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Christians and Christianity in ḥadīth works before 900

(3,637 words)

Author(s): Cook, David
The h ̣adīth literature presents Christianity as a dangerous theological opponent to Islam. However, the attitude towards Christians is far more nuanced. It ranges from the outright hostility and warfare described in the apocalyptic literature to the awe and respect towards the monastic community (cf. Q 5:81-2) that is to be found in the ascetic literature. For the most part, Christians are in the background (compared with Jews) because the personal contact between the Prophet Muḥammad and individual Christians was comparatively limited. Thus, while a great many literary h ̣ adīth a…

Fitna in early Islamic history

(874 words)

Author(s): Cook, David B.
The word fitna (pl. fitan), which occurs thirty-four times in the Qurʾān—where it means approximately “trial, temptation” (or perhaps “distraction [from the faith]”)—was found across religious and political boundaries in early Islam. Its pre-Islamic usage appears to include the idea of “a melting (of metals) in order to separate or distinguish the good from the bad” (Lane, s.v. fitna; as perhaps in Q 21:35, 54:27), but in the Qurʾānic text it is often contrasted with some absolute, such as “killing” or “death” (Q 2:191, 217), which are said to be preferable to the fitna, with its associ…
Date: 2020-12-18

Donkey (eschatological aspects)

(336 words)

Author(s): Cook, David B.
The donkey appears in Muslim eschatology as the principal method of locomotion for the Dajjāl (Antichrist) during the brief period of his rule at the end of the world. Use of the donkey for the Antichrist figure is in opposition to the use of the donkey in the biblical tradition, where it is generally held to be one of the signs of the messianic figure (cf. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Matt. 21:5). The most probable reason for this difference has to do with the difference in attitude towards the donkey: in the Qurʾānic tradition the donkey (ḥimār) is considered to be emblematic of…
Date: 2020-12-18


(883 words)

Author(s): Cook, David B.
The Dajjāl is a malevolent creature in human form, who appears at the end of the world as the apocalyptic opponent of Jesus. The Arabic word dajjāl (lit., “cheat, impostor”) is probably cognate with the Syriac dagalo (deceiver), which is used frequently for the Antichrist. The Dajjāl is not mentioned or alluded to in the Qurʾān but appears in apocalyptic works and canonical ḥadīth collections. The Dajjāl is usually said to be Jewish and to come from the eastern part of the Muslim world, either Isfahan or various other cities in Iraq, Fars, or Khurāsān. He i…
Date: 2020-12-18

Gog and Magog

(610 words)

Author(s): Cook, David B.
Gog and Magog (Yājūj wa-Mājūj) are two subhuman peoples, mentioned in the Qurʾān (Q 18:94, 21:96), located usually in the region of Central Asia or northern Asia, who, as part of the apocalyptic events prior to the end of the world, will invade and destroy large sections of the Muslim world. Yājūj and Mājūj are based upon the biblical peoples of Gog and Magog, first mentioned in Ezekiel 38–9, and amplified in Revelation 20:7–9 and in Christian early-Islamic-era apocalypses (Pseudo-Methodius, 133–4…
Date: 2020-12-18


(902 words)

Author(s): Cook, David B.
Ghazw means “to raid,” with the understanding of gaining spoils thereby (the English “razzia” is a derivative). The term is used extensively in pre-Islamic poetry as the standard term for raiding, especially of camels and other domestic animals, a favourite Bedouin activity. The root is mentioned only once in the Qurʾān (3:156), where the implication is of an activity associated with unbelievers (alladhīna kafarū) rather than believers. The term soon gained an Islamic connotation and was used, in the first centuries of Islam, for the battles and raids of the pr…
Date: 2020-12-18


(474 words)

Author(s): Paret, Rudi | updated by, ¨ | Cook, David B.
al-Aʿrāf (pl. of ʿurf, “elevated place”, “crest”), appears in an eschatological judgement scene in Qurʾān 7:46, where a dividing wall is spoken of, which separates the dwellers of Paradise from the dwellers of Hell, and men “who are on the al-aʿrāf and recognise each by his marks” (Q 7:48, “those of the al-aʿrāf”). The interpretation of this passage is disputed. Richard Bell makes a doubtful conjecture that the word is al-iʿrāf and translates: “(Presiding) over the recognition are men, who recognise… .” According to Tor Andrae the “men on the elevated places” are …
Date: 2020-12-18