Some Minor Problems in the Qur'an

The basic problem involved in the following discussion is whether we are permitted to doubt the traditional understanding of the Qur'an. It is the same basic problem that, raised in connection with the Bible and answered in the affirmative, constituted the starting point of biblical criticism. In the case of the Bible, there can be no doubt in the philological mind that there is ample reason to be skeptical with regard to the tradition upon which our interpretation of the Bible depends almost completely. The astonishing discovery of the last few decades has been that that tradition has so often been proved to be reliable. Nevertheless, this fact ought to serve only to sharpen our critical faculties but not to assuage them.

In the case of the Qur'an, the situation is very different. The authorship of the Qur'an is a uniform one. The scholarly occupation with it goes back almost to the time of its author. The milieu and linguistic environment in which it originated were quite familiar to the early interpreters. Therefore, it is, indeed, permissible to question the legitimacy of any departure from the traditional understanding. One may add that the amount of independent material for purposes of control is much smaller in the case of the Qur'an than it is in that of the Bible. Furthermore, the pre-Islamic history of Arabia is much less known than the ancient oriental setting of the Bible, so that there will always be missing links between the statements of the Qur'an and their supposed sources.

Yet, few scholars would deny that the traditional Qur'an interpretation can and should be subjected to all the known rules of philological criticism. If the situation should require it, the traditional interpretation may, and ought to be, dispensed with. It may then be replaced by hypotheses of our own. Those hypotheses might, of course, often be as far from the mark as the rejected traditional interpretation. Still, they will have their rightful place and fulfill a useful purpose in the trial-and-error method, which alone can be expected to throw light into the dark corners of scholarship: al-zann miftdh l-yagin [conjecture is the key to certainty].

There are a number of reasons that show the possible fallibility of the traditional interpretation of the Qur'an. It might seem an all too obvious and unconvincing argument to point to the constant differences of the interpreters and conclude from their disagreement that none of them is right. However, there is something to such an argument. Although most of the commentators have their special ax to grind, one should think, at least in a number of instances, that if an evident and simple explanation existed, there would have been much less obstinate disagreement.

The existence of words and topics in the Qur'an that clearly are of foreign origin offers a better argument. Muhammad himself might have been acquainted with their correct interpretation (though, admittedly, this is an assumption that can hardly be proved). But it is certain that their correct interpretation often eluded the commentators.

One may also refer to the tradition according to which the Prophet did not like to be questioned about religious matters, including, probably, the interpretation of the Qur'an.' It would seem very plausible that when he was developing into the important political leader that he became in Medina, Muhammad was hesitant to let himself be forced into giving explanations concerning a great many points of the early revelation.

Then, there is the fact that the pagan environment in which Muhammad grew up began to shrink-through his efforts-already during his lifetime. The early Muslims, who must have possessed a good knowledge of it, can be certain to have done all in their power to repress that knowledge.

Finally, idioms change rapidly. In addition, all the efforts the commentators made, in order to gain authentic information on linguistic points, may have greatly suffered from the power of suggestion, which only the most highly trained and experienced researcher can avoid in dealing with linguistic informants.

Three well-known problems in the Qur'an have been here selected as illustrations of the preceding remarks. The solutions proffered are in no way considered final, but it is hoped that it will be considered legitimate to seek solutions along the lines here suggested.


The famous verse IX.29 has been of tremendous practical significance in the lives of millions of people. It reads: "Fight those who do not believe in God and in the Last Day and who do not consider forbidden what God and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not take as their religious norm the true religious norm, of those who have been given the Book, until they give al-jizyata can yadin wa-hum sagirun."

Sdgirun occurs elsewhere in the Qur'an. It means "humble, lowly." Al-jizyah and an yadin, however, have no parallel in the Qur'an. The phrase an yadin has so far completely defied interpretation. All postQur'anic occurrences of it are based upon the Qur'dn.2

For the commentators, especially those who were interested in the legal aspects of Qur'an interpretation, it was very natural to try to find some details about poll tax collection in the difficult phrases, some evidence of how it should be collected, since there was so very little they had to base their poll tax theories on. Therefore, they were eager to interpret the words can yadin wa-hum sagirun in a way that would give them some authoritative hint concerning the collection of the poll tax.

On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that Muhammad himself should have bothered with such details. The practical side of poll tax collection must have been entirely uninteresting for him in the historical situation in which the Qur'anic verse was revealed. There was no need for him to state anything else except that the People of the Book should pay something. Consequently, we cannot expect to find in the verse the details the commentators were inclined to find in it.

The objection may here be raised that the phrase wa-hum sagirun actually seems to indicate some aspect of poll tax collection. This could be the case, if the phrase is understood as it sometimes is, but in order to achieve a correct understanding of it, we have to pay attention to a subtle nuance in meaning that, at times, was rather cavalierly disregarded by Qur'an commentators and translators.3 It is, indeed, grammatically possible to interpret the hal sentence as referring to the mode of giving the jizyah: "being humble, while paying the jizyah" = "paying it humbly." However, the hat sentence may refer to the status of the People of the Book at the time when they make their payment: "paying the jizyah while [since] they are in a state of humiliation." Both interpretations are possible, but the latter alternative is the more natural one of the two (cf. also Qur'an XXVII.37/37). Consequently, wa-hum sagirun does not refer to the mode of payment, but to the general condition in which the people who make the payment find themselves.

The phrase, therefore, would not support any interpretation of 'an yadin as referring to a detail of the manner of poll tax collection, and the general tenor of the revelation militates against it. Thus, all those interpretations that find such a reference in an yadin have very little in their favor. This does away with such interpretations-all of them conveniently summarized by al-Baydawi, who, in turn, was already quoted by G. Sale in his translation of the Qur'an4-as mungadin, "being docile"; ,an gina, "from wealth"; nagd"" musallamah an yad ild yad, "in currency, being handed from one hand to the other"; musallimin bi-aydihim gayr bd'itin, "handing it over personally, not sending it."

The last mentioned interpretation has been adopted by legal theorists. It found wide acceptance, especially with the translators. It occurs, for instance, in the translations of Marracci (Latin), Henning (German), C. H. Becker (in EI, s. v. Djizya), N. P. Aghnides,5 and T. Sabbagh.6 It also has important philological support. In his Tafsir, at-Tabari says: "'An yadin: from his hand to the hand of the one to whom he pays it. Thus, the Arabs (Bedouins) say to anyone who gives something to someone who has control over him: He gave it 'an yadihi, or `an yad." 7

This statement of at-Tabari could well be decisive. It is certainly possible that a phrase such as can yadin acquired some such special meaning in idiomatic usage. R. Bell, in his translation of the Qur'an, ingeniously translates an yadin through "offhand." In a footnote to the translation, he states that the exact meaning of the phrase is uncertain. In fact, "offhand" would be quite meaningless in the context. It is, however, a good reminder of the fact that exactly the same elements that we find in Arabic ,an (off) yadin (hand) are combined in English in an idiomatic expression with a meaning that could hardly be guessed from its component ele- ments.8 The same could have been the case with Arabic can yadin, and the problem would be largely solved-if we could be convinced that atTabari has here preserved some genuine linguistic information. Unfortunately, there is nothing to prove that this was the case. There is no independent information to support at-Tabari's statement. It also did not find the general acceptance by Qur'an commentators, which, we should think, it would have found if they had considered it reliable. It seems, therefore, not necessary for us to abide by at-Tabari's dictum.

Yad has very many derived meanings in Arabic. The Qur'an commentators naturally thought of that, not only when they were interested in finding details of the manner of poll tax collection (as in the case of gina, above), but apparently also when they had no such thought in mind. We thus find in al-Baydawi: 'An yad gahirah `alayhim bi-ma`na`ajizin, "from a hand that has power over them, in the sense of being impotent"; further: 'An in`am alayhim, "from [here, apparently, in the sense of `for'19 being shown kindness." These interpretations, especially the last one, seem to be on the right track. They render, however, no account of the meaning of can in the context, and, of course, they do not consider the possibility that jizyah, in this verse of the Qur'an, could be anything but the technical term for poll tax.

In fact, it would seem possible that jizyah (whatever its origin) was assimilated here in Muhammad's mind'0 to the Arabic verb jaza, "to rec- ompensate" and that the preposition an depends on the noun jizyah, which retains part of its verbal force. Jizyah an would thus mean "recompensation for." Such combination of a noun (with article or another form of determination) and depending preposition is not infrequently found in Arabic; cf., for instance, Qur'an V.7 (10), etc.: ni'mata llahi `alaykum, and XII.6 (6): ni`matahu 'alayka; XXII.30 (31): ar-rijsa min alawtan; XXI.18 (18): al-waylu mim-ma tasifun; XXXIII.38 (38), 62 (62): sunnata llahi fi l-ladana; ... and XCVII.4 (4): bi-idni rabbihim min kulli amrin, if this verse must be understood to mean "with the permission of their Lord for everything."11 A minor difficulty is the fact that the preposition depending on jizyah would be can while, in the required meaning, jaza is construed with bi, cf. Qur'an XXXIII.24. Elsewhere, however, an is also found in connection with the verb.12

What, then, would be the particular meaning of yad that would best fit in with the suggestion just made? It might be "kind treatment."11 More fitting, however, would be the meaning of "solidarity, support coming from solidarity shown to someone," as we find it, for instance, in the story of Hatib b. AN Baltacah.14 The meaning of the whole doubtful phrase would thus be:

Until they give recompensation [tax] for support from solidarity [shown by us to them], while they are in a state of lowliness.


The hapax legomenon as-samad occurs in one of the most prominent suras of the Qur'an, the famous Surat al-Ihlas which, according to the tradition, equals one-third of the whole book. It has a long and varied history behind itself both in Islam and in Western scholarship, but its meaning has not yet been fixed with any certainty.

The treatment that the word has received in Western scholarship can by no means be considered an exemplary one. As a rule, it is translated by "eternal," a meaning of as-samad which is indicated by some Arabic sources, but which, though old,15 has never been credited with much authority. As far back as I was able to follow up the occurrence of "eternal" for as-samad in the West, the first scholar to have it, among other meanings, is A. Giggei in his Thesaurus linguae Arabicae.16 However, for the Qur'anic passage, Giggei has: Deus ad quem omnia nostra diriguntur. Perfectissimus. It might be noted that Giggei's predecessor, Fr. Raphelengius, in his Lexicon Arabicum,17 renders samad with indese- cabilis, incorporeus. Before that, there could be no question of adopting the translation of "eternal," except, perhaps, in the thirteenth-century Spanish translation of al-Mubassir b. Fatik's Muhtar al-hikam where assamad appears to have been rendered through el durable.18 The Qur'an translation produced for Peter of Cluny in 1143, which has been unjustly maligned as being of a poor quality since the days of the great Scaliger,19 has necessarium omnibus et incorporeum.20 The Vocabulista in Arabico misunderstood the Arabic tradition and thus thought that as-samad meant venter.21 The ninth-century Theodor Abu Qurrah renders as-samad by 6cpup6nrlxtios "hammered together, solid."22

With the publication of A. du Ryer's French translation of the Qur'an in 1647, the translation of as-samad through "eternal" found universal acceptance. It was promoted by J. Golius's Lexicon Arabico-Latinum, which featured perpetuus, permanens among other significations of samad.

A brief survey of a number of translations of the Qur'an into various languages presents the following picture:23

G. Arrivabene (Venice 1547, from Bibliander): necessario a tutti, & incorporeo.

S. Schweigger (Nurnberg 1616, 1623, from Arrivabene) not available, but the Dutch translation following Schweigger (Hamburg 1641) has: een eenich God(!).

A. du Ryer (Paris 1647, 1649, 1672; Den Haag 1683, 1685; English translation London 1649, in 8° and 12°, 1688); eternal, eternell.

I. H. Glazemaker (Amsterdam 1696, Leiden 1721, from Du Ryer): eeuwig.

L. Marracci (Refutatio Alcorani, Padova 1698): Deus sempiternus.

D. Nerreter (Neu eroffnete Mahometanische Moschea, Nurnberg 1703, following Marracci): der ewige Gott.

M. Chr. Reinecke (Leipzig 1721, following Marracci): Deus sem- piternus.

G. Sale (London 1734, and numerous later editions): the eternal God.

M. D. Fr. Megerlin (Frankfurt 1772): Der ewige Gott.

Fr. E. Boysen (Halle 1773, 1775) not available, but S. Fr. G. Wahl (Halle 1828) who follows Boysen has: Der ewige Gott.

M. Savary (Paris 11-83), not available, but the editions Paris 1821, 1826, 1829 have: II est eternal. However, an undated Paris edition has: C'est le Dieu a qui tous les etres s'adressent dans leurs coeurs (cf. Kasimirski, below).

L. Ullmann (Crefeld 1840, 1842; Bielefeld 1857, 1872; BielefeldLeipzig 1881): (der einzige und) ewige Gott.

M. Kasimirski (Paris 1841, in G. Pauthier, Les livres sacres de l'Orient; Paris 1847): C'est le dieu eternal. However, apparently under the influence of al-Baydawi, who was published in 1846-48, the editions Paris 1857, 1859, 1865, 1869, 1891, and probably many other editions (cf. also J. La Beaume, Le Koran analyse, Paris 1878, p. 250) have: C'est le Dieu a qui tous les etres s'adressent dans leurs besoins.

Fr. Crusenstolpe (Stockholm 1843): Gud den Evige.

L. J. A. Tollens (Batavia 1859, following Kasimirski and others): Hij is de God, tot wien alle wezens zich in hun behoeften wenden.

J. M. Rodwell (London 1861) not available, but London 1876 has: God the everlasting. London-New York 1908, 1937 (Everyman's Library, p. 29): God the eternal.

J. Penrice (A dictionary and glossary of the Kor-an, London 1873, s. v. samad): A Lord, one to whom reference is made in matters of importance; as an adjective it means, sublime, everlasting.

E. W. Lane (Selections from the Kur-an, new edition, Boston 1879, p. 5): God, the Eternal.

E. H. Palmer (Oxford 1880, Oxford-London 1928): God the Eternal.

Anonymous (Milan 1882, 1912, from Savary): e eterno.

Th. P. Hughes (A dictionary of Islam, New York-London 1885 , s. v. as-Samad): The Eternal (followed by some reference to the original meaning of the word).

E. M. Wherry (A comprehensive commentary on the Qur'an, Vol. 4, Boston 1886, London 1886): The eternal God.

K. J. Pentakis (Athens 1886, following Kasimirski and others): '6 i£oS 6 alwvtoS.

Fr. Ruckert (ed. by A. Muller, Frankfurt a/M 1888): Ein ewig reiner.

M. Klamroth (Hamburg 1890, p. 86): Allah ist ewig, nach Felsenart.

Persian translation (Tehran 1893; Bombay 1325/1907): Huday hi- niyaz (God without need).24

C. A. Nallino (Chrestomathia Qorani Arabica, Leipzig 1893, glossary, s. v. samad): perpetuus, sempiternus.

Th. Fr. Grigull (Halle 1901): Gott ist der Ewige.

M. Henning (Leipzig 1901): Der ewige Gott.

Sablukov (third edition, Kazan 1907):25 Krepkiy bog (The strong [firm]26 God).

Muhammad 'Ali (Lahore 1908): God is He on Whom all depend. The editions Woking 1917, Lahore 1920, have: Allah is the one on whom all depend followed by a long exegetical note, with references to Qur'an commentaries).

E. C. Branchi (Rome 1912, from Kasimirski): E' it Dio, al quale tutti gli esseri si rivolgono nei Toro bisogni.

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl (Allahabad 1912): God the eternal.

D. B. Macdonald (EI, s. v. Allah, 1.303a, Leiden 1913): The Eternal (followed by a brief reference to at-Tabari and to the uncertainty of the interpretation of the term).

A. Fracassi (Milan 1914): Dio Eterno.

L. Goldschmidt (Berlin 1916): Der unwandelbare Gott.

K. V. Zettersteen (Stockholm 1917): Gud, den Evige.

'Abdallah Allahdin (Extracts from the Holy Quran, Secundarabad 1922, p. 4): Allah is eternel.

H. Grimme (Paderborn 1923): Ein ewig Seiender.

E. Montet (Paris 1925, p. 268): Allah l'Eternel.

R. Brunnow-A. Fischer (Arab. Chrestomathie, fourth ed., Berlin 1928, glossary, p. 70): Furst, Herr; c. art. Beiname Gottes.

L. Bonelli (Milan 1929): Dio 1'eterno.

Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar (Singapore-Woking 1930): God Unique.

M. Pickthall (New York 1930): Allah, the eternally Besought of all.

A. Laimeche-B. Ben Daoud (Paris-Oran, n. y. [1932]): Dieu, le Refuge des bons.

Mahmud Muhtar-Katircioglu (The wisdom of the Qur'an. English translation from the French by J. Naish, Oxford-London 1937, p. 143): God the Unchangeable.

'Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali (Lahore 1937-38): God, the Eternal, Absolute. Cf. p. 292: Eternal, Free of all needs; on whom / Depend, to whom go back, all things (with exegetical note).

R. Bell (Ediburgh 1939, Vol. 2): Allah, the Eternal (followed by a footnote which refers to the Arabic commentators, and suggests a connection with Semitic smd "to bind together," thus: The Undivided).

As the preceding list shows, quite a number of translations were not available. Moreover, some translations had the good fortune of going through many editions, which at times underwent major or minor changes. Only one or the other of those editions was available, and at times, the first and the last editions were not among those available.

However, the collected evidence makes it sufficiently clear that the fatuous "eternal" has been the favorite of Western translators since the seventeenth century. One of the contributing reason for its persistence probably was the fact that "eternal" was a plain and simple word. Since Kasimirski, there has been, in addition, a haphazard and arbitrary usage of the meanings suggested by the Arabic commentators. Occasionally, we are treated to a liberal dose of the translator's free imagination. To my knowledge, no one ever attempted to take an independent philological approach to the subject before Bell a few years ago.

The passages in Arabic literature that deal with as-samad are very numerous. It would be tempting to trace the history of the word in Muslim dogmatics,27 philosophy,28 and mysticism.29 Though based upon the suggestions of the Qur'an commentators, the meanings that were attributed to as-samad to suit particular trends of thought are, of course, far removed from what could possibly have been the actual meaning of the word. Underneath all the glittering variety and fullness of meaning attributed to as-samad, the fact cannot be concealed that the most ancient and prosaic attempts to explain the word were not able to find much variety and meaning in it.

The fundamental text for the interpretation of as-samad is at-Tabari's Tafsir. His discussion of as-samad will, therefore, be reproduced here in extenso. At-Tabari says:30

"And His word: Allahu s-samad expresses (the idea): The One who is worshiped, He the samad, nobody except Him can be properly worshiped. The Qur'an commentators disagree as to the meaning of assamad.

(I) Some of them say: He is the one who is not hollow,31 who does not eat and drink.32 This opinion is held by the following personalities:

(1) 'Abd-ar-Rahman b. al-Aswad<'atiyah="" <="" 'abbas:="" as-samad="" is="" he="" (that)="" who="" (which)="" not="" hollow.<="" p="">

(2) Ibn Bassar

(3) Abu Kurayb

(4) Al-Harit

(5) Ibn Bassar

(6) AN Kurayb

(7) Ibn Bassar <,Abd-ar-Rahman

(8) Ibn Basgar

(9) Ya'qub<="" p="">

(10) Abu Kurayb and Ibn Baggar

(11) Abu Kurayb<="" p="">

(13) I was told on the authority of al-Husayn who said: I heard Abu Mu`ad say; Ubayd told me: I heard ad-Dahhak say concerning His expression as-samad: He who has no hollowness.

(14) A1-'Abbas b. Abi Talib <'Umar b. Rum-135 <'Ubaydallah b. Said, the guide of al-A'mag<'abdallah="" buraydah="" <'abdallah's="" father-he="" said:="" i="" do="" not="" know="" (anything="" about)="" it="" (?)="" except="" that="" he="" led="" back="" to="" the="" prophet-who="" as-samad="" is="" one="" who="" has="" no="" hollowness.<="" p="">

(15) Ibn'Abd-al-A'la<="" p="">

(16) Ibn'Abd-a1-A`la<="" p="">

(III) Others say: He is the one who did not beget and was not begotten.37 This opinion is held by the following personalities:

(1) Ibn Humayd<="" p="">

(IV) Others say: He is the lord (sayyid) whose lordship has reached its peak. This opinion is held by the following personalities:

(1) Abu s-Sa'ib

(2) Abu Kurayb, Ibn Bassar, and Ibn 'Abd-al-A'la<="" p="">

(3) Ibn Humayd<="" p="">

(4) 'Ali<="" p="">

(V) Others say: In reality, as-samad is the enduring one who does not disappear. This opinion is held by the following personalities:

(1) Bisr<="" p="">

(2) Ibn 'Abd-al-A'la

(VI) Says Abu Ja`far (at-Tabari): With the Arabs (Bedouins), as-samad means the lord to whom recourse is had38 and above whom there is nobody. It is used with reference to their noble men. Thus, the poet says:

And as-Zibrigan says:

There is no guarantee but (better than) a samad lord 40

(Conclusion) If this is so, the meaning (of as-samad) which is known from the speech of those in whose language the Qur'an was revealed is to be preferred for the interpretation of the word.

If the tradition of Ibn Buraydah on the authority of his father (above I, 14) were sound, it would be the statement most likely to be sound, since the messenger of God was best informed about what God meant and what was revealed to him.

All the other commentaries, as far as they were available, contribute nothing of any importance for the original meaning of as-samad. They often refer to all the opinions which are found in at-Tabari; occasionally have some further expansions and additions;41 or restrict themselves to what they consider the preferable interpretation, which as a rule is (VI) combined with (IV), and, less frequently, (I) in the sense of "solid." It may be added that later authors, such as Ibn Taymiyah,

Fahr-ad-din ar-Razi, and as-Suyuti,42 speculate much about the grammatical significance of the appearance of the article in connection with samad.

In examining at-Tabari, we can safely, without any further discussion, rule out (III). We can also say that (II) is nothing but a slightly different interpretation of the same basic concept which is at the bottom of (I). And (IV) is obviously a variant of (VI).

We are thus restricted to only three interpretations. One of them (V) is very weakly attested and is highly suspect as it seems to be merely a guess at the meaning of as-samad under the influence of speculations concerning the divine attributes.

On the other hand, the meaning of "solid," which is suggested by (I) and (II), cannot be discounted on the strength of the fact that this meaning was later twisted to suit dogmatic considerations. The meaning of "solid" is much too peculiar to have been invented by later dogmatists. We are forced to assume that the word samad somehow had the meaning of "solid" in Arabic. It is, however, quite a different story whether this meaning was actually intended in the passage of the Qur'an. Even if assamad, "solid," must be interpreted as one who has no need for food and drink, as the exegetes assert and as it appears to be corroborated by a very obscure verse to this effect quoted by the author of the Lisdn al-'Arab,43 it still would not be clear how a word having such a meaning would fit into the context of Sura 112. Unless a natural application of samad in this meaning to the context can be found, we would have to assume that this meaning of samad is not the one intended in the Qur'an.

Thus, there remains the meaning of "paramount lord," or "lord and refuge for those in any need whatever." This meaning would, of course, fit with the greatest ease into the context of Sura 112. Furthermore, some good philological evidence appears to exist for it. It is, therefore, to the credit of the philological acumen of Muslim scholarship that this meaning has in general been the preferred one. The crucial point is the significance and genuineness of the poetic testimonies.44

The dubious verse just referred to, the spurious verse attributed to Waraqah,45 and a verse ascribed to Hassan b. Tabit that clearly depends on the Qur'an46 can be disregarded. The other verses all refer to the combination as-sayyid as-samad, or, in one instance, al-bayt al-karim al- musammad. The evidence was most fully presented by al-Q511, who has the following remarks:47

AN `Ali (al-Qali) said: Abu Bakr b. al-Anbari told us as follows: There are three interpretations of as-samad. A number of lexicographers said: As-samad is the lord above whom there is nobody because the people have recourse to him in their affairs. So, he said and recited to us the following verses:

Another poet said:

He means Hudayfah b. Badr.49

Another poet said:

Abu 'Ali said: yusmadu means the same as yugmadu. Tarafah said:

Abu `Ali said: This interpretation is the one which is correct according to etymology and idiomatic usage .... 52

The special meaning of as-samad as such is not indicated by those verses. It hardly could be "lord" because it is used as an attribute to the word "lord" and, thus, presumably indicates a quality of a noble lord.53 This quality could be something like "solid," and then, there would be no difference between this interpretation of as-samad and the aforementioned one. However, this cannot be proven.

Whether we should stop here with our investigation or not depends largely on our willingness or unwillingness to accept the quoted verses as genuine. That they are more than one does not necessarily speak for their genuineness. I submit that we have no means at our disposal through which we could decide the question. There is enough room for suspicion to permit us having a look at some outside evidence.

There, we encounter a noteworthy phenomenon: the not infrequent religious connotation of the root smd.

In Ugaritic, smd appears as a stick or club that is wielded by Ball. In the Kilammu inscription, line 15, we find b'l smd, apparently, b'l as the owner of his divine club.54 In the Bible, the adherence of Israel to Baal of Peor is expressed by the niplal of the root smd. The verb is translated by the Septuagint through a i£ 6Oij (Numeri 25:3, 5; Ps. 106:28). The use of the verb doubtlessly reflects North Canaanite religious terminology.55

From Arabic sources, we learn that an idol of the 'Ad was allegedly called samud,56 which brings us rather close to the environment of Muhammad.

The South Arabic evidence unfortunately is not quite clear. It would seem little enlightening to combine a South Arabic proper name Smd with Arabic smd,57 and the alleged proper name smdn'mr, in which smdn would represent a theophoric element58 appears to be nonexistent.

It is true that the Canaanite references may belong to the root which in Arabic and South Arabic-Ethiopic59 appears as dmd "to bind, yoke." Aramaic, however, still has smd in this case (and not the expected *cmd). Thus, if samad should be a loan in Arabic, the s, instead of the d, which appears to be the regular root correspondence in Arabic, would not be surprising.

In view of this material, the suggestion may be made that as-samad in the Qur'an is a survival of an ancient Northwest Semitic religious term, which may no longer have been properly understood by Muhammad himself, nor by the old poets (if the gawahid should be genuine). This suggestion would well account for the presence of the article with the word in the Qur'an, and it would especially well account for the hesitation of the commentators vis-a-vis so prominent a passage. Such hesitation is what we would expect if we are dealing with a pagan survival from the early period of the revelation.


In the case of the "stoned Satan," scholars departed long ago from accepting the traditional interpretation as the original one, there is very strong evidence (cf. Sura LXVII.5/5) to show that Muhammad himself understood the expression in the traditional sense.60 The combination of rajim with Ethiopic rgum, "accursed," sponsored, among others, by Theodor Noldeke, is certainly very attractive.

The root rgm, to which Ethiopic ragama, "to curse," belongs, is becoming constantly better known from the other Semitic languages. Though the fact has occasionally been doubted,61 it certainly belongs to those verbs that originally meant "to speak," and which took on various specialized meanings in the different languages. Ugaritic rgm means "to say." Accadian rgm means "to call," "to speak up," and appears to be used preferably in connection with court proceedings where people "speak up" and complain loudly. Hence, derived words mean "noise." The Hebrew cognate is rgn. Its precise meaning would be very difficult to discover from the context in which the root occurs in the Bible. Neither the parallelism in Prov. 16:28, nor that in Isa. 29:24 is unequivocal. But the approximate meaning is indicated by a tradition of long-standing and general acceptance. In the Isaiah passage, the meaning would seem to be "those who make only indistinct noises," and in Prov. 16:28, "slanderer" would fit in very well, as it would in the other passages of Proverbs in which the root occurs (18:8 = 26:22, and 26:20). For Deut. 1:2762 = Ps. 106:25, the meaning of "to grumble" is clearly indicated. The root occurs in the later Hebrew and Aramaic of the Jews but seems always to be conditioned by the for biblical passages. In a Hebrew context, it is in this manner used for the rebellious talk of the snake in Genesis.63 In an Aramaic context, the root means "to grumble." The Itpa""al in the meaning of "to slander," which is indicated by G. Dalman in his Aramaisch-Neuhebraisches Hand- w5rterbuch,64 remains intangible in the absence of any references where the word occurs in that meaning. However, Jewish usage appears to be agreed that that was the approximate meaning of the root.

Rajim, according to its form, could be active as well as passive. And if, in Arabic, it is an old survival of Jewish (or, perhaps, Christian, though in view of the apparent nonexistence of the root in Aramaic in general, this would be less likely) religious terminology, its meaning could be "talker," or "grumbler." Both those meanings would characterize Satan as well as the adjective "accursed." Or rajim might even be "slanderer = Si6(3o7,,os."


1. Cf., for instance, al-Buhari, Sahih, ch. on i`tisam, 4.422 if. (Krehl's ed.)

2. Cf. R. Dozy, Supplement aux dictionnaires arabes, 2.849b-850a.

3. The translators often avoided the issue. Thus, C. H. Becker, article Djizya, in El, has "in Erniedrigung." R. Bell's translation (Edinburgh, 1937), vol. 1, p. 177, has "being subdued." The wrong side is bravely taken by N. P. Agh- nides, "Mohammedan Theories of Finance," Columbia University Studies in Political Science 70 (1916): 398, who has: "in order to be humiliated." G. Sale had the same mistake: "until they pay tribute, by right of subjection (='an yadin), and they be reduced low." L. Marracci (Refutatio Alcorani 305, Padova 1698) had a dubious: "donec persolvant tributum a manu (idest manibus suis) et ipsi sint parvi (idest humiles, ac subjecti)."

4. London, 1734, p. 152.

5. Loc. cit., fn. 3.

6. La metaphore dans le Coran (Paris, 1943), p. 133.

7. Tafsir (Cairo, 1321), 10.68.

8. Cf. also the Reader's Digest, June 1949, p. 80b: "he confiscates out of hand anything the farmer possesses," for a related English idiom.

9. Such a sense of an is also implied in the interpretation of the Qur'anic verse that is given in at-Tabari, Annales 1.265718, cf. H. Reckendorf, Arabische Syntax (Heidelberg, 1922), p. 69.

10. As it was by later philologists, cf. Lisan al-Arab (Bulaq, 1300-8), 18:15924: wa-hiya fi`latun min-a-l jaza'i ka'annaha jazat an qatlihi.

11. Cf. also H. Reckendorf, Die syntaktischen Verhaltnisse (Leiden, 189598), p. 157, and A. Bloch, Vers and Sprache im Altarabischen (Basel, 1946. Acta Tropica, Suppl. 5), p. 84 n. 57; further, op. cit. 102: ma ft l-qurbi li minki rahatun, where minki, according to Bloch, depends on al-qurb.

12. Cf. Lisan al-`Arab, loc. cit.

13. Cf. Lisan al-'Arab (Bulaq, 1300-8), 20.304, with reference to a verse by Bisr b. AM Hazim, see G. von GrUnebaum, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1939): 553.

14. Cf. al-Buhari, Sahih 2.268 Krehl.

15. See below, pp. 333-34.

16. 2, col. 1375 (Milan, 1632).

17. 248a (Leiden, 1613).

18. In the life of Socrates.

19. As quoted by Silvestre de Sacy, in Notices et Extraits (Paris, 1813), 9.104.

20. Published by T. Bibliander (Basel, 1543; also Basel, 1550), 4.188.

21. Cf. J. Fuck, Die arabischen Studien in Europa, in Beitrage zur Ara- bistik, Semitistik and Islam-wissenschaft (Leipzig, 1944), p. 108.

22. Patrologia Graeca 97.1545. For the derivation of these meanings from the traditional interpretation, cf. pp. 331 f.

23. A bibliography of Qur'an texts and translations was attempted by Wm. Sage Woolworth, in Moslem World 17 (1927): 278-89.

24. The Arabic-Persian dictionary of al-Maydani (d. 1124), entitled as-Sami ft 1-asami (Ms. or. Princeton 274H, fol. 4b), was much closer to the interpretation of the Qur'an commentators: Mihtar u-panah-i-niyazmandan (Lord and refuge of the indigent).

25. This was the only one of the translations into Slavonic languages that was available, cf. The Koran in Slavonic, A list of translations, compiled by the Slavonic Division of the New York Public Library (New York, 1937, from the Bulletin of the NYPL, 1937).

26. Langenscheidts Taschenworterbuch also lists "dauerhaft, haltbar" among the meanings of krepkiy.

27. Cf., for instance, al-Aglari, Magalat al-Islamiyin 209, 305, 505, 528, ed. Ritter (Leipzig-Istanbul, 1929-30. Bibliotheca Islamica vol. 1); al-Isfardyini, At- Tabsir fi d-din (Cairo, 1359/1940), p. 10.

The Qur'an commentator who dealt with the position of as-samad within the doctrine of the divine attributes in the greatest detail is Fahr-ad-din ar-Razi, Mafatih al-gayb (Cairo, 1327): 8.534-6.

A verse from a poem attributed to Waraqah b. Nawfal betrays its spuriousness by the fact that it reflects the dogmatic discussion of samad. It is, anyhow, said to have been composed in Islamic times. Cf. ag-Sarigi, garh al-Magamat al- Haririyah, 28th Magamah (Bulaq, 1300), 2.66 f. = 2.57 (Cairo, 1306), following Abu Bakr Ibn al-Anbdri (GAL 1.119); al-Bagdadi, Hizanah 2.37; 3.250 (Buldq, 1299).

28. Cf., for instance, Ibn Sind, Tafsir as-samadiyah, which forms the basis of the articles Samad and Samadiya in M.-M. Goichon, Lexique de la langue philosophique d'Ibn Sind (Paris, 1938), pp. 181 f.; Abu 1-Barakat Hibatalldh al- Bagdddi, Mu'tabar (Hyderabad, 1357), 3.61.

29. Cf., for instance, A. J. Arberry, The Mawagif and Mukhatabat of Muhammad Ibn 'Abdi '1- Jabbar al-Niffari (Cambridge 1935. E. J. W. Gibb Mem. Ser. N. S. 9), pp. 10, 33, 203, and the references indicated by Arberry.

30. Tafsir (Cairo, 1321), 30.196 f.

31. One should keep in mind that the word jawf means both hollowness, cavity, and belly, stomach.

32. Cf. also al-Q511, Amali (Cairo, 1344/1926), 2.288.

33. The brackets indicate that the text of the Tafsir has the full quotation.

34. With h, not h (cf. Ibn Hajar, Tahdib 3.393, Hyderabad, 1325-57).

35. I. e., Muhammad b. `Umar b. ar-Rumi, cf. Ibn Hajar, Tahdib 7.16; 9.360; Ibn Taymiyah, Tafsir Surat al-Ihlas (Cairo, 1323), p. 5.

36. Cf. Ibn Hajar, Tahdib, 9.217.

37. For III and IV, cf. al-Buhari, Sahih, 3.398 Krehl.

38. Often with the addition: In any need.

39. For the understanding of the verse, cf. Lisdn al-Arab 5.235, s. v. hayr, and Ibn Hisam, Sirah 401 Wustenfeld. Cf. below, n. 50.

40. For those verses, cf. p. 336.

41. Al-Qastallani, Irfad as-sari (Bulaq, 1306), 7.440, states on the authority of `Abdallah b. Yazid that "as-samad is a brilliant fire," obviously in invention of Sufi inspiration. A very detailed discussion of as-samad appears in the beginning of Ibn Taymiyah's Tafsir Surat al-Ihlas.

42. Itgan (Cairo, 1317), chap. 42, 1. 192.

43. 4.246 f. (Bulaq, 1300-8).

44. The alleged occurrence of samad in traditions (cf. Ibn al-Asir, Nihayah 2.299, Cairo, 1322) can be disregarded as unauthentic.

45. See above, n. 27.

46. Cf. Ibn Hisam, Sirah 7389 Wustenfeld; Omar A. Farrukh, Das Bild des Friihislam in der arabischen Dichtung (Dirs. Erlangen, Leipzig, 1937), p. 31.

47. Amalfi 2.291 f. (Bulaq, 1324) = 2.288 (Cairo, 1344). Al-Q51i relied upon Ibn al-Anbari who, as shown by as-Sarisi (above, n. 27), in addition to the other verses, also accepted the verse attributed to Waraqah.

48. At-Tabari (above, p. 334) ascribes this verse to as-Zibrigan, an early Islamic poet.

49. According to Abu Ubayd al-Bakri, al-La'ali ft ?;arh Amali al-Qali (Cairo, 1354, 1916), 1.932 f., this verse has 'Amr b. al-Asla, al-'A bsi (cf. Agani 16.31 f., Bu1aq, 1285) as its author. It is also quoted by al-Jawhari, Sihah (Bulaq, 1282), 1.240, who, in turn, is quoted in the Lisdn al-`Arab, 4.246.

50. The authorship of this verse is disputed. A male and a female poet of the sixth century are mentioned, Sabrah b. `Amr al-Asadi and Hind bint Ma`bad b. Nadlah. Cf. A. Fischer-E. Braunlich, Schawahid-Indices (Leipzig, 1934 ff.), p. 55; Abu Ubayd al-Bakri, loc. cit.; Ibn Durayd, Jamharah (Hyderabad, 1345), pp. 2.274 f. The last mentioned two authors attribute the verse to Sabrah, but a quotation by al-Jahiz, Bayan (Cairo, 1351/1932), pp. 158 f., which is distinguished by the fact that it has two additional verses, ascribes the verse to a woman of the Band Asad. Cf. also above, n. 39.

51. Cf. Tarafah, Diwan, ed. M. Seligsohn (25 Arabic) (Paris, 1901. Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Hautes Et. 128), p. 34.

Musammad here probably means "well joined together, well constructed." It hardly has anything to do with as-samad.

52. Al-Qali then goes on to refer to two other meanings of as-samad: "He who does not eat," and "solid."

53. A combination of samad in this sense with sindid, "leader," would be possible but is not proved.

54. Cf. C. H. Gordon, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1949): 115b.

55. A disputed magical use of the root in Hebrew (cf. A. Guillaume, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1942): 118 f.; G. R. Driver, ibid. (1943: 15) is too uncertain to be adduced here.

56. Cf. at-Tabari, Annales, 1.231 and 1.241; al-Masludl, Muruj ad-dahab (Paris, 1861-77), p. 3.295.

57. Cf. G. Ryckmans, Les noms propres sud-semitiques (Louvain, 1934), 1.184. The existence of a meaning of "cette stele" for an alleged hsmd does not appear to be born out by the reference to H. Grimme, Texte and Untersuchungen zur safatenisch-arabischen Religion (Paderborn, 1929), p. 45.

58. Cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum 4, no. 737; C. Conti Rossini, Chrestomathia Arabica meridionalis epigraphica (Rome, 1931), p. 222.

59. In South Arabic, this root also seems to occur in a theophoric name, lmdmd (CIS 4, no. 9735), cf. Ryckmans, op. cit., 1. 246: `Amm est ami (?).

60. Cf. A. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an (Baroda, 1938), pp. 138 f.

61. Cf., for instance, F. Praetorius, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 61 (1907): 620 f. It also would no longer seem advisable to attempt to establish a connection between rgm "to stone" and rgm "to speak."

62. In this passage, the Targum Onkelos uses a derivation of the root r`m. The translator probably was influenced by etymological considerations of the same sort as we find them in C. Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum2 (Halle, 1928), 739a, where Accadian ragamu is compared with Kern, etc.

63. Genesis rabba, section 20.

64. Second edition (Frankfurt a/M, 1922), 398b.

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