The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Amr w ʿeṣâ

Among the articles in Ibn Warraq's Christmas in the Koran is Baljon, "The Amr of God in the Koran". There's a 1974 summary here. I ran across some cringe-inducing references to "pre-Islamic" poetry in there, and this sparked me off the article. But now I've slept on it, so let's salvage something from the mess.

Baljon's notion here is that "amr" for the Qur'an's first authors was how those authors interpreted Hebrew ʿeṣâ. ʿeṣâ had the connotation of a plan; so if God was involved, this is a Divine judgement. The Qur'an, for its part, treats God's amr as different stages of a carefully prepared and well-thought out world-order (Baljon's italics). To me it reads like ʿeṣâ is the intent and amr is the command (the logos); the word then is.

A more literal Qur'anic calque of ʿeṣâ, then, would be shâ': [God's] "will". But there shâ' is often arbitrary which brings us to back to Baljon's preference for amr. One might also try makar: "plot"; or ḥukm: "justice". But these terms, at least in the suras, are used with more narrow intent than is amr - or, in the Bible, ʿeṣâ.

I'm left thinking that the Qur'an doesn't owe squat to Judaism here. All that is needed is a notion of a powerful God who commands His will upon Earth. This is had in all the monotheisms including the Iranians'. Baljon's squib is as damp as ever.

Here's one loose thread though: ʿÎsâ in the Qur'an. He is called "word of God" and "breath of God" in the earlier suras. However there the suras explain that there was one, specific, word used here: namely, "Be!". Thus they inform us that ʿÎsâ is the issue of this word. Ultimately the Qur'anic Jesus is (an) Ayat Allâh; not (the) Amr Allâh.

But that might not have been the case before the Qur'an, for the Jewish-Christians who are the theme of Ibn Warraq's book. Suppose some punster called Jesus, ʿEṣâʿel?

posted by Zimri on 10:35 | link | 0 comments

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