The House of David

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rudolf the red-faced scholar

I have now read Rudolf Geyer's review (on the first researchers upon Umayya bin Abi'l-Salt) in its 1907 context. It is time to determine whether this piece deserves to serve as capstone to Section 1.4-1.5 in Koranic Allusions.

Fred Schulthess back in 1906 (KA 1.4) aired his opinion that Umayya was a "ḥanîf" and so in much theoretical agreement with Islam; but, also, that there did not exist real evidence for this poet having received the Message. Schulthess further thought that Muḥammad, in turn, had no knowledge of Umayya’s diwân and that one must abandon Q. 7:175 and 68:2-16 as references to this [tr. 90]. To Schulthess’s first glance, it were safest to exclude the whole of all Umayyische poems with Qoranparallelen, and – for the study of Umayya – to concentrate on the poems without. (Later, Schulthess would wonder if Umayya was Muslim after all; but this trial-balloon would be ignored, except by Power who quickly shot it down.) Among what Schulthess abandoned were those poems and fragments which this scholar would, later, compile as Nr. XXXI and XLI (as well as XXXVIII, XLVI, etc.)

Ed Power’s counter-opinion (KA 1.5) agreed that Umayya was no Muslim, maybe even antiMuslim. It follows for Power that Umayya could have used the Qur’an only for hijâ’ (he may well have discovered the future Nr. XXXIII, and he argued the case for its satirical form convincingly; although where he went on to Fr. 11.2-as-part-of-XLI, he lost me). Power was also pleased to accept some form of XXXI – having proposed that XXXIb does not belong with XXXIa (which he agrees to abandon). Power salvaged XLI by the expedient of deleting vv. 14-21 therefrom.

Geyer is here to support Schulthess on the details, right or wrong. Geyer asserts that XXXIb is fake; he refuses to consider whether XXXIb might, as Power thought, not belong with the (now) thrice-denounced XXXIa; he denies Nr. XXXIII as satire; he pointedly avoids XLI / Fr. 11.

[UPDATE 12/19: Theodor Noeldeke, at first, tended to side with Geyer and (as far as he knew) Schulthess. Note here.]

In 1911 Schulthess would publish his edition of Umayya’s poems. Schulthess's student Frank-Kamenetzky went on pretty much to accept Power's whole premise; including to cull from XLI, vv. 10-21, although Frank-Kamenetzky did demonstrate why XXXI is a unity. Power in 1912 (KA 1.6) felt obliged to curb the newly-minted PhD’s enthusiasm and to reinstate XLI vv. 10-13, although declaring himself vindicated on removing vv. 14-21. Oh yeah, and then Theodor Nöldeke himself emerged from semi-retirement to vote "echt" on XXX, "unecht" on all XXXI, satire on XXXIII and "unecht" on XLI v. 13(!). Nöldeke was gentleman enough to pretend that he had missed Geyer's review. (A much better man than I...) Power's 1906 intuition on how to approach the Qur’an-parallels in these poems remains the paradigm today.

To sum up: Geyer’s contributions are threefold: wrong and abandoned, correct and already-noted by Power, and correct and subsumed into Schulthess’s edition. This may explain why Ibn Warraq didn’t bother to get this essay of Geyer translated for his recent book.

posted by Zimri on 20:06 | link | 0 comments

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