The copious amount of what appear to be biblical borrowings in the Qur’an has long sparked scholars’ interest in the social and religious background to formative Islam in Late Antiquity. Conventionally, this phenomenon has mainly been explained through claims of direct influence on the Prophet Muḥammad by Arabian Jews who acted as conduits of rabbinic or other types of Jewish lore—claims seemingly confirmed by numerous examples of the Qur’an’s direct address to Jews, “Israelites,” or “People of Scripture” more generally. Progress in illuminating the Jewish context of Islam in the formative period has been hampered in recent decades by two problems: a dearth of evidence corroborating the traditional sources on the Arabian Jewish community in Muḥammad’s time and a general uncertainty regarding Muḥammad’s role as the putative source of the Qur’an (or even his basic historicity). Most scholars now reject a simplistic conception of Jewish influence on Muḥammad as author of the Qur’an, but consensus on a convincing alternative model of qur’anic origins has been elusive. Here, I will evaluate a number of approaches to the authorship of the Qur’an as well as to different types of biblical-Judaic materials adapted and reinterpreted therein. I will argue that the Qur’an not only engages a variety of scriptural and parascriptural precursors from Late Antiquity—Christian as well as Jewish—but reshapes and repurposes them in diverse, even incommensurate, ways. I conclude that no single model of qur’anic reception of such precursors is adequate to account for the diversity of its modes of engagement with its late antique intertexts and suggest that a source-critical approach rooted in a concept of prophetic editorial activity is perhaps the most plausible way to conceptualize this diversity, at least provisionally.
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Research Article| November 01 2023
From the Mishnah to Muḥammad: Jewish Traditions of Late Antiquity and the Composition of the Qur’an
Studies in Late Antiquity (2023) 7 (4): 516–560.
Michael E. Pregill; From the Mishnah to Muḥammad: Jewish Traditions of Late Antiquity and the Composition of the Qur’an. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 November 2023; 7 (4): 516–560. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2023.7.4.516
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