The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

'Âd bin 'Ûtz

According to the Qur'an, once upon a time there existed an ancient nation called 'Âd (عاد). This nation was destroyed by a barbarous wind. In the Biblical book Job, a similar wind swept through the land of 'Ûtz (ארץ עוץ) - the Uz of the King James Bible, son of Aram son of Shem. It happens that Ibn Sa'd in Tabaqat v.1 (tr. MoinulHaq, 33) related a genealogy that links 'Âd to 'Ûtz: 'Âd was the son of "'Aws" bin Aram, who cannot be other than our 'Ûtz. (This has passed on to other scholars - Tabari's Tarikh, tr. Brinner as 2.13; Mas'udi's Muruj, tr. Maynard as 3.80 and so on.)

As you can see (if you know the alphabets in question), the Arabs heard the later Hebrew ץ as /tz/ and wrote it as /s/. But if you look closer... the word for "land" is a shared Semitic construction: Arabic al-ard (الأرض) corresponds to Hebrew ha-aretz (הארץ). This word alone (there are many others) shows that a shared original Semitic dental or sibilant consonant, whose "original" needn't matter here, is expressed in Hebrew as /tz/ and in Arabic as /d/.

Back to 'Ûtz / 'Âd, the intervening /w/ was weak in old North Arabian, as was /y/; Ahmad al-Jallad notes that when either forms the third letter of a root, classical Arabic tends to make an /a/ of it - Safaitic (Brill, 2015), 11. There were other mutations: 49-51. From the Hebrew side there's this thing called the Canaanite Shift which turned what's *a in all other Semitic languages into ô in the Canaanite tongues.

If I can figure all this out, then so could earlier Arab philologers. It must have occurred to Ibn Sa'd's sources that Biblical 'Ûtz - if the Bible be taken at its word that this was the son of Aram - would be expressed in Arabic as either *'Âd immediately, or else *'Awd and then subject to change. The /d/ -> /d/ remains a problem, but then the Arabs didn't equate 'Âd to 'Ûtz; they related the twain.

Such Arabs as had access to the Book of Job also had Lamentations 4:21 (and Jeremiah 25:20). Those Arabs would have placed 'Âd where the poet places it - somewhere around Edom. And if Ibn Sa'd's source did this, it's hard to see how far back that equation went; I cannot rule out that the same assumption underlies the suras. Where exactly God punished the 'Âd wouldn't have mattered to later sermons like sura 46; by the Marwani era some people were putting it in the Yemen. But as for suras 7 and 89... well, at least sura 7 assumed that the 'Âd were within reach of the southern Dead Sea, Midian and the Sinai.

I am indebted to Dan Gibson's Qur'anic Geography for drawing the connexions. I think the book was (when I bought it) a mess, and it attempts a number of arguments that are dubious and/or unnecessary. But it is, still, an ever-flowing spring of useful information.

UPDATE 5:20 PM: I have also reviewed Gibson's book. Back in 16 March 2012 he had offered to send me the PDF for free so I could review it. I bought it instead - according to Amazon, the following 25 June. I received it and - couldn't figure out how to approach it. I guess now I feel more comfortable with the material. Took awhile.

UPDATE 7/28: I remembered, after some time to think on't, that al-Tabari was a student of Ibn Sa'd. So, I tracked this meme to the Tabaqat.


posted by Zimri on 15:33 | link | 0 comments

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