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The Qibla: An Allusion to the Shemaʿ

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In this article it is argued that the Qiblah passages in the Qur’an, which are commonly understood as referring to the direction of the prayer, are directly engaging with and interpreting the Shema passages in Deuteronomy and their Talmudic
  Abdulla Galadari (2013) “The Qibla: An Allusion to the Shema‘,” Comparative Islamic Studies , 9(2): 165-193. Full paper srcinally published by Equinox. © Equinox Publishing Ltd. 2016, Office 415, The Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX  The Qibla : An Allusion to the Shema ʿ    Abdulla Galadari    A l -M  AktouM C ollege , D unDee In this article it is argued that the Qibla passages in the Qur ʾ an, which   are commonly understood as referring to the direction of the prayer,   are directly engaging with and interpreting the Shemaʿ    passages   in Deuteronomy and their Talmudic commentaries. By defining and applying the method of intertextual polysemy, nine points of    intertextuality are identified between the various Quranic, Biblical,   and Talmudic passages. Against this background, the article implies   that narrations from traditional Quranic commentaries are lacking   in their interpretation of these passages, since they do not employ   any extra-Quranic contexts to explain their meaning. Through the   method of intertextual polysemy, the alternative thesis propound  - ed here is that the historical reference for the Qibla passages is the   Shemaʿ  .  Introduction   This article is a literary study of the Quranic Qibla passages [Q 2:115–150, 2:177],   which are analyzed through an intertextual polysemous approach and com- pared to the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish tradition. As will be illustrated in more   detail below, there is a distinctive tradition within modern Quranic studies, which has focused on relationships between the Qurʾan   and Jewish literature,   starting with Abraham Geiger’s (d. 1874) comparisons of the Qur ʾ an with Jew- ish literature in the nineteenth century (Geiger 1833). Contemporary examples   are Reuven Firestone’s explorations of the intertextual relationship between  Keywords: Jerusalem, Mecca, Mizra ḥ , prayer, Qibla, Shema ʿ .      166 the Bible and the Qurʾan  ( Firestone 2004) . Such comparative approaches tend    to challenge the accuracy of the history of early Islam, as brought down by tra- ditional Muslim commentators of the Qurʾan,   who while acknowledging the    presence of Jews and Christians in Muḥammad’s  environment still do not use the Bible and Judeo-Christian literature to contextualize the Qurʾan  (see W ans -   brough 1977; see also  W ansbrough  1978; Rippin  1988; Reynolds  2010). This study   continues this line of exploration.  Classical Muslim exegetes state that the circumstance of revelation ( sabab   al- nuzūl  ) of the Qibla passages is the change of the direction of prayer from   Jerusalem to Mecca. They state that Muḥammad  preferred that the direction of     prayer be moved from Jerusalem to Mecca, and so was waiting for revelation to   change the direction of prayer (Al- Ṭabarī   2000, [Q 2:144], 3: 172–174). They state   that when the direction of prayer was changed, it caused a commotion among   some of Muḥammad’s  followers and among the Jews (Al- Ṭabarī   2000, [Q. 2:143],   3: 156–170). The Qurʾan   considers the change as a test to see who would follow   Muḥammad  and who would not:  Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that you may be witnesses against humankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you. And We   appointed the Qibla which you formerly observed only that We might know him who follows the messenger, from him who turns on his heels. In truth it was a hard   (test) except for those whom God guided. But it was not God’s purpose that your   faith should be in vain, for God is Full of Pity, Merciful toward humankind. [Q 2:143]  This article advances the thesis that the Qibla passages are actually not    emphasizing the importance of Mecca over Jerusalem, but simply arguing that   the direction of prayer is not as important as the faith in one’s heart during   prayer. Thus, assuming that the Qurʾan   is not arguing on the importance of the   direction of prayer, it engages with the Shemaʿ    passages in Deuteronomy and   its Talmudic interpretation to prove from within Jewish scripture and rabbinic tradition what is truly important, which is the faith and love in one’s heart. The Shemaʿ    is the statement of the Jewish faith and focal point of the daily prayers   and therefore, I argue here, something which the Qurʾan   engages with as it    defines the Islamic faith and ritual.  Methodology   The method of intertextual polysemy that is developed and applied in this study   has some similarity with Michael Fishbane’s method in his Biblical Interpretation   in Ancient Israel (Fishbane 1988). In Fishbane’s technique, shared language, and    specifically unique or rare vocabulary common between texts, increases the   likelihood of an allusion. Also, as a word or a group of words appear in the same   context, it also increases the likelihood of an allusion. As Fishbane considers scribal additions and modifications within the Hebrew Bible, I am not assuming     167  the same scribal additions and modifications have occurred within the Qurʾan.   Rather, it is the allusive method that the scribes of the Hebrew Bible used to cite   earlier parts of it, which I assume occurs also in the Qurʾan,   where the Qurʾan   uses allusive methods to cite different parts of the Bible and Biblical literature.   Thus, I contend that the Qurʾan   uses allusive methods to cite, to engage with, and to interpret the Bible and Biblical literature.  Ulrika Mårtensson looks into the style of Ibn Isḥāq’s  biography of Muḥammad  and finds that a recurring theme exists that uses creative parallelism between   it and the Hebrew Bible (Mårtensson 2005). The example Mårtensson shows is   the relationship between Isaiah 40:6, which uses the terms iqra ʾ , qol  , and mā   aqra , paralleled with Ibn Isḥāq’s  relation of Muḥammad’s  story in the cave,   when Gabriel tells [qāl]  him “ iqra ” and he answers, “ mā   aqraʿ”    (Mårtensson 2005,   314). This kind of parallelism is what is being sought between the Bible and the   Qurʾan,   which is used in this article. The methodology is philological in nature and consists of looking at the roots   of keywords and understanding their various meanings (polysemy) and how dif  - ferent morphologies of the root are used in the Qur ʾ an, or their cognates are used   in Biblical literature, and then looking at parallelism between them (intertextu- ality). I must be specific that the term “intertextuality,” as it is used in this arti - cle is not to be confused with “borrowing” or “influence,” as this article implies a more complex dialogue occurring through “allusions” and “interpretations.”  Polysemy exists when a word has multiple meanings that are related to each other. Polysemy is important in Semitic languages, since these languages are    based on root-based morphology [mushtaqqāt].  This means that words have roots, which are typically three-lettered, from which morphologies of various   meanings and understandings would spring (Kaye 2007).   For example, the word “to write” is from the root k t b . Different morpholo- gies of this root would hold various meanings. A writer is called kātib ; a book is   called kitāb ; a letter is called maktūb , which literally means something written;   dictating is called istaktaba ; a library is maktabah ; and an office is maktab . How- ever, defining those terms is not always semantically obvious, as it may some - times depend on the context to understand what the term specifically refers. For example, kitāb   which semantically means “book,” could be a reference to a  book or sometimes even a contract, especially a marriage contract, and a kātib   ʿ adl would refer to a notary public. Those are just few definitions of the term   and its morphologies. Understanding etymology is also important to compre- hend the root meanings. For example, the term katībah   is a reference to an army   battalion, sharing the same root as writing. Although it may not be apparently   obvious to the reader that there is a relationship between the root k t b , with the   meanings “to write” and “an army battalion,” there is actually a strong relation -     168 ship between both. The root k t b actually means to join together in a group. 1   It is because of this root meaning that it has taken the definition of writing, because writing is joining letters and words together in a group. Similarly, an   army battalion is also a group of people who are joined together. Hence, sharing   the same root between the terms for writing and army battalion makes perfect   sense, once we understand its semantics and etymology (Galadari 2013).   Intertextual polysemy is an approach where keywords are used as an allusive method to refer to the text. For example, the first and third verses of Sū rah   96 use the term iqra ʾ , rooted in q r ʾ . This shares the same root as Qur ʾ ān  in the   second verse of Sūrah  55. Also, the first verse of Sūrah  96 uses the term b-ism   rabbik (in the name of your Lord), which could be a reference to al-Ra ḥmān   in   the first verse of Sūrah  55. The first and second verse of Sūrah  96 uses the term   khlq , which is also shared with khlq in the third verse of Sūrah 55.  The second and fifth verses of Sūrah  96 use the term insān , which is also used in the third   verse of Sūrah  55. The fourth and fifth verses of Sūrah  96 use the term ʿ allam ,   which is also used in the second and fourth verses of Sūrah  55. Through such intertextuality, one may assume that the first four verses of Sūrah  55 allude to   the first five verses of Sūrah  96. Therefore, as the second verse of Sūrah  96 talks about the ʿ alaq , which is understood as the clinging of the fetus in the mother’s   womb [rḥm],  the term r  ḥ m shares the same root as ra ḥmān   in the first verse of    S ū rah 55. This is a simple example of the use of intertextual polysemy as an   allusive method within the Qurʾan.   Intertextual polysemy does not imply borrowing. Abraham Geiger uses philo-   logical technique to assert that Muḥammad  borrowed from Judaism (Geiger 2012).   Charles Torrey and William St. Clair Tisdall both show a Muḥammad  who bor  -   rowed from Judaism and who made mistakes while borrowing (see Torrey 1967;   see also Tisdall 1905). Richard Bell composed works that tend to show Muḥammad   has borrowed from earlier religions, mainly Judaism and Christianity, to construct    a new religion. This is especially seen in Bell’s The Origin of Islam in Its Christian   Environment  , srcinally published in 1925 (Bell 1968). Marilyn Waldman illus -   trates that it is more important to notice not what is borrowed by the Qurʾan,   but    more importantly what the Qurʾan   does with borrowed material (Waldman 1985).   Steven Wasserstrom, on the other hand, convincingly shows that the relationship between Judaism and Islam is far too complex to be simply called mere borrowing   (Wasserstrom 2014). This article seeks to demonstrate that Muḥammad  did not   borrow from, but engaged with Jews and key Jewish theological concepts. 2   1.   Refer to Tāj   al- ʿ  Arūs   on the definition of k t b , Dār   al- Hidāyah,  4: 100–107.  2.   For more examples that also shows intertextuality between the Bible, Midrash, and    Qur ʾ an. Refer to Garsiel 2006, Bible, Midrash and Qur  ʾ an: An Intertextual Study of Com-   mon Narrative Materials.      169  John Wansbrough and Gabriel Reynolds assume the Qurʾan   emerged from   Judeo-Christian context that was adapted by the Arabs ( See Wansbrough 1977; see also Wansbrough1978; Rippin 1988; Reynolds 2010) . Perhaps that is the case, and the   reason why the Qibla passages engage with the Shemaʿ  . However, instances of    intertextuality can also be viewed as reflecting historical interactions between Muḥammad,  his community, and the Jewish community’s scholars and their    traditions, and that Muḥammad  wanted to engage with the Shemaʿ    to state the   importance of faith over the direction of prayer. Gordon Newby suggests that   there is Qur anic   evidence with its use of the terminologies rabbāniyyūn   and a ḥbār    that Muḥammad  was in contact with Rabbinic Judaism in Arabia (Newby 1988,   57–59). Hagai Mazuz also suggests Medinan Jews to be followers of Rabbinic Juda -   ism for the same reasons suggested by Newby (Mazuz 2014, 21–23). Evidence that   the Qibla  passages are engaging with the Talmud even more so proves the exist -   ence of a Rabbinic Judaism tradition among the Jews of Arabia and that the Qurʾan   is specifically referring to them in many instances when it engages with the Jews.  History of the Qibla   In two verses, the Qurʾan   declares that the People of the Book know something   as they know their own children. One discusses the Qibla controversy [Q 2:144–    148] and another discusses the unity of God [Q 6:19–20]:  144.   We have seen the taqalluba [turning] of your face to heaven. And now ver  -  ily We shall make you turn toward a Qibla which is dear to you. So turn your   face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and you, wheresoever you may be,   turn your faces (when you pray) toward it. Lo! Those who have received the   Scripture know that (this revelation) is the truth from their Lord. And God is   not unaware of what they do.  145.   And even if you bring unto those who have received the Scripture all kinds of portents, they would not follow your Qibla, nor can you be a follower of their   Qibla; nor are some of them followers of the Qibla of others. And if you should   follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto you, then surely   were you of the evil-doers.  146.   Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognize (this revelation) as they recognize their children. But lo! a party of them knowingly conceal the   truth.  147.   It is the truth from your Lord, so be not you of those who waver.  148.   And each one has a goal toward which he turns; so vie with one another in   good works. Wheresoever you may be, God will bring you all together. Lo! God    is Able to do all things. [Q 2:144–148]   In another instance, the Qurʾan   states:  19.   Say: “What thing is most weighty in evidence [shahāda)]”  Say: “(God) is   witness [shahīd]  between me and you; this Qurʾan   has been revealed to me by 
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