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Islamo-Biblica in Islamic Genealogical Texts and Literatures.



Islamo-Biblica in Islamic Genealogical Texts and Literatures.

From the earliest Islamic centuries biblical salvation history and quasi-historical writings informed by Islamo-biblica or Isrā’īliyyāt were important factors in the emergence of Islamic piety and historiography.  A need was felt to place the piecemeal qur’ānic salvation history in a wider, more structured historical context. The disconnected qiṣaṣ al‑anbiyā’   elements in the Qur'an were expounded, contextualized and supplemented.  For apologetic purposes the advent of the prophet Muhammad had to be shaped on biblical lines and be seen to fulfill Abrahamic religious expectations.  The conviction that Muhammad delivered the Q. at the apex of a predestined chain of prophets had to be inspiringly set forth (Rubin,1995).

Early Islamic historical writing was fuelled by Arab genealogical, poetic and other  interests. It was also a result of the Muslim interaction and dialogue with Jewish, Zoroastrian Christian and other converts (the ahl al‑dhimma, Duri, 1984; Humphreys, 1989; Khalidi, 1994). Hagiographically oriented biography writing and associated literary activities were indulged in by converts from the Abrahamic religions traditions. They contributed significantly to emergent Muslim historiography.  (Sezgen, GALS, 247ff; Donner,  1998, App. 297ff).


Islamic  chronology and the pre‑Islamic prophets.

 Muslim sources not only contain speculations as to the anno mundi and associated millennial schemata relating to past salvation history, but include a diversity of traditions about the dating and lifespan of many pre‑Islamic prophets, or the periods of time separating their missions, (Bihar 2 11: 65f). The early Baṣran philologist Abū Ḥātim al‑Sijistānī (d.255/869) was among those who wrote  volumes  entitled  al‑Mu`ammarūn  (`The Long‑Lived‘;  al‑Nadīm, Fihrist,  82f; Dharī`a,  21:268), in which he discussed various amazing  life spans including those of such figures as  Khiḍr (immortal and undatable), Luqmān the Elder  (lived 3, 500 years),   Noah (lived 1, 450 years) and  Adam (lived 950 years). This fascinating work opens by reckoning Khiḍr (the Green One", Ever Verdent, Eternal) the most long‑lived figure, uncharacteristically identifying him as a grandson of Adam  through Abel  (al‑Mu`ammarūn, 3ff). The second most long‑lived is identified as Luqmān (the Ist – not the later sage Luqmān) an alleged  son of  the qur`ānic  Arabian prophet `Ad  (cf. Ibn  Isḥāq,  K. al‑Mubtada, [reconstructed] trans. Newby, 1989:55; Ibn Bābuwayh, Kamāl,  507).

            Ibn Bābuwayh, al‑Ṣadūq (d. 381/ 991), drew upon the above mentioned work of al ‑Sijistānī and a wide range of imamate traditions in the course of explicating the mysteries of extended periods of prophetic (proto‑) ghayba  ("occultation") in his lengthy Arabic Kamāl  al‑dīn (`Perfection of Religion’) as well as his `Ilāl al‑sharī`a... (`Causes of the Directives...’).  A tradition is, for example, recorded from `Alī b. Muhammad al‑Askarī that Noah had a very extended longevity, "the age of Noah was 2,500 years..." (Ilāl, 45f, Kamāl 134‑7; 496, 503; cf. Kohlberg, XVI: 52). In the K. Nubuwwat  (Book of Prophethood) and  elsewhere  in  his Arabic  Biḥār al‑anwār , Persian  Ḥayāt al‑qulūb  and other writings, Majlisī records various authoritative traditions and opinions about the miraculous lifespan of  Noah and  of numerous other pre‑Islamic prophets (Biḥār 2, 11:13; Hayat 1:246ff). The following prophetic tradition, cited from Ibn Bābuwayh’s Kamāl al‑dīn, is especially noteworthy:

 ... The Messenger of God said, `The lifespan of Adam the father of humanity was 930 years; that of Noah 1,450 years; of Abraham 157 years; of Ishmael son of Abraham 120 years; of Isaac son of Abraham 180 years; of Jacob 120 years; of Joseph 120 years; of Moses 126 years; of Aaron 130 years; of David 100 years (including 40 years of his rule) and of Solomon son of David 712 years  (Bihar2 11: 65).

 The same Shī`ī encyclopaedist elsewhere records a tradition related from al‑Wāḥidī and recorded in the Tafsīr   of Abū `Alī al‑Ṭabarsī (d. c. 548/1154), to the effect that Solomon son of  David  was given rule over East and West  for 700 years and 7 months.  On this figure Majlisī  himself  felt  obliged to comment, referring to it as a khabar gharīb  ("hidden report").  He seems to relate the basically 700 year length of Solomon’s global rule to his encompassing both eastern and western regions.  Traditions such as this may conflict with others though they retain their authenticity and ultimate coherence (ibid,14:80). Taken at face value Solomon’s 700 year rule contradicts traditions related from the 6th Imam Ja`far al‑Ṣādiq  (d. c.148/765) which reckon a  400 (or  480) year period between David and Jesus. It would also indicate that Solomon outlived Jesus by around 300 years (Bihar2 14:80, 234, 351)!  In line with other Islamic traditions, Majlisī somewhat more acceptably records  a  round  500 year period separating Jesus and Muhammad on the authority of Imam Ja`far al‑Ṣādiq (Bihar 2 14: 349).

 Such Islamic prophetological‑chronological notices as the above are legion. They are reminiscent of the ages of the early biblical patriarchs and of chronological data found in ancient near eastern, antediluvian genealogies. The biblical tradition is similarly replete with strange chronological discrepancies. The longest‑lived biblical figure  Methusaleh, son of Enoch, for example, died  aged 969  at the time of the flood when Noah was 600 years old (Gen. 5f).  Some Arabic and Persian Islamic historical sources contain detailed chronological data which, by modern historical standards, is confused and inaccurate. Chronologically oriented statements in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī primary sources occasionally reflect the chronological idiosyncrasies of various, sometimes heterodox Islamic sources. This is at times evident in aspects of the novel prophetological schemata of the Bāb and in the dating given by BA* to certain pre‑Islamic philosophers and prophets in his L. Ḥikma (as will be noted below).