Prophetic Teachings and Ethics In The Quran and the Aramaic Traditions

Islam, or the believers’ movement which underlay it, consisted of three layers of prophetic teachings and ethics. These are: (1) strict monotheism, which is latent throughout the Qur’ān’s dogmatic re-articulation of the Aramaic Gospel Tradi-tions; (2) dread from the Day of Judgment, which has been alluded to but is dis-cussed at length in Chapter 6; and (3) strict observance of revealed law—espe-cially ritual and worship—which is the subject of the following section.

Good News and Testimony

One critical feature of revealed law—that is giving “good news”—is central to the Gospels (Latingo spell, “good news”) and is dogmatically re-articulated by the Qur’ān. Although one may argue that the Arabic root for “giving good news,”bashshar, parallels the Hebrew bašar(for example, Isaiah 61:1) just as well as CPA bsūrāor Syriacsbartā—where the Aramaic root s-b-rappears to be a metathesis of the Hebrew or Arabicb-š-r—Jefferey has good reason to sus-pect a more immediate connection to Syriac. The evidence for this connection comes in two passages from the Gospels. Firstly, the context for a relationship with Aramaic through the Gospels is provided when Gabriel appears before Zach-arias stating, “I was sent to speak to you, and to give you good news (ēsabrāk) about these [matters]” (Luke 1:19). In the Qur’ān, this episode is recounted as follows, “O Zacharias, indeed We give good news to you of a male son (innānubashshiruk bi ghulām) . . .” (Q 19:7). With the exception that God speaks in the Qur’ān—using the royal “We”—rather than Gabriel, the origin and function of ēsabrākand nubashshiruk are identical. Second, in another passage from Mat-thew, Jesus states,

And this gospel (hādē sbartā/bsūrā) of the kingdom will be preached to all the world (b-kūleh ‘ālmā) as a testimony to all nations (l-sāhdūtā d-kūlhūn ‘ammē/kūlēh‘amrtā); and then the end (šūlāmā) will come. (Matthew 24:14: cf. in relation Matthew 26:13; Mark 13:10, 14:9; 16:15; Luke 2:10; Diatessaron 41:58)

Similarly, the Qur’ān states,

And on that day, We will send to each nation (kull ummah) a witness (shahīd) over them from themselves. And we brought you as a witness (shahīdan) over these [people]. And we descended the book upon you to distinguish between all things, and as a guide (hudā), mercy (rah.mah) and good news (bushrā) to the Muslims.(Q 16:89: cf. Q 16:102)

In both scriptures, the good news (sbartā/bsūrā or bushrā) will reach all the world (kūleh ‘ālmā), that is all nations (kūlhūn ‘ammē/kūlēh‘amrtā or kull ummah). However, in the Gospels, the good news itself will serve as a testimony—or an act of witnessing (sāhdūtā)—over them. Whereas in the Qur’ān the function of the witness (shahīd) is distanced from the good news—a conception with latent Christian undertones by the late antique period—to become “you,” that is, Muh.ammad or his audience. In addition, the phrase “as a testimony to all nations (l-sāhdūtā d-kūlhūn ‘ammē); and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14) is dog-matically re-articulated in the verse, “Like so have We made you a middle nation, that you might be witnesses over people (li-takūnū shuhadā’ ‘alā al-nās) on the

Day of Resurrection” (yawm al-qiyāmah; Q 2:143; 22:78). The phrase “on the Day of Resurrection” (yawm al-qiyāmah), which is absent from ‘Uthmān’s codex but present rather in that of Ubayy b. Ka‘b (d. ca. 29/649) and reproduced in later exegetical works,  reproduces Matthew’s phrase “and then the end will come.”

The good news, bushrā, is an otherwise frequent theme in the Qur’ān which occurs numerous times (Q 2:97; 10:64; 12:19; 57:12; and so on). Among others, good news is given to believers (al-ladhīn āmanū, al-mu’minūn; Q 2:25; 10:2; 61:13; and so on), the fortunate ones (al-mukhbitūn; Q 22:34), the doers of good (al-muh.sinūn; Q 22:37), and the servants of God (‘ibādih; Q 42:23). Moreover, in the Qur’ān Jesus states, “indeed, I give good news (mubashshir) of a mes-senger/apostle (rasūl) who will come after me called Ah.mad [=Muh.ammad?],” referring to the Advocate (John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7; see Chapter 1). However, the Qur’ān’s notion of the good news shows the greatest independence from its Biblical antecedents when it describes the prophets as both “giver of good news and warner” (bashīr wa nadhīr; Q 2:119; 5:19; 11:2; 34:28; 35:24; 41:4; cf. Q 7:118; 12:96; 18:2). This independence is most remarkable as the Qur’ān turns the normative meaning of bashshar on its head by commanding Muhammad or his audience to warn (bashshir) the hypocrites (al-munafiqūn; Q 4:138), those who rebel (al-ladhīn kafarū; Q 9:3), and others like them with an agonizing tor-ment (Q 3:21; 84:24). The radical transformation of bashshar—a religious term that likely entered the Qur’ān’s mileu from the Aramaic Gospel Traditions—from giving good news into a term mocking and warning evil doers, demonstrates the intensity of dogmatic re-articulation found in the Qur’ān and the sectarian lean-ings espoused by Muh.ammad’s mystical sensibilities.


In the Gospels, the good news itself is that “the kingdom of Heaven/God has approached” (Matthew 10:7; Diatessaron 3:41–42; see further Chapter 5 and 6). According to the Gospels, the reception of the good news requires repentance and faith. Thus, Jesus states, “repent and believe in the good news (tūbū wa haymēnūba-sbartā/īwānglyūn; Mark 1:15; cf. Matthew 3:2; Diatessaron 5:43).” In Ara-maic, the third person masculine perfect of “to repent” (tūb) is the D stem (Ara-maic pē‘al or Arabic first form fa‘al) oft-w-b. The third person masculine perfect of “to believe/have faith,”haymēn, is the G stem ofy-m-n. These verbs enter the Arabic lexicon of the Qur’ān’s milieu as: tābwhich is also the Arabic third person masculine perfect D stem oft-w-b; and āmanwhich is correspondingly the third person masculine perfect G stem of ’-m-nory-m-n. Most importantly, the for-mula of repentance and faith found in Mark is preserved five times in the Qur’ān. It states, “and indeed I am forgiving (ghaffār) of those who repent, believe (tāb wa āman), do good, and then received guidance” (Q 20:82; cf. Q 19:60; 28:67; 7:143, 153). It may further be significant that whereas Jesus in the Gospels sternly com-mands his audience “to repent and believe,” the Qur’ān manifests this formula in a more hopeful fashion so as to promise God’s forgiveness of paradise (see earlier).In fact, another striking formula is that of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” which is found in both scriptures. Thus, it states,

John was baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repent-ance for the forgiveness of sins (ma‘mūdītā/mas.bū‘ay88 d-taybūtā l-šubqānād-h.t.āhē). And all the land of Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him, and he baptized them in the [river] Jordan, while confessing their sins (kad mawdīn b-h.t.āhayhūn).(Mark 1:4–5: cf. in relation Luke 3:3; 17:3–5; Diatessaron 4:12–15)

The combination of repentance with forgiveness is fairly common throughout the Qur’ān. For instance it states, “Will they not repent (yatūbūn) to God and seek his forgiveness (yastaghfirūnah)? For God is forgiving (ghafūr), merciful (rah.īm)” (Q 5:74; Cf. Q 11:3, 52, 61, 90). However, one verse comes particularly close to John’s words and the imagery of the Gospels. It states,

O you who believe, repent (tūbū) to God a clear repentance (tawba-tan nas.ū Perhaps your Lord may blot out your sins (yukaffir ‘ankum sayyi’ātikum) and enter you into gardens beneath which rivers run (jannāt tajrī min tah.tihā al-anhār)…(Q 66:8)

In addition to the outward semblance between both passages above, the combi-nation of repentance along with forgiveness is a theme found in the Old Testament book of the Prophets. Furthermore, the phrase “may blot out your sins” (yukaffir ‘ankum sayyi’ātikum) of Q 66:8 is a re-articulation of prophetic statements found in the Hebrew Bible (Nehemiah 4:5; Psalms 51:9; Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 18:23).

Purity of the Self

Purity is a salient quality to which the Gospels and the Qur’ān call the masses. After Gabriel appears to Mary and Joseph and after the “days of her purification (tadkīthūn) according to the Law of Moses,” the scene presenting the infant Jesus “before the Lord” (Luke 2:22) is summarized by the qur’ānic verse, “indeed I am a messenger of your Lord that I may grant you a pure son (ghulāman zakiyyan)” (Q 19:19). The ritual importance of purity in the Law is elsewhere affirmed in both scriptures (John 2:6; 3:25; Q 2:129, 151; 3:164; 62:2). The “pure in heart” (dākīn b-labhūn; Matthew 5:8), mentioned earlier in the Beautitudes, is a theme which resurfaces in Acts 15:9. Related to this theme is the ‘purity of the self,’ which is discussed in the Gospel of John. It states, “The Passover of the Jews was near and many went up out of the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves (d-nēdkūn nafšhūn);” John 11:55; Diatessaron 38:39–40; cf. Acts 21:24, 26).

The Qur’ān recapitulates this scene as it states, “Have you not considered those (alam tara ilā al-ladhīn) who purify themselves (yuzakkūn anfusahum); Truly, God purifies (yuzakkī) whomever He wills, and they are not wronged [the measure of a] thread” (Q 4:49).

Aside from the similarity in imagery shared by both passages, there are a couple of reasons to argue that John 11:55 was dogmatically re-articulated by Q 4:49 in the form of a didactic, moral lesson. One is that the qur’ānic formula, “have you not considered those” (alam tara ilā al-ladhīn), is employed a dozen times in total to remind its audience about the errors of earlier nations (Q 2:243; 14:28; 58:14; and so on), most notably the Jews and Christians (Q 3:23; 4:44, 51; 59:11). The first link between Q 4:49 and John 11:55 is language. The Arabic phrase yuzakkūn anfusahum corresponds to the Aramaic nēdkūn nafšhūn. The verb yuzakkūis the third person masculine imperfect tense of the second form fa‘‘al of z-k-ā. Cor-respondingly, nēdkūn is the D stem (Aramaic pa‘ēl or Arabic second form fa‘‘al) third person masculine imperfect tense of d-k-y, where Aramaic d corresponds to Arabic z. The other link between both passages is that Q 4:49 polemicizes the Jews. It calls their self-purification into question, which is perhaps inspired by John, among other passages in the Gospels that condemn the Pharisees and priestly class, as it criticizes their love for “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43; Diatessaron 41:8–9). This polemicization may also inform the qur’ānic command, “do not commend [lit. purify] yourselves (la tuzakkū anfu-sakum), He knows best who is upright (Q 53:32; cf. Didache 3:14, see further in this article)

Swearing an Oath

The Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulated the function of the hypocritical Pharisees, whom Matthew calls “blind guides” for misguiding people concerning “swearing by the temple” (Matthew 23:16; cf. 23:24), by claiming that, “they took their oaths as a cover, so they obstructed [others] from the way of God” (Q 63:2; see further Chapter 4). This sets the context for the dialogue between both scriptures. In both the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions the righteous entourage—and the less than righteous hypocrites—are instructed not only to fulfill their oaths, vows and covenants but also how to swear an oath. In Matthew, Jesus teaches,

Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, “you should not lie in your oath (lā tdagēl/tīmē šūqrā b-mawmātāk), but carry out your oath to the Lord (tšalēm dēyn l-māryā mawmātāk).” But I say to you, “you should not swear at all (lā tīmūn sāk), neither by heaven because it is the throne of God, nor by the earth because it is the footstool beneath his feet (wa lā b-ar‘ā d-kūbšā hī d-th.ēt rēgalūhī), nor by Jerusalem because it is the city of the great king” (āplā b-ūrīšlēm da-mdīntēh hī d-malkā rabā).(Matthew 5:33–35: cf. Matthew 23:20–22; Diatessaron 9:1–4; 40:46–47)

Hebrew Scripture abounds with teachings on how to swear—or not to swear—an oath (for example, Leviticus 19:12; Joshua 23:7; Psalms 24:4; Zechariah 8:17). In this case, Matthew’s passage tightens the restriction on one of these teachings (2 Chronicles 9:18; Isaiah 66:1; Cf. also Acts 7:49).

The Qur’ān, similarly, has its share of teachings and circumstances concerning swearing an oath (Q 16:91–94; 24:53; etc). However, it is the passage in Matthew that is dogmatically re-articulated as it teaches,

And do not make God the necessity for your oaths (wa lā taj‘alū allāh ‘urd.ah li aymānikum) when you show worthiness, virtue and righteousness between people. And God is hearing, knowing. God does not hold you account-able for carelessness in your oaths (lā yu’ākhidhukum allāh bi al-laghw fīaymānikum), but rather holds you accountable for what your hearts have earned (wa lākin yu’ākhidhukum bimā kasabat qulūbukum). And God is for-giving, forbearing.(Q 2:224–225)

Several dimensions of this passage relate to the corresponding passage in Mat-thew cited earlier. First is the line “And do not make God the necessity for your oaths (wa lā taj‘alū allāh ‘urd.ah li aymānikum) when you show worthiness, virtue and righteousness between people,” which recapitulates—in the starkly abridged word “necessity” (‘urd.ah)—the taboo instated by Matthew 5:33–35 and 23:20–22 against swearing by God in any form. In other words, Q 2:224 teaches its audience—like Matthew—not to invoke God even in oaths of “worthi-ness, virtue and righteousness.” However, Matthew’s strict prohibition against swearing by God, which the Qur’ān accepts, is qualified with a kind of loophole, namely that “God does not hold you accountable for carelessness in your oaths (lā yu’ākhidhukum allāh bi al-laghw fī aymānikum).” Meaning, if one were to swear an oath and carelessly—or whatever error laghw entails (cf. Q 23:3; 25:72; 28:55; 52:23; 56:25; 78:35)—invoke God, He would not punish them merely on account of this mistake. For what truly matters to God from the qur’ānic perspec-tive, and more lenient than Matthew, is “what your hearts have earned (wa lākin yu’ākhidhukum bimā kasabat qulūbukum),” that is, one’s intentions. In close rela-tion to this passage, elsewhere the Qur’ān teaches,

God does not hold you accountable for folly in your oaths (lā yu’ākhidhukum allāh bi al-laghw fī aymānikum), but rather holds you accountable for what you have contracted [in your] oaths (wa lākin yu’ākhidhukum bimā ‘aqqadtum al-ayman). [Otherwise, face] a penalty (kaffārah) of feeding ten poor people from whatever average [food] you feed your families, clothing them, or free-ing a slave. As for whoever cannot find [poor people], then fast three days. Such is the penalty of your oath if you swear (dhālik kaffārat aymānikum idhāh.alaftum); so keep your oaths (wa ih.faz.ū aymānakum). Thus does God make clear to you his signs that you may show gratitude.(Q 5:89)

Q 5:89 agrees with Q 2:224–225 but gives concrete justification for why God would tolerate folly in swearing an oath, namely that He “holds you account-able for what you have contracted [in your] oaths (wa lākin yu’ākhidhukum bimā‘aqqadtum al-ayman),” that is, what one has officially stipulated, entrusted or contracted as a result of an oath. All this begs the question “why?” Why would the God of the Qur’ān, based on Muh.ammad’s vision of strict monotheism, toler-ate such folly where the ostensibly Trinitarian Gospel of Matthew would not? The answer lies in the remainder of Q 5:89 which demonstrates that tolerating folly in swearing an oath became legislated in an innovative effort to feed, clothe, and free the poor and downtrodden members of Muh.ammad’s humble but growing Muslim community. This matches similarly innovative laws which penalize those at fault by uplifting the poor and downtrodden members of society (Q 2:184; 5:95; 58:4; and so on). However, recalling Matthew 5:33 which commands that “you should not lie in your oath (lā tdagēl/tīmē šūqrā b-mawmātāk), but carry out your oath to the Lord (tšalēm dēyn l-maryā mawmātāk),” Q 5:89 concludes affirming, “so keep your oaths (wa ih.faz.ū aymānakum).”

This brings us to words used for “oaths” (aymān, sg. yamīn) in the Qur’ān, which matches neither the Syriac y-m-y nor the Hebrew/Jewish Aramaic š-b-‘ of Leviticus 19:12; Zecharaiah 8:17, but rather shares the root y-m-n with the Jewish Aramaic text of Joshua 23:7. Despite this difference, the qur’ānic verses which expound upon swearing an oath remain in strong dialogue with Matthew 5:33–35, which brings us to one final point, namely Matthew 5:35’s prohibition not to swear (lā tīmūn). It states, “neither by the earth because it is the footstool beneath his feet (wa lā b-ar‘ā d-kūbšā hī d-th.ēt rēglawhī), nor by Jerusalem because it is the city of the great king (āplā b-ūrīšlēm da-mdīntēh hī d-malkā rabā)” (Matthew 5:35).

This verse may relate to God’s pronouncement in Q 90:1, “Indeed, I swear by this country” (la-uqsim bi hādhā al-balad). This reading follows that found in the codices of ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Zubayr and Mujāhid, as well as Kropp’s emendation of these class of qur’ānic formulas (Q 56:75; 69:38; 70:40; 75:1–2; 81:15–16; 90:1). Reading the verse this way entails replacing the lām of negation (nafy) with that of emphasis (tawkīd). This changes the verse from the ‘Uthmānic “nay! I swear” or “I do not swear” (lā uqsim) to “indeed I swear” (la-uqsim), which not only offers a more elegant reading of the Arabic orthography found in the Qur’ān codices as well as alternative readings. This reading is also in harmony with our principle of dogmatic re-articulation where “indeed, I swear by this country” (la-uqsim bi hādhā al-balad) stands in contradistinction to Matthew 5:35’s “do not swear . . . by the earth . . . nor by Jerusalem” (lā tīmūn . . . b-ar‘ā . . . āplā b-ūrīšlēm).

Worship, Glory and Authority

The case is often made that worship in the Qur’ān—and by extension the Islamic daily Islamic prayers which took hold soon afterwards—shares an intimate relation-ship with Hebrew Scripture and Rabbinic orthopraxy. However, related expres-sions of worship occur frequently throughout both the Qur’ān and the Gospels as well. Although Jesus is most frequently worshipped in the Gospels (Matthew 14:33; Mark 7:7; Luke 24:52; and so on), in the Qur’ān the angels worship Adam at the beginning of creation (Q 2:34; 7:11; and so on) and Joseph’s family worship him once they arrive in Egypt (Q 12:100), both scriptures explicitly state that God alone may be worshipped as a deity (Matthew 4:9–10; Luke 4:7–8; Q 41:37). Even though the word used in the Qur’ān to designate “worship” or “prostration” (sujūd) (as well as the place name masjidand other derivatives; see Chapter 2) comes from the Aramaic sphere in gerenal, one case exists which may demonstrate the Qur’ān’s dogmatic re-articulation of Matthew’s Gospel in Aramaic. It states,

Therefore, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of king Herod, magi (mgūšē/mgūšāyē) from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “where is the king of the Jews who was born? For, we have seen his star (kāwkbēh) in the east, and we have come to worship him (ētayn l-mēsgad lēh)”.(Matthew 2:1–2; Diatessaron 3:1–3)

The magi, Syriac mgūšēor CPA mgūšāyē, are called in some Bible translations “wise men.” This class of magi or wise men come in order to worship (mēsgad) the newborn Jesus. The Qur’ān, aware of this passage’s significance—not least because the mgūšē/mgūšāyē are favorably acknowledged in the Qur’ān as al-majūs (Q 22:17; see Chapter 2)—dogmatically re-articulates its language to engage the confessional needs of Muh.ammad’s early community of Muslims, stating,

Say, “[whether] you believe in Him or do not believe, indeed those who were given knowledge (al-ladhīn ūtū al-‘ilm) before it [that is, the Qur’ān]—if it were recited before them (idhā tutlā ‘alayhim)—would fall down to their chins in worship (yakhirrūn li al-adhqān sujjadan).” And they would say “indeed our Lord’s promise (wa‘d rabbinā) has been fulfilled.” And they would fall down to their chins, weeping, and they would increase in austerity.(Q 17:107–9)

This verse is, generally speaking, a challenge to “those given knowledge” before the revelation of the Qur’ān, that is, the Jews and Christians (cf. Q 2:145; 3:19; 16:67; 22:54; 28:80; 29:49; 30:56; 34:6; 47:16; 58:11). If understood as a response to the passage in Matthew, then those given knowledge (al-ladhīn ūtū al-‘ilm) may well be a reference to the “wise men” or magi of the Gospels. In this case, instead of following Jesus’s star (kawkbēh) or worshipping him (mēsgad lēh)—which threatens the very core of the strict monotheism espoused by Muh.ammad—upon hearing the Qur’ān recited before them the magi would rather fall down to their chins in worship (yakhirrūn li al-adhqān sujjadan) to God and glorify God for fulfilling His promise.

God is glorified in essentially the same fashion both in the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions. The verb used to designate glorification throughout the Qur’ān is sabbah. and, although attested in pre-Islamic epigraphic sources, it most probably comes from Aramaic šabah., as in the Gospels. Jesus’s community of followers frequently glorify God for the miraculous works of his prophetic min-istry. For example it states, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they glorified God (šabah.ū/mšabh.īn l-alāhā), who had given such authority (šūltānā) to mankind” (Matthew 9:8; see also Mark 2:12; Luke 2:20, and so on).Similar to this is when Jesus states,

I exalt you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth (mawdē enā lāk ābi mārāa-šmayā wa d-ar‘ā), because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.(Matthew 11:25; Diatessaron 15:37)

The Qur’ān reflects a keen awareness of such passages where dozens of times sabbah.or subh.ān are mentioned, all of which exclusively invoke God. The phrase “That which is in the heavens and the earth glorifies God” (sabbah./yusabbih. lillāh ma fī al-samāwāt wa [mā fī] al-ard.; see further Chapter 5) occurs five times at the start of a sequence of related Surahs (Q 57:1; 59:1; 61:1; 62:1; 64:1; cf. Ephesians 1:3). The phrase “glorified is God,” subh.ān allāh occurs nine times (Q 12:108; 37:159; and so on). Furthermore, the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulates Matthew 9:8 (see earlier), in which a group of followers glorify God (šabah.ū l-alāhā) for giving such authority (šūltānā) to mankind, by attacking its exaltation of mankind and—thereby—the divinity of Jesus. It states,

They said God has taken up a child (qālū ittakhadh allāh waladan), glorified is He (subh.ānah)! He is the sovereign [lit. wealthy]; to Him belong that which is in the heavens and that which is in the earth (lah mā fī al-samāwāt wa mā fīal-ard.). Do you have any authority (or proof; s.ult.ān) concerning this? Do you say about God that which you do not know?(Q 10:68: cf. 2:16, 116; 4:171; 5:116; 19:35; 21:26; 23:91; 39:4; 72:3)

Some observations can be made about Q 10:68 with regards to its dogmatic re-articulation of Matthew 9:8. Whereas Jesus’s divine sonship and his divine authority are the quintessential reason for glorifying God in the Gospels, this threatened the very core of the strict monotheism espoused by Muh.ammad. Instead, in an act of qur’ānic one-upmanship, God, whose possession of all that which is in the heav-ens and that which is in the earth precludes a frivolous and arbitrary undertaking as a human son, is glorified (subh.ānah)—exalted—beyond this anthropomorphic Christian model. This argument is confirmed by Q 39:4, which argues that “if God wanted to take up a son, He could have chosen out of what he creates anything that He willed [i.e. not merely humans],” and Q 23:91; 37:159; 52:43; 59:23, which rebukes—especially—the Christians stating, “glorified is God over that which they describe/ascribe (subh.ān allāh ‘an mā yas.ifūn/yushrikūn).” The implications of these dogmatic qur’ānic statements on the highly sectarian Arabian audience to which Muh.ammad was preaching were that the stricter vision of God and author-ity promoted his new Islamic prophetic religion do a better job of glorifying God and are, ultimately, more truthful than their counterparts in the Aramaic Gospels. This much is proven by Q 10:68’s play on the words of Matthew 9:8, namely šabah.and šūltānā, which brings us to our discussion on authority.

The word šūlt.ānāis used frequently in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions to mean “authority” (Matthew 21:23–24; Mark 2:10; Luke 4:6; and so on). The Arabic sult.ān is etymologically derived from Aramaic šūlt.ānā, and like its Aramaic counterpart can signify secular or religious, human or divine authority. It is consequently a mysterious force, usually signifying “the moral or magical author-ity supported by proofs or miracles which afford the right to make a statement of religious import.” The essence of s.ult.ān, which generally conveys authority, may be extended as the exegetes did to mean “proof” or “argument.”  Another view is advanced by Lüling, who equates the term sult.ān with an actual person. He takes this a step further and discerns in it traces of Jewish and Christian angelol-ogy,  especially for Q 30:35, which also challenges the idea in the Gospels that authority is bequeathed from God to men. For it states, “or have We sent down upon them an authority (sult.ān) who would speak about that which they used to ascribe (that is, associate with God, bimā kānū yushrikūn)?”

Similarly in Matthew we read,

And when they saw him, they worshipped him (sgēdū lēh) [see Chapter 3]. How-ever, some of them doubted. And Jesus approached speaking with them, and said to them, “all authority in heaven and in earth was granted to me (ētyahb kūl šūltān ba-shmayā wa b-ar‘ā), and as my Father has sent me, I send you.” (Matthew 28:17–19; Diatessaron 55:3–5)

The Qur’ān emphatically responds, “And to God worship all that is in the heavens and the earth among creatures and angels (wa li allāh yasjud mā fī al-samāwāt wa mā fī al-ard. min dābah wa al-malā’ikah), and they are not arrogant” (Q 16:49; see also Q 72:8).

First, the line, li allāh yasjud mā fī al-samāwāt wa mā fī al-ard., is a re-articula-tion of the phrases sgēdū lēh and ētyahb kūl šūltān ba-shmayā wa b-ar‘ā from Matthew 28:17–19. Moreover, that a mortal—even Jesus—is worshipped and that all the authority in heaven and in earth should be granted to a mortal was naturally in conflict with Muh.ammad’s vision of strict monotheism, where worship and authority is not shared by God with anyone, let alone a mortal human being.

Lord’s Prayer

The impact that the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer had on the language, form and content of liturgical prayers in the Arabic Qur’ān was profound. The text of the Lord’s Prayer reads,

  1. Our Father who is in Heaven (abūn d-ba-šmayā),
  2. Sanctified is Your name (nētqdaš šmāk).
  3. Your kingdom come (tītē malkūtāk)
  4. Your will be done (nēhwē s.ēbyānāk)
  5. As in Heaven so [too] on earth(aykanā d-ba-šmayāāp b-ar‘ā).
  6. Give us the bread that we need this day (hab lan lah.mā d-sūnqānan yawmānā).
  7. And forgive us our debts (wa šbūq lan h.awbayn)
  8. Just as we have forgiven our debters (aykānā d-āp h.nan šbaqn l-h.ayābayn).
  9. And do not enter us into temptation (w lā ta‘aln l-nēsyūnā)
  10. But deliver us from the evil one (ēlā fas.ān mēn bīšā);Because to you belong the kingdom, the power and glory (met.ūl d-dīlāk hīmalkūtā w h.aylā w tēšbūh.tā) forever and ever (l-‘ālam ‘ālmīn).

(Matthew 6:9–13: cf. Luke 11:2–4; Diatessaron 9:31–36; Didache 8)

Beginning with the most important qur’ānic example that was inspired by or re-articulated certain dimensions of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, let us consider “the Opening” (al-fātih.ah; seventh century CE). The liturgical prayer that begins the Qur’ān serves as the first Surah and is, furthermore, unparalleled in literary and religious importance within all Islamic literature. As Sperl demonstrates, it is a prayer that comes from a long tradition of ancient and late antique Near Eastern liturgical style prayers, going back through the Gloria of the Roman mass (fourth century CE), the Lord’s Prayer (first century), the Shemoneh ‘Esreh of Rabbinic liturgy (first century CE?), and related to the Babylonian prayer to the moon god, Sin (first millennium BCE). It should be added that the Zoroastrian liturgies—especially the Avestan Gahs—and the supplications of Gēnzā RbāR1:1:1–27 are too a foundational contribution to this prayer tradition. At any rate, the text of the fātih.ah, including the basmalah, follows:

  1. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Benevolent (b-ism allāh al-rah.mān al-rah.īm)
  2. Glory belongs to God, Lord of the worlds (al-h.amd li al-allāh rabb al-‘ālamīn)
  3. The Merciful, the Benevolent (al-rah.mān al-rah.īm)
  4. King of the Day of Judgment (malik yawm al-dīn)
  5. You do we serve (iyyāk na‘bud)
  6. And you do we ask for help (wa iyyāk nasta‘īn)
  7. Guide us to the straight path (ihdinā al-s.irāt. al-mustaqīm)
  8. The path of those whom You have favored (s.irāt. al-ladhīn an‘amt alayhim)
  9. Not those who incur anger (ghayr al-maghd.ūb ‘alayhim)
  10. Nor the lost (wa lā al-d.āllīn)

(Q 1:1–7)

Sperl convincingly relates the syntactic, rhetorical and symmetrical parallel-ism found in the Arabic fātih.ah to the Greek text of the Lord’s Prayer. He notes that the underlying structure of the Lord’s Prayer, like the fātih.ah—including the basmalah—is divided symmetrically into two halves “juxtaposing the human and divine sphere.” Thus, according to Sperl’s distribution of the lines (see earlier), the first five lines of both the Lord’s Prayer and the fātih.ah concern God (glory and exaltation) and the latter five concern humankind (asking God for help). Without sharing Sperl’s belief that the original language of the Lord’s Prayer, which is “lost,” is of secondary importance, and without repeating the details of his otherwise valuable literary analysis, new insights follow making use of the Aramaic text of the Lord’s Prayer, focusing on the Arabic fātih.ah’s dogmatic re-articulation thereof.

A report going back to ‘Alī b. Abī T.ālib alleges that Waraqah—whose knowl-edge of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer may be assumed—gave Muh.amamad the cour-age to receive the revelation of the first four lines of the fātih.ah. Concerning the text of the fātih.ah more specifically, the initial part of the basmalah, which states “in the name of God” (b-ism allāh; see also Q 27:30), begins the fātih.ah while invoking the phrase “sanctified is Your name” (nētqdaš šmāk) in the Lord’s Prayer, where Arabic i-s-m corresponds to Aramaic š-m. So too is the verse “King of the Day of Judgment” (malik yawm al-dīn) a re-articulation of “Your kingdom come” (tītē malkūtāk)—possibly mediated through Syriac homilies like that of Narsai—where the components of kingdom (see Chapter 5) and apocalypse (see Chapter 6) are juxtaposed. Thus, “King” (malik) invokes “kingdom” (malkūtā), and the phrase “the Day of Judgment” (yawm al-dīn) corresponds to the Aramaic feminine singular imperative verb “Come” (tītē). Other pairs that function as con-ceptual parallels include: the verbal clauses “guide us” (ihdinā) and “deliver us” (fas.ān); the construct “those who incur anger” (al-maghd.ūb ‘alayhim) and the noun with the first person plural suffix “our debters” (h.ayābayn); and finally, the nouns “the lost” (al-d.āllīn) and “temptation” (nēsyūnā).

The rhyme at the end of the fātih.ah’s verses (not lines) is the one most com-monly found in the Qur’ān, īn/īm. According to Sperl’s 10 line schema, the rhyme at the end of the fātih.ah’s lines is īn/īm (A), except for line 5 which ends in “we worship” (na‘bud; B) and lines 8 and 9 which end in the phrase “upon them” (‘alayhim; C), producing a rhyme scheme of A-A-A-A-B-A-A-C-C-A. Similarly, according to Sperl’s schema, the rhyme scheme of the Aramaic text is stronger than that of the Greek. The rhyme of the former consists of: the emphatic nomi-nal singular article ā (A); the masculine singular possesive suffix ak (B); and the masculaine plural emphatic case plus first person plural possessive suffix ayn (C). This produces a rhyme scheme of A-B-B-B-A-A-A-C-C-A-A. Although the fātih.ah and Lord’s Prayer share neither rhyme morpheme nor rhyme scheme the occurrence of the stanzas C-C before a return to stanza A at the end may demon-strate the remnants of a shared liturgical substrate. Although Sperl never suggests it, rhyme is an integral phonetic component of the style employed in both the fātih.ah and Lord’s Prayer. Finally, like their Christian counterparts who chant the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer to this day, faithful Muslim worshippers chant the fātih.ah as an Arabic hymn and conclude it with the standard Judeo-Christian statement, āmīn (Aramaic āmēn).

The Lord’s Prayer not only affected the form and content of the fātih.ah but likely informed—along with Hebrew Scripture and Rabbinic commentary—a number of other liturgical prayers in the Qur’ān known for their profound literary and rhythmic qualities. As an invocation, “Our Father who is in Heaven (abūn d-ba-šmayā)” is used very much like the basmalah (Q 1:1; 27:30). As an exalta-tion of God’s name in the Spirit of Hebrew Scripture (1 Chronicles 16:35; 29:13; Psalms 44:8; Joel 2:26; and so on), “Sanctified is Your name (nētqdaš šmāk),” likely had some influence on the qur’ānic phrase, “so glorify in the name of your Lord, the Great One (fa sabbih. b-ism rabbik al-‘az.īm)” (Q 56:74, 96; 69:52).

The verbal clause in line 3 of the Lord’s Prayer stating, “Your kingdom come (tītē malkūtāk)” is adapted in the qur’ānic formula used in prayers, “Our Lord, bring us . . .!” (rabbanā[wa] ātinā . . .) demanding of God’s promise (Q 3:194) and mercy (Q 18:10; cf. Q 11:63; see further Q 9:75; 27:16). In this case the Aramaic verb tītēis the D stem of the third person feminine imperfect of the root ā-t-y, meaning “to come;” and the Arabic verb ātinā is the G stem of the masculine singular imperative of “to bring” (that is, causative, “to make come”) of the same root preserved in Arabic, ’-t-ā.

The use of the command in line 6 of the Lord’s Prayer, “give us” (hab lan) matches the following qur’ānic prayers, “Our Lord, do not shake our hearts after having guided us; and give us (hab lanā), from Your mercy! Indeed, you are the Giver (al-wahhāb);” (Q 3:8); as well as, “And those who say give us (hab lanā) from our spouses and offspring a soothness [for our] eyes, and make us for the virtuous a guide” (Q 25:74).

The Arabic formula hab lanāis philologically and syntactically identical to its Aramaic counterpart hab lan: masculine singular imperative of the root w-h-b/y-h-b meaning “to give,” and the preposition li/la meaning “to” attached to the first person plural possessive suffix n/nā respectively. It follows, therefore, that the qur’ānic use of w-h-b is most likely derived from Aramaic.

Lines 7–8 of the Lord’s Prayer state, “and forgive us our debts (wa šbūq lan h.awbayn), just as we have forgiven our debters (aykānā d-āp h.nan šbaqn l-h.ayābayn).” That the Qur’ān inherited the idea of “sin as debt” (Aramaic h.ūbā, Arabic h.ūb) made famous by the Aramaic Gospel Traditions is clear (Q 4:2). More significantly, these lines—which encapsulate the spirit of Judeo-Christian brotherhood and forgiveness taught in the Gospels—are fitted to the circumstances of Muh.ammad’s community as they pray,

Lord, forgive us (rabb ighfir lanā) and our brethren who preceded us in faith (wa li ikhwāninā al-dhīnā sabaqūnā bi al-īmān); and do not create in our hearts animosity (ghill) towards those who believe. Our Lord, you are the Compassionate, the Benevolent.(Q 59:10)

The syntax of formulae asking forgiveness for oneself in Arabic and Aramaic is the same: imperative plus preposition li/la plus pronominal suffix [plus ours sins/debts].

So the syntax of “forgive [for] us our debts” (wa šbūq lan h.awbayn) is pre-served in “forgive us our sins” (ighfir lanā dhunūbanā) found in the Qur’ān (Q 3:16; 3:147; 3:193; cf. Q 12:97), where the imperative “forgive” (ighfir) paral-lels “forgive” (šbūq) and “our sins” (dhunūbunā) parallels “our debts” (h.awbayn). In relation to this, as line 8 of the Lord’s Prayer—“just as we have forgiven our debters (aykānā d-āp h.nan šbaqn l-h.ayābayn)”—attempts to bridge the gap between Jesus’s socially disparate community by asking for mutual forgiveness among a community of “debters,” so too does Q 59:10 ask—as a compliment to the Gospels—that there not be mutual “animosity” (ghill) among the community of “brethren” and “believers.” Moreover, Muh.ammad saw the spirit of brother-hood and forgiveness demonstrated in the Hebrew Scriptures and Gospel Tradi-tions as an example for his community to follow (Q 48:29).

The translation for the word nēsyūnāin line 9 of the Lord’s Prayer “And do not enter us into temptation (w lā ta‘aln l-nēsyūnā),” is rendered alternately by the NRSV as “trial.” The faithful pray in the Qur’ān for protection against both “temp-tation” (from n-s-ā) and “trial” (fitnah), which are further expounded upon in Chapter 4. Thus, it states,

  • Our Lord, do not hold us accountable if we are tempted or mistaken (lā tu’ākhidhnā in nasīnā aw akht.a’nā)Our Lord, nor place upon us a burden as you placed on those before usOur Lord, nor burden us with what we cannot withstandAnd pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us.You are our Lord, so give us victory over the rebellious folk (al-qawm al-kāfirīn).(Q 2:286)

As well as, “Our Lord, do not make us a trial for those who rebelled (lā taj‘alnāfitnah li al-ladhīnā kafarū), and forgive us Lord. Indeed, you are the Mighty, the Wise” (Q 60:5; Cf. 10:85).

As suggested earlier, the conditional clause “if we are tempted” (in nasīnā; Q 2:286) and the noun for “trial” (fitnah; Q 60:5) are an Arabic verbal re-wording and calque—respectively—of the Aramaic word for “temptation, trial” (nēsyūnā). What firmly establishes the connection between these qur’ānic prayers and line 9 of the Lord’s Prayer are the identical syntax of the negative imperatives directed towards God, “do not hold us accountable” (lā tu’ākhidhnā) and “do not make us” (lā taj‘alnā), which mirror “do not enter us” (lā ta‘aln).

As for “the rebellious folk” (al-qawm al-kāfirūn) or “those who rebelled” (al-ladhīnā kafarū) from whom the faithful flock seek refuge in the Qur’ān, they represent one manifestation of “the evil one” (bīšā) found in line 10 of the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, line 10 which reads “but deliver us from the evil one (ēlā fas.ān mēn bīšā),” is dogmatically re-articulated in a number of qur’ānic prayers. For example, Moses’ people pray,

  • Upon God have we placed our trust. Our Lord, do not make us a trial for the evil folk (lā taj‘alnā fitnah li al-qawm al-z.ālimīn); and deliver us—by your mercy—from the rebellious folk (wa najjinā bi rah.matik min al-qawm al-kāfirīn).(Q 10:85–86: cf. 66:11)

Similarly, after Moses has killed an Egyptian he flees the city “fearfully looking about” and praying, “Our Lord, deliver me from the evil folk” (najjinī min al-qawm al-z.ālimīn; Q 28:21; cf. Q 23:28; see also 7:89; 26:169). The liturgical prayer formula found in the Qur’ān, “deliver us/me from the rebellious/evil folk” (najjinā/īmin al-qawm al-kāfirīn/al-z.ālimīn) reflects the syntax and meaning of “deliver us from the evil one (ēlā fas.ān mēn bīšā)” found in line 10 of the Lord’s Prayer. The verb najjinā/ī is a calque for fas.ān. Furthermore, the evil or oppres-sive folk (al-qawm al-kāfirīn/al-z.ālimīn) play the role of the perennial adversary/adversaries faced by the prophets and their righteous entourage throughout the Qur’ān—the same role played by “the evil one” (bīšā) in the Aramaic Gospels (Matthew 5:37; John 17:15; and so on).

Greeting the Home

The standard greeting shared by the Aramaic Gospel Traditions and the Qur’ān is that of “peace,” for which the Aramaic noun šlāmācorresponds to the Arabic nounsalām. Thus, Jesus warns against the Pharisees who writhe in flattery and love to receive “greetings” (šlāmā) in the marketplace (Matthew 23:7; Mark 12:34; Luke 11:34; 20:46). This somewhat negative portrayal of greetings is inherited by the Qur’ān as it advised its audience to both give greetings (salām) and shun the ignorant folk (al-jāhilūn; Q 25:63; 28:55). However, there is one exception in the Gospels to this negative portrayal of greeting. When teaching his disciples how to go out and preach the Gospel Jesus states,

  • And when you enter a house (baytā) greet the household (šēlū šlāmēh d-baytā). And if the house is worthy, let your greeting come upon it (šlāmkūn nītē ‘alawhī). If, however, it is not worthy, let your greeting return to you (šlāmkūn ‘alaykūn nēfnē/ntūb). Furthermore, whoever does not receive you, nor hear your words, when you exit that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.(Matthew 10:12–14; Diatessaron 12:52–55)

In relation to this, Q 24 legislates to Muhammad’s early community of believ-ers various aspects of everyday life. It teaches the etiquette of how to eat and the permissibility of eating in the homes of one’s relatives, friends and associates, then it states, “. . . So if you enter a household (buyūtan), then greet yourselves (sallimū ‘alā anfusikum)—a greeting (tah.iyyatan) from God, blessed and good” (Q 24:61).

Why would anyone greet themselves instead of the household into which they are entering? On its own, this verse makes less sense than if understood inter-textually with Matthew 10:12–14. For in truth, the Qur’ān, conscious of the epi-sode in Matthew, advises its audience to bypass the embarrassment of greeting an unworthy household by insisting on greeting oneself. Therefore, it is Jesus’s words in the Gospel, “let your greeting return to you” (šlāmkūn alaykūn nēfnē) that inspire the dogmatic re-articulation of the Qur’ān, “greet yourselves” (sallimū‘alā anfusikum).


  1. See also Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 50. Ephrem, “Des Heiligen Ephraem des syrers Carmina Nisibena,” CSCO 240–1, 102–3, 1961, 32–7, 24–8 (On Satan’s Complaint) objects that some consider Jesus “merely” a prophet. Cf. further Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium, Oxford; New York: Oxford Univer-sity Press, 1999.
  2. Tatian, Diatesseron de Tatien, 532–4.
  3. For example Hishām b. al-Kalbī, G ̆amharat an-nasab: Das genealogische Werk des Hisām ibn Muh.ammad al-Kalbī, 2 vols, Ed. Werner Caskel. Leiden: Brill, 1966; Abū ‘Ubayd al-Qāsim b. Sallām, Kitāb al-nasab, First Edition, ed. Maryam M. Khayr al-Dar. Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1989; Ah.mad b. Yah.yā b. Jābir al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, 13 vols, Ed. Suhayl Zakkār and Muh.ammad Zarkalī, Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1996.
  4. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:217–18(On Wars); Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae selectae, 6:720–74 (On the Nativity I: line 285). Cf. also Samir, “The theological Christian influence on the Qur’ān,”146–47; Reynolds, The Qur’ān and its Biblical Subtext, 48–53. See further James D. G. Dunn, ABD, “Christology.”
  5. Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 747 relates this Surah directly to the fall of Adam. Cf. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 111, 312 wherein Q 103 of Ibn Mas‘ūd and al-Rabī‘ b. Kuthay-yam’s codices are starkly different.
  6. Later hadiths re-introduce the idea of Muh.ammad’s of intercession (shafā‘ah; tawassul) on the Day of Judgement, for example Muslim 4:1757
  7. Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 106–7. See further Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 2:10–11.
  8. Jeffery, the Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 258. See also Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 88.
  9. A.H. Mathias Zahniser, EQ, “Parable;” cf. in relation Suyūt.ī, Itqān, 5:1932–44.
  10. Cf. in relation Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike, 573–76; Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 70–1.
  11. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:185, 188
  12. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:563–8 (On the Sabbath). See further Q 36:82.
  13. Cf. “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light (va yēmar ēlohēm yēhē nūr va yēhēnūr)” (JPS); w-ēmar yawēy yehē nehūrā wa-hwā nehūrā(Targum Onkelos); w-ēmar alāhā nēhwēnūhrā wa hwā nūhrā(Old Testament Peshitta).
  14. NRSV states “repentance.”
  15. The NRSV translates Greek dunatai as “can.” However, like Arabic, Aramaic does not have modal verbs. Consequently, the meaning “will create” is more basic and immediate to the Ara-maic text of the Gospels.
  16. See Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’an, 198–9 on the Aramaic origin of s.alāh, which is s.lūt—pronounced s.lūth/s.lūthā with rukākā. See further Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 148, 217, 272, 281 on the appearance of this exact spelling in Q 22:40–41 preserved in the codices of Ubayy b. Ka‘b, H.afs.ah, ‘Ikrimah and Mujāhid.
  17. For more see Ibn Qutaybah, Tafsīr, 233.
  18. I translate the Arabic word du‘ā’ (pl. ad‘iyah), sometimes translated as “supplication” as liturgi-cal prayer as its form and function fit in the category of Christian, Jewish, late antique and ancient Near Eastern liturgical prayers (see further Chapter 3).
  19. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 136–8.
  20. Cf. JPS, Targum Psalms and Old Testament Peshitta.
  21.  Ibn Ish.āq, Sīrah, 1:18. See also Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike, 633–52.
  22. For example, Jesus the Messiah is descended of David (Luke 1; John 7:41; and so on); he is born in the village of David (Luke 2); he is called “son of David;” and he refers to parables citing the authority of David (Matthew 9:27; Mark 2:25; Luke 6:3).
  23. See the meaning and context of epithets like dawīd gābyā, “David the chosen one” in Jacob of Serugh, “Homélies contre les Juifs,” PO 38, 1976, 136–81. Such a usage probably stemmed from the Syriac Gospels, as in Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 27. This also parallels the Arabic usage of words derived from the root j-b-āin Q 3:179; 6:87; 68:50, and so on. Furthermore, the Psalms occur at the beginning of all Syriac Christian lectionaries even to this day.
  24. Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 1:487–91
  25. Bennabi, Le phénomène coranique, 28–32.
  26. See in relation the discussion of Q 3:67–97 in Ernst, How to Read the Qur’an, 187–8.
  27. Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 46–7, 52–3.
  28. Cf. also Hebrew, Aramaic nabī, and Greek aggelos. Furthermore, the name of Q 21 al-anbiyā’ never actually occurs within the Surah itself, but rather we read, “and We have not sent (arsalnā) a single messenger (rasūl) except that we reveal to him that ‘there is no God but I, so serve me’” (Q 21:25). Furthermore, it is evident from variants in the different Qur’ān codices that these words were understood synonymously. See Ibn Mas‘ūd’s reading of Q 65:12 in Jeffery, Materi-als for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 102. Cf. also Neal Robinson, EQ, “Apostle.” In addition, Uri Rubin, EQ, “Prophets and Prophethood” notes that while the two terms frequently overlap in function, rasūl may be considered slightly more important. For a more nuanced study of both terms see Willem Bijlefeld, “A prophet and more than a prophet? Some observations on the Qur’anic use of the terms ‘prophet’ and ‘apostle’,” MW 59.1, 1969, 9–28. In relation to this point, Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 90, 117 theterm demonstrates that r-s1-l is used in Sabaic for “messenger, envoy” in the secular sense, whereas n-b-a means “to vow an offering to a deity.”
  29. Uri Rubin, ibid.
  30. Andrae, Les origines de l’islam et le christianisme, 67.
  31. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 217 explains the qur’ānic ‘Imrān as a conflation of ‘Amram the father of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam, with the father of the virgin Mary. See further Q 19:28.
  32. Ibid. 296 correctly traces the spelling of this name to CPA yūnas.
  33. Suyūt.ī, Itqān, 2:360 also notes that Q 27 al-naml (The Ants) was otherwise called by some sulaymān (Solomon).
  34. Cf. in relation Ibn Qutaybah, Tafsīr, 209. Furthermore, Q 36 fuses the imagery of stone found in Genesis 19; Psalms 118 with a discourse on intercession by Syriac Christian martyrs.
  35. Cf. in relation the context of Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae selectae, 6:720–74 (On the Nativity I: line 170–380, 555–635); 6:775–89 (On the Nativity II: line 139, 180); 6:790–807 (On the Nativity III: line 1–90); Q 3:38–50; 19:2–35. Cf. further Infancy Gospel of James 3–9; Infancy Gospel of Thomas 4, 7, 15.
  36. Later Hadith literature identifies these five prophets explicitly as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muh.ammad; for example Bukhārī 6:60:3; Muslim 1:373, 378. Note that while every mes-senger is a prophet, not every prophet is a messenger. See further Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike, 613–23.
  37. My thanks go to Sean Anthony for sharing this point with me. Nonetheless, cf. the idea of “decep-tive prophecy” (al-waswās al-khannās; Q 114:4), where Arabic kh-n-s is a cognate to Aramaicn-h.-š, which denotes “divination” or “soothsaying.” See Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 909.
  38. Cf. further Greek prophetas and mantis.
  39. For related uses of the Aramaic root d-g-l, see Matthew 5:11; 13:22.
  40. This gave rise to the genre of Islamic apologetic literature known as “evidence of prophecy” (dalā’il al-nubuwwah).
  41. See Bukhārī 2:23:459; 3:30:103; 4:55:553; 5:59:685; Muslim 1:323; and so on; cf. also “false messiahs and counterfeit prophets” (musah.ā’ dajjālūn wa anbiyā’ al-kadhib; Diatessaron 42:11). See in relation Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 265–6; Neal Robinson, EQ, “Antichrist.”
  42. Cf. K. A. Nizami, EI2, “Sūk..”
  43. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1564.
  44. For example Narsai, The Liturgical Homilies, 101.
  45. This may be why the codex of al-A‘mash spells as.daq as azdaq in Q 4:4121–22. See Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 317.
  46. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 194–5, 276. However, Jeffery does not include s.ālih.(ūn) in his study and derives siddīq (ūn) from Jewish Aramaic. See also Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 206 wherein Q 63:10 sustitutes al-s.ālihīn for al-s.ādiqīn in the codex of Ibn ‘Abbas’. See further Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity, 85–92. See in relation Sabaic cognates in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 88, 141, 142.
  47. For example Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:985–8 (On Persection); Ephrem, “Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Paschahymen: de azymis, de crucifixione, de resurrectione,” CSCO 248–9, 108–9, 1964, 84, 67 (Joy at the Resurrection); Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae Selectae, 3:636–48 (On Confessors and Martyrs); Simeon of Beth Arshām, “On the Himyarite Martyrs” in Irfan Shahid (ed.), The Martyrs of Najran, Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1971.
  48. Ibid. 187. See also s2-h-d in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 132.
  49. For example Aphrahat, “Demonstrations” 1:985–87 (On Persecution); Ephrem, “Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de paradiso und contra Julianum,” 29–30, 28 (hymn 7.19). Cf. especially Connelly’s comments on the typology of the righteous entourage in Narsai, Nestorius Narsai’s Narsai, and Theodore of Mopsuestia in Narsai, The Liturgical Homilies, lxvi–iii, 18, 101.
  50. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 206.
  51. The Hebrew word used for “elect” in Isaiah 42:1; 45:4; 65:9, 22 is bah.īr (JPS); and it is bah.īrāin Jewish Aramaic (Targum Jonathan) and CPA. Cf. also Christian Arabic as.fiyā’of the Diatessaron. Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 48 demonstrates that the Sabaic root g-b-a conveys a host of mean-ings, none of which converges with the qur’ānic usage.
  52. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:47.
  53. Ibid., 150.
  54. Karl Ahrens, Muhammed als Religionsstifter, Leipzig: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, 1935, 136. Cf. in relation John 1:1–10.
  55. Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān al-‘arab, 6:4638.
  56. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 447; Rudolph, Die Abhängigkeit des Qorans, 10. Cf. in relation Psalms 27:1–14; Romans 8:28–31; Q 3:160
  57. e.g. Anonymous, The Odes of Solomon, Ed. Alphonse Mingana and James Charlesworth, Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978, 40, 42, 92, 94, 119, 121.
  58. Some of the exegetical literature surrounding Q 10:26 (see chapter 6), including Muqātil, Tafsīr, 2:90 may be in dialogue with this verse as it interprets the “increase/bounty” (ziyadah) of those in paradise as the sight of God’s face.
  59. See variant readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:48–53.
  60. This may be attributed to the frequency of the definite articles āandē, as well as the verbal plural suffix ūn and nominal plural suffic īn in hymnal or homiletic exhortation. Cf. in relation Rey-nolds, The Qur’ān and its Biblical Subtext, 249.
  61. See in relation Suyūt.ī, Itqān, 5:1784–1826.
  62. Cf. the dominance of this kind of rhyme in Stewart, “Saj‘ in the Qur’an,” 135–8; Neuwirth, “Structural, linguistic and literary features,” 103.
  63. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 206.
  64. For example Psalms 2:12; Proverbs 3:13; and so on, which contain the phrase “blessed/happy are” (t.ūbayh t.āb; Targum Psalms; ašerē; JPS).
  65. See in relation Ibn Qirnās, Sunnat al-awwalīn, 53.
  66. See in relation Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 264–5.
  67. Ibn Ish.āq, Sīrah, 1:97.
  68. See in relation Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 121.
  69. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2B: 60.
  70. Cf. in relation Wim Raven, EQ, “Reward and Punishment.”
  71. Cf. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 100, 225; the codex of Ibn Mas‘ūd and Zayd b. Thābit state alternately, “and the wanderer and those who migrated in the way of God” (wa ibn al-sabīl wa muhājirīn fī sabīl allāh; Q 49:7).
  72. Cf. in relation Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 1:443; Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 1:180; 2:564.
  73. Jarl Fossum, ABD, “Son of God.”
  74. Cf. in relation biblical use of Hebrew ah.avah and Greek agape, meaning “love.”
  75. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 61
  76. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 79–80. Cf. further Isaiah 61:1, “he sent me to give good news” (šadarnī d-ēsabr); “he sent me to strengthen” (šalah-nī l-taqāwpā; Targum Jonathan).
  77. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:44.
  78. Ibid.
  79. See Dhuyayb, al-Mu‘jam al-Nabat.ī, 249 for attestations of š-h-d, “to witness,” in Nabataean inscriptions.
  80. Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 215; Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 120.
  81. For more on this see Chase F. Robinson, EQ, “Warner.” See also Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 1:235.
  82. For more on this see Daniel C. Peterson, EQ, “Good News.”
  83. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 3:6 records this Harklean reading. Concerning īwānglyūn (Greek evaggelion) cf. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 17.
  84. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1625–6.
  85. Ibid., 341–2.
  86. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 70–1, 87.
  87. See in relation Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 38–41. See generally the commentary in Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 1:185.
  88. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:76.
  89. Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 151–2 demonstrates that the root t-w-b conveys a few meanings that might fit in this context including “to testify, thank or complete work.”
  90. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:225 records that the Sinaiticus manuscript alternatively states “to sanctify” (nqadšūn).
  91. See in relation Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 152–3.
  92. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:191–4 (On Wars).
  93. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:60–1 records this Harklean reading.
  94. For more on this Cf. Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies, 10–11.
  95. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1142; cf. also Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 80.
  96. See in relation Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 85–7, 120.
  97. Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 235; Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 1:144 claim that this is heedlessly swearing by God’s name. For more on this see G. R. Hawting, EQ, “Oaths.”
  98. Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān al-‘arab, 6:4967–8.
  99. Cf. the corresponding verses in JPS; Targum Onkelos; Targum Jonathan and Old Testament Peshitta.
  100. Cf. in relation Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae selectae, 3:275–94 (On Our Lord’s Words, ‘Do not Swear at All’).
  101. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 275, 284.
  102. Lüling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, 166; Manfred Kropp, “Beyond single words: Mā’ida – Shayt.ān – jibt. and t.āghūt. Mechanisms of transmission into the Ethiopic (Ge‘ez) Bible and Qur’ān text” in ibid. (ed.), New Perspectives on the Quran, forthcoming. See also Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 3:207. Droge, The Qur’ān, 435 agrees with this reading as well.
  103. Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorâns, 6 argues that the Islamic confession (shahādah) is inspired by 2 Samuel 2:32 and Psalms 18:32. Cf. in relation Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,”, 2 vols, Ed. Alphonse Mingana, Mosul: Typis Fratrum praedicatorum, 1905, 1:351 (On the Mysteries of the Church and on Baptism). Note that while the five obligatory prayers (farā’id.) reflect the five daily prayers found in the Khorda Avesta, the fourth Islamic prayer is named maghrib like the third and final prayer of Rabbinic Judaism, ma‘ariv, meaning “sunset/nightfall” (cf. in relation the three daily prayers of the Qur’āniyyūn). Similarly, Uri Rubin, “Morning and Evening Prayers in early Islam,” JSAI 10 (1987): 40–64, discusses how Friday was adopted by early Muslims as the day of congregational prayer (jum‘ah; Q 62:9) in response to the Jewish Sabbath. Of the superoga-tory prayers (nawāfil) the night vigils (tahajjud; Q 17:79) bear resemblance to—among other vigils—those practiced by the Syriac speaking churches.
  104. Cf. throughout Majid Fakhry, An Interpretation of the Qur’an: English Translation of the Mean-ings, New York: New York University Press, 2004; M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an: English Translation with Parallel Arabic Text, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010; Lüling, A Chal-lenge to Islam for Reformation, 39.
  105. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 162–3, 263–4.
  106. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:15; cf. also KJV and NRSV.
  107. Drijvers and Healy, The Old Syriac Inscriptions, 140, 193, demonstrates that as early as the sixth century BCE up to 73 CE, the root attested in ancient north Arabian Lihyanite. It occurs in jāhilīpoetry as well, and conveys the meaning of “speed,” and then “distance,” which accord-ing to Nawāl Zarzūr, Mu‘jam alfāz. al-qiyam al-akhlāqīyah, 206–7, communicates the normative religious distancing of God from man. See also cf. D. Gimaret, EI2, s.v. “Subh.ān.” In addition, al-H.asan, Qirā’āt li katābāt lih.yāniyyah, 430 demonstrates that the root š-b-h. occurs as early as the first century CE in old pagan Aramaic inscriptions attesting yešbah., “he glorifies.”
  108. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 161–2; Mingana, Syriac Influence on the Style of the Kur’ān, 86; Bell, The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment, 51.
  109. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:113 records this Sinaiticus reading.
  110. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 176.
  111. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1528.
  112. Drijvers and Healy, The Old Syriac Inscriptions, 232–5; Qur’ān 3:151; 4:153; 12:40; 55:33; and so on.
  113. C.E. Bosworth and J.H. Kramers, EI2, s.v. “Sult.ān.”
  114. W. Kadi, EQ, “Authority.”
  115. Lüling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, 73.
  116. This last sentence is not in the text of the Greek.
  117. That being said, Robinson, “The rise of Islam,” 174–5, 193 makes it clear that God bequeathed the political authority of the Islamic state upon Muh.ammad, and subsequent Caliphs.
  118. Cf. the different Biblical and qur’ānic prayers in dialogue with the fātih.ah and Lord’s Prayer in Thyen, Bibel und Koran, 204–11.
  119. William A. Graham, EQ, “Fātih.a.”Cf. also Surahs al-khal‘and al-khafd. of Ubayy b. Ka‘b’s codex in Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 180–1. Cf. further the style and con-tent of Narsai, Narsai Homiliae et carmina, 1:292 (An Exposition on the Mysteries); Q 2:287.
  120. S.Sperl, “The Literary Form of Prayer: Qur’ān Sura One, the Lord’s Prayer and Babylonian Prayer to the Moon God,” BSOAS 57: 1, In Honour of J. E. Wansbrough (1994), 213–27.
  121. One cannot help, moreover, hearing the echoes of the basmalah, as well as the closing after each Surah “God the Magnificent is truthful” (s.adaq allāh al-‘azīm), in the invocation articulated before each chapter of the Gēnzā Rbā, namely “in the name of the Magnificent Living One” (b-šūmayhūn ēd-h.īyā rbīyā).
  122. See Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 25, 117, 185, 195, 220, 227, 232, 254, 288 where the word malik, “king” is preserved in the codices of Ibn Mas‘ūd, ‘Ā’ishah, ‘Alī, Ibn ‘Abbās, ‘Umar, ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Zubayr, Ubayy b. Ka‘b, T.alh.ah b. Mus.arrif, and al-Rabī‘ b. Kuthayyam. al-Akhfash al-Awsat., Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 2:590 and Suyūtī, Itqān, 6:2228 consider this the stronger reading. This reading is more faithful to the Jewish and Christian Aramaic sphere through which it passed. See Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 284 which cites Targum literature wherein divine kingdom is directly related to “the King Messiah” (malkā mšīh.ā). Cf. in relation Narsai, Narsai Homiliae et carmina, 1:355 (On the Mysteries of the Church and on Baptism).
  123. Cf. further Arthur Jeffery, “A variant text of the Fatiha” in Ibn Warraq (ed.), The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998.
  124. Suyūt.ī, Itqān, 1:165–6 records the authorities who believed the basmalah to be the first revelation.
  125. Ibid., 219
  126. Ibid., 225.
  127. Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 22.
  128. Narsai, Narsai Homiliae et carmina, 2:151 (On the Mysteries of the Church and on Baptism). Cf. in relation to (qāra) ba-šēm yahwēh of Hebrew Scripture in Blachère, Introduction au Coran, 143; Lüling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, 32. Moreover, Grohmann, From the World of Arabic Papyri, 113–213 demonstrates that the basmalah was employed frequently in the cor-respondences found in early Arabic papyri.
  129. The rhyme scheme for the Greek text of the Lord’s Prayer is A-B-B-B-C-D-E-E-D-B.
  130. This is supported by Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 159, where alternate readings of wahhabanā(Q 36:52) as habbanāand ahhabanāin the codices of Ubayy b. Ka‘b, Ibn Mas‘ūd and others.
  131. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 116–17
  132. See in relation Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 132, 174–87; Daniel C. Peterson, EQ, “Mercy.”
  133. John Nawas, EQ, “Trial.”
  134. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 3:9–11.
  135. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 175.
  136. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:129.
  137. See in relation Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 100, for an alternate Shi‘ah reading of Q 49:7 preserved in Ibn Mas‘ūd’s codex, and possibly inspired by Matthew, which states, “that there may not be a dispute (mukhālafah) between your elders (sādatukum)

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