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Hārūt and Mārūt

(1,251 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
The angels Hārūt and Mārūt are mentioned in one brief, enigmatic verse in the Qurʾān, after Solomon is quoted: “The Satans disbelieved, teaching the people sorcery and that which was sent down to Babylon’s two angels, Hārūt and Mārūt; they taught no man without saying, ‘We are only a temptation; do not disbelieve’ ” (Q 2:102). The few elements included—that is, the names of the angels, the mention of Babylon, and their responsibility for the spread of magic—gave rise to various Islamic interpretatio…
Date: 2019-11-11

Afterlife

(3,867 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
The afterlife is one of the main themes of the Qurʾān, which states that every soul will taste death (Q 3:185) but makes only scanty and oblique references to the period between the death of the individual and the last things. The Qurʾān states that after the signs of the “last hour” and the annihilation of all creatures, people will be resurrected and judged on the Day of Resurrection ( yawm al-qiyāma, Q 2:85, passim) or the Day of Judgement ( yawm al-dīn, Q 15:35, passim). Details about this day, such as the blast of the trumpet ( al-ṣūr, Q 18:99, passim), the raising (or resurrection, al-baʿth, Q…
Date: 2019-11-11

Abū Righāl

(539 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Abū Righāl was a pre-Islamic figure identified in differing traditions either as a member of the Thamūd tribe who survived divine punishment or as a man of the Thaqīf who guided Abraha’s expedition towards Mecca but died before reaching his destination. In the tradition that identifies him as a man of the Thamūd, he is said to have survived briefly the divine punishment that destroyed the people who rejected Ṣāliḥ’s preaching. He was saved only because he was in Mecca at the time, but as soon as he left the holy territory, punishment a…
Date: 2019-11-11

Āsiya

(433 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Āsiya is the name given in post-Qurʾānic literature to the wife of Pharaoh at the time of Moses. Although her name is not given in the Qurʾān, the wife of Pharaoh is mentioned twice (Q 28:9, 66:11) and is considered a model for all believers. According to some reports found in the major ḥadīth collections, Muḥammad emphasized the positive elements of Āsiya's nature, ranking her among the best of women, along with Mary (the mother of Jesus), Khadīja, Fāṭima, and ʿĀʾisha. According to Muslim traditions it was Āsiya herself or one of her slave girls who rescued Moses from the N…
Date: 2019-11-11

Isrāfīl

(663 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
The angel Isrāfīl (Seraphiel), who will blow the trumpet on the Day of Resurrection, is not named in the Qurʾān but is treated at length in eschatological treatises and books. In fact, of all the angels, Muslim traditions show a peculiar preference for four in particular: Gabriel (Jibrīl or Jibrāʾīl), Michael (Mīkāl), Isrāfīl, and the Angel of Death. According to the majority of the reports that mention him, God made Isrāfīl responsible for the trumpet that will sound on the Day of Resurrection, a…
Date: 2019-11-11

ʿAmālīq

(334 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
The ʿAmālīq (Amalekites), were an ancient pre-Islamic people, not mentioned in the Qurʾān, who, according to Muslim reports, were among the first speakers of Arabic. Their name derives from their forebear ʿAmlīq (or ʿAmlāq), who was either a son of Ḥām, Shem, or Lud; a brother of Ṭasm and Jadīs; and was considered the first person to speak Arabic. The ʿAmālīq are referred to in various traditions. At the time of Hūd, the ʿAmālīq are mentioned as inhabiting the land of Mecca, where Abraham found them when he took Hagar and Ishmael there. Abraham also fou…
Date: 2019-11-11

Baal

(447 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Baal (baʿl) is the name of a pagan deity or idol that is mentioned in the Qurʾān in connection with the story of Elijah (Q 37:125). Elijah was sent by God to eradicate from amongst his people the worship of the idol Baal, and this brief allusion to Baal and its story in the Qurʾān was developed further in later traditions and literature. A few more details about the idol are presented in traditional reports: it was of gold, twenty cubits tall, and had four faces (al-Thaʿlabī, al-Kashf, 8:159; al-Rāzī, 26:140), and it was crowned with hyacinths, pearls, and gems; it had four hundre…
Date: 2019-11-11

Ahl al-Ṣuffa

(871 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Ahl al-Ṣuffa (“people of the bench”) or aṣḥāb al-ṣuffa (“those of the bench”) is the name given in ḥadīth reports and in Muslim literature to a group of Companions of the prophet Muḥammad who lived in the portico or vestibule, the ṣuffa, often translated as “bench” or “banquette,” of the Prophet's mosque in Medina. This portico was their only home. Sources make varying estimates as to how many of them there were, and their number changed over the years the Prophet spent in Medina. Reports variously mention sixty, seventy, and four hundred, while according to Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328; Ahl al-…
Date: 2019-11-11

Hāmān

(974 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Hāmān is mentioned six times in the Qurʾān, in connection with Moses. He is mentioned along with Pharaoh “and their soldiers” (Q 28:6, 8, in Arberry’s translation) and again, when Pharaoh, in addressing his council, says, “Kindle me, Hāmān, a fire upon the clay, and make me a tower, that I may mount up to the God of Moses” (Q 28:38). In another passage, Pharaoh orders him to build the tower so that he might “reach the cords, the cords of the heavens” (Q 40:36–7). In two other passages, Hāmān is …
Date: 2019-11-11

Eve

(1,304 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Eve (Ḥawwāʾ), although never mentioned by name in the Qurʾān, is alluded to in a number of passages in relation to Adam. Her creation is attested in various passages where the Qurʾān states that God “created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate ( zawjahā)” (Q 4:1; cf. Q 7:189, 39:6, and 30:21). Here, as in other passages, she is alluded to as the spouse ( zawj) of Adam (20:117). God, in fact, made her his spouse so that “he might rest in her” (Q 7:189). God ordered Adam and his spouse to dwell in Paradise ( janna) and eat whatever they wanted except for the fruit of a particular t…
Date: 2019-11-11

Amīna

(645 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Amīna is the name given in Muslim traditions to a slave girl or other woman of Solomon. She is mentioned in later traditions and reports in connection with a mysterious episode of Solomon's life alluded to in the Qurʾān (38:34–5): God, wanting to test Solomon, put another person on his throne until Solomon asked for forgiveness. Exegetical reports connect her name in particular to the episode in which Solomon lost his signet ring for forty days and with it all his powers. It is said, for instance, that Amīna (or al-Amīna, according to al-Thaʿlabī in al-Kashf, 8:203) was one of Solomon's w…
Date: 2019-11-11

ʿIzrāʾīl (ʿAzrāʾīl)

(1,292 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
ʿIzrāʾīl (or ʿAzrāʾīl) is the name given in Islamic eschatology to the Angel of Death, one of the most prominent of the angels. The religious literature as a whole usually mentions him along with Gabriel (Jibrīl or Jibrāʾīl), Isrāfīl, Michael (Mīkāl), and the carriers of the Throne of God, as the angels closest to God. He is referred to in only one Qurʾānic verse (32:11) as the “Angel of Death” (malak al-mawt), but later exegetical works and traditions ascribe to him the name ʿIzrāʾīl or ʿAzrāʾīl, which is most probably connected to Jewish or Christian onomastics. …
Date: 2019-11-11

Hūd

(1,800 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Hūd is the name of an Arabian prophet cited in the Qurʾān. His name gives the title to sūra 11. Four Qurʾānic passages (Q 7:65–72, 11:50–60, 26:123–40, and 46:21–6) repeat his story and mention him as the “Brother of the ʿĀd.” The dramatic confrontation between the ʿĀd and Hūd, described explicitly as a messenger sent to them, is the main topic in these passages. He tried to convince them to follow his preaching, reminding them of the benefits accorded to them by God and attempting to convince them of the ineffic…
Date: 2019-11-11

Āṣaf b. Barakhyā

(508 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Āṣaf b. Barakhyā is the name given in Muslim traditions to the minister or scribe of the king and prophet Solomon (Sulaymān). According to some exegetical reports he is identified as the “mere body” (jasad an ) that was placed upon Solomon's throne, according to Q 38:34, or as the one mentioned in 27:40, “who possessed knowledge of the Book” (alladhī ʿindahu ʿilm un min al-kitāb), meaning that Āṣaf knew the Mighty Name of God, or at least one of its letters. Later reports added further particulars. Āṣaf was said to be the one who wrote the letter that Solomon sent to the Quee…
Date: 2019-11-11

Ishmael

(1,711 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Ishmael (Ismāʾīl), the biblical and Qurʾānic son of Abraham and Hagar, is mentioned in twelve Qurʾānic passages. In most of them he is simply named along with the other prophets, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Q 2:133, 136, 140; 3:84; 4:163), or, alternatively and in different combinations, with Elisha, Jonah, Lot, and Dhū al-Kifl (Q 6:86; 21:85; 38:48). These verses usually function to underline the steadfastness of these men and their obedience to God and thus present their behaviour as a …
Date: 2019-11-11

Cain and Abel

(1,774 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Cain and Abel (Ar. Qābīl wa-Hābīl) are the two sons of Adam and Eve hinted at in a Qurʾānic passage exhorting the Prophet to recite the story of two sons of Adam (Q 5:27). Each brother offered a sacrifice, but the offering of only one of them was accepted, because the other was not God-fearing. The latter promised to kill the former (Q 5:28–9) and did so (Q 5:30). Then God sent a raven that dug up the earth to show him how to bury the corpse of his brother, and the murderer cried “Woe is me! Am I …
Date: 2019-11-11

Ham

(797 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Ham is included, in later reports, amongst the three sons of Noah (the other two being Shem, the oldest, and Japheth, the youngest; al-Rabghūzī, 67) who survived the Flood and landed with the Ark. The Qurʾān mentions the story of Noah in several passages but offers scant information regarding his family. In some passages, reference is made to a wicked wife (Q 66:10) and an impious son (Q 11:40–6), who is usually identified in later traditions as Canaan or Yām. His three sons helped Noah build th…
Date: 2019-11-11

ʿAzīz Miṣr

(486 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
ʿAzīz Miṣr (lit., “the mighty one of Egypt”) is the most common Arabic name for the Biblical Potiphar. The name is based on the title al-ʿazīz (“the mighty one”) given in the Qurʾān to the person who bought the prophet Joseph (Q 12:30, 51). He is mentioned in the Qurʾān (12:21) as the one “that bought him, being from Egypt” and entrusted him to his wife, telling her to “treat him hospitably” (Q 12:21). Joseph rose to a high-ranking position. His brothers came to Egypt and appeared before him, and without recognising him, they addressed him as al-ʿazīz (Q 12:78, 88), suggesting that the term…
Date: 2019-11-11

Isaac

(1,380 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Isaac (Isḥāq), the biblical and Qurʾānic son of Abraham and Sarah, is mentioned in sixteen Qurʾānic verses and particularly in listings of prophets quoted in the Qurʾān to better define Muḥammad’s prophethood and message. The name of Isaac appears, alternatively, along with those of Abraham and Jacob plus, in only some of these passages, Ishmael (Q 2:133, 136, 140; 3:84; 4:163; 6:84; 12:6, 38; 19:49; 21:72; 29:27; 38:45). Some of these verses extol the true belief and behaviour of these men, or …
Date: 2019-11-11

Elisha

(677 words)

Author(s): Tottoli, Roberto
Elisha (Ar. al-Yasaʿ) is considered a prophet in Muslim tradition and is mentioned twice in the Qurʾān among the upright and just men, in verses that also mention other prophetic figures. In Q 6:84, David and Solomon, Job and Joseph, and Moses and Aaron are mentioned among the descendants of Isaac and Jacob, and in Q 6:85–6, it is stated that “Zacharias and John, Jesus and Elias, all were upright men, and Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot.” In a second passage (Q 38:48), Elisha is mentioned, along…
Date: 2019-11-11
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