The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, July 06, 2015

Ahzab as blog

FW Burleigh wonders if the author of sura 33 was looneytunes. He gets there by reading the work as Sunni Muslims have defined it. From that he notes that it races in and out of numerous topics. He figures it is like a contemporary blog, a collection of random thoughts somewhat haphazardly stitched together. He assumes that it is authentically Muhammadan, and based on that concludes that Muhammad himself was not right in the head.

From my perspective, I'll raise a few points:

  • Sura 33 depends HARD on sura 4, likely on sura 25 as well ("Book of the Women"). Sura 4 itself belongs to the "biblical" phase of the Qur'an, citing suras 6 and 17 as already written down ("Muhkam of the Wasiya", based on stuff already well-known in the early 1900s). To sum up, Sura 33 is an apocryphon. It was composed deliberately and written down, and not by a prophet; by any prophet, least of all by the Arab prophet of the 610s AD.
  • Sura 33 is well-known to be a victim of later editorial work. There was talk that it was once much larger than it is now, and that it contained the verse of stoning. Maybe those editors who wanted all these verses were wrong; maybe the other editors, who wanted the sura we got today, are right. My point is that we have no way of testing that. All we know is which side won, and all we got is their version of this sura.
  • Sura 33 is tied in with disputes about the Prophetic Succession. Some of those disputes live with us today - most such dissenters today are called Shi'ites. A book oft-cited on this topic is Stephen Powers, The Prophet is not the father of any of your men. I have read this but haven't felt able to review this, so far. But if you are going to run a study on the Prophet's life and on sura 33 - as I said, I am not qualified - then you need to take this into account.
  • One might also consider Textual Relations in the Qur'an: Relevance, Coherence and Structure (Routledge Studies in the Quran) by Salwa M. El-Awa. This argues for some sort of structure in the text we have. Again, I haven't come to terms with it. But also again, I don't have to; it's Burleigh who has to.

I think that sura 33 likely has its own integrity, and had a purpose to somebody at some point. But I don't know enough about any of that. So I should be very, very careful about using sura 33 as a source for Muhammad directly.

I would first use it as a source for Marwani-era Shi'ism, and for the development of the Sira as literature. Actually I would, personally, wait until I got a full copy of the variant and longer surat al-ahzab - I would wait until scholars had formed a theory on what the whole thing actually said.

(I sketched this out last night.)

UPDATE 7/8: Burleigh explained in May that Islamic scholarship isn't his focus and, more so, shouldn't be the focus of the "counter-jihad". I think he'd actually mentioned the former part before, so, I am sorry that I missed that and that I talked past him here. But I'm not convinced by his latter argument. Even if I were convinced, I'd still not care, since scholarship upon Islam remains *my* focus, however amateurishly I might carry it out. But for what I think other non-Muslims should do with all this revisionism: click here.

posted by Zimri on 17:30 | link | 0 comments

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