On the Meaning of the Three Final Words of Sura XXII.30-31

Rudi Paret's new translation of the Koranl has drawn attention to the possibility that the words ijtanibu qawla-z-zuri of Sura XXII, which are in the midst of stipulations about the hajj (XXII.27/28-33/34), may not mean the simple avoidance of false statements. Nor, as an account widely diffused in the West, and perhaps in Islam, too, will have it, might they be a statement prohibiting lying.2

In the first instance it seems that the plural in the translation "Avoid false statements" is particularly apposite if the words are taken as equivalent to "Avoid lies." Otherwise it is more difficult to justify and in any case leaves open the possibility of a singular. The lexical identification of qawla-z-zur with kadhib,buhtan (lie and slander) is already registered after Tabari, by Muj5hid.3 From him it passes through the commentaries of Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Nisaburi,4 Khazin, Mahalli, admittedly never as an ordinary prohibition of lying, which would be simple, relevant for all times, and even expected if one ignores the context. Rather it is a linkage always forged in often forced way with the prohibition of shirk, of the doctrine that God has an equal. For instance, in Zamakhshari:

After (the holy text) has urged that [God's] sacred things be honored and has found him who does so worthy of praise, it follows this with the command to avoid idols and lies. For to acknowledge God's unity, to deny that he has his equal, and to be honest in speaking are the highest and the first sacred things [of God]. The [text] brings shirk and lying together in a single Koran verse. For shirk belongs in the category of lies because its devotees allege that an idol is worthy of adoration. The [text] therefore says, in effect, "Avoid therefore the service of idols, which is the source of lies, and avoid every lie. Have nothing to do with any of this, because [thereby] one remains long in baseness and disgrace and above all because it is a sort of idolatry (literally: and what is one to think of something the nature of which is idolatry?)"5

Mahalli, writing late and striving for brevity, is the least forced. He restricts himself to saying: " `Therefore avoid the dirt of idols'; explicatory [genitive], the [dirt] which are idols. `Avoid false words."'-with Mahalll the thought of the lie recedes-"that is to say, [the doctrine] that God has a companion, the doctrine which is expressed in the hajj festive call of the mushrikun, or `avoid false witness (shahadat az-zur)."' Here there is a new factor, the talbiyat al-mushrikun, which is lacking in Tabarl. Most of our ancient sources for the tafslr are accessible in Tabarl and only in him. Yet he surely does not comprise all that is relevant, either because everything was not available to him, or because he passed over much as of little importance, so that such items were preserved only in later writers. Just as he is selective in his Annals, so in his commentary on the Koran his prime purpose is not to put together all that there is, but to orientate and point out a direction to his contemporaries. Merely to record that there was, at the time of the Prophet, a talbiya influenced by Christianity, one which the prophet rejected as qawla-z-zur, was, already in Mujahid's time, insignificant and no longer necessary for the exegesis of the Koran.

The verse to be explained stands in Tabari, as is natural, in the context of the hajj stipulations. His interpretation, which, as always, he puts first, leads him back to dIsa (Basra c. 149 A.H.) as also, via Ibn Abi Naj1h (Mecca, c. 132 A.H.) and Ibn Jurayj (died 149 or 151), to Mujahid, and finally via Muhammad b.Sacd and his authorities, to Ibn Abbas himself, the father of Koranic exegesis. According to him, [the text] says:

Avoid the qawla-z-zur [and] means [thereby]: Be careful not [to propound] lies and untruths against God by saying, with reference to the gods: `We serve them only so that they bring us close to God' (Koran XXXIX.3/3), and, with reference to the angels [says]: "They are daughters of Allah."

If one takes into consideration the religious situation of Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries,6 one has to say a word that sounded approximately like Koran XXXIX.3/3-of course without the plural "gods," which can hardly have been spoken other than by Christians. These would accordingly be here the opponents of the Prophet. The designation mushrikun soon admitted more than one interpretation, and could mean "Christians" and "polytheists," although shank would not be an obvious term for a god of polytheists. The phrase "your, their shuraka' for "your, their gods"where one really has to envisage shuraka' in quotation marks as if it were a phrase taken over from an opponent-is quite common in the Koran (e.g., VL22/22; X.28/29; XVI.86/88; XXVIII.64/64; XXXV.40/38). From the context it stands for shufa'a',7 "advocate, mediator, helper." Shaft', too, notably in connection with the Judgement Day, takes up Christian ideas. The clause in the Epistle to the Hebrews 7:25: "Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them," has had a profound effect on Christian thinking and feeling throughout the centuries. In the Egyptian koine and elsewhere it is rendered: li'annahu haiyun ft kulli hinin wa- yashfa'u `anhum. Unfortunately, its first appearance in Arabic cannot be ascertained.8 Sharik in the singular could have been an attempt to reproduce homoousios in pure Arabic. But the testimonies for that are not extant. One may further ask whether shabah-which in the tawhid definition of Junayd means, according to al-Ansari, "person"9 and which, according to the Multazila, may not be said of Godly-may also belong in this ancient layer of Christian terms in Arabic. In Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Rome 29 (1963), 480-481, one was referred to another stratum, the date of which likewise cannot be determined.

But is it not altogether wrongheaded to believe that Muhammad was in touch with the details and niceties of Christian theology that have been mentioned? Is it not better to assume, with W. Rudolph, K. Ahrens i I and others, that the rejection of sonship of God is due to Muhammad's having always thought merely of physical sonship, and the like? Crude misunderstandings and distortions of each other's doctrines arise principally when religious communities are firmly entrenched and live separately from each other, not so long as they are in touch with each other. In the case in question, that is at a relatively late period, if one discounts the effects of the polemics of the Koran, which does not distinguish between Christianity and polytheism. The beginning of Simeon of Bet-Arsam's letter of 524, the original form of which T. Noldeke (Tabari, 185) justly called "positively genuine," shows that already at that time, the Ma1add12 understood the differences between Melchites, Monophysites, and Nestorians well enough to exploit them in diplomacy. Muhammad also met men such as Haudha b. All al-Hanafi,13 and the influence of Hira was extensive. Public life itself there had, from the court downward, a Christian aspect.14 'Adi b. Zayd woos Hind bint Nu`man "three days after Easter," that is, after our Maundy Thursday on Easter Monday, on which even now the time of marriage solemnizations begins (CIC § 1108). He first saw the girl in the Church of Dair Tuma, likewise on a Maundy Thursday, "which falls three days after Palm Sunday," when one went to the celebration of the Eucharist. On this occasion in Muhammad's time, Haudha (already mentioned) successfully petitioned for the release of the Tamim held captive by the Persians in Bahrain, and himself, with those he had liberated, took part in the Eucharist.15 About the middle of the sixth century, Kyros of Edessa held his Aramaic 'ellata in the theological school of Hira, which he had founded. These 'elldtd are lectures on the subject (`elieta) of the festivals of the ecclesiastical year, and they have come down to us in the tract of East Syrian theology that has been most fully preserved.16 In the creed of the Mu'tazila the relevant clause taqad- dasa [illahu] an mulamassati n-nisa' also stands at the end like an afterthought, whereas with the Sunnis lam yattakhid sdhibatan, in more cautious wording that strictly keeps to the Koran (72.3/3) is brought to the front.17 K. Ahrens and W. Rudolph regard it as certain that Sura 112 is directed against the Nicene formula yevv77Oevza, ou irotrjOevza [begotten not made]. Since this formula is included in the baptism symbol,,8 it must have spread in Aramaic, and will hardly have been unrepresented in Arabic. If it may no more be said that the angels are the daughters of Allah, then the Koran is not here quoted verbally (XLIII.19/18; XVI.57/59, etc.), and that is striking. The difficulty of doing justice to the quotation is partly due to the fact that Uzza, Allat, and Manat are named daughters of Allah, yet the term for them, jaraniga, does not denote female beings.19 The difficulty is also due in part to the fact that angels are cosmic intelligences; the most supreme of which was sometimes addressed as the Logos. These questions have as yet produced no answer and must be left aside.

The Prophet's equating of shahadat az-zur [false witness] with shirk we find in a hadith traced back to Wail b. Rabi `a.20 Tirmidhi 21 and Abu Dawud22 name a different tabi'i. Returning now with a correction to what I wrote in Der Islam 34 (1959): 195, let me repeat here the form of the tradition in Khazin. The hadith recurs in similar form in Zamakhshari, Nisaburi,23 and Mahalli.

Khazin has the following:

"Avoid the qawla-z-zur, that is, lie and untruth. Ibn Abbas (in Baghawi: Ibn Masud) said: "What is meant is the shahadat az-zur. According to Aiman b. Khuraim, there is a tradition that the Prophet rose to the khutba and said: `Ye people, I regard the shahadat az-zur as the same as ishrak bi-llah.' He then quoted the verse: `Avoid therefore the dirt of idols and avoid the qawla-z-zur."' Tirmidhi quotes [the hadith] and observes: "Concerning the handing down of it there are differences of opinion. We do not know that Aiman had [heard] a word directly (sama') from the Prophet." Abu Dawud quotes the same hadith: but from Khuraim b. Fatik.

Khuraim is the father of Aiman.24 There it is said of the father that he was among the Prophet's Companions and passed on immediate traditions from him. If a manuscript states the first of two, and reads sahiba huwa wa-abuhu bi-rasuli-llah instead of li-abihi subha bi-rasuli-llah, that may be an ancient version, perhaps the original, inexact one, which was corrected. Directly or indirectly, it will have occasioned the observation of Tirmidhi that I have mentioned. According to the stories in the Kitab alAghani, Aiman was still alive in the latter years of Abd ul-Malik b. Marwan. The allegation that Fatik had been sahabi, and died in the time of Mu`awiya is found also in the Khulasa.25 There, Aiman is called tabi'i. In the worst case we are dealing with a hadith mursal bihi with an incomplete chain of tradition, which goes back to a court poet in matters that link up less with his sphere. If we believe J. Schacht, this state of affairs does not impugn the credibility of the tradition, since no one exerted himself afterward to produce a complete isnad, such as was later demanded.

If we may return to Khazin, he appends a further explanation with gila which, in Mahalli, we found taken into the overall account of the verse's ending. The words are: It is also said that (with gawla-z-zur) the words of the mushrikun in their talbiya are meant: Labbayka, you have no companion other than a companion who is yours, over whom and over whose realm you rule. Instead of qawl al-mushrikin, Zamakhshari and Raz126 say ahl al-jahiliya. Abu Haiyan27 names in Bahr al-muhit 5:351 Mujahid,


1. See final footnote of the first side of the third installment, p. 273, n. 38

2. Here I am repeating, supplementing, and improving what is said of this passage in Biblica 35 (1954): 405 f. and Der Islam 34 (1959): 195 f. In doing this, I can make grateful use of observations and corrections with which a number of scholars-Professors J. Fuck, G. Levi Della Vida, and especially A. Spitaler-have supplied me. I have also used reliable secondary information when the literature it referred to was not accessible and so could not be fully exploited. I hope that this has not resulted in any substantial distortion of what the facts are.

3. Ca. 102/4 A.H. in Mecca

4. Eighth to twelfth centuries GAL S 2: 273

5. Kashshaf [Egypt 1354 AM.]:

6. Cf., for example, G. Graf, GCAL 1 (= SeT 118 Rome 1944): 15-27; J. Wellhausen, Reste (Berlin 1897; 1964), p. 217; Tabari, Ta'rikh, I: 1723

7. Wellhausen, Reste 219 n. 2-Koran VI.64/64

8. 10 On the influence of the New Testament epistles, cf. K. Ahrens in ZDMG 84 (1930): 169-71.

9. R. Hartmann, Kuschairi (Berlin, 1914), p. 50

10. Ash'ari-Ritter, Magalat, p. 155.

11. K.Ahrens, M. als Religionsstifter (Leipzig 1935), p. 85.200

12. [Macadd: a collective name for certain Arab tribes, in the traditional usage for those of N. Arabian origin in contrast to the Yemen tribes. Ed.]

13. Orientalia 25 (1956): 307; in line 17 yqrb instead of ygrb is to be read.

14. See Kitab al-Aghani, 2:131, 4-5; 129, 3-6.

15. de Goeje, Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1:987.19; A`sha Maimun, Diwan 13:69.

16. See on this Willian F. Macomber, S.J. in OCP 30 (1960): 5-38; 365-84; particularly 7-9.

17. Ashlari-Ritter, Magalat, 156,13; 290,5.

18. C. P. Caspari, Quellen (Christiania), 1,116.

19. GdK2 I 100; otherwise J.Wellhausen, Reste 24; F. Schwally, GdK2 I, 71; K. Ahrens, ZDMG 84, 151.

20. Died at the time of Mu`awiya; Ibn Sad 6:146, Ibn Hajar, Isaba Nr. 9100.

21. Book 33, [abwab ash-shahadat] chap. 3 (ma ja a fi shahadat az-zur).

22. Book 23, [kitab-aqdiya, bab 15, ft shahadat az-zur].

23. Eighth to twelfth centuries GAL S 2: 273.

24. Kitab al-Aghani 21:7-12.

25. Cairo, 1322 A.H. 36:16 of the Khazraji (died 923/1517; GALS 1:606).

26. Died 606/1209; GAL S 1:506.

27. Died 744/1345; GAL S 2:136. GdK2 3:243.

28. R. Klinke-Rosenberger (Leipzig, 1941), p. 4; Ibn al Kalb!: died 204/819 or 206.

29. R. Klinke-R, 75.

30. Died 245/860; GALS 1:166.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!