Journeys in Holy Lands

The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis

By Reuven Firestone

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Paperback : 9780791403327, 265 pages, July 1990
Hardcover : 9780791403310, 265 pages, July 1990

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Table of contents





Part One: Background


1. Biblicists and Arabs
2. The Nature of the Literature


Part Two: The Syrian Prologue


3. Abraham's Emigration
4. The Tyrant
5. The Birth of Ishmael
6. Beersheba
7. The Angels Visit


Part Three: The Meccan Sequence


8. The Transfer to Mecca
9. The Jurhum
10. Abraham's Visits
11. Building the Ka'ba
12. The Pilgrimage


Part Four: The Sacrifice


13. Prelude to Sacrifice
14. The Sacrificial Act
15. The Redemption
16. Isaac or Ishmael?


Part Five: Appendices


1. The Exegetes and Their Sources
2. Traditionists Naming Isaac or Ishmael as the Intended Sacrificial Victim



Selected Bibliography



Scholars have long pointed to the great affinity between stories found in the Bible and the Qur'an, yet no explanation has been proposed that satisfactorily explains the odd combination of incredible likeness and unique divergence. Firestone provides a refreshing, new approach to scriptural issues of textuality, exegesis, and the origins and use of legend.

This book clearly presents the full range of Islamic legends from the Qur'an and early Islamic exegesis about Abraham's journeys and adventures in the Land of Canaan and Arabia, many of them available for the first time in English translation. The author examines this broad sample of Islamic legends in relation to those found in Jewish, Christian, and pre-Islamic Arabian communities, and postulates an evolutionary journey of the literature. He presents a thorough textual analysis of the material and proposes a model for understanding early Islamic narrative based in literary theory, approaches to comparative religion, and the history of the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Middle East.

Reuven Firestone is Assistant Professor of Hebrew language and literature in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literature at Boston University.


"Reuven Firestone discusses the relationships among Jewish, Christian, and Islamic treatments of Abraham and Ishmael without resorting to the older and invidious terms of borrowing and dependency. He is sensitive to the individual genius of each tradition while still demonstrating that they all operate in a shared universe of religious ideas. Firestone's work should become one of the models that future students of comparative religions will look to for this type of study. " — Gordon Newby, North Carolina State University

"I have done some work in the same field and found myself constantly reacting with growing excitement and enthusiasm to the author's approach, methodology, and conclusions. His division of the sources into biblist, pre-Islamic Arabian, and Islamic, is in itself, a very new and useful approach. " — William M. Brinner, University of California at Berkeley