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Saturday, December 27, 2014
Did the Prophet come with a book?
Q/A time at the Bayt Daweed, so...
In later Hebrew and Syriac, especially for Jews and Christians, as of the 600s AD the trilateral ktb implied a writing. It didn't have to be in a scroll or a codex; the Negev graffiti often calls itself ktb. But, however it was done, a pen was put to papyrus, or chalk to a rock, or a chisel to marble. Words were set down and fixed.
The Qur'an, somewhat famously, refers to an even more rigid understanding of kitab when it speaks of "the people given the book", "the people of the book", "the book given to Moses" (the Torah) and on and on. There's another Qur'anic word "suhuf" which implies the same thing. Sura 10 more or less nods its head that the Book is the treasure to which the suras are the key. And then there's sura 68 which swears by the pen concerning the Day of Judgement, so that sura rests its integrity upon the prior Scriptures - at least upon the eschatic Scriptures (Daniel, Enoch, John of Patmos and/or other suras). Finally, several suras proclaim themselves as kutub such as, oh, sura 6 at v. 92.
But ... not all the suras do that.
If, like me, you start by refusing to assume anything about the suras' authorship, you might come around to wondering if some weren't in the initial Revelation. In fact there is some strong-ish contemporary evidence that the Arab Prophet (not yet known as Muhammad) did not claim to come with a Book. I refer to the Doctrina Jacobi nuper baptizati, which made a number of observations about the Saracens' religious guide. He came with the sword, first off. He implicitly came with a Revelation - or else he wouldn't have been a prophet. He claimed he'd come with the keys to Paradise. We can infer his respect for Jewish texts (if not for Christian). But we are not told that he'd come with a Book of his own; not in the literal sense, and not (pace certain Shi'is, Sufis, Baha'is etc) in the sense of an occulted book in the Holy Presence. The new Scripture simply wasn't being preached in anyone's hearing. And the new Book stayed not being preached, up to that dialogue between the Amir and the Christians in Syria.
If kutub were written, they were written like the Book(s) of Isaiah was/were written - by his followers. And not necessarily whilst he was alive. And we have only the Muslim factions' solemn word that stuff like sura 6 didn't get dropped into the pile decades later.
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