
mad. Bujayr is alleged to have warned 
Ka'b that at the conquest of Mecca 
Muhammad had ordered the execution of 
"some of those who had satirized and in- 
sulted him" (cf. Ibn Ishaq-Guillaume, 597). 
On the other hand, the Prophet appears to 
have taken no action against other hostile 
poets. Thus 'Amir b. al-Tufayl, who was 
implacably opposed to Islam, came on a 
deputation from the Banu 'Amir to visit 
the Prophet in 9/630. Despite being ru- 
mored to be involved in a plot to kill 
Muhammad, he was allowed to leave 
Medina, though he died on the way back 
to his tribe, probably through an illness 
picked up in Medina. We may also note 
that somewhat later, when 'Amir's fellow 
legate, Arbad b. Qays, was killed by light- 
ning, Arbad's half-brother Labid, appar- 
ently by then a devout Muslim, saw 
nothing wrong in composing a series of 
laments for him. 

On this basis the simple interpretation of 
C3 26:224-7, to wit that it shows some dis- 
approval of poets, though with a let-out 
clause in o 26:227, seems the most reason- 
able. That did not stop many commenta- 
tors in later periods from taking a much 
dimmer view. This is not surprising as 
poets regularly got themselves into trouble 
for foul-mouthed satire or even inadver- 
tently offending those in temporal or 
religious authority. 

Alan Jones 

{in addition to the £1- articles on the poets 
named in the article): R. Blachere, La poesie 
dans la conscience de la premiere generation 
musulmane, in A/ 4 {1963), 93-103; CI. Gilliot, 
Poete ou prophete? Les traditions concernant la 
poesie et les poetes attribuees an prophete de 
rislam et aux premieres generations musulmanes, 
in F. Sanagustin (ed.), Paroles, signes, mythes. Melan- 
ges offerts djamal Eddine Benckeikh, Damascus 2001, 
331-96; H.A.R. G'lhh, Arabic literature, Oxford 
1963% chaps. 2 and 3; A.Jones, Early Arabic poetry, 
Reading 1992-6, introchictlon; I. Shahid, A con- 
tribution to koranic exegesis, in G. Makdisi (ed.) 
Arabic and Islamic studies in honor of Hamilton A.R. 
Gibb, Cambridge, MA 1965, 563-80; id., Another 
contribution to koranic exegesis. The sura of the 
Poets (XXVI), mJAL 14 (1983), 1-21; M. Zwettler, 
A Mantic manifesto. The siira of 'The Poets" 
and the qur'anic authority, inJ.L. Kugel (ed.), 
Poetry and prophecy. The beginnings oj a literary tradi- 
tion, Ithaca 1990, 75-119. 

Polemic and Polemical Language 

Discussion of controversial [religious] mat- 
ters or allusion to them. Polemic in the 
Qur'an consists primarily of argumenta- 
tion directed against pagans (see poly- 
idolaters), Jews and Christians (see jews 

TIANITY). Yet, polemical language may 
also be employed in other contexts, for 
example when addressing erring or recal- 
citrant Muslims (see error; astray). 

Polemic in the sense of argumentation or 
the refutation of others' beliefs is a promi- 
nent element in the Qiir'an since in the 
course of his mission Muhammad encoun- 
tered various types of opposition and criti- 
cism (see opposition to muhammad). It is 
easy, however, to underestimate the extent 
to which the Qiir'an contains polemical 
language since certain words or passages, if 
taken literally or at face value, would cease 
to be polemical (see next section; see 



Such an underestimation could be tlie con- 
sequence of preferring a literal reading as 
more in keeping with the solemnity and 
sacrosanct nature of scripture; neverthe- 
less, elements such as hyperbole and lam- 
pooning are undeniably present in the 
Qur'an (see literary stru(;tures of the 
q^ur'an; humor). 

The process of refuting otliers' beliefs is 
often inseparable from the parallel process 
of defending one's own. For religious 
groups, this activity is an important part of 
identity-formation and boundary-drawing 
to the extent that a group defines itself by 
dissociating itself from others. In relation 
to the chronology of revelation (the tra- 
ditional account of Muhammad's life is 
here accepted in its broad outlines; see 
chronology and the qur'an), this pro- 
cess is progressive. Thus, the arguments 
against pagans mainly in the Meccan 
period might constitute common ground 
with other monotheistic faiths, whereas the 
arguments deployed against Jews and 
Christians in the Medinan period are by 
definition more distinctive, serving to re- 
inforce an Islamic identity over and against 
Judaism and Christianity. Among scrip- 
tures, the Qiir'an offers a particularly good 
example of this process since it reflects the 
fluctuating relations which Muhammad 
and his followers had with the pagans, 
mainly in Mecca (q.v), and with the Jews 
and Christians, mainly in Medina (q.v). 
Furthermore the Qiir'an appears to have 
interacted in a very direct manner with its 
environment to the extent that it reflects 
a response to questions addressed to 
Muhammad by specific individuals (see 
occasions of revelation). 

The nearest qur'anic equivalents to the 
word "polemic" are the third-form verbs 
derived from the roots, jadala and hajja (the 
former being rather more prevalent), both 
meaning to argue or dispute (see debate 

and disputation). Argument or disputa- 
tion are activities usually attributed to 
Muhammad's opponents and generally 
considered blameworthy (e.g. Q_ 3:20; 6:25; 
8:6); in these instances both verbs might 
best be translated as "wrangling" (but 
it should be noted t\\aXjadal — or 
"debate" — does not necessarily have neg- 
ative connotations; indeed, a treatise on 
the qur'anic modes o{ jadal, i.e. the rhetori- 
cal devices employed in debating or disput- 
ing, was written by the Hanbalite Najm 
al-Din al-Tufi [d. 716/1316]; cf SuyutI, 
Itqdn, iv, 60; Zarkashi, Burhdn, ii, 24; 
McAuliffe, Debate with them). Disputing 
about God or his signs (q.v.) is considered 
particularly reprehensible (e.g. (3 2:139; 
13:13; 40:69; 42:35). The Qtir'an says that 
every people (umma) disputed with the mes- 
senger (q.v.) who was sent to them (o 40:5) 
and many of the arguments which are 
reported as having taken place between 
former prophets and their peoples (see e.g. 
Q, 11:84-95; ^^^ PROPHETS and PROPHET- 
hood) have a bearing on Muhammad's 
disputes with his contemporaries, whether 
they be doctrinal (e.g. relating to the one- 
ness of God or the final judgment; see 
LAST judgment) Or moral (e.g. exhorting to 
honesty [c[.v.] in transactions; see ethics 
and the c^ur'an; virtues and vices, 

therefore to be considered an integral part 
of the qur'anic polemic. The polemical 
function of these passages is reinforced by 
the frequent references to the punishment, 
whether temporal or otherworldly (see 
AND punishment), which was visited on the 
recalcitrant disputants. 

The relationship between the qur'anic 
polemic and pre-Islamic monotheistic 
polemic is of interest but rather too com- 
plex to be explored in any detail here (see 





John Wansbrough has sought to situate the 
qur'anic polemic, along witli the polemical 
material in the sua literature (i.e. the 
"biography of the Prophet"; see sira and 
THE our'an), within the broader Judeo- 
Christian tradition (see scripture and 
THE q^ur'an). To this end he identified 
twelve main themes and their pre-Islamic 
antecedents: prognosis of Muhammad in 
Jewish scripture; Jewish rejection of that 
prognosis; Jewish insistence upon miracles 
(see miracle) for prophets; Jewish rejec- 
tion of Muhammad's revelation (see 
revelation and inspiration); Muslim 
charge of scriptural falsification (see 
forgery); Muslim claim to supersede 
earlier dispensations (see abrogation); 
the direction of prayer (see (jibla); 
Abraham (q.v.) and Jesus (q.v.) in sectarian 
soteriology (see eschatology; sal- 
vation; HISTORY AND THE CJUR'an); 
Solomon's (q.v.) claim to prophethood; 
sectarian Ghristology; the "sons of God"; 
and the "faith [q.v.] of the fathers" 
(Wansbrough, Sectarian milieu, 40-3; see 
belief and unbelief; generations; 

Language and style 
The form and style of the Qur'an is 
integral to its import and impact (see form 


polemic by definition seeks to have an 
impact on those whom it addresses. 
Elements of polemic are not confined to 
any particular sections of the Qi_ir'an, and 
there is a constant interplay and overlap 
between polemic and other elements such 
as eschatology, signs controversies and nar- 
rative (see narratives), as has been dem- 
onstrated by Robinson with reference to 
the early Meccan suras (q.v.; Robinson, 
Discovering, 99-124). Polemical elements in 
the Qiir'an, which are often parenthetical. 

may incorporate any one or more of the 

— exhortation (see exhortations), e.g. 
o 2:40: "O Children of Israel (q.v.)! 
Remember my favor I bestowed upon you 
(see grace; blessing); fulfill your covenant 
(q.v.) with me and I shall fulfill my cov- 
enant with you, and fear (q.v.) none but 

— rebuke or criticism, e.g. (^ 5:61: "When 
they come to you, they say: ^We believe,' 
but in fact they enter with disbelief and 
they go out the same"; 

— arguments, e.g. C3 16:103: "We know 
indeed that they say: 'It is a man that 
teaches him.' [But] the tongue of him they 
mischievously refer to is foreign, while this 
is a clear, Arabic tongue" (see ARABIC 
language; informants); 

— challenges, e.g. C3 2:111: "They say: 
'None shall enter paradise (q.v.) unless he 
be a Jew or a Christian;' those are their 
vain desires. Say: 'Produce your proof 
(q.v.) if you are telling the truth'" (see 

— refutations of accusations against 
Muhammad, e.g. o 53:2-3: "Your com- 
panion has neither gone astray nor erred, 
nor does he speak out of his own desire"; 

— discrediting opponents by means of a 
critical aside or by declaring them to be 
liars (see lie), e.g. q 37:151-2: "Behold they 
say, out of their own invention: 'God has 
begotten children'; but they are liars!"; 

— threats or warnings of temporal or 
otherworldly punishment, e.g. c) 9:61: 
"Those who molest the Prophet will have 
a grievous chastisement"; 

— declarations of woe, e.g. c) 2:79: "Woe 
to those who write the book (q.v.) with their 
own hands and then say: 'This is from 

— curses, e.g. c) 2:161: "Those who dis- 
believe and die in a state of unbelief, on 
them is God's curse (q.v.) and the curse of 



angels (see anoel) and of all humankind"; 

— satire, e.g. o 7:176: "His similitude (see 
parables) is that of a dog (q.v.): if you 
attack him, he lolls out his tongue, and if 
you leave him alone, he lolls out his 
tongue. That is the similitude of those 
who reject our signs"; 

— rhetorical or hypothetical questions, e.g. 
o 84:20: "What is wrong with them, that 
they do not believe?"; 

— exclamations, e.g. q 7:10: "We have 
placed you on the earth and given you 
therein a provision for your livelihood, but 
little do you give thanks!"; 

— emphatic denials or denunciations, e.g. 
C3 104:3-4: "He thinks his wealth (q.v.) will 
give him immortality (see eternity). By no 
means! He will certainly be thrown into 
the consuming one (see hell and 

The range of qur'anic terminology 
associated with polemic is too broad to be 
treated here. As far as the content of the 
polemic is concerned, this terminology 
could perhaps most usefully be analyzed in 
terms of clusters of words related to cen- 
tral concepts such as being astray/turned 
away (from guidance or the truth [q.v.]); 
immorality and unrighteousness; enmity 
and hostility (to God, Muhammad and/or 
the Muslims; see enemies); hypocrisy (see 
hypoi;rites and hypocrisy); haughtiness 
and pride (q.v.; see also arrogance); re- 
bellion (q.v.; see also disobedience) or 
stubbornness (see insolence and obsti- 
nacy); and stupidity or ignorance (q.v.). 

A striking feature of the qur'anic pole- 
mic, particularly in its admonitory or 
exhortatory passages, is the regular 
occurrence of paired opposites: believers 
and unbelievers, truth and falsehood, 
guidance and error, paradise and hell (e.g. 

q 2:2-7; 47:1-3; 59:20; see PAIRS AND 

pairing). These binary oppositions serve 
to confront the listener with a stark choice. 

and generally incorporate an implicit or 
explicit warning about the consequences of 
making the wrong one. Another common 
feature is a reciprocity or parallelism be- 
tween the attitude of unbelievers or hypo- 
crites to God and his attitude to them; thus 
they seek to deceive God but in fact he 
deceives them (c) 4:142); they forget him 
and so he forgets them (c3 9:67); they plot 
but so does God (c) 3:54; 8:30), and so on. 

Polemical passages may be directed at 
particular groups of people (see headings 
below) or at particular beliefs or forms of 
behavior. Far from being a dispassionate 
discourse on morals, the qur'anic condem- 
nation of a given behavior often constitutes 
an accusation that such behavior is being 
engaged in, and the emphasis falls as much 
on the perpetrators as on the behavior 
itself. This is in accordance with the 
Qiir'an's tendency to emphasize the prac- 
tical and the concrete rather than the 
abstract. It may, for example, describe 
those who are engaging in a particular 
form of morally reprehensible activity as 
"those in whose hearts there is a disease" 
[alladhinaji quliibihim maradun, e.g. C3 8:49; 
see heart; illness and health), or it 
may declare or call down God's curse 
on them, or refer to their unenviable des- 
tiny in the hereafter. The eschatological 
dimension shows the qur'anic concern not 
just to describe or condemn, but also to 
motivate humans to avoid or desist from 
such behavior. 

As indicated above, polemic is not neces- 
sarily to be taken at face value, as is clear 
from its frequent association with elements 
such as satire, encompassing features like 
hyperbole and caricature, and from its fre- 
quent use of metaphorical language (see 
metaphor). The Qur'an contains many 
examples of the use of irony or satire to 
ridicule opponents: those who were 
charged with the prescriptions of the 



Torah (q.v.) but failed to carry them out are 
compared to "a donkey laden with huge 
tomes" (q^ 62:5); poets (see poetry and 
poets), with whom Muhammad's oppo- 
nents sought to identify him, are described 
as "wandering distractedly in every valley" 
((J 26:225); the pagans who attribute 
daughters to God prefer sons for them- 
selves, and are grief-stricken when they 
receive tidings of a baby girl ((J 43:16-7; see 
infanticide; children; gender); those 
who are reluctant to fight have rolling eyes 
or almost swoon at the mention of battle 
(ft 33:19; 47:20; see fighting; expeditions 
AND battles; jihad); and there is prob- 
ably a lampooning element in the accusa- 
tion that, for Christians, God is not just 
one of a trinity or tritheism but "the third 
of three" (cj 5:73; see trinity). Examples 
of the use of metaphorical language in- 
clude the description of the unbelievers as 
deaf, dumb and blind (e.g. (3 2:18; see 
seeing and hearing; vision and blind- 
ness; hearing and deafness; speech), or 
as having a veil, seal or lock on their hearts 
(e.g q 17:46; 2:7; 47:24). 

The classification of parts of the Qiir'an 
as polemical may require identifying those 
passages where particular terms are not 
intended as a straightforward objective 
description. For example, the term 'aduw, 
"enemy," would not be considered polemi- 
cal when used to describe a military op- 
ponent, but becomes so when the situation 
is rather more ambiguous, or when the 
foremost aim is condemnation, as where 
particular persons are branded as, for in- 
stance, "enemies of God" (e.g. ^ 41:28; cf. 
58:19, the "party of Satan"; see devil; 
PARTIES and factions). If onc applies the 
same principle to a central religious con- 
cept such as "polytheism/polytheist" 
(shirk/ mushrik), it becomes apparent that an 
analysis of polemic in the Qiir'an could 
have considerable significance for the 

interpretation of particular terms or 

Polemic against polytheists, unbelievers and 

The terms "polytheist" and "unbeliever" 
correspond closely to the qur'anic terms 
mushrik and kdjir (the latter term also in- 
corporating the sense of ingratitude, i.e. in 
the face of God's favors; see gratitude 
and ingratitude). These terms and their 
cognates, however, sometimes appear to be 
used interchangeably (e.g. o 6:1; 40:12), and 
on occasion both terms have a more com- 
prehensive semantic application. For 
example, both are at times applied to 
Christians or Jews (see next section). In 
these cases, as in subsequent Muslim 
tradition, the accusation of "polytheism" 
(shirk) or "inibelief " (kufr), is directed at 
self-professed monotheists, the point being 
not that they are literally to be equated 
with outright idolators or polytheists but 
that certain aspects of their belief or prac- 
tice are seen as compromising the divine 
oneness. Kufr is sometimes closely associ- 
ated with various types of reprehensible 
behavior, in fact certain types of behavior 
may be taken as an indication that the per- 
petrator is an unbeliever; Izutsu [Ethical 
terms, 113-67) has shown how central this 
concept is, and how closely related to 
almost all other negative ethical values or 
qualities. It is therefore inappropriate to try 
to define these terms too narrowly or pre- 
cisely; an a priori assumption of absolute 
precision or consistency in qur'anic usage 
would lead to difficulties and apparent 

For obvious reasons, it is mainly in the 
Meccan portions of the Qur'an that the 
objections raised by Muhammad's pagan 
opponents are reported and refuted. The 
major themes in the qur'anic argumenta- 
tion at this stage are: the insistence on the 



oneness of God and die corresponding 
denial of any associates; tlie affirmation of 
tlie last day (see apocalypse), bodily resur- 
rection (q.v.) and the final judgment; and 
the denial of various accusations made 
against Muhammad. 

Some of the arguments employed are 
fairly simple. For example, in the face of 
the pagans' denial of bodily resurrection, 
the Qiir'an frequently argues that if God 
were able to create them in the first in- 
stance, then he is capable of bringing them 
back to life for the purpose of judgment 
(q.v.; e.g. Ci 6:94-5; 17:51; see creation; 
DEATH AND THE DEAD). In support of the 
oneness of God, the Qur'an asserts, "if 
there were in them [i.e. the heavens and 
the earth] deities other than God, both 
would have been ruined" (q 21:22). Other 
cases provide examples of fairly extended 
or multifaceted arguments. For example, in 
the face of demands for a miracle on the 
part of Muhammad's detractors, several 
arguments are employed in defense of 
Muhammad's alleged failure to produce 
one. In the Qiir'an, God declines to 
appease the critics by effecting miracles for 
various reasons: because they still would 
not believe (e.g. (J 6:109); in order to 
emphasize Muhammad's human, non- 
divine status (^ 17:90-3; see impecca- 
bility); and because the Qur'an should be 
sufficient for them (q^ 29:50-1). Muslims 
have traditionally linked this theme with 
the phenomenon of the "challenge" con- 
tained in several qur'anic passages (e.g. 
5^ 2:23-4; 10:38), which call on Muham- 
mad's critics to produce something 
comparable to the Qiir'an. Muslims 
understood this as implying that the 
Qiir'an itself constituted Muhammad's 
miracle, as later elaborated in the doctrine 
of qur'anic inimitability (q.v; ijdz). 

The Qiir'an reserves some of its harshest 
strictures for unbelievers and polytheists. 

especially the latter. For example, shirk is 
described in the Qur'an as the only sin 
which cannot be forgiven (q 4:48, 116; see 
forgiveness; sin, major and minor) and 
the mushrikun are described as "unclean," 
and are therefore prohibited from entering 
the sacred mosque (q.v.) in Mecca ((j 9:28). 
Unlike Jews and Christians, unbelievers 
and polytheists appear to have no redeem- 
ing features. Frequently, God's curse is pro- 
nounced on them and/or allusion is made 
to their destination in hell (e.g. o 33:64). 
The term munafiqun, "hypocrites," is al- 
most exclusively Medinan and over time is 
increasingly used to denote a specific 
group of people. At Medina these people 
come to be numbered among Muham- 
mad's staimchest opponents, along with 
unbelievers and polytheists; indeed, they 
are sometimes explicitly paired with one of 
these categories (e.g. C3 4:140; 48:6), or with 
"those in whose hearts there is a disease" 
(q^ 8:49; 33:12, 60). As with unbelievers, 
their destiny in hell is frequently pro- 
claimed (e.g. cj 4:138; 66:9). The terms 
nifaq and n'a'are both used to denote the 
abstract quality of hypocrisy, but by and 
large the main function of the term 
munafiqun appears to be to serve as a con- 
demnatory label to draw attention to a 
group of people in Medina who are 
opportunistic and therefore fickle in their 
support of the Muslims. The Qur'an is, in 
effect, warning the Muslims of this as well 
as warning the hypocrites of the conse- 
quences of their actions; actual hypocrisy 
and dissembling is only one of several rep- 
rehensible forms of behavior for which 
they are criticized in the Qur'an. 

Polemic against Jews and Christians 
In the Medinan period the Qur'an increas- 
ingly recognizes the followers of Judaism 
and Christianity as communities in their 
own right (see religious pluralism and 



THE OUR an; relioion; community and 
SOCIETY IN THE q^ur'an). This is not tlie 
place to speculate on precisely which 
groups of Christians and Jews (although in 
the case of the latter the picture is some- 
what clearer) may have been present in 
the Arabian peninsula in Muhammad's 
time (see south Arabia, religion in 
pre-islamic; pre-islamic Arabia and 
the (JUr'an); but the Qiir'an does appear 
at times to have been addressing particidar, 
possibly heretical, groups of Jews or 
Christians (e.g. q 9:30 attributes to Jews the 
belief that 'Uzayr/Ezra [q.v.] is the son of 
God, a belief to which no Jewish or other 
extra-qur'anic attestation has been found), 
and at others to reflect the beliefs of par- 
ticidar groups (e.g. the Nestorian emphasis 
on Jesus' humanity or the Docetists' denial 
that he was really crucified). Attempts 
to demonstrate any direct influence of 
specific groups, however, remain highly 

The qur'anic material relating to Judaism 
and Christianity or Jews and Christians is 
not all polemical, and indeed there are 
some verses that could be described as con- 
ciliatory; but a sizeable proportion of it, 
probably the majority, is. Certain criticisms 
are directed at both Jews and Christians, 
sometimes under the rubric People of the 
Book (q.v.; ahl al-kitdb or alladhina utu 
l-kitdb), a category which denotes primarily 
but not exclusively Jews and Christians, 
while others are directed at one to the 
exclusion of the other. References to the 
People of the Book generally consist of 
exhortations (e.g. c) 4:171; 5:15), didactic 
questions (e.g. q 3:98, 99), or criticisms of 
their behavior (e.g. q 3:19, 69). Although 
some verses appear to distinguish between 
good and bad People of the Book (e.g. 
q 3:75, no), the prevailing opinion appears 
to be that most of them are unrighteous 
(e.g. q 5:59; see good and evil; justice 
and injustice). Yet other verses speak of 

"those who disbelieve from among the 
People of the Book" (e.g. q 2:105; 59:2; 
98:1), showing that the categories of kdfirun 
and People of the Book are not mutually 
exclusive. There is some ambiguity con- 
cerning the question of whether conver- 
sion to Islam is expected or demanded of 
the People of the Book. Their respective 
scriptures and faiths are at least implicitly 
affirmed (e.g. q 5:44, 46-7; 10:94), but at 
times there seems to be an expectation that 
People of the Book shoidd believe in the 
Qiir'an, and verses expressing a desire for 
this vary from the wistful (e.g. q 3:110) to 
the threatening (e.g. q 4:47). This ambigu- 
ity, and the use of terms such as kufr and 
shirk in connection with Jews and Chris- 
tians, has given rise to disagreement 
among Muslim interpreters as to whether, 
in fact, Jews and Christians who remain in 
their respective faiths can attain salvation, 
despite the apparent confirmation of this 
in q 2:62 and o 5:69. Criticisms which are 
directed at both Jews and Christians, al- 
though not necessarily to the same degree, 
include distorting, forgetting, misinterpret- 
ing or suppressing parts of their scriptures 
(e.g. q 2:75, lOi; 5:15, 41; see revision and 
alteration); desiring to lead Muslims 
astray (e.g. q 2:109; 3:100); failing to believe 
in Midiammad's message (e.g. q 3:70; 5:81); 
being religiously complacent or exclusivist 
(e.g. q 2:80; 5:18); being divided amongst 
themselves (e.g. q 5:14; 98:4); elevating 
their religious leaders to quasi-divine status 
(e.g. q 9:31; see lord); and failing to fol- 
low their own religious teachings properly 

(e-g- a 5:47)- 

In general, the qur'anic polemic against 
Jews is harsher in tone and more ad homi- 
nem than that against Christians. The most 
sustained passage on the Children of Israel 
[band Isrd'il, the most common designation 
of the Jews) takes up about half of the 
longest sura in the Qiir'an (beginning from 
q 2:40). Commencing with exhortation. 



the passage becomes increasingly condem- 
natory, recalling the Jews' past (and by 
implication present) stubbornness, dis- 
obedience and ingratitude. Just as stories 
of the former prophets and their oppo- 
nents (see PUNISHMENT stories) are clearly 
targeting Muhammad's contemporaries in 
their criticisms of those opponents, so this 
passage dissolves the distance between 
past and present by directly associating 
Muhammad's Jewish contemporaries with 
the misdeeds of Jews almost two millennia 
previously. Thus, in a passage generally 
believed to refer to an event recorded in 
Deuteronomy 2i:i-g and Numbers ig:i-io, 
the Qiir'an declares: "Remember when 
you killed a man and fell into dispute 

among yourselves about it Thenceforth 

were your hearts hardened: they became 
like rocks or even harder" (q 2:72-4; see 
McAuliffe, Assessing). In one of the more 
strongly worded passages concerning Jews 
it is stated that "those of the Children of 
Israel who disbelieved were cursed... evil 
indeed were the deeds which they com- 
mitted... God's wrath is on them, and in 
torment will they abide forever," and it is 
concluded that Jews, along with polythe- 
ists, are "strongest in enmity to the believ- 
ers" (a 5:78-82). 

Arguments directed at Christians often 
concern religious doctrine. The Qiir'an 
appears to refute the Trinity (e.g. Q^ 5:73, 
although strictly speaking the verses in 
question refute tritheism); the divine son- 
ship of Jesus (e.g. (J 4:171); the divinity of 
Jesus (e.g. (J 5:17); and the crucifixion (q.v.; 
Q. 4''57"8)- Some of these doctrines are 
declared tantamount to kufr or shirk (e.g. 
Q_ 4:171; 5:17, 72-3), thus blurring the dis- 
tinction between Christians and 
polytheists/imbelievers in much the same 
way that the distinction between People of 
the Book and unbelievers is blurred in the 
verses cited above. 

Even more than in the case of polemic 

against unbelievers, it is important to 
observe the chronology of revelation when 
assessing passages relating to Jews and 
Christians. An example of this is the 
apparent denial of the crucifixion, often 
cited in Muslim-Christian polemic but in 
fact revealed in the early Medinan period 
when Jews, not Christians, were considered 
to be the main opponents of the Muslims. 
This denial is therefore to be understood 
primarily as a reproach to the Jews and a 
refutation of their claim to have killed 
Jesus. A few (e.g. Ayoub, Islamic Chris- 
tology, 116-7; Zaehner, Sundry times, 212) 
conclude that this leaves open the possibil- 
ity of interpreting the verse as affirining 
the role of God, while denying that of the 
Jews, in bringing the crucifixion to pass. 
The fact that the Qiir'an contains con- 
ciliatory as well as polemical material 
relating to Jews and Christians raises the 
hermeneutical question of the relationship 
between the two types of passages. In view 
of the fact that the chronological progres- 
sion in the Qiir'an is generally in the direc- 
tion of greater hostility towards and 
criticism of these groups, many of the 
classical scholars (see exegesis of the 
q^ur'an: classical and medieval) took 
the later, more confrontational verses as 
abrogating the earlier, more conciliatory 
ones (e.g. Q^ 9:29, among other verses, was 
generally taken to abrogate Q^ 2:256; see 
verses). Furthermore, the dividing line 
between good and bad People of the Book 
was generally taken to coincide with the 
dividing line between those who either 
accept Islam or would do so if they were to 
hear about it and those who do not or 
would not. In the modern period (see 
EXEOESis of the our'an: early modern 
AND contemporary), cxcgetes tend to 
place rather less emphasis on abrogation, 
so other approaches emerge. Those who 
continue to hold an overwhelmingly nega- 
tive view of Christians and Christianity 



may distinguish between an ideal, meta- 
Christianity posited in tlie Qiir'an and tlie 
actual Christianity with which Muhammad 
and other Muslims down to the present 
have come into contact (see McAuliffe, 
Qur'dnic). Modernists (e.g. Ayoub, Nearest 
in amity, 162) prefer to take the more 
positive verses (e.g. Q^ 2:256) as of universal 
application while interpreting the negative 
verses as having limited and temporary 
application, for example in conditions of 
warfare (see war) or hostility between 
Muslims and others. 

Because of its ongoing relevance 
throughout history, polemic against Jews 
and Christians raises another hermeneuti- 
cal question, namely that of how far or in 
what respects the qur'anic material applies 
to a changed environment. If individual 
qur'anic verses respond to the particular 
beliefs of Muhammad's Jewish and Chris- 
tian contacts, as appears to be the case in 
at least some instances, then the question 
arises as to how far it is appropriate to 
apply those verses to later Jewish or 
Christian groups. Some have suggested 
that the Qiir'an refutes heretical Christian 
beliefs (e.g. tritheism, adoptionism, the 
physical generation of the Son) rather than 
the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity, 
Incarnation, etc. In practice, however, the 
vast majority of Muslim commentators 
have assumed that the Qiir'an does refute 
the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the 
Christian doctrine of divine sonship, 
especially as these are understood to con- 
tradict the central Islamic tenet of the one- 
ness of God. 

Post-qur'dnic polemic 
The Qiir'an has had an immeasurable 
impact on subsequent Islamic literature 
would be impossible to quantify the sty- 
listic influence of the polemical material in 
the Qiir'an but it is safe to assume that it 

has been extensive; Muslim polemical 
writings often echo or reproduce qur'anic 
vocabulary and phrases. This section will 
be confined to religious polemic, where 
the qur'anic influence has been most in 

Heresiographical and other types of work 
incorporate various accusations against 
those outside the Jewish and Christian tra- 
ditions, for example charges of atheism 
(ilhdd), heresy (q.v.)/Manicheanism (zan- 
daqa) or materialism (dahriyja). It is 
Christians who, however, have been the 
target of the bulk of Muslim polemical 
literature. This is in part because of the 
shared border with Christendom and the 
resulting fact that the Muslims' most sig- 
nificant military opponents were generally 
Christians, right down to the modern 
period. Christians also formed the most 
numerically significant communities under 
Muslim rule, in the case of many of the 
central Islamic lands evolving from a 
majority to a minority over the course of a 
few centuries. In addition, from the earliest 
period it was often Christians, such as John 
of Damascus (d. ca. 132/749), who initiated 
religious debates, thereby prompting a 
response from Muslims. Many refutations 
of Christianity were composed, often un- 
der the rubric al-radd 'aid l-nasdra. There 
was also a lesser amount of anti-Jewish 
polemic, and some overlap between the 
two in that biblical criticism, insofar as it 
pertained to the Hebrew Bible or the Old 
Testament, could be directed equally at 
both communities. 

The Muslim polemic, although not de- 
void of ad hominem and, from about the 
ninth century, rational and philosophical 
arguments based on Greek (especially 
Aristotelian) philosophical categories (see 
PHILOSOPHY AND THE ^ur'an), was heavily 
dependent on the Qi_ir'an, a dependence 
which accounts for a high degree of con- 
sistency in this literature. Thus the main 



areas of criticism were scriptural integrity 
and tlie related accusation of suppressing 
predictions of Muhammad and conveying 
false doctrine, and the overriding claim 
was that of abrogation (generally in the 
sense of Islam abrogating or superseding 
previous religions, but also applied inter- 
nally to the biblical text). There was, how- 
ever, also some knowledge and criticism of 
empirical Christianity, i.e. the actual prac- 
tices of various Christian groups and the 
doctrinal and other differences between 
them. The polemic is not to be found in 
any one genre; aside from polemical works 
proper, treatments of other religions can 
be found in Qiir'an and hadith commen- 
taries (see HADITH AND THE q,ur'an), theo- 
logical treatises (see theology and the 
(jur'an), works oi jiqh (jurisprudence; see 
law and the our'an), heresiography, his- 
torical and geographical compendiums (see 
geography and the qur'an), belles 
lettres, and poetry. 

Not surprisingly, the majority of those 
who undertook systematic refutations of 
Christianity were theologians. Among 
them, Mu'tazills (q.v.) were especially 
prominent (e.g. Abu 'Isa al-Warraq, d. ca. 
246/860, al-Jahiz, d. 255/869 and 'Abd 
al-Jabbar, d. 415/1025), and instrumental in 
introducing more sophisticated, philosoph- 
ically based arguments. Unfortunately ear- 
lier works by some of the founding figures 
of Mu'tazilism have not survived, for these 
might have given a clearer picture of the 
influence of Muslim-Christian controver- 
sies on the development of Islamic theol- 
ogy. What is clear is that certain Christian 
doctrines had a bearing on internal Mus- 
lim disputes. There was, for example, a 
parallel between the Christian concept of 
the Logos and the Muslim doctrine of the 
uncreated Qiir'an (see createdness of 
THE cjur'an), and between the hypostases 
of the Trinity and the question of the 
independent existence of the attributes of 

God (see god and his attributes). While 
Mu'tazill tenets had the effect of distanc- 
ing Islam from those Christian doctrines, 
the mainstream Ash'ari theology, which 
was formed in reaction to the Mu'tazila, 
considerably narrowed this distance. 

One of the most significant figures for 
both the anti-Christian and anti-Jewish 
polemic is the Andalusian Zahiri theolo- 
gian Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1064), whose major 
work, Kitcib al-Fisalfi l-milal wa-l~ahwd' wa- 
l-nihal, has continued to be influential 
down to the present. This work is notable 
for being the flrst Muslim source to incor- 
porate a thorough, systematic treatment of 
the biblical text. His relatively detailed 
knowledge of the text (although it is likely 
that he relied on secondary sources to 
some extent) enabled him to list alleged 
contradictions, absurdities, errors, lewd- 
ness, and anthropomorphisms (see 
anthropomorphism) in the Bible. He 
argued strongly for the view that tahrlf 
(scriptural corruption; see corrxjption) 
entailed extensive textual alteration, and 
not just misinterpretation as some other 
scholars had held. Like others before him, 
however (notably 'All b. Rabban al-Tabari; 
d. ca. 241/855?), in his Kitcib al-Dm wa-l- 
dawla, he claimed to be able to identify 
biblical predictions of Muhammad in the 
extant text. Despite his considerable 
knowledge of both the biblical text and 
Islamic sciences (see traditional 
DISCIPLINES of qur'anic study) Ibn 
Hazm lacked philosophical sophistication 
and, not surprisingly for a Zahiri, had an 
extremely literalistic approach to scripture. 
With few exceptions, the writings of later 
polemicists such as Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/ 
1328) and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/ 
1350) were largely derivative, often relying 
heavily on Ibn Hazm. 

The Muslim anti-Christian polemic was 
mainly intended for a Muslim audience 
and (as with the Christian anti-Muslim 



polemic) was unlikely to convince the 
opponent because it relied on internal (i.e. 
Islamic) categories, in particular the doc- 
trine of tahrifv^hich presupposed a differ- 
ent understanding of revelation from the 
Christian one. This is seen most clearly in 
the qur'anic assumption that God revealed 
the gospel (q.v.; injil) to Jesus in the same 
way that he revealed the Qiir'an to 
Muhammad, which posits an Aramaic gos- 
pel consisting purely of God's own words. 
Contemporary Muslim polemic tends to 
draw more on sources external to the 
Qur'an, in particular higher biblical criti- 
cism which can be used to demonstrate 
that the Bible is not "revealed" in the sense 
that Muslims generally understand revela- 
tion, i.e. the verbatim word of God (q.v.) 
preserved without any alterations. Two 
works which have been particularly influ- 
ential in the modern period are Rahmat 
Allah Kayranawi's Izhar ul-haqq, which 
emerged from the nineteenth-century 
Indian Christian-Muslim public debates 
(mund^ardt), and the twentieth-century 
Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra's 
Muhddardtjjl-nasrdniyya. Despite benefiting 
from higher criticism, however, the mod- 
ern polemic is not demonstrably superior 
to the classical works and indeed often 
shows an inferior knowledge of empirical 
Christianity. See also apologetics. 

Kate Zebiri 

Primary: SuyutT, Itqdn; id., Mu'tarak al-aqrdn ji 
Vjdz al-Qiir'dn, ed. 'A.M. al-BajawT, 3 vols., Cairo 
1969-72, ii, 56-7 (definition of jadal in the 
Qiir'an); al-Tufl, Najm al-Dln al-HanbalT, 'Alam. 
al-jadhal ji 'Urn al-jadal. Das Banner der Frohlichkeit 
iiber die Wissenschaft vom Disput, ed. W. Heinrichs, 
Wiesbaden 1987; Zarkashi, Burhdn. 
Secondary: C. Adang, Muslim writers on Judaism 
and the Hebrew Bible. From Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm, 
Leiden 1996; G. Anawati, Polemique, apologie et 
dialogue islamo-chretiens, in Euntes docete 2 2 
(1969), 375-451; M. Ayoub, Nearest in amity. 

Christians in the Qin^'an and contemporary 
exegetical tradition, in Islam and Christian-Muslim 
relations 8 (1997), 145-64; id., Towards an Islamic 
Christology II. The death of Jesus, reality or 
delusion? in MH'70 (1980), 91-121; S.M. Behloul, 
Ibn Hazm's Evangelienkritik. Eine methodische Unter- 
siichung, Leiden 2002; A. Charfi, La fonction his- 
torique de la polemique islamochretienne a 
I'epoque Abbasside, in S. Khalil Samir and 
J. Nielsen (eds.), Christian Arabic apologetics during 
the Abb asid period (750-1258}, Leiden 1994, 44-56; 
R. Ettinghausen, Antiheidnische Polemik im Koran, 
Gelnhausen 1934; E. Fritsch, Islam und Christentum 
im. Mittelalter, Breslau 1930; H. Goddard, Muslim 
perceptions of Christianity, London 1996; G. Haw- 
ting, The idea of idolatry and the emergence of Islam. 
From polemic to history, Cambridge 1999, esp. 46-7, 
67-87; id., Shirk and "idolatry" in monotheist 
polemic, in los 17 (1997), 107-26; J. Henninger, 
Spuren christlicher Glaubenswahrheiten im Koran, 
Schoneck/Beckenried 1951, 45-56; A. Hifnl, 
Uslub al-sukhriyyafi l-Qur'dn al-karim, Cairo 1978; 
T. Izutsu, The structure of the ethical terms in the 
Koran. A study in semantics, Tokyo 1959; J. Jomier, 
Bible et coran, Paris 1959; id., The great themes of the 
Qur'dn, London 1997; M.A. Khalaf Allah, 
Mafdhim qur'dniyya, Kuwait 1984; Kh.A. Khalil, 
Jadaliyyat al-Qur'dn, Beirut 1977; H. Lazarus- 
Yafeh, Intertwined worlds. Aledieval Islam, and Bible 
criticism, Princeton 1992; A. Ljamai, Ibn Hazm et 
la polemique islamo-chritienne dans I'histoire de I'islam, 
Leiden 2003; D. Marshall, God, Muhammad and the 
unbelievers. A qur'dnic study, London 1999; J. D. 
McAuliffe, Assessing the Isrd'Tliyydt. An exegetical 
conundrum, in S. Leder (ed.), Story-telling in the 
framework of non-fictional Arabic literature, Wies- 
baden 1998, 345-69; id.. Debate with them in 
the better way. The construction of a qur'anic 
commonplace, in B. Embalo et al. (eds.), Myths, 
historical archetypes and symbolic figures in Arabic lite- 
rature, Beirut 1999, 163-88; id., Qur'dnic; id.. The 
qur'anic context of Muslim biblical scholarship, 
in Islam and Christian-Muslim relations 7 (1996), 
141-58; M. Mir, Humor in the Qiir'an, in MwSi 
(1991), 179-93; ^- Perlmann, The medieval 
polemics between Islam and Judaism, in S.D. 
Goitein (ed.). Religion in a religious age, Cambridge, 
MA 1974; E Rahman, Major themes of the Qur'dn, 
Chicago 1980; N. Robinson, Discovering the Qur'dn. 
A contemporary approach to a veiled text, London 
1996; H. SharqawT, al-Jadalfi l-Qur'dn, Alexan- 
dria 1986; M. Sherif, A guide to the contents of the 
Qur'dn, Reading 1995; M. Steinschneider, 
Polemische und apologetische Literatur in arabischer 
Sprache, z^ischen Muslimen, Christen undjuden, nebst 
Anhdngen verwandten Inhalts, Leipzig 1877, repr. 
Hildesheim 1965; J.W. Sweetman, Islam and 
Christian theology. A study of the interpretation of 



theological ideas in the two religions, 2 vols., London 
1945-67; D. Thomas, Anti-Christian polemic in early 
Islam. Abu Isd al-Warrdq's 'Against the Trinity", 
Cambridge 1992; J. Waardenburg, Types of 
judgment in Islam about other religions, in G. de 
la Lama (ed.). Middle East, 2 vols., Mexico City 
1982, i, 135-44; ^- Waldman, The development 
of the concept of kufr in the Qiir'an, '\n JAOS 88 
{1968), 442-55; J. Wansbrough, The sectarian milieu. 
Content and composition of Islamic salvation history, 
Oxford 1978; W.M. Watt, The Christianity criti- 
cized in the Qtir'an, in MW ^J (1967), 197-201; 
R.C. Zaehner, At sundry times. An essay in the com- 
parison of religions, London 1958; K. Zebiri, 
Muslims and Christians face to face, Oxford 1997. 

Political Science see social sciences 


Politics and the Qiir'an 

This article will discuss the use of the 
Qur'an to justify or contest rule. Three 
areas will be considered: (i) quasi-political 
themes in the Qtir'an; (2) the politicization 
of the Qur'an in early Islam; and (3) the 
possibility and limitations of human rule 
alongside or in addition to the Qiir'an as 
divine communication. 

Some preliminaries: As an institution 
governing a territory, administering its 
peoples and resotirces and legislating a 
socio-political order, the state as organ of 
rule came into being in early Islam not 
from qur'anic directive but from the 
experience and consensus of the first 
Muslims (see community and society in 
THE q^ur'an; law and the q^ur'an). 
Strong emphasis is given in the Qiir'an to 
obedience (q.v.) to God and the messenger 
(q.v.) of God (and, at one place, to those in 
power, a/a l-amr [q 4:59], a heavily ex- 
ploited phrase which early exegetes 
understood as those with knowledge and 
intelligence, not political authority, e.g. 
Mujahid, Tafsir, i, 163; see knowledge 
and learning; scholar; intellect). 
The Qur'an makes enough mention of 

struggle between the followers of 
Muhammad and his opponents (see 
OPPOSITION TO Muhammad) to suggest that 
politics was at play in the first attempts to 
announce its message. Moreover, the 
Prophet was awarded authority (q.v.) in the 
form of an oath of allegiance [bay 'a, e.g. 
C3 48:10, 18; see oaths; contracts and 
alliances), in which his followers prom- 
ised to fight for the cause of God (see path 
OR way; expeditions and battles) until 
death [bay 'at al-ridwdn; Ibn Ishaq, Sira, iii, 
236) and early writers of history, such as 
Ibn Sa'd (d. 230/845; Tabaqdt), do depict 
the Prophet as a regional hegemon, receiv- 
ing delegations and tribute in exchange for 
protection (see clients and clientage; 
sira and the our'an; history and the 

Those who succeeded Muhammad as 
leaders of the Muslim community worked 
to consolidate and expand the domain of 
Islam, e.g. Abu Bakr (r. 11-13/632-4) in the 
wars of apostasy (q.v.) and 'Umar b. al- 
Khattab (r. 13-23/634-44) in the conquest 
of Byzantine and Sasanian lands. It was 
conquest (q.v.) that led to the formation of 
a state ruled by a caliph (q.v.) and local 
governors and administered by magistrates 
and functionaries (judges and secretaries). 
None of this, however, can be said to bear 
a clear connection to qur'anic inspiration 
(see revelation and inspiration) or even 
a loose one in the manner in which the 
Israelite monarchy was viewed through the 
words of Deuteronomy 16:18-18:22. The 
interest of theological literature in the 
leadership of the Muslim community was 
limited to sectarian debate [kaldm or 'ilm 
al-jiraq; see Madehmg, Imama; see 
theology and the c3ur'an; imam; 
kharajIs; shI'ism and the qur'an); and 
the collections of prophetic reports [hadith; 
see hadith and the qur'an) and law 
(jiqh), while speaking to the moral param- 
eters of Islamic rule (e.g. Bukhari, Sahih, 



Kitdb al-Ahkdm; Muslim, Sahih, Kitdb al- 
Imdra), say nothing about tlie concept or 
details of political organization. The for- 
mulation of a theory connecting rule and 
religion was left to a genre of literature of 
Greek and Persian provenance known as 
"mirrors-for-princes," i.e. advice literature, 
in which it was argued that salvation (q.v.) 
in the next world was contingent upon 
socio-political prosperity in this one, 
mainly for two reasons. First, socio- 
political chaos was not conducive to per- 
forming the religious obligations by which 
one attained salvation and, secondly, the 
revealed law — the commands and pro- 
hibitions of God that define the Muslim 
community — could only be enforced by 
well-established rule, including various 
organs of governance and bureaus of 
administration. It was al-Mawardi (d. 450/ 
1058), above all, who articulated this vision 
of Islamic rule, both its theory and form of 
governance, in Tashil al-na^ar wa-ta'jTl al- 
Zafar ("Raising awareness and hastening 
victory") and al-Ahkdm al-sultdniyya ("The 
laws of Islamic governance"), respectively. 
It should be mentioned, however, that 
such connections between governance 
(siydsa) and revelation (shan'a) were never 
above suspicion, playing a role in Sunnl- 
Shi'i debate (see Heck, Construction, 
ch. 4). 

Quasi-political themes in the Qur'dn 
There is no agreement that the Qiir'an 
even has a political message. For 
Qamaruddin Khan (Political concepts) the 
qur'anic message is not political but moral 
(see ETHICS AND THE our'an), a summons 
to submit to the one God and a life of faith 
(q.v.). He claims that the Qiir'an in no way 
sanctions one political form (i.e. monarchy, 
theocracy, democracy, etc.) and that those 
who derive a political message from the 
Qiir'an exploit its verses out of context 
for their own goals. In contrast, for 

Muhammad 'Izzat Darwaza the Qiir'an 
speaks to all aspects of human life, includ- 
ing the state and its financial, judicial, 
military and missionary tasks (see 
invitation) — a specifically qur'anic 
political program implied, as he sees it, in 
the reference of q 57:25 to the book (q.v.) 
and iron, i.e. divine justice and the coercive 
force needed to ensure public order 
(Darwaza, al-Dustur al-qur'dm, 50 f; cf. 
Muqatil, Tafsir, v, 4, 245, who associates 
iron with warfare; and al-'Amiri, I'ldm, 152, 
who characterizes both prophecy and 
human rule as divine endowment [mawhiba 
samdwiyya] ; see war; justice and injus- 
tii;e; prophets and prophethood). To 
that end, he adduces a number of verses 
(q.v.) purported to have called for political 
leadership after the death of the Prophet 
(Darwaza, al-Dustur al-qur'dnl, 56 f.) and 
marshals forth in the body of the work an 
array of verses on the basis of which he 
constructs a qur'anic vision of political 

Despite the range of opinion about its 
political content, the Qtir'an is clear about 
the connection between socio-political 
prosperity and obedience to the message of 
God as conveyed by his messengers. Denial 
of the divine message leads to destruction 
at the hands of God (e.g. (3 25:37; see 
PUNISHMENT STORlEs). This is the way of 
God [sunnat Alldh, q 40:85), to bring to 
naught those who sow corruption (q.v.) on 
earth (e.g. C3 28:4, 43). By underscoring the 
demise of former nations (umam khdliya) 
that failed to heed God's messengers (e.g. 
C3 40:21-2, 82; see generations; warning; 
geography), the Qiir'an signals rhetori- 
cally (see RHETORIC AND THE OUR'an) tO its 
audience the consequence they will suffer 
if they fail to respond gratefully to the 
prophet Muhammad (see gratitude and 
ingratitude). The prophetic mission is 
God's claim upon a people to live in grati- 
tude and faithfulness, making it a matter of 



survival to comply with prophecy once 
announced (c) 28:58-9). It is no exaggera- 
tion to say that the example of former 
nations has considerably influenced 
Muslim political consciousness through the 
centuries (e.g. Mawardi, ^ 7a»7, 65: wa-qasas 
man ghabara min al-umam wd'ii), ensuring 
religion a central place in formulations of 
political prosperity (e.g. Juwaynl, Ghiydth 

The terms traditionally used for political 
governance (siydsa) and political order 
(ni^dm) are absent from the Qiir'an but all 
things in heaven and earth are subject to 
God's administering command (c) 32:5, 
yudabbiru l-amra mina l-samd'i ild l-ardi; cf. 
Q_ 10:3, 31; 13:2; see POWER AND impo- 
tence; cosmology). Responsibility for 
living in conformity to God's administra- 
tion [tadbir, equated with governance 
[siydsa] in classical Islamic political 
thought) has been divinely entrusted to 
humankind, signified in the idea of 
khalifa — e.g. Ci 6:165 and c) 10:14, verses 
which indicate that this idea, whether 
understood as successor to former nations 
or delegate of God on earth, implies a test 
of fidelity to the will of God (for the dif- 
ferent interpretations of this term by the 
early exegetes, see al-Qadi, Khalifa; for its 
political appropriation by Umayyad and 
'Abbasid rulers, see Crone and Hinds, 
Caliph, and al-Qadi, Foundation; for an 
historical overview of the institution of the 
caliphate, see Sourdel et al.. Khalifa). 

This responsibility, now on Muslim shoul- 
ders, was foreshadowed in (i) God's plan 
for Adam to be caliph on earth (c) 2:30; see 
ADAM AND eve) and (2) the divine trust 
(al-a?nd?ia) accepted by humankind prior to 
creation (c[.v.; C3 33:72, its rejection by the 
rest of the created order making it the dis- 
tinctive mark of human beings) in recogni- 
tion of God as their sovereign lord (q.v.; 
Q^ 7:172). Since, however, humankind was 
destined to be subject to Satan's tempta- 

tions (see devil; fall of man), there 
was need for warning and guidance 
(see astray; error; freedom and 
predestination): Prophecy thus stands at 
the heart of the proper ordering of human 
affairs, serving to orient humankind not 
only to its final destiny in the next world 
(see eschatology; reward and punish- 
ment) but to prosperity in this one, as 
summarized by Muqatil b. Sulayman 
(d. 150/767; Tafsir, ii, 42): "When God 
sends a prophet to humankind and they 
obey him, the land and its people prosper 
(salahati l-ard wa-ahluhd). Disobedience 
[results in] the corruption of sustenance 
[c[.v.;fasdd al-ma'isha) and the destruction of 
the land's people." A moral society is, after 
all, a blessing from God (c3 3:104): "That 
there be [made] of you a nation that calls 
for the good, commanding the right and 
forbidding the wrong. Those are the ones 
who thrive {al-muflihun; see virtues and 


This is not to imply that prophets are to 
exercise rule themselves; Muhammad is 
reminded on several occasions that he is 
merely a bearer of good tidings (see good 
news) and a warner (e.g. (j 25:56). Rather, 
prophets are to witness to the rule of God, 
the main instrument of which is scripture 
[kitdb; see book), along with rule (huhn) 
and prophecy [nubuvuwa, e.g. q_ 3:79; 6:89; 
45:16). Muqatil [Tafsir, i, 289, 574) 
understands hukm as knowledge and un- 
derstanding, which, by arbitrating human 
differences (cf. <J 2:213), bring about socio- 
political harmony under divine truth 
(q.v.) — a qur'anic idea first embodied 
tangibly in the Constitution of Medina, 
which recognizes differing communal 
norms within one polity (see Zein al- 
Abdin, Political significance). 

All dominion is envisioned as God's 
[lilldhi mulku l-samdwati wa-l-ardi, e.g. 
C3 3:189; 5:17-8; less frequently malakut, e.g. 
O 6:75, 23:88, 36:83). It is in that sense that 



the political program of tlie Qi_ir'an is 
essentially other-worldly or eschatological, 
i.e. oriented to the final day when all judg- 
ment (q.v.) will be truly divine (c3 25:26; see 
Hamid, Usiil, 56, for whom the eschato- 
logical message of the Meccan verses 
forms a necessary backdrop to the 
divinely — i.e. other-worldly — oriented 
polity of the Medinan ones; see Mecca; 
While dominion is God's alone (q 17:111; 
25:2), he distributes it as he wishes (c3 3:26), 
for instance to Saul (q.v.; c) 2:247) and 
David (q.v.; q 2:251). Dominion in human 
hands cannot, however, be reduced merely 
to power over others but is conceived as 
the application of divinely bestowed 
knowledge (e.g. q 2:251; 12:101; 85:9) that 
will lead humankind to the religious and 
moral life ordained by God and destined to 
be fully realized on judgment day (q 22:56; 
cf 40:16; see last judgment). Humans 
may have been entrusted with rule (e.g. 
(J 5:20; 12:43) but God alone is true king 
[al-malik al-haqq, e.g. q_ 20:114; see kings 
AND rulers). 

The qur'anic depiction of dominion as 
divine kingship recalls the imagery of the 
Psalms (q.v), which are themselves shaped 
by conceptions of kingship of the ancient 
Near East. In the Psalms, it is the temple 
that represents God's heavenly throne as 
symbol of ultimate authority (e.g. Ps 
11:4-5). I'^ the Qiir'an, God is the final 
judge (hakam), seated on his throne and 
ruling his creation from its inception (cf. 
Q_ 7:54). He strikes those who transgress his 
order (cf q 6:124; see boundaries and 
precepts; chastisement and punish- 
ment), sets a path to be followed (q 6:153), 
ensures the just settlement of dispute 
(cj 6:57; cf. 5:48), is the enemy of unbeliev- 
ers (c) 2:98), lord of east and west (c3 2:115, 
142), and his rule protects his subjects from 
the chaotic forces of unbelief (cf. C3 2:286; 
see BELIEF and unbelief). 

It is in this sense that the prophet 
Muhammad acts as emissary (rasul) from 
the heavenly court, sent to give warning of 
impending judgment (e.g. q 10:15) similar 
to that meted out to former nations. There 
is thus no break between divine and pro- 
phetic authority (e.g. q 4:80; cf 4:153), 
making obedience to the prophetic mes- 
sage (risdla) the singular means of avoiding 
doom. Following that message will result in 
true rule and prevent strife and corruption 
in the land, thereby ensuring prosperity 
rather than the destruction that former 
nations met as their fate for failing to heed 
God's messengers (c) 10:13) and choosing 
instead to follow the command of earthly 
potentates (q 11:59). Human beings, cus- 
todians of divine communication, are wor- 
thy of rule (q 4:59; cf 4:83; 27:33): Indeed 
God uses human rulers to restrain human- 
kind from sowing corruption in the land 
through mutual aggression (c) 2:251, a 
theme taken up vigorously in classical 
Islamic political thought; see Heck, Law) 
and even allows a human hierarchy regard- 
less of moral standing (cf. o 6:165). Rule in 
itself, however, is no guarantee of success, 
for even the wicked rule over one another 
(cf. C) 6:129). Humans, as problematic crea- 
tures given to strife and factionalism, need 
recourse to a higher standard to establish 
socio-political harmony. Although offering 
no details of political organization, the 
Qiir'an is quite clear that the processes of 
rule and arbitration are never to ignore the 
designs of God. 

Thus, human beings, created weak 
(q 4:28), must be reminded of their di- 
vinely entrusted responsibility, which hap- 
pens periodically through prophetically 
established covenants [mithdq, q 5:7; with 
the Israelites, q 2:63, 93; 5:12; with the 
Christians, q 5:14; with the prophets, 
q 3:81, 33:7; sec children of Israel; 

NANT). Such covenants are never limited to 



monotheistic worsliip (q.v.) but include 
socio-moral norms (e.g. q 2:83, wliere the 
covenant witli Israel demands honoring 
one's parents [q.v.] and relatives, care for 
orphans [q.v.] and the dispossessed [al- 
masdkin] and kindly speech to others; cf. 

Q, 4:154; see POVERTY AND THE POOr). 

These covenants, accompanied by divine 
knowledge (e.g. scripture and prophetic 
wisdom), impose upon their recipients an 
obligation to carry out God's program, an 
obligation neglected with grave conse- 
quences (q 3:187; 5:70-1; 7:169). Rejecting 
covenant results not only in unbelief and 
infidelity ((J 4:155) but also in a disregard 
for God's interest in human welfare, ul- 
timately bringing about corruption in the 
land [fasddfi l~ard, cf Q^ 2:27; 13:25, a 
phrase denoting the very antithesis of the 
qur'anic vision of socio-political prosper- 
ity). Human welfare, ordained by God, 
nevertheless depends on human willingness 
to bring it about by cooperating with God's 

It will be important to recount briefly the 
mythic narratives of the Qiir'an (see 


the stories of former nations, which high- 
light the clash between godly and human 
rule — the central political theme of the 
Qiir'an that provides meaning for 
Muhammad's own struggle with the peo- 
ples of his day who rejected or did not fully 
accept his message and who are negatively 
characterized in various ways: faithless 
ingrate (kafir), polytheist (mushrik; see 
POLYTHEISM AND atheism), recipient of 
previous scripture [ahl al-kitdb, i.e. "people 
of the book [q.v.]," usually identified as 
Jews and Christians; seejEWS AND 
Judaism) and, more generally, hypocrite 
[mundfiq; see hypocrites and hypocrisy), 
transgressor (idlim) and sinner [Jdsiq; see 
sin, major and minor). They, too, like the 
former nations, are destined to perish for 
refusing the message of God conveyed to 

them by the prophecy of Muhammad. 
This is not to discount the rhetorical pur- 
pose of such narrative, i.e. a literary tech- 
nique to encourage acceptance of the 
recited message. Rather, it is to say that the 
Qiir'an is not naive about the use of power 
to shape human society for a godly end (Ji 
sabil Allah) . The former nations' rejection 
of prophecy justifies struggle (jihdd), even 
armed struggle, against the opponents of 
Muhammad (see jihad). In turn, the 
Muslims, whom God has chosen as final 
successors to former nations, must prosper 
by struggling for the way of God against 
those who mock or deny him (see mock- 
ery; lie), making prosperity, i.e. political 
success, the litmus test of obedience to 

In other words, socio-political prosperity 
is a heavy burden, envisioned by the 
Qiir'an not only as the performance of 
moral and religious obligations but also as 
a ritual performance meant to recall and 
resonate with the mythic narrative of 
the Qiir'an. The political ritual of 
Islam — 'ibdda mulkiyya in the words of al- 
'Amiri (d. 381/992; Fldm, 148-50) — has 
been diversely imagined by Muslims: 
eschatologically (Kharijis), legally (Sunnis), 
hierarchically (Shi'ls), esoterically 
(Isma'llis), ideally (the vision of philoso- 
phers such as al-Farabi; see philosophy 
AND THE our'an) and sociologically (the 
position of state-aligned intellectuals, e.g. 
Qudama b. JaTar, al-Mawardi, Ibn 
Khaldun; see social sciences and the 
cjur'an). But, for all, it is the means of 
sanctifying the Muslim community by re- 
calling God's promise of sustenance and 
support until the end of time (Mawardi, 
.NasThat al-muluk, 67), in contrast to the for- 
mer nations that he brought to ruin — the 
mythic narrative recorded in the scrolls 
(q.v.) of previous scripture as a reminder 
(dhikrd, see memory; remembrance) to all 
and heeded by some [ahl al-dhikr, C3 16:43; 



21:7). The qur'anic narrative thus makes of 
pohtics — the quest for socio-pohtical 
success — a salvifically driven drama that 
re-enacts the revealed message. Failure to 
imagine socio-political prosperity in recol- 
lection of the mythic narrative puts divine 
favor at risk and, for some, may demand 
acts of heroic sacrifice, i.e. martyrdom (see 
martyrs), by which to restore what is un- 
derstood to be a relation with God gone 
awry (for an example of a martyr culture 
in opposition to the world, see Sharara, 
Dawla, esp. 291 f). Alternatively, it may 
demand a re-reading of the Qiir'an such 
that political reality be understood in light 
of qur'anic narrative. An example of this 
from the classical period can be foiuid in 
the work of Abu Hayyan al-Tawhldi 
(d. 414/1023; Imtd', ii, 33), who at a time of 
political flux in the Islamic world made the 
claim on the basis of <j 2:247 that the ruler 
(malik), no less than prophet, is heaven-sent 
(mab 'uth), and that to the great astonish- 
ment of the vizier (ka'anm lam asma' bi- 
hddhd qatt). Of the many examples of this 
in the modern period, one can point to the 
work of the Syrian sheikh and parliamen- 
tarian, Muhammad al-Habash, who places 
emphasis on the benefits (masdlih) and 
prosperity to accrue to Muslims from a 
greater engagement with the modern 
world, as a qur'anic mandate (see Heck, 
Religious renewal; cf. al-Hamd, al-Siydsa). 

At play throughout the Qiu"'an, the politi- 
cal drama of former nations is more or less 
coherently narrated across its seventh, 
eighth and ninth chapters: the first re- 
vealed in Mecca, the last two in Medina. 
Accounts begin in <J 7 (Surat al-A'raf, "The 
Heights") as follows: God alone is protec- 
tor (q 7:3), since it is he who arbitrates on 
judgment day ((j 7:8-9). Unbelievers seek 
out the protection of demons [shaydtin, 
c) 7:27), a theme recalling the fall of Adam 
and Eve ((J 7:22-4) and the resulting human 
struggle to resist demonically inspired 

temptation (c) 7:16-7) and strife (o 7:24). 
Those who do sin and transgress God's 
decrees fail to recognize his exclusive au- 
thority (q 7:33, an tushriku bi-lldhi md lam 
yunazzil bihi sultdnan — sultdn identified as 
God's book by Muqatil, Tafsn, ii, 34); they 
are the nations of jinn (q.v.) and humans 
occupying hell (c3 7:38, umam... mina l-jinni 
wa-l-insiji l-ndr; see hell and hellfire). 
God as lord of all ((3 7:54) wills that there 
be no corruption in the land after it has 
been made good (q 7:56, Id tufsiduji l-ardi 
ba'da isldhihd; cf. q 7:85), having sent a 
series of messengers to various peoples for 
that purpose (to call them to monotheism 
[tawhid] according to Muqatil, Tafsir, ii, 43): 
Noah (q.v; Nuh), Hud (q.v), Salih (q.v) 
and Shu'ayb (q.v). In each case, the 
worldly leaders of the day {mala', a tribal 
term that Muqatil, TafsTi; ii, 45, 49, identi- 
fies with the arrogant, al-kubard', alladhina 
takabbaru 'an al-imdn; see arrogance) reject 
the purported messenger (o 7:60, 66, 75, 
and 88, respectively) for speaking against 
the beliefs of the community (e.g. milla in 
the case of Shu'ayb, o 7:88; on such com- 
munity-identifying terms, see Ahmed, 
Key). Each in turn (q^ 7:61-2, 67-8, 79 and 
93) responds that he is a messenger of 
God, sent to convey his message and offer 
counsel [nasTha, for the reform of the affairs 
of the nation in question, e.g. C3 7:85 in the 
case of Shu'ayb; 'u/ama' would later claim 
this role of socio-political counsel, called 
nush, e.g. Ibn Taymiyya, Siydsa, i). The peo- 
ple, led by their arrogant leaders (Muqatil, 
Tafsir, ii, 45, see this as oppression [q.v] of 
the weak fdu'aja'] by the strong, i.e. pre- 
venting them from the benefits of God's 
message; cf. c) 40:47, where, in hell, the 
weak ask the arrogant why they misled 
them), inevitably disavow the messengers 
of God and are destroyed by his judgment 
(understood by Muqatil, ibid., 47, as a fit- 
ting piuiishment), which, however, creates 
the possibility of successor nations [khulaja', 



C3 7:69, 74, understood by Muqatil, ibid., 
43, as successors in punishment ['adhdb]). 
Up to this point, liowever, the settled peo- 
ples of the world [ahl al-qurd; see city) 
refuse to believe, thus foregoing the mate- 
rial blessings [barakdt) that accompany 
fidehty to God (q^ 7:96). 

Such narration [al-qasas, o 7:176; cf. 7:7; 
see narratives), mytho-historical staging 
for Muhammad's own prophetic mission, 
culminates in the account of Moses (q.v.) 
and Pharaoh (q.v.): the archetypical clash 
of godly and worldly power. Moses is 
God's messenger to Pharaoh and his court 
{mala', (^ 7:103). Pharaoh takes on the char- 
acteristics of God, accusing Moses of sow- 
ing corrtiption in the land and claiming to 
be the one who subdues the world (cf. 
c) 7:127): The problem here is not human 
ride itself but denial of God's ultimate 
sovereignty. Moses convinces the reluctant 
Israelites that God will destroy their enemy 
and make them the latest successors to cus- 
todianship of God's message [<i 7:129). 
Indeed, after the destruction of Pharaoh 
and his folk, the Israelites do inherit the 
earth, east and west (suggesting the entire 
earth, c) 7:137)- It is they, finally, who form 
a community (umma) of truth and justice 
(c3 7:160) and yet they, too, eventually 
divide into twelve tribes or nations and do 
wrong (() 7:159), signaling the judgment to 
be passed against the Israelites as against 
former nations [q_ 7:168). The religious 
divisions of humankind in general and the 
Israelites specifically are attributed by al- 
Tabarl (d. 310/923) to political aspiration 
(talab al-ri'dsa) and the desire of htimans to 
subject one another [istidhldl min ba'dihim 
li-ha'd, Tabari, Tafsir, i, 650- 1, where it is 
explained that the Muslims, on account of 
divine guidance [hiddya], refrain from these 
differences and on judgment day will serve 
as witness against the former nations for 
rejecting the messengers sent to them; see 

that religious divisions are the product of 
political ambition is echoed in the fourth/ 
tenth-century letters of the Ikhwan al-Safa 
("Brethren of Purity"; Rasd'il Ikhwdn al- 
Sajd, iii, 151-6; cf. also Mawardi, ^(/aA al- 
dln, 169-70, where weak rtile is shown to be 
the source of religious innovation and divi- 
sion, and id., Nasihat al-muluk, 70-6, where 
the ruler is expected to defend creedal 
orthodoxy against theological innovations 
understood as breaches of socio-political 
harmony; see heresy; innovation). 

The turn has now fallen to Muhammad, 
as foreshadowed in previous scriptures, 
who legislates by commanding the right 
and proscribing the wrong (al-amr bi-l- 
ma'ruf wa-l-nahy "an al-munkar; cf. Cook, 
Commanding right, 13-31) and by establishing 
the lawfid (haldl) and unlawful {hardm, see 
Muhammad the messenger to all people 
from the one God to whom belongs sov- 
ereignty over the heavens and the earth (cf. 
Q. 7-i57"S)- ^^ if to bring the story full cir- 
cle, the Qtir'an has Muhammad declare 
that God alone is his protector (o 7:196 in 
echo of c) 7:3; see protection), presum- 
ably in the face of those groups who, as we 
see in the following two chapters, have set 
themselves against him. 

That the account of Muhammad's 
strtiggles in o 8 (Surat al-Anfal, "The 
Spoils") and c) 9 (Surat al-Tawba, "Repen- 
tance") is to be read as fulfillment of the 
historical narration of Q^ 7 is confirmed by 
c) 9:70, which queries whether the news 
(q.v.; naba') of former nations had not 
reached the ears of Mtihammad's oppo- 
nents. The themes of o 7 are thus re- 
worked into the context of Muhammad's 
own mission, helping to explain the nature 
of the opposition. There is a call to obey 
God and his messenger (c3 8:46; cf. 8:26 
where people are reminded not to betray 
the trust [amdna] given to them and <J 9:63, 



where hell is the judgment upon those who 
oppose God and his messenger). The en- 
emies of Muhammad are compared to 
Pharaoh (q^ 8:52). In the end it is God who 
rules all through his book (cf. o 8:68, 75). 
Strife — the seduction of the devil and 
source of religious division — will be 
avoided once all opposition has been sub- 
dued and all religion has been handed over 
to God (q_ 8:39). Thus is a godly nation 
born out of struggle with ungodly opposi- 
tion, both polytheists (i.e. mushrikun or at 
least those polytheists who have broken a 
treaty made with Muhammad [c3 9:3-4, cf. 

TRACTS) and recipients of previous scrip- 
tures who neither believe nor recognize the 
lawful and unlawful in their own scriptures 
((J 9:29), making them tantamount to 
mushrikun by associating other lords with 
God in denial of his singular sovereignty 
(q, 9:30-1; see IDOLATRY AND IDOLATERS). 
In other words, failure to heed one's scrip- 
ture leads to socio-moral breakdown. This 
new nation is composed of people who 
believe, command right and forbid wrong, 
are committed to both prayer (q.v.) and the 
payment of alms (5) 9:71; see almsgiving), 
leave their homes (i.e. separate from the 
wayward) and care both for one another 
(q, 8:72) and for the weaker members of 
society (cf. q 8:41 and 9:60 on the distribu- 
tion of spoils and alms, respectively, and 
c) 7:75 and 7:137 on concern for the down- 
trodden [mustad'af] ; see booty; oppressed 
on earth, the). 

It is worth noting the resemblance of 
such qur'anic narrative to the biblical 
oracles against the nations and oracles of 
restoration [Ezek 25:1-32:32 and 33:1-39:29 
and Jer 25:13-38 and 46:1-51:64), where 
judgment was passed against the nations, 
including Israel, for cultic, not political, 
deviance and hope was offered for a new 
Israel and even a new temple and cult [Ezek 
40:1-58:35). Is, then, the qur'anic concern 
for imity under God's rule as mediated by 

the prophet Muhaminad a socio-political 
concern or a cultic one? Is it for political or 
cultic reasons that God has sent his final 
messenger to a nation destined to succeed 
all previous ones (c3 13:30)? C3 22:67 men- 
tions dispute over ritual (mansak; see ritual 
AND THE our'an), q^ i6:i24 and Q_ 39:3 over 
the Sabbath (q.v.) and q 5:45 over bodily 
injury. Does the rule of God as announced 
by the Qiir'an include the political or is it 
more properly limited to ritual f'ibdddt), 
social affairs [mu 'dmaldt, e.g. commercial, 
criminal and family law; see marriage 
AND divorce; family) and morals 

At least one group in early Islam, the 
Kharijis, made no separation between the 
political and the ritual. In a context in 
which revelation is believed to be opera- 
tive, differences must be mitigated or 
removed for the sake of a communal purity 
that is itself a pre-condition for further 
revelation. In other words, when a nation 
fails to carry out the work ('amal) com- 
manded of them by God, the possibility of 
further divine communication is jeopar- 
dized and previous communication is ren- 
dered suspect. Hence, qur'anic charges of 
scriptural distortion (see forgery; 

polemic and POLEMIllAL LANGUAGE) 

against recipients of previous scripture 
were also accusations of socio-moral 
impropriety. Parallels to this can be found 
in the Judeo-Christian tradition: The 
Israelites had to undergo purification in 
anticipation of God's manifestation on 
Mount Sinai [Exod 19:1-24:18, especially 
19:8-19); and the community at Q_um- 
ran — for whom prophecy was not at all 
closed — maintained a strict code of ritual 
and legal purity as a pre-condition for fur- 
ther divine communication. The Qur'an, 
for its part, states that the mushrikun are a 
pollutant (najas) and are not to go near the 
sacred mosque (q.v.; C3 9:28). Pollution [rijs, 
Q 9:125; see cleanliness and ablution; 
RITUAL purity) — coiistrued as transgres- 



sion of ritual practice, dietary laws (see 
FOOD AND drink), scxual norms (see sex 
AND sexuality), etc. — poses a problem 
for further disclosure of revelation (q 9:127, 
wa-idhd ma unzilat suratun na^ara ha 'duhum ild 
ba'din, halyardkum. min ahadin...). This sug- 
gests that qur'anic reference to the rule or 
reign of God has nothing to do with politi- 
cal decision-making but implies rather the 
unity of communal purpose that the cultic 
maintenance of God's presence amidst his 
people entails. 

Still, scripture is God's mode of decision- 
making, which is not limited to the book 
sent to Muhammad (see scripture and 
THE cjur'an), but includes both the Torah 
(q.v.) and Gospel (q.v.; C3 5:44-7). The claim 
is made by one exegete (Tabarl, Tafsir, iii, 
243) that these verses were revealed in re- 
sponse to a group of Jews who questioned 
Muhammad about two adulterers and thus 
failed to follow the judgment — stoning 
(q.v.) — that their own scripture called for 
(Tabarl, Tafsir, iii, 233-5): Those who do 
not make decisions according to God's rev- 
elation are ingrates, transgressors, wicked 
fe 5-44j voa-man lam jahkum bi-md anzala 
lldhu fa-uld'ika humu l-kdfirun; (j 5:45 uses 
^alimun and c) ^:^j,Jdsigun). 

The political potential of such verses was 
certainly not lost on al-Tabari (d. 310/923), 
who narrates a story of a group of Kharijis 
who inquire of Abu Mijlaz whether 
Q. 5-44"6 could be applied to the political 
leaders of the Muslims (umard' wa-wuldt 
al-muslimm), considered to be in sin simply 
for their assumption of rule, which in 
Khariji opinion belongs only to God. 
Clearly aware of the Khariji angle of their 
inquiry (as was al-Tabari who explains it), 
Abu Mijlaz responds by saying that Islam 
(q.v.) is their religion even if they sin and 
that the verses in question were revealed in 
reference to Jews, Christians and polythe- 
ists. The question is not settled, however, 
since faithless ingratitude (kufr) does not 
properly apply to these groups, leading 

al-Tabari to demonstrate that c) 5:44 
(kdjjriin) applies to lapsed Muslims, while 
Q. 5-45 (zdlimun) and C3 5:47 (Jdsiqiin) applies 
to Jews and Christians, respectively, and 
that the unbelief into which lapsed 
Muslims have fallen is not of the kind ne- 
cessitating excommunication, which would 
make it licit to take their life (ibid., iii, 
237-8; see murder) — an argument that 
has not swayed Islamist groups today from 
using such verses to justify attacks against 
Muslim leaders who fail to implement the 
rule of God to Islamist satisfaction. 

It cannot be denied that God alone 
decrees the final fate of his creatures 
(c) 40:48) as the most just of judges 
(c) 11:45) '^^'t '■hi^ capacity is shared by 
prophets and humans in general, who are 
called to judge with justice [al-'adl, e.g. 
C) 4:58 and 5:95; or al-qist, Q_ 5:42) and truth 
(haqq) without partiality (hawd, (3 38:26), as 
a check against transgression [baghj, 
C3 38:22). Such standards are associated 
with the scripture itself [hukm al-kitdb, cf. 
Q, 3:23 and 4:105), which, as the highest 
standard of arbitration, serves to reconcile 
differences and to end conflict (e.g. o 2:213; 
cf. 3:23 and 45:17), while all quarrels are 
to be settled by God's final verdict on 
judgment day {c3 22:68-9). If it is indeed 
the word of God (q.v.; kaldm Alldh) that 
must rule, to prevent strife and ensure 
prosperity, then the extent to which 
humans are capable of interpreting the 
divine will and thus meriting a share in 
rule remains the central if elusive question 
for politics and the Qiir'an. 

The politicization of the Qur'dn in early Islam 
The ideological use of the Qiir'an for 
political purposes, i.e. its politicization, 
occurred early. As the word of God, the 
Qiir'an is the emblem of Islamic legiti- 
macy par excellence and has been used to 
that end by standing governments and reb- 
els alike, by activists and theorists, and in 
defense of both hereditary rule and elected 



politics. Given its divine origin, scripture 
acts as an alternative autliority, making it 
an interest of a state witli a religions dis- 
pensation to supervise the text, as can be 
seen in both the earliest and more recent 
periods of Islamic history, e.g. (i) the 
establishment of a single recension of the 
qiir'anic text {mushaf [q.v.]) by the third 
caliph, 'Uthman (r. 23-35/644-56), who 
outlawed variant versions (see collection 
READINGS OF THE cjur'an) to the resent- 
ment of the so-called Qiir'an reciters 
[qurrd'; see reciters of the ^ur'an), a 
decision that, according to Sayf b. 'Umar 
(d. 180/796), led them to seek his assassi- 
nation (Sayf b. 'Umar, Kitdb al-Ridda, 49-52); 
and (2) the decision by 'Abd al-Hamid II 
(r. 1876-1909) to make the printing of the 
Qiir'an (q.v.) an Ottoman state monopoly 
and to set up a commission under the high- 
est religious office of the state (shajkh al- 
isldmj for the inspection of all printed 
copies. Even states without a religious dis- 
pensation may seek to manage the Qiir'an, 
as seen in the Turkish Republic's interest in 
promoting a Turkish translation of the 
Qur'an with commentary (Albayrak, The 
notion; see translations of the q^ur'an). 

The diverse political ends that the 
Qur'an has served, from earliest Islam until 
today, have been possible simply because it 
is, as the word of God, beyond human 
control. Can the Qur'an be subordinated 
to human interpretation? To what extent 
can it accommodate human decision- 
making? Is the Qur'an itself to determine 
political rule or is it to be located within a 
constellation of human conceptions of 
rule? Is the Qur'an to shape the political 
order or is it to be placed at the service of 
the political order? On the one hand, the 
qur'anic announcement of the absolute 
sovereignty of God has been taken very 
seriously by some Muslims, especially those 
with Khariji leanings. On the other, the 

absence of any qur'anic details on political 
organization has made apparent to most 
Muslims the need for non-revealed guid- 
ance in the realm of politics. The politi- 
cization of the Qur'an, from its beginning, 
centered upon the possibility of its inter- 
pretation and thus subordination to human 
judgment — a vast topic which here can 
only be glimpsed in the traces left to us in 
the chronicle written by the third/ninth- 
century historian, al-Tabarl (Ta'nkh). 

The death of the Prophet gave rise to a 
struggle over the nature of Islamic society 
and leadership, imagined variously as suc- 
cession to the Prophet and as delegated 
agent of God on earth. The extent to 
which the Muslim community was to be 
politically organized under central rule was 
also in question. All parties involved, both 
recognized caliphs and their opponents, 
cited qur'anic verse in support of their 
cause. In his letter to a group of apostates, 
the first successor to the Prophet, Abu 
Bakr, couched in abundant qur'anic cita- 
tion his argument that Islam will survive 
the death of its Prophet (Tabari, Ta'nkh, 
1882; trans, x, 55-60), while one of his sup- 
porters, Abu Hudhayfa, mobilized military 
enthusiasm against the apostates by calling 
out to the Muslims as the people of the 
Qur'an (ibid., 1945, trans. 121). Later, the 
widow of the Prophet, 'A'isha (see 'a'isha 
BINT ABi bakr), in a letter to the people of 
Kufa, reportedly argued for Medinan 
hegemony against the emerging center of 
power in southern Iraq under the leader- 
ship of 'All b. Abl Talib (q.v.; r. 35-40/ 
656-61), the cousin and son-in-law of the 
Prophet and fourth of the rightly-guided 
caliphs, by calling the people to uphold 
the book of God against the killers of 
'Uthman, quoting c) 3:102-3 and Q_ 3:23 on 
the importance of communal unity (ibid., 
3133; trans, xvi, 74-6). In response, 'All is 
reported to have asserted his adherence to 
the book (i.e. of God) as arbiter and imam 



(ibid., 3141; trans, xvi, 83), unsuccessfully 
attempting to use a copy of the Qi_ir'an as 
a symbol of reconciliation (isldh) for the 
divided community (ibid., 3186, 3189; 
trans, xvi, 126, 129-30). 

The real test for the relation of the 
Qiir'an to Islamic rule came at the battle of 
Siffin (q.v.) between the partisans of 'All 
(see shI'a) and those of Mu'awiya, founder 
of the Umayyad dynasty (r. 41-60/661-80) 
who based his claim to lead the Muslim 
community on his right to avenge the 
blood of 'Uthman as closest kin (see blood 
money; kinship). In the course of the 
battle, which had swayed in favor of 'All, 
the soldiers of Mu'awiya reportedly raised 
copies of the Qur'an (masahif) on the tips 
of their spears as a symbol of their desire 
for arbitration (q.v; 'Tabarl, Ta'nkh, 3329; 
trans, xvii, 78). 'All hesitated at first, claim- 
ing that Mu'awiya and his followers were 
without religion and without Qiir'an (here 
in the indefinite — perhaps alluding to one 
of many recitations [qird'dt] of the Qiir'an) 
and that he had fought them in the first 
place so that they might adhere to rule by 
"this book" [li-jadlnu bi-hukm hddhd l-kitdb, 
ibid., 3330; trans, xvii, 79). Eventually, a 
group within his partisans, the vociferous 
advocates of rule by the Qiir'an later 
known as Kharijis, urged him to respond 
to this offer of judgment by the book of 
God (ibid., 3332; trans, xvii, 86). While the 
trick played by Mu'awiya to get the better 
of 'All is well-known, the story of the ar- 
bitration between the two raised significant 
issues about the relation of the Qiir'an to 
Islamic rule. 

After calling 'All to submit to the rule of 
the Qiir'an, these first Kharijis challenged 
his claims to personal charismatic author- 
ity, especially his attempts to associate 
himself with the character and prestige of 
the Prophet (ibid., 3336; trans, xvii, 85; cf 
Miibarrad, Kdmil, ii, 540; Sayf b. 'Umar, 
Kitdh al-Ridda, 357), protesting that their 

oath of allegiance to him did not imply 
special privilege (cf. i Chron 21 and i Kings 
10:23-11:13, where David and Solomon, 
respectively, are rebuked for pursuing 
lordly status based on worldly power); 
rather, he was like them in all respects, 
acting as their recognized leader and not 
in any way an inspired figure. With the 
arbitration between 'All and Mu'awiya 
exposed as a hoax, this group withdrew 
from 'All's partisans, accusing him of fail- 
ing to submit fully to the rule of the 
Qur'an and of permitting human judg- 
ment over the book of God (Miibarrad, 
Kdmil, ii, 539-40; Tabarl, Ta'nkh, 3360-2, 
esp. 3362, where one Khariji ends his ac- 
cusation of 'All with the following: "Our 
lord is not to be set aside or dispensed 
with. O God, we take refuge in you from 
the introduction of things of this world 
into our religion, a smearing [idhdn] of the 
affairs of God and a disgrace fdhull] that 
brings down his wrath upon his people."). 

Their position crystallizing in opposition 
to 'All, whom they attack — on the basis of 
C3 49:9 — for his failure to repent, the 
Kharijis would go on to proclaim a highly 
pietistic, strongly individualistic and 
qur'anically centered religiosity (Tabarl, 
Ta'nkh, 3349; trans, xvii, 99): Considering 
themselves the only true Muslims for their 
freedom from sin (i.e. defined as the use of 
human judgment in the affairs of God; see 
impecciability), they dispensed with — at 
least in principle — the need for a leader 
(i.e. human rule; cf. Crone, Statement); 
authority was for them to be purely con- 
sultative among their members (see 
consultation), all of whom, it is to be 
presumed, were entirely faithful to the 
voice of the Qur'an, while their oath of 
allegiance, to God alone, required them to 
adhere strictly to the principle of com- 
manding the right and forbidding the 

Ibn 'Abbas (d. ca. 68/686-8), dispatched 



by 'All to the Khariji rebels, was faced with 
a stubborn refusal to listen to his use of 
analogical reasoning to justify the arbitra- 
tion (on the basis of Q^ 4:35, which calls for 
arbitration to reconcile a couple in conflict; 
Tabari, Ta'rikh, 3351; trans, xvii, lOO-i; 
Mubarrad, Kdmil, ii, 528-9). The Kharijis 
responded by insisting that, while human 
discretion is permissible where God has 
delegated authority, it is not for his servants 
to judge what he has decreed, namely that 
Mu'awiya and his party should repent or 
be killed, a judgment based on c) 9:5 which 
calls for the killing of those who do not 
repent of their failure to acknowledge the 
singular sovereignty of God. 

At stake here are essentially two very dif- 
ferent notions of qur'anic interpretation 
with consequences for political authority. 
For these first Kharijis, no human inter- 
pretation of the Qtir'an was possible, 
ensuring its unequivocal if problematic 
status as final arbiter and leader of human 
society (see Ibn Abl Shayba, Musannaf, viii, 
729-43, nos. 2, 3, 38-40, 48, where the 
Prophet is made to predict the coining of 
the Kharijis as a people whose engagement 
with revelation is limited to an oral recita- 
tion unmediated by human judgment; see 
also no. 33, which describes Khariji in- 
sistence that communal differences be 
decided solely by the rule of the book of 
God [hukm al-kitdh]; nos. 27 and 51, which 
explain their defense of divine rule alone 
as a ploy to do away with human gover- 
nance \imra or imdra\; and no. 22, which 
cites Khariji neglect of ambiguous [q.v.; 
mutashdbih] verses of the Qiir'an as evi- 
dence of their rejection of interpretation). 
For 'All and his partisans, the human being 
formed the cognitive link between the 
Qiir'an and communal decision-making, as 
exemplified in Ibn 'Abbas' use of analogy 
and 'All's own argument that the Qiir'an is 
merely dead script between two covers and 
that it does not speak but rather that 

humans speak through it (Tabari, Ta'rikh, 
3353) trans, xvii, 103; see speech). For that, 
he was accused of giving authority over the 
book of God to humans (ibid., 3361; trans, 
xvii. III), an accusation he recognized but 
defined as a failure of judgment, not sin, 
while accusing the Kharijis in turn of dis- 
rupting the governance necessary for 
Muslims to fulfill their pact with God 
(citing q 16:91-3) by making of the Qur'an 
something it was not intended to be (citing 
q 39:65, essentially accusing the Kharijis of 
polytheism). Both sides cite the Qiir'an 
(ibid., 3362; trans, xvii, 113) as proof texts 
to justify two different conceptions of 
scripture, one subject to human inter- 
pretation and the other effective with- 
out it. 

The Kharijis, in a later encounter with 
Ibn al-Zubayr, accused 'Uthman of having 
introduced innovations into the religion 
and of opposing the rulings of the book 
(Tabari, Ta'rikh, 516; trans, xx, 99-100), a 
transgression they identify with 'Uthman's 
attempt to create a dynastic rule officiated 
by his close kin and based on central 
control of the proceeds of the Islamic 
conquests. In short, the corruption that 
the Qur'an so vehemently denounces is 
understood by both the representatives of 
the nascent Islamic state and their Khariji 
opponents as disobedience (q.v.) to God, 
the difference being that for the former 
disobedience to God included disobedi- 
ence to properly constituted and divinely 
endowed human authority. 

This first debate over the relation of the 
Qur'an to human rule must be seen in the 
context of changing social conditions, 
especially the emergence of an increas- 
ingly centralized state with control over the 
material wealth of the community, which 
meant in the case of early Islam the con- 
siderable proceeds of conquest which had 
turned many of the first Muslims into 
landowners of vast estates (see Kenney, 



Emergence), while depriving otliers from a 
sliare of tlie spoils of victory according to 
seniority in the cause of Islam, as had been 
the case under the Prophet and his first 
two successors. One report claims that it 
was 'All's refusal to permit the Muslim 
fighters to plunder the property of con- 
quered peoples that first provoked Khariji 
resentment (Sayf b. 'Umar, Kitab al-Ridda, 
357). Under 'All's policy, conquered lands 
were to be administered and taxed by state 
officials and not distributed as tribal booty 
to Muslim fighters, who were now to re- 
ceive a salary fixed by the state. It was thus 
partly the consolidation of Islamic rule in 
worldly terms that brought about the 
politicization of the Qiir'an, the strongly 
eschatological (other worldly) coloring of 
its verses serving as a platform for oppo- 
nents of the state to protest its policies: 
How could there be worldly rule in light of 
the rule of God as inaugurated and an- 
nounced by the Qiir'an? It was not merely 
a question of the qur'anic narrative of for- 
mer nations but the presence of the 
Qiir'an itself in the midst of the believing 
community. If revelation — God's word 
and not human effort — was to be the 
effective agent of grace (q.v.) and guidance, 
any other rule would be automatically dis- 
qualified on the grounds of being worldly: 
Those whom the rapidly changing social 
conditions of early Islamic society had 
marginalized from an increasingly central- 
izing power and dispossessed of a share in 
the growing wealth of the Muslim com- 
munity found a strong ally in the Qiir'an. 
In short, Khariji shame at being marginal- 
ized in a changing socio-political order 
came to be associated with qur'anic con- 
demnations of sinful worldliness and 
human governance identified as the object 
of God's wrath, transforming scriptural 
rhetoric into a political program. Human 
governance, now defined as godless, is to 
be attacked in order to ensure avoidance of 

the historical catastrophe that beset former 
nations. Social marginalization becomes 
imagined as religious anxiety over the pos- 
sibility of suffering the horrifying conse- 
quences of human dismissal of the 
prophetic message. Amidst such develop- 
ments, the only way to display piety (q.v.) is 
by attacking the state and those who award 
it authority, now depicted in eschatological 
terms as the foes of God (see enemies), as 
seen in an early Khariji poem ('Abbas, Shi'r 
al-khawdrij, no. 258): 

I did not want a share from him, only 
aspiring in killing him that I succeed 
and relieve the earth of him and those 
who wreak havoc and turn from the truth. 
Every tyrant (jabbdr) is stubborn. I consider 
him to have abandoned the truth and to 
have legislated misguidance (sannat al- 
daldl). Verily do I sell myself to my lord, 
quitting their hollow words, selling my 
family and wealth, in the hopes of a place 
and possessions in the gardens of eternity 
(q.v; see also garden). 

It would not be totally inaccurate to dis- 
miss Khariji use of the Qiir'an as a means 
to defend their material interests, as 
Mu'awiya did CTabarl, Tankh, 2913, 2930), 
but it is still important to link their material 
interests to their conception of revelation 
and its corresponding view of all worldly 
goods as sacrificial offering to God (see 
sacrifice). It was not just a matter of con- 
trol of communal resources but also of the 
divine consumption of the lands and prop- 
erty of the conquered peoples as prepara- 
tion for the rule of God signaled by 
revelation, as suggested by cj 27:91-3, which 
Salim b. Dhakwan [Epistle, 64; cf. 50) cites 
in support of fighting against any associa- 
tion (ishrdk) of the worldly with the divine. 
By comparison, this attitude is well illus- 
trated in the book of Joshua, where the 
voice of God commands the Israelites not 



only to conquer the land but to plunder its 
wealth and kill its inhabitants — men, 
women and children — as a holocaust 
offering to the lord [e.g. Josh 6:17-21; 8:2, 
24-6; 10:28-40; 11:6-14; see also ,A^«m 21:33-5 
and Deut 3:1-7). The rule of God is to be 
prepared by the elimination of all that 
stands in its way, a mission contingent 
upon the uncompromised purity of a com- 
munity consecrated to the sacralizing, 
sanctifying, all-consumptive and annihilat- 
ing voice of God as announced by the 
book of the law of Moses (Josh 8:34-45; 
23:6-8). The qur'anically inspired militancy 
of the early Kharijis served as an expres- 
sion of vengeance on the worldly powers of 
the day, now Muslims and not merely 
forces hostile to Islam, who were both an 
affront to the reign of God and a threat to 
socio-political harmony, as expressed by 
the proto-Khariji Ibn Budayl as grounds 
for fighting Mu'awiya (Tabarl, Ta'nkh, 
3289-90, citing C) 9:123-7). Q_ 4:66-78, a rhe- 
torical foil to encourage listeners to choose 
the way of God over that of Satan [tdghut; 
see IDOLS AND iMAOEs), speaks of fighting 
(q.v.) and killing as a religious activity 
(associated with prayer and fasting), a 
scriptural theme that became a way of life 
for the early Kharijis, who passed sleep- 
deprived nights reciting the Qiir'an and 
long days in battle until death (Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, 3286-7), both activities understood 
as a means of drawing closer to God by 
lowering the barrier between this world 
and the next. 

Recent studies on the Khariji phenom- 
enon (see Donner, Piety and eschatology; 
al-Jomaih, Use of the Qtir'an; Higgins, 
Qiir'anic exchange; Heck, Eschatological 
scripturalism) have raised important ques- 
tions about their conception of revelation, 
their eschatological point of view and their 
desire to die in battle against the enemies 
of God. The reports about them as well as 
their own point of view as represented in 

their poetry ('Abbas, Shi^r al-khawdrij) sug- 
gest that their rejection of any mediating 
barrier between the voice of God and its 
reception by humans worked to create an 
inherently antagonistic relation between 
the divine and the human, in which vio- 
lence against the world was the only form 
piety might take and in which one's death 
in battle against the enemies of God — le- 
thal martyrdom — is considered a fair 
exchange (shim') for a place in eternity 
absolved of the sinful impurities of this 
world. Martyrdom as a pure offering to 
God in an act of violence — the desire to 
die in battle — becomes an effective 
means of winning God's favor by disas- 
sociating oneself from the sinful ways of a 
Muslim community that, having estab- 
lished itself as a worldly power, now falls 
into the category of former nations that 
rejected the rule of God. 

In pursuit of their Islamic Utopia, the 
Kharijis separated from what they viewed 
as a wayward Muslim community (Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, 518-9; trans, xx, 103-4) ^^i pursued 
a campaign of terror against those who 
admitted sin by refusing to condemn 
'Uthman's rule, killing at random men, 
women and children, even ripping open 
the wombs of pregnant women (Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, 755-6; trans, xxi, 125) and crucify- 
ing villagers (ibid., 760; trans. I2g). Such 
violence may reflect gang tactics (Khariji 
initiates were required to kill [isti'rdd] as a 
test of loyalty and, when asked by state 
authorities to hand over the guilty, claimed 
collective responsibility — e.g. Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, 3377; trans, xvii, 127: "All of us were 
their killers and all of us consider your and 
their blood to be licit"). Violence (q.v.) 
does, however, serve to promote protest 
(e.g. the American and French revolutions). 
Indiscriminate violence can also serve to 
define the boundaries of a scripturally 
based community (cf. the New England 
Puritans who in 1637 carried out genocide 



against the Pequot Indians in order to, in 
tlieir own words, eradicate their memory 
from the face of tlie eartli). Whatever tlie 
case may be, it would seem that the Khariji 
conception of revelation, free of human 
mediation, motivated them to purify the 
Muslim community of its sinful turn to 
human authority and protection [wildya, 
e.g. 'Uthman, cf. Tabari, Ta'rikh, 516; trans. 
XX, lOi; or 'Abd al-Malik, cf Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, 821-2, trans, xxi, 199). The Qiir'an 
had declared that no such protection 
should be sought in anyone other than 
God (c) 7:3) and in imitation of the 
Prophet, the early Khariji leader, Nafi' b. 
Azraq, declared that one should seek pro- 
tection only in God (Tabari, Ta'nkh, 518; 
trans, xx, 103). Those who did not have a 
negative opinion of the leaders of the 
nascent Islamic state stood in sin for seek- 
ing protection in human beings. Sin for the 
Kharijis, then, meant any positive associa- 
tion with human governance. 

It is difficult to make sense of Khariji 
activism without assuming an open-ended 
conception of revelation, in which the 
word of God continues to command and 
guide. Indeed, the Qiir'an depicts itself as 
open-ended (c3 25:32-3, see Madigan, 
Qur'dn's self-image). This does not mean a 
completely oral definition of the Qiir'an 
but a scriptural corpus that was not en- 
tirely fixed — cf. Khariji accusations 
against 'Uthman of having torn up books 
of the Qiir'an, a reference to his destruc- 
tion of versions of the Qur'an that differed 
with his official recension, to which 'All 
responded with the claim that the decision 
was made after consultation [shurd, a prin- 
ciple of human decision-making based on 
C3 3:159) among the Companions of the 
Prophet (q.v; 'Tabari, Ta'nkh, 747; trans, 
xxi, 114). Notwithstanding the theological 
diversity in early Kharijism, its earliest 
form illustrates how scriptural rhetoric, 
originally a gloss on a community's self- 

understanding of survival amidst hostile 
forces, is transformed into a historical 
record of battle and bloodshed on behalf 
of God — scriptural rhetoric as litmus test 
of militancy (see Donner, Piety and es- 
chatology, 16; cf. Tabari, Ta'nkh, 517; trans. 
XX, 102 and Ibn 'Abd Rabbihi, 'Iqd, i, 
217-9, esp. 219, which culminates in the 
report of Mirdas Abu Bilal al-Khariji, 
"There was no sect or innovating group 
with more penetrating insight than the 
Kharijis, nor greater effort [ijtihdd], nor 
more reconciled to death. Among them 
there was one who was stabbed, and the 
spear went through him, and he continued 
to make his way toward his killer, saying, 
T have hastened to you, O lord, that you 
might be pleased'"). This aspect of the 
Khariji phenomenon — political re-en- 
actment of scriptural rhetoric — remains 
current today. For example, Sayyid Qutb 
(d. 1966) passionately sought to persuade 
Muslims to listen to qur'anic recitation (see 
RECITATION OF THE ^ur'an) as its first 
audience did and imagine themselves to be 
faced with the choices the first Muslims 
faced in meeting the enemies of the 
Qur'an (e.g. ^ildl, i/3, 115-27; cf Arjo- 
mand. Unity and diversity). While such 
qur'anic commentary served Qutb's pur- 
poses of associating his enemies, particu- 
larly the Egyptian state, with those of the 
Prophet, his words do show this very im- 
portant connection between the experience 
of direct revelation and political empower- 
ment against political injustice, whether 
real or perceived. Later echoes of the 
Khariji mindset include the culture of 
martyrdom and jihad on the Islamic- 
Byzantine frontier during the second/ 
eighth and third/ninth centuries (see 
Bonner, Aristocratic violence; Heck, Jihad 
revisited) and the contemporary phenom- 
enon of self-sacrificial violence, also 
known as suicide attacks, advocated by 
contemporary extremist groups that use 



terrorist means to achieve tlieir goals. 

The interpretation of qur'anic narrative 
as primarily a clash between worldly and 
godly rule first came to play in the assas- 
sination of 'Uthman. Having penetrated 
the inner confines of his house in Medina, 
his assassins found him alone with a copy 
of the Qiir'an as his only defense (Tabarl, 
Ta'nkh, 3023-5; trans, xv, 221-3). They are 
reported to have refrained from killing him 
immediately, choosing instead to debate 
with him about the nature of legitimate 
rule. For 'Uthman, rule was legitimate in 
itself, having been established by God. As 
for his status as a Muslim ruler, 'Uthman 
declares himself a believing Muslim, who, 
according to Islamic law, may be put to 
death only in three cases — apostasy, un- 
lawful sexual relations and the killing of an 
innocent Muslim (see bloodshed), none of 
which 'Uthman had committed. Most im- 
portantly, he argues, rebellion (q.v.) instead 
of reform — even in the name of correct- 
ing innovations made in the rulings of the 
Qiir'an — jeopardizes the enforcement of 
the law upon which political order, stability 
and socio-moral cohesion stand. The 
rebels, for their part, also couch their 
argument in legal and scriptural terms, 
although it is clear that their dissatisfaction 
lay in their marginalization from power 
and wealth at a time when the concerns of 
a centralizing state increasingly trumped 
the egalitarian ones of Islam (see Marlow, 
Hierarchy). They understood the worldly 
character of 'Uthman's reign as a form of 
injustice, tyranny and the failure to rule 
competently, which put at risk the well- 
being of society as a whole and robbed the 
people of the sound government necessary 
for peace and prosperity. Quoting Q^ 5:33-4, 
which calls for the death of those who sow 
corruption on earth, the rebels labeled 
'Uthman as a brigand or highway robber 
(see theft) who had disrupted the peace, 
terrorized the innocent and deprived peo- 

ple of their right to life and unhindered 
pursuit of their affairs. In short, 'Uthman 
represented for them worldly rule as 
opposed to the godly rule called for by 
the Qiir'an and followed under the leader- 
ship of the Prophet. 

Notwithstanding the connection this 
account has to later legal discussions over 
the laws of rebellion [ahkdm al-bughdt; see 
Abou El Fadl, Rebellion), it does demon- 
strate the potential of the Qiir'an as a tool 
of protest against the state, regardless of 
the actual complaints of the opposition. 
This is further illustrated in the rebellions 
of the Umayyad period (41-132/661-750). 
The reasons behind the revolt of al- 
Mukhtar (d. 67/687) may have included 
vengeance (q.v.) for the blood of the family 
of the Prophet (q.v.; i.e. Husayn's death at 
Karbala; see also people of the house) 
and defense of the weak (manumitted 
slaves; see slaves and slavery) but it was 
announced as a summons to rule by the 
book of God and simna (q.v.) of the 
Prophet CTabarl, Tankh, 607, 609-20, 633; 
trans, xx, 191, 194, 217), in addition to 
messianic claims (the Islamic mahdi aho 
featured prominently in early rebellions 
but is not a qur'anic term). Similarly, the 
rebellion of Ibn al-Ash'ath (d. 82/701), 
while motivated by the state's treatment of 
the army under his command, resorted to 
the Qiir'an as a cloak of legitimacy. The 
first oath of allegiance given to Ibn al- 
Ash'ath by his soldiers is set alongside com- 
plaints against incompetent leadership, 
unfair distribution of spoils, disavowal of 
the arch-representative of state concerns, 
al-Hajjaj (d. 95/714), and support of Ibn 
al-Ash'ath's effort to expel him as governor 
of Iraq (Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1054-5; trans, xxiii, 
5-6), but the second one includes a sum- 
mons to the book of God and sunna of the 
Prophet, disavowal of the imams of error 
and struggle against those who violate 
what is sacred (ibid., 1058; trans, xxiii, 8). 



Finally, although colored by the concerns 
of a settled and culturally diverse society 
(see Sharon, Revolt), the 'Abbasid revolu- 
tion that brought an end to Umayyad rule 
was ideologically inspired by an oath of 
allegiance to the HashimI family in terms 
of fidelity to the book of God and siinna of 
the Prophet along with the chosen one 
(al-ridd) from the family of the messenger 
of God (Tabarl, Ta'nkh, 1989, 1993; trans, 
xxviii, 97, lOi). 

This invocation of the Qtir'an by rebels 
against the state encouraged an official 
response that properly constituted rule was 
part of God's design for humankind, even 
apart from the prophetic heritage. To do 
this, riders and their ideologues turned 
primarily to the genre known as "mirrors- 
for-princes" to account for the existence of 
the Islamic state. In short, non-qur'anic 
arguments were advanced to demonstrate 
that political rule was a necessary part of 
the Muslim responsibility to meet the 
qur'anic directive to be prosperous in 
contrast to former nations. 

With no clear outline of political organ- 
ization in the Qiir'an and hadlth, early 
Muslim riders — Umayyad and 'Abbasid 
alike — were compelled to construct non- 
qur'anic arguments for political rule: as 
divinely determined (jabr) and thus worthy 
of obedience in the case of the Umayyads 
(see al-Qadl, Religious foundation) or as 
the effective agent of a just ("adl) and har- 
monious association (i'tildf) in the case of 
the 'Abbasids (see Heck, Law). Such non- 
qur'anic arguments for rule did, however, 
draw widely upon qur'anic material, as 
well as reports of early Arabo-Islamic his- 
tory. It was, then, this state-sponsored 
genre of literature that did much to bring 
the revealed and non-revealed into a single 
epistemological framework of Islamic civi- 
lization, e.g. al-Mawardi, Masihat al-muluk, 
i.e. "advice to rulers." This title echoes the 
advisory mission of the prophets of <J 7, 

thereby suggesting that it and similar works 
offered to the rulers of the day — like 
prophets to former nations — wisdom 
(q.v.) that led to prosperity. In his intro- 
duction, the author claims that he is right 
in drawing upon a variety of sources of 
knowledge, both revealed and non- 
revealed, even the wisdom of former 
nations, to show the legitimacy of polit- 
ical rule: 

We are not, however, singular in our use of 
our own ideas in our book, nor do we rely 
in anything we say on our own opinion 
(hawd) but justify (nahtajj) what we say by 
the revealed word of God (qawl Alldh al- 
munazznl), the majestic and exalted, and 
the reports of his messenger (aqdwTl rasulihi) 
that narrate his practices (sunan) and prec- 
edents (dthdr), and then the ways of kings 
of old (sijar al-muluk al-awwalin), past 
imams and the rightly-guided caliphs, 
[along with the wisdom of] ancient phi- 
losophers (al-hukamd' al-mulagaddiminj of 
former nations (al-umam al-khdliya) and past 
days, since their words are worthy to be 
imitated, their traces to be followed and 
their model to be emulated (Mawardi, 
Nasihat al-muluk, 46). 

Human wisdom, then, could be harnessed 
for the revealed goal of socio-political 

Similarly, the Umayyad al-Walid II 
(r. 125-6/743-4), in a letter designating his 
two sons to succeed him, argued that 
prophecy and rule are two divinely 
ordained institutions (Tabari, Ta'nkh, 
1757-64; trans, xxvi, 106-15), suggesting that 
the ruling office of caliph is part of God's 
plan in its own right (comparable in that 
sense to pre-modern European arguments 
for a divine right of kings) and drawing out 
in detail, including qur'anic citation, the 
reasons for considering rule a necessary 
pillar of socio-political prosperity, not least 



of which is its function as effective agent of 
legal order, both religious and public (ibid., 
1758; trans, xxvi, 108; for Umayyad use of 
qur'anic material in state letters, see al- 
Qadl, Impact of the Qiir'an; cf. Dahne, 
Qiir'anic wording). 

For their part, the 'Abbasids drew upon 
the Sasanian heritage to articulate a theory 
of political authority (sultan) and sover- 
eignty (q.v.; mulk), understood, along with 
the Qur'an, as the basis of legitimate 
Islamic rule. Long before the appearance 
of Islam, the Sasanians coined the adage 
that "there can be no rule without religion 
(q.v.) and no religion without ride" (Id 
mulka ilia bi-din wa-ld dina ilia bi-mulk). It 
is this fundamental link between religion 
and rule that informs the testimony of 
the 'Abbasid al-Mansur (r. 136-58/754-75) 
to his son and successor al-Mahdl 
(r. 158-69/775-85), particularly its emphasis 
on strong rule as a combination of political 
authority (sultan) and holy writ (qur'dn). He 
says that for the protection of authoritative 
rule, God has ordered in the Qvir'an dou- 
ble the penalty on those who stir up cor- 
ruption in the land (quoting o 5:33), and 
that sovereignty is the strong rope of God, 
a firm bond and the unshakeable religion 
of God (in reference to C3 2:256 and 
Q. 3-i03)> ii^ short, he encourages his son to 
protect and defend an Islamic sovereignty 
as buttressed by the revealed law (Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, 447; trans, xxix, 153-4). The idea of 
the essential role of political sovereignty in 
ordering the affairs of the world so suited 
the tastes and needs of 'Abbasid caliphs 
that the idea became current that God 
worked to arrange worldly order by politi- 
cal power (sultdn) even more so than by 
revelation (qur'dn, e.g. Qiidama b. Ja'far, 
Siydsa min kitdb al-khardj, 56; Mawardi, Adah 
al-din, 169: inna lldh la-yaza'u bi-l-sultdn 
akthar mimmd yaza'u bi-l-Qur'dn). That idle 
and rebellious humans had to be coerced 
by a strong power to live in political order 

was considered by the ruling powers 
through the 'Abbasid period and beyond as 
essential to God's designs of ordering his 
creation, willingly or not (i.e. either out of 
longing or fear, c) 2i:go), in function of his 
quality of subduing (qahhdr) all forces to his 
will (e.g. Q^ 12:39; for this connection of 
God's coercive power to political sover- 
eignty, see Heck, Law). This attempt to 
link religious and political authority is 
nowhere more clear than in the chapter 
of early 'Abbasid history known as the 
Inquisition (q.v.; al-7nihna), in which eleva- 
tion of the human authority of al-Ma'mun 
(r. 198-218/813-33) depended on reduction 
of the Qtir'an to a created, rather than 
uncreated, status (see Nawas, al-Ma'mun; cf. 
Cooperson, Biography, 24-69; see 

The possibility of human rule alongside the 

The themes discussed in the previous sec- 
tion recur in various ways throughout 
Islamic history, especially the recognition 
of the need for non-revealed sources 
of decision-making in the political 
arena — i.e. how to understand human 
judgment (ra'y) as an Islamically sanc- 
tioned agent of political organization, as 
well as pre-Islamic local custom ('urf) in 
public administration, like methods of tax- 
collection, that Muslim rulers had left in- 
tact (see POLL tax). It was not only a 
matter of granting a share in Islamic rule 
to the human intellect ('agl), which, in 
"mirrors-for-princes" works, was seen as 
the partner of religion in preserving justice 
and socio-political prosperity, but also of 
claiming, as works of jurisprudence did, 
that Islam did not abrogate all pre-Islamic 
custom (see abrogation), which was given 
a legal value of its own (e.g. al-shar' min 
qablind, a source of law used to justify the 
claim that the five principles [panchasila] at 
the heart of Indonesian political organiza- 



tion not only approximate but actually 
meet the requirements of Islam's revealed 
law; see Mujiburrahman, Indonesia), not 
to mention a panoply of other jurispru- 
dential devices, such as discretion (istihsdn), 
that allowed riders to enact law without 
insidt to the final authority of the Qiir'an. 

Explications centered upon the question 
of human judgment (ray). Was it to be 
permitted in areas concerning public good 
(maslaha) about which the Qur'an was 
silent? At stake was not only the relation of 
the divine to human society but also that of 
political to religious authority. Given the 
Qtir'an's reminder to carry out God's 
design for creation, the Muslims' centuries- 
long struggle to formulate rule has had to 
maneuver between social recognition of 
the need for and benefit of human ride 
and scriptural recognition that all rule 
belongs ultimately to God. While a host of 
factors are at play in conceptions of rule, 
specific to Islam is this interplay between 
the social and scriptural (see Jad'an, Mihna, 
esp. 291 f). The rule of the last Shah of 
Iran, for example, was contested partly on 
grounds of his preference for the social (i.e. 
the Persian heritage of monarchy) over the 
scriptural (identified in the Iranian case 
with Shi'l notions of clerical jurisdiction 
over public affairs; see Arjomand, Shi'ite 
jurisprudence; and Calder, Accommo- 
dation and revolution). Likewise, in Egypt, 
Anwar Sadat's alliance with the West 
clashed violently with increasingly bold 
notions among Islamists of a sovereignty 
(hdkimiyya) that belonged to God alone 
(see Faraj, Fanda, trans, esp. 1-34). 

The tension between the social and scrip- 
tural cannot, however, be limited to the 
post-colonial clash between secular 
nationalism and religious fundamentalism, 
since it was recognized very early that 
political governance cannot stand on the 
texts of revelation alone. Among the first 
to treat this question was Ibn al-Muqaffa' 

(d. 139/756) in an epistle to the 'Abbasid 
al-Mansur (r. 136-58/754-75). To establish 
the legal authority of political leadership 
(ray al-imdm), Ibn al-Muqaffa' {Risdla, 
120-2), a state official and convert to Islam, 
had to navigate between two groups: (i) 
those claiming to be released from obedi- 
ence to the ruler when it involved disobedi- 
ence to God (i.e. a political ruling contrary 
to scripture; la (d'ata lil-makhliiq Ji ma'siyat 
cd-khdliq), a position essentially placing sov- 
ereign authority (sultdn) in the hands of the 
people by awarding them the choice to 
decide which ruler to obey and which of 
his commands to follow, in the end render- 
ing all equals (na^d'ir) in political decision- 
making with destructive consequences for 
rule itself (a likely reference to the Khariji 
position, resurrected by Sayyid Qutb, see 
below); and (2) those advocating complete 
submission to the ruler in all matters 
without concern for obedience or dis- 
obedience to God, with the claim that the 
ruler alone is privileged with knowledge of 
and competence in such things (a position 
essentially placing the command of the 
ruler above that of the revealed text, 
reformulated by AyatoUah Khomeini in 
contemporary Iran, see below). To resolve 
these two positions — the first representing 
the scriptural, the second the social — Ibn 
al-Muqaffa' drew an important distinction 
which was to echo in Islamic politics 
through the centuries: that the ruler is not 
to be obeyed in anything that goes against 
clear scriptural directives in the Qiir'an 
and siinna, such as prayer, fasting, pilgrim- 
age (q.v), penal sanctions (hudud) or dietary 
restrictions but must be obeyed in all his 
rulings where no scriptural precedent 
(athar) exists. 

Although treated extensively by theorists 
in the classical period, such as Abu Yusuf 
(d. 182/798), Qudama b. Ja'far (d. 337/948) 
and al-Mawardi (d. 450/1058), this ques- 
tion remains a concern today. On the 



Sunnl side, Yusuf al-QaradawI — a 
Q_atar-based muftT with associations to the 
Muslim Brotherhood — argues, Hke Ibn 
al-Muqaffa', that God mercifully did not 
disclose clear and decisive rulings for all 
human affairs, an action that would have 
rendered human intelligence useless 
(Qaradawi, Sijdsa, 72). Indeed, most of 
Islamic law requires human judgment, 
while the clear and decisive rulings 
(qat'iyya) of revelation are very limited 
(Qaradawi, Siydsa, 77). Thus, in matters 
where no revealed text exists, the govern- 
ing ruler can apply his judgment (ray al- 
hdkim al-siydsi) for the sake of the public 
good (al-masdlih al-mursala) . His argument, 
an explanation of the fifth of the twenty 
principles expounded by Hasan al-Banna 
(d. 1949), the founder of the Muslim 
Brotherhood, demonstrates that there is an 
area of life, namely governance, that God 
has left to humans and that can thus 
change with circumstance and custom. 
The result is a division of the world's 
affairs into religious ones (al-umur al- 
ta'abbudiyya) that are ruled by the revealed 
texts and customary ones (al-umur al- 
'ddiya) that fall to human judgment. He 
does, however, part ways with Ibn 
al-Muqaffa' — who justified human judg- 
ment alongside revelation by awarding a 
privileged status to the rider's intellect ('aql 
al-imdm) — by binding valid use of human 
judgment to the consultation (shiird) of 
religious scholars, whose immersion in the 
study of revealed law (al-shari'a) guarantees 
that the ruler's judgment conforms with its 
intentions [maqdsid, an important concept 
in modern Islamic political thought; see 
Heck, Religious renewal). Thus does al- 
Qaradawl offer an updated version of tra- 
ditional Sunnl jurisprudence and its use of 
analogical reasoning (qiyds) to apply revela- 
tion to political problems with no textual 
precedent: Worldly rule, although in- 

formed by human judgment, remains sub- 
ordinate to godly authority. 

Strikingly, al-QaradawI, using (J 4:60-5, 
views human judgment — illuminated by 
revealed texts — as the means for reconcil- 
ing differences among Muslims, whereas in 
the Qtir'an it was the book above all that 
arbitrated human differences. He claims, 
like Ibn al-Muqaffa', to be navigating be- 
tween two extremes (Qaradawi, Siydsa, 49), 
those who say the ruler's judgment abro- 
gates divine rulings (ahkdm shar'iyya) and 
those who refuse to acknowledge any 
human rule not explicitly designated by a 
revealed text. Rather, for al-QaradawI 
(Qaradawi, Siydsa, 63-7), although different 
degrees of correct judgment exist, there is 
a need for human judgment — no matter 
how much one has memorized textual 
precedents (ahddith wa-dthdr) — for the sake 
of governance and justice (iddrat shu'un al- 
bildd wa-tadbir amr al- 'ibdd wa-iqdmat al- 'adl 
baynahum) since Islam is both a religious 
and political order (iqdmat al-din wa-siydsat 

Similarly, while couching his words in 
qur'anic verse, AyatoUah Khomeini, the 
first supreme leader of the Islamic 
Republic of Iran, argues for governance 
by the book as determined by the authority 
of the Shl'l jurist {wiidyat al-faqih; see 
Khomeini, Islamic government). Another 
leading cleric at the time of the Islamic 
revolution, AyatoUah Montazeri, drew a 
distinction, like al-QaradawI, between re- 
ligious ruling (hukumat-i shar'i) and the cus- 
tomary ruling (hukumat-i 'urjij — the 
difference being that Montazeri judges 
non-religious rulings to be non-binding 
without the endorsement of the jiu'ists who 
represent the hidden but infallible Imam of 
Twelver Shi'ism (see Arjomand, Shi'ite 
jurisprudence), while al-QaradawI ties the 
validity of such ridings to the intentions of 
the revealed law. In fulfillment of this the- 



ory, the Constitution of tlie Islamic 
Republic of Iran, while replete with 
qur'anic citation, essentially puts all au- 
thority in the hands of the jurists and 
Khomeini in particidar, as spelled out in 
principles 5 and 107 (see Mayer, 
Fundamentalist impact; cf. Abu 1-Fawaris, 
Risdla, for an early Isma'lli use of Islamic 
scripture to justify infallible human leader- 
ship). In one of his last acts before his 
death in 1988, Khomeini amended the 
Constitution to further enhance the au- 
thority of the human, even if privileged, 
judgment of the jurist over all affairs of 
state and society. 

In contrast, elevation of the Qiir'an over 
human affairs has been promoted in post- 
colonial times by the Muslim Brotherhood. 
The Muslim Brotherhood's political 
thought and activity, since its founding in 
1928, ranges from militant fundamentalism 
to participation in elected politics (for their 
history, see the pioneering but now limited 
work of Mitchell, Society of Muslim Brothers). 
Moreover, other, more violent, contem- 
porary extremist groups that use violence 
to achieve their goals (such as al-Jama'a 
1-Islamiyya and al-Jihad, which latter 
merged in 1998 with al-Qa'ida) were in- 
spired partly by Muslim Brotherhood rhet- 
oric and its promotion of a qur'anically 
shaped society, as witnessed in the writings 
of the group's founder, Hasan al-Banna 
(see Five tracts), and its most celebrated fig- 
ure, Sayyid Qiitb (see Haim, Sayyid Qiitb; 
Haddad, Qiir'anic justification; Carre, 
Mystique, 342-3 [trans, text on the Islamic 
economic and political model, ad C3 59:7], 
325 [on the sliura])- The writings of these 
two figures promote a qur'anically-based 
divine sovereignty for the sake of a greater 
egalitarianism which, in the writings of 
Qutb, takes a revolutionary form against 
the perceived tyranny of Nasserist rule 
(i.e. the pan-Arabist and left-leaning social- 

ist ideology of the Egyptian president 
Gamal Abdel Nasser, r. 1956-70). The 
goal was socio-political coherence and 
identity — especially against post-colonial 
secularizing/westernizing tendencies in 
Egypt and the Islamic world — through 
scriptural adherence. 

Drawing upon the work of the Islamist 
ideologue and founder of the Pakistan- 
based Jama'at-e IslamI, Abu 1-A'la 
1-Mawdudl (whose formulation of an 
Islamic political constitution contributed to 
the Islamization of Pakistani politics; see, 
for example, his First principles, parts of 
which became law under Ziya 1-Haqq's 
military dictatorship in the 1980s; for the 
legacy of Mawdudi, see Zaman, Ulama, 
87-110), Qiitb insisted that sovereignty be- 
longs to God alone ['Addla, trans. 105). In 
general, he does not seek to accommodate 
human judgment but envisions a funda- 
mental clash between revealed sovereignty 
(hdkimiyya) and non-revealed rule, which he 
labels as human ignorance [q.v.;jdhiliyya; 
Qiitb, 'Addla, trans. 107; see also age of 
ignorance). Human interpretation of 
scripture and thus the possibility of human 
rule must be accordingly reduced; religion 
(din) becomes the system (ni^dm) of rule 
(Qiitb, 'Addla, trans. 110). In echo of 
c) 5:48-50, frequent references are made to 
God's program (manhaj) and way {shir'a, cf. 
Tabarl, Tafsir, iii, 246, for a discussion of 
the scope of this way, i.e. whether in refer- 
ence to the many ways revealed by God to 
different communities or the way of the 
Muslim commimity specifically, etc.), the 
conclusion being that association of Islam 
with any human system, such as democ- 
racy, socialism, monarchy, etc., is entirely 
unacceptable (Qutb, 'Addla, trans. 108, 112). 
Rulers are only to be obeyed to the extent 
that they themselves submit to the sover- 
eignty of God and apply his revealed law 
(Qiitb, 'Addla, trans. 113-4), departure from 



which deprives tliem of tlie riglit to obedi- 
ence (Qiitb, 'Addla, trans. 114): "... liearing 
and obeying is conditional upon following 
the book of God Almighty." The result is a 
marked restriction on the employment of 
human judgment in rule (Qiitb, 'Addla, 
trans. 114-5): "... he becomes a ruler only 
by the absolutely free choice of the 
Muslims [a reference to Mawdudl's idea of 
theo-democracy] . . . after that his authority 
derives froin his undertaking to enforce the 
revealed law of God without claiming for 
himself any right to initiate legislation by 
an authority of his own." Consultation 
(shurd), limited to those learned in religion, 
does, however, remain a principle of 
Islamic governance (Qutb, 'Addla, trans. 
116). Also, in echo of Ibn al-Muqaffa', 
permission is given to the leader whose 
authority is based on the revealed law of 
God to make new decrees for the sake of 
the common good, provided such decrees 
do not violate a revealed text (nass), e.g. the 
imposition of taxes not mentioned in the 
Qur'an, which, however, are not to be col- 
lected for maintaining state institutions but 
in service of a greater social justice in line 
with qur'anic principles (Qiitb, 'Addla, 
trans. 119; see taxation). 

From such pointed rhetoric has emerged 
a call for jihad against all worldly rule, 
epitomized in the work of 'Abd al-Salam 
Faraj (d. 1982), who was executed with the 
four assassins of Egypt's president, Anwar 
Sadat, killed after he had signed a peace 
treaty with Israel. Faraj 's now famous trea- 
tise, al-Fanda al-ghd'iba, "The neglected 
duty," begins by quoting q 57:16, which 
calls for the submission of believing hearts 
(see heart) to divinely revealed truth in 
contrast to former nations, whose hearts 
had hardened against the book of God. He 
claimed that the Egyptian state had come 
to be ruled by laws of unbelief, a reference 
to the adoption of western law (see Faraj, 
Farida, trans. 162), making of its rulers 

apostates deserving of death. What is new 
here is not the insistence on an Islamic 
state as a necessary condition for the per- 
formance of God's precepts or the iden- 
tification of Muslim rulers with the 
pre-Islamic Age of Ignorance but rather 
the intensely militant rejection of any hu- 
manly tinged rule. In the manner of the 
first Kharijis, Faraj quotes C3 5:44: "Those 
who do not rule by what God has revealed 
are infidels," as prelude to his identification 
of the Muslim rulers of his day with the 
Mongols, who ruled without sufficient 
attention to Islamic law (Faraj, Fanda, 
trans. 167-8). There is simply no room for 
human governance in Faraj 's treatise but 
an insurmountable gap between political 
rulings (al-siydsdt al-mulkiyya) and qur'anic 
rulings [ahkdm; Faraj, Fanda, trans. 49, com- 
menting on Ibn Kathlr's exegesis of 

a 5:50)- 

There is thus, for Faraj, no action — not 
charity, not participation in elected pol- 
itics, not the Islamic education of 
society — that can take precedence over 
jihad (understood by him solely as armed 
struggle) against worldly rulers, for the 
worldly must be subdued, the godly 
exalted. Given that human governance is 
a contradiction in terms for this militant 
brand of Islamism, accommodation is 
impossible. War, not merely Islam, is the 
solution, and Faraj devotes the latter half 
of his work to Ibn Taymiyya's position on 
jihad. Picking up the theme of C3 9 (Surat 
al-Tawba, "Repentance"), Faraj declares 
that in the Islamic age, worldly power must 
be brought to an end not through natural 
phenomena, as God has done in the case 
of former nations, but through the armed 
struggle of belief against unbelief (Faraj, 
Farida, trans. 162, 190). In other words, it 
has now become the duty of Muslims to 
act on behalf of God and annihilate those 
nations that fail to heed his message. Seen 
in that light, it is hardly surprising that 



Sadat's assassins claimed to have killed 

In light of Islamist esteem for the writings 
of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), it is neces- 
sary to ask how closely his thought cor- 
responds to Islamist goals today. He does 
give an elevated status to scripture as guar- 
antor of Muslim identity after the fall of 
the caliphate to the Mongols in 656/1258; 
but, unlike Faraj, he was a jurist who 
worked within the framework of tradi- 
tional Islamic jurisprudence. As will be 
outlined, his post-Mongol protest, unlike 
Faraj 's post-colonial one, was not against 
human rule per se but communal hetero- 
doxy that he viewed as a threat to the 
unity of a Muslim commimity bereft of 
the office of caliph. 

In his most famous work, al-Siydsa al- 
shar'iyya, Ibn Taymiyya recognizes the 
social dimension of rule, arguing that 
political office (wildya) is a religious neces- 
sity [Siydsa, 172-80) since the social chaos 
resulting from its absence would prevent 
people from performing the precepts of 
the religion. He supports his position phil- 
osophically by claiming that only via 
human congregation (ijtimd') can human 
welfare be attained, since humans are 
mutually dependent for their survival, and 
that human congregation most effectively 
serves the good when it is ordered under 
and enforced by political rule (Ibn 
Taymiyya, Siydsa, 172-3). Ibn Taymiyya 
thus affirms the necessity of human rule 
even when not in complete conformity to 
the divine will. His model of public ad- 
ministration, while aspiring to justice as 
based upon the Qtir'an and sunna [al-'adl 
alladhi dalla 'alayhi al-kitdb wa-l-sunna; Ibn 
Taymiyya, Siydsa, 13), is not based on scrip- 
ture alone. The work begins by quoting 
Q_ 57:25, which states that God sent down 
not only the book and balance (see 


humans might act in accordance with the 

divine will, but also iron as a mighty power 
for the benefit of humankind, i.e. rule as 
the effective agent by which human society 
in its diversity might be made, even 
coerced, to live in political harmony. 

The work's self-stated goal is to explain 
c) 4:58-9, which calls for justice in arbitrat- 
ing human affairs and obedience to those 
holding command (ulT l-amri). Ibn 
Taymiyya argues on the basis of qur'anic 
citation for a complementary notion of 
God's guidance, embodied in scripture, 
and political rule. Hence, although he 
draws heavily upon the Qiir'an and the 
sunna, his words are directed to state of- 
ficials (e.g. provincial governors, tax- 
collectors, military commanders, state 
ministers and secretaries, etc.; Ibn 
Taymiyya, Siydsa, 5). While revelation is 
meant to shape the socio-political order, 
the qualifications for election (ikhtiydr) to 
office are ambiguous. They essentially boil 
down to two criteria (Ibn Taymiyya, Siydsa, 
12-4): (i) strength (quwwa), meaning effec- 
tiveness, e.g. in war, and (2) trust (amdna), 
meaning pious commitment to govern 
justly in accordance with revelation (shar'J. 
Since, however, these two criteria so rarely 
coexist in a single person, effectiveness may 
trump pious commitment, depending on 
the office in question, making it preferable 
to appoint an effective military com- 
mander or judge even if he is personally 
immoral {JSjir, Ibn Taymiyya, Siydsa, 14, 18) 
or does what the Prophet has forbidden 
( ya'mal mdyunkiruhu al-nabi, ibid., 15) — in 
other words, offends against divine revela- 
tion. Ibn Taymiyya cites in support of this 
examples from the first community of 
Muslims and a saying of the Prophet 
[Siydsa, 15), "Indeed God supports this re- 
ligion with an immoral man." 

Ibn Taymiyya 's call to jihad is not, then, 
aimed against impious individuals en- 
trusted with the governance of Muslim 
society. Constituted authority, even if 



straying from Islamic perfection, is vali- 
dated by its end: social harmony and 
human welfare. Jihad is directed not at 
political rule but heterodox Islam, par- 
ticularly the NusayrI sect. Ibn Taymiyya's 
concern with Mongol rule must be seen 
within the context of the ritual pluralism of 
post-Mongol Islam, which had long existed 
in Islam but became a more significant 
concern in the absence of the caliphate. 
For him, the Mongol invasions were provi- 
dential (Ibn Taymiyya, Rasd'il, 53 f), a test 
by which God separates hypocrites from 
true believers, as he tested the first Muslims 
by external attack (illustrated in o 3:152; 
again, the attempt to relate political devel- 
opments to qur'anic narrative). Such ex- 
ternal hostility was, he claimed, to be 
welcomed as part of the divine plan to 
expose Muslim groups given to ritual in- 
novation (bid'a), which posed the greatest 
threat to the religion, making it necessary 
to identify not religiously imperfect pol- 
itical authorities but ritually heterodox 
Muslims, along with infidels (kuffar), as 
legitimate objects of jihad (Ibn Taymiyya, 
Siydsa, 131; id., Fiqh al-jihad, lOo). Reading 
this concern alongside his vision of politi- 
cal rule as described in the previous para- 
graph, it is possible to conclude that the 
use of Ibn Taymiyya by radical Islam today 
grossly distorts his thought, which must be 
seen as a legal development aiming to arti- 
culate the theory of jihad anew in the midst 
of altered social circumstances where 
Islamic identity was no longer imagined 
and guaranteed in terms of political author- 
ity but by means of ritual and communal 
practice. The main thrust behind his work 
is not eschatological violence against 
worldly power in witness to the rule of 
God symbolized by Islamic scripture, nor is 
it political rebellion against constituted 
authority in the name of an Islamic rule 
based exclusively on scripture, but rather 
the unity of religious and communal iden- 

tity in the face of its own ritually pluralistic 
membership (see Heck, Jihad revisited). 

The Qrir'an has been drawn upon no less 
effectively in support of democracy and 
even secularism (see Esposito and VoU, 
Islam's democratic essence). New concepts 
of authority, based upon an individual's 
encounter with scripture (ijtihdd) apart 
from traditional authority, are at play in 
the modernizing exegesis of such figures as 
Muhammad 'Abduh (d. 1905), who was 
himself aware of the political conse- 
quences of his work (see Jomier, La revue 
"al-'Orwa al-Wothqa"). His tabling of 
tradition, while meant to spur a legal and 
religious dynamism necessary to meet the 
challenges of modernity, widened the 
scope of qur'anic interpretation for politi- 
cal ends, opening the door to both fun- 
damentalist and reformist uses of Islamic 
scripture. The contemporary use of the 
Qiir'an by fundamentalist Islam having 
been given above, here the reformist point 
of view will be illustrated by the writings of 
three Egyptian thinkers. 

Amidst much controversy (Enayat, 
Modern political thought, 62-8), 'All 'Abd al- 
Raziq (d. 1966) argued in al-hldm wa-usRl 
al-hukm (135-64, chapter 3 of book 2, en- 
titled Risdla Id hukm, dm Id dawla) that the 
mission of the Prophet was limited to a 
message (i.e. to bear good news and to 
warn, citing several qur'anic verses to that 
effect, e.g. cj 17:105; 24:54; 25:56; 33:45-6) 
and did not include the creation of a pol- 
ity: Muhammad may have struggled to 
defend his message, even using force to do 
so, but never did he undertake to coerce 
people into a polity, there being no evi- 
dence for such — 'Abd al-Raziq challenges 
his audience to find any — between the 
two covers of the Qur'an or in the sunna. 
Since governance is a worldly affair (here 
'Abd al-Razicj inverts traditional argu- 
ments for religious supervision of worldly 
affairs), God has given it to human minds 



to manage their worldly affairs according 
to what they see best in light of their 
knowledge, interests and tendencies. 'Abd 
al-Raziq certainly recognizes the necessity 
of government (on the basis of (3 43:32 and 
C3 5:48) but denies that it is an article of 
faith or that it is limited to the forms 
known to Islamic history — caliphate and 
despotic government in his opinion. Even 
if the installation of the state is viewed as 
an act of political wisdom, Islamic ideals 
can still be guaranteed by the spiritual 
message of the Prophet and not control 
of the state (Enayat, Modern political 
thought, 68). 

'Abd al-Raziq's ideas came at a chaotic 
moment for Muslim identity — the col- 
lapse of the Ottoman empire and the 
height of colonial domination along with 
largely unsuccessful attempts to develop a 
pan-Islamic institution to deal with Muslim 
affairs globally. His thought must be seen 
as an attempt to facilitate an Islamic rec- 
onciliation with the strongly modernizing 
tendencies of his day. In contrast, the writ- 
ings of Muhammad Sa'ld al-'Ashmawi 
(b. 1932) are a counter to the increasingly 
bold fundamentalism of a post-colonial 
Egypt in search of national identity and 
civil society. He maintains in al-hldm al- 
siydsi (175-92), against fundamentalist con- 
demnations of Egyptian rule as apostate, 
that Egyptian law is in point of fact in 
full harmony with the principles of the 
revealed law of Islam. For him, the pau- 
city of legal norms enshrined in the 
Qiir'an — only 200 of some 6,000 verses 
have a legal character, he claims — sup- 
ports the original meaning of shan'a at the 
time of qur'anic revelation as a way and 
not as a collection of legal details. It has 
thus been left to the Egyptian state to work 
out a rule of law, and as a high-ranking 
judge, al-'AshmawI displays his intimate 
knowledge of Egyptian law, which, he 
argues, in no way contradicts the dictates 

of the Qiir'an. He says at one point that 
the Islamist position that truly Islamic rule 
must be limited to the book of God con- 
fuses revelation (al-shan'a) , i.e. the qur'anic 
way, with law (fiqh), which is a process by 
which jurists and judges apply their own 
efforts of judgment (ijtihdd) to legal mat- 
ters. Indeed, for al-'AshmawI, Islamist 
exploitation of the Qi_ir'an for political 
ends is a danger for Islam and should cease 
since Egyptian law has not been tainted by 
any innovation (bid'aj but remains con- 
sistent with Islamic revelation. 

Finally, Muhammad Khalaf Allah 
(d. 1997) presses the qur'anic theme of 
consultation [shurd, citing q 3:159) in al- 
Qur'dn wa-l-dawla (55-79) as the Islamic 
mode of political decision-making. 
Drawing on Muhammad 'Abduh, Khalaf 
Allah insists that those in authority [ulu 
l-amr, cf. q 4:59) should be identified with 
those to whom the Muslim community has 
entrusted responsibility for making laws 
and overseeing the governance of society. 
But this should not be done, however, in 
the manner of divinely constructed offices 
held by figures claiming a personal right to 
rule, but by political officials chosen by the 
community — and thus removable by the 
community — who govern not religious 
but worldly affairs after the manner of the 
Prophet and his Companions, namely 
through consultation (a position reminis- 
cent of the Indonesian Nurcholish 
Madjid's idea that the oneness of God 
[tawhid] should actually prevent Muslims 
from viewing the state in sacred terms; 
see Madjid, Islamic roots of pluralism). In 
this light, religious leaders have no inher- 
ent right to this legislative role. Their 
task — as was the Prophet's — is to ex- 
plain beliefs ('aqd'id), worship ('ibdddt) and 
the norms of social affairs (mu'dmaldt) but 
they, like the Prophet, enjoy no mandate 
to legislate worldly affairs on the basis of 



Khalaf Allah, it should be added, is per- 
haps most known for his employment of 
literary methodology in scriptural exegesis, 
by which he argues that the Qtir'an is 
not a record of historical facts (see 
inimitability; history and the our'an) 
but an exhortation to the Islamic faith (see 
exegesis of the c)Ur'an: early modern 
AND contemporary). His entire oeuvre, 
then, confirms the thesis that Muslim rec- 
ognition of the role of human (i.e. non- 
revealed) decision-making in the political 
organization of society's affairs follows 
closely upon willingness to allow human 
interpretation of the Qiir'an. It is thus the 
possibility and parameters of exegesis (see 
medieval), as debated across Islamic his- 
tory from 'All b. Abl Talib to Muhammad 
Khalaf Allah, that stand at the heart of 
politics and the Qiir'an. 

Paul L. Heck 

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the Abbdsid revolution. Black banners from the east II, 
Jerusalem 1990; D. Sourdel et al., Khalifa, in 
Ei^, iv, 937-53; M.Q. Zaman, The ulama in con- 
temporary Islam. Custodians of change, Princeton 
2002; A. Zein al-Abdin, The political signifi- 
cance of the constitution of Medina, in R.L. 
Bidwell and G.R. Smith [eds.), Arabian and Islamic 
studies. Articles presented to R.F. Sergeant, London 
1983, 146-52. 

Poll Tax 

A tax per head, usually levied on every 
adult male of a given age. The Arabic 
term, jizju, used for the poll tax levied on 
non-Muslims, specifically the People of the 
Book (q.v.) living under Muslim rule [ahl 
al-kitdb, also identified eventually as 
"protected people," ahl al-dhimma), does 



have a qur'anic origin (o 9:29: ... hattdyu'tu 
l-jizyata 'anjiadi?! wa-hu?n sdghirun, i.e. 
"... until they pay thejizya from tlieir 
wealtli [lit. from hand], submissively"). 
There is no evidence in the Qiir'an, how- 
ever, of a tax per head ('aid l-ra's) as as- 
sumed by later jurists (e.g. Malik, Muwatta', 
187-9; Abu 'Vhayd, Amwdl, 23-56). The 
tax per capita as finally established in 
Islamic law seems to have derived from 
a Sassanian practice {khdk bar sar, Abu 
'Ubayd, y4mi«a/, 29, no. 61; cf. Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, i, 2371; see Lokkegaard, Islamic 
taxation, 128-43; f°'' 'he adoption of the 
Byzantine poll tax in Egypt, see al-Durl, 
Nu^um, 79) developed by Muslims through 
the course of the conquests, first being ap- 
plied to all members of a conquered 
locale — men, women and children (Abu 
'Ubayd, Amwdl, 31, no. 66) — and then 
limited to mature males {hdlim, ibid., 33, 
no. 72; 39, no. 93; see law and the 
(jur'an). The poll tax varied according to 
the terms of the treaty between the Mus- 
lims and the local peoples (see Tabari, 
Ta'nkh, i, 2051; cf. Morony, Iraq, 584-8), was 
assessed according to one's wealth (q.v.; see 
Cahen, Djizya), was first applied to non- 
Muslim Arabs and then gradually ex- 
tended, by the Prophet's example [surma, 
Abu 'Ubayd, Amvudl, 38, no. 88), to non- 
Arab non-Muslims living in the con- 
quered lands (ibid., 25, no. 53), including 
Zorastrians [majus; see magians) as well as 
Jews [yahdd; see JEWS and Judaism) and 
Christians (nasdrd; see christians and 
cihristianity). There also seems to have 
been a connection, at least initially, be- 
tween the payment of this tax and socio- 
professional status, for it is reported that 
the large Christian tribe (see tribes and 
clans), the Banu Taghlib, refused to pay 
thejizya on the grounds that they were 
Arabs (q.v.), not farmers; presumably to 
avoid the humiliation (saghdr) of being clas- 
sified with those who work the land, they 

were granted the right to pay, instead, the 
Muslim tax (sadaqa), although at twice the 
normal rate (ibid., 32; cf Malik, Muwatta', 
189, who explains the distinction in reli- 
gious terms: "The Muslim tax was levied 
on Muslims as a means of purifying them 
[tathiran lahum] . . . and thejizya was levied 
on the People of the Book as a means of 
subordinating them [saghdran lahum, i.e. to 
Muslim rule]). 

It has been demonstrated rather persua- 
sively that the exegetical tradition on 
o 9:29 bears no relation to the historical 
conditions of the verse (see Rubin, Qiir'an 
and tafsir; see sira and the j^ur'an); the 
verse does seem to have been used by later 
exegetes as a point of departure for elabo- 
rating differences — theological and 
legal — between Muslims and non-Mus- 
lims (e.g. Ibn al-Jawzi, J^dd, 420, for whom 
the verse is a confirmation of the abroga- 
tion of previous religions with the appear- 
ance of Muhammad's religion [dm 
Muhammad]; see also McAidiffe, Fakhr al- 
Dln al-Razi; see religious pluralism and 
the C3Ur'an). Nevertheless, the rationale 
generally given for the poll tax — a com- 
pensation (jazd'J in exchange for enjoying 
the protection (dhimma) of Muslim 
ride — does demonstrate a certain con- 
ceptual continuity with the qur'anic term 
jazd' [ci. Tabari, Ta'rikh, i, 2470: ... ma'a 
l-jazd' 'an aydihim 'aid qadri tdqatihim, i.e. 
"... with compensation from their wealth 
[lit. from their hands] according to their 
ability [to pay]"). Claims for continuity, 
however, between the qur'anic sense of the 
term and its later legal and exegetical use 
rest on the identity of those people speci- 
fied as being obligated to pay t\\ejizya, 
namely those who have been given the 
book (min alladhina utu l-kitdb), widely as- 
sumed to be non-Muslim recipients of 
God's revelation (i.e. People of the Book) 
in contrast to those who are without 
knowledge of God's oneness [mushrikun. 



see RazI, Tafsir, ad Q^ 9:30; see polytheism 

AND atheism). 

Rubin (Bard'a) has concluded that jizya at 
<J 9:29 connotes financial compensation for 
the loss of income sustained by the rupture 
of commercial relations with non-Muslim 
traders who are prohibited, at o 9:28, from 
approaching Mecca (q.v.). This does seem 
to be borne out in C3 9:29 itself, the opening 
words of which claim that the people 
obliged to pay the jizja do not believe in 
God or judgment day [Id yu'minuna bi-lldh 
wa-ld bi-l-yawmi l-dkhir; see last judg- 
ment). Book (q.v.; kitdb), while connoting 
divine knowledge (see knowledge and 
learning) and authority (q.v.), can also 
serve as a metonymy for treaty, the terms 
of which were fixed in writing (a kitdb) and 
included some kind of payment of tribute 

(see CONTRACTS AND ALLIANCES). j'j,7))a, in 

fact, occurs in such a context in Ibn Sa'd's 
history (Tabaqdt, i, 257 f), where the term 
for the missives (kutub) sent by Muhammad 
to other groups and rulers connotes both 
letter and pact. Were, then, the people 
named in q 9:29 the so-called People of 
the Book (ahl al-kitdb) or merely tribal 
groups of varied character which had 
entered into alliance with the tribal over- 
lordship of Muhammad and his Muslim 
partisans while not sharing their mono- 
theistic beliefs? Simonsen [Studies, 47-61) 
argues — on the basis that there is no 
qur'anic connection between dhimma and 
jizya — that q 9:29 applies to all non- 
Muslims dwelling within the reach of 
Medinan hegemony, whether monotheists 
or not (see Medina). 

In favor of the identification of the jizya- 
payers of cj 9:29 with the People of the 
Book, support can be drawn from the 
verses subsecjuent to q 9:29, which serve a 
doctrinal polemic against the claim of Jews 
that Ezra (q.v.; 'Uzayr) is the son of God 
and that of Christians who say that Jesus 
(q.v.) is ((J 9:30), and against the undue 

attribution of divine authority awarded 
by both groups to their religious leaders 
[ittakhadhu ahbdrahum wa-ruhbdnahum arbdban 
min duni lldh, q 9'3i)- Later exegetes un- 
derstood (J 9:29 to indicate the failure of 
Jews and Christians to affirm fully God's 
oneness (e.g. Muqatil, Tafsir, ii, 166; 
Zamakhsharl, Kashshdf, iii, 32; Ibn al-jawzl, 
^dd, iii, 419; see polemic and polemical 
language). Moreover, the fact that the 
concept of the protection (dhimma) of God 
and his Prophet was not limited in the ear- 
liest period to the People of the Book, as 
Simonsen demonstrates, need not negate 
the more specific application oi jizya to 
them apart from the mushrikun. Finally, the 
usage of min alladhma Utu l-kitdb elsewhere 
in the Qiir'an does indeed suggest recipi- 
ents of previous revelation (e.g. 04:47; see 


The occasion for the revelation of q 9:29 
(see OCCASIONS OF revelation) is thought 
to have been the Prophet's expedition in 
9/30 to Tabuk (Tabari, Tafsir, xiv, 200) in 
the northwestern region of the Arabian 
peninsula (cf. Bakhit, Tabuk), conducted 
in anticipation of a Byzantine-sponsored 
attack (see expeditions and battles). 
While the attack never materialized, the 
Prophet took the opportunity to conclude 
pacts with tribal groups near the Gulf of 
'Aqaba. The use oi jizya for non-Muslim 
and specifically Jewish, Christian and 
Zoroastrian groups only after the expedi- 
tion to Tabuk seems to be confirmed by 
the reports of Ibn Sa'd (d. 230/845; cf 
Simonsen, Studies, 47-61). The suggestion 
has been made that the appearance oi jizya 
was linked to the Medinan policy towards 
tribes already accustomed to payment of 
tribute (q.v.) to Byzantine and Sassanian 
overlords (Schmucker, Untersuchungen, 74 f), 
and it is in that sense that this tribute be- 
came a sign of obeisance [wa-hum sdghirdn, 
cf. q 27:37) to the growing socio-political 
hegemony of Islam (see community and 



THE OUR'an). 

Most significantly for our understanding 
of the Qur'an, it must be noted that the 
concept otjizya at C) 9:29 does serve a pro- 
gram of Muslim confessional definition 
vis-a-vis other groups, in both the forma- 
tive and classical periods of Islam. The 
qur'anic occurrence of the verse in a 
Medinan context (o 9: Surat al-Tawba, 
"Repentance"), where concerns for the 
formation of the Muslim polity and cor- 
responding confessional demarcations of 
religio-political identity were urgent, sug- 
gests that the qur' anic jizy a can best be un- 
derstood in terms of a confessional tax 
levied upon tribal and other groups unwill- 
ing to meet the requirements of member- 
ship in Islam (it is also used in this sense in 
the rules of jihad [q.v.], where those refus- 
ing the call of Islam are offered the chance 
to pay the jizya in exchange for cessation of 
hostilities). Such boundaries were embod- 
ied in both religious and fiscal terms, and it 
is in this sense that taxation (q.v.) of other 
groups served Islam in its definition of 
such confessional lines. The context in 
which (^ 9:29 occurs is quasi-creedal in 
coloring (see creeds). The exegetes 
understood it in this way, although they 
developed its original connotation (see 
above). In addition, the administrative his- 
tory of the term also confirms its confes- 
sional orientation: While jz^a was used 
interchangeably in the earliest period with 
the term for the land-tax [khardj, e.g. "jizya 
on the land" or "khardj on the head"; see 
Cahen, Djizya), the two terms became 
gradually disassociated when ownership 
of the lands of conquest — through con- 
version of the tenants to Islam or sale of 
their land to Muslims — was no longer 
solely identifiable with non-Muslims 
(a policy believed to have first been insti- 
tuted by the Umayyad 'Umar b. 'Abd 

al-'Aziz, r 99-101/717-20; see Gibb, Fiscal 

Paul L. Heck 

Primary: Abu 'Ubayd, Kitdb al-Amwdl, ed. 
M. KhalTl Harras, Cairo 1981^, 23-56; Abu 
Yusuf, Ya'qub b. Ibrahim al-Ansari, Kitdb 
al-Khardj, ed. I. 'Abbas, Beirut 1985; Ibn al-jawzl, 
^dd, ed. Beirut 1965, iii, 419-21; Ibn Qayyim 
al-Jawziyya, Ahkdm ahl al-dhimma, ed. S. al-Sahh, 
Beirut 1983^; Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqdt, ed. I. 'Abbas; 
Jaldlayn, ad q 9:29; Malik, Muwatta\ ed. A.R. 
'Armush, Beirut 1977^, 187-9; Muqatil, TafsTr, ii, 
166-7; RazT, TafsTr; TabarT, TafsTr, ed. Shakir, xiv, 
198-201; id., Ta'rTkh, ed. De Goeje; TusT, Tibydn, 
ed. A.H. Qiisayr al-'Amill, 10 vols., Beirut n.d., 
V, 202-4; ZamakhsharT, Kashshdf ed. 'A. A. 'Abd 
al-Mawjud and 'A.M. Mu'awwad, 6 vols., 
Riyadh 1998, iii, 32-3. 

Secondary: A. Abel, La djizya- Tribut ou rangon? 
in ,SY32 (1970), 5-19; M.A. al-Bakhit, Tabuk, in 
Ei^, X, 50-1; Gl. Cahen, Djizya (i), in ei^, ii, 
559-62; D.C. Dennett, Conversion and the poll tax in 
early Islam, Cambridge, MA 1950; 'A. 'A. al-Durl, 
al-Nuium al'isldmiyya, Baghdad 1950; A. Fattal, Le 
statut legal des non-musulmans en pays d'islam., Beirut 
1958; H.A.R. Gibb, The fiscal rescript of 'Umar 
II, in Arabica 2 (1955), 1-16; S.M. Hasanuz 
Zaman, Economic functions of an Islamic state (the 
early experience), Leicester 1990^; EL. Heck, The 
construction of knowledge in Islamic civilization. 
Quddma b. Jafar (d. 337/948) and his Kitab al- 
kharaj wa-sina'at al-kitaba, Leiden 2002 (esp. 
chapter four); K.-E. Ismail, Das islamische 
Steuersystem vom y. bis 13. Jahrhundert n. Chr. unter 
besonderer Berucksichtigung seiner Umsetzung in den 
eroberten Gebieten, Koln 1989; F. Lokkegaard, 
Islamic taxation in the classic period, Copenhagen 
1950, 128-43; J.D. McAuliffe, Fakhr al-Din 
al-RazT on ayat al-jizyah and ayat al-sayf in 
M. Gervers and R.J. Bikhazi (eds.). Conversion and 
continuity. Indigenous Christian communities in Islamic 
lands. Eighth to eighteenth centuries, Toronto 1990, 
104-19; M. Morony, Iraq after the Muslim conquests, 
Princeton 1984, 584-8 (summary of literature on 
the poll tax); U. Rubin, Baraga. A study of some 
qur^anic passages, vajSAl '^ (1984), 13-32; id., 
Qiir^an and tafsTr. The case of 'anyadin, in Der 
Islam 70 (1993), 133-44 (excellent source for 
exegetical references); W. Schmucker, Unter- 
suchungen zu einigen wichtigen bodenrechtlichen Konse- 
quenzcn der islamischen Eroberungsbewegung, Bonn 
1972; J.B. Simonsen, Studies in the genesis and 
early development of the caliphal taxation system, 



Copenhagen 1988 (esp. 47-61); A.S. Tritton, The 
caliphs and their non-Aiuslim subjects, London 1930. 

Pollution see c 


Polygamy see marriage and divorce; 
patriarchy; women and the cjur'an 

Polysemy in the Qiir'an 

The plurality of senses that words can 
have. It is the property of words in all nat- 
ural languages to have more than one 
meaning, for polysemy is an essential con- 
dition of a language's efficiency: a finite set 
of lexical elements is used to express a po- 
tentially infinite set of situations. Arabic 
words in the Qiir'an also have this property 
and many words in the Qiir'an have been 
classified as polysemous in the exegetical 
tradition (see exegesis of the q^ur'an: 
classical and medieval). In fact, some 
exegetes suggest that all words in the 
Qiir'an contain several meanings or levels 
of meaning (see language and style 

THE CJUR'an). 

The possibility of ambiguity or ecjui- 
vocation is, however, a counterpart of 
polysemy — although contextual, syntactic 
and lexical clues in practice reduce this 
possibility. For example, mutual appro- 
priateness reduces a word's semantic per- 
tinence so that only part of the semantic 
field of a word is used; the remainder is 
excluded or repressed. The Qiir'an, how- 
ever, inhibits this reduction. It is a refer- 
ential text that often does not provide a 
great deal of context. This difficulty was 
alleviated somewhat by biographical ma- 
terials [sua; see sTra and the C)Ur'an), the 
circumstances of revelation literature 
[asbdb al-nuzul; see occasions of reve- 
lation) and other narrative texts that 

offered historical explanations or allusions 
that emphasized inonosemy and, by pro- 
viding a context frequently missing in the 
Qiir'an itself, word sense disambiguation. 
Early works on the ghanb, i.e. difficult 
words such as hapax legomena, foreign and 
dialectal words (see foreign vocabulary; 
dialect), also emphasized monosemy by 
providing mostly simple glosses. 

On the whole, the Islamic exegetical tra- 
dition embraced polysemy in the Qur'an. 
Although the Qur'an was thought to have 
a divine origin and Arabic came to be 
viewed as a divine language, not a "natu- 
ral" one, polysemy was not considered a 
defect (see revelation and inspiration; 
ARABIC language). Rather, polysemy in 
the Qur'an became one of its miraculous 
features (see miracle; inimitability). The 
issue was not whether the Qur'an was 
polysemous but rather how to express and 
limit the polysemy. As a result, polysemy 
has been represented or imposed in several 
different but overlapping ways throughout 
the history of reading and interpreting the 
Qur'an (see readings of the our'an). 
The cjuestion remains whether the poly- 
semes discovered by the exegetes are de- 
liberate or merely imposed upon the 
Qur'an for theological and other reasons 

(see THEOLOGY AND THE Q^Ur'an). 

Wiijuh al-Qur'an 
The most obvious works dealing with poly- 
semy are those of wujuh (polysemes and 
homonyms) and na^d'ir (synonyms or ana- 
logues). WujUh refers to words einployed 
several times in the Qur'an but witli at 
least two and perhaps as many as forty dif- 
ferent meanings (Abdiis Sattar, Wujuh, 
138). The distinction between homonymy, 
which refers to words of different origins 
or roots that coincide phonetically, and 
polysemy, which refers to words of related 
origin but whose roots or derived forms 



have several discernable senses, is essen- 
tially arbitrary. Synchronically, hoinonymy 
is a kind of polysemy but even diachronic 
homonymy can become polysemy and vice 
versa because the criteria for distinguishing 
between homonymy and polysemy are 
themselves somewhat arbitrary. In any 
case, it is a distinction that those qur'anic 
exegetes who discussed wujuh did not gen- 
erally make. Wujiih is a branch of the sci- 
ences of the Qur'an ['ulum al-Qur'dn; see 
study) and finds sanction in several pro- 
phetic hadlths (see hadith and the 
{jur'an): "The Qiir'an... conveys [many] 
meanings (wujiih); so impute to it the best 
of its meanings" (Zarkashi, Burhdn, ii, 163). 
And, "a jurisprudent's ('JayfAj jurispru- 
dence is not comprehensive until he sees 
many wujuh in the Qiir'an" (Suyuti, Itqdn, i, 
299; see LAW and the qur'an). 

Muqatil b. Sulayman (d. 150/767) is cred- 
ited with authoring the first wujuh and 
na^d'ir work (cf. Nwyia, Exegese, 109-16; 
Gilliot, Elt, 118-20). His methodology, 
largely followed by later authors in this 
genre, is to provide a gloss or brief defini- 
tion for each of the meanings (wujuh) of a 
word and then to list other analogous 
qur'anic passages (na^d'ir) — that is, those 
in which the word is employed with the 
same meaning. Important early wujuh 
works are those of Ibn Qi_itayba (d. 276/ 
889), al-DamaghanI (d. 478/1085), and Ibn 
al-Jawzi (d. 597/1200). Of course, the sub- 
ject is treated by al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1391) 
and al-SuyutI (d. 911/1505) in their works 
on the sciences of the Qiir'an. None of 
these works are systematic examinations of 
qur'anic vocabulary. Rather, the words 
chosen by these exegetes are religiously 
significant ones. It should also be noted 
that in these works, the terms wujuh and 
na^d'ir are themselves somewhat polyse- 
mous (Rippin, Lexicographical texts, 
167-71). By the time of al-Zarkashi, the 

existence of wujuh in the Qiir'an had 
acquired its most important theological 
implication: it is one "of the miracles 
(mujizdt) of the Qiir'an since one word 
imparts twenty aspects (sing, wajh), or more 
or less; and one does not find that in the 
speech of mankind" (Zarkashi, Burhdn, 
i, 102). 

Polysemy in the Qur'an has, at least at 
times, been created by the exegetical tradi- 
tion itself, which even has the Qur'an "in- 
venting" new meanings for some words. 
See, for example, the development of the 
association of "sleep" with bard, "cold," in 
order to "solve intra-qur'anic and Qur'an 
versus dogma conflict" (Rippin, Qur'an 
78/24, 311-20; see dreams and sleep; 
HOT and (;old). If such is the case, one 
can legitimately ask whether the exegetes' 
rich tradition of finding polysemes in 
the Qur'an is more a product of the 
exegetes' ingenuity than a deliberate fea- 
ture of the Qur'an. Certainty may well be 
restricted to those words for which there 
are other reasons for assuming polysemy, 
such as the use of puns in the Qur'an (see 

Levels of meaning in the (hir'dn 
As a technical term wujuh connotes that 
category of words that are used in different 
ways in different passages of the Qur'an, 
but proved to be an inadecjuate rubric un- 
der which to discuss words, expressions 
and phrases, which have multiple mean- 
ings within a single passage. Several other 
overlapping rubrics were developed and 
employed in various ways by SiinnI, Shi'l 
and Sufi exegetes (see SHl'lsM and the 
q^ur'an; sufism and the cjur'an). 
Generally, all the methods that they de- 
veloped were based on the premise that the 
passages of the Qur'an had several levels 
of meaning, though the deeper levels 
should not be allowed to negate the single, 
literal meaning. 



One of the more significant ways of ac- 
coimting or allowing for polysemy (at least 
at the level of expressions and phrases as 
opposed to individual words) was intro- 
duced by using the distinction between the 
muhkamdt and mutashdbihdt given in o 3:7. 
Whether these two words are polysemous 
in the Qtir'an is uncertain but in the ex- 
planations of later exegetes they are cer- 
tainly understood to be. Some argued, 
Abu 'Ubayd (d. 224/838) for instance, that 
they refer to the abrogating and regulative 
passages, and to the abrogated and non- 
regulative passages, respectively (see 
abrogation), while others saw them as 
the clear and unclear passages, respectively 
(see ambiguous). Of more immediate sig- 
nificance is that mutashdbihdt came to mean 
verses that were polysemous. For instance, 
al-Ja.ssas (d. 370/98 1) states that the 
muhkamdt permit only one meaning but the 
mutashdbihdt may have several. The mean- 
ings and aspects (wujuh) of the latter must 
be understood in reference to the former, 
though not all of them could be known 
( Jassas, Ahkdm, ii, 3-4). 

Tafsir and ta'wil are another pair of terms 
employed to convey the notion of several 
levels of meaning (see exegesis of the 
q^ur'an: classical and medieval). Tafsir 
came to mean the exegesis that was con- 
crete, exoteric, and/or based on tradition. 
Ta'wil came to mean exegesis that was 
abstract, esoteric, and/or based on per- 
sonal opinion (ray). Thus, al-Tabarl's 
(d. 310/923) exegesis is tafsir and al- 
Qiishayrl's (d. 465/1072) Latd'if al-ishdrdt is 
ta'wit. The distinction between terms was 
only theoretical, however, since exegetes 
such as the Sufi al-SulamI (d. 412/1021) 
labeled their works as tafsirs and al- 
Tabari's work was originally entitled as 
ta 'wTl — again the terminology of poly- 
semy is itself polysemous. Also for some 
exegetes, tafsir permitted only one meaning 
(layahtamilu Hid wajhan wdhidan), whereas 

ta'wil allowed more (Suyuti, Itqdn, ii, 381). 
Thus, ta'wil allowed for unrestricted poly- 
semy. In practice, however, even tafsir was 
polysemous. Al-Tabari cites a tradition 
from Ibn 'Abbas in which he states, '^Tafsir 
has four aspects: an aspect which is known 
to the Arabs (q.v.) through their speech, a 
tafsir of which no one can plead ignorance, 
a tafsir which the learned know, and a tafsir 
known only to God" (Tabari, Tafsir, i, 57; 
Eng. trans, i, 34). Furthermore, al-Tabari's 
tafsir, though based on traditions, often 
accepts that all the diverse opinions found 
in the earlier exegetes are correct (cf. 
Gilliot, Elt, 112-33). 

The most prominent binary distinction 
that allowed for polysemy is the one 
between ^dhir and bdtin. In his discussion of 
the seven harfs, al-Tabari cites a tradition 
in which Muhammad says "Each of the 
haifo has an outward meaning (^ahr) and an 
inward meaning (batn). Each of the harfo 
has a border, and each border a lookout" 
(Tabari, Tafsir, i, 35-6; Eng. trans, i, 16; cf. 
Gilliot, Elt, 112 f). Generally, ^dhir refers to 
the exoteric, outer, obvious, or literal 
meaning and bdtin to the esoteric, inner, 
concealed, or symbolic meaning. 
Theoretically, ^dhir had but one meaning 
and was associated with tafsir, while bdtin 
coidd be multivalent and it, along with 
everything else that was not ^dhir, was 
subsumed under ta'wil. Shl'ls and Sufis 
placed a great deal of emphasis on bdtin. 
The ImamI Shi'l exegete al-Tabataba'l 
(d. 198 1) expanded the levels of polysemy 
by suggesting that inner meaning itself 
could have up to seven inner meanings 
(Tabataba'l, Mizdn, i, 7). The classical 
formulation, however — which seems to 
incorporate the tradition from Ibn 'Abbas 
and the ^dhir-bdtin distinction — recog- 
nized that every qur'anic verse had, not two, 
but four separate meanings. The Sufi Sahl 
al-Tustarl (d. 283/896) lists ^dhir (literal), 
bdtin (symbolic), hadd (prescriptive) and 



matla' (anagogical). "The ^d/iir is the 
recitation; the bdtin the understanding; the 
hadd the permitted and forbidden (q.v.; 
things in the verses); the matla' the control 
of the heart (q.v.) over what is intended by 
them by way of comprehension from God" 
(Tustarl, TafsTr, 3; cf. Bowering, Scriptural 
senses, 350; see intellect; knowledge 
AND learning; recitation of the 
(jur'an). Tliese four levels of meaning 
came to be accepted in various forms by 
SunnI scholars also. For example, al- 
Zarkashl states: "The outward interpreta- 
tions ('ibdrdt) are for the general public; 
they are for the ear. The allusions (ishdrdt) 
are for the special ones; they are for the 
intellect. The subtleties (latd'if) are for 
the friends [of God; see friends and 
friendship]; they are glimpses. And the 
essences (haqd'iq) are for the prophets (see 
prophets and prophethood); they are 
the submission [to God]" (Zarkashi, 
Burhdn, ii, 153-4). Similarly, the benefits of 
hearing the Qiir'an are fourfold and suit 
the listeners' capabilities. Those who hear 
it merely from a reciter benefit from the 
knowledge of its precepts; those who hear 
as though from the Prophet benefit from 
his admonitions (see warning) and the 
demonstrations of his miracles so that the 
heart delights in the subtleties of his ora- 
tion; and those who hear it as though from 
Gabriel (q.v.) glimpse hidden things (see 
hidden and the hidden) and promises 
disclosed in it (to the Prophet); those who 
hear as though from God are extinguished 
by it and their attributes effaced — they 
gain the attributes of truth (tahqiq) through 
glimpsing the knowledge, source, and truth 
of certainty (Zarkashi, Burhdn, ii, 154). 

Despite these fourfold levels of meaning, 
most exegetes essentially recognized only 
two such levels. Even al-Tustarl, in practice 
if not in theory, uses the typical literal- 
allegorical distinction; he combines ^dhir 
and hadd, and bdtin and mai/a' (Bowering, 

Sahl al-Tustarl, 841). In any case, none of 
these various ways of constructing poly- 
semy in the Qiir'an need be considered 
mutually exclusive. Muhkam versus 
mutashdbih, io/sir versus ta'wil, ^dhir versus 
bdtin, in each of these binary oppositions 
it is theoretically only the latter which is 
open to multiple (levels of) meanings 
(Wansbrough, QS, 243-4). 

Herbert Berg 

Primary: Damagham, Wujuli, ed. al-ZafltT; Ibn 
Si\-^?iWzi Nuzha; Ibn Qiitayba, Ta'uji'/; Jassas, 
Alikdm; Miiqatil, Abu 1-Hasan Muqatil b. 
Sulayman al-Balkhl, at-Ashbdh wa-l'na^d'irji 
l-Qur'dn at-kanm, ed. 'A.M. Shihata, Cairo 1975; 
SuyutT, Itqdn, Beirut 1995; TabarT, TafsTr, 30 vols, 
in 12, Beirut 1992, abr. Eng. trans. 
J. Cooper, The commentary on the Qur^dn, Oxiord 
1987-, i; Tahatahai, Mizdn, Beirut 1973-4; 
TustarT, TafsTr; Zarkashi, Burtldn. 
Secondary: M. Abdiis Sattar, Wujuh al-Qiir^an. 
A branch of tafsTr literature, in Islamic studies 17 
(1978), 137-52; A.J. Arberry, Synonyms and 
homonyms in the Qur'an, in IQ 13 (1939), 135-9; 
M. Ayoub, The Qur'dn and its interpreters, Albany 
1984 (vol. i); G. Bowering, Sahl al-Tustarl, in El^, 
viii, 841; id.. The scriptural "senses" in medieval 
Suft Qur'an exegesis, in J.D. McAiiliffe, B.D. 
Walfish, andJ.W. Goering (eds.). With reverence for 
the word, New York 2003, 346-65; Gilliot, Elt; id., 
Les sept "lectures." Corps social et ecriture 
revelee, in *j6i (1985), 5-25 (Part I); 63 (1986), 
49-62 (Part II); Nwyia, Exegese; A. Rippin, 
Lexicographical texts and the Qiir'an, in Rippin, 
Approaches, 158-74; id., Qur'an 78/24. A study in 
Arabic lexicography, in jss 28 (1983), 311-20; 
Wansbrough, QS. 

Polytheism and Atheism 

The worship of many gods; the belief in 
no god. Although the concept of atheism 
was unknown to the qur'anic audience, the 
human tendency to ascribe divine tenden- 
cies to something other than the one, true 
God was not. The qur'anic allusions to 
"polytheism" have been variously under- 
stood: idolatry on the part of pre-Islamic 



Arabian tribes; tlie pre-lslamic Arabs' 
ascription of divine attributes to lesser 
beings, perhaps even within a monotheistic 
framework; or, alternatively, a polemical 
accusation that Jews and Christians had 
distorted aspects of their earlier revela- 
tions. The following is an overview of 
the qur'anic attitude towards these two 
aspects of human denial of God's 
omnipotence — the ultimate act of 

The qur'anic Arabic term for polytheism is 
shirk. The central dogma affirmed in the 
Qiir'an is that of monotheism (tawhld), and 
shirk, as its antithesis, takes the brunt of 
qur'anic doctrinal criticism. The Qtir'an's 
rejection of shirk is categorical and absolute 
(a concise statement is found in the short 
(J 112). It is the only sin for which, even 
theoretically, there is no forgiveness (q.v.): 
"God will not forgive the act of associating 
[anything] with him, though he might for- 
give anyone he likes anything other than 
that" [q_ 4:48, 116; see sin, major and 
minor). The Arabic phrase for "anything 
other than that," md ddna dhdlika, also con- 
notes "anything less than that" — again 
implying that shirk is the greatest of all sins, 
all other sins being "less" than it. The an- 
cient Arabian sage Luqman (q.v.) is rep- 
resented in the Qiir'an, in a sura (c3 31) 
named after him, as admonishing his son 
against committing shirk: he calls shirk "a 
great wrong indeed" (c3 31:13). The same 
sura exhorts one to respect and obey one's 
parents (q.v.) but forbids one to commit 
shirk should one's parents ptit pressure on 
one to do so (c) 31:14-5; see also Q 29:8). 
Shirk nidlifies good deeds (q.v.): on the day 
of judgment (see last judgment) the 
polytheists [mushrikUn; sing, mushrik) will 
discover that any good deeds they might 
have done have been wiped out (o 6:88; 

The literal meaning of shirk is association. 
As a technical term in the Qur'an, there- 
fore, shirk means to set up associates or 
partners of God — the one true 
God — such that they are taken to be 
equal or comparable to the godhead. This 
definition would cover the positing of any 
deities besides God, whether they are one 
or many in number, whether they are be- 
lieved to partake of his essence (shirk fi 
l-dhdt) or share his attributes [shirk fi l-sifiit, 
see GOD and his attributes) and whether 
they are held to be equal to or less than 
him. And it would cover both crass idolatry 
(see idolatry and idolaters) and 
metaphysical dualism. According to the 
Qiir'an, shirk can be both conceptual and 
practical. Actually, to hold the belief that 
deities other than God exist and that the 
luiiverse and its workings cannot be ex- 
plained until more than one God are taken 
to exist or possess the attributes that prop- 
erly belong to him alone — that is, to re- 
ject monotheism in principle and affirm 
polytheism in principle — is conceptual 
shirk, whereas to regard any being or power 
other than God as being worthy of receiv- 
ing obedience (q.v.) that is rightfully due 
only to God and to do so even when one 
affirms belief in monotheism in principle, 
would be practical shirk. 

A number of pre-lslamic nations come 
under strong criticism in the Qiir'an for 
their polytheistic beliefs (see pre-islamii; 


RELIGION IN pre-islamic). For example, 
the nation of Abraham (q.v.) counted heav- 
enly bodies like the sun (q.v.), the moon 
(q.v.), and the stars (see planets and 
stars) among deities, and these and other 
deities were represented by statues that 
were worshipped (see idols and images). 
c) 6:74-81 recounts Abraham's debate with 


1 60 

his polytheistic nation, in wliicli lie refuses 
to accept such heavenly bodies as deities. 
Another debate of Abraham's, which is 
followed by his demolition of temple idols, 
is reported in (j 21:52 f. The pagans of 
Arabia proudly called themselves the 
descendents of Abraham and the qur'anic 
reference to Abraham's uncompromising 
opposition to idolatry therefore gave a par- 
ticular pungency to the qur'anic criticism 
of Arabian polytheism. Other nations be- 
sides Abraham's that are criticized in the 
Qiir'an are those of Noah (q.v.; q 11:26; 
see also Q_ 71:23), 'Ad (q.v.; cj 11:50-5) and 
Thamud (q.v.; C3 11:61-2). The Egyptian 
Pharaoh (q.v.) of Moses' (q.v.) time claimed 
to be a god (c3 26:29) and so did the king 
with whom Abraham debated (<J 2:258). 
According to certain qur'anic verses 
(c) 25:43; 45:23), following one's base de- 
sires to such an extent that one becomes 
their slave also amounts to shirk (see 

The Arabian polytheism of Muham- 
mad's time is sometimes called henothe- 
ism, which is belief in the existence of 
many deities alongside a supreme God. 
The Arabs believed that there was a 
supreme God who had created the uni- 
verse: "If you were to ask them, 'Who cre- 
ated the heavens and the earth?' they 
would assuredly say, 'God'" (q 39:38; see 
creation; nature as signs). The Arabs 
thought, however, that God could be 
approached only through a number of 
lesser deities. "We worship them [other 
deities] only so that they may bring us 
close to God" [q_ 39:3). "Say, 'Who gives 
you sustenance (q.v.) from the heavens and 
the earth (q.v.; see also food and drink; 


AND sky) — or who has power over hear- 
ing and vision (see HEARING and deaf- 
ness; vision and blindness; seeing and 
hearing; ears; eyes), and who brings the 

living from out of the dead and the dead 
from out of the living (see death and the 
dead; resurrection; life), and who 
administers things?' At this they will say, 
'God'" (o 10:31; see also o 29:61). A dis- 
tinctive feature of Arabian shirk was angel 
worship. The Arabs believed that the 
angels (see angel) were the daughters of 
God through whom God might be ap- 
proached and persuaded to bless the devo- 
tees; and on the last day (see last 
judgment), the angels were expected to 
intercede with God on their devotees' 
behalf. C3 53:19-20 mentions three such 
goddesses by name (al-Lat, al-'Uzza, and 
Manat; see Satanic verses). 

The Qiir'an is critical of the Christian 
Trinitarian belief (see christians and 
c.hristianity; trinity): "Those people 
have certainly committed an act of dis- 
belief who have said, 'God is one member 
of a trinity'" (() 5:73; also (J 4:171; for an 
understanding of the mushrikun of the 
Qiir'an as Christians who had transgressed 
the tenets of their religion, see Hawting, 
Idea of idolatry, esp. chaps. 2 and 3; see also 


some Jews (see JEWS and Judaism ), in their 
exaggerated veneration of Ezra (q.v.), dei- 
fied the reformer-prophet, and Q_ 9:30 
refers to this. The same verse refers to the 
deification of Jesus (q.v.) by Christians and 
the next verse accuses the People of the 
Book (q.v.) of setting up their scholars (see 
scholar) and monks (see monasticism 
and monks) as "lords (see lord) besides 
God." According to qur'anic commenta- 
tors, the accusation refers to the fact that 
the Jews and Christians had, at certain 
times in their history, come to regard their 
scholars and monks as a more authoritative 
source of legislation or guidance (see 
astray; error) than the revealed scrip- 
tures (see book; scripture and the 
our'an) themselves and this amounted to 



shirk, or was seen as a form of shirk, since 
they thereby accorded their scholars and 
saints the position of legislator that belongs 
to God (see law and the {jur'an; justice 
AND injustice). It should be noted, how- 
ever, that while the Qiir'an accuses the 
People of the Book of committing certain 
acts of shirk, it does not call them mushrikun. 
The distinction derives from the fact that 
the People of the Book in principle reject 
polytheism and avow monotheism (tawhid) 
as their fundamental belief, and the 
Qiir'an accepts that avowal. It is for this 
reason that Islamic law treats the People of 
the Book as a category by itself. Incident- 
ally, many Muslim scholars point out that 
sometimes Muslims themselves commit 
acts of shirk (saint worship in some Muslim 
societies is cited as an example; see saints; 

BELIEF and unbelief). 

There are, the Qiir'an suggests, several 
causes of shirk. Power — especially abso- 
lute power — leads some to think that they 
are God-like, and they have been accepted 
as such by those subject to them (see 
POWER AND impotence). The king with 
whom Abraham debated declared himself 
to be god "because God had given liim 
kingly power" — that is, instead of being 
grateful for the gift, he set himself up as a 
deity because he had, he thought, absolute, 
god-like power (o 2:258; see kings and 
rulers). Certain phenomena of nature 
inspire feelings of awe, wonder or admira- 
tion, leading people to regard them as dei- 
ties; examples are the sun, the moon and 
the stars (cj 6:74-81; see cosmology). And, 
as noted above, people may become slaves 
of their base desires and passions, seeking 
always to satisfy them; in so doing they 
commit a kind of shirk. No matter what its 
cause, shirk represents the human beings' 
failure, caused by ignorance (q.v.) or per- 

versity (see rebellion; disobedience; 


truth, evidenced in all of existence, that 
there is only one God. 

Arguments against shirk 
The Qiir'an offers several arguments 
against shirk. First, the stability and order 
prevailing throughout the universe is proof 
that it was created and is being admin- 
istered by one God and that no one has 
any share in his power (e.g. C3 28:70-2). In 
c) 27:60-4, which contains a series of argu- 
ments against shirk, the polytheists are re- 
peatedly asked after every argument: "Is 
there a god alongside God?" An impartial 
reflection on the universe leads one to the 
conclusion that "He is the one who is God 
(ildhun) in the heavens and God (ildhun) in 
the earth" (q 43:84); "Had there been sev- 
eral gods in them [heavens and earth] , 
these would have been disrupted" (c) 21:22). 
Second, human beings have an instinctive 
distaste for shirk, which is borne out by the 
fact that at times of crisis they forget the 
false deities and call upon the one true 
God for help. Thus, even idolaters, while 
traveling on the high seas, would, when 
their ship is overtaken by a storm, call 
upon the one God, forgetting their other 
deities. But as soon as they reach the 
safety of the shore, they start associating 
other beings with God (q 29:65; see also 
c) 7:189-90; 10:22-3; see gratitude and 
ingratitude). Third, shirk takes away 
from human dignity. Human beings have 
been honored by God, who has given them 
charge of the physical world, and for them 
to commit shirk would be to disgrace their 
position in the world. "Do you worship 
what you sculpture.^" — that is, would 
you worship something you carve out with 
your own hands? Finally, there is the com- 
bined evidence of the prophetic messages 
throughout human history, for the essential 



doctrine preached by all die prophets was 
that of taivhid (cf. c) 7:59 [Noah; q.v.]; 
7:65 [Hud; q.v.]; 7:73 [Salih; q.v.]; 7:85 
[Shu'ayb; q.v.]). Here it should be pointed 
out that prophecy in Islam begins with 
Adam (see prophets and prophethood; 
ADAM AND eve). This means that, as 
prophet, Adam preached monotheism, so 
that tawhld is not a later discovery made by 
the human race but the very first lesson 
that God taught human beings, (j 7:172-3 
recounts the event that took place in pre- 
existence and according to which God 
brought forth all human beings who were 
ever to be born, making them testify that 
he alone was their lord (see covenant). 

Q_ 45:24 is sometimes cited as referring to 
atheism. The verse reads: "And they say, 
'This worldly life of ours is all there 
is — we die and we live, and nothing but 
time destroys us.' But they have no knowl- 
edge of it; they are only speculating." Yet 
the view that there existed, at the time of 
the prophet Muhammad, individuals or 
groups of people who denied the existence 
of divinity altogether, is highly implausible. 
The verse is best interpreted as referring 
to the pre-Islamic view of the Arabs (q.v.) 
that the rise and fall of nations is governed 
not by any definite moral laws, as the 
Qiir'an maintained, but by the impersonal 
hand of fate (q.v.; see also destiny). In 
criticizing this view, the verse is affirming, 
by implication, that societies rise and pros- 
per or decline and perish, strictly in 
accordance with moral laws laid down 
by God (see ethics and the q^ur'an). 
Denying the relevance of morality to pros- 
perity and success in the world, the Arabs 
claimed that the rise and fall of nations 
was due to the perpetually moving wheel 
of fortune that first raised a nation to the 
top and then brought it down. On this 

view, the Qiiraysh (q.v.) of Mecca (q.v.) 
could ward off the qur'anic criticism that 
their affluence (which, according to the 
Qiir'an, was really a gift from God; see 
GIFT and gift-oivino; wealth) was 
meant to put them to the test (see trial) 
and that they were expected to make 
responsible use of the resources put at 
their disposal. 

But even though (J 45:24 may not be cited 
to prove the existence of atheists in Arabia, 
the qur'anic concept of tawhld would, by 
definition, negate atheism: just as the 
Qiir'an rejects the idea that there can be 
two or more gods, so it would reject the 
idea that there is no god; the Islamic dec- 
laration of faith (see witness to faith) as 
cited in several places in the Qiir'an does 
not stop at Id ildha, "there is no god," but 
goes on to affirm the existence of one 
God, ilia llah, "except God." See also 

Mustansir Mir 

Amm Ahsan Islahl, Haqiqat-i din. The true essence 
of Islam [in Urdu], Lahore 1973; C. Brockel- 
maiin, Allah unci die Gotzen. Der Ursprung des 
islamischen Monotheismus, in Archivfiir Religions- 
wissenschafi 21 (1922), 99-121 (discussion of the 
traditional information about pre-Islamic Arab 
idolatry); T. Fahd, Le pantheon de I'Arabie centrale a 
la veille de Vhegire, Paris 1968 (discussion of the 
traditional information about pre-Islamic Arab 
idolatry); D. Gimaret, Shirk, in EI', ix, 484-6 (on 
shirk in the Qur'an and in Muslim usage); G.R. 
Hawting, The idea of idolatry and the emergence of 
Islam. From polemic to history, Cambridge 1999, esp. 
chaps. 2 and 3; M.I.H. Surty, The qur'anic concept 
of al-shirk (polytheism), London 1982 (on shirk in 
the Qur'an and in Muslim usage); J. Waarden- 
burg, Un debat coranique contre les polytheistes, 
in Ex orbe religionum. Studia Geo Widengren oblata, 
Leiden 1972 (on shirk in the Qiir'an and in 
Muslim usage); J. Wansbrough, The sectarian 
milieu, London 1978 (for idolatry as a topic of 
polemic); A.T. Welch, Allah and other super- 
natural beings. The emergence of the qur'anic 
doctrine of tawhid, \n jaar 47/4S (1979), 733-58. 



Pomegranates see garden; 


Pool see BiLQ^is 


Popular and Talismanic Uses 
of the QjLir'an 

Several terms [tilasm., pi. talismdt or taldsim; 
ruqya, pi. ruqd; sihr) connote this topic and 
the subject itself includes a wide range of 
practices all based on the materialization/ 
actualization of the Qiir'an, whether tap- 
ping the power inherent in verbal perfor- 
mance or creating physical renderings of 
divine speech. These materializations and 
actualizations of the Qiir'an are often des- 
ignated para-liturgical, that is, those uses of 
the Qiir'an outside the contexts of formal 
Islamic rites (saldt, tajwid; see prayer; 
RECITATION OF THE cjur'an). They include 
the range of personal prayer {du'd', see 
PRAYER formulas); spcUs, incantations 
and verbal charms (ruqya); physical tal- 
ismans (tilasm) and amidets (q.v.; ta'widh) 
and other healing applications of the 
Qtir'an conveyed by using liquids (mahw, 
nushra); divining (istikhdra,fa'l) through 
interpretation of the qur'anic text, as well 
as divining through the incubation of 
dreams (rujd) which are interpreted (ta 'bir) 
using the qur'anic text (see dreams and 
sleep); and physical representations of 
qur'anic contents in calligraphic arts (stone 
and plaster bas relief, metal engraving, 
mosaic and inlay of objets d'art and decora- 
tion of objects in daily use, painted miu'als, 
textile embroidery, wall hangings and car- 
pets, poster art and other ephemera; see 
GRAPHY AND THE our'an). The para- 

litiu"gical uses of the Qiu''an are most often 
applied for protection from disease, 
accident, or conscious malefic intention; 
protection and blessing of interior and 
exterior physical space (especially the 
domicile or place of business; see house, 
DOMESTIC AND DIVINE); success in defen- 
sive as well as aggressive warfare (see 
victory; war; fighting); material well- 
being and accrual of wealth (q.v); fertility 
(human, animal, and agricultural); indi- 
vidual, familial, and communal welfare, 
particularly that of children; and knowl- 
edge of the meaning and outcome of spe- 
cific events or the destiny of a given life 
within the imfolding of sacred history (see 

The Qur'dn and spiritual mediation (waslla) and 

intercession (shafa'a) 
Talismanic and popidar uses of the Qiir'an 
find their meaning within the framework 
of spiritual mediation in Islam. Spiritual 
mediation or intercession (q.v.) by God 
with himself and by the prophet Muham- 
mad and the ahl al-bayt, the "People of (the 
Prophet's) House" (see PEOPLE OF THE 
house; FAMILY OF THE PROPHET), through 
God's permission [wasila, C3 5:35; 17:57; 
shajd'a, e.g. ^ 2:255; 10:3; 20:109; 21:28; 
34:23; 43:86), to improve, ameliorate, and 
sustain one's circumstances in life is a belief 
which had currency throughout medieval 
Islam and continues at the popular level 
into the modern era (Padwick, Aluslim devo- 
tions, 37-47, 235-44). Muslims having re- 
course to spiritual mediation operate 
within a specific context of divine blessing 
(q.v; baraka), which can be conveyed and 
absorbed by association with sacred per- 
sons (prophets, saints, etc.; see prophets 
AND prophethood; saint) and through 
objects which have absorbed the holiness 
of persons (clothing, hair and bodily 



detritus, personal belongings or objects of 
ritual use), as well as contact with places of 
birth, habitation, or death which become 
objectified in devotion as sanctuaries and 
sites of pilgrimage (see festivals and 
COMMEMORATIVE DAYs). Popular and tal- 
ismanic uses of the Qiir'an draw upon 
both the reifying power of qur'anic speech 
(q.v.; its ability to cause and maintain all 
things in existence; see word of god; 
cosmology) and the physical transmis- 
sibility of qur'anic baraka (O'Connor, 
Prophetic inedicine, 52-3). The verbal and 
material object which is perhaps the most 
universally accessible vehicle of divine 
blessing and amelioration to Muslims, of 
course, is the Qiir'an itself. It is at the same 
time a vehicle of worship and of spiritual 
and material action, encompassing pa- 
rameters most often inappropriately seg- 
regated by scholarship as religion (q.v.) and 
magic (q.v.). 

Magic (sihr) and the uses of the Qur'dn: Licit and 

illicit "magic" in Islam 
Based on qur'anic references and other 
early accounts (such as Ibn al-Kalbi's Kitdb 
al-Asndm, "Book of idols"), sihr, or "magic/ 
sorcery," in pre-Islamic belief and practice 
seems to have included invocation of 
spirits or demons (jinn), spirit possession, 
exorcism of such spirits, soothsaying and 
divining by arrows and lots and geomantic 
omens, talismanry, cursing and healing by 
verbal, gestural, and material action (see 
soothsayers; jinn; insanity; divina- 
tion; foretelling; curse; pre-islamic 
ARABIA AND THE q^ur'an). The range of 
activities associated with the word sihr in 
Islamic times include active and practical 
magic (spells, tying of knots, invocations, 
talismans, cvirsing and healing; see illness 
AND health) as well as intuitive systems of 
extraordinary knowledge (soothsaying, 
divining, and geomancy; Fahd, Divination, 
214-45) 363-7). All the activities of sihr were 

the proper role of the poetesses/poets 
{shd'ir/a, shu'ard'; see poets and poetry) 
and priestesses/priests (kdhin/a, kahana) of 
the pre-Islamic era and, in the transition to 
the rise of Islam, came to be circumscribed 
by its new dispensation (Serjeant, Islam, 
216-21). Recast in the mould of Islam, 
these arts flourished without any marked 
discontinuity, and only later would be char- 
acterized by the fourth/tenth-century 
proto-Isma'lll authors of the Rasd'il Ikhwdn 
al-Safd' a.s "permitted" or licit magic (al-sihr 
al-haldl), those arts which served Islam, 
such as the permission to perform magic 
accorded by God to various prophetic fig- 
ures in the Qiir'an (e.g. Solomon's God- 
given power to command the winds and 
the armies of the jinn, Q^ 21:81-2, 34:12-3; 
see SOLOMON; air and wind) and "forbid- 
den" or illicit magic (al-sihr al-hardm), those 
arts which opposed Islam, or attempted to 
operate independently of Islam, such as 
malefic magic, cursing, and other evils 
(Biirgel, The feather, 28-37; Ikhwan al-Safa', 
Rasd'il, iv, 327-8, 345). 

... This is the licit or permitted magic (al- 
sihr al-haldl) which is the mission toward 
God, may he be praised, by means of the 
truth and the speech of sincerity. And false 
magic is that which is the opposite, such as 
the works of the opponents of the prophets 
and the enemies of the sages... whose laws 
protected the weak among men and 
women against the fascination (sihr) of 

their minds by falsehood This is illicit or 

forbidden magic (al-sihr al-hardm) which 
has no stability in it, nor continuance, and 
is that which is without proof or trustwor- 
thy demonstration... (ibid., iv, 348-g). 

Examples of such forbidden practices 
would be widespread belief in or use of the 
"evil eye," whether the source is human 
malice or that of the jinn, and other forms 
of cursing, as well as preventing malefic 



magic, or counter-magic (o 68:51, o 113, 
c) 114; for medieval examples see Ibn 
Q,ayyim al-Jawziyya [d. 751/1350], Tibb, 
119-21, 124; Ibn Bistam [fl. third/ninth cen- 
tury], Tibb, 43, 49-53, 161, 177, 185-6; 
Suyuti [d. 911/1505], Tibb, 164-72; and for 
the modern Muslim world, see Ibrahim, 
Assaulting with words, chap. 4 [Arabic sihr] ; 
Flueckiger, The vision, 255; Ewing, 
Malangs, 369; Bowen, Return to sender). 

The Qiir'an groups a variety of practices 
all loosely associated with pre-Islamic or 
foreign religion (see religious pluralism 
GION IN PRE-lSLAMlc) under the category 
of magic or "sorcery" (q 2:102 for "the 
devils..., who taught sorcery [sihr] to peo- 
ple, which, they said, had been revealed to 
the angels of Babylon, Harut and Marut 
[q.v.]"). Although classical definitions of 
"magic" in Islam are focused on the 
qur'anic proscriptions against the "sor- 
cery" of "knot-tying," "soothsaying," and 
demonic possession as in the style estab- 
lished by pre-Islamic oracular/gnomic 
poets and priests, an interrelated group of 
more or less licit magical and theurgic dis- 
ciplines were categorized as the "occult 
sciences" (al- 'ulum al-ghaybiyja) by their 
practitioners. These magical sciences re- 
coded the Greek or foreign sciences (phi- 
losophy, mathematics, celestial mechanics, 
physical and natural law, and medicine) 
within an Islamic creationist universe (see 

q^ur'an; knowledge and learning; 
intellect; creation). Included are be- 
liefs in the inherent power of sacred places 
and objects pre-Islamically expressed in 
divine images, shrines, altars, and sacred 
trees, wells, stones, and Islamically ex- 
pressed in the use of talismans (qur'anic 
and other) and the cult of saints (Schim- 
mel, Mystical dimensions; Eaton, Political and 
religious authority; Hoffman, SUjism; Ernst, 

Eternal garden). Pre-Islamic star worship (see 
PLANETS AND STARs) will bccome the 
Islamic interpenetration of astrology with 
many medieval "occult" and physical sci- 
ences, such as astrological medicine, the 
twin disciplines of astronomy-astrology, 
astrological talismanry and amuletry (%lm 
al-khawdss wa-l-taldsim), astrological al- 
chemy (al-kimiyd'), astrologically coded 
numerology (q.v.) and geomancy ['ilm al- 
jafr and 'ilm al-raml; Nasr, Alchemy; id.. 
Introduction; id., Spiritual message; Savage- 
Smith/Smith, Islamic geomancy). Pre-Islamic 
divination by arrows and animal remains 
(Q, 3-44> 5-90) becomes Islamic divining 
with the Qiir'an (istikhdra,fa'l), dream in- 
cubation, and interpretation [ta'bir al~ru'yd; 
Donaldson, The Koran; Lamoreaux, Early 
Muslim, tradition; Glasse, Concise encyclopedia, 
s.v. Istikharah). The pre-Islamic poetic/ 
priestly role of spirit possession and 
mediumship is channeled through Islamic 
manipulation, conjuring, and exorcism of 
spirits, angels, and demons (jinn) through 
qur'anic spells used with material sub- 
stances, especially physical representa- 
tions of the Qiir'an and the divine names 
(al-asmd' al-husnd; see god and his 
attributes) from the Qiir'an (Ibn Qayyim 
al-Jawziyya, Tibb; Suyuti, Tibb; Ibn Bistam, 
Tibb). Pre-Islamic cursing and malefic ac- 
tion by spells, such as the tying of knots, 
become Islamic verbal charms (ruqya) for 
healing and protection from the evil eye 
drawn from qur'anic contents accompa- 
nied by knot-tying and other gestures like 
spitting and blowing (Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Tibb; Suyuti, Tibb; Ibn Bistam, 
Tibb; also Robson, Magical use). 

In the realm of "popular" devotion, the 
sources for "magic" in Islam strongly over- 
lap with those for talismanic and popular 
uses of the Qur'an, since most "licit" 
magic in Islam centers on magical and ma- 
terial uses of the Qur'an, particularly in 
medieval SunnI and Shi'i texts (see SHl'lsM 



AND THE quR'AN) Oil prophetic medicine 
(al-tibb al-nabawi) and books of qur'anic 
material efficacy {kutub khawdss al~Qur'dn, 
cf. Hajji Khalifa, Kashf, iii, i8o, no. 4814; 
Ghazali, al-Dhahab al-ibnz) and popular 
medieval and modern chapbooks or manu- 
als on qnr'anic devotions, dream divina- 
tion, prophetic medicine and qnr'anic 
healing (handbooks of medicines and 
treatments of illness reported by the 
Prophet, such as Luqat al~amdnji l~tibb (or, 
Luqat al-mandfi'Ji l-tibb, "Beneficial selec- 
tions from medicine") by Ibn al-jawzl 
(d. 597/1200), and two works simply en- 
titled alTibb fl/naAaror ("Prophetic medi- 
cine") by al-Dhahabi (d. 784/1348) and 
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 75i/i350)j 
and the early Shi'i compendium, Tibb al- 
a'imma ("Medicine of the Imams") by Ibn 
Bistam (ca. third/ninth century; see 
O'Connor, Prophetic medicine, 48-64; 
Fahd, Khawass). The Qiir'an in Muslim 
life and practice is, thus, the central arena 
for observing the permeability of "licit 
magic" in Islam. As Islam's most reli- 
giously authoritative, rigorously liturgical, 
and legally conservative source (see 
THE our'an), the Qiir'an also comes down 
to the present as Islam's most intimately 
negotiated, vernacularly creative, and mag- 
ically effective venue of religious action 
(Primiano, Vernacular religion, 44-51). 

Parcditurgical uses of the Qur'dn: Expressions of 

kufr or tawhid? 
The liturgical and paraliturgical uses of 
the Qiir'an are not as easily separable. 
Often, the methods, material, and pur- 
poses of the paraliturgical uses of the 
Qiir'an overlap with those of its liturgical 
uses. The distinction tends to be made 
when the physical form of the Qur'an, or 
any part of its verbal contents, is used as 
an object of inherent power, to achieve 
either superhuman faculties (such as fore- 

knowledge) or to invoke divine mediation 
as in physical protection (q.v.) and healing. 
The difference is in the style, context, and 
intention of performance, as well as the 
ritualization of objects, rather than in the 
contents, which are often the same or simi- 
lar (see RITUAL AND THE cjur'an). The 
essential qnr'anic justification for the amu- 
letic and talismanic use of the Qiir'an re- 
fers to its God-given purpose as a healing 
and a mercy (q.v.; shfa'un wa-rahmatun, 
o 17:82; cf Owusu-Ansah, Islamic talismanic 
tradition, 122), and that "no human deed [is] 
more effective in escaping God's wrath 
than the recounting of the dhikr of God," 
i.e. divine speech in the Qur'an (Nana 
Asma'ii, Medicine, 118-9; see memory; 
remembrance). Muslim qur'anic spell- 
and talisman-makers, although bracketed 
by ongoing medieval legal debate (Owusu- 
Ansah, Islamic talismanic tradition, 25-40) and 
modern rationalist dismissal (see contem- 
porary critk;al practices and the 
(JUr'an), draw upon the range of positive 
juristic and popular opinion that it "can- 
not be the act of unbelieving (kufr), if the 
process brings benefit and especially if 
the content is from the Qur'an" (El-Tom, 
Drinking the Koran, 33-4; see belief and 
unbelief). The rationalist and reformist 
orientation of much contemporary public 
Muslim discourse draws on such staunch 
late medieval legal authorities as Ibn 
Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), whose Kitdb Iqtidd' 
al-sirdt al-mustaqim mukhdlafat ashdb al-jahim, 
"Book of the necessity of the straight path 
against the people of hell," portrays 
qur'anic "intercession" and other para- 
liturgical uses of the Qur'an as "human 
distortions... and deformations of true 
tawhid" (Waardenburg, Official and popu- 
lar religion, 340-2; see path or way). A 
century or so later, al-Suyuti wrote his own 
version of the already established talis- 
manic genre, al-Tibb al-nabawi, "Prophetic 
medicine," in which he draws a fine line 



between faithful recitation and recitation 
tliat lapses into shirk, "associating any- 
tiling with God" (see polytheism and 

The umm al-Qur'dn ["mother of the 
Qur'an," i.e. Surat al-Fatiha, the opening 
chapter] is the most useful of all to recite, 
because it contains glorification of God 
(q.v.), together with worship of him alone, 
and calling on him for help. It is said that 
the exact point at which the cure is actually 
effected when reciting the dydt is at the 
words, "Only you do we worship, and 
only you do we ask for help" (q^ 1:5). 
The Prophet, may God bless him and 
grant him peace, said, "Combining the 
recitation of dydt [qur'anic verses] with 
charms is shirk." The reason for this state- 
ment is that in this case, shirk is being as- 
sociated with the recitation of the djidt. 
And so indeed it is. But when the recitation 
of djidt is free from shirk, then it is haldl 
["permitted/lawful"] for Muslims to do so 
(see LAWFUL and unlawful). There is 
nothing to prevent the recitation of djidt 
over a sick man, provided that there is no 

shirk involved 

It is probably that this prohibition of some- 
thing that was known to work was because 
some people believed that the cure came 
from the very nature of the words them- 
selves. At a later stage, this prohibition was 
lifted. When Islam and the search for truth 
became established in their hearts, then he 
gave them permission to use such recita- 
tion, provided that they understood that it 
was God who effected the cure — or not... 
(SuyutI, Tibb, 133). 

Despite this juristic dissonance and the fact 
that talismanic and popular uses of the 
Qiir'an have declined greatly due to the 
rise in education and literacy, and the im- 
pact of secularism, westernization, and 
modernization in the post-colonial Muslim 

world, the need for an affective and im- 
mediate experience of God through 
materializations/actualizations of his 
speech continues to express itself among 
Muslims today in a variety of living re- 
sponses to the qur'anic text. Contemporary 
male and female Muslim religious healers 
(frequently but not exclusively Sufis, who 
are both likely to command the written 
technology of the Qur'an and knowledge 
and experience of its talismanic applica- 
tions; see SUFISM and the qur'an; 


study) have used virtually the same 
sources (qur'anic verses, the divine names 
or attributes of God in the Qiir'an, and 
hadlth which support qur'anic talismanry/ 
spellmaking; see hadith and the q^ur'an) 
to justify popular and talismanic use of 
the Qiir'an as have those Muslims who 
disapprove or disavow such activities 
(Flueckiger, The vision; Bowen, Aiuslims 
through discourse; El-Tom, Drinking the 
Koran; Ewing, Malangs of the Punjab; 
Eaton, Political and religious authority; 
Hoffman, Sujism). 

Popular, folk, and vernacular religion and the uses 

of the Qur'dn 
Before addressing specific aspects of the 
talismanic and popular uses of the Qiir'an, 
some discussion of method in the study of 
people's religion is appropriate. Although 
the use of the term "popular" as in "popu- 
lar religion" is invoked in the very title of 
this article, its academic use continues to 
spark divergent reflections on the nature of 
religion as a social phenomenon. It usually 
is the second of a pair of opposite or com- 
plementary terms implying a hierarchical 
and dichotomized view of religion, such as 
official and popular religion, or normative 
and popular religion, paralleling other 
dichotomizations, such as orthodox and 
heterodox religion (see heresy), and elite 
and folk religion. "Official, normative, 



orthodox, elite" all yield meanings which 
place the religion and people who practice 
it so identified at the center of authority 
and legitimacy, and their complementary 
opposites "popular, heterodox, folk" at the 
margins, without authority or tinged with 
the flavor of illegitimacy (Waardenburg, 
Official and popular; Lewis, Saints and 
Somalis; id.. The power of the past; Patai, 
Folk Islam). There is an implicit assump- 
tion in both scholarly and popular aware- 
ness of religion that there is some central, 
institutionalized, and validated form which 
is "real" religion, and then there are all the 
subversive things that ordinary believers 
think and do. "Real religion" for scholars 
has been overwhelmingly re -posited in the 
texts of religion, particularly those texts 
said to be divinely revealed, accompanied 
by the authoritative commentary, legal, 
and moral literature derived from revealed 
or inspired religion (see si;ripture and 
THE our'an; exegesis of the qur'an: 
classical and medieval). One of the 
inherent consequences of the tendency 
of these dichotomous terms to elevate 
textual/institutional religion and the 
hierarchy of religious professionals to a 
centrist, even megalithic, dimension is the 
corresponding devaluation of the religion 
of ordinary believers and everyday life. 
Focus upon the Qiir'an in everyday life, 
however, tends to break down this dichoto- 
mization of religion by seeing the intersec- 
tion of official and folk or normative and 
popular, orthodox and heterodox, in the 
objectification and materialization of the 
divine speech of the Arabic Qiir'an (see 
also inimitability). The function and 
meaning of the Qiir'an in everyday life 
and everyday speech (see arabii; lan- 
guage; literature and the {jur'an; 
SLOGANS FROM THE cjur'an), as well as its 
more technical uses in para-liturgical devo- 
tions and talismanic practices, render the 
heart of Islam visible to view, that is, the 

intimate and personal bond between every 
individual believer, their immediate com- 
munity, and the umma as a whole, with the 
substance of divine "healing and mercy," 
as the Qiir'an describes itself (q 17:82). 
The vernacular religious creativity and 
interpretive negotiations of actual believers 
in the para-liturgical uses of the Qiir'an, 
include the 'i(/amrt' or Islam's religious 
hierarchy (Primiano, Vernacular religion, 
46; see scholar). It is medieval and mod- 
ern Muslim "scholars" who make "elite" 
materials available to the masses, interpret- 
ing primary sources — Qur'an and the 
hadith which discuss its uses in everyday 
life (see exegesis of the cjur'an: early 


channeling them into "popular" devotional 
literature, like prayer manuals, prophetic 
medical texts, charm- and talisman- 
making booklets, as well as editions of the 
Qur'an marked with methods for divina- 
tion and dream interpretation (Donaldson, 
The Koran, 258; El-Tom, Drinking the 
Koran, 429; Perho, The Prophet's medicine; 
see MANUSCRIPTS OF THE cjur'an; teach- 
ing AND preaching THE CJUr'an). 

Literature on popular and talismanic uses of the 

Throughout the Islamic middle ages and 
into the modern era, as the above exam- 
ples have shown, vernacular qur'anic heal- 
ing practices have been widely and 
fervently espoused in Muslim practice (if 
not theory) and have generated an exten- 
sive body of "how-to" literature. This in- 
structional literature informed and guided 
local practitioners on the procedures and 
methods of interpretation of all these 
qur'anic arts and included a variety of 
sub-genres such as encyclopedias of dream 
interpretation, chapbooks of qur'anic 
prayers/spells for magical effect and manu- 
als on the creation of qur'anic talismans 
and "erasures." The use of qur'anic speech 



in magical images of power and blessing, 
as talismans against harm and amulets for 
sickness, forms part of a range of vernacu- 
lar expression encompassing a diverse pop- 
ularly disseminated talismanic literatiux 
and practice, leaving an extensive manu- 
script and print record in recipe books and 
how-to manuals into the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries which have been re- 
printed or lithographed up until the pres- 
ent day. Books of instruction, such as the 
Majma ' al-dawdt, as well as professional 
practitioners of these extra-canonical 
qur'anic "sciences" were numerous 
throughout medieval Islam and into the 
modern era. Special Qiir'ans have been 
published with marginal notation on meth- 
ods of divination and apposite verses for 
magical or talismanic use. Treatises on the 
preparation and use of qtir'anic talismanry 
and prophetic medicine interacted with 
and were influenced by the variety of 
"occult" works of magical medicine such 
as 'All b. Sahl al-Tabari's Firdaws al-hikma, 
"Paradise of wisdom," one of the earliest 
works of Arabic medicine, completed in 
235/850, as well as the magical cures in- 
cluded in larger works stich as Muhammad 
b. Zakariyya' al-Razl's tenth-century "Book 
of the magician" (Kitdb al-Hdwi) and his 
"Book of natural sciences" (Maqdlaji md 
ba'd al-tabi'a), as well as the genre of occult 
medicine, the kutub al-mujarrabdt, "books of 
the tested," that is, magical techniques 
"tested" by experience, such as the Mujar- 
rabdt of Ahmad al-Dayrabi (d. ca. 1151/ 
1739) and Abu 'Abdallah Mtihammad b. 
Yustif al-SanusI (d. 895/1490). 

This genre of medieval literattire and 
chapbooks (al-mujarrabdt) on the para- 
liturgical uses of the Qiir'an evolved, ana- 
lyzing the text according to its extra- 
ordinary properties (khawdss) and applying 
those properties to talismanic tises of the 
divine names and other materials in the 
Qur'an (see Fig. iv). A variety of sub- 

categories were established in these texts: 
'Urn al-khawdss, for the knowledge derived 
from the extraordinary qualities inherent 
in the divine names and other materials in 
the Qiir'an; 'ilm al-ruqd, for qur'anic spell 
magic; 'ilm al-fa'l, for the reading of omens 
using the Qiir'an; manipulations of num- 
ber and letter, known either as 'ilm al-jafr or 
'ilm al-huruf, and applied to the divine 
names or other words or letters of the 
Arabic in the Qiir'an; and finally, 'ilm al- 
ta'bir, or the incubation and interpretation 
of dreams and visions (ru'yd). Dictionaries 
and encyclopedias of dream symbolism 
and poetic expositions of divining through 
their systematic interpretation were gener- 
ated from the early Islamic middle ages, 
such as those ascribed to Ibn Sirin (d. 110/ 
728), Ibrahim b. 'Abdallah al-KirmanI 
(fl. late second/eighth cent.), and extant 
manuscripts of Ibn Qutayba (d. 276/889), 
and Ahmad al-SijistanI (d. 399/1008), 
as well as late medieval manuals by al- 
Qayrawani and al-Dlnawari (tt. late 
fifth/eleventh cent.), the Sufi al-Kharkushi 
(d. ca. 406/1015), and the philosopher Ibn 
Sina (d. 428/1037). These medieval divin- 
ing and dream sources were used into 
modern times (Westermarck, Ritual and 
belief, 46-57; Fahd, Divination, 330-67; 
Lamoreaux, Early Aiuslim tradition, 15-78). 

Qur'dnic talisman recipes: The magic square 
A specific example of talismanic literature 
falling under the heading of 'ilm al-huruf is 
that detailing recipes for "magic squares" 
in which Arabic phrases, words, and letters 
from the Qur'an, especially the names or 
attributes of God, angels (see angel), 
prophets or their numerological equiva- 
lents are placed in a grid of squares, or 
other geometric shapes (Ibn Bistam, Tibb, 
88-9; Lane, Manners and customs, 278-84; 
Westermarck, Ritual and belief, i, 141-7; 
Doutte, Magie et religion, 190 f; for an ex- 
ample of a talismanic chart containing 



such magic squares, see Fig. vi). Magic 
squares, and otlier number/letter 
talismans, were a popular expression of the 
learned systems of Islamic alchemy ['Urn 
al-mizan, or science of "balance," and 
mizdn al-huruf/ rnizHn al-lafz, or "balance of 
letters/speech," in the alchemical corpus 
of Jabir b. Hayyan; see Y^raxis,, Jabir, ii, 
117-8, 187-230, 236-69). Magic squares 
were also a part of Sufi and Shi'l texts 
which connect the cosmogonic nature of 
divine speech and Arabic orthography (see 
ARABIC script) with mystical numerology 
( zZm al-huruf, also called al-simiyd', in Ibn 
Khaldun, Muqaddima, 422-46; abr. trans. 
Rosenthal, The Muqaddimah, 396 f; cf. 
number/letter correspondences in Ikhwan 
al-Safa', Rasd'il, iv, 304-5). Finally, texts of 
neo-Pythagorean philosophy and magical 
talismanry also created systems of mystical 
numerology and magic square recipes ['Urn. 
al'jafr in Ibn Sina, al-Risdla al-nayruziyja; 
see Nasr, Introduction, 209-12; and Ahmad 
al-Din al-Buni [d. 622/1225], Shams al- 
ma'drif wa-latd'if al-'awdrif). 

Nineteenth-century qur'anic talismanry 
manuscripts of the Asante in west Africa 
(now Ghana), and the Sokoto caliphate 
(now northwestern Nigeria), incorporate 
verbal performance, or incantational 
prayer, along with visual/physical repre- 
sentations of divine speech in magic 
squares, or "seals/rings" [khawdtim, sing. 
khdtim; Lane, Manners and customs, 269-70, 
279; Robson, Magical use, 35; Owusu- 
Ansah, Islamic talismanic tradition, 96-8; 
Nana Asma'u, Medicine, 102-19). The 
khdtim serves a variety of purposes and is 
immediately effective upon the written 
execution of the square. When inscribed 
with God's names, these "seals" command 
effect, whereas with other qur'anic pas- 
sages they only supplicate, indicating a 
hierarchy of power in the different forms 
of divine speech privileging divine names 
{al-asmd' al-husnd, the "beautiful names," as 

well as the ism akbar, the "great" or secret 
name of God), as most powerful and magi- 
cally efficacious. Magic squares, employing 
divine names or other qur'anic materials, 
continue as vernacular healing and protec- 
tion devices into the modern era and are 
still reported to be present in some con- 
temporary Muslim healing rituals where 
they are used as both diagnostic tool and 
talismanic prescription (Flueckiger, The 
vision, 251, 257-8). Emphasis on number/ 
letter mysticism in recent Sufi devotional 
texts published in the West continues the 
medieval legacy of esoteric interpretation 
(see polysemy) and application of the 
powers of the divine names and alphabetic 
components of divine speech. Contem- 
porary manuals of qur'anic spells or talis- 
man making, and other books of magical 
healing in the mujarrabdt genre are in print 
and available for consultation by contem- 
porary male and female professional and 
lay practitioners throughout the Muslim 
world (Robson, Magical use; Donaldson, 
The Koran; El-Tom, Drinking the Koran; 
Hunza'i, Qur'dnic healing; Flueckiger, The 
vision; Chisti, Sufi healing). 

Uses of the Qur'dn in historical and living 

contexts: Oral uses of the Qur'dn 
Qur'anic talismanry and popular uses of 
the Qiir'an begin with para-liturgical uses 
of the spoken and performed Qiir'an such 
as tajwid (melodic recitation of the Qiir'an), 
dhikr (recitation of divine names and brief 
qur'anic phrases), ruqya (qur'anic spell- 
casting and spoken charm-making), nushra 
(performance of qur'anic verses or chap- 
ters accompanied by spitting and/or blow- 
ing of their essence onto the client), and 
the endemic use of qur'anic phrases in 
daily speech. What makes these perfor- 
mances "popular" or "talismanic" is not 
their contents, but the context and pur- 
pose, which is traditionally for protection/ 
prevention of illness or accident, healing, 



fertility, and material abundance. In 
pre-modern Islamic culture, illness, for 
example, was attributed to physical and 
metaphysical (spiritual/magical) causation. 
Regarding the relationship between the 
"heart" (q.v.) and the body, God's mes- 
senger (q.v.) said: 

Every disease has a cure... the illnesses of 
the body and those of the heart are 

alike For every illness of the heart God 

created, he also created a cure that is its 
opposite. When someone whose heart is 
sick recognizes his disease and coimters it 
with it opposite, he will recover, by God's 
leave" (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 14). 

Healing is a manifestation of divine mercy 
and provides a vehicle for repentance and 
gratitude (see repentance and penance; 

texts on prophetic medicine define two 
basic types of illness: those of the body 
and those of the heart. Bodily illnesses can 
be treated in practical ways (through 
cleansing, abstaining from food and drink 
or purging, or use of curative or restorative 
herbs/simples) and also in spiritual ways 
(through interior prayers, invocations of 
the divine names of God, verbal spells, and 
physical charms). 

Illnesses of the heart, on the other hand, 
are spiritual, emotional, and mental both 
in origin and in cure. They are caused by 
heart sickness, defined as emotional and 
mental states such as suspicion (q.v.), doubt 
(see uncertainty), and loss of faith, or 
they can be caused by sins of commission 
(see SIN, MAJOR AND MINOR) such as desire 
or allurement (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, 
Tibb, 3-13). "Spiritual" illness included what 
modern western medicine would identify 
as mental or emotional illness, since in 
Islamic understanding the ultimate causa- 
tion of mental or emotional unease (anxi- 
ety, depression, stress, doubt, uncertainty) 

is lapses or weakening in faith and, corre- 
spondingly health and well-being rest upon 
"spiritual" nourishment (SuyutI, Tibb, 


The Prophet says: "I dwell with my lord 
(q.v.), and he gives me my food and drink 
(q.v.)." The Qtir'an is the largest repository 
of spiritual nourishment... the stronger 
one's faith, love for his lord, joy and grati- 
tude to be in his presence — the more 
ardent and fervent his yearning to meet 
his lord — the stronger becomes his cer- 
titude (yaqin), contentment and satisfaction 
with his lord's will Such renewed spiri- 
tual strength compensates immeasurably 
for the patient's needs (Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, 71^4 62). 

Hadlth literature collected in a genre 
of medieval texts entitled "prophetic 
medicine" prescribed using the Qur'an for 
the prevention and healing of disease, 
especially for "spiritual illness." The 
prophet Muhammad is said to have recom- 
mended: "Make use of two remedies: 
honey (q.v.) and the Qur'an," which is 
"a cure for [the disease of] the hearts" 
((3 10:57; cf. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 
27). Shi'i medical texts also invoke the 
power of the Qur'an in the healing and 
protection of the faithful. Related from 
hadlth of the sixth imam, Ja Tar al-Sadiq 
(d. 148/765), who replied regarding a 
query as to the use of a charm for scorpion 
and snakebite, as well as the spell (nushra) 
for the insane and enchanted who are in 

...there is no objection to the charm and 
invocation and spell if they are taken from 
the Qur'an. Whomsoever the Qur'an does 
not cure, God does not cure him. Is there 
anything more effective in these matters 
than the Qur'an [citing C3 17:82; 59:21]?... 
Ask us, we will teach you and acquaint you 



with the verses of the Qtir'an for every 
illness" (Ibn Bistam, Tibb, 54). 

Even physical illness was often categorized 
as having non-physical causality, such as 
ascribing the condition of epilepsy to spirit 
possession which required an exorcism 
using qur'anic verses to accomplish "the 
rehabilitation of one's sanity and the 
revival of his faith" (Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Tibb, 46-7). "Spiritual remedies" 
are the antidote to spiritual disease, and 
the "light" (q.v.) of the Qiir'an (c) 24:35) is 
the "antithesis of darkness (q.v.) and grati- 
tude is the opposite of denial" (kufr; ibid., 
gi; see pairs and pairing). 

Qur'anic recitation, or tajwid, in which 
Muslims "adorn the Qiir'an with their 
voices" has both informal curative as well 
as more formal ritual performance con- 
texts. "It is speech and intonation to which 
God the almighty has added perfume" 
(SuyutI, Tibb, 127). Support for auditory use 
of the Qrir'an makes listening to recitation 
the cure of infants, beasts, and all those 
distressed in spirit: "So give good news 
(q.v.) to my servants (see servant) those 
who listen to the word and then follow the 
best of it" (<J 39:17-8). Listening to recita- 
tion is described in the prophetic medical 
texts as the "calmer of hearts, food of the 
spirit. It is one of the most important 
psychological medicines. It is a source of 
pleasure, even to some animals" (SuyutI, 
Tibb, 127). Dhikr (recitation of divine names 
and phrases from the Qur'an) is recom- 
mended as a specific remedy against pre- 
Islamic sorcery (sihr) by the Prophet as 
"faith and nearness to his lord is the divine 
medicine (dawd' ilahi) that no disease can 
resist... invoking the divine attributes 
(dhikr) will sharpen one's hearing and sight 
and sustain his faculties" (Ibn Qayyim al- 
Jawziyya, Tibb, 91-2). The divine attribute 
whose recitation will guarantee health is 
reported to be "the absolute living one" 

[al-hayy al-qayjUm, cf Q_ 2:255; 3:2; 20:iii), 
which the Prophet describes as "the 
opposite of all ailments and sufferings... 
therefore, calling upon his attribute, the 
living controller, will surely cure the ill- 
ness" (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 165). 
The active performance of reciting whole 
suras is considered efficacious as well, and 
can be classed in the same category as 
qur'anic spell-making, since frequent rep- 
etition and ritual preparation are involved. 
Medieval and early modern talismanic 
texts prescribe sura recitation for fertility 
(q^ 89), protection from the evil eye and the 
like (q^ 48, 75, 85, 87), providence (q 56), 
forgiveness (q.v.) for sins/spiritual healing 
(q 62, 81), peaceful sleep (q.v.; Q, 92), 
finding/restoring what is lost/forgotten 
((J 93; Nana Asma'u, Medicine). 

The repetitive chanting of qur'anic for- 
mulae and particularly the divine names 
becomes a normative institution in Sufi 
practice throughout the Islamic middle 
ages and into modern times. Individual 
Sufi teachers who became founders of Sufi 
communities often recommended a par- 
ticular form of dhikr practice (silent or 
voiced, individual or group recitation, usu- 
ally male-only or female-only groups; see 
Schimmel, Alystical dimensions; Netton, Sufi 
ritual; Raudvere, Book and roses). The me- 
lodic nature of qur'anic recitation is ampli- 
fied in dhikr to increase and intensify the 
emotional impact and transformative 
nature of its performance and its audition 
(sometimes including rhythmic music, then 
known as samd', and sometimes with voices 
alone). It often takes a call/response pat- 
tern of group performance, with the Sufi 
master or a munshid, or "song" specialist, 
leading and the community following 
either at the Sufi lodge or in private homes 
(Waugh, Munshidun of Egypt). In south Asia, 
a sub-genre of dhikr in the form of devo- 
tional "song" is the qawwdlT, sung in Per- 
sian or Urdu interspersed with Arabic 



phraseology from the Qiir'an. Qawwdli ses- 
sions function similarly to dhikr sessions, 
although the group attending may be a lay 
Muslim audience as well as members of 
the Sufi community (Qiireishi, Sufi music). 
Contemporary Sufi literature, particularly 
in the West, has a strong emphasis on the 
textual interpretation of the Qiir'an as a 
form of spiritual healing. Books on Sufi 
healing as well as audio tapes of dhikr by 
Sufi communities intended for a broad 
popular Muslim audience (and potential 
converts to the mystic path; see media and 
THE (JUr'an), illustrate the spiritual mes- 
sage of the qur'anic script and create anal- 
ogies between the orthography (q.v.) of the 
Qjur'an when linked to the bodily postures 
of prayer and dhikr practice (Nasr, Spiritual 
message; Chisti, Sufi healing; see also Bawa 
Muhaiyaddeen on prayer in Banks and 
Green, Illuminated prayer). 

Among the spoken uses of the Qtir'an 
applied to healing is the use of specific 
short chapters or verses of the Qiir'an as a 
form of spell (ruqya) and charm. For ex- 
ample, the recitation aloud of the Fatiha 
(q.v), or opening chapter of the Qtir'an, 
accompanied by "blowing them on the 
affected person, followed by his spittle 
upon the victim — God willing, such read- 
ing will incur the reaction of evil spirits 
and cause the elimination of their evil act" 
(Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 139; SuyutI, 
Tibb, 132-3, 180; Robson, Magical use, 
38-9). Regarding the basic question of the 
lawfulness of such uses of the Qiir'an, a 
Muslim asks the Prophet: "You see all these 
amulets (ruga) we carry, prayers we recite, 
medicine we take, and other preventive 
routines we use for recovering from 
illness — Do any of them obstruct God's 
decree?" And the Prophet replied, "They 
are part of God's decree" (Ibn Qayyim 
al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 11). The Prophet is also 
reported to have similarly recited the 
Throne Verse {q_ 2:255; see throne of 

god) and the two "refuge-taking" chapters 
{q_ 113, 114), and blown into his hands and 
wiped his face and body so as to physically 
spread the healing benefit of the suras over 
his person for protection (Siiyuti, Tibb, 
158-9, 180). The phrases of refuge-taking 
in the final two chapters of the Qur'an are 
universally applicable to all purposes of 
protection whether against accident, ill- 
ness, acts of nature, demonic powers, the 
evil eye, spiritual dangers from the lower 
self (nafs), the evil which God has created, 
and finally from God himself: "I take ref- 
uge with thee from thyself" (Padwick, 
Muslim devotions, 83-93). The Prophet rec- 
ommended further the combination of 
recitation of qur'anic prayers as spells 
(ruqya) along with plant/mineral materials 
to form compound "natural and spiritual 
cures" (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 
145-6). The basmala (q.v.) which opens 
every chapter of the Qur'an but one is also 
a focus of prayerful invocation: "I beseech 
thee by virtue of every mystery which thou 
has set in 'In the Name of God the 
Merciful, the Compassionate'" (Padwick, 
Muslim devotions, 99; see also Ibn Bistam, 
Tibb, 6). Sufis have delved into the com- 
ponents of these qur'anic phrases and 
created a system of visualization and medi- 
tation which isolates and emphasizes each 
individual letter and orthographic sign 
and grammatical function of the written 
Arabic of the Qur'an (see grammar and 
THE cjur'an). From a collection of prayers 
on the basmala is this interiorization of 
every element of the phrase, starting with 
its first letter, by 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jllani: 
"O God, I ask thee by virtue of the bd' of 
thy name, the letter of 'withness,' the con- 
junction with the greatest Object of 
Desire, and the finding of all that was lost 
and by the point beneath the bd' guiding to 
the secrets of thy everlastingness and thy 
pre-eternal and sole Being..." (Padwick, 
Muslim devotions, 100). Belief in their power 



and efficacy by generations of Muslims 
seems to have provolced even magical 
applications of them, such as the belief in 
"laying on" the divine names. "Thy names 
of moral beauty (al-asmd' al-husnd) to which 
all things upon which they are laid are sub- 
dued" (from Khuldsat al-maghnam of 'All 
Hasan al-'Attas); and "All thy names of 
moral beauty which, falling upon anything 
cause its body to be subdued" (from 
Ahmad b. 'All 1-BtlnI, Majmu 'at al-ahzdb; 
see Padwick, Muslim devotions, 106, 109). 

Another application of the physical 
transmissibility of qur'anic baraka is the 
technique of nushra, which involves 
qur'anic recitation over water that is then 
used by the sick person for washing him/ 
herself (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 142; 
Suyuti, Tibb, 172, Robson, Magical use, 34) 
or it can be recited over food that is then 
eaten and the qur'anic virtue is absorbed 
by the body as well as the soul (Nana 
Asma'u, Medicine, 112-3, 117). Although 
not necessarily involving oral recitation of 
the sacred text, yet another method of 
"imbibing the Qiir'an" is through the use 
of "magic medicine bowls," vessels on 
which qur'anic verses are inscribed and 
from which the believer drinks to accrue 
their benefit (see Figs, i and 11). Nushra re- 
lies upon the materialization of the baraka 
of recitation as a physical "residuum" of 
qur'anic baraka. Although this practice is 
reported in the context of disapproval, 
such reports clearly indicate a living prac- 
tice and can be understood in relation to 
the Companions of the Prophet (q.v.) who 
are said in the hadlth and sTra (hagiograph- 
ical) literature (see sira and the qUR'AN) 
to have collected the Prophet's washing 
water, fingernail and hair clippings, for 
their traces of baraka. The residual baraka 
of this prophetic "wash" and qur'anic 
"wash" are clearly connected to the larger 
phenomenon of qur'anic erasure (mahw). 
The extension of this baraka from physical 

traces of blessing to that conveyed by the 
verbal articulation (and breath) of qur'anic 
recitation is found in its use when accom- 
panied by magical gestures conveying the 
personal life force or essence of the per- 
former (such as spitting and blowing) which 
the Qiir'an itself disallows as pre-Islamic/ 
pagan magic. The inclusion within the 
body of the sunna of traditional magical 
methods regardless of their forbidden sta- 
tus in the Qiir'an is a paradoxical aspect of 
the "magical" use of the Qur'an. Through 
recitation/prayer, the Qiir'an seems to in- 
vest the breath of the Prophet physically 
with its essence or baraka which is transmit- 
ted via touch. "The messenger used to 
recite Sural al-Ikhlas ["God's oneness"; 
o 112]... and then blow into the palms of 
his hands and wipe his face and whatever 
parts of his body his hands could reach" 
(Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 142; Ibn 
Bistam, Tibb, 40). In another report, it is 
blowing the essence of Surat al-Fatiha, the 
opening chapter, which is believed to con- 
vey the healing virtue of the whole Qiir'an. 
Via words, breath, and saliva of the believ- 
ing lay healer, following the example of the 
Prophet, this medicinal recitation is an ex- 
orcism of evil spirits encompassing both 
spiritual and physical efficacy: 

If one's faith, soul (q.v.) and spirit (q.v.) are 
strong, and if he adapts himself to the 
essence of the opening chapter, and by 
God's leave, by reciting its holy words and 
blowing them on the affected person fol- 
lowed by his spittle upon the victim, God 
willing, such reading will incur the reaction 
of evil spirits and cause the elimination of 
their evil act" (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, 
Tibb, 139). 

Somewhat later, Ibn al-Qayyim cites a 
statement from the Prophet that combines 
the application of saltwater with blowing 
his "blessed breath" and reciting the 



Qiir'an to heal a wound. A contemporary 
south Indian Mushm woman healer mar- 
shals her spiritual "medicine" in exorcising 
patients possessed by spirits (manifested as 
loss of speech, rational capacity, deep de- 
pression, and immobility, or conversely, 
unnatural physical strength) using qur'anic 
recitation accompanied by "blowing" du'd', 
or personal prayers, for healing interces- 
sion which include qur'anic formulae, 
verses, or divine names, over the person 
and even inside the mouth (Flueckiger, 
The vision, 259-60). 

Uses of the Qur'dn in historical and living 

contexts: Written uses of the Qur'dn 
The divine names, their component parts, 
and the phrases in which they occur in 
the Qur'an become part of a medieval 
"science of letters," or number/letter mys- 
ticism, and a "science of names" ['ilm al- 
hurufjafr, abjad, sTmiyd'; Massignon, Essay, 
68-72; Canteins, Hidden sciences, 448-63; 
Nasr, Spiritual message, 30-4), and, at the 
same time, objects of devotion as prayerful 
litanies (wird), elements of ritual practice 
(dhikr), and, above all, items in a rich visual 
field (Nasr, Spiritual message), in Sufi and 
Shi'l "calligrammes" such as those em- 
ployed by the Hurufiyya and Bektashiyya 
(Wilson, Sacred drift, 6, 66-9, 130; Safadi, 
Islamic calligraphy, 31, 136-7; Dierl, Geschichte 
und Lehre, 1985). 

He who loves God empties his heart of all 
but him: the a/i/^ [first letter of the Arabic 
alphabet, and first letter of the name of 
God] of Allah pierces his heart and leaves 

no room for anything else One need 

only "know" this single letter in order to 
know all that is to be known, for the Divine 
Name is the key to the Treasury of Divine 
Mysteries and the path to the Real. It is 
that Reality by virtue of the essential 
identity of God and his sanctified Name. 
That is why in Sufism meditation upon 

the calligraphic form of the Name is used 
as a spiritual method for realizing the 
Named (Nasr, Spritual message, 31; see 

Beyond its ritual and devotional impor- 
tance, qur'anic calligraphy spans the for- 
mal Islamic arts of qur'anic manuscript 
illumination (Lings, Quranic art; see 
defines formal architecture and public 
buildings as Islamic space (see art and 
ar(ihite[:ture and the cjur'an), and it 
enters into the diversity of "folk" or ver- 
nacular arts. Qiir'anic vernacular art 
forms include sewing and embroidery, such 
as the kiswa, the house-sized black cloth 
draped over the Ka'ba that is embroidered 
in qur'anic phrases in black and gold, and 
smaller wall hangings embroidered with 
divine names or qur'anic verses that are 
used in Muslim homes or businesses, as 
well as such unique regional expressions as 
the haj] (see pilgrimage) murals which 
adorn the outside of Egyptian homes (and 
some apartments), which developed at the 
turn of the twentieth century and are 
found from Cairo to the villages of upper 
Egypt (Campo, Other sides, 139-65, 170-9; 
Parker and Avon, Hajj paintings). This use of 
qur'anic calligraphy protects the physical 
space and the members of the household 
from external evils by framing the entry- 
way, the outside walls which face the street, 
around windows, and along outside stair- 
cases leading to and surrounding the front 
door (in the case of apartments). 

The religious meaning of Muslim space, 
whether private or public, has been 
established by the presence and elabora- 
tion of traditional qur'anic calligraphy on 
the outside, as well as the use of divine 
names and/or phrases/verses from the 
Qiir'an in textile wall-hangings, poster art 
and other ephemera on the inside (Metcalf, 
Making Muslim space). Unlike the Sunni 



mainstream, contemporary Sufi and 
Muslim sectarian communities in North 
America liave begun to make extensive use 
of tlieir own new and unique forms of 
qur'anic iconography, that is, qur'anic cal- 
ligraphy and image-making as doctrinal 
teaching and meditation tools, a kind of 
"visual" dhikr, which is disseminated 
through their devotional texts and journals 
and can be purchased as poster art for 
home use. Medieval Sufi and Shl'l "cal- 
ligrammes" from the Arabic, Persian, and 
Turkish styles of qiu''anic calligraphy are 
re-invented and elaborated with a religious 
use of representational images unknown in 
earlier Islamic visual arts. A whole new 
wedding of word and image can be seen in 
the colorful poster art by Bawa Muhai- 
yaddeen for his Philadelphia-based Sufi 
Fellowship, and 'Isa Muhammad for his 
originally Brooklyn-based African- 
American Muslim group, the AnsaruUah 
Community, first known as the Ansar Pure 
Sufis (see Bawa Muhaiyaddeen's 
"Heartswork" posters and companion 
commentary texts, published by the Bawa 
Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship; also poster art 
published by the AnsaruUah in their de- 
votional journal. The Truth: JSubian bulletin, 
and in the founder's extensive commentary 
literature; see O'Connor, Islamic Jesus; 
id., Nubian Islamic Hebrews). 

Qiir'anic amulets and talismans are writ- 
ten on diverse materials (e.g. leather, parch- 
ment, paper); embroidered on cloth (see 
Fig. v); or engraved, for example, on clay, 
bone, or stone (see Fig. iii), and selected 
from verses which address profound needs 
or desires. Traditional categorizations of 
qur'anic verses are found in Arabic talis- 
manic manuals: dydt al-hif^, "verses of 
protection," such as the Throne Verse 
[q_ 2:255); dydt al-shijd', "verses of healing," 
such as Q^ i\futuh al-Qur'dn, "verses of open- 
ing or victory," such as the first verse of the 
sura of victory (q 110:1); dydt al-harb, 

"verses of war or overpowering enemies"; 
dydt al-latif, "verses of kindness" which pro- 
tect against enemies; and verses which con- 
tain all the letters of the Arabic alphabet 
(o 3:148; 48:29) against all fear and sorrow 
and all disease (Robson, Magical use, 53-6; 
id.. Islamic cures, 34-43; Donaldson, The 
Koran). Medieval compendia of prophetic 
medicine, extracted hadlth (SunnI and 
Shl'l) advising on healing uses and benefits 
of written qur'anic amulets and talismans 
(Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb; SuyutI, 
Tibb; Ibn Bistam, Tibb) and texts as late as 
the nineteenth-century include references 
gleaned and organized from these earlier 
medieval authorities (Owusu-Ansah, 
Islamic talismanic tradition; Nana Asma'u, 

The metaphor of "qur'anic tincture" 
can be used to describe the infusion of 
qur'anic contents and methods of dis- 
course throughout not only the religious 
sciences of qur'anic study proper but the 
philosophical and occult sciences as well. 
The phenomenon of qur'anic "erasure," 
an amuletic use of writing all or part of the 
Qiir'an, is another type of "qur'anic tinc- 
ture" of an altogether more medicinal 
nature found documented in the prophetic 
medical corpus and texts on qur'anic 
magic and healing, as well as manifested in 
the living practice of religious healers 
throughout every region of the Muslim 
world (O'Connor, Prophetic medicine, 
56-8). Medieval prophetic medical texts 
state that "there is no objection to writing 
qur'anic verses, washing the contents in 
water, and giving it to the sick person to 
drink" (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibb, 124; 
Ibn Bistam, Tibb, 9, 25, 55). The Berti, as a 
contemporary example of this form of 
qur'anic healing, are a modern Muslim 
people of the northern Sudan, whose lead- 
ers or fakis (from the Arabic^i^rA, or 
learned jurisprudent) perform the tradi- 
tional Islamic social and educational roles 



in a society witli little general knowledge of 
Arabic and incomplete Islamic accultura- 
tion (Holy, Religion and custom; El-Tom, 
Drinking the Koran). These social and 
educational roles are complemented and 
even subsumed by their functions as 
healers, diviners, dream interpreters, 
and providers of amulets based upon 
qur'anic magic. It is in this socio-religio- 
magical milieu that qur'anic "erasure" 
has meaning. 

"... Another important activity of the. Juki 
is to write some Koranic verses on both 
sides of a wooden slate (loh) using a pen 
made of a sharpened millet stalk and ink 
(dawai) made of a fermented paste of soot 
and gum arable. The written text is then 
washed off with water which is drunk by 
the Juki's clients. The water is referred to as 
mihai (from the verh yamha, to erase) and, 
following al-Safi \.Native Medicine in the Sudan 
1970:30], I have translated this term as 
^erasure'" (El-Tom, Drinking the Koran, 

Although the Berti's only partial knowl- 
edge of Arabic may produce an "occulta- 
tion" of the Arabic text of the Qur'an and 
encourage an instrumental approach to it 
by the believer, the process of interpreta- 
tion of the text through the agency of the 
faki is as much an Islamic one as any found 
in other more fully acculturated (i.e. 
Arabized) settings. The interpretation is 
one which operates relatively innocent of 
received tradition, however, and returns to 
the text unencumbered by previously 
established meanings. The example of an 
erasure created and prescribed to induce 
pregnancy in a woman who has not borne 
children shows a magical qur'anic applica- 
tion in which human creation of life via 
the power of divine speech is possible. This 
fertility erasure is based upon writing a 
single verse from o 3, Surat Al 'Imran, 

"The Family of 'Imran," because it invokes 
the creative act of conception and God's 
absolute power of realization (see biology 


is he who forms you (jusawwirukum) in the 
wombs (al-arhdm) as he wishes. There is no 
god but he, the almighty and all-wise" 
(c3 3:6; El-Tom, Drinking the Koran, 419; 
cf. Donaldson, The Koran, 266). 

Two nineteenth-century collections of 
Islamic talisman texts in Arabic using the 
Qiir'an — one group from the Asante on 
the Guinea coast of west Africa (Owusu- 
Ansah, Islamic talismanic tradition), and an- 
other from the daughter of Shaykh Usman 
dan Fodio, Nana Asma'u, writing in what 
is now northwestern Nigeria — recom- 
mend the use of erasure — called here 
"text water/writing water" — of specific 
verses in order to call upon their divine 
powers (Nana Asma'u, Medicine). The 
erasure of the following verses is recom- 
mended to the Asante: o 9:1-2 for travel, 
(J 19:1-7 for blessing, o 67:1-2 for sover- 
eignty, (J 48:1-2 for victory, C3 55:1-7 for 
beneficence (cf. Owusu-Ansah, Islamic 
talismanic tradition, 47-8, 86, 109/note 33). 
Surat Ya' Sin (q^ 36) and other specific 
suras used in both talismanry and erasure, 
employ diverse materials for magical writ- 
ing (stone, clay, iron, silver, copper, cloth, 
animal bones, particularly shoulder blades 
and neck vertebrae — used in their own 
right as a form of divining called scapulo- 
mancy) and the liquids for "erasure" (rose 
water, musk, saffron, ink, honey, mint juice, 
grape juice, grease; cf. Donaldson, The 
Koran, 258-63, 266; Robson, Magical use, 
40). Nana Asma'u surveyed existing 
manuals of prophetic medicine in her day 
and created a poetic list of suitable amu- 
letic and talismanic uses, simply entitled 
"Medicine of the Prophet," including era- 
sure of certain suras into water (c) 76, 90, 
92), the recitation of other suras over food 
(ft 105), and the preparation of written 



amulets/talismans from others to be worn 
on the person (c) 53, 77, 90, lOi, 108). 

These texts and contemporary anthro- 
pological accounts of qur'anic talismanry 
and erasure report not only drinking 
the remedy but incorporating it into 
food — by, for example, inscribing it 
directly onto unleavened bread — and 
eating it oneself or giving it to one's ani- 
mals to eat for fertility, ease in calving, 
recovery from Ulness (Owusu-Ansah, 
Islamic talismanic tradition, 79; see Fluecki- 
ger, The vision, 251, 257, for feeding a 
qur'anic charm written on a chapati to 
dogs as surrogates for "errant husbands 
or disobedient children"). Qiir'anic 
amuletry/talismanry and spell-making 
were often applied to animal illness and 
infertility of the herds/flocks. Shl'l col- 
lections of Imami medicine directly paral- 
leled SunnI prophetic medical texts, only 
being drawn from medical hadith ascribed 
to the ahl al-bajt, the People of the [Proph- 
et's] House, namely the Prophet and his 
descendants through 'All (see 'alI b. abi 
talib) and Fatima (q.v.). From one such 
early collection (ca. second/eighth cent.) 
comes a talisman for the relief in labor and 
safe delivery for a mare of her foal. 

Write this invocation for an old and noble 
mare at its time of delivery on the parch- 
ment of a gazelle and fasten it to her at her 
groin: "O God, dispeller of grief and re- 
mover of sorrow, the merciful and compas- 
sionate of this world and the next, have 
mercy on [the owner of the mare] , son of 
so and so, the owner of the mare, with a 
mercy which will make him free of mercy 
from other than you. Dispel his grief and 
sorrow, relieve his anxiety, keep his mare 
from harm, and make easy for us its 
delivery (Ibn Bistam, Tibb, 125). 

Such an amulet resonates and paraphrases 
several qur'anic contexts which affirm that 

the popular use of the Qiir'an is not shirk, 
or associating anything with God, since the 
power to heal comes only from him (cf. e.g. 
o 3:49; 5:110; 26:80). With such qur'anic 
charms and erasure for the benefit of 
animals, however, are also found the un- 
Islamic practices of inscribing qur'anic 
words or letters on living animals and sac- 
rificing them as a form of magical transfer- 
ence and expiation, or "scapegoating," 
often associated with malefic or cursing 
magic (Owusu-Ansah, Islamic talismanic 
tradition, 58; Flueckiger, Vision; see 


Divinatorj uses of the Qiir'dn: Dream incubation 

and dream interpretation 
Another type of recitation of the qur'anic 
text which most jurists have judged as 
transgressing the legal limits of the Qiir'an 
is the "reading" of the Qtir'an associated 
with forms of divination which attempt to 
"read" the future. The Qiir'an is used in 
"popular" practice for two types of divina- 
tion: the incubation of dreams by perform- 
ing special rak'ds, or additional personal 
prayers before sleeping while asking for 
God's guidance in the form oi fa'l, a sign 
or omen; and "cutting" the Qiir'an, or 
istikhdra, "asking for the best choice" or 
"seeking goodness" from God (Lane, 
Manners and customs, 270- 1; Westermarck, 
Ritual and belief, ii, 2-3, 46-57; Donaldson, 
The Koran, 256-7; Fahd, Divination, 363-7). 
Dream interpretation rests on a single 
qur'anic proof text, saying that believers 
will receive "glad tidings (al-bushrd) in the 
life of this world and in the next" (q^ 10:64), 
which the Qur'an distinguishes as true 
dreams versus adghdth ahldm, or "confused 
dreams" (c3 21:5 of [jinn-inspired] poets, 
and (J 12:44 referring to Pharaoh's [q.v.] 
dreams; Lamoreaux, Early Muslim tradition, 
107-34). Dream experiences in Islam are 
modeled on prophetic characters in the 
Qur'an, Abraham (q.v.; Ibrahim), who re- 



ceives the message from God to sacrifice 
his son, understood to be Ishmael (q.v.; 
Isma'll; Muslims are spiritual descendents 
of Ishmael, not Isaac [q.v.]), in a dream 
(ft 37:102, 105); the prophetjoseph (q.v.; 
Yusuf ), who possesses the faculty of dream 
interpretation and knowledge of the 
"unseen" (al-ghajb; see hidden and the 
hidden), "revealed by inspiration" [wahy; 


God (^ 12:101-2; also Q_ 12:6, 21); and 
Muhammad, who receives during sleep 
dreams (mandm) and visions (q.v; ruyd) 
which are listed as among God's "signs" 
(q.v; dydt in cj 30:23; cf 39:42, 48:27) and 
what is assumed by some Muslim theo- 
logians to be his dream night journey and 
ascension (q.v), the isrd'/mi'mj (c3 17:1, 60; 
Fahd, Divination, 255-330; Lamoreaux, Early 
Muslim tradition, 108-11). The importance of 
dreams and visions are, thus, established 
for Muslims by the qur'anic prophets, and 
are enshrined as part of the interpretive 
tradition of the Qiir'an by the subsequent 
generations of early Muslim Qiir'an and 
hadith scholars. From a scholarly point of 
view, divinatory literature becomes a le- 
gitimate form of Qiir'an commentary with 
hadith collections devoting chapters to the 
interpretation and meaning of dreams 
[ta'bir al-ru'yd; Lamoreaux, Early Muslim 
tradition, 116-7). The popular techniques 
which mine the Qiir'an for its guidance 
about hidden truths are founded on the 
evolution of popular manuals of dream 
divining and encyclopedias of dream 
interpretation (see Lamoreaux, Early 
Muslim tradition, 175-81 for his appendix on 
early Islamic dream manuals) and are 
called istikhdra, "cutting the Qiir'an," and 
fa'l, "divination" or omens. Readers of the 
Qiir'an, in the sense of divination, are 
often women, but in urban contexts may 
be professional "readers" who combine 
other techniques (e.g. astrology, numerol- 
ogy) with divining the Qiir'an in order to 

assist believers with the decisions facing 
them. According to practitioners, "cutting" 
the Qur'an allows believers to access the 
hidden knowledge and guidance inherent 
in revelation: "And with him are the keys of 
the secret things; none know them but he: 
he knows whatever is on the land and in 
the sea" (q^ 6:59). The basics of the tech- 
nique allow one to open the text of the 
Qur'an spontaneously, and "randomly" 
select a verse by pointing and not looking. 
The client's query regarding any serious 
matter — a prospective journey, an up- 
coming business or employment situation, 
a health question, the timing of an event, 
be it a medical or surgical treatment, a 
marriage, a divorce, a partnership, 
etc. — guide the "reader's" interpretation 
of the qur'anic verse(s). Fa'l seems to be 
similar to istikhdra but more detailed, being 
the reading of whole passage for the pur- 
pose of learning the final outcome. 
Although medieval texts on the special 
characteristics (khawdss) of the Qur'an 
include brief reference to these divining 
techniques, the literature on divining men- 
tions that even some Qur'ans were edited 
and published with marginal notations 
which would guide its use for divination 
and dream interpretation (Donaldson, The 
Koran, 256-7). Although "fortune-telling" 
was clearly part of the anti-magic and anti- 
sorcery statements of the Qur'an, the focus 
on dream incubation and dream interpre- 
tation associated divination with categories 
of prophetic and inspired experience. 
Dream messages could be divinely in- 
spired, but required careful analysis to sift 
the true guidance from false and mislead- 
ing images. Popular practitioners of this 
type of consultative use of the Qur'an 
were often, but not exclusively, at least per- 
sons with a basic command of Islam's writ- 
ten technology and knowledge of the 
manuals of popular practice and ency- 
clopedias of dream interpretation drawn 



from earlier medieval sources (Nana 
Asma'u, Medicine; Flueckiger, The vision; 
Bowen, Return to sender). 

Popular and talismanic uses of the Qur'dn in the 

modern Muslim world 
Hadlth and the devotional prayers of 1400 
years of Islamic culture have generated a 
wide ranging modern popular print lit- 
erature in diverse Islamic languages 
grounded in medieval Islamic source texts 
(primarily in Arabic and Persian) on pro- 
phetic medicine (al-tibb al-nabawi) and 
qur'anic "magic," i.e. the instrumental use 
of the Qiir'an as recitation and written 
text, performed/embodied in Islam's 
religious material culture. Examples of 
qur'anic instrumentality have been 
observed since the nineteenth century and 
through the twentieth by ethnographers, 
anthropologists, and scholars of prophetic 
medicine and qur'anic healing among 
Middle Eastern Muslims (Doutte, Wester- 
marck. Lane, Robson, Donaldson, and 
Maghniyya), and throughout the larger 
Muslim world (Ewing, Hoffman, Owusu- 
Ansah, Mack and Boyd, Padwick, El-Tom, 
Holy, Flueckiger, Bowen, Campo, and 
Hunza'i), as well as among immigrant, 
expatriate, and indigenous Muslims in the 
West (Metcalf, O'Connor). These include 
qur'anic medallions worn on the person 
engraved with names of God, the Throne 
Verse {ciyat al-kursi, (3 2:255) or other par- 
ticular verses for protection {djdt al-hif^, or 
dydt al-latif, verses of divine "kindness" as 
protection from one's enemies) and success 
or victory in any endeavor (Jutuh al-Qur'dnJ. 
In contemporary Muslim communities, 
qur'anic talismans are hung from taxi-cabs' 
rearview mirrors or a miniature Qiir'an is 
mounted on the dashboard, or, more often, 
in the rear window spaces to protect 
against accident. Posters or woven hang- 
ings with cjur'anic verses or names of God 
are used inside or in storefront windows 

both for protection/blessing and, in the 
West, for advertisement to attract Muslim 
customers. From a younger generation of 
contemporary Muslims comes a variety of 
popidar and talismanic uses of the Qiir'an, 
frequently as a legacy of their mothers 
and grandmothers. A recent example is a 
highly educated and professionally em- 
ployed Iranian living in the United States 
of America whose mother keeps a Qiir'an 
suspended above the refrigerator so that 
the food will not spoil. Equally, the pro- 
tective value of qur'anic medallions in 
Muslim belief still holds true even among 
those who are otherwise highly secularized. 

These and untold other examples are 
continuing testament to contemporary be- 
lief in the power of the Qur'an as divine 
speech and in its efficacy to create, sustain, 
and direct the world. The most pervasive 
influence of the instrumentality of the 
Qur'an is its impact on everyday speech 
(see Piamenta, Islam in everyday Arabic, for 
the impact of qur'anic expressions on na- 
tive Arabic speakers, also applicable to the 
use of Arabic qur'anic expressions by non- 
Arabic speakers). Devout Muslims invoke 
God's name in the basmala when entering a 
room or house, opening a book, starting a 
trip, upon drinking or eating, before get- 
ting into bed, when entering the market or 
the mosque, in fact, as a blessing on any 
everyday act of life (Padwick, Muslim devo- 
tions, 94-6). Equally common is performing 
the tasliya, or "calling down blessings," 
on the prophets of Islam, especially 
Muhammad and his family, and the Sufi 
saints and Shi'l imams (ibid., 152-72; see 
imam). Perhaps, greater than any qur'anic 
response in daily life is that of giving praise 
(q.v.; tahmid; see also laudation) and glory 
(q.v.) to God (takbir). Each of these accom- 
panies the ups and downs of daily life as 
acts of humility and gratitude, keeping 
believers grounded in their relationship 
with God as creatures to creator (ibid., 



35-6). Varieties of commonly performed 
talismanic uses of the Qiir'an stem not 
from a deviation from the Islamic tradition 
but arise at the center of its religious 
authority. Whether as oral performance in 
spoken invocations, verbal formulae, or 
supplicatory prayers, or as material rep- 
resentation in medallions, wall plaques, 
written amulets or their residuum (the 
"erasures"), the verbal and material images 
of the Qur'an have the ability to manifest 
constantly the protective and providential 
powers of divine speech. See also science 


Kathleen Malone O'Connor 

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Damascus 1987; Ibn al-Kalbl, Abu 1-Mundhir 
Hisham b. Muhammad, Kitdb al-Asndm, Cairo 
1965; Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddima, Beirut 1879; 
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N.J. Dawood, Princeton 1969, 1989!^; Ibn 
Q^ayyim al-Jawziyya, al-Tibb al-nabawi, Cairo 
1978; Ibn Talha, Kamal al-Din Abu Salim 
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Beirut 1987; Ibn Taymiyya, Kitdb Iqtidd' al-sirdt 
al-mustaqim mukhdlafat ashdb al-jahim, Cairo 1907; 
Ikhwan al-Safa', Rasd'il Ikhwdn al-SaJa' wa-khilldn 
al-wajd] 4 vols., Beirut 1957; Nana Asma'u, 
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scholar and scribe, Bloomington, IN 2000, 102-19; 
al-RazT, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Zakariyya', 
Kitdb al-Hdwifi l-tibb, Hyderabad 1955; al-SuyutT, 
al-Tibb al-nabawi, Beirut 1986; al-TabarT, Abu 
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1996; al-TilimsanI, Muhammad b. al-Hajj, 
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1964; al-Yafi'T, Abu Muhammad 'Abdallah b. 
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al-Qur'dn al-'aztm, Cairo n.d. 
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C.W. Watson and R. Ellen (eds.), Understanding 
witchcraft and sorcery in southeast Asia, Honolulu 
1993, 179-90; Brockelmann, gal;^.Q. Biirgel, 
The feather of Simurgh. The "licit magic" of the arts 
in medieval Islam, New York 1988; J. Campo, 
The other sides of paradise. Explorations into the re- 
ligious meanings of domestic space in Islam, Colum- 
bia, SC 1991; J. Canteins, The hidden sciences 
in Islam, in S.H. Nasr (ed.), Islamic spirituality. 
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1991; A. Christensen, Xavdss-i-dydt. JVotices et 
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The Koran as magic, in MW 2'] (1937), 254-66; 
id., The wild rue. A study of Muhammadan magic and 
folklore in Iran, London 1938; E. Doutte, Magie et 
religion dans lAfrique duNord, Algiers 1909; R.M. 
Eaton, The political and religious authority of 
the shrine of Baba Farld, in B.D. Metcalf (ed.). 
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Asian Islam, Berkeley 1984, 333-56; A.O. El-Tom, 
Drinking the Koran. The meaning of koranic 
verses in Berti erasure, in J.D.Y. Peel and 
C. Stuart (eds.). Popular Islam south of the Sahara, 
Manchester 1985, 414-31; C.W. Ernst, Eternal 
garden. Mysticism, history, and politics at a south Asian 
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of the Punjab. Intoxication or adab as the path 
to God? in B.D. Metcalf (ed.). Moral conduct and 
authority. The place of adab in south Asian Islam, 
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milieu natif de ITslam, Leiden 1966; J. Flueckiger, 
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authority as a female Muslim healer in south 



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C. Glasse, The concise encyclopedia of Islam, San 
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Religion and custom in Muslim society. The Berti of 
Sudan, Cambridge, UK 1991; N.N. Hunza'i, 
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Essays on the margins of Islam, San Francisco, CA 

Popular Media and the Qiir'an see 




Anticipatory sign, warning or threat; also, 
marvel. While the Qjur'an is explicit in its 
condemnation of any belief that an im- 
personal fate (q.v.), rather than God, con- 
trols human destiny (q.v.; see also freedom 
AND predestination), and does not con- 
done the efforts of soothsayers (q.v.) and 
other pre-Islamic "fortunetellers" (see 
divination; foretelling; pre-islamig 




RELIGION IN PRE-iSLAMic), it IS adamant 
that there are signs that humans must 
heed. Perhaps the most notable of these 
exhortations (q.v.) is the warning to heed 
the "signs of tlie liour" [ashrdt al-sd'a; cf. 
Q, 47:18; see LAST judgment; escha- 
tology; apocalypse; time). 
Altliougli it has no root in Arabic, dydt 
(sing, dya; prob. borrowed from Syriac or 
Aramaic; see Jeffery, For. vocab., 72-3; for 
bibhcal uses of the Heb. cognate, cf. 
Numbers 2:2; Joshua 4:6; Exodus 8:ig; 
Deuteronomy 4:34; Psalms 78:43; I Samuel 
10:7; see FOREIGN vocabulary) is a mul- 
tivalent term for "portents" that appears 
383 times in the Qiir'an, and may connote 
"signs" (q.v.), "miracles" (see mira(;le) and 
"verses" (q.v). Such qur'anic utterances 
serve to signal the wonders (see marvels) 
or omens God bestows upon the world to 
demonstrate his power, wisdom (q.v), judg- 
ment (q.v.) or wrath (see anger). As natu- 
ral marvels, such as the rain that sustains 
life (q.v; Q_ 30:24; see also water; 
sustenance), the fruits of the palm and 
vine (q^ 16:67; see agriculture and 
vegetation; date palm), or the ships 
(q.v.) that appear like mountains on the 
seas (c3 42:32), portents elicit the awe- 
provoking magnitude of God's creation 
(q.v.). These tokens not only appear as cos- 
mic and natural wonders but also as the 
extraordinary works of prophets and mes- 
sengers through whom God guides his cre- 
ation (see cosmology; prophets and 
prophethood; messenger; astray; 
error). Examples of this type of portent 
include demonstrations of Moses' (q.v.) 
white hand and slithering staff (q 7:106-8; 
see rod), and Jesus' (q.v.) enlivening of the 
clay bird ((3 3:49). The verses (dydt) of the 
Qur'an that relay such portents also call 
humans to recognize God's power and 
might (see POWER and impotence). Left 
unnoticed or worse, rejected, these same 

portents, whether embedded in nature (see 
NATURE AS siGNs), prophetic action or rev- 
elation itself (see revelation and 
inspiration), will bring forth terrifying 
demonstrations of divine wrath (see 
anger) upon those who fail to interpret 
what the sign truly signifies. The Qiir'an 
recounts numerous tales of individuals and 
communities pummeled for their neglect 
or denial of those clear signs a merciful 
God bestows upon his creation (see 
chastisement and punishment; punish- 
ment stories). In turn, the denunciations 
and punishments themselves serve as por- 
tents for those tempted to follow the same 
course of action. One might say the entire 
Qiir'an, from a single verse to the broader 
images it provokes, stands as a sign signify- 
ing simultaneously divine glory and wrath. 
The Q.ur'an emphasizes repeatedly the 
abundance and clarity of divine portents 
available for those who wish to see them 
(see SEEING and hearing). What is not 
clear, however, is whether one must "be- 
lieve" or "understand" already in order to 
fathom the true meaning of the sign (see 
belief and unbelief; knowledge and 
learning; ignorance; reflection and 
deliberation). The portents manifest "for 
those who understand," or for "those who 
believe" (q^ 13:3; 16:79; 30:21) are presum- 
ably the same signs rejected by those who 
already disbelieve [q_ 37:14; 39:63; 41:15), 
which suggests the signs themselves have 
demonstrative, rather than persuasive, 

Kathryn Keuny 

Primary: TabarT, Tafsh, ed. Shakir. 
Secondary: W. Graham, 'The winds to herald his 
mercy,' and other 'Signs for those of certain 
faith.' Nature as token of God's sovereignty and 
grace in the Qiir'an, in S.H. Lee et al. (eds.), 
Faithful imaginings. Essays in honor of Richard 
R. MetmliT, Atlanta 1995, 18-38; Jeffery, For vocab.; 



H.E. Kassis, .4 concordance of the Qur^an, London 
1983; Lane; Pickthall, Koran. 

Possession and Possessions 

Ownership, the act of holding sometliing 
or someone as property; the enjoyment or 
acquisition of the riglit to exercise control 
over something, and the objects thus con- 
trolled. In the Qur'an, the idea of posses- 
sion is frequently conveyed by the verb 
malaka, "to possess, to have, to own, to 
exercise sovereignty over," and its nomina- 
tive derivatives, such as mulk/ malakut, 
"property, dominion, fiefdom," and, by 
extension, "sovereignty"; mdlik, "owner, 
possessor"; and malik, "sovereign, ruler, 
king" (see KINGS AND rulers). Similar 
meanings are associated with the word rabb, 
"lord (q.v.), master," that is applied to God 
throughout the Qjur'an either independ- 
ently or in conjunction with the object of 
his sovereignty, e.g. "lord of the heavens 
(see HEAVEN AND sky) and lord of the 
earth (q.v.), lord of the worlds" (c) 45:36; cf. 
13:16; 17:102; 18:14; 19:65; 51:23, etc.), "lord 
of Sirius" (q.v.; C3 53-49), "lord of the 
mighty [heavenly] throne" (c3 9:129; see 
THRONE OF god), "lord of the east and the 
west and what is between them" (q 26:28), 
"lord of the daybreak" (q_ 113:1; see dawn) 
and "lord of humankind" (c) 114:1). Also 
common are constructions with the pos- 
sessive particle li/la, "to [God belongs] , his 
is..." (see e.g. Q_ 2:255; 5:18; 42:4). As one 
may expect, in the Qiir'an, possession is 
essentially the prerogative of God, al- 
though he may occasionally grant it to his 
servants (see servant), be they human 
beings or angels (e.g. C3 2:258; 3:26; see 

Possession is one of the principal mani- 
festations of God's absolute power (see 
power and impoteni;e) over the universe 
and its inhabitants. In many passages these 
divine attributes (see GOD AND His attrib- 

utes) go hand in hand and are, to some 
extent, interchangeable. God's power 
inevitably implies his uncontested owner- 
ship of all created beings and vice versa 
(see t:REATiON). While God can bestow 
possession of a certain property or rank 
upon individual creatures, as the ultimate 
ruler of his worldly domain [mdlik al-mulk, 
o 3:26; cf 36:83; 39:6; 64:1; 67:1), he can 
also dispossess them at will in order to 
remind them of the transitory status of 
worldly possessions and of their true 
source (c) 3:26; see grace; blessing). The 
Qur'an never tires of throwing these ideas 
into sharp relief: "lord of the worlds" 
(o 1:2); "to him belongs whatsoever is in 
the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth" 
(c3 42:4); "glory be to him in whose hand is 
the dominion of everything" (c) 36:83); 
"you give the dominion to whom you will 
and you seize the dominion from whom 
you will" ((J 3:26), etc. God's sovereignty is 
not limited to this world. He is the wielder 
of the judgment day (mdlik j/awm al-din, 
Q_ 1:4; cf 25:26; see LAST judgment) 
and, according to many exegetes, also 
of the hereafter (TabarsI, Majma\ i, lOO; 
see esi;hatology; reward and 

In several eloquent passages the Qiir'an 
condemns polytheists for their misguided 
belief that their deities possess the power 
to hurt or benefit their worshippers (see 
polytheism and atheism; idolatry and 
idolaters). Unlike God, who owns life 
(q.v), death (see DEATH AND the dead) 
and the ability to effect the resurrection 
(q.v.) of decomposed bodies and moldering 
bones, these pagan deities have no power 
to give or take life. Nor are they capable of 
raising human beings from the dead. 
These are the exclusive prerogatives of 
God, who has created both the pagan 
deities and their worshipers. He alone has 
"no associate" (shank) in his absolute and 
uncontestable sovereignty (q.v.) over this 



world (o 25:2-3). He alone is the possessor 
of the "most beautiful names" ((j 7:180; 
17:110; 20:8), whose perfection sets him 
apart from his imperfect creatures. This 
message is brought home in a memorable 
passage from o 35:13, which presents God 
as the absolute and undisputed master of 
reality: "That is God, your lord; to him 
belongs the dominion/possession (al-mulk); 
and those you call upon, apart from him, 
possess not so much as the skin of a date- 
stone!" The same idea is reiterated in 
Q. 4-53 • "Have they [the unbelievers] a 
share in the dominion? [Certainly not!] 
They can give not a single date-spot to 
the people!" 

While human beings are allowed by God 
to enjoy their earthly possessions — "lieaps 
of gold (q.v.) and silver, horses of mark, 
cattle and tillage" and the sensual delights 
of this world (see animal life; nature 
AS signs; agriculture and vegeta- 
tion) — they are constantly reminded that 
this life is but a respite granted to them by 
God, who will eventually become their 
"fairest resort" [q_ 3:13). When the day of 
reckoning comes, their wealth (q.v.) and 
relatives will be of no avail to them (see 
kinship; intercession); only their obedi- 
ence (q.v.) or disobedience (q.v.) to God 
will count. According to (J 16:75, the un- 
grateful evildoer (see gratitude and 
ingratitude; evil deeds) is like "a ser- 
vant possessed by his master (mamluk), hav- 
ing no possession of his own (Idyaqdiru 'aid 
shay'in)"; the righteous person, on the other 
hand, is like one "whom we [God] our- 
selves have provided with a provision fair." 
In a passage reminiscent of Psalm 37:29, 
God promises to reward his faithful ser- 
vants in the hereafter by bequeathing to 
them "the [entire] land" (usually under- 
stood as paradise [q.v.]; cf. Ci 39:74). 

In this life, human beings are God's 
"vicegerents (khald'if) on the earth" (see 
caliph) and their possessions and social 

ranks (see community and society in the 
our'an) are a means by which God tests 
their loyalty (q.v.) to their maker (q 6:165). 
Thus, human possession is distinct from 
that of God by its transience and incon- 
stancy. Ancient Arabian tribes (see tribes 
and the cjur'an) were given abundant 
wealth and splendid palaces, but their 
imgodly ways and stubborn belief in their 
self-sufficiency vis-a-vis God brought 
divine wrath upon them (see anger). 
Following their refusal to amend their 
ways, God withdrew his favor from the 
wrongdoers, dispossessed them and wiped 
them from the face of the earth (see 
punishment stories). Their tragic end 
serves as a reminder to later generations 
(q.v.) that God's bounty and solicitude for 
the well-being of his human subjects call 
for continual gratitude. This idea is elo- 
quently stated in (J 36:71-3: "Have they not 
seen how we have created for them of what 
our hands wrought cattle that they own 
(lahd mdlikuna)?\Ne have subdued them to 
them, and some of them they ride and 
some they eat; other uses they have in 
them, and beverages (see hides and 
fleece; food and drink). What, will they 
not be thankful?" 

In elaborating on the meaning of the 
phrase "they own" (mdlikuna), the Yemeni 
exegete al-ShawkanI (d. 1250/1839) ex- 
plains that it means tliat God has granted 
humankind full and coercive control 
(ddbituna qdhiruna) over their domestic ani- 
mals. This is viewed by the commentator 
as a sign of God's benevolence toward his 
human servants, for he could have created 
the animals wild so that "they would run 
away from them [the people] and they 
would have been unable to subdue them." 
Instead, argues al-Shawkani, God has 
made the animals part and parcel of hu- 
man beings' estate/possession (sdratji 
amldkihim), over which they exercise full 



sovereignty [mulk; Shawkanl, TafsTr, iv, 382; 
cf. Tabarl, Tafsir, xxiii, 28-9). This idea is 
reiterated over and over again throughout 
the Qur'an, as in e.g. <J 31:20: "Have you 
not seen that God has subjected to you 
whatsoever is in tlie lieavens and the earth, 
and he has lavished upon you liis benefits 
(ni'amahu), outward and inward" (cf. 
Q, 2:29; 22:65). 

Possession of worldly goods by people 
entails responsibilities, which are stipulated 
in the numerous passages of the Qiir'an 
that constitute the foundation of the legal 
norms pertaining to property rights under 
Islam (see law and the q^ur'an). The rich 
are enjoined by God to share their wealth 
with the poor (see POVERTY and the 
poor) generously but not to squander it 
either: "And give the kinsman his right, 
and the needy, and the traveler (see jour- 
ney); and never squander; the squanderers 
are brothers of the satans" (q^ 17:26-7). 
Wives, "those of weak intellect," and or- 
phans (q.v.) are entitled to their share in 
the property of their husbands and guard- 
ians (see marriage and divorce; family; 
maintenance and upkeep; ouardian- 
SHlp), who are commanded to treat them 
equitably {ci 4:4-6; see justice and 
injustice). In one instance, the injunction 
to share one's wealth with others appears 
alongside the two principal articles of the 
Islamic creed — an eloquent evidence of 
its importance for the nascent faith: 
"Believe in God and his messenger (q.v.), 
and expend what he has made you stew- 
ards of; for those of you who have believed 
and expended is (in store) a great reward" 
fe 57:7; cf 24:33; see belief and unbelief; 
jihad). Statements such as this one make it 
abundantly clear that all worldly posses- 
sions held by human beings idtimately be- 
long to and come froin God, who lends 
them to his servants for appointed terms. 
Therefore, hoarding what is effectively 
God's property for one's private gain is 

strongly condemned: "Those who hoard 
gold and silver and do not expend them 
in the way of God (see almsgiving; 
usury) — to them give the good tidings of 
a painful chastisement (see chastisement 
and punishment), the day they shall be 
heated in the fire oi jahannam (see hell 
AND hellfire) and therewith their 
foreheads and their sides and their backs 
shall be branded: 'This is what you 
hoarded for yourselves: therefore taste 
you now what you were treasuring!'" 

fe 9:34-5)- 

The Qiir'an contains a number of stipu- 
lations regarding the proper relations 
between male and feinale slaves ("those 
whom your right hands own") and their 
masters, in everyday life and at manumis- 
sion (see SLAVES AND slavery; gender; 
women and the our'an). Within the 
household, the masters are commanded to 
treat their human property kindly (o 4:3, 
25, 36; 16:71; 24:33, 59, etc.; see social 
relations). At manumission, the owners 
are enjoined to "contract them [freed 
slaves] accordingly... and give them of the 
wealth of God that he has given you" 
(o 24:33). Again, the idea is that, in the 
final account, all wealth and possessions 
come from God, who lends them tempo- 
rarily to his servants. 

In the later exegetical tradition (see 
EXEGESIS of the our'an: c;lassical and 
medieval) pertaining to passages that deal 
with divine sovereignty over the world, one 
finds a debate over the semantic nuances of 
malik, "owner, possessor," as opposed to 
malik, "sovereign, king." At issue with 
medieval commentators was the respective 
scope of each of these terms. Some (Abu 
'Ubayd, d. 224/838, and al-Mubarrad, 
d. 285/898) argued that the latter was 
more encompassing (ablagh), as the king's 
(malik) writ overrules the sovereignty of 
any individual owner (malik) within his 
realm (mulk). Others (al-Zamakhshari, 



d. 538/1144) considered die word "owner" 
(mdlikj to be more comprehensive wlien 
applied to God, in so far as he can be 
regarded as tlie ultimate "owner" of all 
human beings, be they kings or common- 
ers. Hence, the title "owner" is more com- 
prehensive than "king" when applied to 
God, while the title "king" is more com- 
prehensive than "owner" when applied to 
human beings (Tabarsi, Majma', i, 97-8). 
According to al-ShawkanI, each term car- 
ries connotations that are unique to it and 
missing from its counterpart; therefore the 
dispute around their respective scope is 
futile. From the viewpoint of the Ash'ari 
doctrine (see theology and the cjur'an) 
of divine attributes, however, the term 
mdlik, "owner," when it is applied to God, 
should be regarded as his attribute of 
action (sifa li-fi'iihi). The term malik ("king, 
sovereign"), on the other hand, should be 
seen as an attribute of the divine essence 
[sifa li-dhdtihi; Shawkani, Tafsir, i, 71). 

In his "rationalist" commentary on the 
Qiir'an the great Muslim theologian and 
exegete Fakhr al-Din al-RazI (d. 606/1210) 
argues that God's status as the "sovereign" 
(malik) of the universe indicates that he is 
located outside it, since he cannot be "sov- 
ereign of himself." This conclusion, in his 
view, is corroborated by (J 19:93, according 
to which "None is there in the heavens and 
earth, but comes to the all-merciful as a 
worshipper ('abd)." If, argues al-RazI, 
everything on earth and in heaven wor- 
ships God, he of necessity should be 
located outside and above it, for otherwise 
he would have been the worshipper of 
himself, which is logically impossible (cf. 
Razi, Tafsir, xxi, 255-6). For the accusation 
of the "possession" of humans by malevo- 
lent forces, see jinn; insanity; opposition 


Alexander D. Knysh 

Primary; Ibn KatliTr, Tafsh\ ed. S. al-Salama, 
8 vols., Riyadh 1997, esp. i, 131-4; RazT, Tafsir, 
Beirut 1981; Shawkani, Tafsir, Cairo 1930, esp. i, 
322-4; iii, 180-2; iv, 60-2, 340-3, 381-2; Tabarl, 
Tafsir, ed. 'All, iii, 199-205; xiv, 148; xviii, 126-32, 
r8i; xxii, 124-5; ^^"^^ 7-8 (in addition to the pages 
cited in the article); TabarsT, A4ajma', Beirut 

Secondary; ^All al-'Aflf, al-AIilkijjaJi l-shari'a 
al-isldmiyya, Beirut 1990; J. Botterweck and 
H. Ringgren (eds.), Theological dictionary of the Old 
Testament, trans. J.T. Willis, 11 vols., Grand 
Rapids, MI 1974-2001, vi, 368-96; x, 144-8 (for 
comparative materials). 

Post-Enlightenment Academic 
Study of the Qiir'an 

The modern study of the Qur'an, meaning 
thereby "the critical dispassionate (i.e. non- 
polemical) search for knowledge, uncon- 
strained by ecclesiastical institutional 
priorities" (Rippin, Qur'an. Style and contents, 
xi n. 2), insofar as it is a living tradition of 
learning and the basis of all contemporary 
research, cannot be assessed in its entirety 
in a single entry. Rather, the present entry 
can merely aim at specifying the major 
trends of research and the overall develop- 
ment of modern scholarship. The selective 
bibliography below is limited to writings 
of a general character, collections of 
papers and literature dealing specifically 
with the modern study of the Qiir'an and 
its methodology. 

The study of the Qiir'an has never 
ceased being a primary concern in the 
realm of Islamic studies during the past 
two centuries. Given the outstanding 
importance of the Qiir'an in Islam, it is 
likely to remain so in the future. The 
interest of scholars in the Qur'an, how- 
ever, has shifted its center of attention 
from time to time, depending on the pre- 
vailing Zeitgeist as well as on the ensuing 
challenges and results of ongoing 



Nineteenth century 
The academic study of the Qiir'an in the 
West around the middle of tlie nineteenth 
century was largely stimulated and influ- 
enced by two German works, G. Weil's 
Historisch-kritische Einleitung (1844') and Th. 
Noldeke's Geschichte des Qordns (i860'). Both 
writings, but above all Noldeke's, set new 
standards for future research and went 
beyond the achievements of previous lit- 
erature. As an illustration of the contem- 
porary state of the art in Europe, suffice to 
say that, in 1846, Solvet's Introduction a la 
lecture du Coran merely offered to the French 
public a new translation of G. Sale's 
Preliminary discourse (this discourse was part 
of Sale's influential book The Koran com- 
monly called Alcoran of Mohammed... to which 
is prefixed a preliminary discourse, which had 
already been published in London in 


q^ur'anic studies). The treatise of Sale 
offers a general overview of the contents of 
the Qiir'an, the basic tenets of the Muslim 
faith (q.v.; see also creeds) and a rough 
sketch of pre-Islamic Arabia and the de- 
velopments of early Islam (see pre-islamic 
ANCE). In itself, it draws mainly on material 
contained in E. Pococke's Specimen historiae 
arabum (1650) but more importantly, and in 
marked difference to the accounts of Weil 
and Noldeke, Sale does not yet treat the 
text of the Qiir'an in its own right nor does 
he deal in detail with the formal, linguistic 
and stylistic elements of the text. 

G. Weil in his Historisch-kritische Einleitung, 
which is only a short treatise that devotes 
some forty pages to the Qiir'an as such, 
took up the Muslim division between 
Meccan and Medinan suras (see chron- 
in order to establish a chronological frame- 
work of revelation (see revelation and 
inspiration; occasions of revelation). 
In doing so, he became the first to attempt 

a reassessment of the traditional dating of 
the suras and to divide the Meccan mate- 
rial into three further periods, something 
which was then fully elaborated and 
improved upon by Noldeke. Although 
Weil and Noldeke considered matters of 
content while establishing a chronologi- 
cal order of revelation for the Meccan 
suras — e.g. similarity of content and ter- 
minology in individual suras was seen as 
evidence for their mutual correlation and 
their approximate time of origin — both 
scholars also stressed the importance of 
formal and linguistic elements of the 
qur'anic text for defining the criteria 
according to which the three Meccan 
periods could be distinguished (see e.g. 
FORM and structure OF THE Q^Ur'an; 

oaths; rhetoric and the our'an; 
exhortations). This four-period dating 
system, consisting of three Meccan periods 
and the Medinan period, proved influential 
for decades to come. It considerably in- 
fiiienced the future conceptual analysis of 
the Meccan segments of the Qiir'an and 
even led to the re-arrangement of the 
Meccan suras in a number of twentieth- 
century translations of the Qiir'an in west- 
ern languages (cf. Blachere, Introduction, 
247 f.) and was also initially adopted for 
the French translation by R. Blachere. The 
idea of re-arranging the text of the 
Qur'an, including the division of single 
suras into unities of differing chronological 
status, ultimately led to the complex un- 
dertaking of R. Bell in his translation of 
the Qur'an "with a critical re-arrangement 
of the Surahs" (1937-9; ^^^ ^\s,o below; 
see translations of the q^ur'an). 

Of the studies mentioned so far, Nol- 
deke's Geschichte des Qordns (gq), since its 
appearance in a second enlarged edition 
in the first decades of the twentieth 
century — considerably augmented by 
three other scholars — has proven to be 
the decisive standard text to which all 



modern scholars interested in tlie Qiir'an 
must refer. It is still a helpful tool today, 
especially as many of its shortcomings have 
been detected, discussed and revised. The 
elaboration of the four-period dating sys- 
tem is presented in the first volume of gq. 
The second volume, written by Noldeke's 
pupil E Schwally, contains a detailed anal- 
ysis of the collection of the Qiir'an (q.v.; 
see also codices of the ciur'an; mushaf). 
The third volume, by G. Bergstrasser and 
O. Pretzl, treats the history of the qnr'anic 
text and is mainly concerned with variant 
readings and the later-established "read- 
ings" (qird'dt) known from Islamic tradition 
(see readings of the our'an). 

In some sense, the third volume of 
GQ can be considered as the indispensable 
preliminary to the final task of an edition 
of the Qiir'an according to the most exact- 
ing standards of the philological method, 
that is, an edition based on ancient manu- 
scripts, the entire available Islamic litera- 
ture on the subject (see traditional 
DISCIPLINES OF qur'anic study) and, 
most importantly, accompanied by a criti- 
cal apparatus that would list all known 
variant readings and orthographical pecu- 
liarities (cf Bergstrasser, Plan eines Appa- 
ratus Criticus). Nothing, however, has 
come of this and an edition of the Qiir'an 
that follows the above-mentioned critical 
methodology remains a desideratum. The 
final contribution of research in this direc- 
tion, pre-dating the publication of the 
third volume of eg by one year, is Jeffery's 
Materials for the history of the text of the Qiir'an 
(1937). Since then, individual contributions 
for the history of the text have been made 
in a number of articles but no major work 
has been published which would offer a 
synthesis of the material. Also, ancient 
manuscripts of the Qiir'an, going back to 
the first and second Islamic centuries, and 
which have become known in the mean- 
time, have not yet been published properly 

and still await detailed analysis (cf. Piiin, 
Observations). It is noteworthy, however, 
that in his multi-volume Arabic-German 
edition of the Qur'an (Giitersloh 1990 f) 
A.Th. Khoury decided to include many 
variant readings in the commentary, al- 
though he made no effort to be compre- 
hensive (the contributions of Antoine Isaac 
Silvestre de Sacy, the first European to 
study al-DanI, and those of Edmund Beck 
for the study of the variant readings of the 
Qur'an should likewise not be overlooked). 

Noldeke's go and the work of Schwally, 
Bergstrasser and Pretzl shaped in any case 
much of the modern study of the Qur'an 
in its later developments, directing it 
mainly towards the study of the formal, 
stylistic and linguistic aspects of the text, as 
well as towards the study of the terminol- 
ogy of the Qur'an and to its semantic and 
conceptual analysis. Yet many topics of 
future research were, as seems natural, not 
yet raised in the go. It is also important to 
note that Noldeke's pioneering work, not- 
withstanding its undeniable scientific mer- 
its, is littered with less-than-sympathetic 
remarks about what he (as well as other 
Orientalists of his formation and genera- 
tion) thought of the scripture to which 
he devoted his studies, in particular its 
aesthetic qualities (see Wild, Die schaiier- 
liche. . . Ode). In this respect, his generation 
stood too much under the spell of ancient 
literature which pervaded the minds of 
nineteenth-century European philologists 
and which made them incapable of truly 
appreciating texts stemming from different 
cultural contexts. The nearest Noldeke 
came to esteeming the Arabic literary heri- 
tage was in his fondness for pre-Islamic 
poetry, in which he discovered a likeness 
between the Bedouin (q.v.) worldview and 
that of the ancient Germanic tribes (see 
also POETRY AND POETS; ARABs). In many 
of their judgments on the Qur'an, how- 
ever, Noldeke and his successors come 



perilously close to T. Carlyle's famous 
statement, "it is a toilsome reading as I 
ever undertook. A wearisome confused 
jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, 
long-windedness, entanglement (...). 
Nothing but a sense of duty could carry 
any European through the Koran" [On 
heroes, 86 f). The modern study of the 
Qiir'an during the last part of the twen- 
tieth century has contributed much to 
changing this attitude, yet the works of the 
nineteenth- and early twentieth-century 
scholars were chiefly responsible for the 
fact that only in the recent past did it be- 
come widely acknowledged in the West 
that the Qiir'an could be esteemed as a 
piece of highly artful literature, possessing 
considerable and distinctive aesthetical 
qualities, as well as beauty of expression. 

Another shortcoming of the go, and per- 
haps the one that most limits its merits 
from our viewpoint, is the relatively mar- 
ginal role accorded to Islamic learning 
and heritage. This is not to be seen as an 
entirely negative factor, or only as a draw- 
back, because, for one thing, to begin to 
treat the Qtir'an as a text in its own right 
and to attempt to judge and evaluate it on 
its own premises, independently of what 
the Islamic scholarly tradition had to 
offer, was a great step forward in the 
understanding of the Qur'an. Further- 
more, the Arabic literature available to 
nineteenth- and early twentieth-centiu"y 
scholars was very limited and simply insuf- 
ficient, if compared to today's wealth of 
accessible material. Yet this method of set- 
ting aside or overriding, if necessary, the 
data of the Islamic tradition in favor of the 
intrinsic evidence of the qur'anic text man- 
ifests a major methodological flaw. The 
reason for that is the eclectic, and therefore 
often arbitrary, use made of the Islamic 
tradition. On the one hand, the go authors 
often did not follow the Islamic tradition 
concerning the origin, chronology, order 

and semantic value of the textual consti- 
tuents of the Qiu''an but, on the other 
hand, in trying to establish an independent 
framework and in attempting a fresh in- 
terpretation of the qur'anic event, they did 
take the Islamic tradition into account. 
Within the context of this latter approach, 
the tradition was especially consulted on 
two accounts: for the qur'anic depictions of 
the historical circumstances of the revela- 
tion (viz. the life of the Prophet and the 
vicissitudes of his community; see sIra 
AND THE qur'an) and for the details found 
in classical Islamic works elucidating the 
emergence of the Qiir'an as a document in 
a historically definable context. Noldeke 
himself had become aware of this problem 
through his acquaintance with the studies 
by H. Lammens, whose writings emphasize 
the non-historicity of the Islamic tradition 
and, consequently, the futility of making 
use of it at all. Noldeke thus felt compelled 
to defend the value of the Islamic tradition 
in historical matters and stressed that the 
Medinan period, at least, was "in the clear 
light of history" ("mit der Ubersiedhmg 
nach Jathrib betreten wir hell historischen 
Boden," Die Tradition, 165). The meth- 
odological flaw involved here is, however, 
undeniable. Disclosing this weakness and 
its wide-reaching implications was to 
become a distinctive feature of the modern 
study of the Qiir'an during the twentieth 

The latter half of the nineteenth century 
is marked by an increasing number of trea- 
tises produced in the wake of Weil and 
Noldeke. Many of those are distinguished 
by the fact that they adopt the principles 
of research developed by the German 
Orientalists but reach different conclu- 
sions. This is the case — to name but a 
few — with the respective writings of 
W. Muir, A. Rodwell, H. Grimme and 
H. Hirschfeld. Although these scholars 
came to different and conflicting conclii- 



sions, all (with the debatable exception of 
Rodwell) certainly enhanced the critical 
study of the Qur'an along the lines of 
philological research. Muir and Rodwell, 
in their treatises of 1878, each developed 
a chronological sequence and re-arrange- 
ment of the suras. Muir's re-arrangement 
distinguishes six different periods, propos- 
ing five Meccan periods, which he defined 
by recourse to the successive stages of 
Muhammad's career as a prophet (see 
PROPHETS AND prophethood). Grimmc, 
on the contrary, attempted to order the 
suras on the basis of doctrinal character- 
istics, with only two Meccan periods and 
one Medinan (cf. Watt-Bell, Introduction, 
112). Finally, Hirschfeld, in his New researches 
into the composition and exegesis of the Qoran 
(1902) introduced still another sequence of 
the qur'anic passages. This scheme is like- 
wise based on the content of the suras and 
their respective messages, which were as- 
signed by Hirschfeld to one of six "modes" 
(confirmatory, declamatory, narrative, 
descriptive, legislative, parable). 

In contrast to the preceding studies, in 
which the suras (q.v.) were largely taken for 
granted as textual unities and thus as enti- 
ties of the same origin and chronological 
status, Rodwell and Hirschfeld also tried to 
identify single passages within the suras 
that belong together thematically and 
hence also chronologically. This idea 
was then carried forward and imple- 
mented, in varying degrees, by R. Bell 
and R. Blachere. In Bell's re-arrangement 
of the suras, incorporated into his transla- 
tion of the Qiir'an, he not only tried to 
break the suras up into short coherent pas- 
sages but even into single verses (q.v.) or 
verse groupings. This was done according 
to his famous hypothesis that all suras had 
undergone various processes of revision 
and that during the collection of the 
Qrir'an the leaves or papers that contained 
the text were partially disordered. He also 

suggested that something written on the 
back of these papers was then, by mistake 
as it were, inserted in the context of a sura 
to which it did not belong (see Watt-Bell, 
Introduction, 101-7; also Merrill, Bell's criti- 
cal analysis; Bell's evidence for his dissec- 
tions of the single suras is available in 
greater detail in his posthumously pub- 
lished Commentarj). Less radically, Blachere 
in the first edition of his translation of the 
Qiir'an (1947-51) adopted, with minor 
modifications, the chronological scheme of 
the Meccan suras as laid down in go and 
thus produced his own "reclassement des 
sourates." This scheme, however, was 
abolished in the second edition (1956) 
and Blachere retained the traditional 
(Islamic) order. 

It needs to be emphasized that none of 
the studies carried out during the second 
half of the nineteenth century ever 
reached the influence of Noldeke's gq in 
modern scholarship; nor were their results 
accepted as easily and widely. This is 
doubtless because Noldeke's initial peri- 
odization and the ensuing evaluation of 
the cjur'anic text on the basis of his chron- 
ology steers the middle course between 
being too indiscriminate on the one hand 
and being too sophisticated on the other. 
Compared to that, Muir's six periods or 
Hirschfeld's six "modes" seem somewhat 
over-detailed and thus of difficult applica- 
tion in further research. Another reason for 
the dominance of Noldeke's scheme in 
modern scholarship has been the fact that 
the second edition of gq appeared only 
after the publication of the late nineteenth- 
century treatises and thus already includes 
the critical discussion or even refutation of 
rival accounts. What is more, given the 
hypothetical nature of every such recon- 
struction of the origin of the QjLir'an, 
which is based on circumstantial evidence 
drawn primarily from formal, linguistic 
and stylistic features, the more detailed the 



proposed partition of tlie qur'anic text, the 
more difBcult it is to argue for both its ac- 
curacy and its ability to do justice to other 
sorts of reasonable hypotheses. Having 
proposed a dissection of the qur'anic text 
into tiny passages of accidental sequence 
and thus rendering a meaningful recon- 
struction of its internal chronology virtu- 
ally impossible, R. Bell then faced this 
problem in its most extreme form. 

From the present point of view, therefore, 
the late nineteenth-century and early twen- 
tieth-century attempts at rearranging the 
qur'anic text do not seem very convincing. 
The character of most such rearrange- 
ments is too hypothetical to be assessed 
properly. Also, there is essentially no evi- 
dence that is extra-qur'anic but contem- 
poraneous with the period of qur'anic 
origins that coidd validate or refute the 
proposed hypotheses. We are thus left 
with the impression that much of what 
was said in favor of a certain rearrange- 
ment of the qur'anic text often does not 
appear improbable — but neither is there 
any compelling evidence for its validity. 
One final drawback of first establishing a 
chronological order of the qur'anic 
textual material and then attempting its 
interpretation on the very basis of this 
scheme has been summarized by 
A. Rippin [Qur'an. Style and contents, xxii) 
as follows: 

Using the chronological framework pro- 
duces a systematic picture of the develop- 
ment of semantic information which may 
then be used to re-date elements which do 
not fit into the basic scheme. Certainly 
such a method has its circularity (...), but it 
is often held out that such a study might 
prove persviasive if it combined a number 
of such thematic and semantic elements to 
produce a single cohesive and coherent 
pattern; a study of this type, however, has 
not yet been undertaken. 

It is not by accident, therefore, that the 
majority of studies pertaining to the form 
and structure of the Qiir'an and to single 
suras conducted since the second half of 
the twentieth century no longer try to 
establish a fixed chronological order or 
rearrangement of suras, on whatever 
basis. Rather, such studies tend to limit 
themselves to phenomenological de- 
scription of the qur'anic wording (MiiUer, 
Untersuchungen) , re -propose the unity of the 
Meccan suras as distinctive and not in- 
cidentally composed entities (Neuwirth, 
Studien) or attempt to solve problems of 
textual coherence by recourse to the vast 
Islamic literature on the subject (Nagel, 
Einschiibe; see textual criticism of the 

Before concluding the survey of nine- 
teenth-century scholarship, it must be 
stressed that the dominant trend in 
qur'anic studies, namely the reconstruc- 
tion of the textual history of the Qtir'an 
chiefly on the basis of its internal features 
and with the assistance of the Islamic 
tradition for its historical context, is less 
noticeable in works concerned with the 
history of early Islam, in particular the life 
of the Prophet. Clearly, the Qiir'an plays a 
major role in this field too, being the foun- 
dational document of the new religion. 
The best example of such scholarship, one 
that drew upon the Islamic tradition and 
the bulk of the exegetical material (as far 
as it was known at the time and much 
more than was done in the works reviewed 
above) is probably A. Sprenger's three- 
volume biography of Muhammad (1869). 
Here, Sprenger went a long way towards 
combining the qur'anic data with the lore 
of tradition. In this, he was much assisted 
by the sources at his disposition in Indian 
libraries. Although both form and con- 
tent of the Qiir'an are not to the fore in 
Sprenger's study, it nevertheless contains 
much that directly pertains to the study of 



the Qiir'an. Sprenger's study is thus, in this 
respect, far ahead of otlier writings of his 
time but liis work was never granted the 
place in tlie modern study of the Qiir'an it 
justly deserves. 

The heritage of Western nineteenth- 
century scholarship on the Qiir'an was to 
determine the course that modern research 
took during the first half of the twentieth 
century. Some lines of continuity and last- 
ing influence have already been men- 
tioned: for example, the quest for the role 
of Islamic tradition in establishing the 
external and contextual framework for 
the historical process of the revelation, or 
Bell's fragmentation of the qur'anic text as 
the ultimate consequence of applying for- 
mal and stylistic criteria in detecting coher- 
ent, if minute, passages of textual and 
thematic unity. The main thrust, however, 
behind nineteenth-century research was 
towards the philological treatment of the 
text, its individual constituents and the in- 
terest in both the significance and origin of 
single terms or concepts. It is along these 
lines that much of the ensuing research 

First half of the twentieth century 
Topics dominant in early twentieth cen- 
tury-scholarship were the linguistic aspects 
of the qur'anic wording, its variant read- 
ings (see READINGS OF THE q^ur'an) and its 
foreign (i.e. of non-Arabic origin) vocabu- 
lary (see foreign voc;abulary; lan- 
guage AND STYLE OF THE Q^UR'an), the 
significance of single qur'anic terms and 
concepts, the order and chronology of the 
textual parts and their integrity (see form 
and structure of the cjur'an; literary 
STRUCTURES OF THE q^ur'an), and the in- 
fiuence of the older monotheistic faiths 
upon the content and message of the 
Qiir'an (including the pivotal role of bibli- 
cal and apocryphal lore; see narratives; 


One topic that aroused the interest of 
numerous scholars during much of the 
twentieth century was the significance of 
the so-called "mysterious letters" (q.v.) 
which were first dealt with in Noldeke's 
GQ. Many hypotheses as to their possible 
meaning were then advanced, starting 
with O. Loth and leading to the extensive 
articles by H. Bauer and E. Goossens. 
Before that, we find the remarks made by 
H. Hirschfeld in his New researches, and fur- 
ther contributions were added by A.Jones, 
M. Scale and J. Bellamy. It is fair to say, 
however, that no truly convincing solution 
to the origin and relevance of the "mysteri- 
ous letters" has yet been found, although 
many hypotheses which were advanced do 
not lack ingenuity and demanded much 
effort in order to establish them. Interest in 
this subject abated in recent years and few 
new hypotheses have been put forward 
since (cf. Massey, Mystery letters). 

Another thread of research which had its 
origins in the late nineteenth century and 
was then carried on for many decades in 
the twentieth century concerns the lan- 
guage used in the Qiir'an and, by implica- 
tion, the language originally spoken by the 
Prophet. The subject was raised to promi- 
nence by K. VoUers who in his Volkssprache 
und Schriftsprache im alten Arabien argued that 
the Qiir'an was first recited in colloquial 
Arabic lacking the case-endings, whereas 
the known text of the Qur'an was a result 
of the work of later philologists trying to 
purge the wording from all traces of dia- 
lect and to generate a text conforming to 
the rules of classical Arabic, the language 
used by the ancient poets. This view found 
some adherents (P. Kahle, G. Liiling) but 
was more often rejected (e.g. R. Geyer, Th. 
Noldeke, F. Schwally). Since then it has 
been largely agreed upon, following a 
number of further articles and discussions 
in monographs exploring the ramifications 



of this argument (e.g. R. Blachere [Histoire, 
i, 66-82], C. Rabin, J. Fiick [Arabiya]), tliat 
the original language of the Qtir'an, in 
accordance with what we find in the 
standard text, consists more or less of the 
so-called koine used in inter-tribal commu- 
nication and ancient poetry, with some 
traces of the Meccan dialect left in the 
pecidiarities of the qur'anic orthography 
(see orthography; dialects; Arabic 
language; orality and writing in 

Both the detailed study of the "mysteri- 
ous letters" as well as the quest for the orig- 
inal language of the Qiir'an clearly betray 
the language-oriented direction of much of 
modern research after the beginning of the 
twentieth century. The outcome of both 
fields of study may seem, especially if one 
considers the intellectual labor involved, 
rather disappointing: the "mysterious let- 
ters" have remained mysterious, though 
less unfamiliar, and the present linguistic 
form of the Qiir'an is widely accepted as 
being that from the time of its origin on- 
wards. Much more promising, therefore, 
proved the interest twentieth-century 
scholars took in the terms used in the 
Qur'an. Here a field of study was opened, 
yet not without having antecedents during 
the late nineteenth century, which offered 
the possibility of combining interest in lin- 
guistic features with a closer study of the 
message of the Qiir'an, as both are inevi- 
tably linked to each other in the semantic 
potential of single terms. Among the first 
writings in this field, preparing the way for 
further research in the twentieth century, 
were the Arabic-English glossary of the 
Qiir'an by J. Penrice [Dictionary, 1873) and 
the analysis of commercial terms used in 
the Qur'an and their relation to qur'anic 
theology by Ch. Torrey [Commercial' 
theological terms, 1892; see trade and 
commerce; theology and the cjur'an). 
The studies which then appeared in the 

first half of the twentieth century shifted 
their interest to the etymological back- 
ground of qur'anic key-terms, their con- 
nections to the use in earlier monotheist 
religions and the proper names found in 
the Qur'an. The most influential and 
stimulating writings in this regard are 
the relevant passages in J. Horovitz's 
Koranische Untersuchungen (1926), as well as 
A. Mingana's "Syriac influence" (1927), 
K. Ahrens's Christliches im Qoran (1930) and 
A. Jeffery's Foreign vocabulary (1938). 

Interestingly, the shift in the study of 
terms and concepts towards their possible 
origin in Jewish, Christian orjudaeo- 
Christian usage reflects the growth of an 
area of study which might be said to be the 
true novelty of early twentieth-century 
scholarship on the Qur'an. Turning away 
from a purely language-centered approach 
or the attempt to understand the qur'anic 
message intrinsically on the sole basis of its 
textual constituents and stylistic phenom- 
ena, the qur'anic terms, narrations, legal 
prescriptions (see commandments; law 
AND THE C3Ur'an), elements of eschatology 
(q.v.) and theology were now increasingly 
compared to, and set into relation with, 
corresponding items in the Jewish and 
Christian traditions. Although the problem 
of the exact relationship of emergent 
Islam and its Prophet with Judaism and 
Christianity had already been raised by A. 
Geiger (Was hat Mohammed) , A. Sprenger 
(Mohammad's Zusammenkunft), and Th. 
Noldeke (Hatte Muhammad christliche 
Lehrer), no immediate attempt had been 
made to trace the tokens of Jewish and 
Christian influence on nascent Islam in the 
Qur'an. Beginning with Hirschfeld's 
Jiidische Elemente (1878) and Schapiro's (in- 
complete) Haggadische Elemente (1907), how- 
ever, this approach soon developed into a 
major area of study through the mono- 
graphs by W. Rudolph (1922), H. Speyer 
(1931), J. Walker (1931) and D. Sidersky 



(1933). More importantly still, the field of 
qur'anic studies at this point merged with 
the more generally-oriented and less 
Qiir'an-centered history of early Islam, a 
field in which two influential writings had 
appeared just at that time, namely R. Bell's 
The origin of Islam in its Christian environment 
(1926) and Gh. Torrey's The Jewish founda- 
tion of Islam (1933). 

Without exaggeration, the research into 
the supposedjewish or Christian roots of 
early Islam and hence of its scripture may 
be said to be the lasting heritage of early 
twentieth-century qur'anic studies, having 
had by far the most wide-reaching influ- 
ence until the present day. Although only 
few would today claim either that Islam 
came into being in a predominantly 
Christian environment or that its founda- 
tions are predominantly Jewish, the re- 
search carried out in order to support these 
assertions did indeed produce much evi- 
dence for the actual relationship between 
the monotheistic faiths. In addition, the 
studies generated during the first decades 
of the twentieth century drew attention to 
the great amoimt of biblical lore which we 
find in the Qiir'an and sharpened our view 
of how biblical and apocryphal material is 
adapted and presented in the Qiir'an. With 
much-reduced claims as to the origin of 
Islam and its scripture or its historical in- 
debtedness towards Judaism and 
Christianity, the study of the interrelated- 
ness of the three great monotheistic re- 
ligions and their scriptures has never 
stopped, producing many writings in the 
1950s (D. Masson,J. Henninger, J. Jomier, 
A. Katsh) and beyond (K. Cragg, M. Scale, 
U. Bonanate). This approach was accom- 
panied by research into the connection of 
the qur'anic message to Near Eastern 
realms of a more marginal nature 
(Qiimran, Samaritan Judaism) and to the 
pre-Islamic pagan Arab religion (see 

half of the twentieth century, a number of 
monographs were published concerning 
various biblical figures — such as Adam 
(see ADAM AND eve), Abraham (q.v.) and 
Mary (q.v.) and, above all, Jesus (q.v.) — as 
portrayed in the Qiir'an (M. Hayek, 
H. Michaud, G. Parrinder, H. Raisanen, 
N. Robinson [Christ in Islam], O. Schu- 
mann). The quest for the presence of 
Jewish and Christian elements in the 
Qiir'an is likely to continue in the time to 
come under the aegis of an increasingly 
active inter-confessional dialogue. 

Reviewing the field of Western qur'anic 
studies in the first half of the twentieth 
century, one will become aware of the fact 
that, with the notable exception of the 
aforementioned study of Jewish and 
Christian elements in the Qiir'an and the 
revised edition of UQ, no syntheses or all- 
encompassing monographs were produced. 
Rather, scholarship followed different 
tracks of research which either led to a 
great number of interconnected articles, as 
in the case of the mysterious letters or the 
quest for the original language of the 
Qiir'an, or to monographs dealing with a 
particular subject such as the study of the 
origin and etymology of qur'anic terms. In 
this vein, the first half of the twentieth 
century was chiefly a period of research 
into problems of limited range and of a 
fervent collection of data. Putting it some- 
what more positively, one could also say 
that in this time tools for further study 
were devised in a number of thematically 
defined fields which, however, all have their 
bearing on the whole. Another good exam- 
ple of this type of approach is A. Spitaler's 
Verszdhlung des Koran (1935). Therefore, dur- 
ing this period — despite the waging of 
two world wars in the geographic center of 
the academic study of the Qiir'an — time 
was not lost in modern qur'anic studies. 
The 1920s and 1930s can thus be 



considered a period of tlie most intense 
and prodigious research concerning the 
Qiir'an, although the majority of its results 
lay scattered in learned journals, academy 
transactions, miscellanea and collections of 
studies. The true amount of what was 
achieved step by step in this period only 
became apparent in post-World War II 
scholarship, after a certain tendency 
towards the accumulation of the widely- 
dispersed material had set in among 
French and British scholars. 

Second half of the twentieth century 
This period is, at its beginning, distin- 
guished by the publication of three influ- 
ential general works dealing with the 
phenomenon of the Qiir'an as a whole, 
namely R. Blachere's introduction to the 
first edition of his translation (1947, in- 
dependently published in 1959), A. Jeffery's 
The Qur'dn as scripture (1952) and R. Bell's 
Introduction to the Qur'dn (1953, rev. ed. by 
W.M. Watt in 1970: Watt-Bell, Introduction). 
Thus there were now three comprehensive 
and up-to-date monographs available 
which, in many respects, brought together 
the manifold results of scholarship from 
the earlier half of the twentieth century. 
At the same time, the gist of gq became 
known to the non-German speaking world 
via these writings. For decades to come, the 
books by Bell, Blachere and Jeffery re- 
mained, together with the gq, the stand- 
ard reference texts for everybody involved 
in qur'anic studies. 

Curiously, but perhaps not surprisingly, 
the monographs by Blachere, Bell and 
Jeffery drew upon much of the earlier 
twentieth-century research and offer in 
many ways a synthesis of the previous 
achievements, yet at the same time their 
writings also mark the end of a still 
homogeneous tradition of scholarship. 
The hallmarks of that tradition were the 
importance of the philological approach 

and its relative independence, or isolation, 
from many other fields of related interest 
such as anthropology, religious studies, 
social studies and literary criticism. The 
biggest contribution to qur'anic studies had 
been made, up to that time, only by the 
iTiethods of biblical and theological studies. 
It is true that most of the fields like an- 
thropology and religious studies were 
newcomers to Western scholarship in the 
twentieth century and could not be 
expected to be immediately adopted or 
acknowledged by the modern study of the 
Qiir'an. Yet up to the present day. Islamic 
studies generally tends to lag behind the 
developments in fields of related interest, 
something which might, in part, be ex- 
cused by the fact that the rather impen- 
etrable and boundless mass of material of 
all sorts that confronts the scholars of 
Islam does not easily permit them to turn 
their attention towards cognate disciplines. 
As it is, however, the increasing influence 
of relevant disciplines and a steadily grow- 
ing array of new methods, perspectives 
and approaches has characterized the 
modern study of the Qiir'an since the 
second half of the twentieth century. 

Another novel feature of post-war 
qur'anic studies has been a new interest in 
the actual content of the qur'anic text and 
a changed understanding of how to elu- 
cidate the semantics of qur'anic terms and 
concepts. Both approaches disentangled 
themselves, to varying degrees, from simi- 
lar attempts that were made earlier in the 
twentieth century and showed their prov- 
enance to be the then dominant philologi- 
cal mode of research. As to the first point, 
i.e. the new examination of the contents of 
the Qur'an, one could refer to the writings 
of T O'Shaughnessy, whose studies of 
qur'anic theology appeared from 1948 
onwards. Similarly, a number of scholars 
set about examining the ethical doctrines 
of the Qur'an (M. Draz, S. al-Shamma, 



M.D. Rahbar, D. Bakker, I. Zilio-Grandi; 
see ETHii;s and the cjur'an), its eschatol- 
ogy (R. Eklund, S. El-Salih, T. O'Shaugh- 
nessy) or its iniierent anthropology 
(J. Bouman, T. Izutsu, J. Jomier, S. Wild). 
Others researched details of communal life 
and ritual (K. Wagtendonk) as present in 
the Qiir'an, albeit the first influential study 
of that kind appears to be R. Robert's 
Social laws of the Qur'dn (1927; see inter alia 
SOCIAL interactions; ritual and the 
q^ur'an; Ramadan; fasting). As to the 
second point, i.e. a changed understanding 
of the semantics of qur'anic terms and 
concepts, it is largely agreed upon that the 
pioneering works of T. Izutsu brought 
major progress in the field of semantic 
studies, especially as his approach takes up 
methods of modern linguistics. Izutsu aims 
at analyzing the meaning of terms in con- 
text and does not look for a meaning inher- 
ent in the terms themselves. In doing so, he 
superseded the earlier research carried out 
in the field of semantic studies, although 
Izutsu's method is only seemingly in direct 
opposition to the former philological 
method and its stress on etymology (cf. 
Rippin, Qur'an. Style and contents, xvi f). 

A third, particularly important novelty of 
twentieth-century qur'anic studies consists 
in the discovery of the general contextual- 
ity of the qur'anic wording, that is, the 
difficulty of drawing a line between the 
meaning of the text in itself — a concept 
now considered by many as erroneous in 
principle — and the creation of its mean- 
ing(s) in the process of interpretation and 
exegesis (see exegesis of the qur'an: 

TEMPORARY). The only meaning a text is 
considered to possess is thus the meaning 
which is accorded or ascribed to it in the 
process of actual reception and exegesis. 
From around the middle of the twentieth 
century, therefore, scholars in the field 

of qur'anic studies tended, hesitantly at 
first, to develop a contextual view of the 
Qiir'an. Consequently, less stress was laid 
on the intrinsic character of the text, the 
meaning of individual terms and the ques- 
tion of the origin of its material, as had 
been the case during the first half of the 
twentieth century. Rather, attention was 
devoted to the ways in which the Qiir'an 
was embedded in the wider realm of 
Islamic learning and the emergence of its 
meaning(s) from Islamic tradition and the 
endeavors of the exegetes. This increas- 
ingly led scholars to analyze the close ties 
between the Qiir'an and exegesis. Islamic 
tradition (see hadith and the our'an). 
Islamic theology and Arabic philological 
studies devoted to the terminology and 
vocabulary of the Qin"'an. This clearly 
signified a major step forward, with the 
result that many elements of the qur'anic 
wording were understood more thoroughly 
and in greater detail by making use of the 
vast quantity of Muslim scholarship deal- 
ing with all facets of the text (see tradi- 

The first immediate outcome of the 
change of perspective in the modern study 
of the Qiir'an towards its contextiiality and 
the significance of Muslim exegesis was the 
growing interest in qur'anic exegesis. This 
field, of prime importance as it always was 
in the culture of Islam, was up to the sec- 
ond half of the twentieth century almost 
wholly, and inexplicably, missing from the 
agenda of Western scholars, with the no- 
table exception of I. Goldziher's pioneer- 
ing Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung 
(1920) and some dispersed comments in 
the writings of early twentieth-century 
Orientalists. The concentrated and still 
ongoing effort, however, of a large number 
of scholars, especially after the work of 
J. Wansbrough (see below), has resulted in 
considerably more research being done 
in the vast field of Muslim exegesis than in 



the field of qur'anic studies proper. But as 
said before, it would by now be practically 
impossible to differentiate between the 
study of the Qiir'an and the study of its 
exegesis, both being so closely related as to 
permit no meaningfid separation between 
these two fields of research. On the con- 
trary, one coidd even argue that, in con- 
trast to the traditional self-perception of 
modern scholarship, the academic quest 
for the understanding of the Qur'an is in 
itself nothing but a further continuation of 
Muslim exegesis, which, to a certain ex- 
tent, uses different means and is stimidated 
by other guiding principles. The more that 
becomes known of Muslim exegesis, how- 
ever, the closer we are brought to admit 
that there is actually little of what modern 
qur'anic scholarship claims as its own 
achievement that was unknown before- 
hand or is original to the "modern post- 
enlightenment academic" approach. 

Recognizing the importance of Muslim 
exegesis for the modern study of the 
Qiir'an is also part of a larger discussion 
among scholars. This discussion revolves 
around the cjuestion of what role the 
Islamic scholarly tradition can, or shoidd, 
play in the study of the Qur'an and early 
Islam in general, one of the chief matters 
of debate in research of the last quarter of 
the twentieth century. From late nine- 
teenth-century and early twentieth-century 
scholarship, the modern study of the 
Qur'an inherited an approach that tended 
to set the Islamic tradition aside or use it 
only in closely circumscribed areas, such as 
reconstructing the historical context in 
which the revelation took place (see above). 
In contrast to that, later twentieth-century 
research has shown that in Islamic tradi- 
tion and learning, all fields are closely in- 
terrelated and that it might prove difficult, 
if not impossible, to single some of its parts 
out as valuable or historically reliable and 
others as irrelevant. Rather, as a matter of 

principle, there is no irrelevant or non- 
valuable notice which might not further 
our understanding of the whole. This is 
not to say that some parts of that tradition 
may not indeed be more valuable or his- 
torically accurate than others but, as most 
scholars would admit, we are lacking the 
necessary means to decide in the majority 
of cases whether this is true of a certain 
piece of tradition or not. 

The growing familiarity of Western 
scholars with the immense wealth of mate- 
rial stemming from the formative and clas- 
sical periods of Islam and pertaining more 
or less directly to the historical context of 
early Islam and the coming into being of 
the Qiir'an has also generated another 
important insight: namely, that only a 
small part of the available material, if col- 
lated and seen together with all relevant 
bits and pieces, seems to allow a single 
historical reconstruction which might be 
considered reasonably more certain than 
others. M. Cook [Early Muslim dogma, 155 f) 
has called this the "indefinite tolerance of 
the source-material for radically different 
historical interpretations," which is why we 
"know how to maintain rival theories; but 
we can do little to decide between them." 
The methodologies, however, which are 
capable of discerning the value, or ten- 
dency, of the source material have become 
more refined in the past years and the 
study of early Islamic tradition is a vivid 
topic in recent research. It is here that 
qur'anic studies has come into close con- 
tact with the study of the life of the 
Prophet and the history of his community. 
Given that the Qur'an as a historical docu- 
ment cannot be understood irrespective of 
the setting of its genesis, this merging of 
qur'anic studies with the quest for the evo- 
lution of early Islam is bound to remain an 
important element of future research. 

In some sense, the perceived need to con- 
front the qur'anic data with everything that 



is known from the Islamic tradition about 
tlie liistorical context of revelation in order 
to elucidate the significance and meaning 
of the Qur'an runs parallel to the urge to- 
wards incorporating data from the exegeti- 
cal tradition. For this latter trend aims at 
the elucidation of the Qiir'an's significance 
and meaning via the semantic universe 
created by the Muslim exegetes. Although 
the implications of the studies of J. Wans- 
brough, A. Rippin and U. Rubin have still 
to be worked out fully, their work shows 
that the exegetical tradition may eventu- 
ally prove vital for establishing the very 
textual history of the Qiir'an during the 
first decades of Islain and for understand- 
ing the origin of Islam itself. Both these 
developments — the turn towards tradition 
and towards Muslim exegesis — in the 
modern study of the Qiu''an are ultimately 
the result of the basic insight within later 
twentieth-century scholarship, that a non- 
contextual understanding of the Qiir'an 
will prove impossible and its attempt futile. 
One is obliged to add that the opposite 
attempt has been made — to clarify the 
material of Islamic tradition and its depic- 
tion of early Islam by starting with the 
qur'anic data and not vice versa, notably 
by R. Paret and W.M. Watt. Yet this has 
merely shown that the "historical" refer- 
ences contained in the Qiir'an and those 
which might tell us something about the 
context of its revelation are too limited and 
ambiguous in meaning to permit a large- 
scale use of the Qur'an for the reconstruc- 
tion of the setting and context of its 

Apart from the exegetical tradition and 
the source material concerning the life of 
the Prophet and the history of early Islam, 
later twentieth-century qur'anic studies 
also drew attention to the relations be- 
tween the Qiir'an and the fields of juris- 
prudence and legal theory (J. Burton, 
M. SchoUer). In this respect, it is hoped 

that the attitudes of early Muslim legal 
scholars towards the qur'anic text and the 
use they made of it may tell us something 
about the role of the Qur'an in early 
Islamic society and hence allow the forma- 
tion of an idea of the fiinction(s) it fulfilled 
in its original setting. This could also bear 
upon the problem of its presumed time 
and place of origin, a matter which has 
been put into question in twentieth-cen- 
tury scholarship (see below). In the same 
vein, the modern study of the Qiir'an in 
the second half of the twentieth century 
returned to the philological study of the 
Qiir'an, yet with more stress on the aspects 
of grammar and syntax and less on the 
semantic properties of the text (A. Ambros, 
M. Chouemi, CI. Gilliot [Les citations], 
E Leemhuis, W. Reuschel, R. Talmon, 
C. Versteegh; see grammar and the 
q^ur'an; language and style of the 
OUr'an; but cf. also the ground-breaking 
work of A. Neuwirth, who focuses less on a 
philological/atomistic approach than on 
philological analysis of individual suras 
as paralleling elements of monotheistic 
liturgy; cf form and structure of 
THE cjur'an; rhetoric and the 
q^ur'an); a computer-aided analysis of 
the entire text of the Qiir'an along mor- 
phological, grammatical and syntactical 
features is presently in preparation (cf. 
Edzard, Perspektiven, 350 f ; see (;ompu- 
TERS AND THE q^ur'an). Ill returning to 
the linguistic analysis of the qur'anic word- 
ing, a huge advance was made over the 
achievements of early twentieth-century 
scholarship. This is not only because the 
wealth of relevant Arabic literature now 
available compares so favorably with that 
of the earlier part of the twentieth century. 
Rather, it is chiefly because the vast Arabic 
grammatical and philological tradition, 
still largely unexplored and virtually inac- 
cessible to the non-specialist, has now be- 
come the object of serious scrutiny. This 



thread of research also serves as an impor- 
tant corrective to recent work which, under 
the weight of theoretical models, new 
approaches and methodological premises, 
carries the risk of losing touch with the 
linguistic side of the Qiir'an whose study 
is, after all, a basic requirement for its ad- 
equate understanding and interpretation. 

Unresolved proposals 
The last novelty of later twentieth-century 
qur'anic studies to mention is the publica- 
tion of some hypotheses regarding the 
origin of the Qiir'an which contest the 
Islamic tradition as well as the results of 
modern scholarship. The value of these 
hypotheses, some of which had a greater 
influence on the academic discussion than 
others, is still a matter of debate and is 
likely to remain so. Most scholars of Islam, 
however, presently concur that none of 
these hypotheses will eventually prove cor- 
rect. Yet it must be admitted that, to date, 
no large-scale refutation of any of them 
has been produced; nor can all the argu- 
ments put forward be dismissed very easily. 
The positive effect, in any case, of the pro- 
posed hypotheses has been one of resus- 
citating the modern study of the Qiir'an 
and stimulating increased efforts in that 
direction. The current state of affairs, 
perhaps even the very fact of this ency- 
clopedia, is the welcome result of this 

The first study to challenge the conven- 
tional view regarding the origin of the 
Qiir'an was published in 1974 by G. Liiling 
as a reworking and enlargement of his 
Ph.D. dissertation of 1970. He has since 
repeated and pursued his basic claims in a 
number of other studies. Put succinctly, he 
comes to the conclusion that the qur'anic 
text consists of different layers which were 
subjected to several redactions. The basic 
layer of the text, the so-called "two-sense 
layer," was originally of Christian prov- 

enance and hymnic in character, represent- 
ing the "Ur-Qur'an" and proclaiming the 
message of Muhammad's Judeo-Christian 
mission. It was then changed, in the pro- 
cesses of redaction, to conform to the later 
orthodox, post-prophetic Islamic views. 
Another layer, the so-called "one-sense 
layer," was of post-prophetic Islamic prov- 
enance from the outset and should serve to 
turn the meaning of the "two-sense layer" 
towards the later views by being inserted at 
appropriate places in the text. Much of 
what is proposed by Liiling is astute and 
based on broad learning. His general the- 
sis, however, remains unconvincing to most 
scholars primarily for two serious weak- 
nesses which neither Liiling nor anyone 
else is likely to remove in the future. 

First, Liiling's reconstruction requires the 
consequent assertion that the entire Islamic 
tradition pertaining to the history of early 
Islam is a gigantic fabrication created to 
cover up a different story. Given what we 
know and considering the enormous 
amount of preserved information, this 
assumption is most unlikely and strains 
credulity. The second drawback, equally 
decisive, derives from the fact that in his 
reconstruction of the text of the presumed 
"Ur-Qur'dn" Liiling not only changed, in 
many instances, the vocalization of the text 
but also its consonantal structure, its word 
sequence and entire words (something to 
which he resorted to an even greater extent 
in later writings). Although this was done 
with great ingenuity, the obvious risk in 
tampering with a text in order to fit a the- 
ory was carefully formulated by G.R. 
Hawting in his review of another of 
Liiling's books (rvw. of Die Wiederentdeckung 
des Propheten Muhammad, injss2'j [1982], 
III): "It seems to me that the argument is 
essentially circular and that since there is 
no way of controlling or checking the re- 
composed Ur-Qur'dn, there is a danger that 
it will be recomposed to suit one's own pre- 



conceptions about what one will find in it." 
In other words, anyone familiar with how 
easy it is to change the meaning of an 
Arabic consonantal text by systematically 
modifying vocalization and/or consonant 
markings will admit that this may open the 
gates of semantic hell, so to speak. Taken 
to extremes, one coidd as well replicate the 
Cairo phone-book as a Sufi chain of mysti- 
cal succession. Applying such textual mod- 
ification to the Qur'an can be done but, in 
the absence of supporting evidence from 
contemporary documents, it can neither be 
confirmed nor falsified. Therefore, the 
value of Liiling's hypothesis, whatever its 
merits in matters of detail, depends upon 
how much weight modern scholarship is 
willing to concede to conspiracy theories 
that do not admit of falsification. 

In 2000 a study was published with the 
title Die syro-aramdische Lesart des Koran. Ein 
Beitrag zur Entschlusselung der Koransprache, 
whose author writes under the pseudonym 
Ch. Luxenberg. Similar to Liiling's hypoth- 
esis but without recourse to his work, the 
meaning of many terms and passages of 
the Qur'an is here traced back to an origi- 
nal Syriac wording, in the process of which 
the original meaning of the respective 
qur'anic terms and passages, lost or sup- 
pressed in the Islamic tradition as we know 
it, is "rediscovered" (see syriac and the 
cjur'an). Although it seems too early to 
venture a decisive judgment upon this pub- 
lication which was accorded a methodi- 
cally rigorous review (cf. Gilliot, Langue et 
Coran, 381-93), it is clear that Luxenberg 's 
proposal suffers from the same weaknesses 
as does Liiling's account: the complete si- 
lence of the Islamic tradition with respect 
to his proposed origin of the Qiir'an and 
his resort to the modification of the con- 
sonantal text in both vocalization and con- 
sonant marking (for a positive appraisal of 
Luxenberg's thesis, see Gilliot, Langue et 
Coran; id., Le Coran. Fruit d'un travail 

coUectif?; cf. also van Reeth, L'evangile du 

With Liiling's 1974 study having re- 
mained largely unknown outside the 
German-speaking academic world, the 
major watershed in the modern study of 
the Qiir'an occurred in 1977 when three 
highly controversial monographs were 
published, namely J. Burton's Collection 
of the Qur'an, M. Cook's and P. Crone's 
Hagarism, and J. Wansbrough's Quranic stud- 
ies. These studies all present a novel read- 
ing and/or reconstruction of early Islam 
and the history of its scripture. For the 
study of the Qiir'an, Burton's and Wans- 
brough's monographs are of particular 
importance, especially as the conclusions 
reached by these two British scholars are 
diametrically opposed to each other. In 
Wansbrough's account we are told that the 
canonical form of the Qur'an, i.e. the text 
in its present form, was not established 
prior to the end of the second/eighth cen- 
tury and does not entirely go back to the 
time of the Prophet. From Burton's study, 
on the other hand, it can be inferred that 
the collection of the canonical text pre- 
dates the death of the Prophet and was 
known in this form ever since. Both claims, 
albeit entirely irreconcilable with each 
other, contradict the mainstream Islamic 
tradition which states that the canonical 
text of the Qur'an was eventually ratified 
only during the two decades following the 
death of the Prophet and up to the caliph- 
ate of 'Uthman (q.v; r. 23-35/644-56). 
Together with the strongly original theses 
of Hagarism which was published at the 
same time, the monographs by Burton 
and Wansbrough created the first major 
impetus to qur'anic studies in many 

An important difference between the 
accounts of Burton and Wansbrough and 
the aforementioned hypotheses of Liiling 
and Luxenberg lies in the fact that neither 



Burton nor Wansbrough set about modify- 
ing tlie qur'anic text. Ratlier, in tlie case 
of Burton it is precisely the fact tliat the 
Qiir'an contains some difficult and seem- 
ingly contradictory passages that are hard 
to understand which serves as argument 
against any later redaction (that easily 
coidd have done away with all such dif- 
ficulties; see abrogation; ambiguous; 
DIFFICULT passages). In the case of Wans- 
brough, the belief that the present text of 
the QjLir'an achieved canonical status dur- 
ing the first Islamic centuries is questioned, 
yet no attempt is made to question the 
accuracy of the transmitted text beyond 
the variant readings current in the Islamic 
tradition. A greater difficulty faced both 
Burton and Wansbrough with regard to the 
Islamic tradition concerning the origin of 
the Qiir'an, although Burton's hypothesis 
seems to be easier to reconcile with what 
the sources tell us than does Wansbrough 's. 
Nevertheless, both negate the historicity 
of much of the traditional material on 
Islamic origins and thus constitute variants 
of conspiracy theories. The early Islamic 
biographical literature, for example, is 
called by Wansbrough (gij 140) a "pseudo- 
historical projection." Yet, both Burton 
and Wansbrough make valid points, which 
cannot be side-stepped in research, and 
there is indeed some evidence in the 
Islamic tradition which supports their 
hypotheses. The general, somewhat para- 
doxical, effect upon many readers of their 
studies appears to be that much of what 
Burton and Wansbrough present in order 
to reach their respective conclusions is 
admitted by most to be sound and impor- 
tant for the course of future scholarship, 
yet their conclusions are not. 

J. Wansbrough 's hypothesis, being more 
contentious and radical, has received more 
attention from the scholarly community 
than Burton's proposal. The consensus 
reached after an initial analysis of Wans- 

brough 's study praised his method and his 
recourse to typology and criteria of bibli- 
cal and literary criticism. His conclusions 
about the origin of the Qiir'an were, how- 
ever, received with great skepticism or out- 
right denial. Few were convinced that the 
generation of the Qiir'an was protracted 
until the end of the second/eighth century. 
Indeed, especially considering the evidence 
of qur'anic epigraphy from the first two 
centuries of Islam (see epigraphy and 
THE qur'an; archaeology and the 
q^ur'an; art and architecture and the 
(jur'an), it is hard to see how the history of 
early Islam could have evolved if its scrip- 
ture was still in the making and the prod- 
uct of a gradual evolution. His inability to 
offer an alternative scenario is a weakness 
of Wansbrough's hypothesis (cf. rvw. of os 
by A. Neuwirth, in WI 23-4 [1984] , 540 f ) 
and in his second treatise — which further 
expounds his basic proposal — Wans- 
brough explicitly denies any attempt at 
historical reconstruction: "My purpose... 
is not historical reconstruction, but rather, 
source analysis" {Sectarian milieu, ix). For the 
understanding of the Qiir'an, however, 
Wansbrough's hypothesis signifies that the 
text in its present form cannot be traced 
back to the Prophet or to any single in- 
dividual. Rather, in this view, the Qiir'an 
consists of the redaction and collection of 
material ("logia"), dealing with Islamic 
"salvation history" (see salvation; 
HISTORY and the qur'an) that was first 
generated in various sectarian communi- 
ties, and finally accorded canonical status 
as an authoritative text. Passages or logia 
which were not included in that canon re- 
mained part of the various fields of the 
Islamic tradition, chiefiy prophetic biog- 
raphy (sTra), hadith and commentary 
(tafsir). Wansbrough maintains that, with 
virtually no evidence about the details of 
the presumed redaction and collection at 
our disposal, every attempt at trying to 



establish a chronology of the individual 
parts of the qur'anic text, or at recon- 
structing the Formgeschichte of the Qur'an, is 
impossible in principle; the actual origins 
of the qur'anic data must remain un- 
known. The stylistic features and the liter- 
ary form of the qur'anic text itself are of 
no help in determining its date of origin 
and its authenticity (cf. Wansbrough, Qs, 
147). Finally, with the Qur'an offering al- 
most no material useful for historical pur- 
poses, the chronological framework known 
from the Islamic tradition appears merely 
as an historical order "introduced into 
what was essentially literary chaos" 
(Wansbrough, QS, 177). 

Notwithstanding the controversial valid- 
ity of Wansbrough's overall thesis concern- 
ing the genesis of the Qiir'an as scripture 
and its evolution in time, his treatise 
opened up many ways of research for the 
first time which then heavily influenced 
the ensuing efforts of scholarship. He was 
the first to use the exegetical commentaries 
of the second/eighth century systemati- 
cally and to conceive of a typology and 
terminology in order to better understand 
what the early Muslim exegetes were actu- 
ally doing. Or put differently, he pushed 
the contextual approach to the Qiir'an to 
its limits, making the notion of "the 
Qtir'an" as a body of texts which can be 
interpreted and analyzed within the tra- 
ditional paths of "historical criticism," 
almost meaningless. A. Rippin, who in a 
number of articles defended the merits of 
Wansbrough's approach, rightly observed 
of Wansbrough's work that "the theories 
proffered about the origins of the Qtir'an 
have tended to overshadow the others" (id.. 
Methodological notes, 39), resulting in an 
ultimate misconception of his approach 
and the dismissal of his method and its 
achievements for the sake of denying the 
validity of his overall conclusion. Indeed, 
it might be supposed, and there is some 

rumor to that effect among conteinporary 
scholars of early Islam, that Wansbrough's 
hypothesis of a cumulative creation of the 
Qur'an and its gradual evolution into 
scripture in a sectarian setting of broadly 
Near Eastern monotheistic stamp might 
still be safeguarded if the period of the 
Qur'an's origin is no longer placed in the 
first Islamic centuries but ante-dated to the 
time prior to the Prophet's mission (see 
hanif). It then woidd also become compat- 
ible with Burton's well-argued hypothesis 
that the Qur'an had already reached its 
present form and structure in the time of 
the Prophet. To clarify this issue will be a 
major challenge for the modern study of 
the Qur'an in the years to come. In doing 
so, it will be imperative to work with all the 
literary soiu'ces at one's disposal, yet at the 
same time avoid the temptation of creating 
new texts out of those presently known in 
order to fit one's own theories. 

Prospects of further research 
Many of the aforementioned research 
trends as they developed in the second half 
of the twentieth century will undoubtedly 
determine the further course of the study 
of the Qur'an in the foreseeable future. 
The seminal works of Burton and, above 
all, Wansbrough are especially likely to 
exert ever more infiuence upon qur'anic 
studies and the methods used therein. The 
contextual approach towards the Qur'an, 
placing its study in close connection to the 
study of the various related fields of 
Islamic learning (Tradition, exegesis, law, 
grammar), will probably continue to domi- 
nate most academic efforts. There is still 
much optiinism and vigor in qur'anic stud- 
ies, and justly so. Illustrative of this is the 
fact that 1999 witnessed the publication, 
after some 150 years of modern Western 
scholarship on the Qur'an, of the first vol- 
ume of the first periodical devoted exclu- 
sively to qur'anic matters, Journal of qur'anic 



studies; it is noteworthy that in the editorial 
of its first issue, tlie field of qur'anic studies 
is called, albeit somewhat disrespectfully 
towards the achievements of the past, "an 
evolving discipline." 

Apart from the trends inherited from late 
twentieth-century scholarship, however, 
there are a number of areas in qur'anic 
studies whose importance has not yet been 
fully recognized and whose status remains 
unsatisfactory in the wider realm of the 
modern study of the Qiir'an. Mention 
could be made here of the obvious con- 
nections of the Qiir'an and the origin of 
Islam to the pre-Islamic, Arab pagan world 
and the ties with the non-monotheistic 
population of south Arabia (see SOUTH 
though some important work has been 
done in this field (M. Bravmann, R.B. 
Serjeant, S. Noja, G.R. Hawting), it seems 
that not everything of relevance has yet 
come to light. There is still, one is led to 
think by the available evidence in Islamic 
tradition, a slight overstating of the influ- 
ence of monotheistic religions on the for- 
mation of the Qi_ir'an and early Islam and 
a possible underestimation of the impact of 
the indigenous, non-monotheistic Arabic 
culture. This, of course, is partly inherited 
from the quest for the origins of Islam as 
conducted in the first half of the twentieth 
century, but also stems in part from the 
weight accorded to the monotheistic 
background in the more recent works of 
J. Wansbrough, A. Rippin and others. At 
any rate, archaeological fieldwork and the 
data of epigraphy, not yet fully exploited in 
qur'anic studies, does yield some distinctive 
evidence about the impact of the Arab 
pagan culture upon early Islam. Another 
field to stimulate research in this direction, 
also until now insufficiently explored, is the 
study of Muslim eschatology and the rich 
imagery pertaining to the nether world 
as known from the Qiir'an and early tra- 

dition. Here, many elements lead the 
observer towards Arab pagan notions and 
even to concepts current in ancient Egypt, 
yet away from the patterns of thought nor- 
mally considered to be part of the mono- 
theistic groups of the Near East in early 
Islamic times (cf paradise; garden; hell 


The last, but not the least, area of 
qur'anic studies which possesses consider- 
able potential for further research is the 
role and place of the Qiir'an in Islam as 
a token of piety, symbol of faith and 
liturgical document. Little work has been 
done so far on the art of qur'anic recita- 
tion (K. Nelson; cf. Sells, Approaching; see 

LIFE, THE ^ur'an in; orality) and the 
related field of Islamic learning as a sub- 
ject of study in its own right (see teaching 
AND preai;hing the q^ur'an). The pio- 
neering study of the recited Qiir'an seen as 
a "phonetic phenomenon" in its various 
religious and liturgical uses is, for the time 
being, N. Kermani's Gott ist schSn. Das ds- 
thetische Erleben des Koran (1999; the work of 
A. Neuwirth has also contributed to the 
understanding of the Qiir'an as a liturgical 
document; cf rhetoric and the C)UR'an; 


addition, the role of the qur'anic text in 
calligraphy (q.v.; see also manuscripts of 
THE qur'an) and epigraphy (above all in 
inscriptions on buildings and tombstones) 
has never been researched systematically 
nor has the presence of qur'anic terms and 
allusions in Arabic poetry and language 
(see LITERATURE AND THE cjur'an), in par- 
ticular in Arabic phraseology and daily 
speech, received proper attention (cf. 
Piamenta, Islam in everyday Arabic speech; see 
CULTURE AND THE q^ur'an; for some dis- 
cussion of the impact of the Qur'an on 
non-Arabic Islamic literature, see AFRICAN 
literature; Persian literature and 




LITERATURE AND THE ()Ur'an). The degree 
to which the culture of Islam is being per- 
vaded by the wording of its scripture is 
remarkable and sets it apart from most 
other comparable systems of high culture. 
The more remarkable, then, that this 
realization has yet to enter the agenda of 
Western qur'anic studies. It is hoped that 
this hitherto neglected area of research 
within qur'anic studies, as a part of the 
wider phenomenology of Islamic culture 
and religion, will be developed more 
quickly in the future than it has been in 
the past. 

Marco Scholler 

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Method and theory in the study of religion 9 (1997), 
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eye of the beholder. The life of Muhammad as viewed by 
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antiquity and early Islam, 5], Princeton, NJ 1995; 
id.. The great pilgrimage of Muhammad. Some 
notes on sura IX, in jss 27 (1982), 241-60; id., 
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Korans von Judentum und Christentum, Stuttgart 1922; 
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S. al-Shamnia, The ethical system underlying the 
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im Koran, Miinster 2001; id.. Text; I. Zilio-Grandi, 
// Corano e il male, Milan 2002; H. Zirker, Der 
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Potter see clay; creation 

Poverty and the Poor 

The quality or state of being indigent and, 
often, in need of material assistance in 
order to survive; those who are indigent. 
While modern discussion has concentrated 
on qiir'anic almsgiving (q.v.) and its vol- 
untary or involuntary character (see biblio- 
graphy below), the broader themes of 
poverty and the poor reveal the image of a 
community of believers bound together in 
a network of generosity and benefaction 


Feeding the poor (lit. "hungry"; see 
famine) is a trait of the "companions of 
the right hand" (q 90:13-18; see left hand 
AND RIGHT hand) and of the righteous 
who "give food, though it be dear to them" 
(o 76:8). Prescribed for the pilgrimage 
sacrifice (c) 22:28; see pilgrimage; 
sacrifice), feeding the poor is also a way 
to expiate sins (q 5:89, 95; 58:4; see sin, 
major and minor; repentance and 
penance). Medieval lexicography and 
modern philology have both connected 
zakdt with "purification" (z-k-y); and 
purification (see ritual purity; clean- 
liness AND ablution) similarly figures in 
the qur'anic requirement for alms (q 9:103, 
here sadaqa). But not only must goods be 
purified, they must circidate, vertically and 
downwards (cf. esp. q 59:7)- At q 30:39, ribd 
(lit. "usury" [q.v.]) refers to some kind of 
bad circulation, contrasted with a good 
kind called z^kdt. The exegetes identified 
ribd here as a gift given in the hope of 
receiving a greater gift in return, a practice 
of Arabia before Islam (Ibrahim al-Nakha'l 
in TabarT, Tafsir, ad. loc; cf. Qtirtubi, 
JdmV, xiv, 36-9 on the ambiguity here 
between the vocabularies of sale and gift; 
see trade and commerce; gift-giving). 

The Qiir'an lists the recipients of various 
benefactions, including alms (q 9:60, 



sadaqdt); distribution of spoils (q 8:41; see 
booty); presents made at tlie division of 
an inheritance (q.v.; o 4:8); and generosity 
tout court {q_ 4:36, ihsdn; C3 2:215, khajr). Most 
of tlie recipients named in tliese lists are, in 
effect, types of poor, including orplians 
(q.v.), sojourners (see joxjrney), prisoners 
(q.v.), slaves (see slaves and slavery), 
debtors (see debt) and (aspiring) warriors 
(see fighting; war; expeditions and 
battles). The most frequently recurring 
categories, however, are kin {dhu l-qurbd; see 
kinship), the poor (al-miskln) and the 
wayfarer (ibn al-sabil). This triad constitutes 
a spectrum of persons who are known and 
those who are unknown, with the poor 
(miskm) as the ambiguous case. By contrast, 
faqir /fuqard' [^^'poor, destitute") can refer to 
the neediness of the human condition, 
contrasted with God's self-sufficiency 
fe 47'3S)> ^'^'^ to humanity's need for God 
fe 35-I5)- Elsewhere, t\\e fuqard' axe at the 
center of the commimity [al-fuqard' al- 
muhdjinn, (3 59:8; see Decobert, Le mendiant, 
on t\\e fuqard' a,^ the "inner" and the masd- 
kin as the "outer" poor; see polysemy). 
Finally, they are deemed the meritorious 
poor who, because they do not reveal their 
condition, are worthy recipients of charity 

(a 2:271, 273). 

In pre-Islamic Arabia there was a belief 
that the owner of surplus property (q.v.) 
must give all or part of it away (Bravmann, 
The surplus; id.. Spiritual background; see 
the Qur'an, fadl, usually understood as 
"grace" (q.v.; see also blessing), sometimes 
retains this sense of surplus wealth (q.v; 
e.g. Q_ 9:28; 24:22; 62:9-10). Where it does, 
we find exhortations to reciprocate the 
divine fadl through human generosity. 
This occurs in the one place where an 
individual — usually understood as 
Muhammad himself — is addressed as 
"poor" ['d'ilan, q 93:8). 

Radical conclusions have been drawn 

froin the qin"'anic teachings on poverty. It is 
the hadlth (see hadith and the qur'an) 
and the legal literature (see law and the 
cjur'an) which introduce the notion of a 
core of wealth which one may not give 
away. Moreover, the qur'anic haqq, "claim, 
right, duty," seems, when it comes to dona- 
tions, to inhere in the object given. So the 
community of believers consists of "Those 
upon whose wealth there is a recognized 
right (haqq malum) for the beggar and the 
deprived" [ci 70:24-5; cf 51:19). Poverty 
and the poor appear intermittently in the 
"biography of the Prophet" literature (stra; 
see SIRA and the q^ur'an) and that on the 
military exploits of the early Muslims 
(maghdzi; see expeditions and battles), 
especially regarding the earliest com- 
munity at Mecca (q.v.) and the military 
expeditions at the end of Muhammad's 
life, when individuals provided arms, 
mounts and supplies to those who lacked 
the means to join the fight. Emphasis is 
placed on these themes in some modern 
discussions of earliest Islam (i.e. Watt, 
Muhammad at Mecca and Muhammad at 
Medina, and Ibrahim, Merchant capital). 
Finally, it shoidd be added that Islam arose 
at a time when, as Brown (Poverty and leader- 
ship) has now shown, poverty had a new 
significance for the urban. Christian 
Mediterranean and Near East (see 
christians and c:hristianity; city; 
religious pluralism and the ^ur'an; 
asceticism; monasticism and monks). 

Michael Bonner 

Primary: QiirtubT, J^amr; TabarT, TafsJr. 
Secondary: S. Bashear, On the origins and 
development of the meaning of zc^kdt in early 
Islam, in Arabica 40 (1993), 84-113; M. Bonner, 
Definitions of poverty and the rise of the 
Muslim urban poor, in JJiAS [ser. 3] 6/3 (1996), 
335-44; M.M. Bravmann, The spiritual background 
of early Islam, Leiden 1972, 229-53; ^^-j The 



surplus of property. An early Arab social con- 
cept, in Der Islam 38 {1962), 28-50; P. Brown, 
Poverty and leadership in the Idler Roman empire, 
Hanover 2002; C. Decobert, Le mendiant et le 
combattant. L'institution de rislam, Paris 1991; 
M. Ibrahim, Merchant capital and Islam, Austin, 
TX 1990; J. Schacht, Zakat, in El', iv, 1202-5; 
W.M. Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford 
1953; id., Muhammad at Medina, Oxford 
1956; T.H. Weir/A. Zysow, Sadaka, in El", 
\'iii, 708-16. 

Power and Impotence 

Ability to act or the possession of control- 
ling influence over others; the lack of 
either of these capacities. In the Qiir'an, 
the notion of power revolves around two 
principal foci: (a) the possession of control, 
authority and influence over others; (b) the 
capacity to act, to create, to destroy, to 
fight, to win and to impose one's will. The 
lack of these qualities results in impotence. 
These various connotations of the English 
word "power" are conveyed in the Qiir'an 
and qur'anic commentaries by such Arabic 
terms as sultan, mulk, qahr, 'izz^i, nufidh, 
quwvua, ghalaba, istitd 'a, tdqa, ba's, and a. iew 
others (cf. Damaghani, Wujuh, i, 412-6 for 
sultan.; ii, 206 for mulk; ii, 64-5 for 'izza; ii, 
161-2 for quwwa; ii, gg {or ghalaba; i, 101-2 
for istitd'a and tdqa; i, 171 for ba's). For those 
that fall under rubric (a), i.e. the possession 
of authority over others, see the article 
AUTHORITY. The present entry will focus 
primarily on meanings covered under 
rubric (b) as listed above. 

In the qur'anic text, the ability to give 
and take life (q.v.; see also death and the 
dead), to exert power and control over 
nature (see nature as signs; creation) 
and human beings, to vanquish one's 
enemy (see enemies; victory) and to 
impose one's will on others is attributed 
primarily to God. As the ultimate wielder 
of power, he can delegate this ability to 
those of his creatures whom he chooses, 
especially to prophets and kings (see 


rulers). The enemies of the qur'anic 
prophets are routinely humbled and 
destroyed by God, who unleashes against 
them the destructive powers of nature (see 
punishment stories). The prophets, on 
the other hand, are miraculously protected 
by God's superior power against the rage 
of their adversaries, be they individuals or 
entire tribes (see e.g. Abraham; moses; 
hud; salih, etc.). God can "empower" or 
"enable" ('azz^Z^i, a'azza, makkana) certain 
nations, rulers and kings as a reward for 
their righteousness (q 3:26; 7:10; 12:21; 
16:6; 36:13; 46:26, etc.; see reward and 
punishment; chastisement and punish- 
ment). Thus, God gave Alexander the 
Great "power in the earth and bestowed 
upon him a way of access to every thing" 
(c3 18:84; see Alexander). Alexander then 
used this power to construct a rampart of 
iron and brass to protect an oppressed 
people from the depredations of Gog and 
Magog (q.v.). Likewise, God granted 
Solomon (q.v.) power over natural forces 
and the evil ones [shaydtin; see devil) in 
order to elevate him above the other 
worldly rulers of his age (cf. q_ 38:34-40). 
God's bestowal of power on certain rulers, 
however, may infuse them with false pride 
(q.v.) and arrogance (q.v.) and eventually 
lead them to destruction (see e.g. Pharaoh; 
korah; haman). Therefore, the Qiir'an 
repeatedly emphasizes that whatever 
power these individuals may have pos- 
sessed was always derivative, ephemeral 
and subject to withdrawal without notice, 
as demonstrated by the story of Moses and 
Pharaoh (c) 2:50; 7:135-6). 

In and of themselves, rulers and kings 
have no power whatsoever. As in the Jew- 
ish and Christian exegetical traditions, 
impotence is a distinguishing feature of the 
human race, especially those among its 
representatives who seek to arrogate the 
rights that belong to God alone, such as 



Pharaoh, Niinrod (q.v.), Gohath (q.v.), and 
so on. When Nimrod claimed the power to 
give life by copulating with his concubines 
(q.v.), and to take it away by executing his 
subjects (see murder), Abraham chal- 
lenged him to bring the sun (q.v.) from the 
west and "the unbeliever was confounded" 
(5) 2:258). Likewise, when Pharaoh, in his 
inordinate arrogance and vain pride at- 
tempted to weaken and denigrate the 
Children of Israel (q.v.), God empowered 
them (numakkin lahumji l-ard) by giving 
their leader, Moses, the ability to upset 
Pharaoh's cruel designs (q^ 28:3-6). 

God and his messengers will always tri- 
umph over their misguided opponents, for 
"Surely, God is all-strong, all-mighty" 
{q_ 58:21) and there is "nothing in the heav- 
ens (see HEAVEN AND sky) Or the earth 
(q.v.) that he is incapable of doing" [ma 
kana lldhu liyujizahu min shay 'in, o 35:44). In 
addition to God's singular capacity to pun- 
ish, test and protect his creatures, he alone 
has the power to provide them with the 
right guidance (see astray; error). 
Neither humans nor jinn (q.v.), even if they 
were to join forces, are capable of produc- 
ing "the like of this Qiir'an" ((j 17:88), 
which God revealed through his Prophet 
(see inimitability; provocation; 
language and style of the ^ur'an). At 
the same time, God's prophets are impo- 
tent, like their fellow human beings, unless 
God decides to empower them. For ex- 
ample, in c) 19:8 Zechariah (q.v.) bemoans 
his decrepitude and consequent inability to 
produce a child (cf. also c) 42:49-50, in 
which God's absolute sovereignty over 
earthly existence is expressed in his ability 
to give male and female children [cj.v.] to 
whom he pleases, while rendering other 
people barren). The idea of God's absolute 
power over the destinies of his human 
servants is brought into sharp relief in 
Q. 30-54- "God [is he who] has created you 
of weakness, then after weakness has 

appointed strength, then after strength 
appointed weakness and gray hairs; he cre- 
ates what he wills, he is the one who wills 
and has power" (see the commentary of 
al-ShawkanI, Tafsir, iv, 230-2; see biology 

AS THE creation AND STAGES OF LIFe). In 

c) 3:26-7 we find an illuminating summary 
of the various manifestations of divine 
omnipotence: "You give the power to 
whom you will, and withdraw the power 
from whom you will; you exalt whom 
you will and abase whom you will (see 
OPPRESSED ON EARTH, the); vcrily you 
have power over all things. You cause the 
night to interpenetrate the day, and the day 
to interpenetrate the night (see day and 
night); you bring forth the living from the 
dead and the dead from the living; you 
provide for whom you will without reckon- 
ing (see grace; blessing)." Here, as in 
many other passages of the Qiir'an (e.g. 
Q, 67:1-3, 15-6, 21, 23; 86:5-12, etc.), God's 
ability to bestow life and take it away at 
will is often mentioned alongside his capac- 
ity to create natural objects and phenom- 
ena for the benefit of humankind. Thus, 
he makes the crops grow and winds (see 
AIR AND wind) blow; he has studded the 
firmament with stars (see PLANETS and 
stars) to guide travelers (see journey); he 
has subdued the sea and made it a source 
of sustenance (q.v.) and finery for men and 
women (see metals and minerals); he has 
created domestic animals which serve 
human beings as nourishment (see food 
and drink; hides and fleece) and means 
of transportation, etc. God's capacity as 
creator of the universe, giver of life, sus- 
tainer of human beings, and eventually 
their judge (see last judgment; justice 
AND injustice) is used throughout the 
Qur'an as an argument against the pagan 
opponents of the Prophet (see polytheism 
and atheism; opposition to muhammad): 
"Have they not considered that God, who 
created the heavens and earth without 



being exhausted by the creation of them, 
has [the] power to bring the dead to life? 
Yea, verily over everything he has power" 

(a 46:33)- 

As one of God's critical attributes (see 
GOD AND HIS ATTRIBUTES), which is re- 
flected in such divine epithets as "the pow- 
erful" [al-qawT, cf. Gimaret, Moms divins, 
237-8), "the overpowering" {al-qahhdr, cf. 
Gimaret, Moms divins, 241-2), "the domina- 
tor" [al-ghdlib, cf. Gimaret, Noms divins, 
242-3), "the [all-] mighty" ial-qddir, cf 
Gimaret, J\'oms divins, 235-7), "the great" 
[al-'aziz, cf. Gimaret, J\oms divins, 243-6), 
etc., power has loomed large in Muslim 
exegetical tradition since its inception (see 
medieval). References to God's exclusive 
ability to grant power (al-mulk) to whom- 
ever he wishes (q 3:26) were construed by 
some Muslim exegetes as a prediction of 
the later Muslim conquest of the 
Byzantine and Sasanian empires (see e.g. 
Tabarl, Tafsir, iii, 222; TabarsI, Majnia', iii, 
50-1; Qurtuhi, Jdmi', iii, 52; cf. Ibn Kathir, 
Tafsir, iii, 42; see politics and the 
quR'AN; Byzantines). In elaborating on 
this verse, some modern Muslim com- 
mentators — for instance, Muhammad 
al-Sha'rawI (d. 1998), former minister of 
Pious Endowments of the Republic of 
Egypt — pointed out that unjust and des- 
potic rulers (see oppression) were delib- 
erately appointed by God to punish a given 
Muslim community for abandoning the 
principles of "true Islam," as well as the 
inability of its scholars (see scholar; 
knowledge and learning) to provide 
proper guidance to their followers 
(Sha'rawl, Tafsir, xvii, 1404, 1418). Accord- 
ing to al-Sha'rawI, God's absolute and 
unrestricted power to provide for whom- 
soever he wills "without reckoning" 
(c3 3:27), explains why certain Arab nations 
were blessed with oil riches, even though 

they may not have deserved them due to 
their indolence (ibid., 1418). Such inter- 
pretations are readily embraced by certain 
Islamic parties and movements, which 
advocate the removal of some contem- 
porary Middle Eastern regimes as morally 
"corrupt" and, therefore, religiously 

In the classical exegetical tradition, 
c) 3:26 was sometimes used as an occasion 
to debunk the Christian doctrine of the 
divinity of Jesus (q.v). Thus, according to 
al-Tabarl (d. 310/923), while God indeed 
empowered Jesus to perform certain 
miraculous deeds, like raising people from 
the dead (see miracles), healing various 
diseases, breathing life into clay birds and 
predicting future events, he nevertheless 
withheld from him such a uniquely divine 
prerogative as the absolute and unre- 
stricted power over the created world, 
including both its sustenance and the natu- 
ral phenomena therein, e.g. the ability to 
change night into day and vice versa 
(Tabarl, Tafsir, iii, 227). In a similar vein, 
al-SuyutI (d. 911/1505; Durr, vi, 531) used 
q 31:34 to vindicate God's exclusive ability 
to know things that are concealed from all 
his creatures (see hidden and the hid- 
den), including the prophets, namely, the 
day and time of the resurrection (q.v.) and 
final judgment; the ability to foresee the 
falling of rain, to divine the contents of 
the womb and to predict the destiny of 
the human fetus as well as its final resting 
place (see foretelling; divination; 
portents). See also freedom and 
predestination; fate. 

Alexander D. Knysh 

Primary: DamaghanT, IVujuh, ed. al-Zafitl; Ibn 
Kathir, Tafsir, ed. Mustafa Sayyid Muhammad 
et al., 15 vols., Cairo 2000; Qurtuhi, Jdmi\ Beirut 



1965-7; M. al-Sha'rawT, Tafsfr al-Sha'rdzm, 40 
vols., Cairo 1991-3; ShawkanT, TafsiT; Beirut 1973; 
Suyuti, Z)Mn; 8 vols., Beirut 1982; TabarT, Tajsu; 
ed. 'All; TabarsT, Majma\ Beirut 1961. 
Secondary: M. Barnes, The power of God, Wash- 
ington, DC 2001 (for some illuminating parallels 
with tlie Jewish and Christian notions of divine/ 
human power); G.J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren 
i&d?,.), Theological dictionary of the Old Testament, 
trans. J. T. Willis, 11 vols.. Grand Rapids, MI 
1974-2001 (s.v. "'.^^"and ''mik"); T.J. de Boer/ 
R. Arnaldez, Kuwwa, in EI^, v, 576; T. Dozeman, 
God at war, Oxford 1996; D. Gimaret, Les noms 
divins en Islam, Paris 1988, 236-51 ("Tout- 
Puissant"); P. Grabe, The power of God in Paul's 
letters, Tiibingen 2000; R. Kearsley, Tertullian's 
theology of divine power, Carlisle 1998; A. Miller, 
Power, in er, xi, 467-76. 


To express approbation of, or to glorify 
(especially God); also, to magnify, as in 
song. A number of qur'anic lexemes con- 
vey tliis concept, but with varying nuances; 
derivatives of the following triliteral roots 
are the most prominent qur'anic terms 
connoting "praise": h-m-d, sh-k-r, s-b-h, 
'-w-b — although, generally, sh-k-r denotes 
thanking or thankfulness, and s-b-h, glo- 
rification or exaltation, rather than 
"praise" proper. Occasionally, however, the 
second verbal form of s-b-h is used in con- 
junction with the verbal noun, hamd, a 
combination that may be rendered in 
English as "to proclaim praise" — i.e. 
q 2:30; 40:7. With the exception of sh-k-r, 
God is never the active agent: i.e. God is 
the object of praise, rather than the one 
praising. For example, God is the "all- 
thankful," shakur (q 35:30 or also shdkir, 
Q^ 2:158) — but the "all-laudable," hamid 
(d '1-73) but cf. Gimaret, jV'o;nj, 351-3 and 
222-3 f°'' '^ range of the classical exegetes' 
understandings of these divine names; see 
s-b-h have been dealt with elsewhere (see 


GLORIFICATION OF GOD, respectively), the 
following discussion shall focus on deriva- 
tives of h-m-d and the hapax legomenon, 
awwiba (q 34:10; for the name of the 
qur'anic Prophet, which is derived from 
h-m-d, see names of the prophet). 

In the Qtir'an, praise is closely related to 
other proper human responses to God, 
such as gratitude and glorification. God is 
the only one worthy of praise (hamd), being 
the lord (q.v.) of the worlds/all existence 
(^abb al-'cdamm, C3 39:75) and of the heavens 
(see HEAVEN AND sky) and the earth (c[.v.; 
Q. 45-36; cf. 3:188, wherein people who 
want to be praised for things they have not 
done are promised a painful doom; see 

hellfire; cf. Bravmann, Spiritual back- 
ground, 1 16-9, for a discussion of the at- 
tribution of hamd to human heroes in early 
Arabic literature; see pre-islamic Arabia 
AND THE q^ur'an). He is the originator 
(Jdtir) of the heavens and earth who uses 
angels as his messengers ((J 35:1; see 
messenger; angel; creation; 
cosmology), and who has not taken a son 
(c5 17:111; see polytheism and atheism). 
He has revealed the book (q.v; i.e. the 
Qrir'an to Muhammad; q 18:1; see 
revelation and inspiration), kept his 
promise and bequeathed the earth to 
humankind (q 39:74; see covenant). 
He saved Noah's (q.v.) people from those 
who would oppress them (q 23:28; see 
oppression), he preferred David (q.v.) and 
Solomon (q.v.) over many of his believing 
servants (q 27:15), and he takes grief away 
from those in paradise (q.v; q 35:34; see 
also JOY AND misery). God should be 
praised evening (q.v.) and day (q 40:55; 
30:17; see DAY, TIMES of; noon; dawn), 
and "when you arise" (q 52:48). He is 
praised both in the heavens and on the 
earth (q 30:18) and in the hereafter (q 34:1; 
see eschatology). 



C3 g:ii2 includes "those who praise 
[God]" (al-hdmidun) in a list of descriptors 
put in apposition to the believers to whom 
the good news (q.v.) is to be announced. 
Also in this list are "the repentant" [al- 
td'ibun; see repentance and penance), 
"the worshippers" (see worship), "those 
who fast" (see fasting), "those who bow," 
"those who prostrate" (see bowing and 
prostration), "those who command the 
good and forbid the evil" (see good and 
evil; virtues and vices, commanding 
and forbidding) and "those who keep the 
limits of God" (see boundaries and 
precepts). And C3 15:98 indicates that to be 
among those who proclaim God's praise is 
to be among those who prostrate them- 
selves. Although the manner in which 
humans should praise God is not specified, 
the seeming specification of times of praise 
(morning and evening — although this 
mention of day and night may also be a 
figure of speech indicating that there is no 
time that God should not be praised; see 
PAIRS and pairing) and the indication that 
bowing or prostration was associated with 
the proclamation of God's praise evoke 
Jewish and Christian liturgical practices (cf. 
i.e. Jammo, Structure, 58 f, for an overview 
of the east Syrian liturgy and its relations 
to Jewish practices; cf. esp. the "Lahu 
Mara," instances of bowing and prostra- 
tion, and the attribution of singing God's 
praises to cherubim and servants of God, 
but the proclamation of his holiness to 
seraphim; also Codrington, Syrian liturgy, 
135-48 indicates that the "praise" of God, 
esp. Psalm 116, is included in the morning, 
evening and night recitations of the divine 
office). Certain qur'anic passages in which 
praise of God is evoked are also remini- 
scent of Jewish and Christian scriptural 
and/or liturgical formulae: "He is God. 
There is no god but he. His is the praise 
in the beginning and the end. And his is 
the judgment; to him you will return" 

(0 28:70); "All in heaven and earth exalt 
God; his is the kingdom and his is the 
praise; and he has power over everything" 
(o 64:1; see i.e. the aforementioned Ps 116: 
"Praise God all you nations; glorify him, all 
you peoples..."; cf. Gal 1:5; and the final 
doxology of the Lord's prayer, as con- 
tained in the fourth century C.E. Apostolic 
Constitutions "For yours are the kingdom, 
the power and the glory forever"; cf. 
Catechism of the Catholic church, pt. 4, sect. 2, 
no. 2760; see also form and structure of 
THE qur'an; rhetoric: and the our'an; 
prayer; psalms). 

If the object of praise is often God (or, 
alternatively, the lord, e.g. c) 40:55), those 
who should be engaged in the act of praise 
are God's servants (q.v.) — humankind. 
Like the glorification of God, however, 
the praise of the lord is not restricted to 
humans: in fact, there is nothing that does 
not proclaim his praise [waAn min shay 'in ilia 
yusabhihu bi-hamdihi, (j 17:44) — even thun- 
der (o 13:13) and the angels (i.e. cj 39:75) do 
so. In Q 34:10, the mountains and the birds 
are ordered to praise God (awwibi) along 
with David. Although the exegetical con- 
sensus on the signification of awwiba is 
"glorification" {sabaha, in the sense of 
"return" — i.e. repeat, respond; cf. 
Muqatil, TafsTr, iii, 526; Tabari, Tafsir, xx, 
356-9; RazI, Tafsir, xxv, 246), al-Tabarl 
(d. 310/923) reports a variant reading that 
is given the understanding of "behave" 
instead of "praise/repeat" [Tafsir, xx, 357). 
He also includes a tradition that attributes 
the word to Abyssinian origins (ibid.; see 
foreign vocabulary). Al-Razl(d. 606/ 
1210) reports that a "special movement" 
may be involved in this action [Tafsir, 
xxv, 246). 

Post-qur'dnic developments 
"To God belongs the praise" (al-hamdu 
lilldhi, i.e. (3 1:2) is a frequent qur'anic 
refrain. Like the basmala (q.v.) and the 



qur'anic glorification formula [subhdn 
Allah, Q_ 21:22), this hamdala (see lauda- 
tion) often appears in Muslim prayer for- 
mulas (q.v.), and has entered the common 
language of Arabic speakers (and non- 
Arab Muslims; see slogans from the 
Cjur'an; everyday life, the our'an in). 
Finally, indicative of its centrality to Mus- 
lim spirituality, "praise" of God is an 
important part of the ritual formulations 
of the Sufi dhikr ("remembrance [of 
God]"; see memory; sufism and the 
5^ur'an; remembrance). 

Clare E. Wilde 

Primary: Muqatil, TaJsTr; RazT, Tajsu; TabarT, 

Secondary: A. Baumstark, Jiidischer und christ- 
licher Gebetstypus im Koran, in Der Islam 16-18 
(1927-9), 229-48; M.M. Bravmann, The spiritual 
background of early Islam, Leiden 1972; Catechism 
of the Catholic church, on http : // www. Vatican . va/ 
archive /ccc ess/archive /catechism / p4s2 .htm (for 
the conckiding doxology to the Lord's prayer); 
H.W. Godrington, The Syrian liturgy. VL The 
divine office, in The eastern churches quarterly i 
(1936), 135-48 (esp. 140-3 for the specific Psalms 
and types of prayer recited at each time); 
G. Elmore, Hamd al-hamd. The paradox of 
praise in Ibn al-'Arabi's doctrine of oneness, in 
S. Hirtenstein (ed.). Praise. Foundations of the spir- 
itual life according to Ibn 'Arabi, Oxford 1997, 59-93; 
id., A selection of texts on the theme of praise 
from some gnomic works by Ibn al-'Arabi, in 
Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society 23 
(1998), 58-85; D. Gimaret, Les noms divins en Islam, 
Paris 1988; D. Gril, 'There is no word in the 
world that does not indicate his praise,' in 
S. Hirtenstein (ed.). Praise. Foundations of the 
spiritual life according to Ibn Arabi, Oxford 1997, 
31-43; S.Y.H. Jammo, La structure de la messe chal- 
dienne [Orientalia Christiana analecta 207], Rome 
1979; Jeffery, For vocab.; C.A. Keller, Praise as a 
means to mystical advancement, according to 
Ibn 'Arabi and other religious traditions, in 
S. Hirtenstein (ed.). Praise. Foundations of the 
spiritual life according to Ibn Arabi, Oxford 1997, 
19-29; D.B. MacDonald, Hamdala, in El", iii, 
122-3; ^- Madigan, The Qur'dn's self-image. Writing 
and authority in Islam's scripture, Princeton 2001, 
esp. 193-203. 


Islam presents three primary terms for 
prayer, saldt (ritual prayer), du'd' (personal 
supplication) and dhikr (mystical recollec- 
tion; see remembrance; memory; sufism 
AND THE cjur'an), all of which are rooted 
in the qur'anic language. These qur'anic 
terms were eventually chosen to designate 
principal Muslim prayer practices which 
derive many of their characteristic features 
from the encounter of Islam with the cul- 
tural environment of the Middle East, par- 
ticularly in the early centuries of its 
development, as well as that of territories 
Islam eventually conquered. This article 
will concentrate upon the concepts and 
practices of prayer that can be traced in 
the Qiir'an as read against the background 
of Muhammad's biography, while dis- 
regarding the analysis of post-qur'anic 
developments in the very rich and varie- 
gated tradition of prayer in Islam (see 

q^ur'an; everyday life, the c^ur'an in). 
Mtihammad's proclamation of the Islamic 
scripture occtirred in an environment that 
was fully familiar with ways of worship 
rooted in the Arab tribal cult and in some 
measure aware of normative and sectarian 
forms of prayer practiced in the organized 
religions of the Middle East (see south 


addition to a variety of gnostic, esoteric, 
magic (q.v.) and mystical rituals, these in- 
cluded organized rites of prayer, whether 
performed as individual duties or com- 
munal liturgies, that were perceptible in 
the general religious environment in which 
Muhammad's own awareness of worship 
(q.v.) and prayer emerged (see religion; 
These obligatory prayer rites of organized 
religions included (i) the three daily 
prayers, recited at dawn (q.v), in the 



afternoon (q.v.) and in the evening (q.v.) by 
tlie followers of rabbinic Judaism privately 
or in assemblies (see jews and Judaism); 
(2) the prayer rhythm of eastern Christian 
monasticism whose monks observed seven 
offices each day in their assemblies or 
churches (see monasticism and monks; 
church; Syria; abyssinia); (3) the five 
prayers offered individually at fixed times 
of the day by the followers of Mazdaean 
Zoroastrianism (see magians); and (4) the 
four times of prayer and prostration (see 
BOWING and prostration) prescribed for 
the daily ritual of adoration by the ordi- 
nary followers of Manicheanism. Marked 
by fixed times (see day, times of), these 
forms of prayer had many other charac- 
teristic manifestations, such as sacred space 
for worship (see profane and sacred; 
forbidden; house, domestic and 
divine), cosmic orientation of the actual 
performance of prayer (see q^ibla), 
purification in preparation for prayer (see 
cleanliness and ablution; ritual 
purity), solemn recitation of passages 
from sacred texts or chanting of hymns, 
invocative or meditative use of prayer for- 
mulas, bodily postures of standing and 
bowing in adoration, and conformity of 
the repetitive performance of prayer to the 
natural rhythm described by night and day 
(see day and night). 

The personal prayer of Muhammad 
Prayer is one of the most central features 
of the Qiir'an. It forms the core of 
Muhammad's experience of God and is 
the foundation of his qur'anic proclama- 
tion. Prayer was practiced daily by the 
nascent Muslim cominunity and included 
recitation and characteristic gestures of 
standing and bowing in adoration. 
Eventually developed as a consistent com- 
munal ritual, it has come to constitute an 
essential part of everyday Muslim life 
throughout the ages. Both as a foundation 

of the qur'anic message and an ongoing 
practice, it encapsulates the personal 
prayer of Muhammad at its core. Prior to 
his prophetic call, the orphan and mer- 
chant Muhammad (see orphans; 
caravan) shared the religious ideas of his 
clan (see kinship; tribes and clans): his 
uncle, Abu Lahab 'Abd al-'Uzza, was a 
staunch adherent of the Arab tribal re- 
ligion (cf. c) 1 1 1:1) and his guardian and 
protector, Abu Talib, never adopted Islam. 
Muhammad himself took part in the 
pagan rites at the Ka'ba (q.v.; cf. Q_ 108:2) 
and sacrificed a white sheep at the shrine 
of the goddess al-'Uzza (o 53:19-20; cf. 
Macdonald and Nehme, al-'Uzza, 968; see 
polytheism and atheism). He believed in 
the world of demons [jinn, q 72:1; 55:15) 
whom the Arabs (q.v.) of Mecca (q.v.) be- 
lieved to be God's comrades and next of 
kin (6:100; 37:158), to whom they offered 
sacrifices (cf. c) 6:128) and from whom they 
sought protection (q.v.; C3 72:6; see also 
jinn; sacrifice). 

As can be judged from the earliest layers 
of the qur'anic proclamation, Muham- 
mad's personal prayer was based on 
ecstatic inspiration and visions (q.v.) by 
night (q 17:1; cf 53:1-8; 81:19-25). He had 
to defend himself against the accusation of 
being one of the soothsayers (q.v.; sing. 
kdhin) possessed by the alter ego of a 
demon (o 52:29; 68:2; 69:42; 7:184; see 
insanity). The utterances of his prayer 
were cast in rhymed prose (q.v.), marked by 
abrupt phrases capturing cryptic mean- 
ings. He sought refuge from demonical 
whisperings (c3 114:1-6) and disclaimed 
being an angel (q.v), possessing the trea- 
sures of God or knowing the unseen 
(0 6:50; 11:31; see secrets; hidden and 
THE hidden; knowledge and learning). 
He felt inspired by a holy spirit (q.v.; 
o 16:102; 26:192-4) and experienced God 
as speaking to him directly, by revelation 




from behind a veil (q.v.), or indirectly 
through the intermediary of an angel 
{q_ 42:51), identified as Gabriel (q.v.; 
C) 2:97-8; cf. 66:4). He claimed to have 
received revelation as did the earth (q.v.; 
Q^ 99:5) and the bee (o 16:68; see animal 
life) or the prophets of old {<i 21:7; see 
PROPHETS AND prophethood), such as 
Noah (q.v.; Q^ 23:27), Moses (q.v.; C3 20:13) 
and Joseph (q.v; q 12:15). He introduced 
qur'anic passages by abstruse oaths (q.v), 
following the old Arab custom of invoking 
idols (see idols and images) or natural 
forces as well as emulating the oracular 
style (saj') of the pre-Islamic soothsayer in 
the wording of the qur'anic proclamation 
(see also poetry and poets). 

Muhammad swore by the name of God, 
e.g. "By God!" [talldhi, C3 16:63), and, "But 
no! By your lord!" [fa-Id wa-rabbika, q 4:65; 
see lord), and solemnly uttered oaths by 
the setting of the stars, "But no! I swear 
(fa-Id uqsimu) by the setting of the stars" 
(Q. 56:75; see planets and stars). He 
swore by the powers of nature (see nature 
AS signs), e.g. the heaven and its constel- 
lations {wa-l-samd'i dhdti l-huruj, q 85:1; see 
heaven and sky), the star [wa-l-najm, 
q 53:1), the sun (q.v.; wa-l-shams, q 91:1) and 
the moon (q.v.; wa-l-qamar, q 74:32), and 
invoked particular times of day by oaths, 
e.g. the daybreak (wa-l-fajt; o 89:1), the 
night [wa-l-lajl, q 92:1), the forenoon 
[wa-l-duhd, q 93:1) and the twilight [vua- 
l-shafaq, q 84:16). 

Raised unaware of revealed religion 
(cf. q 42:52), he never read the Bible 
(q 29:48; see SCRIPTURE AND THE 

quR'AN; gospel; torah; psalms; book; 
illiterai;y; ummi) but came into contact 
with Jews and Christians (q 10:94). 
Through his wife Khadija (q.v), he was 
related to Waraqa b. Nawfal, a man known 
as a /ianf{q.v.) and one seeking a more sat- 
isfying religion than the old Arab polythe- 
ism (cf Rubin, Hanlf, 402-3). Until the 

breakthrough to his prophetic call, identi- 
fied by Muslim tradition with the divine 
command to "recite!" [iqra', q 96:1), re- 
ceived in an experience of retreat (tahan- 
nuth) on Mount Hira' outside Mecca, 
Muhammad's prayer was a personal one 
(Ibn Hisham, Sira, 151-2; cf Kister, Al- 
tahannuth, 223; Calder, Hinth, 213). After 
a short period of hesitation, however, he 
began to proclaim in Mecca the religious 
insights he had forged in the furnace of his 
personal prayer. Soon a small group of fol- 
lowers, most of them young and of little 
social standing, accepted his message and 
formed a nascent community which began 
to engage in communal prayer. This com- 
munal prayer eventually adopted char- 
acteristic elements that became constitutive 
for a prayer ritual, known as al-saldt. The 
transition from Muhammad's personal 
prayer practice and the communal prayer 
of his nascent community to a central and 
consistent ritual developed in two major 
stages, separated by the decisive change of 
the direction of prayer (qibla) in Medina 
(q.v.) in the year 2/624. 

Saldt, the common Arabic term for ritual 
prayer, does not occur in pre-qur'anic 
poetry and clearly shows Aramaic influ- 
ence in its particular qur'anic orthography 
(cf. Spitaler, Schreibung, 217; see Arabic 
script; orthography of the quR'AN) 
and etymological derivation from the 
Syriac, "selotd, " which in its basic meaning 
denotes the act of bowing (Noldeke, gq, i, 
255; Jeffery, For. vocab, 198-9; see foreign 
vocabulary). In the Qi_ir'an, the noun 
"saldt" occurs in the singular 78 times 
(65 times with the definite article, twice in 
a genitive construction, cf. q 24:58, and 
II times with a pronoun affixed), while 
it occurs only 5 times in the plural. In 
addition, there are 16 occurrences of vari- 
ous forms of the verb salld (second verbal 
form, with the meaning "to perform the 
saldt"), which is derived from the noun, 



saldt. A small number of derivatives of the 
verb salla imply forms of prayer observed 
by pre-Islamic Arabs and hence suggest an 
Arab usage of both the verb [q_ 108:2; 
107:4) and the noun (q, 8:35; 9:99) for 
manifestations of prayers antedating 
Muhammad's proclamation of the Qiir'an. 
These usages and the set way in which the 
definite noun, al-saldt, is employed in the 
Qur'an, indicate that the Arabic form of 
the word was already understood in 
Muhammad's environment, and did not 
originate in the Qiir'an (see Arabic lan- 


In some instances the verb is constructed 
together with 'aid (as in the extra-qur'anic 
eulogy, tasliya, commonly used after the 
Prophet's name) with reference to "bless- 
ing" (q.v.) bestowed by God and his angels 
fe 33:43, 56). In this sense, "blessing" is 
understood as God's very own prayer upon 
his creatures rather than the calling down 
of God's blessing (cf. Goitein, Prayer, 78; 
pace Padwick, Aluslim devotions, 155-7). ^Y 
an analogous turn of phrase, Muhammad 
is told in the Qiir'an, to bless those who 
have confessed their sins, "pray upon them 
(salli 'alajihim), your prayers/blessings 
(saldtaka) are a comfort for them" (c3 9:103; 
cf. 2:157). He is, however, ordered, "do not 
pray over one of them (Id tusalli 'aid ahadin 
minhum) when he dies" (q 9:84), with refer- 
ence to the denial of the funeral prayer 
(saldt al-jandza) for a deceased hypocrite 
[mundfiq, cf. Adang, Hypocrites, 468-72; 

prayer received as a divine blessing may be 
meant in the case of the ancient Arab 
prophet Shu'ayb (q.v.; c) 11:87; '-f- Ps^ret, 
Kommentar, 241). 

The Qiir'an makes a unique mention of 
musalld, "place of prayer" with reference to 
"Abraham's station," i.e. the central sanc- 
tuary of Mecca (o 2:125; cf Paret, 

Kommentar, 29; see place of Abraham). 
This term musalld is applied in the 
Prophet's biography, however, to the large 
and open place of prayer in Medina (cf. 
Wensinck, Musalla, 659) where congre- 
gational prayers were performed on the 
two major Muslim festivals, the breaking of 
the fast {'id al-fitr; see fasting; Ramadan) 
and the feast of the sacrifice ('id al-adhd). 
From the early centuries until today, the 
two public feast-day prayers (saldt at- 'idayn) 
have been performed in the Muslim world 
in the forenoon, beginning after sunrise 
and ending before the sun reaches the 
zenith (see festivals and commemora- 
tive days). This practice, not cited in the 
Qiir'an, may nevertheless retain a trace of 
some of the oldest forms of the saldt ob- 
served by Muhammad and his early com- 
munity (cf. Becker, Ziir Geschichte, 374-5). 
The musalld is also cited in tradition, but 
not in the Qiir'an, as the place where, dur- 
ing a drought, Muhammad would offer 
prayers for rain with his hands raised high 
to the sky (saldt al-istisqd'), echoing Noah's 
promise of plentiful rain (c3 71:10-11) and 
Moses' plea for water (q.v; q 2:60). 
Further, there is no qur'anic reference to 
the particular prayer, also observed in the 
forenoon, in the case of an eclipse 
(kusuf/khusiif) of the sun or moon, termed 
saldt al-kusuf ["prayer of the eclipse"), 
though it too appears to reflect some of 
the older forms of the saldt. 

Rather than in the Qiir'an itself, the earli- 
est forms of Muhammad's practice of the 
saldt may be detected in accounts preserved 
in the traditional, historical and exegetical 
literature (cf. Rubin, Morning, 41; see 


SIRA AND THE qur'an). If somc of tliesc 
fragmentary accounts can be trusted, 
Muhammad used to go to the Ka'ba in the 
morning and, in daylight, performed the 
prayer of forenoon (saldt al-duhd) some 



time after sunrise (cf. 091:1: "By tlie sun 
and its morning brightness," wa-l-sha7nsi 
wa-duhdhd). The Meccans did not object to 
this practice because they themselves were 
used to praying near the Ka'ba after sun- 
rise. In addition, it was the custom of the 
Bedouins (see bedoxjin), coming to town 
early in the morning to sell their wares, to 
extol God (takbir) and bow in prayer (sujud) 
at the Ka'ba after completing their busi- 
ness in the markets (q.v.). As the sun sank 
toward the horizon, however, Muhammad 
and his companions had to scatter secretly 
in the ravines on the outskirts of Mecca to 
pray the afternoon prayer (saldt al-'asr) be- 
fore simset (cf. (J 103:1 for the use of 'asr'in 
an oath). They were prevented from pray- 
ing at the Ka'ba possibly because in the 
time from late afternoon until before sun- 
set the Meccans would perform their rites 
of circumambulation (tawdf) at the sanctu- 
ary (cf. Muranyi, Zwischen, lOi). Another 
explanation suggests that Muhammad's 
performance of the 'asr prayer was per- 
ceived by the Meccans as an alien practice 
modeled on the Jewish minhdh (Goldziher, 
Bedeutung, 294; Rubin, Morning, 54). 

The evolution of a communal prayer 
Rather than chart the genesis of the saldt 
in relation to the possible chronological 
sequence of Muhammad's qur'anic 
proclamation — a sketch of which was 
offered in the article on chronology and 
THE cjur'an (Bowering, Chronology, 
327-8) — the present article will assemble 
the characteristic elements of the two 
stages of development, i.e. those before 
and after the change of the qibla. In the 
first stage, which covers Muhammad's pro- 
phetic career at Mecca as well as the earli- 
est phase of his career in Medina until 
shortly after the battle of Badr (q.v.), the 
communal prayer practice of the nascent 
Muslim community evolves out of 
Muhammad's personal prayer. At this 

stage the commimal prayer practice is not 
yet organized as a fidl-fledged ritual, but 
nevertheless includes a number of char- 
acteristic liturgical features to which refer- 
ence is made in scattered statements of the 
Qiir'an. The saldt was performed in the 
standing position [qiydm, e.g. (J 2:238) and 
included acts of bowing [rukW, e.g. {) 2:43) 
and prostration [sujud, e.g. C3 4:102). 

The physical postures of bowing and 
prostration are frequently mentioned in the 
Qiir'an (with sujud and its cognates found 
much more frequently than those of rukd'). 
On occasion, they are used in tandem 
(Q. 2:125; 3:43; 9:112; 22:26, 77; 48:29) as 
well as interchangeably (e.g. rdki'an, 
c) 38:24, with the act of David's [q.v.] pros- 
tration in repentance identified as bowing; 
and sujjadan, o 2:58 and 7:161, with bowing 
while entering a gate called a prostration). 
The faithfid followers of Muhammad are 
depicted in the Qiir'an as bearing a mark 
on their faces "from the effect of prostra- 
tion" [min athari l-sujud, q_ 48:29). The pre- 
cise ritual distinction between two gestures, 
namely (i) bowing as inclining the head 
and upper body with the palms of the 
hands placed at the level of the knees and 
(2) prostration as falling down on one's 
knees with the forehead touching the 
ground, found its specific technical defini- 
tion only in post-qur'anic times (cf. Tottoli, 
Traditions, 371-93). Sujud wan known 
among the peoples of the Middle East in 
pre-Islamic times as a gesture of respect at 
royal courts and as an act of adoration in 
Christian worship. Pre-Islamic poetry cites 
a few examples of prostration (sujud) before 
a tribal chief in recognition of his supe- 
riority and as an expression of one's sub- 
mission (cf. Tottoli, Muslim attitudes, 5-34). 

The act of prostration hurt the pride 
(q.v.) of the Arabs (q, 25:60; 7:206; cf 16:49; 
32:15; 68:42-3) because it appeared to them 
as a humiliating gesture and an alien prac- 
tice (cf. Kister, Some reports, 3-6). 



Muhammad, however, was uncompromis- 
ing in coinmanding liis early community to 
fall down before God in prayer, "O you 
who believe, bow down and prostrate your- 
selves (arka'U wa-sjudu) and worship your 
lord" (q 22:77). In the Qi_ir'an, prostration 
was depicted as an act of adoration to be 
given only to God and not to any work of 
his creation (q.v.), such as the sun or the 
moon (q^ 4I'37)- On account of this, the 
angels prostrating before Adam (cf 
Schoeck, Adam, 22-6) upon the divine 
command and Iblls' refusal to do so 
(q 2:34; 7:11-2; 20:116; 17:61; 18:50; 38:71-6; 
15:26-33; see arrogance; devil; ad am 
AND eve) created an exegetical dilemma 
for the commentators on the Qiir'an. It is 
difficult to establish the angelic adoration 
of God as a qur'anic prototype for the 
human prostration in the saldt because the 
Qiir'an does not make this linkage explic- 
itly. The angels, however, are depicted in 
the Qiu''an as a heavenly host (q 37:8; 
38:69), "brought near to God" [muqarrabun, 
q 83:21, 28; 4:172; 56:11), who stand rank 
on rank around the divine throne (c) 39:75; 
69:17; 89:22; see throne of ood; ranks 
AND orders), which some of them also 
carry (q 69:17). They glorify and sanctify 
God (e.g. q 2:32) and do not grow weary 
"glorifying (yusabbihuna) God night and 
day and never failing" (q 21:20; cf. 42:5). It 
may be possible, however, to perceive in 
the postures of standing and bowing the 
physical analogue for the actual words of 
glorifying God, whether in case of the 
angelic adoration of God or in the human 
observance of extolling God's praise 
(tasbih, tamhid, takbir). 

In fact, this exclamatory praise [subhdna, 
mentioned 41 times in the Qiir'an) is pro- 
nounced by the qur'anic, "Glory be to 
God!" [subhdna lldhi, c) 12:108; 21:22; 23:91; 
27:8; 28:68; 30:17; 52:43; 59:23), or with 
other designations for God by, "Glory be to 
my/your/our lord!" [subhdna rabbi, (J 17:93; 

subhdna rabbika, c) 37:180; subhdna rabbind, 
C3 17:108) or with pronouns, eg. q 2:32 
(subhdnaka) and o 2:116 (subhdnahu) . The 
qur'anic glorification also introduces the 
verse (q 17:1) interpreted in the commen- 
tary literature as referring to Muhammad's 
night-journey and ascension (q.v.), which in 
the post-qur'anic tradition serves as a back- 
drop for the divine institution of the saldt. 
Employed together with, "High be he 
exalted!" [ta'dld, e.g. q 10:18; 16:1; 30:40; 
39:67), the exclamation, "Glory be to 
him!," stresses God's utter transcendence 
above creatures and complete dissociation 
with any partners, in particular when it is 
linked with the phrases, "above what they 
associate" ['ammdyushrikuna, q 52:43; 59:23; 
cf. Paret, Kommentar, 180) and "beyond what 
they describe" ['ammd yasijuna, q 6:ioo; 
21:22; 23:91 37:159, 180; 43:82). On occa- 
sion, the qur'anic glorification is paired 
with the laudatory exclamation (tamhid), 
"Praise belongs to God!" [al-hamdu lilldhi, 
mentioned 24 times in the Qiir'an, e.g. 
q 1:2; cf 15:98 and 39:75). The famous 
magnification of God (takbir) by the ex- 
clamation, "God is great!" [Alldhu akbar, 
originally meaning greater than all de- 
mons), however, is not mentioned verbatim 
in the Qiir'an yet is signaled in q 17:111 and 
74:3. Another exclamation, "Blessed be 
God!" [tabdraka lldhu, q 7:54; 23:14; 40:64), 
extols God as the creator and ruler (see 
KINGS and rulers) of the universe 
(q 25:61; 43:85; 55:78; 67:1) as well as the 
benefactor of Muhammad (q 25:1, lo). 
Two qur'anic glorifications (q 36:36, 83) 
effectively illustrate the transition from 
Muhammad's personal prayer to the com- 
munal prayer of the nascent community, as 
they express the summons addressed to 
Muhammad, "Proclaim your lord's 
praise!" [sabbih bi-hamdi rabbika, q 15:98; 
20:130; 40:55; 52:48; 50:39-40; cf sabbihhu, 
q 76:26), and then directed to his com- 
munity, "O believers, remember God oft, 



and give him glory!" [sabbihuhu, q 33:41-2; 
see also laudation; glorification of 
ood; praise; glory). 

In addition to the angelic glorification of 
God, two other powerful qur'anic scenar- 
ios are actualized in the saldt. The postures 
of standing and bowing in prayer are 
linked quite explicitly in the Qiir'an with 
the fear of judgment (q.v.) in the world to 
come (see esc;hatology; reward and 
PtJNisHMENT) and the hope in God's mercy 
(q.v.) and forgiveness (q.v.; Q_ 39:9; 25:64-5; 
3:16-7). As such, both postures give a bodily 
expression in prayer to the ultimate 
account each human being must give 
before God on judgment day (see last 
judgment), i.e. standing to receive the final 
verdict in the presence of the divine maj- 
esty and bowing down to seek the divine 
pardon. It is as if the essential body move- 
ments of prayer capture and telescope the 
ultimate moment of a person's encounter 
with God. Another scenario calls to mind 
the natural adoration divinely invested in 
the creation of the universe. In the Qiir'an, 
bowing and prostrating in prayer mirror 
the rhythm of nature built into the cosmos, 
for "to God bow (yasjudu) all who are in 
the heavens and the earth, willingly or 
unwillingly, as do their shadows in the 
mornings and the evenings" (q 13:15; cf 
16:48-9). The most powerful verse express- 
ing this cosmic prayer is q 22:18, "Have 
you not seen how to God bow (jasjudu) all 
who are in the heavens and on the earth, 
the sun and the moon, the stars and the 
mountains, the trees (see agriculture 
and vegetation) and the beasts?" It is 
also tempting to see in references to God's 
face a qur'anic imagery related to prayer, 
as for example, in q 2:115, "wherever you 
turn, there is the face of God" (q.v.; wajhu 
lldh, cf q 55:27; 76:9; 92:20). Although 
q 13:22 links those performing the saldt 
with those "seeking the face of their lord" 
[ibtighd'a wajhi rahbihim; cf. q 2:272; 30:38-9), 

a phrase possibly comparable with the 
biqqesh peneyhwh of the Hebrew Bible (cf. 
Baljon, To seek, 261-5), the expression is 
employed predominantly with almsgiving 
(zcikdt) for God's sake and without expecta- 
tion of recompense (see god and his 

ATTRIBUTES, esp. 323-4). 

The inclusion of Q;Lir'an recitation as an 
essential element in the communal prayer 
(q 35:29) provides another example of a 
prayer practice of the Prophet (cf. q 29:45) 
to which his followers eventuallyjoined 
themselves (see recitation of the 
quR'AN). In the form of the morning 
prayer, it came to be called "the recital of 
dawn" [qur'dn al-faj?; o 17:78), "witnessed" 
[mashhudan, q 17:78) by the angels (?) in the 
early morning. Hence the Prophet is cau- 
tioned to begin each Qiir'an recitation by 
protecting himself against the forces of evil 
(see GOOD AND evil), "When you recite the 
Qur'an, seek refuge in God against the 
accursed Satan" (q 16:98; cf 113:1-5; 3:36). 
According to Islamic tradition the Prophet 
is said to have used this formula frequently 
when beginning the saldt (cf. Goldziher, 
Abhandlungen, i, 7-9). In all likelihood, the 
opening chapter of the Qur'an (Surat al- 
Fatiha, q 1:1-7; ^^^ fatiha) was deliber- 
ately composed to serve as a fixed and 
mandatory recitation for the communal 
prayer (cf Goitein, Prayer, 82-4). q 84:20-1 
confirms that the Qiir'an recitation was 
accompanied by acts of prostration, "What 
ails them who do not believe (see belief 
AND unbelief), and when the Qur'an is 
recited to them they do not bow (Id 
yasjudun)?" When the Qur'an is recited, 
people "fall down on their faces in prostra- 
tion" [sujjadan, q 17:107), just as the patri- 
archs "fell down prostrating and weeping" 
(q.v.; sujjadan wa-bukiyyan, q 19:58) when the 
signs (q.v.) of the all-merciful (see god and 
HIS attributes) were recited to them. 
Muhammad is commanded, "do not 
raise your voice in your prayer (Id tajhar 



bi-saldtika), nor be hushed therein, but seek 
for a way between that" (c) 17:110), while 
his followers are told, "when the Qi_ir'an is 
recited, give ear and be silent" (q 7:204). 
An explicit command for the mandatory 
communal performance of the prayer is 
stated by the direct summons to Muham- 
mad, "command your people to observe 
the saldt" (c3 20:132) and "content yourself 
with those who invoke their lord" [ci 18:28). 
A group of his followers also join Muham- 
mad in prayer at night: "your lord knows 
that you keep vigil nearly two-thirds of the 
night or a half of it, or a third of it, and a 
party of those with you" [td'ifatun min 
alladhlna ma'aka, o 73:20; see vigils). 

Such nocturnal prayers were a most dis- 
tinctive mark of the early communal 
prayer at Mecca. These night vigils formed 
an essential part of Muhammad's prayer 
practice and were adopted by his followers. 
When he labored to convey or chant a 
qur'anic passage (c) 73:1-8), Muhammad is 
commanded directly, "Keep vigil in the 
night!" [qumi l-layla, (j 73:2). The observ- 
ance of prayer at night (tahajjud), cited 
only once in the Qiir'an by this term, is set 
in the context of the saldt (q 17:78), and 
explicitly enjoined on Muhammad: "and 
as for the night, keep vigil a part of it" 
(wa-mina l-laylifa-tahajjad bihi, C3 17:79), and 
"bow down before him and glorify him 
through the long night" (c3 76:26). Reciting 
the Qur'an during the night vigil is called 
"an extra" indfilatan, cj 17:79) of Muham- 
mad's prayer practice, a vocabulary later 
used in Islamic law to define supereroga- 
tory prayers [saldt al-nawdjil; see law and 
THE (JUr'an). Muhammad is commanded 
to "proclaim the praise of yoiu" lord... in 
the night and at the setting of the stars" 
(q, 52:48-9), to pray "nigh of the night" 
{zulafan mina l-layl, q_ 11:114), t° "proclaim 
your lord's praise in the watches of the 
night (min dnd'i l-layl), and at the ends of 
the day" [atrdfa l-nahdr, q 20:130), and to 

"perform the prayer at the sinking of the 
sun to the darkening of the night" [li-duluki 
l-shamsi ild ghasaqi l-layl, Q_ 17:78). This noc- 
turnal practice is observed by his godfear- 
ing followers (see fear; piety), "who pass 
the night (yabituna li-rabbihim) prostrate to 
their lord and standing" (q 25:64). 
Similarly, the dwellers of paradise (q.v), 
while previously living on earth, kept night 
vigils: "httle of the night would they slum- 
ber and into the last hours of the night 
(wa-bi-l-ashdr) would they seek forgiveness" 
(Q, 5I'i7"8). Traditional accounts, included 
in the qur'anic commentary literature, 
add that the zeal in observing these 
vigils caused Muhammad's followers to 
suffer from swollen feet (cf. Wensinck, 
Tahadjdjud, 97). 

It is possible that the practice of night 
vigils was adopted from Christian ascetic 
precedent (cf. Bell, Origin, 143; see 
asceticism) because q 3:113 states, "some 
of the People of the Book (c[.v.) are a 
nation upstanding, that recite God's signs 
in the watches of the night (dnd'i l-layl), 
bowing themselves." This practice appears 
to be meant also by q 24:36-8, probably 
referring to Christian hermits, as "men 
whom neither commerce nor trafficking 
diverts from the remembrance of God" 
(q 24:37). Night vigils may also have been 
intended by the "worship" (qunut) adopted 
by Muhammad's followers, "who worship 
in the watches of the night" (a-man huvua 
qdnitun dnd'a l-layl), bowing and standing 
(q 39:9; cf 20:130; 2:238). It has to be 
noted, however, that the language of qunUt 
is rooted in pre-Islamic imprecations (cf. 
Goldziher, Zauberelemente, 323) and 
interpreted by the traditional commentary 
literature in a great variety of ways (cf. 
Bashear, Qunut, 36-65; see also obed- 
ience). In the QjLir'an, the language of 
qunut also expresses the cosmic scenario of 
prayer: "To him (God) belongs whosoever 
is in the heavens and the earth; all worship 



him" [kullun lahu qdnituna, o 30:26; cf. 2:116; 
see i;osmology). Furthermore, it is in line 
witli the practice of two biblical characters 
cited in the Qiir'an, namely Mary (q.v.), 
"O Mary, worship your lord (uqnutl li-rab- 
biki), and prostrate and bow with those 
who bow" (q^ 3:43)) and Abraham (q.v.), 
"Abraham was a nation worshipping God" 
[ummatan qdnitan, C3 i6:i2o). The extra- 
qnr'anic siirat al-qunut in 'Ubayy's codex 
(cf. Noldeke, GQ, ii, 35), however, lacks 
an explicit reference to both nocturnal 
prayer and qunut, yet is replete with the 
vocabidary of prayer. 

In the early phases of Muhammad's pro- 
phetic career, the times of prayer are in- 
dicated by a rich variety of terms which 
stand in contrast to the standardized 
vocabulary for the five daily times of 
prayer (miqdt) developed in post-qur'anic 
Islamic law. In addition to the variable 
vocabulary for the prayer at night, the 
prayer times during the day reflect the 
general plethora of temporal vocabulary 
employed in the Qiir'an (see time). The 
Qiir'an states explicitly that the communal 
prayer was performed "at the two ends of 
the day" [tarafayi l-nahdr, C3 11:114) °'' "^^ the 
ends of the day" [atrdfa l-nahdr, q 20:130), 
vaguely meaning morning and evening. 
But the Qur'an does not explicitly specify 
whether these ends actually mean sunrise 
and sunset or dawn and dusk or possibly 
the morning just after sunrise and the eve- 
ning just before sunset. The implication of 
"the ends of the day" seems to be before 
sunrise and after sunset, but c) 50:39 clearly 
says "before sunset" (qabla l-ghuriib). In 
addition, the two times, "in the morning 
and evening" (q 6:52; 18:28; 7:205) are 
expressed by a varying vocabidary for 
"morning," ghuduww (c3 7:205), ghaddt 
(q 6:52), bukm [q_ 19:11), ibkdr (cj 40:55), 
and for "evening," 'ashiyy (o 40:55), asll 
(q 76:25), pL asdl (q, 7:205). Q, 20:130 ex- 
plains these two "ends" as "before the 

rising of the siui and before its setting" 
(c3 20:130), which woidd mean at dawn and 
in the evening before sunset. These varying 
expressions clearly reflect a slowly evolving 
understanding of the two preferred prayer 
times at "the two ends of the day." There 
is no qur'anic evidence to indicate whether 
"the two ends of the day" can be synchro- 
nized with the above-mentioned traditional 
accounts about Muhammad's observance 
of the saldt al-duhd and the saldt al- 'asr. 
Similarly, the question remains conjectural 
whether the insistent condemnation by 
Islamic tradition and law of a saldt per- 
formed at the precise moments of sunset, 
sunrise or when the sun stands in the 
zenith as an ancient Arab cidt of sun- 
worship actually preserves a trace of such 
an early prayer practice concealed in "the 
two ends of the day" (cf. Wensinck, 
Animismus, 232-5). 

Much of his inspiration for the perform- 
ance of prayer Muhammad drew from the 
prophets of old, the qur'anic models of 
prayer who, from Adam through Noah, 
Abraham and Israel (q.v.), "fell down pros- 
trate [in prayer], weeping" (q 19:58). They 
bade their people to pray, as did e.g. 
Ishmael (q.v.; Isma'll, q 19:55), Isaac (q.v.) 
andjacob (q.v; q 21:73), or called out in 
the darkness (q.v.) invoking God, as did 
Jonah (q.v.; q 21:87). Abraham offers a 
heart-wrenching prayer to his lord for a 
pure heart (q.v), imploring his creator as 
the one who provides for him (see 
sustenance; grace), guides and heals him 
(see error; astray; illness and 
health), will make him to die, give him 
life, forgive his sin and offer him paradise 
(q 26:83-9). Beseeching God, he asks that 
the privilege of performing the prayer be 
granted to him and his progeny (q 14:40, 
cf. 14:37). Moses appeals to his lord to open 
his breast, unloose the knot upon his 
tongue and grant him Aaron (q.v.) as a 
helper to glorify God and remember him 



abundantly (o 20:25-34), while God ad- 
dresses him directiy in solemn terms, 
"Verily I am God; there is no god but I; 
therefore serve me and perform the prayer 
of my remembrance" {wa-aqimi l-saldta li- 
dhikn, o 20:14). Both Moses and his brother 
Aaron are bidden: "Take yon, for your 
people, in Egypt (q.v.) certain houses; and 
make your houses a direction (qiblatan) for 
men to pray to; and perform the scddt; and 
give good tidings to the believers" ((j 10:87; 
see GOOD news). The feeble and gray- 
haired Zechariah (q.v.) begs his lord 
secretly to grant him a son (q 19:3-6; 
3:38-9), andjesus (q.v.), God's servant (see 
servants) as yet in the cradle and made 
blessed by God, is enjoined to pray as long 
as he lives (c3 19:30-1). 

The institution of the ritual prayer 
In the few years before and after the emi- 
gration (q.v.; hijra) of Muhammad and his 
followers to Medina, the ritual prayer 
(saldt) developed into a central religious 
discipline of the Prophet's growing com- 
munity and shows clear signs of becoming 
a consolidated ritual institution. This un- 
derstanding may be derived from the direct 
statement that the saldt is enjoined as "a 
timed prescription" [kitdban mawqutan, 
c) 4:103), regulated in its performance and 
standardized in its choice of terms through 
the set phrases of saldt al-fajr and saldt al- 
'ishd' ior the morning and evening prayers 
respectively (<j 24:58), performed "at morn 
and eventide" (<J 7:204-6). A new time of 
"the middle prayer" [al-saldt al-wustd, 
Q, 2:238) is now added in Medina, a time 
also implied by the "midday heat" [^ahira; 
see noon; hot and cold), though not the 
midday prayer, in o 24:58. That this prayer 
was actually performed at midday may be 
inferred from Q_ 30:17-8, which summons 
Muhammad's community to give glory to 
God "when you come to evening and when 
you come to morning (hina tumsuna wa-hina 

tusbihuna) . . . and when you come to noon 
(wa-hina tu^hiruna)." On the other hand, the 
middle prayer may have been introduced 
in emulation of the minhdh, observed by the 
Jews of Medina in the afternoon as one of 
their three prayer times [shaharith, morning; 
minhdh, afternoon; and 'arbith, evening, cf 
Mittwoch, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte, 
1 1-2). In general. Western scholarship (see 
post-enlightenment academic study 
OF THE cjur'an) tends to interpret "the 
middle prayer" as referring to the noon 
prayer {saldt al-^uhr, cf. Houtsma, lets, 
127-34; P^^ret, Grenzen, 31-5; pace Goitein, 
Prayer, 84-5, the plural al-salawdt rather 
than the dual in (j 2:238 notwithstanding). 
Qiir'anic commentary, on the other hand, 
prefers to interpret "the middle prayer" as 
that of the afternoon {saldt al- 'asr), as it 
occupies the middle position in the even- 
tual five prayer times, that were codified as 
a religious duty by Islamic law. In any 
event, the addition of the middle prayer 
appears to have been accompanied by a 
decrease in the nocturnal prayer, because a 
variety of reasons are now given as dis- 
pensations from the lengthy night vigils 
(o 73:20). 

Regularization of the prayer ritual is also 
presupposed by dispensations for altered 
ways of performing the prayer, known 
traditionally as "the prayer of fear" (saldt 
al-khawf), when those facing hostilities 
from foes alternate bowing in prayer with 
those standing guard with weapons in 
hand (^ 4:102; see enemies; fighting; 
war; expeditions and battles). Another 
feature of the regularization of prayer is 
the insistence on its punctual performance 
by "those who carefully observe their 
prayer" {'aid saldtihim yuhafizdna, cj 6:92; 
70:34; 23:9; cf 70:22-3) and the reprimand 
for those who are heedless in performing 
the saldt (cf q 107:4-5). Furthermore, the 
Qur'an now explicitly makes the saldt man- 
datory also for women, commanding them, 



"Perform the prayer!" {aqimna l-saldta, 
Q_ 33:33), and addressing diem, "Remem- 
ber that which is recited in your houses!" 
(c3 33:34), and putting them on an equal 
footing with men in observing this obhga- 
tion (cf. C3 33:35; see women and the 
q^ur'an; gender; patriarchy). 

Early in the Medinan phase of the 
qur'anic proclamation, the giving of the 
greeting of peace (q.v.; taslTm), cited in 
the second verbal form, "and give the 
salutation of peace" [wa-sallimu tasliman, 
9. 33-56; cf 24:27, 61) became the liturgical 
salutation closing the saldt. Already in the 
Meccan phase, "saldm" (meaning "safety, 
salvation, peace, salutation") is mentioned 
frequently and employed in the greeting, 
"Peace be upon you!" [saldmun 'alajikum, 
q 13:24; 16:32; 39:73), given by the angels 
to the blessed of paradise (see garden). 
Abraham exchanges "Peace!" [saldm, 
(J 11:69; 5''25) with his guests and, threat- 
ened by his father (see azar), takes leave 
from him with, "Peace be upon you!" 
(saldmun 'alayka, (j 19-47) while Moses dis- 
misses Pharaoh (q.v.), "Peace be upon him 
who follows the riglit guidance!" [wa-l- 
saldmu 'aid mani ttaba'a l-hudd, (j 20:47). Now 
in Medina, however, Muhammad follows 
the precedent of the Jewish tefilld (cf. 
Mittwoch, Zur Entstehimgsgeschichte, 18) 
and includes the utterance of the saluta- 
tion of peace as an essential feature of tlie 
prayer ritual. In addition, the observance 
of the saldl is now frequently connected in 
consistent language with the giving of the 
zakdt ("alms-due"), a set phrase that occurs 
about two dozen times in the Medinan 
suras (cf. Nanji, Almsgiving, 64-70). The 
qur'anic command, addressed to Midiam- 
mad's community, "perform the prayer 
and give the alms-due" {wa-aqimu l-saldta 
wa-dtu l-zakdt, (j 4:77) mentioned about two 
dozen times), clearly demonstrates by its 
in-tandem use the existence of two 
consolidated communal institutions, 

linked together and firmly established, 
the ritual prayer and the communal tax 
(see taxation). 

The regidarization of ritual prayer can 
also be inferred from the preparatory rites 
which were added during Muhammad's 
qur'anic proclamation at Medina. During 
this Medinan phase, the Qtir'an records 
specific instructions about ritual purifica- 
tion through ablutions to be observed in 
preparation of each ritual prayer (c3 4:43; 
5:6) as well as dispensations for travelers 
(see journey) who may shorten the saldt 
(c3 4:101) and use sand as a sign of purifica- 
tion in the absence of water [tayammum, 
q 4:43; 5:6). There is no specific instruction 
to keep the head covered during prayer, 
most likely because this was commonly 
done and implicitly understood. The 
qur'anic injunctions to wash the face (q.v), 
the hands (q.v.) up to the elbows, the head 
and the feet (q.v.) up to the ankles, were 
based on the perception of ritual impurity 
(see also contamination) resulting from 
sexual defilement [junuban, q 4:43; 5:6; see 
SEX AND sexuality) Or intoxication [sukdrd, 
q 4:43; see intoxicants; wine). They laid 
the ground for the detailed rituals of wudii' 
(minor ablution) a^nd ghusl (major ablution) 
developed in the post-qur'anic legal lit- 
erature of Islam (cf. Burton, Qtir'an, 
21-58). Behind these stipulations lies the 
perception that water has the power to 
drive off demons (cf. Goldziher, Wasser 
als Damonen, 27) as well as the solemn 
qur'anic assertion that the Qur'an is a 
sublime book only to be touched by "the 
purified" [al-mutahharun, q 56:76-9; cf. 
Jeffery, Qur'dn, 13-7). 

Another preparatory element of the saldt 
is the public summons to prayer (q 5:58), 
instituted by Muhammad in Medina and 
expressed in the Qur'an by derivatives of 
the verb nddd (third verbal form), "to call," 
foreshadowing the appearance of the word 
for the distinct muezzin's call (adhdn) that 



came to be the widely-used term for the 
Mushm call to prayer (actually consisting 
of two calls, adhdn from the minaret and 
iqama in the mosque; see moscjue). Accord- 
ing to Islamic tradition, the Prophet 
ordered that the believers be convoked by 
Bilal, the first muezzin, and that the sum- 
mons to prayer be called otit rather than 
sounded by horns, annotinced by wooden 
clappers or signaled by lighting a fire. In 
Medina, the summons to prayer served in 
particular as an invitation to the prayer on 
"the day of assembly" [yawm al-jumu'ati, 
Q, 62:9) on Friday (see FRIDAY prayer), the 
pre-Islamic market-day, mentioned only 
once in the Qiir'an (cf. Goitein, Mtislim, 
1 11-25; Brockelmann, Iqamat as-salat, 
314-20). This public prayer is observed on 
Friday at midday in mosques throughout 
the Muslim world, although the Friday is 
not treated as a day of rest like the 
Sabbath (q.v.). In Muslim thotight, God is 
always active conducting the affairs of the 
universe and never sits still, not even rest- 
ing from his work of creation on the sev- 
enth day (q 50:38; cf Nagel, Koran, 172-84). 
The congregational prayer is preceded by 
a sermon (khutba), given in two parts, gen- 
erally from a pidpit (minbar/mimbar), with 
the preacher standing upright and leaning 
on a staff or a lance (cf. Becker, Kanzel, 
331; Goldziher, Chatib). The absence of 
any reference to khutba (and minhar) in the 
Qiir'an, however, does not preclude the 
possibility that it actually formed an 
essential part of the congregational prayer 
in Muhammad's time, as did the sermon 
that followed the saldt on the morning of 
the two big feast-days, as well as the special 
saldt in the cases of a drought or an eclipse. 

The most crucial institutional develop- 
ment of the saldt at Medina, however, was 
the change of the prayer direction (qibla) 
toward the Ka'ba, the central sanctuary of 
Mecca, that can be traced to the year 

2/624 after the hijra. This is the year the 
battle of Badr took place (q 3:123), after 
which Mtihammad began to dissociate 
himself from the local Jewish tribes. The 
explicit qur'anic directive (q 2:142-50) must 
be tmderstood against the backgroimd of 
Semitic prayer practices and their specific 
and particular orientations: the Jews 
offered their prayers in the direction of 
Jerusalem (q.v.), the Syriac Christians 
prayed eastward (see christians and 
Christianity) and the Essenes turned 
toward the rising sun. On account of 
extra-qur'anic evidence, it is certain that, 
immediately after the hijra, Muhammad 
prayed toward Jerusalem in accordance 
with Jewish custom, but then changed 
radically. This fact agrees with q 2:142-3 
which records his opponents' rebuke for 
his having turned in prayer in the opposite 
direction (5) 2:142; see opposition to 
Muhammad). The radical change of the 
qibla required Muhammad's followers in 
Medina to turn a half-circle and reorient 
their prayer toward the sanctuary of 
Mecca, "the holy mosque" [al-masjid al- 
hardm, o 2:144, cf 2:149, 150), generally 
identified with the Ka'ba (cf. Hawting, 
Ka'ba, 75-80). The significance for the in- 
stitutional reorientation of Islam of chang- 
ing the qibla cannot be underestimated: it 
visibly symbolizes the shift from a religion 
confirming the scriptures of the "People of 
the Book" (i.e. Jews and Christians) to an 
atitonomous and newly directed religion, 
reconfirming the natural monotheistic 
religion of Abraham centered on the 
Ka'ba of Mecca, now both the new and 
the original foctis of Islam. 

In Medina, Muhammad faced the task of 
uniting Meccan Emigrants (muhdjirun) and 
Medinan Helpers (ansdr; see emigrants 
AND helpers) into one community (umma), 
observing a common prayer ritual and fac- 
ing in unison in the same direction of 



prayer. In the context of his faU-ont with 
the Jews of Medina and liis reorientation 
toward Mecca as the center of the old 
Arab rehgion of Abraham, the Meccan 
sanctuary (the foimdations of which were 
laid by Abraham and Ishmael according to 
Q, 2:127; cf. Firestone, Abraham, 6-11) sup- 
plants Jerusalem as the direction of prayer. 
The fact of this reorientation, however, 
does not solve the question of what the 
prayer direction might have been diu'ing 
the Meccan period of the qur'anic proc- 
lamation before the hijra (for this complex 
question, cf. Wensinck, Kibla, 82-3). It 
may have been to the east in imitation of 
Christian prayer practice or to the Ka'ba 
itself as noted in the traditional account 
that Muhammad did not dare turn his 
back to the sanctuary in his prayer. More 
likely, as also noted in the Islamic com- 
mentary literature, Jerusalem may have 
been Muhammad's prayer direction in 
Mecca, a direction in agreement with the 
architectural orientation of the semi- 
circidar wall (hatim), enclosing the space of 
Isma'tl's tomb (lit. "womb," hijr), which at 
one time formed an integral part of the 
Ka'ba (see archaeology and the 
(^ur'an; art and architecture and the 
quR'AN). The institutional reorientation of 
the direction of prayer in Medina roughly 
coincides with the time when Muhammad 
instituted the fast of the month of Rama- 
dan (q 2:183-5) that replaced the previously 
adopted Jewish custom of the 'Ashura' fast 
observed on the Day of Atonement (cf. 
Wagtendonk, Fasting, 180-5). It also occurs 
in the time frame of the battle of Badr, 
after which the Jewish tribe of the Banu 
Qaynuqa' (q.v.) was expelled from Medina. 
From this time on, the prayer direction 
toward the Ka'ba in Mecca has remained a 
cornerstone of the Muslim ritual perform- 
ance of the saldt and is architecturally 
indicated in every mosque by the "niche" 

(mihrdbj. The latter term, however, does 
not appear in the Qtir'an in this architec- 
tural sense (cf Q_ 3:37, 39; 19:11; 38:21; pi. 
mahdrib, C3 34:13). 

According to qur'anic evidence, there is 
no certainty that Muhammad and his com- 
munity observed the duty of the saldt five 
times a day as Muslims do today and have 
done over the centuries. Neither the num- 
ber of the five daily prayers nor their exact 
times of performance had been fixed by 
the end of the qur'anic proclamation. In 
all likelihood, while in Mecca, Muhammad 
and his nascent community kept night 
vigils and performed prayers in the morn- 
ing and evening. In Medina, a middle 
prayer was added, while the nocturnal 
prayers diminished. After a period of 
uncertainty in the decades after Muham- 
mad's death, the living tradition and then 
the literature of Islamic law codified a firm 
duty of the saldt at five specific times of the 
day. These designated times, known by the 
technical term mlqdt ("appointed time," cf. 
Wensinck, Mikat, 26-7), came to be speci- 
fied as the prayer at daybreak (saldt al-fajr), 
at noon when the sun has left the zenith 
(saldt al-^uhr), in the afternoon when the 
shadows equal their objects (saldt al-'asr), at 
dusk after sunset (saldt al-maghrib), and at 
nightfall when the twilight has disappeared 
(saldt al-'ishd'). The saldt al-witr, not men- 
tioned in the Qiir'an but frequently at- 
tested in Islamic tradition, presupposes the 
fixation of the five daily saldts and came to 
be observed as a voluntary prayer between 
the night prayer and that of daybreak (cf. 
Monnot, Salat, 930). The term mfqdt, taken 
from the Qiir'an, appears to indicate that 
the saldt continued to be understood as an 
encounter with God, prefigured by Moses 
meeting and conversing with God at "an 
appointed time" ((3 7:142-3, 155; cf. Speyer, 
Erzahliingen, 299-301; 310-11; 335-6; cf 
26:38, meeting with the sorcerers) and 



foreshadowing "the appointed time" of tlie 
ultimate encounter of each individual with 
God on jtidgment day (c3 56:50; 78:17; 
44:40). Only once is the term used in the 
plural, mawdqit, and that for the observa- 
tion of the new moon (q 2:189). 

The answer to the establishment of five 
daily observances of the saldt, which can- 
not be found in the Qiir'an, is given in 
Mushm tradition by two legendary 
scenarios depicting its divine institution: 
(i) during the Prophet's ascension to 
heaven (al-mi'mj), God himself charged 
Muhammad to impose five daily prayers 
on his community, or (2) the angel Gabriel, 
mentioned in the Qiir'an as the angel of 
revelation (q 2:97), came down from 
heaven five times in one day and, by ex- 
ample, taught Muhammad the perfor- 
mance of the five daily prayers. The 
recourse to such legends in Islamic tradi- 
tion points to both the absence of clear 
stiptilations with regard to the five daily 
prayers in the Qiir'an and the necessity of 
establishing an authoritative basis for the 
divine institution of the mandatory five 
daily prayers. Western scholarship, on the 
other hand, has suggested three principal 
explanations for the fixation of five daily 
prayers: (i) the five daily prayers are the 
result of duplications of the evening prayer 
(into saldt al-?naghrib and saldt al-'ishd') and 
the midday prayer (into saldt al-^uhr and 
saldt al-'asi; cf. Houtsma, lets, 127-34). This 
explanation is particularly reinforced by an 
Islamic tradition on the authority of 
'Abdallah b. al-'Abbas (d. 68/687-8), argu- 
ing in the opposite direction, namely that 
the Prophet himself combined several 
saldts in Medina so as not to overburden his 
community (cf. Wensinck, Salat, 98); (2) the 
five daily saldts were patterned on the bind- 
ing duty of five daily prayers observed in 
Zoroastrianism (Goldziher, Islamisme, 246; 
cf. Boyce, ^oroastrians, 32-3); (3) the five 
daily prayers were most likely chosen as a 

just median between the three services of 
the Jewish synagogue and the seven 
"hours" observed by Christian monks (cf. 
Goitein, Prayer, 84-6). For the post- 
qur'anic developments, cf. Wensinck, Salat, 
98; Monnot, Salat, 926-30. 

The language of prayer in. the Qur'dn 
As stated above, it may be possible to trace 
two stages of development in the genesis of 
the saldt: (i) from the Meccan phase of the 
qiir'anic proclamation until the change of 
the qibla in Medina, Muhammad's per- 
sonal prayer inspires an evolving commu- 
nal prayer, which included group prayers 
in the morning and evening as well as dur- 
ing night vigils; and (2) with the change of 
the qibla in Medina, this communal prayer 
practice is transformed into a firmly in- 
stituted ritual, including three prayer 
times, morning, evening and a median 
prayer, as well as stipulations for prepara- 
tory and alternate rites. It is much more 
difficult, however, to coordinate the diverse 
Arabic terminology for various manifesta- 
tions of prayer in the Qiir'an. Little re- 
search has been done on the semantic 
fields of du'd', dhikr and saldt and their pos- 
sible interrelatedness in the Qiir'an. It is 
obvious, however, that the derivatives of 
the roots for both du'd' and dhikr are em- 
ployed more than twice as frequently in the 
Qiir'an as those for saldt. Among these 
three semantic fields, the vocabulary of 
(/ufl' appears to represent the earliest layer 
of prayer language in Arabic as illustrated 
by the invocation of pre-Islamic deities 
(which has left more than a dozen traces in 
the Qur'an, e.g. q 4:117; 6:108; 7:194, 197; 
10:66, 106; 13:14; 16:20; 19:48; 22:12, 62; 
29:43; 31:30; 35:13; 39:38; 40:20, 66; 43:86; 
46:5; see IDOLS AND images; rhetoric 
AND the (JUr'an) as well as by the frequent 
occurrence of oaths in the Qur'an that be- 
long to the stock of Muhammad's invoca- 
tion of God (cf Hawting, Oaths, 561-6). 



In its pre-Islamic usage du'd' could be 
employed both negatively and positively. A 
person could call upon an Arab deity with 
an invocation that could be directed either 
for or against someone, and hence could 
be turned into supplication for a blessing 
or imprecation for a curse. This double- 
edged signification is conveyed in the 
Qiir'an as in o 17:11, "humanity prays for 
evil as he prays for good" (yad'u l-insdnu hi 
l-sharri dud'ahu bi-l-khayr). The Qiir'an 
warns that the invocation of unbelievers, 
directed to their false gods, goes astray and 
receives no answer (c) 13:14; 35:13-4), con- 
trary to the invocation of the true God, 
"who alone is truly called upon" [lahu 
da'watu l-haqq, Q_ 13:14) and says, "I am near 
to answer the call of the caller, when he 
calls me" {ujibu da'wata l-dd'i idhd da'dm, 
Q_ 2:186). In the Qiu''an, the du'd' hecoraes, 
the invocation of the one true God to 
whom one directs both an appeal for di- 
vine succor in times of misfortune and a 
supplication for good fortune (q 41:49-51). 
The classical example of this two-sided 
plea for divine assistance can be found in 
the first sura of the Qiir'an (al-Fatiha, 
Q_ 1:1-7), which begins with the invocation 
of God's name and ends with the double- 
edged plea for guidance on the path of 
divine favor and protection against divine 
wrath (see PATH OR way; anger). God is 
the true hearer of prayer, literally, "the 
hearer of the invocation" (sami'u l-du'd', 
Q_ 3:38; 14:39; see SEEING AND HEARING) 
and answers the pleas of the prophets, as 
in the cases of Abraham, who is granted 
progeny in his old age (c3 14:39-40; 19:48), 
and Zechariah, whose secret supplication 
for a son is answered (c) 19:3-6; 3:38-9). 

The phrase for the hearer of prayer, 
which appears only in the context of these 
two qur'anic passages, combines the lan- 
guage of du'd' Sind saldt (cf. q 14:39-40 and 
3:38-9): Abraham asks his lord, "make me 
a performer of the prayer" (muqima l-saldt) 

and "accept my plea" {wa-taqabbal du'df, 
d 14:40), and Zechariah "invoked (da'd) his 
lord" while he was "standing in prayer" 
{qd'imun yusalli, C3 3:38-9). The intersection 
of these two semantic fields of prayer in 
prophetic narratives (q.v.) of the Qiir'an 
may illustrate the assimilation of du'd', an 
early Arab way of prayer, with that of saldt, 
the prayer practice adopted by Muham- 
mad from a tradition rooted in the Ara- 
maic background, despite the fact that 
du'd' anA its derivatives are rarely found 
in suras (q.v.) judged as belonging to the 
first Meccan period. 

A fusion of du 'a' and saldt with the se- 
mantic field of dhikr coidd be reflected in 
the qur'anic injunctions to pronounce the 
prayer in a moderate voice. With regard to 
saldt, Muhammad is commanded, "do not 
raise your voice in your prayer (Id tajhar 
bi-saldtika), nor be hushed therein, but seek 
you for a way between that" ((J 17:110). 
With regard to du'd', his followers are told, 
"invoke your lord (ud'u rabbakum), humbly 
and secretly" [khujyatan, Q_ 7:55). With re- 
gard to dhikr, Muhammad is commanded, 
"remember your lord (wa-dhkur rabbaka) in 
your sold, humbly and fearfully, without 
raising the voice" [duna l-jahr, (J 7:205). 
Another indicator for the blending of these 
three semantic fields for prayer in the 
Qiir'an may be detected in the linkage of 
the roots of du 'd' and dhikr with specific 
prayer times in the Qiir'an, not unlike in 
the case of saldt. For example, with regard 
to du'd', Q_ 6:52 refers to "those who invoke 
their lord at morning and evening," while 
with regard to dhikr, o 7:205 records the 
divine command to Muhammad to re- 
member God "at morn and eventide." 
Finally, the close relationship of saldt to 
dhikr can be observed in Q, 87:15 referring 
to the prosperous believer as one who 
"mentions the name of his lord and prays 
(dhakara sma rabbihi fa-salldj'^ ; in cj 20:14 
when Moses is asked to "perform the 



prayer of my remembrance" (wa-aqimi 
l-salata li-dhikn); in q 5:91 which cautions 
against Satan desiring "to bar you from the 
remembrance of God (dhikr Allah) and 
from the prayer (al-saldt)^^; and in {) 4:142 
including tlie rebuke for standing lazily in 
the prayer (al-saldt) while "not remember- 
ing God (wa-ld yadhkuruna lldh) save a little." 
The license given to those deluged by rain 
(see weather) or suffering from sickness or 
prevented from observing the precise hours 
of prayer in times of war, however, appears 
to separate the saldt from the dhikr: "when 
you have concluded the prayer (al-saldt), 
then remember God (fa-dhkuru lldh), stand- 
ing and sitting and on your sides" (q 4:103). 
In the Qur'an, the term dhikr denotes pri- 
marily the act of "recalling God to mind," 
"reminding oneself of God," "mentioning 
God's name" or "remembering God" 
which imply both a vocal mention and a 
mental memory of the presence of God 
through recital by the tongue and com- 
memoration in the heart (q 13:28; 39:23; 
57:16, cf McAuhffe, Heart, 406-9). The 
recited word of the Qin"'an is linked di- 
rectly with dhikr when the Qiir'an refers to 
itself as "remembrance, reminder" (dhikr, 
a 7:63; cf 3:58; 21: 50; 43:44; 68:52; dhikrd, 
e.g. q 6:90; tadhkira, e.g. q 20:3; 69:48; 
74:49; see NAMES OF THE quR^AN), an iden- 
tification most expressly encapsulated in 
the oath, "By the Qiir'an, containing the 
reminder" [dhi l-dhikr, q 38:1). Further- 
more, other revealed scriptures also are 
called dhikr, as shown by those possessing 
them being designated "People of the 
Remembrance" [ahl al-dhikr, q 16:43; 21:7), 
in parallel to the standard phrase, ahl al- 
kitdb ("People of the Book"). Underlying 
the term dhikr in the Qiir'an, privileged by 
the divine promise of reciprocity, "remem- 
ber me and I will remember you" (q 2:152), 
there is the explicit exercise of mentioning 
or recalling God's name in prayer, vocally 

or mentally. This can be inferred from 
many qur'anic passages, such as "and 
mention/remember the name of your 
lord" (q 73:8; 76:25; cf 2:114; 22:40; 24:36), 
"mention/remember your lord when you 
forget" (q 18:24), "men and women who 
mention/remember God oft" (q 33:35), 
"the hearts of those who believe are at rest 
in God's remembrance" (q 13:28), "O 
believers, mention/remember God inces- 
santly" (q 33:41) or "let neither your pos- 
sessions (see possession; wealth) nor your 
children (q.v.) divert you from God's re- 
membrance" (q 63:9). 

In conclusion, it may be said that, in 
comparison to the sacred books of human- 
ity, "there is perhaps no Scripture that is so 
totally a Book of Prayer as is the Qiir'an" 
(Roest CroUius, Prayer, 223). The Qiir'an is 
permeated by a powerful inner dynamic 
that makes this scripture in its entirety a 
book of prayer, not only because it con- 
tains various prescriptions and descriptions 
of prayer and includes a great number of 
prayers, hymns and invocations, but more 
importantly because it reflects a religious 
experience of prayer rooted in the heart of 
the Prophet and reiterated by the tongues 
of his followers throughout the ages as 
God's very own speech (q.v.) in matchless 
Arabic (see WORD OF god; inimitability). 
Only by listening again and again to the 
Qiir'an as a recited text, "honey begins to 
flow from the rock" (ibid., 223). In the 
experience of the Muslim, God speaks to 
human beings through the Qiir'an and 
human beings, reciting the Qiir'an, address 
themselves to God. Each in its own modal- 
ity, dhikr, du'd' and saldt, return the word to 
God in the thought of recollection, the 
word of invocation and the action of ritual 

Gerhard Bowering 



Primary: Ibn Hisham, Sna. 

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Hildesheim 1970, 170-96; id., Zauberelemente im 
islamischen Gebet, in C. Bezold [ed.), Orientalische 
Studien Theodor JVoldeke z^ifn siebzigsten Geburtstag, 
Giessen 1906, 303-29; repr. in Ignaz Goldziher 
Gesammelte Schriften V, ed. J. Desomogyi, 
Hildesheim 1970, 32-58; G. Hawting, Ka'ba, in 
EQ, iii, 75-80; id.. Oaths, in eq, iii, 561-6; M.Th. 
Houtsma, lets over den dagelijkschen calat der 
Mohammedanen, in Theologisch Tijdschrift 24 
(1890), 127-34; Jeffery, -^'"- ^ocab.; id., The Qiir'dn 
as scripture. New York 1952; M.J. Kister, Al- 

tahannuth. An encpiiry into the meaning of a 
term, in bsoas 31 (1968), 223-36; id., Some 
reports concerning Ta'if, in JSAI i (1979), 1-18; 
M.C.A. Macdonald and L. Nehme, al-'Uzza, in 
Ei^, X, 907-8; J.D. McAuliffe, Heart, in Eo, ii, 
406-9; E. Mittwoch, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte 
des islamischen Gebets und Kultus, in Abhand- 
lungen der koniglich preussischen Akademie der Wissen- 
schaften 2 (1913), 3-42; G. Monnot, Salat, in Ei^, 
viii, 925-34; M. Muranyi, Zwischen 'asr und 
magrib in Mekka, in wo 23 (1992), 101-28; 
T Nagel, Der Koran, Miinchen 1983; A. Nanji, 
Almsgiving, in eq, i, 64-70; Noldeke, gq; C.E. 
Padwick, Muslim devotions, Oxford 1996; R. Paret, 
Grenzen der K'oranforsc hung, Stuttgart 1950; id., 
Kommentar; A. A. Roest Crollius, The prayer of 
the Qiir'an, in Studia missionalia 24 (1975), 223-52; 
U. Rubin, Hamf, in eq, ii, 402-3; id.. Morning 
and evening prayers in early Islam, in/5,4/ 10 
(1987), 40-64; C. Schoeck, Adam and Eve, in Eo, 
i, 22-6; G. R. Smith, Oaths in the Qur'an, in 
Semitics i (1970), 126-56; Speyer, Erzdhlungen, 
Hildesheim 1988; A. Spitaler, Die Schreibung 
des Typus slwt im Kurgan, in WZKM 56 (i960), 
212-26; R. Tottoli, Muslim attitudes towards 
prostration, in a/ 88 (1998), 5-34; id.. Traditions 
and controversies concerning the sugud al- 
Qiir'an in hadlt literature, in ZDMG 147 (1997), 
371-93; K. Wagtendonk, Fasting, in eo, ii, 
180-5; ^J- Wensinck, Animismus und Damonen- 
glaube im Untergrunde des jiidischen und is- 
lamischen rituellen Gebets, in Der Islam 4 (1913), 
219-35; id., Kibla, in Ei^, v, 82-3; id., Mlkat, in 
Ef, vii, 26-7; id., Muhammad and the Jews of 
Medina, ed. and trans. W. Behn, Freiburg im 
Breisgau 1975; id., Musalla, in Ei^, vii, 658-9; 
id., Salat, in Ei, iv, 96-105; id., Tahadjdjud, in 

EI^, X, 97-8. 

Prayer Formulas 

Invocations for every circumstance of life, 
both personal and social. There are 
numerous expressions of prayer in Islam, 
prayer being fundamentally one with the 
faith and the practice of Muslims (cf. 
Q^ 17:79-80, among numerous other verses). 
The life of the believer is immersed in a 
multitude of invocations, which operate as 
expressions of sincere faith as well as sim- 
ple stereotyped formulaic phrases. The life 
of an observant Muslim can be compared 
to an extended liturgy, as expressed by the 



title of Ibn al-Sunnl's (d. 364/974) 'Amal 
al-jawm wa-l-lajla, "The work [or the lit- 
urgy?] of the day and the night," not only 
because of the five canonical prayers (see 
prayer), but because of the numerous 
invocations to God for every occasion. 
Even the ordinary sounds of daily life, such 
as the braying of a donkey, can prompt a 
prayer ("I take refuge in God from Satan 
the outcast," Ibn al-Sunni, 'Amal, 153). 
Other examples of the way in which the 
use of prayer formulas suffuses daily life 
are the invocation of the name of God 
(see basmala) before conjugal union, as 
well as in matters of personal hygiene 
(Ibn al-Sunni, Amal, 13). 

A distinction can be made between "tra- 
ditional," "common" or "canonical" ex- 
pressions of praise and petition (including 
the codified, or ritual, formulas), and those 
which are left to the individual's own initia- 
tive. It should be noted that the former 
category encompasses all those formulas to 
be found in the QjLir'an, as well as those 
reported to have come from Muhammad 
(or his Companions, etc.; see companions 
OF THE prophet). To this category belong 
prayers (sing, du 'a) found in both the sunna 
(q.v.) and hadlth, i.e. the "Book of good 
manners" in Ibn Abi Shayba's (d. 235/849) 
Musannaf or the "Book of work of day and 
night" in al-Nasa'i's (d. 303/915) al-Sunan 
al-kubrd (see hadith and the qur'an), as 
well as those contained in special collec- 
tions such as Ibn Abll-Dunya's (d. 281/ 
894) al-Tahajjud wa-qiydm al-lajl, and 
especially Ibn al-Sunnl's Amal al-yawm wa- 
I'lajla (cf. also the Egyptian polymath al- 
Suyutl's [d. 911/1505] Dd'i l-faldhji adhkdr 
al-masd' wa-l-sabdh). 

The second grouping, those of the in- 
dividually formulated du'as, may also con- 
tain material attributed to Muhammad, 
but this material is integrated into longer 
prayers that are freely and spontaneously 
composed. When compared to Christian- 

ity, for example, Islam has relatively few 
"prayer" books (probably because of the 
importance of the five daily obligatory rit- 
ual prayers), yet some books of this type 
are well-known. Among them are the so- 
called "Psalms of Islam" [al-Satiifa al-kdmila 
al-sajjddiyya, or al-Sahifa al-sajjddiyya al-uld; 
Pers. ^abur-i dl-i Muhammad), attributed to 
the fourth imam (q.v), Zayn al-'Abidin 'All 
b. al-Husayn, also called al-Sajjad (d. bet. 
92/710 and 99/717; cf. Sezgin, gas, i, 
826-8). These "Psalms" contain suppli- 
cations such as "asking for the best" 
(istikhdra), the invocation on the beginning 
of Ramadan (q.v), bidding farewell to 
Ramadan, etc. (see bibliography for details 
on translations of, and commentaries on, 
al-Sajjad's work, as well as other popular 
collections of prayers). 

As freely expressed prayers are more 
common in Sufism (cf. van Ess, Review, 
185; see SUFISM and the qur'an), a third 
category of du a may be added: the Sufi 
formulations (see below; cf. Gramlich, 
Sendschreiben, 364-71; Ghazah, Ihyd'). 

Expressions of praise (q.v.) represent the 
true meaning of prayer (see also lauda- 
tion; glory; glorification of god). 
Mention can be made of the hamdala, 
"Praise be to God" ("al-hamdu lilldh"), 
which expresses human gratitude for God's 
favors (see grace; blessing; gratitude 
and ingratitude). This phrase opens the 
first chapter of the Qiir'an, Surat al-Fatiha 
(see fatiha), and is found about forty times 
within the Qur'an. Similarly, the invoca- 
tion of the name of God, the bas?nala, "In 
the name of God, the compassionate [for- 
giving??], the merciful" ["bismi lldh," in its 
full form, "bismi lldhi l-rahmdni l-rahim"), 
places all human activity under the divine 
will. This invocation is found at the begin- 
ning of each sura (q.v.) except for one. 
Furthermore, there is the takbir: "God is 
great," ("Alldhu akbar"), which bears witness 
to the absolute transcendence of God (see 



anthropomorphism). One could add 
mention of tiie profession of faith: "Tliere 
is no god but God," [Id ildha ilia lldh; see 
WITNESS TO faith), Contained particularly 
in the call to prayer, as well as the talbiya, 
spoken at the time of pilgrimage (q.v.): 
"Here I am! O God! Here I am! I come to 
you! There is none beside you! I come to 
you; to you be all glory, all grace and all 
power! There is none beside you" (Labbayka 
alldhumma labbayka; labbayka Id shanka laka; 
labbayka. Inna l-hamda wa-l-ni'mata [laka] 
wa-l-mulka laka, Id shanka laka"). 

Du 'd' as prayer of petition — not always 
considered of great importance by some 
theologians — is expressed in certain fixed 
forms, such as in the prayer asking for rain 
[saldt al-istisqd\ cf. q 71:11) or in the prayer 
for the dead, spoken before burial (q.v.; 
saldt 'aid l-mayyit, cf. c) 9:84), which adopts 
the invocation pronounced by the Prophet 
himself as reported by Abu Hurayra, or, 
finally, the prayer of fear [saldt al-khawf, cf. 
Q, 2:239 and 4:101-3), which was said in the 
past by Muslim armies as they went into 
battle against the enemy. Many prayers of 
petition, however, have different forms, 
which are left to the individual's own 

In everyday life, there are numerous in- 
vocations for every occasion, such as those 
addressed to a sick person: "May God heal 
you" (Alldh yashfika); to someone who is 
doing work: "May God give you strength" 
[Alldh ya'tlka l-'dfiya, or, in the Maghreb, 
Alldh ya'tika l-sahha); about someone who 
has died: "May God have mercy upon 
him" (Alldh yarhamuhu); to a father, about 
one of his children: "May God keep him 
for you" (Alldh ikhallilak iyydhu), etc. 

The ritual expressions of prayer are pri- 
marily those of the canonical prayer, the 
saldt, \vhere the recitation of the first siira 
of the Qiir'an, Surat al-Fatiha, is of tre- 
mendous importance. This constitutes the 
prayer ^ar excellence, recited on all of life's 

occasions: it is used at events of personal 
importance, as well as communal ceremo- 
nies, like marriages and funerals, or cir- 
cumcision (q.v.). It is also recited at the 
initiation of an individual into the Muslim 
community. Called umm al-kitdb ("the 
mother of the book" or "the standard of 
the book," depending on the interpreta- 
tion), commentators have written much on 
the benefits of its recitation. During this 
prayer, particularly on Fridays (see Friday 
prayer), numerous classic expressions are 
repeated, such as "God is great" (Alldhu 
akbar) or "Glory to God" (subhdna lldh). 
This prayer is recited in accordance with a 
fixed ritual, which can be shortened when 
one is on a journey (q.v.; c) 4:101). 

One should include here an elaborated 
form of the tashahhud, the profession of 
faith: "To God salutations, prayers, pious 
formidas. Peace be upon you, the Prophet, 
as well as the mercy (q.v.) of God and his 
blessings. May peace also be upon us and 
upon the righteous servants of God. I tes- 
tify that there is no god but the one God, 
there is none beside him, and I testify that 
Muhammed is his servant and his mes- 
senger" [al-tahiyydt lilldh wa-l-salawdt wa- 
l-tayyibdt; al-saldmu 'alayka ayyuhd l-nabi 
vua-rahmatu lldhi wa-barakdtuhu; al-sald?nu 
'alaynd wa- 'aid 'ibddi lldhi l-sdlihin; ashhadu 
anna Id ildha Hid Ildha, Id shanka lahu wa-ash- 
hadu anna Muhammadan rasuluhu; see 


Like Surat al-Fatiha, which opens the 
Qur'an, the two suras which close the 
book, Surat al-Falaq ("The Dawn," (J 113) 
and Surat al-Nas ("People," Q_ 114) are fre- 
quently employed. They are called "the 
two that procure refuge" (al-mu'awwidhatdn) 
because they employ the formulas "a'udhu 
bi-rabbi l-falaq" ("I seek protection from the 
lord of the dawn" — or, from the "lord of 
hell," according to the commentators; see 
HELL AND hellfire) and "a'udhu bi-rabbi 



l-nds" ("I seek protection from the lord of 
humankind"). They have given birth to the 
very frequent formula, "I seek protection 
(q.v.) from God" (a'udhu bi-lldh), by which 
the believer places him- or herself in God's 
hands when faced with danger. "I entrust 
myself to God" [tawwakaltu 'aid lldh, cf. 
Q^ 11:56) is another closely related formula. 

Yet another type of invocation consists 
of the recitation of the divine names, or 
attributes, of God (see god and his 
attributes) — some of which are 
qur'anic: "the merciful," "the strong," 
"the powerful," etc. (see power and 
impotence). There are many lists of these 
names. According to tradition, there are 
ninety-nine names. The hundredth is said 
to be the "true name," which people can- 
not comprehend. 

One qur'anic verse, q^ 2:255, has particu- 
lar importance. Termed "the throne verse" 
(dyat al-kursi), it is very often recited (see 
THRONE OF god). Certain commentators 
say that it encompasses the name of God 
that cannot be spoken. 

Finally, certain Sufi formulations are used 
by mystics: huwa ("he") and al-'ishq ("love"), 
to which are added the ceremonies [dhikr 
or hadra) of the litanies whose precise 
forms may vary among different brother- 
hoods. One of the most common customs 
is the continually repeated utterance of 
the divine name Alldh, "God" (see 

Jean-Yves UHopital 

Primary: Agha Biizurg, Muhammad Muhsin b. 
All, al-Dhan'aji tasdmf al-shi'a, 25 vols., Beirut 
1983^, XV, 18-21, on the five al-Sahifa al-sajjddiyya, 
the post-Sajjad prayer collections, i.e. that of 
1053/1642 by al-Hurr al-'Amili (d. 1104/1693); 
al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad, Ihyd' 'ulum 
al-din, 4 vols., Bulaq 1872, repr. Cairo 1933, i, 
264-98 (Bk. 9); i, 299-328 (Bk. 10); Fr. trans. G.H. 
Bousquet, Ih'ya 'ouloHm ed-din ou Vivification des 
sciences de lafoi. Analyse et index, Paris 1955, 95-9, 

100-5; Eng. trans, (of Bk. 9) K. Nakamura, Al- 
Adhkar wa 1-da'awat. Invocations & supplications. 
Book IX of the Revival oj the religious sciences, Tokyo 
1973, Cambridge, UK 1990^ (rev. ed.); Ibn Abi 
1-Dunya, al-Tahajjud wa-qiydm al-layl, ed. M.A.M. 
al-Sa'danl, Cairo 1994; Ibn Abi al-Shayba, Abu 
Bakr Abdallah b. Muhammad b. Ibrahim, al- 
Musannaf fi l-ahddith wa-l-dthdr, rev. ed. M.A. 
Shahln, 9 vols., Beirut 1995, v, 210-343 (19. 
A. al-Addb); Ibn al-Sunnl, Abu Bakr Ahmad b. 
Muhammad al-Dlnawarl, 'Amal al-yawm. wa-l- 
layla, ed. B.M. 'Uyun, Damascus 1987, 1994-^; 
al-Jazidl, Muhammad b. Sulayman al-SamlalT, 
Dald'il al'khayrdt washawdriq al-anwdrji dhikr al- 
saldt 'aid l-nabi al-mukhtdr, Cairo 1994 (a popular 
collection of prayers, which contains prayers not 
only for the Prophet, but also the description of 
his grave and a list of his names; see names of 
THE prophet); Nasa'l, Sunan, vi, 3-281 (8r. 
K. 'Amal al-yawm wa-layla); Ni'mat Allah al- 
Jaza'irT, Nur al-anwdrjt shark al-Sahifa al-sajjddiyya, 
Beirut 2000 (a commentary on al-Sajjad's work); 
al-Sajjad, see below, under "Zayn al-Abidln All 
b. al-Husayn"; Suyiiti, Dd'i l-faldhf adhkdr a l- 
masd' wa-l-sabdh, ed. A. A. Bajur, Cairo 1994; 
Zayn al-Abidin All b. al-Husayn, al-Sahifa al- 
sajjddiyya al-kdmila, on 
arabic/sahifa/, Eng. trans. W.C. Chittick, The 
psalms of Islam, Oxford 1988. 

Secondary: M.A. Amir-Moezzi, Le guide divin dans 
le shVisme original. Aux sources de Vesoterisme en Islam, 
Lagrasse 1992, 55; Eng. trans. E. Arnold, Pearls 
of faith or Islam's rosary, Boston 1883; M. Ben Che- 
neb, al-Djazuli, in Ei^, ii, 527-8; W.C. Chittick 
(ed. and trans.), ^ Shi'ite anthology, Albany 1981, 9 
(on The scroll of al-Sajjdd), 113-22 (two prayers 
translated from The Scroll); K. Gragg., Alive to God. 
Aluslim and Christian prayer, London 1970; id.. 
Pilgrimage prayers, in MW ^'^ (iQSS)? 269-80; 
P. Cuperly, Ghazdll. Temps et prieres, Paris 1990 
(extracts from Kitdb al-Adhkdr wa-l-da 'wdt of the 
Ihyd' 'ulum al-din);]. van Ess, Review of W.C. 
Chittick, The psalms of Islam. Al-Sahifa al-kamila 
al-sajjadiyya. By Imdm ^ayn al-Abidin All b. al- 
Husayn, Oxford 1988, in Der Islam 67 (1990), 
184-7; i*^-' ^'^j ij 274 (on al-Sahifa al-kdmila al- 
sajjdddiyya); D. Gril, Priere et invocation dans le 
Coran, in G. Dporival and D. Pralon (eds. and 
comps.), Prieres mediterraneennes hier et aujourd'hui, 
Provence 2000, 283-93; ^- Gramlich, Das 
Sendschreiben al-Qusayris Uber das Sufitum, Stuttgart 
1989, chap. 99, Das Bittgebet (du'a), 364-99 and 
passim; J. Jomier, Invocations pour les moments 
de la journee, in MIDEO 10 (1970), 271-90, repr. in 
id., LTslam vecu en Egypte, Paris 1994, 221-40; id., 
LTslam vecu en Egypte, Paris 1994; id.. La place du 
Coran dans la vie quotidienne en Egypte, in 
IBLA 15 (1952), 131-65, repr. in id., L'Islam vecu 



m Egypte, Paris 1994, 185-219; M.J. Kister, 
Labbayka, Allahumma, Labbayka... On a 
monotheistic aspect of Jahiliyya practice, inJSAI 
2 (1980), 33-57; L. Kohlberg, ^ medieval Muslim 
scholar at work. Ibn Tawus and his library, Leiden 
1992 (see pp. 322-3, no. 522; 244-5, ^°- 346) for 
'^Majmu'at Mawldnd ^ayn al-'Abidin")\ Sezgin, 
GAS, i, 527 (on Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'irl), 826-8 
(on al-Sajijad); C. Padwick, The language of 
Muslim devotion, in MIV /^J (1957), 5-21, 98-110, 
194-209, 299-317; id., Muslim devotions, London 
1961 (contains translations of some of the 
prayers fomid in al-Sajjad's works); S.M. 
Zwemer, The rosary in Islam, in ^I^\' 27 
(1937). 329-43- 

Pre-1800 Preoccupations of 
Qiir'anic Studies 

The Qur'an refers in various ways to the 
teachings of the Christians and Jews, 
which it partially adopts, partially corrects 
or completely rejects (see christians and 

AND disputation). Thus it is not surpris- 
ing that, from the beginning, the Qiir'an 
also became the object of Christian and 
Jewish interest. Furthermore, the fact that, 
for centuries, the polemical debate re- 
ceived the most attention, is not surprising. 
In the context of the times, this formed an 
understandable first stage for later attempts 
at a more scientific-objective treatment of 
the Qiir'an, attempts which only began in 
early modern times. Conditions for this 
later development were, on the one hand, 
easier access in the west to the original 
Arabic text of the Qiir'an, and, on the 
other hand, the development of Arabic 
philology to the standard of classical stud- 
ies, which is inseparably linked with the 
names of Joseph Justus Scaliger (d. 1609) 
and Thomas Erpenius (d. 1624). 

According to the so-called covenant of 
'Umar ('ahd 'UmarJ, i.e. that of the second 
caliph (q.v.), 'Umar b. al-Khattab, non- 
Muslims were forbidden to teach their 

children the Qiir'an (cf. Bobzin, Reforma- 
tion, 43 n. 35; see teaching and preach- 
ing THE cjur'an). From this one can draw 
the conclusion that Muslims were not 
generally interested in allowing non- 
Muslims to participate in theological 
debates on the character of the holy book 
mitability). In any case, as "protected 
persons" (sing, dhimmi) living among 
Muslims, Christians and Jews must have 
possessed a certain basic knowledge of the 
most important teachings of the Qur'an, 
not only through their constant contact 
with Muslims, but also because the Arabic 
language was deeply influenced by num- 
erous qur'anic words and idioms (see 

our'an in). Although there is a consider- 
able amount of both Jewish and Christian 
polemical literature against Islam, it is 
nevertheless remarkable that the character 
of the Qur'an as God's word and reve- 
lation (see word of god; revelation 
AND inspiration) did not stand at the 
forefront of theological debates. The 
questions of the unity of God (see god 
AND HIS attributes), the authenticity 
of the Jewish-Christian scriptures (see 
forgery; revision and alteration) and 
the proofs of Muhammad's prophethood 
were debated much more frequently (see 
PROPHETS and prophethood; proof; 


AND THE our'an). If Jews and Christians 
wrote in Arabic on subjects of central 
importance, such as the Qur'an, they had 
to express themselves quite carefully in 
view of potential Muslim sensitivities. 
Hence, it is not surprising that the number 
of Arabic treatises by Jewish and Christian 
authors that deal exclusively with the 
Qur'an is relatively low (cf. Steinschneider, 
Polemische, 313-6). 



Christian-Arabic studies 
Already in the third/ninth century the 
Nestorian scribe Abu Nuh al-Anbari wrote 
a 'refutation of the Qiir'an' (Tafnid al- 
Qur'dn), which, however, is little known (cf. 
Graf, GCAL, ii, 118). Of greatest influence 
on the attitude of Christians to the Qtir'an 
was the polemical treatise in defense of 
Christianity published under the pseudo- 
nym 'Abd al-Maslh b. Ishaq al-Kindl 
(not to be confused with the famous 
philosopher Abu Yusuf al-Kindl, d. after 
252/865), which was conceived as a 
response to the invitation of the Muslim 
'Abdallah b. Isma'il al-Hashiml. This so- 
called "Apology of al-Kindl" (Risdlat 'Abd 
al-MasTh al-Kindi ild Abdalldh al-Hdshimi; cf 
Graf, GCAL, ii, 135-45) *^^ i"^ ^^ likelihood 
written in the third/ninth century. It is a 
matter of debate whether the unknown 
author was a Jacobite (according to 
Massignon, al-Kindi; d'Alverny, Deux 
traductions, 91) or a Nestorian (Graf, ibid.; 
Troupeau, al-Kindl). Within the scope of 
his elaborate discussion of Islam the 
author also addresses the Qtir'an (al-Kindl, 
Risdla, ed. Tien, 128 f; cf. ibid., ed. Tartar, 
Dialogue, 175 f); the information about its 
origin and compilation deviates on some 
points from the orthodox Islamic view, 
however, and it does not always seem to be 
reliable (cf. Noldeke, go, iii, 6 f and 104). 
Above all, however, the author wants to 
prove the inauthentic and unoriginal 
nature of the Qiir'an, arguing that the 
contents of the Qiir'an were strongly 
influenced by a certain Christian monk 
named Sergius, alias Nestorius, who had 
wished to imitate the Gospels. After his 
death two Jews, 'Abdallah b. Salam and 
Ka'b al-Ahbar, had also added materials 
from Jewish sources. In any case, the 
argumentation of the Risdla reveals its 
author's own precise knowledge of the 
Qiir'an, from which he frequently makes 
exact quotations. 

Al-Kindi's Risdla had a significant effect, 
particularly in the west. It belonged to the 
Arabic texts on Islam that, in Toledo 
during a visit to Spain in 1142-3 c.E., the 
Cluniac abbot Peter the Venerable 
(d. 1156 c.E.) arranged to be translated into 
Latin, along with the Qiir'an (cf. Kritzeck, 
Peter the Venerable; Bobzin, Reformation, 46 f ); 
thereby, the Risdla, under the title "Epistula 
saraceni et rescriptum christiani, " became a 
part of the so-called 'Corpus Toletanum.' 
This Corpus would, for centuries, prove to 
be for European scholars the most im- 
portant basis for their knowledge of Islam. 
One century later, the Rescriptum christiani 
was integrated by Vincent of Beauvais 
(Vincentius Bellovacensis; d. ca. 1264) into 
his encyclopedic work Speculum historiale 
(written bet. 1247-59; fi'"^' ^'^- Strasbourg 
1473); from this source it reached Theodor 
Bibliander's 1543 edition of the Qur'an 
(see below). As an original part of the 
'Corpus Toletanum,' the Risdla was later 
used by authors like Dionysius Carthii- 
sianiis (see below), Nicholas of Ciisa (see 
below) and others. 

Another important polemical work, 
which also deals in some detail with the 
Qur'an, is the so-called 'Bahira legend' 
(cf. Gottheil, Christian; Abel, Bahira). It 
seems to follow in this respect al-Kindi's 
Risdla, when it recounts a similar tale about 
a Christian monk called Sergius, who was 
supposedly the teacher of Muhammad 
and, thus, the real inspirer of the 
Qur'an (cf. Graf, GCAL, ii, 145 f; see 


Of later authors the Coptic scholar al- 
Safl Abu 1-Fada'il b. al-'Assal should be 
mentioned (d. bef 1260 c.E.; Graf, gcal, 
ii, 388). Within the scope of an apology for 
the New Testament scriptures, he also 
concerns himself with the Qur'an, which 
he characterises as a source of revelation 
(Graf, ibid., 394). In the twelfth/eighteenth 
century, Hanna Maqar, in a polemical 



treatise against a Muslim scholar, pro- 
ceeded with more precision against the 
Qvir'an (Graf, goal, iv, 165 f.). From 
among the Maronites, mention should be 
made of Yuhanna al-Hawshabi (d. 1632; 
Graf, GOAL, iii, 304 and 345-7; Steinschnei- 
der, Polemische, 402), who wrote a book 
Mundqaddt al-Qur'dn ("On the contradic- 
tions of the Qiir'an"), and also Petrus b. 
Dumit Makhluf (d. ca. 1707; Graf, goal, 
iii, 378-80), with his work Miftdh al-bi'a 
("The key of the church"). The Armenian- 
Catholic theologian Mkrtic al-Kaslh 
working in Aleppo (late seventeenth/early 
eighteenth century) wrote two treatises 
which dealt critically with the Qiir'an, 
namely al-Mdsikh wa-l-7nansukh ft l-Qur'dn 
("On the abrogating and abrogated verses 
in the Qiir'an"; Graf, gcal, iv, 83-6) as 
well as Sidq al-Injil wa-kidhb al-Qur'dn ("On 
the truth of the Gospel and the falsehood 
of the Qiir'an"). 

Western theologians also availed them- 
selves of the Arabic language from the 
seventeenth century onwards: the Fran- 
ciscan Dominicus Germanus de Silesia 
(d. 1670; cf Graf, gcal, ii, 176 f ; Bobzin, 
Ein oberschlesischer Korangelehrter) in his 
work, Antitheses Jidei, printed in Rome in 
1638; the Jesuitjean Amieu (d. 1653), who, 
from 1635, lived in Syria (Aleppo/Beirut) 
and wrote a refutation of the Qiir'an 
(Graf, gcal, iv, 217); or the Capuchin 
Franciscus of Romontin (d. ca. 1700) who 
wrote an as yet imprinted refutation of the 
Qur'an with the title Iqdn al-tanq al-hddi ild 
malakut al-samawdt {Gra£, gcal, iv, 201) at 
the request of Pope Innocent IV. 

Eastern authors writing in Greek 
The text written by the orthodox theolo- 
gian John of Damascus (d. bef. 754 c.E.) in 
his Liber de haeresibus (although its authen- 
ticity is controversial) would become just as 
influential as al-Kindl's Risdla, with its 
hundredth (or lOist; cf. Sahas, j'oA« of 

Damascus, 57) chapter on the "heresy of the 
Ishmaelites" [threskeia ton Ismaeliton; cf. 
Sahas, JfeAn of Damascus). In the text he also 
addresses the Qur'an from which he knows 
the names of different suras (like, for 
example, "The Young Cow" = C3 2, Surat 
al-Baqara; "The Women" = Q, 4, Surat 
al-Nisa'; "The Table" = Q, 5, Surat al- 
Ma'ida). Included, however, are also names 
which are not traditional in Muslim 
sources: "The Camel (q.v.) of God" (but cf. 
Q. 7-73J 54-27; 9i-i3)- From some of these 
suras he mentions certain regulations, e.g. 
the permission of polygamy with up to 4 
wives (ci 4:3; see marriage and divorce; 
patriarchy; women and the our'an) 
and the possibility of the dismissal of wives 
(c3 2:229 f ). Above all, however, John 
presents the marriage of Muhammad to 
Zaynab bt. Jahsh, the wife of his own 
adoptive son Zayd b. Haritha, in C3 33:37 f, 
as an example of his immorality. The 
reputation of John of Damascus and the 
wide distribution of his writings ensured 
that this episode became a steadfast 
constant of Christian polemical arguments 
against Islam, in the east (e.g. with al- 
Kindl), as in the west (e.g. Eulogius, see 
below), long before the appearance of the 
first complete Latin Qur'an translation in 
the west (see translations of the 

The work of the Byzantine author 
Niketas of Byzantium became similarly 
influential (d. after 886 c.E.; but cf. Sahas, 
John of Damascus, 77 n. i, where his dates 
are given as 842-912 c.E.). He wrote one of 
the oldest Byzantine polemical treatises 
against the Qur'an [Anatrope tes para tou 
Arabos Moamet plastographetheises biblou; ed. 
J.-P. Migne, pg, cv, cols. 669-805; Ger. 
trans. Forstel, Schriften zum Islam). Not on 
account of his own knowledge of the 
original Arabic (Khoiiry, Theologiens 
byziintins, 119 f), but rather on the basis of 
a Greek Qur'an translation already 



available to him (Trapp, Gab es eine 
byzantinische Koraniibersetzung?), in the 
second segment of his book he deals in 
detail with 2 to 18, from which he quotes 
numerous verses verbatim. The rest of the 
suras are treated only summarily. The 
suras, the first of which he does not 
consider to belong in the Qiir'an, he labels 
logos, mythos or mytharion, and calls them by 
their mostly translated, but now and then 
also simply transcribed, names. Most 
frequently cited are translated verses which 
refer to biblical figures, especially, of 
course, Jesus (q.v.). All together Niketas 
views the Qiir'an as an "unreasonable, 
unsystematically thrown together, shoddy 
piece of work, filled with lies, forgeries, 
fables and contradictions; his language is 
neither that of a Prophet, nor does it 
correspond with the dignity of a religious 
book or legal code" (Giiterbock, Der Islam, 
26 f). Especially important is the misinter- 
pretation of al-samad (cj 112:2), one of the 
qur'anic attributes of God, that Niketas, 
following the Greek translation of the 
Qiir'an at his disposal, reproduces as 
'entirely compact' {holosphyros, variant: 
holosphairos, 'completely round'). He 
thereby provides the Qiir'an with a 
materialistic image of God, which is 
completely foreign to it in principle. This 
view was taken over by later theologians, 
as, for example, Euthymios Zigabenos 
(fl. twelfth century c.E.) in his Panoplia 
dogmatike ("Dogmatic panoply, " Migne, PG, 
cxxx, 1348B), or in the so-called 'abjura- 
tion formula' for Muslim converts (Migne, 
PG, cxl, 124-36; cf Montet, Rituel d'abju- 
ration, 155). 

From the time of the Palaiologues 
(fourteenth/fifteenth century), who deal 
with the Qur'an in more detail, later 
Byzantine authors belong completely to 
the tradition of Latin authors (see below, 

Western authors writing in Latin 
Use of the Qiir'an in Latin began on the 
Iberian peninsula, not surprisingly because 
of the strong presence there of Muslims. 
What is more surprising is that the Spanish 
Christian theologians in their polemic 
against the Qiir'an quite evidently fell back 
on arguments which had their origin in the 
tradition of eastern Christianity. Thus the 
author Eulogius of Cordoba (d. 859 i;.E.) 
in his Liber apologeticus martyrum (Migne, PL, 
cxv, col. 860) quotes C) 33:37 to criticize 
Muhammad's adulterous behaviour (see 
ADULTERY AND fornkiation) — in exactly 
the same way as al-Kindl had already done 
in his Risdla and John of Damascus had 
done before him. The Jewish apostate 
Peter Alphonsi (Rabbi Moses Sephardi, 
d. after 1130 c.E.), who was one of the 
significant mediators of Arabic science to 
the Occident, in his Dialogi in quibus impiae 
Judaeorum opiniones. . . confutantur also 
addressed the teachings of Islam, whose 
implausibility he tried to demonstrate with 
some correctly translated qur'anic citations 
(q_ 2:256; 4:157; 10:99 f , 108 f ; 11:118; 
18:29; 29:46; 93:6-8; 109:1-4, 6; cf Monnot, 
Citations coraniqiies). 

The most important basic work for the 
qur'anic knowledge and cjiir'anic criticism 
of late-medieval authors was made, at the 
instigation of Peter the Venerable (1142-3 
c.E.), by the English scholar Robert of 
Ketton (or Robert of Chester; more precise 
dates unknown). This was a quite inexact 
Latin paraphrase of the Qiir'an. Its in- 
fluence, through the Basel printed editions 
of 1543 and 1550, and the translations 
based on it in Italian (1547), German (1616; 
1623'') and Dutch (1641), however, extended 
far into the seventeenth century (cf. 
Bobzin, Reformation, 262 f). Peter the 
Venerable himself wrote a shorter Summa 
totius haeresis saracenorum, a longer (now 
incomplete) treatise Contra sectam saraceno- 
rum and one Epistula de translatione sua 



addressed to Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153 
C.E.), writings wliicli, together witli tlie 
paraphrase of tlie Qiir'an and the Rescrip- 
tum christiani from the Risdla of al-Kindi, 
became part of the so-called 'Corpus 
Toletanum.' Peter understood the Qiir'an 
as a 'law' (lex) or 'collection of regulations' 
(collectaneum praeceptorum), but held it to be 
inferior to the Bible, because it was com- 
piled from 'Jewish fables and heretical 
gossip' (tarn exfabulis ludaicis quam ex haere- 
ticorum neniis confeda; Summa). He main- 
tained that, even if some words seem 
identical in the Bible and Qiir'an — as, 
for example, "word," "mind" or 
"envoy" — nevertheless, as he works out 
clearly, quite different concepts underlie 
them. In his argumentation he quotes only 
relatively rarely directly from the Qiir'an, 
and occasionally from the Rescriptum 
christiani. The Annotationes accompanying 
the qur'anic paraphrase, which were only 
partly reproduced in Bibliander's edition of 
1543 (i, 224-30; cf d'Alverny, Deux traduc- 
tions, 98 f), have but recently come to be 
appreciated as informative pointers to the 
employment of the Qiir'an and Islamic 
commentaries by Mozarabic Christians 
(Biirman, Religious polemic, 84 f). They 
begin with a list of the so-called "beautiful 
names" of God (al~asmd' al-husna) and also 
contain a clue to the linguistic resemblance 
of Arabic with Hebrew. For example, the 
word 'Azoara' for the Arabic al-sura is 
explained with reference to the Latin vultus 
'face' (i.e. <Arabic siira!) which points to 
the fact that the difference between the 
sibilants s and s probably no longer existed. 

Evidently, the anonymous treatise Liber 
denudationis sive ostensionis aut patefaciens (also 
known under the title of Contrarietas alfolica; 
cf. d'Alverny and Vajda, Marc de Tolede, 
124 f), which exists in a unique manuscript 
(Paris, BN Lat. 3394), and also follows an 
Arabic model, should be viewed in con- 
nection with the second complete qur'anic 

translation by Mark of Toledo (d. after 
1234 C.E.; cf Bobzin, Reformation, 55 f ). It 
contains about 75 explicit Qiir'an citations, 
which, like the entire book, are translated 
in a very literal fashion. Furthermore, the 
suras are usually designated by their titles 
and, in addition, different names are also 
used for the same sura, as is familiar from 
the Islamic tradition. Regarding the origin 
of the Qur'an, the familiar hadlth (cf. 
Noldeke, gq, i, 48 n. 3) is cited (see hadIth 
AND THE q^ur'an), namely, that the Qur'an 
would be "revealed" to Muhammad "in 
seven ahruf, of which every one would be 
good" [descendit Alchoranus super me in septem 
litteris, et quicquid satis est sufjicit; Liber denu- 
dationis, chap. 6, par. i, ed. Burman, Reli- 
gious polemic, 274). The Latin text explains 
that these seven readings (see readings of 
THE our'an) — this is what is meant here 
by litterae — are associated with the names 
Nafe (Nafi'), Ebou Omar (Abu 'Amr), 
Homra (Hamza), Elkessar (al-Kisa'l), Asser 
('Asim), filiiis Ketir (Ibn Kathir) and filius 
Amer (Ibn 'Amir), who are also the 
founders of seven so-called "canonical" 
readings (see reciters of the our'an; 
RECITATION OF THE q^ur'an). The text 
explains that they were not, however, 
contemporaries of Muhammad, because 
during his lifetime only Abdalla filius 
Messoud ('Abdallah b. Mas'ud), Zeid filius 
Thabet (Zayd b. Thabit), Othman filius 
Offan ('Uthman b. 'Affan) and Ebi filius 
Chab (Ubayy b. Ka'b) would have been 
familiar with the Qur'an. Whether or not 
fihus Abitaleb ('Ah b. Abi Talib [q.v.]) was 
familiar with the Qur'an, is controversial. 
Nevertheless, the Qur'ans of the afore- 
mentioned people would have been 
different, which is why Mereban filius 
Elhekem (Marwan b. al-Hakam, i.e. the 
fourth Umayyad caliph, active 684-5) ^^'^ 
them burned and a new text produced (see 




q^ur'an). It was only after this that the 
abovementioned seven appeared as readers 
characterised a.s praefecti, wlio "contra- 
dicted each other so much in their gram- 
mar as in their use of idiom" [contmdixerunt 
sibi in gramatica et idiomatibus propriis, Liber 
denundationis, chap. 6, par. 2, ed. Burman, 
Religious polemic, 2']6). Nevertlreless, otlier 
accounts are mentioned wliicli indicate 
that an official codex of the Qiir'an did not 
yet exist at Muhammad's death. Only at 
the instigation of Abu Bakr was all the 
available material collected and assembled 
by him to become the Qiir'an that exists 
today (see mushaf). The purpose of these 
reports is to prove the unreliability or 
inauthenticity of the Qiir'an as a holy 
book. A chapter about the ^impure' things 
(immundita) also occupies a considerable 
amount of space, along with (the most 
extensive part) the chapter on the num- 
erous contradictions to be observed in the 
Qiir'an. In the treatment of particular 
passages, the author relies upon a note- 
worthy knowledge of Islamic commenta- 
ries and traditional literature (see exegesis 

VAL). Although the work is extant in only a 
single manuscript, it had a notable effect 
and its use by some later authors can be 
demonstrated (see Ricoldo below). 

The mendicant orders of the Dominicans 
and Franciscans, which arose as a 
consequence of the Crusades, counted 
among their tasks the resumption of at- 
tempts to convert the Muslims. For this 
purpose, at the instigation of Raymund of 
Pennaforte (d. 1275 c.E.), language acade- 
mies for Arabic came into being in Spain 
and north Africa (cf. Altaner, Sprachstu- 
dien; id., Die fremdsprachliche). A grad- 
uate of one of these was Raymond Martin 
(Ramon Marti; Lat. Raymundus Martini; 
d. ca. 1284 c;.E.; cf Berthier, Maitre), who, 
in his works Pugiofidei aduersus Mauros et 
ludaeos and Explanatio simboli apostolorum, 

reveals a detailed knowledge of Arabic 
source texts including the Qiir'an, as well 
as the appropriate traditional literature 
(cf. Cortabarria Beitia, Connaissance; 
id.. Sources arabes; see traditional 
DISCIPLINES OF our'anic study). Whether 
the so-called Qiiadruplex reprobatio can also 
be ascribed to him remains a matter of 
dispute (cf. Daniel, Islam and the west, 31; 
Burman, Religious polemic, 205 n. 44; 
Hernando y Delgado, De Seta Machometi, 
356 f). The so-called language canon of 
the Council of Vienna (1311/12 (;.E.; cf. 
Altaner, Raymundus LuUus) goes back to 
the untiring activity of the Catalan Ray- 
mond Lull (Ramon LluU; Lat. Raymundus 
LuUus; d. ca. 1316 c.E.) to which later 
appeal was repeatedly made, above all for 
the study of the Arabic Qur'an text. Lull 
himself possessed excellent knowledge of 
Arabic (cf. Brummer, Ramon Lull; Lohr, 
Christianus arabicus), which is revealed in 
many of his works; his qur'anic knowledge 
comes to light especially in his Disputatio 
Raymundi christiani et Hamar saraceni, which 
was written in 1307 c.E. (cf. Daiber, Der 
Missionar). Belonging also to the Spanish 
context but known only in summary form, 
is the treatise Sobre la seta Mahometana by the 
archbishop of Jaen, Pedro Pascual (d. 1300 
i;.E.), who was, admittedly, later criticized 
by John of Segovia (see below) for not 
being faithful to the text. According to 
John of Segovia, Pedro reads teachings in 
the text of the Qur'an which it does not 
contain (cf. Cabanelas Rodriguez, j'Mfln de 
Segovia, 139). 

To William of Tripoli (fl. second half of 
the thirteenth century c.E.), a Dominican 
from Syria, about whose life little is known, 
has, until now, been attributed the work De 
statu sarracenorum. (see Prutz, Kulturgeschichte 
for the text edition), in which there are also 
reports on the content and creation of the 
Qur'an. It has recently been proved that 
not this, but rather a similar work with the 



title Motitia de Machometo et de libra legis qui 
dicitur Alcoran et de continentia eius et quid dicat 
dejide Domini nostri lesu Christi was written 
by liim (cf. Engel's comments on liis edition 
of William's work). The creation of the 
Qiir'an, according to William, occurred 
thus: 40 years after Muhammad's death 
there were only seven of his Companions 
alive (see companions of the prophet). 
These individuals then planned to produce 
a single "teaching" (doctrina), to be called 
the "law of Muhammad" (lex Machometi), 
siinilar to the Jews' possessing the Torah of 
Moses and the Christians, the gospel of 
Christ. The composition of this work they 
delegated to 'Hesman filius Effran' (i.e. 
'Uthman b. 'Affan) from Damascus, which 
he did "with hidden profundity" (profan- 
dilate obscura). c) i, which is completely and 
correctly translated, is regarded by William 
as a "preface" (prefatio) and its content as 
an "expression of thanks and a prayer" 
(see fatiha). q_ 2 counts as the first chapter, 
"concerning the cow" (De vacca); the 
shorthand alif-ldm-mim in verse i represents 
the word a/am ^suffering' (see mysterious 
letters; ARABIC LANGUAGE). Special 
value is placed upon the qur'anic refer- 
ences to Christ and the virgin Mary (q.v.), 
that were for the most part cited directly, 
above all from q 3 and 19. 

One of the most influential medieval 
works on the Qiir'an was written by the 
Florentine Dominican Ri(c)coldo da 
Monte Croce (d. ca. 1320 c.E.), who, be- 
tween 1288 and 1300, worked as a preacher 
in the Middle East. His treatise Contra legem 
sarracenorum is based upon excellent knowl- 
edge of the Arabic qur'anic text; never- 
theless, he used passages from the Liber 
denudationis, as, for example, with respect to 
the creation of the qur'anic text. Here, the 
above quoted hadith on the seven readings 
is read as follows: Descendit Alchoranus super 
me in VII uiris [instead of: litteris] ..., which 
admittedly fits better with the naming of 

the readings. Also with some of his almost 
70 qur'anic quotations, Ricoldo follows the 
text of the Liber denudationis. He calls the 
suras always by their names, not by their 

One can recognize Ricoldo's work both 
as a "classic" and as a very systematic 
summary of all Christian objections to the 
Qiir'an (cf. Bobzin, Treasury of heresies, 
165 f), which are, in brief: the Qiir'an is 
nothing but a mixture of older Christian 
heresies that had already been denounced 
by earlier church authorities. Because it is 
predicted by neither the Hebrew Bible nor 
the New Testament, the Qiir'an cannot be 
accepted as divine law; for the rest, the 
Qtir'an refers in some cases specifically to 
the Bible as an authority. Similarly, the 
theory of the textual falsification (tahrif) 
cannot be accepted (see revision and 
alteration). Regarding its style (see 
language and style of the cjur'an), the 
Qtir'an does not correspond with any 
"holy" writing; above all, its many fantastic 
stories make it impossible to accept a 
divine origin for the Qiir'an (see narra- 

qur'an; literary structures of the 
qUR'AN). Some ethical concepts would 
contradict basic philosophical convictions 
(see ethics and the q^ur'an; philosophy 
AND the q^ur'an). Above all, however, the 
Qur'an contains numerous internal contra- 
dictions, apart from its entirely obvious 
lack of order (see form and structure 
OF the our'an; chronology and the 
q^ur'an). Furthermore, the Qur'an was not 
witnessed by a miracle (q.v.). The Qur'an 
goes against reason; this is apparent both 
in Muhammad's life, which is branded as 
immoral, as well as in some blasphemous 
views on divine topics. The Qur'an 
preaches force and allows injustice (see 
expeditions and battles; war; fight- 
ing; PATH OR way; jihad; justice and 
injustice; violence). The history of the 



text of the Qi_ir'an ultimately proves the 
uncertainty of the text. 

In the year 1385 c.E., Ricoldo's work was 
translated into Greek by the Byzantine 
scholar Demetrios Kydones (d. ca. 1398). 
This translation led to a late blooming of 
polemic literature against Islam, which is 
connected with the writings of two em- 
perors (cf. Mazal, Zur geistigen Ausein- 
andersetzung): John VI Kantakuzenos 
(r. 1347-54 '^-E.) composed Four arguments 
against the heresy of the Saracens and Four 
speeches against Muhammad (printed in Basel 
in 1543 in Bibliander's qur'anic volume), 
and Manuel II Palaiologos (r 1391-1425 
c.E.) composed his Dialogue with a Persian on 
the religion of the Christians (cf. ed. Forstel; 
Trapp, v\<ffln«c/ //. Palaiologos). In both 
works, the traces of the work of Ricoldo- 
Kydones are clearly recognizable. 

On the basis of the Greek text of Kydo- 
nes, there followed a Latin retranslation 
by an otherwise unknown Bartholomaeus 
Picenus de Monte Arduo. The name of the 
author appears here, following the Greek 
model (here 'Ricoldo' became 'Rikardos'), 
as ^Richardus'. The first imprint of the 
Latin original appeared in 1500 in Seville 
under the title Improbatio Alcorani (with a 
Spanish translation Reprobacion del Alcoran in 
1501), again in Toledo in 1502, as well as in 
Venice in 1607 under the different title of 
Propugnaculum fidei. In many respects defec- 
tive, the aforementioned Latin retransla- 
tion appeared for the first time in Rome in 
1506 under the title Confutatio Alcorani seu 
legis Saracenoru?n. On the basis of this text, 
Martin Luther (d. 1546) composed his 
Verlegung [— refutation] des Alcoran Bruder 
Richardi (Wittenberg 1542); on the one 
hand, Luther shortened the text where it 
appeared too scholastic, on the other hand, 
he expanded it around some passages con- 
nected with the contemporary Turkish 
threat (cf. Bobzin, Reformation, 142 f). 
Theodor Bibliander printed in his collec- 

tion of 1543 (see below) both the Greek 
version of Kydones and its Latin retransla- 
tion: the latter, as it happens, was printed 
far more frequently than the original text! 

The influence of the Turkish wars 
The Turkish wars had a very great influ- 
ence on European qur'anic studies. The 
conquest of Constantinople in 1453 c.E. by 
the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II, which 
announced the final end of the Byzantine 
empire, caused, and was preceded by, a 
lively production of treatises on the "re- 
ligion of the Turks." At the same time, a 
key roll fell to the German cardinal 
Nicholas of Cusa (Nikolaus of Kues; Lat. 
Nicolaus Cusanus, d. 1464). At the council 
of Basel (1431-49), he had become ac- 
quainted with the Spanish theologian, and 
later cardinal, John of Segovia (Juan de 
Segovia; d. ca. 1458), and through him he 
gained knowledge of the 'Corpus Toleta- 
num.' During a trip to Constantinople on 
behalf of Pope Eugene IV (in 1437), he had 
certain passages from an Arabic qur'anic 
text explained to him in a Franciscan 
monastery. He then came across the Latin 
Qiir'an translation from the 'Corpus Tole- 
tanum' in a Dominican convent. With the 
encouragement of Nicholas, the Carthu- 
sian monk Dionysius Rijkel, originally 
from the Netherlands, (Dionysius Carthu- 
sianus, d. 1471), who accompanied him on 
his trips from 145 1 and after, wrote an ex- 
tensive treatise against the Qrir'an: Contra 
Alchoranum et sectam Machometicam (printed 
in Cologne in 1533; German trans. Stras- 
bourg 1540). It is based totally upon the 
writings of the 'Corpus Toletanum' and 
provides a refutation of various cjur'anic 
passages, quite schematically organized 
according to the suras. Following the end 
of the Council of Basel (1449), John of 
Segovia withdrew from all church political 
activity, and busied himself with the study 
of Islam. In his treatise De mittendo gladio 



divini spiritus in corda Saracenorum. ("On send- 
ing the sword of die divine spirit into the 
liearts of the Saracens"), lie emphasized 
the importance of a thorough knowledge 
of tire Qiir'an for fruitful disputation with 
the Muslims that could promote living 
together in peace. With his studies of 
the Qiir'an, the imperfection of the old 
Toledan translation became evident to him 
(as did that of other writings as, for ex- 
ample, those of Pedro de Pascual). After he 
moved in 1454 to the monastery of Alton 
in Savoy, he succeeded in persuading the 
Muslim jurist 'Isa Dhajabir (alias Y(;a 
Gidelli) to undertake the journey from his 
home town Segovia to Alton. There they 
worked for four months (winter 1455/56) 
on a new Qiir'an edition, one which con- 
tained a Castilian translation next to the 
Arabic text (cf. Gabanelas Rodriguez, Juan 
de Segovia; Wiegers, Islamic literature). Of 
this work, to which Juan added another 
Latin translation, only the prologue exists 
today. In it, a convincing criticism of the 
translation practice of Robert of Ketton is 

In ca. 1460-1, Nicholas of Cusa himself 
composed his Cribratio Alcorani ("An exami- 
nation of the Qur'an"). It is dedicated to 
Pope Pius II (r. 1458-64), who imposed a 
crusading policy against the Turks. 
Nicholas' treatise is to be understood as a 
counter-programme: although he main- 
tains the heretical nature of Islam, he is 
more willing to stress what Christianity 
and Islam have in common, as these 
clearly appear in the Qiir'an, the foun- 
dational document of Islam. For his 
understanding of the Qur'an, he de- 
pends — along with the writings from the 
'Corpus Toletanum' — above all, on the 
work of Ricoldo. As a consequence, he 
sticks to apologetic rather than philosophi- 
cal arguments. Certainly the importance of 
the work is often overestimated for the 'dia- 
logue' (cf Flasch, JVikolaus von Rues, 544 f ). 

The refutation of the Qur'an by the 
Italian Petrus de Pennis (second half of 
the fifteenth century), Tractatus contra 
Alcoranum et Mahometum (Paris BN, Ms lat. 
3646) — which relies above all on Ricoldo 
and Petrus Alphonsi — is still unpublished 
(cf. Daniel, Islam and the west, 76 f). 

A new and successful type of controver- 
sial literature was created by the Spanish 
Franciscan Alfonso de Spina (d. ca. 149 1) 
with his work, Fortalitium jidei in universos 
Christiane religionis hostes ("A fortress of belief 
in view of all the enemies of the Christian 
religion"), printed in Strasbourg before 
1471. As for Judaism, one chapter of the 
book is dedicated exclusively to Islam, with 
a section 'On the state of the teaching and 
the law of Mohammed' (De qualitate doc- 
trinae et legis Machometi) . For his understand- 
ing of the Qur'an, Alfonso, in addition to 
the work of Ricoldo, depends on Ramon 
Martis' Pugio jidei as well as the writings of 
John of Segovia. Alfonso's Fortalitium was 
reprinted with extraordinary frequency in 
the fifteenth century, and must be counted 
as an important source of qur'anic knowl- 
edge in theological circles — Luther also 
demonstrably used this work (cf. Bobzin, 
Reformation, 77). In a very similar way to 
Alfonso de Spina, much later authors con- 
tinue to explain Islam mainly on the basis 
of a brief representation of the teaching of 
the Qur'an. Authors of works "On the 
truth of the Christian religion" (De veritate 
religionis Christianae), as those of Juan Luis 
Vives (d. 1540) or Hugo Grotius (d. 1645), 
devote a separate book or chapter to the 
topic of Islam. 

From the beginning of the sixteenth cen- 
tury comes the very influential writing of 
an Aragonese renegade by the name of 
Juan Andres (latinised to Johannes Andreas 
Maurus) about whose life, except the year 
of his conversion to Christianity (1487), 
nothing is known. His work appeared in 
15 15 in Valencia under the title Libra 



nueuamente imprimido que se llama confusion 
dela secta mahomatica y del alcoran (Bobzin, 
Bemerkungen zu Juan Andres) and was 
quickly translated into several other 
European languages (Italian, French, 
Latin, Dutch, English, German). Evidently, 
this writing was a kind of preparation for 
an intended complete Aragonese transla- 
tion of the Qiir'an. Interlaced into the text 
are about 70 translated Qur'an quotations; 
these were first of all provided in Latin 
transcription, and then translated. For his 
interpretation, Juan relies upon well- 
known authorities such as Azamahxeri (i.e. 
al-Zamakhshari, d. 538/1144) and Buhatia 
(i.e. Ibn 'Atiyya al-AndalusI, d. 546/1151). 
In his view, the Qiir'an was divided into 
four books (libros) by the caliph 'Uthman: 
Book I contains 5 chapters [capitulos or 
suras, cuar, or cura) with q 2 to 6; Book 2 
contains 12 chapters (c3 7 to 18); Book 3 
contains ig chapters (q ig to 37). For the 
first three books Juan names each sura by 
name, which deviate occasionally from 
their familiar titles (thus (J 9 is called la 
espada by Juan, Ar. Sural al-Sayf, that is, after 
C3 9:5, the so-called djat al-sayf; cf Bobzin, 
Bemerkungen zu Juan Andres, 544 n. 58; 
see verses). The fourth part comprises 175 
chapters, so that altogether there are 211 
chapters — the number 175 probably 
occurred as a result of an old error, un- 
derstandable from the Roman manner of 
writing the numbers for 75. Without that, 
not counting cj i as well as <j 113 and 114, 
the number in arises, which is thoroughly 
compatible with Islamic traditions (for 
example in Ibn Mas'ud). For the rest, Juan 
uses (next to the popular prophetic biog- 
raphy Kildb al-Shifd 'fi la "nf huquq al-MustaJa 
of the Maliki judge 'lyad b. Musa, d. 543/ 
1149; see SIRA AND THE qur'an) a further 
unspecified sira work (acear), quoting from 
it the first suras (c) 96:1-5; 74:1-5 and 93:1-3) 
in a traditional chronology of revelation. 
Juan offers the oldest Latin attestation of a 
division of the Qiir'an into four rub ', used 

in Andalusian manuscripts and still today 
in Maghrebian editions, in which, cer- 
tainly, a few differences are detectable, 
especially with regard to the end of the 
third and/or the beginning of the fourth 
section (today it is usually divided between 
Q, 35 and 36; see manuscripts of the 

TION). Other anti-qur'anic works printed 
in Spain do not appear to have had any 
effect outside Spain, as, for example, 
B. Bernardo Perez de Chinchon, Libro lla- 
mado Antiakorano: que quiere dezjir conlra el 
Alcoran de Alahoma, (Valencia 1532), or Lope 
de Obregon, Confutacion del Alcoran y secta 
Mahometana, sacado de sus propios libros, y de la 
vida del mesmo Aiahoma (Granada 1555; cf. 
Bunes Ibarra, Evolucion). 

Qur'dnic studies in the sixteenth century 
Similar to the trend of the middle of the 
fifteenth century, the renewed strengthen- 
ing of the Ottoman Turks from the time of 
the accession to government of Sultan 
Selim (1512-20) had a more or less direct 
effect on the interest of scholars of the 
Orient in the Qiir'an as the "Bible of the 
Turks." Into this period falls the first 
Arabic imprint of the complete Qiir'an 
by the Venetian printer Alessandro de 
Paganini (ca. 1537/38; cf Nuovo, II Corano 
arabo ritrovato; Bobzin, Jean Bodin; 
Borrmans, Observations; see printino of 
THE (jur'an). This Q.ur'an edition, which 
was most likely intended for export to the 
Ottoman empire, was so riddled with 
errors that it was unacceptable to Muslim 
users. That the Pope had it burned is a 
legend attested to since the start of the sev- 
enteenth century (cf. Nallino, Una cinque- 
centesca edizione). It has been proven, 
already through the works of older schol- 
ars like Johann Michael Lang (see below), 
Johann Buxtorf IV (d. 1732; De Alcorani 
editione Arabica, in Hase and Lampe, 
Bibliotheca [1722], 271 f) and Giovanni 
Bernardo de Rossi (d. 18^1; De Corano ara- 



bico Venetiis Paganini typis impresso, Parma 
1805) — that two European scholars pos- 
sessed a copy of this Qrir'an: Teseo 
Ambrogio degli Albonesi (d. 1540), whose 
copy is still extant (Bobzin, Reformation, 
184), and Guillaumc Postel (d. 1581). Postel 
later dealt in detail with the Qiir'an in his 
extensive work De orbis terras concordia libri 
/F (Basel 1544), from which — in a manner 
noteworthy for the time — remarkably he 
translated exactly an extensive section from 
C3 2, as well as numerous further extracts 
(survey in Bobzin, Reformation, 479 f). In his 
Grammatica arabica (Paris ca. 1539), which 
had appeared a few years earlier, he had 
printed o i in still quite clumsy Arabic 
characters and presented it along with a 
translation (Bobzin, Reformation, 470 f; 
Secret, Guillaume Postel). In his polemical 
work Alcorani seu legis Mahometi et Evange- 
listarum concordiae Liber ("The book of the 
agreement between the Qur'an and the 
law of Mohammed and the Protestant"; 
Paris 1543), Postel draws a parallel between 
the origin of Islam and the new "heresy" 
of the Lutherans. 

The south German scholar and diplomat 
Johann Albrecht von Widmanstetter (Wid- 
manstadius, d. 1557) possessed a small col- 
lection of mainly Andalusian Qiir'ans 
(today housed in Munich, at the Bayeri- 
sche Staatsbibliothek); his work Mahometis 
Abdallae jilii theologia dialogo explicata, which 
appeared in 1543, contained, next to the 
well-known text from the 'Corpus Tole- 
tanum,' the so-called Doctrina Machometi 
(called by him the Theologia Mahometis), also 
an abridged version of the Toledan Qiir'an 
translation and some Motationes, probably 
his own, in which, above all, connections 
were shown between qur'anic and Jewish 
teachings (cf. Bobzin, Reformation, 349 f). 

A more enduring effect than the works of 
Postel and Widmanstetter was achieved by 
the collected volume of the Zurich theo- 
logian Theodor Bibliander (1504-64), the 
Machumetis Saracenorum principis, eiusque suc- 

cessorum vitae, ac doctrina, ipseque Alcoran 
(Basel 1543), published and produced by 
the Basel printer Johannes Oporinus. Next 
to the texts of the 'Corpus Toletanum,' this 
work also contained important polemical 
treatises (Confutationes), like, among others, 
the Cribratio Alcorani of Nicholas of Cusa, 
the Confutatio Alcorani of Ricoldo in the 
Greek version of Demetrios Kydones as 
well as in the Latin of Bartholomaus 
Picenus of Monte Arduo (cf. Bobzin, 
Reformation, 217 f). Moreover, the book 
could only appear after violent discussions 
about whether such a "heretical" book 
might be printed in a "Christian" city like 
Basel. A letter that Martin Luther sent to 
the Council of the City of Basel in 
December 1542 contributed considerably 
to this debate (cf. on this dispute Bobzin, 
Reformation, 181-209). As far as the old 
Toledan translation of Robert of Ketton 
was concerned, Bibliander had only lim- 
ited possibilities to correct this text, which 
he himself described as "very corrupted" 
[depravatissimum; Bibliander, Machumetis..., 
i, 230). Given his less than profound 
knowledge of Arabic, he was only able to 
add some marginal corrections or com- 
ments in his own Annotationes (Bibliander, 
Machumetis..., i, 230 f); for example, he 
gave individual Arabic words, usually 
proper names, using Hebrew script (cf. 
Bobzin, Reformation, 237 f). For his publish- 
ing activities, however, he used an Arabic 
qur'anic manuscript, which revealed some 
marginal glosses and contained the abbre- 
viation system fundamental to the study 
of editions of the didactic poem, the 
Shdtibiyya (cf. Noldeke, gq, iii, 220; cf. 
Hottinger below). 

Qur'anic studies in the seventeenth century 
The increasing professionalism of Arabic 
studies in the universities meant that in- 
creased attention was directed also to 
qur'anic studies. In a letter to Etienne 
Hubert, the great philologist Joseph Justus 



Scaliger had already clearly stated that one 
had to study the Qiir'an in order to learn 
the grammatical subtleties of Arabic (cf. 
Bobzin, Reformation, 192 n. 230; see gram- 
mar AND THE q^ur'an). Scaliger's most im- 
portant student, the Orientalist Thomas 
Erpenius from Leiden (d. 1624), published 
accordingly in 1617 the Arabic text of q 12 
(Surat Yusuf, "Joseph") together with two 
Latin translations — one very hteral in- 
terlinear translation and one substantially 
freer (cf. Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 
368). In the introduction, the old Toledan 
translation is vehemently criticized: "It is 
seldom that it expresses faithfully the true 
sense of the Arabic" (veram Ambismi sen- 
tentiam satis ran fideliter exprimens). On the 
other hand, the necessity of a serious study 
of the Qtir'an based exclusively on the 
Arabic text is emphasized. Accordingly, in 
the following period the exertions of a 
great number of scholars went into the 
publication, first of all of an Arabic text of 
the Qiir'an, accompanied where possible 
with a (mainly Latin) translation. The 
promise given by Erpenius in his Historia 
Josephi patriarchae to publish a complete 
Arabic Qur'an with a newer Latin transla- 
tion, was not, however, to be fulfilled. 
On the other hand, he printed in his sec- 
ond Arabic grammar, the Rudimenta linguae 
arabicae (Leiden 1620; cf Schnurrer, Biblio- 
theca arabica, no. 55), for practice ptirposes, 
the text of q 64 with a Latin translation 
and grammatical explanations; in a reprint 
of this grammar in 1656 {Arabicae linguae 
tyrocinium; cf. Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, 
no. 81) Erpenius' successor, Jacob Golius 
(d. 1667), added two further suras (q 31 and 
61). In the preface to his Lexicon arabico- 
latinum, which appeared in 1653, and 
which also draws on the vocabulary of 
the Qiir'an, Golius promised to publish 
an Arabic Qiir'an edition (cf. JiiynboU, 
Zeventiende-eeuwsche Beoefenaars, 168 f.) 
just like his compatriot Ludovicus de Dieu 

(d. 1642), but neither did so. Rather, it was 
amateurs who repeatedly tried to produce 
their own Arabic types and to print at least 
a part of the Qur'an. In this context 
should be mentioned the Breslau physician 
Petriis Kirsten (d. 1640) and the Zwickau 
pre-university teacher Johannes Zechen- 
dorff (d. 1662). The former printed the 
text of q I in his Tria specimina characterum 
arabicorum (Breslau 1608; cf. Schnurrer, 
Bibliotheca arabica, no. 45); the latter pre- 
sented q lOi and 103, as well as q 61 and 
78 respectively, with literal translations, in 
two pamphlets [Suratae unius atque alterius 
textum. . . as well as Specimen suratarum. . . ex 
Alcorani, both Zwickau around 1638; cf. 
Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 369 f). 
Also typical was the Arabic type developed 
in Altdorf in 1640 by the Orientalist 
Theodor Hackspan (1607-59) "^ his work 
Fides et leges Mohammaedis exhihitae ex Alkorani 
manuscripto duplici, praemissis institutionibus 
arabicis (Altdorf 1656; cf. Schnurrer, Biblio- 
theca arabica, no. 74); for the brief intro- 
duction to the Arabic language contained 
in this work he relied exclusively on 
qur'anic material. Occasionally in the 
absence of suitable Arabic letter types the 
Arabic text was also printed in Hebrew 
characters. That is the case with the bilin- 
gual Qur'an extract that Christian Ravius 
(d. 1677) brought out in the year 1646 in 
Amsterdam under the title Prima tredecim 
partium Alcorani, Arabico-latini; here the 
Arabic text (q i to q 2:80) is printed in the 
so-called Raschi-type, to which a trans- 
cription in Latin letters was added (cf. 
Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 371). On 
the other hand, q 30 and 48 are presented 
in Hebrew block-writing with a Latin 
translation by the Augsburg scholar 
Matthias Friedrich Beck in his Specimen 
arabicum (Augsburg 1688; cf. Schnurrer, 
Bibliotheca arabica, no. 374). Taking up the 
efforts of Erpenius, Johann Georg Nissel 
(d. 1662), working in Leiden, published 



two suras of the Qiir'an (o 14 and 15), 
that treated bibhcal subjects: Historia de 
Abrahamo et de Gomorra-Sodomitica e versione 
Alcorani (Leiden 1658; cf. Schnurrer, Biblio- 
theca arabica, no. 372). The first attempt by 
Johann Andreas Danz (d. 1727) to pubhsh 
a complete, bihngual Arabic-Latin 
Qiir'an, did not get fiirther than q 2:66 
(cf. Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 375; 
Bojer, Einiges iiber die arabische Druck- 
schriftensammlung, 87). 

A temporary climax of early, philolog- 
ically-oriented Qiir'an studies is repre- 
sented by two Qiir'an editions, which 
appeared shortly after each other in Ham- 
burg and Padua in the last decade of the 
century. The Hamburg head pastor Abra- 
ham Hinckelmann (1652-95), who had 
received an excellent education in Oriental 
studies in Wittenberg in 1668-72, had con- 
trol over a remarkable collection of Qur'an 
manuscripts that enabled him to publish a 
reliable text. This came out in 1694 under 
the title Al-Coranus s. lex Islamitica Muham- 
medis, filii Abdallae pseudoprophetae (cf. 
Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 376): the 
Arabic text cannot be assigned unambigu- 
ously to any specific reading tradition. The 
verse numbering also does not always 
agree with the well-known numbering sys- 
tems. Hinckelmann offered no translation 
in his edition, but rather only the Arabic 
text; in his extensive Latin preface he not 
only explained, very generally, the value of 
the employment of Arabic literature, but 
also stressed that all Christian theologians 
should read the Qur'an, as a fundamental 
work, in the original language, thus in 
Arabic. He justified his renunciation of a 
translation on the grounds that a large part 
of the Qur'an can be understood simply, 
but that a smaller, difficult to understand 
part would make disproportionately large 
philological efforts necessary with, for 
example, recourse to commentaries and 
other special literature. The fact that the 

text beings with the invocation formula 
'I.N.J.C.,' 'In Nomine Jesu Christi' is a curios- 
ity to be considered. An extensive errata- 
list at the end of the edition indicates that 
the text is not completely flawless. Above 
all, however, certain peculiarities of the 
qur'anic orthography (q.v.) are not taken 
into consideration by Hinckelmann. In 
spite of all its imperfections as seen from 
our current point of view, herewith for the 
first time in the western scholarly world 
people had access to a printed Qur'an text, 
which remained the essential basis for 
qur'anic study until the appearance of 
Gustav Fliigel's text edition (1834; cf. 
Braiin, Hamburger Koran). 

The extensive folio that the Italian priest 
Ludovico Marracci (d. 1700) brought out in 
1698 in Padua, has a completely different 
character from Hinckelmann's edition. 
While Hinckelmann pursued primarily 
philological goals, Marracci's work belongs 
principally in the category of church 
polemics against Islam; it nevertheless, at 
the same time, is notable for its philological 
qualities. Already in 1691, Marracci had 
brought out a four volume refutation of 
the Qur'an in Rome, under the title 
Prodromus in refutationem Alcorani, which con- 
tained numerous Qur'an quotations in 
Arabic writing with very precise Latin 
translations. The four volumes follow in 
their subject matter the expected format of 
polemical theology: Muhammad was not 
predicted by any prophecy (Book i), his 
mission was not attested by any miracle at 
all (Book 2), the dogmas of the "Islamic 
sect" do not conform with the divine truth 
(Book 3), and a comparison of the laws of 
the Gospel and the Qur'an proves the fal- 
sity of the beliefs of that "sect of the 
Hagarene" (Book 4). The comprehensive 
Qur'an edition of 1698 [Alcorani textus uni- 
versus Ex correctioribus Arabum exemplaribus 
summajide, atque pulcherrimis characteribus 
descriptus; cf. Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica. 



no. 377) contained the complete Arabic 
qur'anic text, along with the entire 
Prodromus, a description of the life of 
Muhammad and an introduction to the 
Qur'an — in addition to a very exact Latin 
translation. The Arabic text is indeed not 
printed consecutively, but rather divided 
into topical sections; the Latin translation 
also follows it. Then very extensive pas- 
sages from special Islamic literature are 
provided in the original and partly in 
translation. Finally, a detailed refutation of 
the corresponding Qiir'an section from a 
Catholic perspective follows. Especially 
remarkable and indicative is the third sec- 
tion. For the information offered there, 
Marracci was able to fall back on the col- 
lection of Oriental manuscripts in the 
Vatican Library. The literature in this con- 
text used by Marracci is carefully put to- 
gether by C.A. Nallino, in a detailed study 
(C.A. Nallino, Le fonte arabi); in addition 
to scholarly writings on the Qtir'an in the 
narrower sense, it also comprises theologi- 
cal, juridical and historic works. One can 
say therefore that Marracci was the first 
Christian scholar who actually composed a 
"commentary" to the text of the Qiir'an 
and to the establishment of its translation; 
certainly his work stood completely at the 
service of church polemics. Nevertheless, 
leaving the theological evaluation aside, it 
is still of inestimable value today because 
of the wealth of the information provided. 
The Arabic text is more exact than that of 
Hinckelmann's, but Marracci had just as 
little consideration for the peculiarity of 
qur'anic orthography. 

In 1721 the Protestant theologian Chris- 
tian Reineccius (d. 1752) published in 
Leipzig the Latin text of Marracci in a 
handy Octavo edition (Muhammedis Jilii 
Abdallae pseudo-prophetae fides islamitica, i.e. 
al-Coranus). He placed an introduction 
before Marracci's Latin text, in which he 
informs about the history of the Qiir'an 

and the system of Islamic belief, as well as 
its divergences from Christian doctrines. 
Above all, this edition helped Marracci's 
translation move beyond the borders of 
Italy and the Catholic scholarly world, and 
brought it to a larger audience. Marracci's 
Prodromus had in this respect a further 
effect, when a Maronite from Aleppo, 
Ya'qub Arutin (d. after 1738) translated it 
into Arabic (cf Graf, gcal, iii, 432). Beside 
the predominate effort to produce a text of 
the Qiir'an, there were also further, pri- 
marily theologically motivated, studies of 
the Qur'an, which nevertheless profited 
considerably from the rise of Arabic phi- 
lology. In this category belongs the work of 
a contemporary of Erpeniiis, the 
Englishman William Bedwell (d. 1632; cf 
Hamilton, William Bedwell), with the ex- 
tensive title of Alohammedis imposturae: That 
is, a discovery of the manifold forgeries, falshoods, 
and horrible impieties of the blasphemous seducer 
Mohammed: With a demonstration of the insuf- 
ficience of his law, contained in the cursed 
Alkoran... (London 1615); one of two sup- 
plements to this work contained an Index 
assuratarum Muhammedici Alkorani. That is a 
catalogue of the chapters of the Turkish Alkoran, 
as they are named in the Arabicke, and knowne to 
the Musslemans: Together with their severall in- 
terpretations. The Lutheran dean from 
Marburg, Heinrich Leiichter, wrote an ex- 
tremely polemical work, offering a pure 
systematization of the theological doc- 
trines of the Qur'an entirely on the basis of 
the Toledan translation published by 
Bibliander, Alcoranus Mahometicus. Oder: 
Tiirckenglaub aufi defi Mahomets eygenem Buch 
genannt Alcoran. . . in ein kurtz Compendium 
zusammen gebracht (Frankfurt am Main 
1604). Of the Catholics, the work of the 
Jesuit Michel Nan (d. 1683) could be called 
exemplary. His work, Religio Christiana contra 
Alcoranum per Alcoranum pacifice defensa et pro- 
bata (Paris 1680), is based on writings origi- 
nally composed in Arabic, in which proofs 



of the truth of Christianity were drawn 
from the Qtir'an (Ithbat al-Qur'dn li-sihhat 
al-din al-masTln; cf. Graf, gcal, iv, 219). 

Of great influence on qur'anic research 
was tlie work of the first Oxford Arabist 
Edward Pococke (d. 169 1). In liis book 
Specimen historiae arabum (Oxford 1650; repr. 
1806) he provided important information 
on tlie basis of a textual fragment from the 
world history of Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286 
O.E.), especially on the pre-Islamic history 
of the Arabs (q.v.; see also age of ignor- 
(JUr'an). He thereby cleared the way for an 
understanding of the Qtir'an based upon 
the history of religion (cf. Holt, Study). 
The first to profit from this was George 
Sale (d. 1736), who added a long Preliminary 
discourse to his 1734 English Qtir'an transla- 
tion, which appeared in London. In it, 
Pococke is one of the most cited authors. 
Beside this. Sale had also intensively used 
the scholia of Marracci's Qtir'an edition. 
Much less successful than Pococke was his 
Arabist colleague at Cambridge, Abraham 
Wheelocke (d. 1653; cf. Arberry, Cambridge 
school, 9 f). The printing of a translation 
and refutation of the Qtir'an prepared by 
him (ca. 1647/48) never occurred. From 
letters of Wheelocke to the theologian 
James Ussher (d. 1656) and to the Orient- 
alist Christian Ravins (see above), it can be 
surmised ^that it consisted of parts of the 
Qtir'an translated into both Latin and 
Greek, together with a commentary con- 
sisting of virulent attacks on Islam and its 
prophet" (Toomer, Eastern wisedome, 89). 

In 1658, the Ziirich theologian and 
Orientalist Johann Heinrich Hottinger 
(d. 1667) published in Heidelberg his 
Promtuarium; sive, Bibliotheca orientalis; in 
this first, still very imperfect attempt at 
Oriental literary history he goes into great 
detail on the Qtir'an (pp. 105-62). He goes 
through it sura by sura, listing their names 
and briefly providing a summary of their 

contents. He also discusses different read- 
ings and addresses the Basel Arabic Qiir'an 
Codex once used by Bibliander, whose tab- 
ular survey of the Qtir'an readings he re- 
produces, although with many errors (cf. 
Bobzin, Reformation, 242). Then Hottinger 
provides an overview of Arabic Qtir'an 
commentators well-known at that time, as 
well as other special literature concerned 
with the Qiir'an. 

Qur'anic studies in the eighteenth century 
For qur'anic research, the eighteenth cen- 
tury was much less significant than the 
preceding one, for, apart from some new 
Qur'an translations into different Euro- 
pean languages, it made hardly any sub- 
stantive progress. To be sure, the Dutch 
theologian and Orientalist Adrian Reland 
(d. 1718), in his important workDe religione 
Mohammedica (Utrecht 1705; Eng.: 1712, 
Ger.: 1717, Fr.: 1721), had emphasized the 
importance of the use of the original 
sources, above all with the Qur'an. If one 
studied the Qur'an, however, this was 
usually done in translation: both of the 
extant printed Latin translations or, prefer- 
ably, the French translation of Andre dti 
Ryer (first ed., Paris 1647) or the English of 
George Sale (first ed., London 1734). 

In 1701, a much-promising work ap- 
peared in Berlin, but it remained trun- 
cated: Tetrapla Alcoranica, sive specimen 
Alcorani quadrilinguis, Arabici, Persici, Turcici, 
Latini. Its author was the Breslati Orient- 
alist Andreas Acoluthus (d. 1704; cf. 
Bobzin, Die Koranpolyglotte). His inten- 
tion was, following the patterns of the 
great polylingual Bibles of Alcala (1514-17), 
Antwerp (1569-72), Paris (1629-45) ^^'^ 
London (1653-7), ^1^° ^° make the Qur'an 
accessible in a polyglot edition. Acoluthus 
did not, however, get further than the first 
sura. Next to the original Arabic text, he 
printed a Persian and Turkish version in 
addition to the Latin translation that 



belonged with each; this procedure was 
meaningfid, because in this manner it 
coidd become clear to the non-lingiiist 
readers to what extent the Persian and/or 
Turkish textual paraphrases represented 
the original Arabic text. In an extensive 
treatise which follows the presentation of 
the text, Acoluthus provides precise details 
about the origin of the qur'anic texts. It is 
noteworthy that the Turkish Qiir'an edi- 
tion was in the possession of Franz von 
Mesgnien Meninski (d. i6g8), the author 
of an important Persian-Tiu'kish lexicon 
(Vienna 1680-7). 

Clearly encouraged by the Qtir'an edi- 
tions of Hinckelmann, Marracci and 
Acoluthus, the Altdorf Orientalist Johann 
Michael Lang (d. 1731) composed three 
texts that he allowed students to defend as 
disputations at his university. They ad- 
dressed the problem of the first Qiir'an 
edition printed in Venice [De Alcorani prima 
inter Europaeos editione Arabica; Altdorf 1703), 
the various previous attempts to publish 
the Qiir'an or parts of it [De speciminibus, 
conatibus variis atque novissimis successibus doc- 
torum quorundam virorum in edendo Alcorano 
arabico, Altdorf 1704) as well as, finally, the 
previous translations of the Qiir'an [De 
Alcorani versionibus variis, tarn orientalibus, quani 
occidentalibus, impressis et hactenus anekdotois, 
Altdorf 1704). All three works contain 
much valuable information that other- 
wise is accessible today only with great 
difficulty — above all quotations out of the 
older literature. That applies also to the 
work of the Rostock theologian Zacharias 
Grapius, Spicilegium Historico-Philologicum 
Historiam Literariam Alcorani sistens (Rostock 
1701). The Histoire de I' Alcoran that the 
Frenchman Francois Henri Turpin 
(d. 1799), author of numerous popular 
historical works, published in London in 
1775 in two volumes, is without any value, 
as the Gottingen Orientalist Johann David 

Michaelis (d. 179 1) in a contemporary re- 
view already correctly commented — it 
does not even really deserve its title. 

As in the preceding century, further sec- 
tions of the Qiir'an were published, usually 
in bilingual editions and with more or less 
detailed explanations. The Leipzig Orient- 
alist Johann Christian Clodius (d. 1745) 
published C3 22 together with variants from 
a manuscript of the Qur'an commentary 
of al-Baydawi (d. prob. 716/1316-7), along 
with explanations [Excerptum Alcoranicum 
de peregrinatione sacra; Leipzig 1730; cf. 
Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 380); the 
Altdorf Orientalist Johann Michael Nagel 
(d. 1788) published o i [De prima Alcorani 
sura; Altdorf 1743; cf. Schnurrer, Biblio- 
theca arabica, no. 382); the theologian and 
Orientalist Justus Friedrich Froriep 
(d. 1800) who, at that time, was working 
in Leipzig, also published C3 i as well as 
(J 2:1-79 [Corani caput primum et secundi versus 
priores, arabice et latine cum animadversionibus 
historicis et philologicis; Leipzig 1768; cf. 
Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 383). A 
complete Arabic edition of the Qur'an 
with Latin translation and enclosed lexicon 
was planned by the Helmstedt classical 
philologist and Orientalist Johann Gott- 
fried Lakemacher (d. 1736). Lacking a pub- 
lisher, however, it was not realised (cf. 
Koldewey, Geschichte, 114); only one speci- 
men, comprising q 2:1-14, appeared (cf. 
Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, no. 379). 

The fine Arabic Qur'an edition that was 
published in 1787 in St. Petersburg is a spe- 
cial document. After the peace of Kiigiik 
Kaynarca, which concluded the Russian- 
Turkish war of 1768-74, numerous for- 
merly Turkish zones fell to Russia. In the 
context of the religious politics that they 
owed to the Enlightenment, Empress 
Catherine II had for her numerous new 
Muslim subjects their holy book, the 
Qur'an, printed in Arabic. In 1786/7, at 


P RE - I 8 O O 


imperial expense, a 'Tatar and Turkish 
Typography' was estabHshed in St. 
Petersburg; a domestic scholar, Mullah 
Osman Ismail, was responsible for the 
manufacture of the types. One of the first 
products of this printing house was the 
Qjnr'an. Through the doctor and writer, 
Johann Georg v. Zimmermann (d. 1795), 
who was befriended by Catherine II, a 
copy of the publication arrived in the 
Gottingen University library. Its director, 
the philologist Christian Gottlob Heyne 
(d. 1812), presented the work immediately 
in the Gottingische Anzeigen von gelehrten 
Sachen (28 July 1788); therein he pointed 
especially to the beauty of the Arabic 
types. To the Arabic text marginal glosses 
have been added that consist predomi- 
nantly of reading variants. The imprint 
was reproduced unchanged in 1790 and 
1793 in St. Petersburg (cf. Schnurrer, 
Bibliotheca arabica, no. 384); later, after the 
transfer of the printing house to Kazan, 
editions appeared in different formats 
and with varying presentation (Dorn, 
Chronologisches Verzeichnis, 371). The 
original St. Petersburg edition is very rare; 
in an English book catalogue of 1827, ^^ ^^ 
stated that: "The whole impression, with 
the exception of about 20 copies, was sent 
for distribution into the interior; but owing 
to the Mahometan prejudices against 
printed books, could not be got into cir- 
culation. — About three years ago, 15 cop- 
ies were all that were known to be in cir- 
culation, or in the Imperial library" (Dorn, 
Chronologisches Verzeichnis, 372). In any 
case this Qiir'an edition was the first au- 
thentic Muslim printed edition of the 
Qiir'an. See Figs, i-iv of printing of the 
q^ur'an for examples from the Qiir'an 
printings of Hinckelmann, Marracci, St. 
Petersburg and Kazan. 

Hartmut Bobzin 

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Predestination see freedom and 


Pregnancy see biology as the 


Pre-Islamic Arabia and the Qur'an 

The Qiir'an itself does not contain any 
concept equivalent to those designated in 
ancient and modern times by the te