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Islam: Jewish and Muslim Sources, Discourses, and Interactions: Overview

(5,753 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Jews have lived in every part of the classical Islamic world in which they have been permitted to reside, and everywhere they have shared their cultures and world-views while at the same time absorbing from the cultures and world-views of the dominant cultures. While it is not yet possible to treat the interactions and discourses of Jewish and Muslim women in any comprehensive manner, a cursory introductory overview may be obtained by examining aspects of their “sacred histories” in conjunction with some documented historical interactions. Sāra and Hājar The religious narrative of …

Abyssinia

(1,004 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Abyssinia (al-Ḥabash or al-Ḥabasha) does not appear in the Qurʾān, although the ¶ Christian Abyssinian state of Axum exerted a powerful influence on Arabia in the sixth century. Separated from the Yemen by only the narrow Bab al-Mandab Strait, Abyssinia controlled southern Arabia for some time and Christianity spread in the region. One sūra is ordinarily interpreted to allude to an Abyssinian military incursion that reached Mecca and it is said that some of the early Meccan converts to Islam took refuge in Abyssinia. Ethiopic languages influenced the dialects …

Pharaoh

(1,084 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Title of the ancient rulers of Egypt. Pharaoh (Ar. firʿawn) means literally “(the) Great House” in Egyptian and was perhaps pronounced something like pārĕō or pāreōʿ. 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 himself, just as “the Porte” came to refer to the Ottoman sultan some three millennia later. The Arabic rendering, firʿawn, corresponds most closely to the Syriac ferʿōn and because current scholarship considers it unlikely that pre-Islamic poetic references to P…

Ethiopia

(84 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Derived from the Greek term, Aithiopes, designating mythical or actual peoples defined as having dark skin and living south of Egypt (q.v.), and applied to roughly the area of ancient Axum or Abyssinia (q.v.) in northeast Africa, directly across the Red Sea from Arabia. As the opposition to Muḥammad (q.v.) increased, a group of his followers left Mecca (q.v.; see emigration ), seeking the protection of the Christian king (see christians and christianity ) of the region. See geography . Reuven Firestone Bibliography

Tubbaʿ

(1,124 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
“The people of Tubbaʿ” ( qawm tubbaʿ), an extinct community mentioned twice in the Qurʾān. Among other pre-Islamic groups, they were punished because they refused to believe God or obey God's prophets (see belief and unbelief; obedience; prophets and prophethood). q 44:37 compares Muḥammad's detractors (see provocation; opposition to muḥammad), who challenged him to prove resurrection (q.v.) by himself reviving the dead (see death and the dead ), with the people of Tubbaʿ, who were destroyed for their sins (see sin, major and minor; punishment stories): “Are they better, or the …

Enemies

(839 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
A military foe or hostile force. The root of the common Arabic term for “enemy” ( ʿaduww, pl. aʿdāʾ), ʿ-d-w, occurs frequently in the Qurʾān. Its essential meaning is to ¶ run or gallop swiftly or, in so doing, to pass by or beyond something. The root therefore took on the meaning of passing beyond boundaries or limits, i.e. to transgress, a meaning which occurs commonly in the Qurʾān in various forms (e.g. q 2:229; see boundaries and precepts ). An enemy is thus one who has transgressed against another. The term “enemy” is often applied in the Qurʾān specifically to Satan ( q 2:168, 208; 6:142; 7:22…

Ṣafā and Marwa

(1,222 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Two low hills near the Kaʿba (q.v.) in Mecca (q.v.) between which the pilgrim engages in a brisk walk or trot called “the running” (al- saʿy) during the pilgrimage (q.v.; ḥajj and ʿumra). This running is an obligatory station ( mansik, pl. manāsik) among the various ritual activities during the ten days of the ḥajj pilgrimage ritual at Mecca (see ritual and the qurʾān ). The root meaning of ṣafā is to be clear or pure, from which comes the familiar name muṣṭafā, meaning “elected” or “chosen” (see names of the prophet; election), but may also designate smooth stones. Lexicographers define marwa

Abraham

(7,309 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Some two hundred and forty-five verses in twenty-five sūras of the Qurʾān make reference to Abraham (Ibrāhīm), the progenitor of the nation of Israel (q.v.). Among biblical figures, only Moses (q.v.) receives more attention and in the Qurʾān Abraham and Moses are the sole prophets explicitly identified as bearers of scriptures ( q 53:36-7; 87:18-9; see book; scripture and the qurʾān). Although the Islamic Abraham shares many characteristics with the figure in the Bible and later Jewish exegetical literature, the Qurʾān especially emphasizes his role as a…

Ishmael

(838 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Pre-Islamic prophet, named in the Bible as the son of Abraham (q.v.) and Hagar and the eponymous father of the Ishmaelites (a confederacy of Arab tribes; see tribes and clans ). Ishmael (Ismāʿīl) is mentioned twelve times in as many verses of the Qurʾān. In most of these, he is listed among other prophets as part of a litany of remembrances in which the pre-Islamic prophets are praised for their resolute steadfastness (see trust and patience ) and obedience (q.v.) to God, often in the face of adversity (see trial ). The subtext of these litanies is Muḥammad's position as authentic prophet (nabī)…

Fighting

(850 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Violent physical struggle for victory. The Arabic term for fighting ( qitāl) is a derived form of the root q-t-l, the essential meaning of which is to kill. Its third verbal form ( qātala) suggests mutuality, i.e. to fight, and is the most common term for such combat in the Qurʾān. Ḥāraba in the Qurʾān likewise means to fight and is derived from the root ḥ-r-b, from which war ( ḥarb) is derived, although it is sometimes used in reference to the activity of brigands who wage war against God by sowing corruption (q.v.) on earth (e.g. q 5:33-4; cf. Abou El Fadl, Ahkam al-bughat). Attention her…

Shekhinah

(1,125 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
The earthly manifestation of God's presence, a concept common to the Bible and the Qurʾān. Occurring in six verses, al- sakīna derives from God and is usually “sent down” to Muḥammad and/or his fellow believers. The Arabic root, s-k-n, denotes “stillness, quiet, calm, being motionless,” as in q 6:96: “[God] has made the night [for] stillness/quiet” (see also q 10:67; 27:86; 28:72; 40:61, etc.), with a secondary meaning (sometimes expressed in the causative fourth form) of “to settle down, to dwell in a habitation” ( q 2:35; 14:37; 17:104, etc.). This parallels the Hebrew/Aramaic/Sy…

Isaac

(806 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
One of the sons of Abraham (q.v.). Isaac (Isḥāq), specifically named a prophet ( q 19:49; 37:112; see prophets and prophethood ), is mentioned by name seventeen times in sixteen qurʾānic verses. In half of these, he is included in what appears to be a litany of remembrances of ancient prophets. Such remembrances are a common qurʾānic motif in which the prophethood and message of Muḥammad are set within a context of ancient and familiar prophets and divine messages, usually but not always paralleling the scriptural traditions of Judaism and Christianity (see scripture and the qurʾān ). The …

Sacrifice

(841 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
The act of making an offering to a deity or the offering itself. In Arabic, these are commonly rendered by the roots, ḍ-ḥ-y, q-r-b and dh-b-ḥ. The first root, which in ¶ the second form can mean to sacrifice an animal during the period of daylight called al- duḥā, is not attested in the Qurʾān, though ʿīd al-adḥā, “feast of the sacrifice,” has become the primary name for the one great sacrificial ritual in Islam, occurring during the daylight hours of the tenth of the month of dhū l- ḥijja (see months; day, times of; noon) as a part of the major pilgrimage (q.v.; ḥajj). In contemporary usage, some …

Midian

(870 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
The name of a geographic locale and of a people mentioned in the Qurʾān. In post-qurʾānic Islamic tradition and in the Hebrew Bible, Midian (Ar. Madyan) is also the name of one of Abraham's (q.v.) sons through Keturah (cf. Gen 25:2), the eponymous ancestor of the Midianites. The ¶ origin of the name is unknown. Mendenhall (Studies) notes that the Hebrew midyān (from the root mady-) is non-Semitic and may be a cognate to the later term, māday, from which Medes is derived. In the Septuagint, the word is found as Madian or Madiam. The biblical Midianites …

Thamūd

(1,146 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
An ancient tribe, mentioned twenty-six times in the Qurʾān, counted among many peoples who rebelled against God and his messengers (see messenger; prophets and prophethood). The story of Thamūd forms part of a repeated trope of human rebellion (q.v.) and subsequent destruction (see punishment stories; generations) appearing in reference to other lost peoples such as the ʿĀd (q.v.) and the people of Lot (q.v.), Noah (q.v.), Midian (q.v.), Pharaoh (q.v.), Tubbaʿ (q.v.), Iram (q.v.) and the asḥāb al-rass¶ (see people of the thicket ; see also geography ). Most often the Thamūd are mentio…

Āzar

(854 words)

Author(s): Firestone, Reuven
Generally considered to be a name for the father of Abraham (q.v.) in the Qurʾān, the word “āzar” appears only in q 6:74: “[Remember] when Abraham said to his father, Āzar, do you take idols as gods? I most certainly see you and your people clearly in error.” Early commentators know the biblical name of Abraham's father, Teraḥ (Arabic Tāriḥ or Tārakh; cf. Gen 11:24-32) and therefore suggest three interpretations to reconcile the difference. The most widely cited considers the name Āzar as a second name for Abraham's father, but only a few explanations are p…