The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Leo on ḥmd

In Judaism, ḥmd is in the semantic field of desire. The Ultimate Commandment is lô taḥmôd.

In classical Arabic, ḥmd is in the semantic field of praise; coupled with sbḥ. One can read the Qur'an in the same way: compare Q. 34:1 with Q. 59:1. An' ev'rythin' after, more to the point: sura 61, especially, had used sura 59 and likely had access to sura 34 as well.

Yehuda Nevo (ed. Judith Koren) is he who insisted that the name "Muḥammad" is cognate to Hebrew taḥmod. In which case, the word "muḥammad" in its pre-Qur'anic Arabic meant something like "the one desired [by God]" - or, less likely, the one coveted by men, in the sense of Q. 33:21's oswa ḥasana. It wouldn't imply "praise" as commonly translated now. Arabic already had a fine word for "praise" in, oh, I suppose it would be Musabbaḥ or al-Masbûḥ.

We do sometimes see verses like Q. 40:55 that associate the ḥamd to the subḥ - but, as they say, timing is everything. On that topic the pro-West pundit Chambers notes some portions even written specifically for the purpose of claiming a divine heritage for an imperial religion. I find that notion in Nevo & Koren as well, in the chapter titled "Al-Walid's Islam". Nevo & Koren went so far as to demonstrate that sura 48, specifically v. 28, was quoting Marwani slogans from the coinage (also parallel to Q. 61:8-9, and to 9:32-3; but they didn't show a direction of dependence for suras 9 and 61, at least not as forcefully). "Marwani" means, from 680ish AD to 740ish.

I believe that sura 40 (v. 14) was invoking other elements of the Q. 61:8-9 / 9:32-3 slogan, at the Marwanid court, in parallel with the coinage; my essay "The Reformer from Pharaoh's Family" develops that argument. So anyway, I see a switch from the old religious term subḥ to Semitic ḥamd; making ḥamd into the new religious jargon (and not as a sin banned by Jews!). This final switch seems associated with the House of Marwan; if so it may be used to identify other suras as being Marwani, therefore post 60 / 680.

We have an early third-party witness to al-Hajjâj's post-sura-61 Qur'an: Lewond's translation of the Correspondence. As Arthur Jeffery translated it, Paraclete thus signifies ‘consoler,’ while Muḥammad means ‘to give thanks,’ …which has no connection whatever. Hat-tip, Ian Morris.

Lewond's own language was Armenian - related to Greek, but not Greek. So I wonder if we are missing something in the double translation, Greek to Armenian to English. But it does seem that ḥmd had already exited the depths of Covetous and had entered the field of devotion.

UPDATE 12/12/2015: Remembered that I'd discussed subḥ / ḥamd before - because of Chambers. Brought that aside up here.

UPDATE 12/22/2016: ḥamd as warriors' glory. Between old Semitic and sura 40.

posted by Zimri on 20:29 | link | 0 comments

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