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The Bible and Islamo-Biblica in Adab (`belles lettres’..), encyclopedias and associated doctrinal-theological works.



The Bible and Islamo-Biblica in Adab  (`belles lettres’..), encyclopedias  and associated  doctrinal-theological works.

Stephen Lambden

Notes dating to the 1980s  - under correction, revision and completion

May 2017.

By the `Abbasid period adab  (loosely, `culture’, `belles lettres', etc) came yo indicate a wide range of  Muslim learning  and  intellecutual culture, gradually coming to incorporate literary and other aspects of Iranian, Hellenistic and Indian culture. The “Iranian genius”  Ibn al-Muqaffa`, (d.c.139/756) has been regarded as “the true creator of this enlarged conception of adab, with his versions of foreign historical and literary works (Khudāy-nāmah  and Kalīla wa-Dimna) and his original ethical and didactic tracts (al-Adab al-Kabīr  and al-‘aghīr ..) ..” (Gabrieli, `Adab’, EI2 Ibn al-Mukaffa`EI III:883-885). During the 3rd/9th century Adab came to be expressed in a multi-faceted Islamic  literature expressive of the incorpoation of dimensions of non-Arab learning in the Muslim intellectual life: ”.. the Iranian world with all its epic, gnomic, and narrative tradition, the Indian world with its fables, and the Greek world with its practical philosophy, and especially its ethics and economics...” (Gabrieli, ibid). It was under the influence of Adab  that ḥikma-inspired historial writing flourished among historians such as al-Mas'udi (Khalidi, 1994:83f).

The aforementioned  adib  al-Jāḥiz (d. 255/869) was  a polymathic fountainhead  of adab   associated works. He not only wrote a al-Radd `alā al-Naṣārā  (Refutations of the Christians) and a  Dalāil al-nubuwwah (Proofs of the Prophethood [of Muhammad]) but a wide range of associated writings including a work against Abū `Isā al-Warrāq (CHAL Sadanin Sharon ed. 1986:353ff).

Ibn Qutayba

  • Tathbit dalā’il al-nubuwwa  (ed. `Abd al-Karīm `Uthmān, Beirut 1966). 
  • Brockelmann GAL. Supp. I:343-4; CHAL III  Anawati, ERel. I:3-4+bib.)

Goldziher seems to have been first to point out the incorporation of Isrā’īliyyāt or Islamo-Biblica into Sufi adab literatures. The Sufi Abū 'Abd al‑Raḥman al‑Sulamī (d. 412/1021) was among those Sūfī authors who wrote a straightforward ādab  work, the  Adāb al‑ṣuḥba wa‑ḥusn al‑'ishra. On non-esoteric lines, it spoke to a  popular as well as to a Sufi audience incorporating “numerous poems and maxims in the best adab  tradition, as well as citations from the Qur an and from hadīth” in support of the Sufī way of life ( ADD here).