The Evils Of The Clergy In The Quran and the Aramaic Traditions

Having expounded upon the role of prophets, their teachings and ethics, as well as their righteous entourage we now turn our attention to another subject shared by both the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions, namely the evils of the clergy. It is clear from the scriptures attributed to them that there was no love lost between the prophets Jesus and Muhammad on the one hand, and the clergy of their day on the other. This chapter discusses how the Aramaic Gospel Traditions and the Qur’ān’s dogmatic articulation thereof fulfill another duty of prophetic tradition, namely to utter words of condemnation—primarily directed against evils committed by the clergy—and warn their audience against misguidance.

Condemnation

The self-image of the Qur’ān and the Gospels as champion of the spirit of the Jewish Law and critic of Rabbinic authority—accused of preaching the letter of the law and abusing its power (Matthew 23:23)—is the context in which their common language of condemnation is manifested. This language can be expressed directly, as in curses, warnings of impending doom, or indirectly, as in hostile, critical, or unflattering portrayals of certain persons or groups. By reproaching Jewish groups specifically, the Qur’ān was participating in the larger sectarian polemical discourse of its day. Such is evident in Syriac homiletic works like Aphrahat’s (d. ca. 345) Demonstration on the Sabbath and various homilies against the Jews by Isaac of Antioch (d. ca. 460) and Jacob of Serugh (d. 521).

The Qur’ān accuses the Jews and especially their clergy of various offenses. This may also be the result of the tendentious relationship that developed between Muhammad and the Jewish groups during his lifetime. Thus, where some passages acknowledge the legacy of the children of Israel (banū isrā’īl) or Jews (al-ladhīn hādū) for being God’s chosen nation or receiving the blessing of scripture (Q 2:47, 62), others exhibit expressions of condemnation directed towards them, sometimes along with Christians (al-nas.ārā; Q 2:120; 5:18, 31, 64, 82; and so on). Q 4:62–63 implies, furthermore, that some Jews posed as believers and misbehaved in the same manner as the Scribes and Pharisees of old. Elsewhere in the Qur’ān, the excessive measure of Jewish dietary prohibition is criticized and doubt is cast upon its scriptural origin. It states,

  • All food was made lawful (hillan) to the children of Israel (banū isrā’īl), except that which Israel made unlawful (harram) upon himself before Hebrew Scripture (lit. al-tawrāh) was revealed. Say, “bring the Hebrew Scripture and narrate it, if you are truthful!”

(Q 3:93)

The implication of this verse is that the Children of Israel—the Jews—have lost their scripture (see in relation Chapter 1), meaning their dietary prohibitions are a fabrication. The idea of excessive Jewish dietary prohibition is alluded to elsewhere in the Qur’ān, where it mentions that Jesus came to “confirm that which was before [him] of the Hebrew Scripture and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden to [Israel] (Q 3:50).” The excessive nature of Jewish dietary—and legal—prohibitions in the Qur’ān, as well as its account of Jesus as making formerly unlawful matters lawful reflect a number of quotes ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels. One instance of this is where Jesus scolds the Pharisees, “listen and understand! It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Matthew 15:10–11; cf. Thomas 14). Christians came to perceive that this verse “makes lawful” the kosher restrictions. Another instance to which the Qur’ān may be alluding is when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees who reproach his hungry disciples for picking grain in the fields on the Sabbath, which is unlawful.

He sanctions the breaking of the Sabbath by analogy to David, who “entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which was not lawful (d-lā šalīt hwā)” (Matthew 12:4). Jesus further disparages the Pharisees, “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice (h.nānā/ rah.mē s.ābēēnā w lā dēbh.tā),’ you would not have condemned those who are without fault/innocent (Matthew 12:7; Diatessaron 7:44–45; cf. Hosea 6:6).”He quotes from Hosea 6:6 to show that “sacrifice” is merely an external, symbolic ritual act. What truly matters is the internal component of sacrifice—“mercy,” or what Nabil Khouri dubs “inward righteousness.”The dichotomy of God desiring inward, and not external, sacrifice is equally present in the Qur’ān (Q 22:37; cf. Isaiah 58; Didache 14:4).

It would be erroneous, nonetheless, to understand Jesus’s disdain for the “letter of the law” as a disdain for the law itself. This is far from the case. It is evident from numerous instances in the Gospels where Jesus makes legal judgments to the Pharisees about what is “lawful” (Matthew 19:4–7; 22:17–22; Luke 14:1–4; and so on), that he is a strong proponent of the moral spirit behind the law. The qur’ānic reference to Jesus’s confirmation of Hebrew Scripture (see above) is likely a dogmatic re-articulation—a paraphrasing—of Matthew as it states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets (d-ētīt d-ēšrē nāmūsāaw nabīyē); I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (lāētīt d-ēšrēēlā d-ēmalē); (Matthew 5:17; Diatessaron 8:46–47).”

Thus, Jesus objects to the literalist reading of the law promoted by the more affluent priestly classes of Pharisees and Sadducees, because rather than accommodating “those who are without fault,” like his hungry disciples, the law is used as tool of oppression. This is because Jesus was motivated by the practical needs of the poor and downtrodden elements of society with whom he socialized (see Chapter 3).

In the same way, the Qur’ān shows contempt for representatives of the clergy. Rabbinical authorities like scribes (al-ah.bār) and priests (al-ruhbān), are corrupted by wealth, power and strict observation of rituals. Hence, it states,

  • They [that is, the Jews and Christians] have taken their scribes (ah.bārahum) and their priests (ruhbānahum) as lords (arbāban) above (min dūn) God, and the Messiah the son of Mary. And they were not commanded but to worship one God . . . O you who believe, indeed many of the scribes and priests devour the wealth of people falsely (ya’kulūn amwāl al-nās bi al-bāt.il) and obstruct [others] from the way of God (yasuddūn ‘an sabīl allāh). And those who hoard gold and silver (al-ladhīn yaknizūn al-dhahab wa al-fiddah) and do not spend it in the way of God (wa lā yunfiqūn fi sabīl allah), warn them of an agonizing torment (fa bashshirrhum bi ‘adhāb alīm).

(Q 9:31, 34)

The verse is highly polemical of Rabbinical authorities who, according to the Qur’ān, abuse their power, wrongfully appropriate wealth, being over-praised and obstructing others from the way of God. The final two offenses, namely hoarding gold and silver, and not spending in the way of God, are likely a paraphrasing of Jesus’s position in Matthew where he disdains both gold and silver, and where he continually curses the Pharisees for their greed (Matthew 10:9; 23:16–29; cf. Gēnzā RbāR2:63). In fact, the curses ascribed to Jesus which he unleashes upon the clergy of his day—principally the Pharisees—are a hallmark of the Gospels, even in the Qur’ān’s milieu.

License to Curse: From David to Jesus

The Qur’ān frequently illustrates the insubordination and rebelliousness of the Israelites towards their prophet Moses (Q 2:54, 61, 71, 92; 5:20; and so on). However, one verse exhibits an intriguing, uncharacteristic break from this pattern,

  • Cursed (lu‘in) were those who rebelled from the children of Israel (al-ladhīn kafarū min banī isrā’īl) on the tongue of David and Jesus the son of Mary (‘alā lisān dāwūd wa ‘īsā ibn maryam), because they disobeyed and continued to cause offense.

(Q 5:78)

Aside from oblique parallels with Psalms 10:3, 7, this verse is very much in the spirit of the Gospels, where Jesus is identified closely with David (see in relation Chapter 3) and provides scathing invectives against the Jewish authorities—namely the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The place of David is magnified by Syriac Christian authors who exalted him as an archetype of prophecy as well as repentance. Thus, the Syriac speaking churches likely played a role in keeping his religious potency alive in the Qur’ān’s milieu. Not only do Syriac lectionaries begin with a reading from the Psalms (the book of King David), some Syriac authors like Jacob of Serugh held David in exceptionally high regard (see Chapter 3). It is plausible that the mention of Jesus’s Davidic lineage, which begins in the Gospels and remains popular among Syriac speaking Christian communities, soon reached the Qur’ān’s milieu, and was in turn afforded a terse dogmatic re-articulation in Q 5 in connection with condemning the representatives of Rabbinic authority.

Persecuting the Righteous Entourage and Struggling in the Way of God

The Rabbinic authorities, and by extension, their followers did not welcome the mission of Jesus, nor that of his closest disciples and the rest of his righteous entourage. To the contrary, we recall from the Beatititudes that their suffering is likened to the persecution of the prophets before them. It states,

  • Blessed are you when people dishonor you (mhasdīn lkūn), persecute you (rādfīn lkūn), and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake (mēt.ūlātī). So rejoice and be glad (hdawū wa rwazū), for your reward is great in heaven (d-agrkūn sagī ba-šmāyā); like this did they persecute the prophets before you (hākanā . . . rdapū la-nbīyē d-mēn qdāmaykūn).

(Matthew 5:11–12; Diatessaron 8:35–36)

These words of encouragement amid the persecution they withstood may preserve some measure of historicity. They were, furthermore, the subject of discus-sion by Aphrahat’s Demonstration on Persecution as a result his argument against Jewish interlocutors in which the stories of the prophets are narrated, accentuating the significance of persecution (see in relation Chapter 2). Incidentally, the literary style behind this genealogy of persecution reflects that of Q 26:4–190.

At any rate, Matthew 5:11–12 and the reflections of Syriac Christian authors like Aphrahat upon these verses were the inspiration for various qur’ānic passages of encouragement. These verses were likely revealed to Muhammad and uttered by him for the sake of consoling his righteous entourage and persecuted Muslim following as a whole (for example, 2:214; 3:140). In the Qur’ān, they cry out to God in prayer that He may reward them for their faith, sacrifice and endurance of suffering (Q 3:192–194). God responds, stating,

  • So their Lord answered them, “I do not squander the works of any hard worker among you, neither male nor female, each of you is like the other. As for those who migrated (hājarū), were expelled out of their homes (ukhrijū min diyārihim), and were harmed in My way (wa ūdhū fī sabīlī)—who fought and were killed (wa qātalū wa qutilū)—I will indeed blot out for them their sins (la-ukaffiranna ‘anhum sayyi’ātihim) and I will indeed enter them into gardens underneath which rivers flow (jannāt tajrī min tahtihā al-anhār) as a reward from God (thawāban min ‘in allāh).” And God possesses the best reward.

(Q 3:195)

This verse is—in part—a dogmatic re-articulation of Jesus’s words in Matthew, which has been suited to the particular circumstances of Muhammad’s community (migration, expulsion, and retaliation). The Arabic third person plural passive perfect verb referring to those who “were harmed (ūdhū)”—that is, persecuted—encapsulates the Aramaic reference to those who are blessed when people “dishonor you (mhasdīn lkūn), persecute you (rādfīn lkūn), and say all kinds of evil against you falsely.” The qur’ānic and Matthean syntax is also paralleled where the persecution of the righteous entourage is followed by Arabic fī sabīlī, “in My way,” reproducing the Aramaic mēt.ūlātī, “for my sake.” One characteristic which underscores the dogmatic nature of the Qur’ān’s re-articulation of the Gospel text is that where Matthew portrays the righteous entourage as working for “the sake” of Jesus—which is in violation to the strict monotheism espoused by Muhammad—in the Qur’ān they work in “the way” of God.

And where their reward is given anonymously in Matthew, God is the explicit possessor and giver of the reward in the Qur’ān. The syntax of both passages continues in parallel as the penultimate statement made is the promise of a “reward” (Arabic thawāb, Aramaic agrā). The final statement in Mat-thew 5:11–12, namely “like this did they persecute the prophets before you” (hākanā . . . rdapū la-nbīyē d-mēn qdāmaykūn), does not quite match anything in Q 3:195, but is approximated elsewhere in the Qur’ān as it states, “and like this did We create for each prophet an enemy from among the criminals” (wa kadhālik ja‘alnā li kull nabī ‘aduwwān min al-mujrimīn) . . . (Q 25:31; cf. Q 83:29–36), where the Arabic introductory marker kadhālik is analogous to the Aramaic hākanā.

Unlike the Gospels which portray Jesus as a pacifist (Matthew 26:52; although cf. Matthew 10:34), one of the consequences, on Muhammad’s part, of identifying the suffering in his own community with that of Jesus in the Gospels was its gradual evolution into an ideology of communal protective warfare, social struggle, and internal taxation. The sequence of this evolution is outlined later in this chapter.

We have already seen earlier that Q 3:195 adds those who “fought and were killed” (qātalū wa qutilū) to the list of the persecuted righteous entourage. This is because warfare played a vital role in establishing earliest Islam, not merely as a prophetic tradition, but more importantly as an intertribal, national, state polity, or “ummah.” At its very core, the Qur’ān is concerned with the welfare and protection of the downtrodden members in Muhammad’s community, especially fostering the rights of women and “the downtrodden among the orphans” (al-mustad ‘afūn min al-wildān; Q 4:127). For this purpose Q 4:74 sanctions fighting on the battlefield and exalts martyrdom. The next verse goes on to implore its believing audience, stating,

So why do you not fight (tuqātilūn) in the way of God and the downtrodden (fī sabīl allāh wa al-mustad‘afīn) among men, women, orphans and those who say, “O Lord release us from this town whose people are oppressive; and create for us, by Your doing, a champion (nasīran)?” (Q 4:75)

Aside from the messianic undertones of the “champion” (nasīr; cf. in relation 1 Samuel 8:4–5; Isaiah 42:13), it is clear from this verse that combat is a communal duty whose inspiration and purpose stems from a strong desire to fend for the downtrodden. In due course, the phrase fī sabīl allāh wa al-mustad ‘afīn affirms that “the way of God” is itself “the way of the downtrodden.” Concerning those martyred in such warfare, similar to Matthew 5:11–12 and Q 3:195 it states, “And indeed do not think that those who were killed in the way of God (al-ladhīn qutilūfī sabīl allāh) are dead. Nay [they are] alive with their Lord receiving recompense (Q 3:169; cf. Q 47:4).

As Muhammad’s community grew, projects of migration (hijrah) expanded into military duty (qitāl; see also 4:84; 22:58–60) and, later on, socio-military struggle (jihād; see Q 4:95, 100; 8:72, 74; 9:20, 38, 41, 111 citing in relation the tawrāh and injīl). Concerning this struggle it states,

  • Indeed those who believe are those who believed in God and his messenger, then had no doubt, and struggled with their wealth and their selves in the way of God (wa jāhadū bi amwālahum wa anfusahum fī sabīl allāh). They are the sincere ones (al-s.ādiqūn). (Q 49:15; Cf. Q 61:11)

Socio-military struggle (jihād) was waged in the “way of God” (sabīl allāh), which beyond setting the foundation for “holy war” served the greater function of being a community welfare system. This system had two functions. One function required believers to provide voluntary financial support (amwālahum) and the other function required them to provide voluntary military service (anfusahum) in the way of God (fī sabīl allāh). Furthermore, by recasting those who struggle (al-ladhīn . . . jāhadū) as the sincere ones (al-s.ādiqūn), this ensured the militarization of the righteous entourage in the Qur’ān.

It is worth mentioning that as the military campaigns of Muhammad’s army began to yield substantial wealth and—perhaps—once they formed a unified polity of sorts, military service lead to the taxation of war booty. Thus 20 percent of all war booty (khums) collected went directly to Muhammad and the poor and downtrodden members of society, including kindred, orphans, the poor, and wanderers (Q 8:41).

On the other hand, those who rebelled (al-ladhīn kafarū) fight “in the way of misguidance” (fi sabīl al-t.āghūt)—where t.āghūt (see also Q 2:256–7; 4:51; 60, 76; 5:60; 16:36; 39:17), its active participle t.āghiyah, “abomination” and its verbal form, taghā, “to go astray,” (Q 79:37–39; 96:6) are Arabized derivations that came through an Aramaic dialect (from Ethiopic?) as is evident from the verbal usage of t‘ā, “to go astray” throughout the Gospels (Matthew 18:12–13; Mark 8:14; 13:5–6; Luke 12:6; John 7:47; and so on).

At any rate, there is an indication in the Qur’ān that the “socio-military struggle in the way of God” (jihād fī sabīl allāh)—precisely because it represented a welfare system that served the poor and downtrodden members of society—constituted a sure path to salvation (najāh; Q 61:10–12) and evolved further into the beginnings of internal taxation (nafaqah, infāq fī sabīl allāh; Q 2:195; 9:34; 47:38; 57:10). This argument is supported by the possibility that the function of sabīl allāh as a charitable treasury may be associated with the Aramaic epithet for the “treasury,” that is “the house of offerings of God” (bayt qūrbānē d-alāhā; Luke 21:4) which is discussed later on.

Ultimately, it is imperative to keep in mind that, far from contemporary political discourses, jihād in the Qur’ān was inspired by a concern to provide military and material support for the downtrodden who composed a sizeable portion of Muhammad’s community. Moreover, in expressing its concern for them, the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulated related passages from the Aramaic Gospel Traditions.

Persecuting and Killing the Prophets

The persecution of the prophets referred to in the Beatitudes (see earlier) is mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels and, in turn, picked up by the Qur’ān. While condemning the Pharisees in a fairly lengthy diatribe most intensely preserved in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus states,

  • Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets (nabīyē), wise men (hakīmē), and scribes (sāfrē). Some of them you will kill and crucify (mēnhūn qāt.līn /tēqt.lūn antūn wa zāqfīn antūn / tešlūbūn); and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute them (wa mēnhūn mnagdīn / tēngdūn antūn . . . w-tardfūn) from city to city.

(Matthew 23:34; Diatessaron 41:1–2)

Luke’s Gospel presents a different narrative, “Therefore the wisdom of God says, ‘I will send them prophets (nabīyē) and righteous men (šlīhē). Some of them they will kill and persecute (mēnhūn nērdfūn wa nēqt.lūn); (Luke 11:49).”Finally, at the end of a parable preserved in Mark 12:1–5 concerning the persecution of prophets in a particular city, it states,

Thus, they caught him and beat him and robbed him. And again he sent to them another servant; and so they cast stones at him, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another. They killed him. And he sent others to many. And some of them they beat (wa mēnhūn mah.ū), then some of them they killed (mēnhūn dēyn qat.lū/ qāt.līn.) (Mark 12:3–5; Diatessaron 33:44–47).

That each of these Gospel passages portray the persecution and killing of a sequence of prophets sent by God is clear. However, a stylistic feature is shared between the Aramaic text of these passages as well, namely the formula:

mēnhūn + <plural verb> || mēnhūn / wa + <plural verb>

A formula virtually identical to the one above is twice preserved in the Qur’ān. Furthermore, one instance addresses the persecution and killing of the prophets in the precise manner of the Gospels. It states,

And we gave Moses the scripture and matched (qaffaynā) after him messengers (rusul). And We brought proofs with Jesus the son of Mary and aided him with the Holy Spirit (rūh. al-qudus). Whenever a messenger (rasūl) came with that which did not please you, did you not grow arrogant (istakbartum)? Some of them you belied (farīqan kadhdhabtum) and some of them you kill[ed] (wa farīqan taqtulūn). (Q 2:87: cf. Q 2:90; 6:34; 36:13–25)

By referring to Moses, Jesus, and then citing the persecution and killing of prophets after them, this verse dogmatically re-articulates the Gospel passages cited earlier. It does so by communicating their moral gist, “whenever a messenger (rasūl) came with that which did not please you, did you not grow arrogant (istakbartum)?” The remainder of the verse preserves the formula found in the Gospels by stating, “some of them you belied (farīqan kadhdhabtum) and some of them you kill[ed] (wa farīqan taqtulūn),” where the Arabic noun farīq (“group”)—or a synonym tuwayf preserved in Ibn Mas‘ūd’s codex—approximates the Aramaic mēnhūn (the partitive preposition “from” plus the pronominal suffix for “them”). Moreover, the verb tenses kadhdhabtum followed by taqtulūn at the end of Q 2:87 reflects most closely that of the Harklean reading, mahūfol-lowed by qāt.līn (Mark 12:5; see earlier). At any rate, aligning all the formulas looks like those in Table 4.1.

Three out of four of the Gospel formulas agree with the Qur’ān with respect to condemning the act of killing prophets (qāt.līn antun/tešlūbūn; nēqt.lūn; qatlū;taqtulūn). However, where the persecution of the prophets at the hands of their audience is narrated in some detail among the Gospels (zāqfīnantun; tardfūn;mahū; and so on), the Qur’ān sees their greatest crime in doing so that they belied (kadhdhabtum) them.

Elsewhere in the Qur’ān the formula used to describe the persecution and killing of prophets at the hands of earlier generations of Jews is reformulated to describe—according to the Tafsīr literature—the defeat of the Jewish Arabian tribe of Banū Nadīr at the hands of the earliest Muslim armies. It states, “And he brought down those who challenged them from among the People of the Scripture (ahl al-kitāb) from their strongholds, and cast terror into their hearts, killing some (farīqan taqtulūn) and capturing some (wa ta’sirūn farīqan; Q 33:26)”

Irrespective of the opinions preserved in the Tafsīr literature, the Gospels and Qur’ān agree that the People of the Scripture (ahl al-kitāb)—whether Jews, Christians or both—are guilty of killing the prophets sent to them (see above). It is of great interest, however, that as the earliest Muslim community began to dominate their Arabian context and impose their sectarian primacy over rival religious communities (ahl al-kitāb), the Qur’ān re-articulated—and more importantly re-defined—the formula associated with persecuting and killing the prophets to narrate the killing and capturing of those groups (farīqan taqtulūn wa ta’sirūn farīqan). Insodoing, this overturned the normative meaning of the formula preserved in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions and which was dogmatically re-articulated earlier in the Qur’ān, in order to portray—perhaps through God’s vengeance—that the Jewish or Christian parties guilty of persecuting and killing the prophets for generations (and now rejecting the prophet Muhammad’s Islam?) finally came to suffer the same bloody fate.

quran and aramic gispel Persecution Formulas
Table of Persecution Formulas

Self Recrimination for Killing the Prophets

In the Gospel of Matthew, the parties guilty of killing the prophets—especially the priestly class of Pharisees—are condemned by Jesus for admitting their grave crime. It states,

Thus you testify against yourselves (mashdīn / mawdīn antūn ‘al nafškūn /kūl) that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets (da-bnayāantūn da-qtalū la-nbīyē) . . . How can you escape the punishment of Gehenna (aykanā tē‘rqūn mēn dīnā da-gīhanā)?(Matthew 23:31–33: cf. Luke 11:47–48; 13:34; Diatessaron 40:63–64)

The killing of prophets and rejection of their message is a frequent lament and indictment in the Qur’ān (Q 2:98; 3:184; 36:18; and so on) which Speyer generally traces back to Matthew. More specifically, one instance in which the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulates Matthew’scondemnation of the Pharisees for being descendents of those who killed the prophets states,

O throngs of spirits (al-jinn) and mankind (al-ins), did not messengers (rusul) come to you from among yourselves, narrating to you my signs and warning (yundhirūn) of your assembly on this day? They said, “we testify against ourselves (shahidnā ‘alā anfusinā).” And so the life of this world captivated them, and they testified against themselves (shahidū ‘alā ’anfusihim) that they were rebellious ones (kāfirūn).(Q 6:130; 7:37)

The other example occurs in the following verse:

As for those who reject the signs of God, and kill the prophets without just cause (yaqtulūn / yuqātilūn/qātilū/qatalū al-nabiyyīn bi ghayr h.aqq), and kill those who command equity, warn them of an agonizing torment (fa bash-shirrhum bi ‘adhāb alīm).(Q 3:21: cf. Q 3:181; 4:155)

Although, it is from Hebrew Scripture that “testifying against oneself” and “killing the prophets” first arises (Deuteronomy 31:19; Jeremiah 2:26–35; Nehemiah 9:26; Amos 2:12; 7:12–16), there is reason to argue for a close relationship between the language of the Qur’ān and Matthew. The declaration made by the spirits and mankind, “we testify against ourselves (shahidnā ‘alā anfusinā),” intensifies the scene in Matthew by dramatizing it on the Day of Judgment. Furthermore, the two disparate qur’ānic clauses shahidū ‘alā anfusihim together with yaqtulūn al-nabiyyīn closely reflects the Aramaic mashdīn antūn ‘al nafškūn da-bnayā antūn da-qtalū la-nbīyē. Finally, the dogmatic nature of the Qur’ān’s re-articulation is also evident in its intensification of Matthew’s rhetorical question—which states, “how can you escape the punishment of hell?” (aykanā tē‘rqūn mēn dīnā da-ghēnā)—to “warn them of an agonizing torment! (fa bashshirrhum bi ‘adhāb alīm).”

Jesus the Witness

The Qur’ān defends the prophet Muhammad against the demands of his disbelieving interlocutors—presumably among the Rabbinic authorities as they would be the ones knowledgeable of religious debate—by condemning the People of the Scripture for their offenses towards Moses and the prophets after him. It goes on to enumerate their offences,

And by breaking their covenant (bi naqdihim mīthaqahum), their rejection of God’s signs (wakufruhum bi āyāt allāh), their killing the prophets without just cause (wa qatlihim al-anbiyā’ bi ghayr haqq) and their statement, “our hearts are sealed (qulūbunā ghulf),” thus did God stampout (t.aba‘) [i.e. their hearts] by their rejection (kufruhum). So they do not believe, except a few.(Q 4:155)

The passage then recalls their offences during the time of Jesus and condemns them, stating,

And by their rejection (wa bi kufrihim) and their saying about Mary great shame (buhtānan‘az.īman). And their statement, “indeed we killed the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of God (innā qatalnā al-masīh. ‘īsāibn maryam rasūl allāh).” However, they neither killed him nor crucified him but he was emulated before them (wa mā qatalūh wa māsalabūh wa lākin shubbih lahum). And as for those who dispute concerning it, they are about it truly in doubt. They do not possess knowledge but rather follow doubt.

And thus, they did not kill him with certainty, but rather God raised him up to Himself. And God is Mighty and Wise. And there are among the People of the Scripture (min ahl al-kitāb) [those] who [did] indeed believe in him before his death (illā la-yu’minann bih qabla mawtih), and he will be against them a witness (yakūn ‘alayhim shahīdan). (Q 4:156–59).

Both parts of this qur’ānic passage which condemns the People of the Scripture for various offences make up two separate but related sections. The first dis-cusses the condemnation of the Jews, while the second condemns the Christians, or more precisely Jews at the time of Christ. The common link between the two sections is their killing of the prophets without just cause (bi qatlihim al-anbiyā’ bi ghayr haqq)—and consequently—that they claimed to have “killed the Mes-siah, Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of God” (innā qatalnā al-masīh. ‘īsā ibn maryam rasūl allāh), about which the Qur’ān demonstrates a Docetic theological inclination.

More significant is the assertion that “there are among the People of the Scripture (min ahl al-kitāb) [those] who [did] indeed believe in him before his death (illā la-yu’minann bih qabla mawtih),” where the word of exception illāfollowed by the emphatic particle la (lām al-tawkīd) insinuates that the People of the Scripture believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but were similarly neither faithful to nor forthcoming about this belief. In other words, it incriminates the People of the Scripture—albeit subtly—for believing in Jesus but denying him. This, in turn, is a dogmatic re-articulation of several Gospel verses: the betrayal of Jesus’s disciple Judas Iscariot who hands him over to the chief priests in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14–16; Mark 14:10–11; Luke 22:2–6; John 13:2) and who later regrets his grave crime (Matthew 27:3–5); his denial three times by his most trusted disciple Peter who quickly comes to regret his actions (Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:67–72; Luke 22:55–62); and the numerous false witnesses (sāhdē d-šūqrā; lā šwīn sāhdūthūn) who testified against him at the court hearing in the palace of the high priest (Matthew 26:59–60; Mark 14:55–57; Diatessaron 49:21–22). It is this last point which is the reason behind the wording of the Qur’ān’s final assertion, namely that “he [Jesus] will be against them [the false witnesses, and by extension the chief priests] a witness (yakūn ‘alayhim shahīdan).”

Deafness, Blindness, and Hardness of Heart

Going back to Q 4:155 (see earlier) which we find itstates, “‘our hearts are sealed (qulūbunā ghulf),’ thus did God stamp out (taba‘) [that is, their hearts] by their rejection (kufruhum).” The imagery of this verse preserves a motif found in Hebrew and Christian Scripture condemning the repeated disobedience demonstrated by he children of Israel on account of their “uncircumcised hearts” (Exodus 6:12, 30; Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 6:10, 9:26; Ezekial 44:7, 9; Acts 7:51; cf. Jubilees 1:23). Like the Qur’ān, the Gospel of Matthew also inherits from Hebrew Scripture the frequently occurring motif of hardened hearts, which is originally an attribute of the stubborn Pharaoh who refuses to let Moses’ people go. Jesus attacks the Pharisees using this motif, “it was because of the hardness of your hearts (qašyūt labkūn) that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives . . .” (Matthew 19:8). Similarly, after recounting an earlier episode in which the Israelites were rebellious, the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulates the verse in Matthew by stating, “then your hearts were hardened (qasat/qasā qulūbukum) after that; so it is as stone or even harder . . . (Q 2:74; cf. Q 4:155).” Despite the sheer frequency of this motif in the Hebrew Bible, it is the Aramaic language of Matthew that is reflected in the Qur’ān—andnot the Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic or Syriac of the Hebrew Bible—therefore aligning the Christian Aramaic nominal qašyūt, “hardness,” and the Arabic verbal qasat, “hardened.”

Related to this imagery on the heart is when the Qur’ān describes the dwellers of hell stating,

And We have condemned to hell many spirits (al-jinn) and mankind (al-ins). They have hearts by which they do not understand (lahum qulūb lā yafqahūn bihā). And they have eyes by which they do not see (wa lahum a‘yun lā yubsirūn bihā). And they have ears by which they do not hear (wa lahum ādhān la yasma‘ūn bihā).(Q 7:179).

The failing eyes and ears of those condemned are also motifs repeated as it states, “As for those who do not believe, there is deafness in their ears and it is a blindness over them (fīādhānihim waqr wa-huwa ‘alayhim ‘amā; Q 41:44).”Similarly, in Matthew it states,

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing and they have shut their eyes (ēt‘bay lēh gēr lbēh d‘ammē hānā wa b-idnayhūn yaqīrāyīt šam‘ū/ awqrūwa ‘aynayhūn ‘amsū); so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.(Matthew 13:15: cf. Luke 8:10; Diatessaron 16:36; Thomas 28)

This verse is ultimately inspired by Isaiah 44:18–19, which would leave the possibility open that the qur’ānic verse could reflect the language of Isaiah just as much as the Aramaic language of Matthew. However, the correspondences in content, syntax, and vocabulary are much stronger between Q 7:179; 41:44 and Matthew 13:15, making an antecedent from Hebrew Scripture less likely. The qur’ānic phrase fīādhānihim waqr, “there is deafness in their ears” is a calque of Syriac b-idnayhūn yaqīrāyīt šam‘ū/ awqrū, lit., “their ears hear heavily.” The nounwaqr, “heaviness,” is an Arabic noun that reflects the Aramaic adverb yaqīrāyīt, “heavily” and the verbal clause awqrū, “they heard heavily.” Similarly, the Arabic noun‘amā, “blindness,” approximates the verbal use of Aramaic‘mas., “to shut the eyes.”

Woe Unto The Scribes

In the Gospels, hypocrisy also brings together Pharisees and scribes—with the exception of the scribes sent with the prophets in Matthew 23:34 (cf. also Mark 12:32; Luke 20:39; see above)—who are a pair worthy of repeated condemnation. Jesus curses them, wāy l-kūn sāfrē/sāfrāyē wa prīšē nāsbay b-apē, “woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (see throughout Matthew 23; Luke 11:44; Diatessaron 40). Although no approximation occurs of the Syriac word sāfrēor CPA word sāfrāyē, “scribes,” in the Qur’ān, the Jews are mentioned therein likened to “a donkey carrying books (asfār; Q 62:5).” This appears to be a polemic against Jewish scribes, as they are the ones who would be carrying books. Additionally, although Jeffrey does not mention it, the two words sāfrēand asfār are of Aramaic origin; the latter was Arabized early on, since by the time it appears in the Qur’ān it occurs in the form of an Arabic broken plural (jam‘ taksīr). Thus, Matthew and Luke’s condemnation of scribes (sāfrē), who were ostensibly of Jewish Pharisaic background, and the Qur’ān’s association of books (asfār) with polemicizing Jewish scribes, are part of a single discourse on condemnation.

What supports this claim further is the Qur’ān’s derisive attitude towards scribes. It states about them among an unspecified group(s) of Jews,

Thus, woe unto those who write the scripture with their hands (fa wayl li al-ladhīn yaktubūn alkitāb bi aydīhim) and then say, “This is from God” (thumma yaqūlūn hādhā min ‘ind illāh), in order to earn by it a meager gain (li yashtarū bih thamanan qalīlan). Thus, woe unto them for what their hands have written, and woe unto them for what they earn (fa wayl lahum min mākatabat aydīhim, wa wayl lahum min mā yaksibūn)! (Q 2:79)

The Qur’ān’s disapproval of those who “write the scripture with their hands” not only reflects the awareness of the emendation, translation, redaction, and editing of earlier Hebrew and Christian Scripture, but is more directly a condemnation of Jewish scribal abuses. In addition, the qur’ānic formula for condemnation, wayl li plus pronoun, “woe unto,” reflects that in the Aramaic Gospels, wāy li plus pronoun, “woe unto.”

Another relationship can be drawn between the distinctive, intentional, repetitive use of this condemnation formula. Jesus’s curse against the Pharisees, wāy l-kūn sāfrē wa prīšē nāsbay bapēis repeated seven times almost consecutively in Matthew 23 alone (see above). Similarly, the Qur’ān repeats the following curse ten times in the Q 77 alone, “woe unto the disbelievers on that day (wayl yawma’idhin li-l-mukadhdhibīn)!” If we equate al-mukadhdhibūn with sāfrē wa prīšē, then the term may refer to the Rabbinic authorities who came in conflict with Muh.ammad and subsequently “disbelieved” in the truth of his revelations and prophetic tradition. This formula was well understood in the Qur’ān’s highly sectarian milieu. Based on content—that is, condemning scribes of a Pharisaic/rabbinical background, on style—that is, the identical usage of wayl li—and its rhythmic repetition, Q 77’s dogmatic re-articulation of Matthew 23 and Luke 11:44 is clearly demonstrated. This is supported, furthermore, by Farrā’ who interprets 107:4, “woe unto those who pray” (wayl li al-mus.allīn; Q 107:4; see later discussion) as “woe unto the hypocrites” (wayl li al-munāfiqūn). This relationship reproduces the condemnation formula found in Matthew 23 and Q 77, condemning the evils of the clergy (Pharisees, scribes, and so on), who are hypocrites for praying in public (see later discussion).

A final, related point concerning this subject is Matthew’s condemnation of the Pharisees, “woe unto you blind guides (wāy l-kūn nāgūdē smayē), for you say that whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath” (Matthew 23:16 NRSV). This is dogmatically re-articulated by Q 63:2 which condemns the hypocrites, stating, “they took their oaths as a cover, so they obstructed [others] from the way of God” (Q 63:2; see further Chapter 3), which sets the foundation for our next discussion on charity and hypocrisy.

Charity and Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is a tremendous crime committed by the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospels. In the Gospels, their hypocrisy is manifested sharply by their public performance of charitable works. It states about the scribes and Pharisees (sāfrē wa prīšē),

And all of their deeds they do, so that they might be seen by people (wa kūlhūn ‘abdayhūn ‘ābdīn d-nēthazūn/yēth.mūn la-bnay anāšā). For, they widen their Tefillin, and lengthen the Tekhelet of their robes, and they love head rooms at festivities, and the head seats at the synagogues, and greetings in the market, and to be called by people, “my lord, my lord (rabī rabī).” However, do not be called “my lord.” For One is your Lord; and you are all brothers.(Matthew 23:5–8: cf. Mark 12:38–39; Luke 20:46; Diatessaron 40:34–37)

130 The Evils of the Clergyby the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath” (Matthew 23:16 NRSV). This is dogmatically re-articulated by Q 63:2 which condemns the hypocrites, stating, “they took their oaths as a cover, so they obstructed [others] from the way of God” (Q 63:2; see further Chapter 3), which sets the foundation for our next discussion on charity and hypocrisy.Charity and HypocrisyHypocrisy is a tremendous crime committed by the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospels. In the Gospels, their hypocrisy is manifested sharply by their public per-formance of charitable works. It states about the scribes and Pharisees (sāfrē wa prīšē),And all of their deeds they do, so that they might be seen by people (wa kūlhūn ‘abdayhūn ‘ābdīn d-nēth.azūn/yēth.mūn60 la-bnay anāšā). For, they widen their Tefillin, and lengthen the Tekhelet of their robes, and they love head rooms at festivities, and the head seats at the synagogues, and greetings in the market, and to be called by people, “my lord, my lord (rabī rabī).” However, do not be called “my lord.” For One is your Lord; and you are all brothers.(Matthew 23:5–8: cf. Mark 12:38–39; Luke 20:46; Diatessaron 40:34–37). Mark and Luke add to this passage, “Those who devour the households of widows (hānūn d-āklīn bātē d-armaltē); for a show they prolong their prayers (b-‘ēltā d-mūrkīn s.lāthūn). They will receive great punishment (hānūn nēqblūn dīnā yatīrā; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47).”

The passage immediately following states,

And Jesus looked at the rich people who were casting into the treasury their offerings (‘tīrē aylēn d-rāmīn hwaw bayt gazā qūrbānayhūn), and he also saw a certain poor widow who cast therein two small coins (šmūnē trayn). And he said, “truly, I say this to you, that this poor widow has cast in more than all of them. For all these have from their excess [of wealth] (yatīr) cast into the house of offerings of God (bayt qūrbānē d-alāhā). However, she has from her poverty cast in all that she possessed.” (Luke 21:1–4: Mark 12:41–44; Diatessaron 32:12–15)

In the Gospels, religious deeds, works of piety, and charitable works like giving alms or even prayer should be done sincerely, that is, in private, unlike the public, hypocritical works of the scribes and Pharisees (see earlier).

Similarly, the Qur’ān demonstrates its strong contempt for figures that represent the priestly class. It states,

They [that is, the Jews and Christians] take their scribes (ah.bāruhum) and their priests (ruhbānuhum) as lords above God (arbāban min dūn allāh), as well as the Messiah the son of Mary (wa al-masīh. ibn maryam). Although they were not commanded but to worship one god . . . O you who believe, indeed many of the scribes and priests devour the wealth of people falsely (la-ya’kulūn amwāl al-nās bi al-bāt.il) and obstruct [others] from the way of God (wa yasuddūn ‘an sabīl allāh). And those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of God (wa al-ladhīn yuknizūn al-dhahab wa al-fid.d.ah wa lā yunfiqūn fī sabīl allah), warn them of an agonizing torment (bashshirhum bi ‘adhāb alīm).(Q 9:31, 34)

The passage is highly polemical of Rabbinic and possibly even ecclesiastical authorities, which the Qur’ān sees as identical in their glorification of human lords, abuse of authority, wrongful appropriation of wealth, and obstructing others from the way of God. In addition, the Rabbinic scribes or ah.bār—ostensibly from hibr, “pen, script”—denote the sāfrēin the Aramaic text of the Gospels. The priests (ruhbān), like the Pharisees, are the second groups of the priestly class to be condemned. When taken as a syntactic couplet, the Arabic ah.bāruhum wa ruhbānuhum reproduces the Aramaic sāfrē wa-prīšē. In both scriptures the evil pair is corrupted by wealth, power, and the preservation of hypocritical, outwardly rituals (see also Didache 8:1–3).

In relation to this point, the condemnation of the Jews and Christians in Q 9:31, 34 for taking their scribes and priests “as lords above God” (arbāban min dūn allāh) is a dogmatic re-articulation of Matthew 23:5–8 where the scribes and Pharisees love to “to be called by people, ‘my lord, my lord (rabī rabī),’” where the Arabic arbab, “lords,” reflects the Aramaic rabī, “my lord.” Furthermore the qur’ānic phrase “above God” (min dūn allāh) ostensibly polemicizes Jesus’s community for failing to heed his warning, namely “do not be called ‘my lord.’ For One is your Lord; and you are all brothers.” This polemical tendency and the need to demonstrate that Jesus’s community failed him is probably the reason why the qur’ānic phrase, “as well as the Messiah the son of Mary” (wa al-masīh ibn maryam) is appended to the end of the verse almost as an afterthought. In other words, it is to show that Christians have truly gone astray by making a lord out of the very man who warned them against making lords out of men.

Additionally, the claim that the scribes and priests “indeed . . . devour the wealth of people falsely” (la-ya’kulūn amwāl al-nās bi al-bāt.il) is a dogmatic re-articulation of Luke’s condemnation of “those who devour the households of widows” (hānūn d-āklīn bātē d-armaltē)—where the Aramaic plural active participle āklīn, “they are devouring,” is preserved in the Arabic imperfect pluralya’kulūn, “they devour.” The final two references in Q 9:34, concerning “those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of God” (wa al-ladhīn yuknizūn al-dhahab wa al-fid.d.ah wa lā yunfiqūn fī sabīl allah) are a dogmatic re-articulation of the scene in Luke 21:1–4 where “the rich people . . . were cast-ing into the treasury their offerings.” This is so for several reasons. Firstly, the Arabic imperfect plural yuknizūn, “they hoard,” is a play on the Aramaic construct noun bayt gazā, “treasury,” as both terms originate from the Pahlavi ganz, meaning “treasure.” Secondly, the Qur’ān adds the detail that the scribes and priests hoard “gold and silver” (presumably coins) because they reflect precisely the “offerings” or “excess” of the “rich people” and their exact opposite, the “two small coins” given by the poor widow. Moreover, this sentiment reflects Jesus’s disdain for gold and silver in Matthew 10:9; 23:16–29. In addition, the ending clause of Q 9:34, they “do not spend it in the way of God,” rephrases Luke as it states, “all these [that is, the rich people, scribes or Pharisees] have from their excess [of wealth] (yatīr) cast into the house of offerings of God” (bayt qūrbānē d-alāhā)—where the Aramaic phrase bayt qūrbānē d-alāhā is reconfigured into the Arabic fī sabīl allāh (see earlier discussion). Finally, similar to Luke’s passage which concludes, “they will receive great punishment” (hānūn neqblūn dīnā yatīrā), the qur’ānic passage concludes, “warn them of an agonizing torment” (bashshirhum bi ‘adhāb alīm).

Going back to Q 9:34, could the qur’ānic reference that the scribes and priests “do not spend in the way of God” reflect refer to the Pharisees who gave alms publicly, not in the way of God but out of pretense and hypocrisy? This prospect is made more likely given two passages from the Qur’ān which condemn sectarian rivals for their greed and rejection, stating,

  • O you who believe, do not nullify your alms (sadaqātukum) [see later discussion] with glorification and condescension, like he who gives his money for charity in order to show off to people, and does not believe in God nor the last day (k-al-ladhī yunfiq mālah ri’ā’ al-nās wa lā yu’min bi allāh wa al-yawm al-ākhir).(Q 2:264)

As well as,

  • And those who give out their wealth in order to show-off to people and who do not believe in God nor the last day (wa al-ladhīn yunfiqūn amwālahum ri’ā’aal-nās wa lā yu’minūn bi allāh wa lā bi al-yawm al-ākhir). And whoever accepts Satan as a companion, he [that is, Satan] is the worst of companions.(Q 4:38)

The phrase ri’ā’a al-nās, “to show-off to people,” is a calque of d-nēthazūn labnay anāšā, “in order to be seen by people” (Matthew 23:5; cf. Matthew 6:1), where the accusative case of ri’ā’a communicates the subjunctive sense of purpose in the particle dalēt in d-nēthazūn. This is confirmed by the Arabic al-murā’ūn, “those who show off,” used in Diatessaron 9:22 and Mujāhid’s Tafsīr concerning Q 17:110 (cf. Q 107:6; see later discussion). In relation to this point, Rudolph rightly sees an echo in Q 107:1–7 of the opening words in Matthew 6,

The Evils of the Clergy 133The phrase ri’ā’a al-nās, “to show-off to people,” is a calque of d-nēthazūn la-bnay anāšā, “in order to be seen by people” (Matthew 23:5; cf. Matthew 6:1),67where the accusative case of ri’ā’a communicates the subjunctive sense of purpose in the particle dalēt in d-nēthazūn. This is confirmed by the Arabic al-murā’ūn, “those who show off,” used in Diatessaron 9:22 and Mujāhid’s Tafsīr concerning Q 17:110 (cf. Q 107:6; see later discussion).68 In relation to this point, Rudolph rightly sees an echo in Q 107:1–7 of the opening words in Matthew 6,69Have you seen the one who denies judgment (al-dīn)? For he is the one who forsakes the orphan (yadu‘ ‘al-yatīm), and does not encourage the feeding of the poor (wa lā yahudd. ‘alā t.a‘ām al-miskīn). So, woe unto those who pray (wayl li al-musallīn); those who are mindless of their prayers (‘an s.alātihim sāhūn). Those who show off (al-ladhīn hum yurā’ūn), and withhold kindness (wa yamna‘ūn al-mā‘ūn).(Q 107:1–7)

The condemnation of “those who are mindless of their prayers” (‘an s.alātihim sāhūn), “those who show off” (al-ladhīn hum yurā’ūn), “and [those who] withhold kindness” (wa yamna‘ūn al-mā‘ūn) is a condemnation of those who “for a show . . . prolong their prayers (b-‘ēltā d-mūrkīn s.lāthūn)” and “the rich people who were casting into the treasury their offerings” found in Luke 20:47; 21:1. Furthermore, the entirety of Q 107 is in dialogue with Q 77 and Matthew 23 which condemn the evils of the clergy (see earlier discussion). In sum, when taken collectively, the discussed qur’ānic verses, which condemn the hypocrisy of certain segments of society, including scribes and priests, reflect a dogmatic re-articulation of Jesus’s condemnation in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions concerning the hypocrisy practiced by the scribes and Pharisees (cf. in relation Q 57:13–24).

As a result of the hypocrisy practiced by the scribes and Pharisees and which pervade the Gospels as a whole—especially concerning charity and prayer—Jesus warns his followers, “Therefore, be wary concerning your works of sincerity, that you do not perform them before people in order that you be seen by them (h.ūrū/ēzdahrū dēyn b-zēdqātkūn / marhmānītā dīlkūn d-lā tē‘bdūnēh qdām bnay anāšāayk d-tēth.zūn lhūn; Matthew 6:1).”

The syntax of the verse warning against performing works of sincerity “before people in order that you be seen by them” is echoed in Q 107:6 of Ibn Mas‘ūd’s codex which states, “those who merely show off [before] people” (al-ladhīn hum innamā yurā’ūn al-nās). The Aramaic word‘abdayhūn from the first quotation comes from the plural noun‘bādē, meaning “deeds.” It is a cognate with the Arabic‘ibādāt, which is the normative word for “religious works, deeds, worship or obedience” in the Qur’ān and subsequent Islamic tradition (Q 7:206; 10:29; and so on). One such deed is mentioned in Matthew 6:1 (see above), zēdqātkūn, which is from the plural noun zēdqātā, “sincere acts;” and like the qur’ānic phrase sadaqah or sadaqāt (Q 2:276; 58:12, and so on) can mean “alms.” More significantly, sharing the Gospels’ concern for the poor and downtrodden members of society, the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulates Matthew 6:1 as it commands,

If you reveal alms (in tubdū al-sadaqāt) then it is well; but if you conceal (in tukhfūhā) them and give them to the poor then it is better for you, and He will blot out some of your sins, and God knows what you do.(Q 2:271: cf. Q 2:274; 9:60; 13:22; 14:31; 35:29)

However, unlike Matthew’s example the qur’ānic injunction is more moderate. The community are permitted to give alms publicly (tubdū al-sadaqāt) or privately (tukhfūhā), which is greater in the sight of God. Furthermore, this sentiment of moderation is extended to the act of prayer as it states, “and do not pray out loud nor lower [your voice] but find a way between them” (Q 17:110).

Widows, Orphans and Polygamy

Another relationship may be drawn between Q 4, entitled “the Women” (al-nisā’), and the Pharisees who devour the households of widows (Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47) and whose large sum donations into the treasury cannot match the sincerity of the miniscule charity given by widows (Luke 21:1–4; Mark 12:41–44). Verses 1–38 and 176 of this Surah form the backbone of Islamic laws regulating inheritance, spousal allowances, marriage, and gender roles. Not unlike Didascalia 17–18,

These verses take the financial wellbeing of widows into account (Q 4:12) and give special attention to orphans (Q 4:2). Concerning the welfare of widows and orphans, who in the Qur’ān make up an important segment of the poor and downtrodden members of society, it states,

And give the orphans their wealth (wa ātū al-yatāmā amwālahum), and do not exchange that which is good with that which it evil. And do not devour their wealth into your wealth (wa lā ta’kulū amwālahum ilā amwālikum). Indeed this would be a great debt/crime (h.ūban). So if you fear that you will not [measure] equitably/honestly (tuqsitū) between the orphans, then marry whatever is blessed/good for you (t.āb lakum) among women [that is, mothers of the orphans = widows], twice, thrice or four times. And if you fear that you will not balance (ta‘dilū) [among widowed wives?], then one [will suffice] or that which your right hand possesses [that is, a concubine]. That would be more obedient that you may not do injustice . . . Those who devour the wealth of orphans unjustly (inn al-ladhīn ya’kulūn amwāl al-yatāmā zulman) will indeed devour fire into their stomachs; and they will reach the flames.(Q 4:2–3, 10)

It only makes sense that the translation of this passage should take into account the Aramaic substratum of many words employed within it since Q 4:1–38 is in dialogue with the treatment of widows in the Aramaic Gospels. There is still some room for uncertainty when it comes to deciphering the meaning of the Qur’ān’s much politicized ‘polygamy passage’—especially with regards to the legality of nebulous ideas concerning devouring the wealth of orphans and balancing between the marriage of their mothers. While such a translation—which is wholly concerned with the Aramaic Gospel Traditions—may in fact be more accurate than others based on later Islamic tradition, it also opens the door to a bit more ambiguity.

This is the case with the words hūb, qist., and t.āb. There can be little doubt, however, that the overall gist of this passage is to protect orphans from the predation of male guardians—who are likened to the evil clergy—by: (1) prohibiting them from stealing the orphans’ rightfully inherited wealth; or (2) making them suitors for the mothers of such orphans, thereby ensuring the welfare of widows as well (cf. in relation Q 17:34). There is also little doubt that an orphan in this context denotes a child who has lost his father—perhaps to military raids or society’s many hardships—and is left with a single mother. This was a most vulnerable and precarious situation in patriarchal, pre-modern societies. In this context polygamy of up to four wives—a limit adopted from Rabbinic legal discourse—was established to bring justice to orphans and widows, who constituted an important segment of the poor and downtrodden members of society. This practice was considered by Muhammad and his community and act of obedience to God, and had little to do with amassing a harem for erotic pleasure. We may conclude, therefore, that Q 4:2–3, 10 aims to safeguard the “households of widows” (bātē d-armaltē; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47) from guardians—greedy laymen likened to the clergy who hoard gold and silver and do not spend in the way of God—and evil men like the Pharisees of the Gospels. This connection is proven best by comparing Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47 and Q 4:10. The former states,

Those who devour the households of widows (hānūn d-āklīn bātē d-armaltē); for a show they prolong their prayers (b-‘ēltā d-mūrkīn s.lāthūn). They will receive great punishment (hānūn nēqblūn dīnā yatīrā).(Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47)

This verse is dogmatically re-articulated in the qur’ānic verse, stating, “Those who devour the wealth of orphans unjustly (inn al-ladhīn ya’kulūn amwāl al-yatāmā z.ulman) will indeed devour fire into their stomachs; and they will reach the flames (Q 4:2–3, 10).”

“Those who devour the households of widows,” that is, the Pharisees, is made parallel to the “those who devour the wealth of orphans,” that is, predatory male guardians, and they are mentioned at the opening of both verses. Both verses also conclude similarly, “they will receive great punishment” and “[they] will indeed devour fire into their stomachs; and they will reach the flames.”

Against the Early Church

The verses of the Qur’ān not only condemn the Pharisees who challenged and helped kill the prophet Jesus as narrated in the Gospels, but also the early Church which developed after him as narrated in the book of Acts. Among the founders of the nascent Church of Jerusalem were the disciples Peter and James (cf. in relation Matthew 16:18). Among the “prophets and teachers” (nabīyē w-malpānē) sent to help found the Church of Antioch were the disciple Barnabas and the apostle Paul (Acts 13:1). At the Council of Jerusalem (ca. 50 CE) Paul and his Gentile camp defeated Peter and his Jewish following by convincing the early Church that Gentile converts to Christianity need not be shackled by the demands of Jewish Law (Acts 15; Galatians 2)—especially concerning male circumcision. In this council’s wake God was seen to have bestowed upon Peter the “apostleship to the circumcised,” and to Paul the “apostleship to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:8), who made up the majority of the population outside Judaea. On one occasion Paul exhorts the Gentile masses, stating,

Watch, therefore, over yourselves and all the flock (mar‘ītā) with which the Holy Spirit has entrusted to you (aqīmkūn) as clergy (ēpīsqūpē), to care for the church of God (d-tēr‘ūn l-‘īdtā d-alāhā), which he purchased with his blood.(Acts 20:28)

Concerning this episode and the formation of the early Church, Q 57:26–27 states,

Indeed We sent (arsalnā) Noah and Abraham; and we placed in their off-spring prophecy and teachings (al-nubuwwah wa al-kitāb). Some of them are guided but many of them are corrupt. Then We matched (qaffaynā) their fol-lowers (āthāruhum) with our messengers (rusul); and We matched (qaffaynā) them with Jesus the son of Mary. And We gave him the Gospel (al-injīl) and placed in the hearts (qulūb) of those who followed him leniency (ra’fah), mercy (rah.mah) and clergy (rahbāniyyah) which they perverted (ibtada‘ūhā) [and which] We did not command it of them (mā katabnāhā ‘alayhim) except [rather] for the desire to please God (ibtighā’ rid.wān allāh). However, they did not care for it as it should have been cared for (famā ra‘awhā h.aqq ri‘āyatihā). Thus We gave to those among them who believed their wage (ajrahum), but many of them are corrupt.

This passage is in strong dialogue with Acts 13:1 and 20:28. In Q 57:26 the progeny of Noah and Abraham in this context are the Christians of Antioch. Their “prophecy and teachings” (al-nubuwwah wa al-kitāb) represents none other than the “prophets and teachers” (nabīyē w-malpānē) of Acts 13:1. That “some of them are guided” may be a reference to the minority who clung onto the demands of Jewish Law. Thus, the statement “but many of them are corrupt” may be a denun-ciation of Paul’s camp, and the Church of Antioch once it had amassed a large Gentile following at the expense of Jewish Law.

Q 57:27 then claims that God “matched” (qaffā) the corruption of the Church of Antioch with the more established and conservative Church of Jerusalem, which was rooted in the teachings of God’s “prophets” (rusul), “Jesus the son of Mary” and “the Gospel.” Furthermore, God “placed in the hearts” of the Jerusalem Christians “leniency (ra’fah), mercy (rahmah) and clergy (rahbāniyyah),” which are all innately good (cf. in relation Acts 8:21; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 4:1). In fact the clergy of the Church was originally established out of the “desire to please God” (ibtighā’ rid.wān allāh). However, this “clergy” (rahbāniyyah) was soon “perverted” (ibtada‘) after the Council of Jerusalem in which the early Church conceded. For this new (perverted) Church expanding its membership to the Gentile majority was more important than abiding by Jewish Law. In this context, the meaning of the infinitive ibtidā‘should be understood as “perversion,” that is, transforming or rejecting the spirit of Jewish Law, rather than “innovation.”

The Qur’ān, therefore, sees the “clergy” (ēpīsqūpē; Acts 20:28) of this now perverted Church—Paul and his camp—as “corrupt.” Moreover, their efforts to “watch over” their “flock” (mar‘ītā) and “care for the church of God” (d-tēr‘ūn l-‘īdtā d-alāhā) in Acts 20:28 has failed. This is precisely what is meant by the statement, “they did not care for it as it should have been cared for” (mā ra‘awhāhaqq ri‘āyatihā; Q 57:27), where the Arabic verb ra‘aw as well as the Aramaic noun mar‘ītāand verb tēr‘ūn all come from the root r-‘-y/ā, meaning to tend to, care for, or feed a flock. The concluding remark of Q 57:27 assures us that God paid a believing minority of the clergy their wages for fulfilling their role as shepherds (for example, Genesis 31:41), but insists that—once again—the majority are corrupt (cf. also Q 5:81; 57:16; cf. in relation Revelation 2:23–24).

In sum, the Qur’ān condemns the early Church only once it has stripped itself of its commitment to Jewish Law (cf. in relation Didascalia 26). This Jewish-Christian sensibility, furthermore, has its origins in the Council of Jerusalem and—before that—the debate between the Church community in Jerusalem and that of Antioch.

Temptation

As the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulates much of the language and imagery found in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions condemning the evils of the clergy, so is the case with discussing misguidance more generally. In so doing, the Qur’ān imbues new meaning upon earlier conceptions of temptation, especially Satan’s role as mankind’s adversary, whom he tempts with worldly fortune.

Satan: An Adversary who Tempts with Worldly Fortune

In the Gospels, “Satan” (satānā) is more commonly referred to as the “adversary, slanderer, or backbiter” (ākēlqars.ā; lit “eater of morsels;” or ākēl bēsrā, lit “eater of flesh”). In the spirit of this name, which became widespread in Syriac Christian literature (cf. also Apocalypse of Abraham, 40) and the context of Adam’s fall in Rabbinic literature, God warns mankind in the Qur’ān against Satan (al-shaytān), the “adversary, enemy, foe” (‘aduw; Q 2:168; 2:208; 6:142; 7:22; 12:5; 17:53; 28:15; 35:6; 36:60; 43:62; cf. shāni’, “hated” in Q 108:3). In a play on words, Q 43:36 of Ibn Mas‘ūd’s codex also calls Satan an “opposer” (naqīd). Conversely, God also argues that whoever “give[s] out their wealth in order to show off to people and who do[es] not believe in God nor the last day” (cf. ArdāVirāf Nāmak 61:4) is a companion (qarīn) of Satan (Q 4:38).

In the Gospels, John the Baptist is alleged to have undertaken the Mosaic test of prophethood, namely of going into the wilderness for 40 days (cf. Exodus 24:18). Therein “he is tempted by Satan” (mētnasē mēn sāt.ānā; Mark 1:13). Similarly, Jesus is alleged to have been led by the Holy Spirit (deliberately?) into the wilder-ness “in order to be tempted by Satan/the adversary/slanderer” (d-nētnasē mēn sāt.ānā/ākēlqars.ā / marmīnā; Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:2; Diatessaron 4:42–43). Once Jesus has fasted for 40 days and the effects of severe hunger have affected his consciousness, the “tempter” (mnasyānā; presumably Satan) torments him by telling (ēmar) him to transform stone into bread, to commit suicide by jumping off a stone pillar on the Temple and finally that if he worships him (that is, Satan/the adversary/slanderer/tempter), he (Jesus) will be given all the power and glory of all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:2–7; Matthew 4:2–9). Jesus manages to withstand Satan’s torment and repel his temptation, stating, “Leave, therefore, Satan (zēl lāk sāt.ānā)! For it is written, ‘you will worship the Lord your God (l-maryā alāhāk tēsgūd), and Him alone will you serve’” (wa lēh ba-lhūdawhītēflūh.; Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8; Diatessaron 5:1–2).

This statement is further elucidated later in the Gospels where Jesus states,

Go away from me, Satan (zēl lāk l-bēstarī sāt.ānā)! You are a burden to me, since you do not desire that which is of God (d-lā mētra‘ē ant d-alāhā), but that which is of people (ēlā da-bnay anāšā). (Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33; Diatessaron 23:44)

These powerful words were uttered not merely in order to get rid of Satan’s worldly temptations, but more importantly they inform the Satan vs. God dichotomy. At any rate, after Satan fled the wilderness and tempted Jesus no more, it states, “then the adversary/tempter left him, and, behold, angels came and served him” (Matthew 4:11). Also “he [Satan] departed from his presence for some time” (Luke 4:13). This passage from the Gospels which illustrates the prophet Jesus’s temptation and torment at the hands of the perceived extrinsic evil figure of the late antique Near East, Satan, is significant for a couple of reasons.

First, the episode of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is likely—in part—the inspiration behind the illustration of episodes involving Muhammad in the Sīrah—especially: his reclusiveness in the cave of Hirā’; his severe psychological distress at the indefinite suspension of revelation when Gabriel departs and his subsequent desire to commit suicide by jumping off a mountainside; and the rev-elation of the infamous “Satanic verses.” This is not to utterly question the historicity of those particular events in the Sīrah but rather insist that the writing of such possibly historical events was framed in the prevalent discursive, apologetic, and hermeneutical style of late antique Near East religious literature. Meaning, episodes in Muhammad’s life were recorded in the Sīrah literature in a manner resembling similar events in the life of Jesus, which were familiar to the general audience, and which brings us to the second significance of the temptation episodes.

Like Jesus, Muhammad was a prophet and an object of revelation, and thus privy to the workings of the spiritual otherworld (that is, God, Holy Spirit, Gabriel, angels, demons, spirits, and so on). He was, consequently, tempted and tormented by the perceived extrinsic evil figure of the late antique Near East—Satan. This is evident not only in the Sīrah (see earlier), but the Qur’ān itself (Q 22:52; 52:29; 68:2; 81:22). Thus, the Qur’ān assures its recipient—be they the prophet Muhammad or his audience—concerning its validity, “it is not the speech of a banished demon/Satan” (wa mā huwa bi qawl shaytān rajīm; Q 81:25).

In addition to this, the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulates two dimensions of the temptation episodes found in the Gospels discussed earlier, namely Satan’s verbal temptation of people towards worldly fortune and the dichotomy of Satan vs. God. Concerning the former, it states,

So provoke those whom you can among them with your voice (bi sawtik), use against them your cavalry and infantry, share with them [their] wealth and children (al-amwāl wa al-awlād) and promise them (wa ‘idhum). Yet, Satan does not promise them except illusion (wa mā ya‘iduhum al-shaytān illā ghurūran).(Q 17:64: cf. Q 18:46)

The idea that Satan (al-shaytān, from Aramaic sat.ānā) should “provoke” people with his voice by verbally tempting them—which recalls “he who whispers in the hearts of people” (Q 114:5)—is shared with the temptation episodes of the Gospels where Satan tells (ēmar) Jesus—among other things—to worship him. In relation to this, the Qur’ān quotes Satan as he vehemently promises to lead people astray, stating,

And I will, surely, indeed mislead them (la-adillanahum), tempt them (la-umaniyannahum), and command them (la-āmurannahum) so that they will indeed mark the ears of their livestock; and I will, surely, indeed command them (la-āmurannahum) so that they will indeed change the creation of God. . . .(Q 4:119)

Aside from the verse’s use of the emphatic particles la (lām al-tawkīd) and n (nūn al-tawkīd) on the verbs in which Satan demonstrated his evil prowess, the verb for “I will command” (āmur) is found in the third person masculine imperfect G stem of ’-m-r and corresponds to Aramaic ēmar, meaning to say or to tell.

However, Satan’s provocative voice as a source of temptation used against people goes virtually unmentioned in the rest of the Bible (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:1). The provocativeness of Satan’s voice may further be informed by Syriac Christian works like Aphrahat’s Demonstration on Monks which teaches that women are “the weapon of Satan,” and through them Satan makes music like a harp. The qur’ānic verse goes on to provide examples that Satan does “not desire that which is of God (d-lā mētra‘ē ant d-alāhā), but that which is of people” (ēlā da-bnay anāšā; Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33), when it states, “share with them [their] wealth and children (al-amwāl wa al-awlād) and promise them (wa ‘idhum).”

Like verses surrounding the temptation episodes in the Gospels, the Qur’ān upholds the Satan vs. God dichotomy by stating, “Satan promises (al-shaytān ya‘idukum) poverty and commands you towards indecency (al-fahšā’); and God promises you (allāh ya‘idukum) forgiveness from Him and grace; and God is bounteous and knowing (Q 2:268; cf. Q 3:175; 22:3; 43:36; 58:19–21).”

However, elsewhere the Qur’ān distinguishes itself from the Gospels by depicting a dichotomy which is disproportionate, favoring God’s truthfulness (haqq) over Satan’s meager capacity to call upon (da‘ā) people to do evil (Q 14:22; cf. Q 4:76; 59:16; Job 1:12).

Concerning indecency (al-fahšā’; see earlier), the Qur’ān teaches elsewhere that prayer works against it (Q 29:45). This idea stems not only from the Gospels, which teach that prayer defends one against temptation (nēsyūnā; Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 11:16; 22:40, 46; John 8:6; Diatessaron 48:12), but also the exhortations of Syriac Christian literature like that of Aphrahat in his Demonstration on Monks.

Forgetfulness or Temptation?

In the Gospels, temptation is not merely an act of cunning on Satan’s part, or God for that matter, but also a sign of simple behavioral weakness on the part of people (Luke 8:13). This is evident in the closing verses of the Lord’s Prayer (see Chapter 3) which state, “And lead us not into temptation (wa lā ta‘lan / tītayn l-nēsyūnā), but deliver us from evil (bīšā). For to you belong the kingdom (malkūtā), power (haylā), and glory (tēšbūh.tā), for ever (l-‘ālām ‘ālmīn; Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4; Diatessaron 9:35).”

The Aramaic word nēsyūnā, “temptation,” comes from the root n-s-y meaning to “test” or “tempt.” We find a word derived from this Aramaic root preserved in the Qur’ān as it warns its audience, stating, “And We had made a covenant with Adam long ago, but he was tempted (fa-nasiya) and We did not find in him dependability (‘azman; Q 20:115).”

Similarly, Q 2:286 states, “Our Lord, do not hold us accountable if we are tempted or mistaken (lā tu’ākhidhnā in nasīnā aw akhta’nā; Q 2:286).”

Similarly, following the verse that warns against the misguidance and uncertainty surrounding exactly how many sleepers were present in the cave at Ephesus it states,

And never say concerning anything, “I will indeed do so and so tomorrow,” unless God wills [it]. And commemorate your Lord [in prayer] when you are tempted (wa idhkur rabbak idhā nasīt) and say perhaps my Lord will guide me that I may come near this [that is, tomorrow’s task?] wisely.(Q 18:23–24)

Remarkably one of the glosses of the active participle nāsīprovided by Ibn Manz.ūr is fāsiq, “corrupt,” which may designate a person who has succumbed to temptation. Otherwise, the standard translation for the Arabic third person perfect D stem verb nasiyais “he forgot,” which also comes from the root n-s-ā. In other qur’ānic verses this Arabic usage of n-s-ā—to forget—is in fact sound (Q 18:61; 19:23, 64). However, in the case of Q 20:115, the Aramaic use of n-s-y—to tempt, test—fits more appropriately. It is more fitting with the Biblical narrative, as well as the spirit of St. Augustine’s Confessions according to Speyer, with which the Qur’ān is most in dialogue. Thus, temptation led Adam astray from his covenant (either by the Serpent or Eve; Genesis 3), and not simply by forgetfulness.

Furthermore, the Gospels narrate how the Pharisees would ask Jesus guileful questions in an attempt to entrap him (Matthew 19:3; 22:18, 35; Mark 10:2;

12:15; Luke 10:25; 20:23; 22:28), which becomes a topos in many Islamic literary sources that seek to explain qur’ānic verses by means of an encounter between a group of crafty Jews and Muhammad. This too was a form of “temptation” (nēsyūnā). However, nēsyūnāin this context may better be translated as “test,” “trial” or “provocation,” which is a usage paralleled by the nominal and verbal use of Arabic fitnah, meaning “test, trial,” throughout the Qur’ān (Q 20:85; 22:53; 29:3; 38:34; and so on). It follows, moreover, that children (as well as spouses), who are vulnerable to Satan’s influence (see earlier), are one of life’s greatest fitnahs (Q 64:14).

One final point concerning this subject is that the arena in which the Pharisees “tempt” Jesus for “a sign from Heaven” (ātā mēn šmayā; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Diatessaron 14:18; 23:13) is also dogmatically re-articulated in the Qur’ān. This occurs when (presumably) Muhammad’s disbelieving interlocutors ask him for “a sign form his Lord” (āyah min rabbih; Q 10:20). It states similarly elsewhere, “if only signs would be revealed to him [that is, Muhammad],” (law lāunzil ‘alayh ayāt; Q 29:49–50), or as Ibn Mas‘ūd’s codex—which follows the Gospels more closely—states, “if only he [Muhammad] would bring us a sign” (law lā ya’tīnā bi āyah).

References:

  1. Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity, 142–52 discusses the ambivalence of holy men from the desert towards the institution of the clergy in the late antique world.
  2. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:541–72 (On the Sabbath); cf. also ibid. 1:785–816 (On Jesus Christ); 931–90 (On the Persecution). On Isaac of Antioch, see S. Kazan, “Isaac of Antioch’s Homily Against the Jews,” Oriens Christianus 45, 1961, 30–53; Jacob of Serugh, “Homélies contre les Juifs,” PO 38, 1976, 44–181. See further Reynolds, The Qur’ān and its Biblical Subtext, 251.
  3. Ibn Qirnās, Sunnat al-awwalīn, 164–83 argues that the animosity between Muh.ammad and Jew-ish groups can be gleaned not only from a critical reading of the Sirah literature but is, more importantly, latent in several qur’ānic verses.
  4. It is worthy of mention that al-yahūd in the Qur’ān is never used in a positive light. See Q 2:113, 120; 5:18, 51, 64, 82; 9:30.
  5. See in relation Asad, The Message of the Quran, 214.
  6. See variant readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:156.
  7. N. Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 205. Cf. in rela-tion Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 5:205–6.
  8. Q 22:37 states, “The meat and blood of [sacrifice] do not reach God, but rather your piety reaches him.”
  9. Jeffery, The Qur’ān as Scripture, 82; Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 187.
  10. See Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 49. For the background of these terms in Hebrew Scripture, see Lüling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, 80–81.
  11. Cf. In relation De Blois, “Nasrani and Hanif,” 9 fn. 49, which derives ruhbān and ah.bār from a Chrisrian context in the Persian sphere.
  12. Ernst, How to Read the Qur’an, 198.
  13. See Dhuyayb, al-Mu‘jam al-Nabat.ī, 147 for attestations of l-‘-n in Nabataean inscriptions.
  14. For more on qur’ānic curses with la‘an and earlier uses in Nabataean Aramaic see J. Healey, “The realities behind tomb inscriptions: Imagining Nabataean law,” in Z. al-Salameen (ed.), Proceed-ings of the First Nabataean Symposium, forthcoming; idem, “Fines and curses: Law and religion among the Nabataeans and their neighbours,” in R.G. Kratz and A. Hagedorn (eds), Law and Religion in the Eastern Mediterranean, forthcoming.
  15. See also Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 4:367–9 for David’s curse against his insincere advisor Ahithophel.
  16. The internal Jewish sectarian disputes between Pharisees and Sadducees are evident in the Qur’ān where it states, “When Jesus came with the proofs, he said, ‘I have come with wisdom and to clarify some of that which you are disputing over. So fear God and obey me’”(Q 43:63). See also Asad, The Message of the Quran, 239–40.
  17. Cf. the high frequency of quotes from the Psalms in Francis Burkitt, The Early Syriac Lectionary System, London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1923.
  18. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:953–82 (On Persecution). Cf. furthermore the opening of ibid., 981–84 and Q 2:252–53; 3:108; 11:49; 45:6. Cf. further the style of Narsai, Narsai Homiliae et carmina, 1:287–8 (An Exposition on the Mysteries 287–8); Q 19:2, 16, 41, 51, 54, 56; 38:41, 45, 48. For more on the “topical wandering” shared by the Qur’ān and Syriac Christian homiletic literature see Reynolds, The Qur’ān and its Biblical Subtext, 250.
  19. Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 93–4, 112, also put Q 2:214 in dialogue with Matthew 5:11–12. Furtermore, on retaliation, see ibid., 128–9, 168–70.
  20. Cf. the “constitution of Medina” in Marco Schöller, EQ, “Medina”. Furthermore, the term ummat muh.ammad, “Muh.ammad’s nation,” occurs in the early Arabic papyri of Grohmann, From the World of Arabic Papyri, 164.
  21. See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 98.
  22. Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 3:58; Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 34, 221 cites “fought,” qātalū, instead of “were killed,” qutilūpreserved in Q 3:140–146 and 47:4 of Ibn Mas‘ūd’s and ‘Umar’s codex respectively.
  23. This sequence of events is how Ibn Ish.āq, Sīrah, 1:211–60; 314–47 is framed.
  24. Dmitry V. Frovlov, EQ, “Path or Way.”
  25. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 202–3. Cf. t.a‘awa in Leslau, Concise Dictionary of Ge‘ez, 220.
  26. Khouri, “Selected ethical themes in the Qur’ān and the Gospel of Matthew,” 110 briefly acknowl-edges this but does not go in depth nor provide much nuance. See also ibid., 157–9. Cf. further Paul L. Heck, EQ, “Taxation;” Azim Nanji, EQ, “Almsgiving.” It is, moreover, significant that Robinson, “The rise of Islam,” 190 lacks any context for the “struggle in the way of God,” about which he states, “meant nothing more or less than fighting on [God]’s behalf.”
  27. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:60.
  28. See variant readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:361.
  29. Ibid., 3:242 records that Sinaiticus, Curetonius and Harklean versions state in reverse, “some of them they will kill and persecute” (mēnhūn nērdfūn wa nēqt.lūn).
  30. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 3:174 records this Harklean reading.
  31. For a survey of Biblical parallels to the killing of the prophets in the Qur’ān see Gabriel Reynolds, “On the Qur’an and the theme of Jews as killer of the prophets,” AB 10.2, 2012, 9–34.
  32. For more on the rhetoric of condemnation shared by Q 2:90 and classical Arabic poetry cf. al-Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 1:60–1.
  33. Asad, The Message of the Quran, 37.
  34. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 27.
  35. Cf. further Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 250.
  36. This is made explicit in, for example, Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 549; Muqātil, Tafsīr, 3:43. Cf. in rela-tion Suyūt.ī, Itqān, 2:363, which states that some Muslims named Q 59—comonly known as al-h.ashr (the assembly)—banū al-nad.īr after the Jewish tribe in Arabia whom the Surah allegedly criticizes.
  37. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 1:361 records this Sinaticus reading.
  38. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:61.
  39. See also Thyen, Bibel und Koran, 123.
  40. On Q 3:112 See Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 365, 417–19.
  41. See s2-h-d in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 132.
  42. Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 1:202.
  43. See in relation Asad, The Message of the Quran, 29.
  44. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 417; Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies, 53–5, gener-ally notes the affinity for Qur’ānic prophetology to the New Testament and Hebrew Bible.
  45. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 123. Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 27 demonstrates that the Sabbaic cognate conveys “greatness,” like the word ‘az.īm to which it is juxtaposed.
  46. Cf. in relation G. C. Anawati, EQ, “‘Isā.”
  47. Both Judas and Peter are likely symbolic names, where the former recalls the misguidance of the tribe of “Judah” and the where latter connotes the “rock” upon which the Church is built.
  48. See discussion in Geiger, Was hat Mohammed, 12; Thyen, Bibel und Koran, 203; Reynolds, The Qur’ān and its Biblical Subtext, 147–55. Cf. in relation Jane Dammen McAuliffe, EQ, “Heart;” Andrew Rippin, EQ, “Seeing and Hearing.”
  49. Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies, 72–3, affirms that such motifs epitomize the magnitude of the Mosaic Law in forming the burgeoning Islamic community and the Judeo-Christian sectarian milieu in which it arose.
  50. Cf. JPS; Targum Onkelos; Old Testament Peshitta of Exodus 4:21, “I will harden (Hebrew ah.azeq; Jewish Aramaic ētaqēp; Syriac a‘šēn) his heart” Cf. also Joshua 11:20; 1 Samuel 6:6; and so on, and see further Zammit, A comparative lexical study of Qur’ānic Arabic, Leiden: Brill, 2002, 339.
  51. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 1:181 records this variant reading from Sinaiti-cus and Curetonius.
  52. Cf. JPS; Targum Jonathan; Old Testament Peshitta versions of Isaiah 6:10, “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy (Hebrew hakbēd; Jewish Aramaic yaqar; Syriac awqēr), and shut (Hebrew hāša‘; Jewish Aramaic t.amt.ēs; Syriac‘mas.) their eyes . . .” cf. further Q 10:88.
  53. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 311 records that Q 94:2 of al-Rabī‘ b. al-Kuthayyam has waqr for wizr, meaning “weight.” The Sabbaic cognate in Beeston, Diction-naire sabéen, 161 means “stone.”
  54. Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, 418.
  55. 1 The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:29
  56. Other verses demonstrate the Qur’ān’s distrust for scribes and Jewish men of letters. Q 4:46 explains, “of those who professed Judaism (al-ladhīna hādū) are those who change words from their places, and say, ‘we heard and disobeyed,’ and ‘hear that which is not heard,’ and ‘look after us (rā‘inā)’ as a twist of their tongues and a slander to religion.” For more on the use of rā‘ināsee Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 36–37; Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 136.
  57. Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, 107. Arabic possesses way as a rarer alternative to wayl. While suspecting a possible origin from Syriac-Aramaic, Zammit, A Comparative Lexical Study of Qur’ānic Arabic, 443, 616 proposes that this form is an abbreviation. The Matthean-qur’ānic context of the phrase’s usage suggests that the Aramaic phrase wāy li over an extended period of oral transmission merged into the Arabic wayl, leaving traces of the original Aramaic wāy inway.
  58. For more on this see Neuwirth, Der Koran. Band 1, 513–16; Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 51. Ernst, How to Read the Qur’an, 76–77 points out that such refrains are only found in Q 55 and 77.
  59. Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 3:295
  60. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:58.
  61. Khouri, “Selected ethical themes,” 108–110, 212–15
  62. For more on the relationship between charity, wealth and the clergy in the late antique world see Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity, 199–203, 211–26.
  63. Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān al-‘arab, 2:748; Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorāns, xxv. The Sabbaic cognate in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 65 conveys “sorcery.”
  64. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1427.
  65. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 251.
  66. See in relation Biqā‘ī, Naz.m, 2:224, 244, 255, 542
  67. Where the standard Arabic word nās is not used for “people,” it is intriguing to decipher—as Luxenberg might—an Aramaic substratum to more cryptic qur’ānic phrases referring to groups of people. For example “every people” (kul unās)—which refers to the tribes of Israel (Q 7:82) and the masses on the Day of Judgment (Q 17:71)—may otherwise be read as the common Aramaic phrase “everyone” (kūl anāš). See also Q 2:60; 27:56. Similarly, the vocalization of the phrase “many people” (anāsiya kathīran; Q 25:49) is awkward since anāsīis not Arabic and kathīr has not been pluralized as would be expected. The Aramaic vocalization of the same orthography is more natural and reveals a construct phrase like anāšay k/yatīrē.
  68. Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 443. The G-stem of Sabbaic r-’-y in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 112 similarly conveys the meaning “to show someone.”
  69. Rudolph, Die Abhängigkeit des Qorans, 13. See also Ahrens, “Christliches im Qoran,” 162; Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran,450–51, 458; Thyen, Bibel und Koran, 193.
  70. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 112 records Ibn Mas‘ūd’s reading as lāhūn, “distracted,” in place of sāhūn.
  71. Jeffery, Ibid., 148, 217, 272 records that the codices of Ubayy b. Ka‘b’s, ‘Umar and Anas b. Mālik read s.alawāt, “prayers,” as s.alawāth, s.ulūth or s.ulūthā’ (Q 22:40–41), which matches the Syriac pronunciation with rukākā.
  72. See variant readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:69.
  73. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 112.
  74. J. Payne-Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979, 397.
  75. Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān al-‘arab, 2778.
  76. Payne-Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, 110; Azim Nanji, EQ, “Almsgiving.”
  77. Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 91.
  78. Q 4:130 even quotes from the early Arabic papyri of Grohmann, From the World of Arabic Papyri, 199. Cf. Also Suyūt.ī, Itqān, 2:363, which states that Ibn Mas‘ūd called Q 65—commonly known as al-t.alāq (Divorce)—by the name al-nisā’ al-qus.rā(The smaller Sūrah on Women).
  79. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 418–19. The Sabbaic cognate in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 73 similarly means “sin.”
  80. That qis.t unequivocally concerns measuring is clear from Q 55:9 and Aramaic q-s-t.OR q-š-t.. See Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1387, 1418–9.
  81. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 514.
  82. Cf. Aramaic tnīnāyā, tlītāyāand rbī‘āyā.
  83. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 313.
  84. Cf. ghawl in Q 37:47 and ‘-w-l in Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1080.
  85. Muqātil, Tafsīr, 1:213–14; Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 147.
  86. Farrā’, Ma‘ānī al-qur’ān, 1:244–5; Cf. also Ibn Qutaybah, Tafsīr, 83
  87. Joseph Schacht, EI1, s.v. “Yatīm;” Avner Giladi, EQ, “Orphans.”
  88. Cf. Tractate Kethuboth 93b.
  89. I take the NRSV translation of the Greek term episcopos as “overseer” to be synonymous.
  90. The classical exegetes—including Muqātil, Tafsīr, 3:327—and modern translators incorrectly truncate the alliterated tripartite list ra’fah wa rah.mah wa rahbāniyyah so as to exclude the latter as a purely human contrivance. God placed all three parts in the hearts of Jesus’s followers, the last of which, rahbāniyyah, was innately good but later perverted.
  91. Payne-Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, 545–46. The same terminology and spirit are employed in the Hadith ascribed to Muh.ammad, which states, “Beware! Every one of you is a shepherd; and every shepherd is responsible for his flock . . .” (Bukhārī 20:4496). See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 113.
  92. Payne-Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, 521. The prohibition of backbiting (ghaybah) among the Muslim community is mentioned in Q 49:12 and expounded upon in the Hadith cor-pus. Cf. Muslim 32:6265. Cf. further Ardā Virāf Nāmak 23:3.
  93. For example, Ephrem, “Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de ieiunio,” CSCO 246–7, 106–107, 1964, 8, 6 (On the Fall); Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:253–60, 265–70, 299–306 (On Monks). Cf. further Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae selectae, 3:335–62 (On the Lord’s Combat with Satan).
  94. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 1:54, 161 portrays Satan as the “villain,” “enemy” and “adver-sary” of Adam. It also discusses Adam’s punishment and subsequent repentance. Cf. also Andrae, Les origines de l’islam et le christianisme, 82–83.
  95. Andrew Rippin, EQ, “Adversary;” Robinson, “The rise of Islam,” 181–82.
  96. Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 200; Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 87.
  97. In relation to the enmity of Rabbinic authorities Cf. Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 32.
  98. See variant readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:35.
  99. See variant readings in ibid., 4:39.
  100. Ibn al-Kalbī, Kitāb al-as.nām, 19. Cf. also the importance of the desert and monastic life in Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity, 105–25.
  101. See Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 52, where Ibn Mas‘ūd’s Q 15:7 reads la‘īn, “cursed,” instead of rajīm; and discussion in Reynolds, The Qur’ān and its Biblical Subtext, 54–64.
  102. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 187–90.
  103. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1: 265–70 (On Monks).
  104. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1:301–2 similarly commands its audience to “pray and keep vigil” so as not to be defeated but rather “overcome the adversary.”
  105. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:74 records this Curetonian reading.
  106. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 925–6.
  107. Gerhard Böwering, EQ, “Prayer.”
  108. Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān al-‘arab, 6:4403.
  109. Ibid., 6:4416. The Sabbaic cognate in Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 98 conveys the meaning of “delay.”
  110. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 66–7.
  111. For example, Wāh.idī, Asbāb nuzūl al-qur’ān, 231, 358; Bukhārī 9:93:510, 543, 548, 554, 604. Cf. In relation Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam, 135.
  112. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 925–6.
  113. Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān al-‘arab, 5:3344 provides imtih.ān and ikhtibār as glosses.
  114. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 72.

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