The Ascent of Ishmael: Genealogy, Covenant, and Identity in Early Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This essay argues that biblical genealogy serves as a fundamental organizing principle in the Qurān. In particular, the Qurān anchors the cultic and scriptural aspects of the Prophet's mission squarely on his community's descent from Abraham via Ishmael. The first part of the essay marshals qurānic evidence in support of this claim and critiques a number of recent studies that downplay or deny the significance of Abrahamic-Ishmaelite genealogy in the Qurān. The second part reinforces this significance by demonstrating that Ishmael's qurānic characterization as an upright prophet sharply contrasts with his predominantly negative portrayals in pre-Islamic writings. The final part shows that modern scholars initially acknowledged Abraham and Ishmael's key ancestral and cultic roles in the Qurān but came to see these roles as exclusively Medinan constructs. The essay challenge this view and offers a different explanation for the Qurān's varying portrayals of Abraham and Ishmael.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-484
Number of pages70
JournalArabica
Volume66
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Abraham
  • Ishmael
  • Qurān
  • early Islam
  • genealogy
  • universalism

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