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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Carlos Segovia composes a new sura

I have found in this library Carlos A. Segovia's 2015 book, Quranic Noah and the Making of the Islamic Prophet. The title is a play on Gordon Newby's audacious reconstruction of Ibn Ishaq's Mubtada'. Not to be outdone, Segovia is reconstructing the Word of God.

Segovia does this at Excursus 5.A, 70f: "The original story behind 11 + 71".

Carlos Segovia argues here that the narratives of suras 11 and 71 interlock to suggest that the Arab Believers once knew a coherent Noah story sharing their elements, a sort of Qur'anic Planet Nine. Given that those suras are in the saj' form, Segovia assumes that so was their source - that is, that this was a sura itself now supplanted and lost. He even dares give us its text.

Elsewhere Segovia cites for this reconstruction, Erica Martin, "Literary Presentation of Noah in the Quran" ed. Stone / Amihay / Hillel, Noah and His Book(s) (2010); which essay I haven't tracked down yet. It is possible Martin was inspired by John Damascene's memory of the Book of the Naqat Allâhi, which Book may or may not have been a lost sura about the Thamûd preceding the omnibus prophetic-cycle suras 7, 11, and 26. And sura 71 is indeed a dedicated Noah sura, if a very narrow one. Perhaps sura 71 derives from a less-narrow sura? I personally doubt that John himself meant "sura" when he said "book" [see my "Scriptures of the Women" here]... but since Segovia isn't citing John and since for my part I can't cite Martin, I should move on.

I haven't even studied sura 71, much. But I have studied sura 11. UPDATE 5/13/2016 - now I've looked at surat Nouh so, chart:

What I found of sura 11, a decade ago or more, is that it was consciously composed according to a model: that of sura 7. The main changes involve restoring Biblical Abraham and Sarah as backstory to Lot, and all but deleting Moses down to a placeholder. Sura 11 still knew those prior Moses stories. But sura 11 knew other prophets avant le fin du monde, too. So sura 11 redistributed those Mosaic tropes over to those pre-Moses prophets. Noah was first of these, so by default foremost.[moi, "Six Prophetic Suras" now in The Arabs and Their Qur'an]

Other suras share their own parallels to suras 7 and 11, without following their plan. Sura 46 cites the Prophetic cycle generally - 'Ad as the sequel to Noah - and to that end v. 8 parallels 11:35. For its sura 11 appearance, Segovia calls this a redactional seam which some editor overhauling his putative base Noah-tale stuck into v. 35. I think it likely 11:13 > 11:35 (in fact, 11:12-13 > 11:31,35) and that sura 46 used sura 11. ["The Turning"] That "editor" who put v. 35 into sura 11 was so in tune with sura 11's own motives, that this editor was likely, also, the composer of sura 11's preamble.

Nowadays I'm coming around to seeing sura 46 itself as quite late. Also the hadith recalls a few textual variants for sura 11, like at v. 17 where sura 46 seems to be paralleling such a variant. However sura 46's parallel - quote - from Q. 11:35 seems exact and contextual.

Now let's look at another sura 46 source: sura 26. Sura 26 parallels sura 11 (and 7) so profusely and profoundly that it must already know sura 11 - almost ALL sura 11 - in present form. [UPDATE 1:00 PM] Before sura 26, we have sura 25. Its vv. 7-8 quotes from sura 11's preamble vv. 12-13, even more than sura 46 does.["The Furqan"] I have mooted already that sura 25 belongs to caliph 'Abd al-Malik's masahif project, likely over the 70s / 690s; and that sura 26 was the qurras' initial reaction to that.

Elsewhere Q. 25:39 cites a "destruction" which in sura 7 (Moses) as well as in sura 71 (Noah) lies within the semantic field of flood. Q. 25:61 also quotes from sura 71's praise of the Heavens' Creator, v. 16 - but, this time, not as Noachic. So I could see the argument that sura 71 has predecessors, like sura 11 had predecessors. But to the extent sura 25 witnesses to that predecessor of sura 71, it might not be a Noachic predecessor...

A next step would be to investigate those other suras between 11 and 26: which include suras 14, 34, and 41. Of these we can dismiss sura 34 immediately. This sura completely ignores the Noah story preferring just to cite sura 41's moral - mainly about 'Ad and Thamud, the desert tribes. I'll have to get to suras 14 and 41 later.

So: internal evidence points to the stability of that part of sura 11's text relevant to Noah. If I am right, that passage's stability may be dated no later than suras 25 and 26, so the sura 11 text was nailed down by the 70s AH / 690s CE. The stability of Q. 11:35 specifically has its witness in sura 46, with no objections in classical tafsir. As for the state of sura 71 we are still no wiser.

At this point I see no external evidence for a lost sura about Noah prior to suras 11 and 71. The internal features of sura 11 are (still) explicable as an expansion of sura 7's Noah story with input from the other prophets in the Qur'an as sura 11 knew it: elsewhere in sura 7 and also suras 6, 10, 20 and so on. Plus sura 11 had access to the Bible and Syriac apocrypha... for which Segovia already accounts. Sura 71 is likely similar.

What needs to be done first is to put as many of the relevant suras into a chain of transmission as we can. Sura 71's main text should be a part of this project. Then we can discuss to what extent suras like 11 and 71 are incomplete.

To sum up: Segovia and likely Martin are Not Even Wrong, as yet. I remain unconvinced of a lost sura behind suras 11 and 71. And, on a personal note, where Segovia decries "Islamophobia" earlier on - at least the "phobes" take the Qur'an for what it actually says. They don't undertake to "re-" construct chapters.

(Sorry. Name-calling and virtue-signalling just bug me. I do get that he's got his heart in the right place as he repeats in this interview.)

UPDATE 5/13/2016: CEMB's Zeca gave this post a link. I've added a chart. Will explain this above.

posted by Zimri on 11:59 | link | 0 comments

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