Feedback and Discussion on The Original Christian Quran

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26 comments on “Feedback and Discussion on The Original Christian Quran

  1. A question regarding the fascinating article compilation “Original Christian Quraan”:

    In the Khuzestan Chronicle dating from the 7th century there is mentioned “Dome of Abraham” in the far off deserts and how Arabs inherited it from their ancestors. Do you think this refers to Maccah in Saudi Arabia or Sinai? If Sinai, why has it not been mentioned by the supposed Nestorian source of the Chronicle which should have been aware of Sinaitic sanctuaries? God bless, Adiel

    • Brother Richard Brother Richard

      05/05/2016 at 5:54 pm Reply

      Thank you my friend for your interesting question. I notice that the Khuzestan Chronicle itself does not claim to know what the Dome of Abraham was, and also says the place was so named after what it once “was” not what it was when the Chronicle was written, and that it was a traditional site. This implies the place was in ruins in the Chronicler’s day, but was remembered amongst the Ishmaelites as a place where a dome built by Abraham once stood. As the same passage locates it clearly in the deserts frequented by Abraham, it must be in the Sinai, Desert of Paran, or thereabouts. It is an interesting fact that Sinai is peppered with dome-like or beehive structures, built without mortar. These are early “tholos” like structures and are most likely the same buildings found later in the Mediterranean and far West (even in the Orkneys!). They are very early and probably represent the tribes who inhabited Paran in Abraham’s day, that is the Anakites, Rephaim etc. It is very possible, though I have not looked into it, that there was a site in or near Wadi Feiran (where such buildings are found), originally a beehive-shaped building, which the Saracens associated with Abraham. And he may well have been actually so associated, if he adopted the practice from his neighbors and allies the Anakites.

      • Thanks for your response! I googled and found that there indeed were tholos used by hermits at Sinai in the 6th and 7th centuries: http://chapel.upperroom.org/the-chapel/saints/24
        I wonder what was the Syriac word for “dome” in the Chronicle? If it was same as in Arabic, qubbat, it would perhaps likewise refer to a domed tent, tabernacle or a like. Certainly it is not refering to a cubic structure like that in Maccah.

        • Brother Richard Brother Richard

          05/05/2016 at 8:55 pm Reply

          I haven’t checked the Syriac yet, but give me a bit of time. Another possibility is that the Dome of Abraham in the Chronicle is the Dome built over the Masjid Ibrahim in Hebron by the “Umayyads” which could refer to Othman himself or one of his successors. This is mentioned in Mujir ad-Din: “I was told” says Mujir “that domed chambers over the tombs attributed to al-Khalil {Abraham} and his wife Sarah and Jacob and his wife Leah were built by the Sons of Umayyah.” (Mujir 1283:57-58, 1973, I:61). This is an isolated reference, but Othman certainly would predate the Khuzestan Chronicle. Hebron was Kiryat Arba within Anakite territory, and a known habitation of Abraham.

          • It is interesting that in the Khuzestan Chronicle the Dome of Abraham and his desert sojourn is mentioned taking place due to his growing wealth and the need to be separated from the Canaanites. The only Biblical passage that comes close to this description is indeed Genesis 13 where Abraham parts ways with Lot and moves his tent to Mamre which is close to Hebron. During the Byzantine times the place was an important marketplace and sacrificial festivities were held annually with Jewish, Christian and Arab pilgrims arriving from afar, the common factor for them being descent from Abraham. This could, in my opinion, be one explanation to the “Dome of Abraham”, especially if Syriac “dome” derives from the root Q-B-H as a reference to a large tent, tabernacle, pavilion or the like (a structure of nomadic people or merchant markets). Mamre, of course, is not wilderness or desert area but perhaps there is some (con)fusion here between the two original Arab ancestral sanctuaries in Sinai and Mamre?

          • Brother Richard Brother Richard

            05/06/2016 at 6:53 pm

            Checked Syriac: the word is qubthah, “arched room” or “pavilion” or similar, like the Arabic qubbat. Difficult to say whether it means a solid structure here, but probably does as a contrast seems to be made with tents. I agree with you on your dating of the episode in Genesis. It does seem to fit the rather loose description in the Khuzestan Chronicle. Also this whole area was the Campus Damascenus in medieval Latin chronicles, roughly the wilderness of Paran, and the land of the Anakites (who fought around Damascus with Abraham — hence the term). It was certainly a midbar in Hebrew, “wilderness” where animals foraged. It was part of the midbar yehudah, wilderness of Judah in later terminology, and Teman/Paran was considered to include the birthplace of Jesus, Beth-lehem, in post-NT prophetic exegesis. This is by far the most probable meaning of the reference in the Khuzestan Chronicle. It implies that Othman himself or his immediate successor started building a dome-like structure over the already-revered site of Abraham’s burial at Kiryat Arba, as referenced in Mujir.

  2. Yes, I think it must be so. The pre-Islamic Arabic veneration of Abraham in Hebron is also a strong indication of northern origin of Islam (consisting of tribes primarily from Negev and Sinai region). There must have been a lot of confusion regarding the ancient geographic names, with names such as Paran, Teman, Midian, Edom and Dedan used on approximately the same region south of Israel extending from Sinai to the eastern side of Jordan.
    But how about Yathrib? The Khuzestan Chronicle makes the connection between the names Midian, Madina and Yathrib. What is the earliest mention of Yathrib and where was it located? I think it was mentioned at least in one pre-islamic Yemenite inscription as the origin of some slaves among with those from Egypt, Dedan and Ghazah. This, in my opinion, would place it on the northern part of Levant. Yathrib is once mentioned in the Quraan but I don’t think it is connected to the name Madina there? The fact that even the traditional Islam admits modern Saudi Madina was “renamed” is indicative of a transition of narrative locations having taken place in the formative years of early Islam.

    • Brother Richard Brother Richard

      05/07/2016 at 6:58 pm Reply

      Nabonidus in Iatribu is the earliest mention of Yathrib, but the identification with Medina is absurd. There is no evidence Nabonidus went so far south. It is much more reasonable to suppose Iatribu is in the vicinity (relatively speaking) of Tema, which was Nabonidus’ base. This suits the area around Ar-Moab. It used to be thought Yathrib was related to the name Jethro. As these ancient names (Edom, Dedan, Tema etc.) are primarily tribal names, that seems a reasonable hypothesis. Then we have an ancient tribal region of the madinat of Jethro, around the “city of Midian” becoming the Medina of later tradition. Jethro’s Midianite homeland is along the eastern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba and somewhat to the north and east also, so it fits exactly.

      • Thank you, interesting! (Sorry for posting the same text twice, you can remove the second one) It is sad the Saudi government has forbidden all archaeological excavations in Saudi Madina. Are you aware if there is any basis to the claims that the Masjid of the two qiblahs date from Mohamad’s days? Or that Saudi Madina was a Jewish trade settlement as the Sirat claim? On the contrary, Ar-Moab is reported having had a vibrant Jewish community in the Byzantine times so Mohamad’s encounter with the Jews could naturally have occured there.

        • Brother Richard Brother Richard

          05/08/2016 at 7:21 pm Reply

          Whatever the status of Medina at the time of Muhammad, and as you say it’s difficult to get scientific evidence when archaeologists are not free to excavate, there is no historical evidence that Muhammad himself had anything to do with it. Mecca seems to have been still desert during Muhammad’s lifetime. If the mosque of the two qiblahs can be proven to date to Muhammad’s time, there would have to be something historical or archaeological to prove that Muhammad’s followers did not reach that area in his lifetime. It doesn’t really affect the question in any other way, surely? What seems to have happened is that during the first Civil War amongst Muhammad’s followers the Umayyads chased out the Hashimites from Bakka = Feiran and they fled to the Arabian desert where they set up the “New Bakka/Mecca” carrying the black stone from Sinai with them. The Hashimites of Mesopotamia recognized this new Mecca because of its Hashimite associations.

          • Yes, and even if it was shown that the Masjid of the two qiblahs dates from the 7th century, it would be difficult to determine its exact date accurately, I.e. whether it was built during or immediately after the Prophet’s life, as there were probably people from various Arabic locations among the nomadic followers of Mohamad. The Quraanic passage regarding the “change of qiblah” is so vague that you can’t even tell if it’s meant as a historical or an allegorical reference.
            In my opinion, if there was a change of prayer direction during Mohamad’s lifetime it was probably towards Sinai, the site of the first revelation (a “neutral” site available to all compared to the ethnocentric sanctuaries in Jerusalem, Shechem or today’s Maccah), a theme that perhaps echoes in John 4:20-21.

          • Brother Richard Brother Richard

            05/09/2016 at 6:13 pm

            Agree totally on idea that the change of qiblah in Muhammad’s own time was from Jerusalem to Sinai, the latter called in the Othmanic Quran Masjid al-Haram, the mosque of the Sanctuary. (Othmanic Quran al-Baqarah 2:138ff.) This is a reference to the sanctuary where Hagar found the fountain opened up by God on Sinai, subsequently changed into an idolatrous site, then restored to the worship of the God of Abraham by Muhammad. From what I have been able to discover about the murky origins of the Mosque of the Two Qiblahs in present-day Medina, it has undergone several extensive restructurings, the latest in 1987, when the earlier two prayer-niches (indicating the directions of qiblah) were reduced to one (!) and that the one facing Saudi Mecca (of course). The other originally faced north towards Sinai/Jerusalem (difficult to be more precise without more detailed scholarly materials). The earliest structure was built around AD 626, within Muhammad’s lifetime. When the restructuring was done in 1987 a good report was made of the older levels, and the foundation stones of the earlier mosque revealed that the building faced north (Sinai/Jerusalem). In the earliest period the whole structure (wherever any mosque was located) was oriented towards the qiblah.

  3. Yes, the identification of Masjid el-Haraam with the Sinai sanctuary is certainly correct as it is the only candidate that fits the narrative of having originated as a site revered by monotheists (Moses, Elijah, Desert Fathers) and then having turned into a pagan cultic center before Mohamad.
    The dating of the mosque of qiblatain to Mohamad’s days is interesting. Perhaps there was a connection between the Prophet and the people of Madina though it is not clear if Mohamad himself ever lived or visited Madina. The Jewish merchant networks probably connected his early followers to various trading centers accross the Arabian lands.
    The so-called “Constitution of Madina” is also an enigma. It, of course, is known only from a copy of a copy but is taken as authentic by many. Perhaps the early muhajiroon consisted of members of various localities and they certainly had influence in more than just one city. I think there is an argument that the Quraishi name originally meant something like “congregation”, “assembly”, perhaps pointing to multiethnic composition of Mohamad’s followers.
    Tom Holland and Michael Cook have pointed to monotheistic tendencies already among pre-Mohamad Arabs so we don’t really know what kind of religion was followed by, say, 7th century people of Madina or those who built the earliest layer of the Qiblatain mosque.

    • Brother Richard Brother Richard

      05/10/2016 at 5:53 pm Reply

      I’m guessing totally here, but I presume Medina was on the caravan route to Yemen, and its connections were principally with Nabataea, Ammonites, Moabites etc. The latter area is or includes Yathrib. This was of interest early on to Nabonidus as his “campaign” so called by himself was doubtless directed at securing his possessions in Negev, Sinai, Levant generally, against insurrection. The so called mosque in Medina could be any early place of worship oriented towards (say) Jerusalem, perhaps and most probably Jewish. Later it was occupied by followers of Muhammad, at the edges of the zone which was more central to their interests at the time, viz. Sinai, Palestine, Syria etc. When Muhammad passed on in Ar-Moab he was buried there, and his near relatives were based there too. During the Civil War they took his remains to the farthest edge of their zone, viz. present-day Medina, the name perhaps intended to link the new location with the “city of Midian” Ar-Moab, where his original tomb was. (Some doubt that Muhammad’s remains are actually now held in Medina, as access is restricted.) All this is conjecture, but there are no hard historical facts, apart from the sources quoted in the Original Christian Quran. The Quraishi tribe still exists in Sinai (the original location), around Feiran, which is where Muhammad was reared.

      • Thank you, sounds logical. Perhaps Yathrib/Iathrippa/Iatribu as the land of Jethro’s nomadic tribe was a relatively wide area, stretching from Dead Sea region towards Gulf of Aqaba and southeast along Red Sea coast. In the 7th century geographic mind it could, perhaps, include a town as south as modern Madina. In essence Yathrib with it’s Midianite connotations would constitute the heartland of early Islam with Madina pethaps serving as its southernmost center.
        Quraishi tribe in Sinai sounds interesting, can you refer to a source (online or printed) where to learn more about it?

        • Brother Richard Brother Richard

          05/11/2016 at 5:36 pm Reply

          On Quraishi in Sinai I have a section at http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/sinaitic-inscriptions-online/content/sinaitic-inscriptions10.html.
          The Korashy (variously spelled) are (or were at the turn of the 20th century) the second most important subdivision of the Szowaleha tribe of the Towara Beduin. This is Muhammad’s native tribe and occupied Faran at the time he received the Revelation via the great “Nestorian” prophet Sergius Bahira.

          • Interesting. In the text the Korashy were said to have originated in Hejaz. But should they be connected to the Saracens that were robbing the Christian monks at Sinai in pre-Islamic days? Bedouins, of course, are nomadic in definition and probably had trade or marital relations to tribes living on a wider area from Egypt delta to Hejaz and beyond.

          • Brother Richard Brother Richard

            05/12/2016 at 5:32 pm

            Since history for most Arabs begins with the Muslim invasions we can probably conclude the “migration from Hejaz” was in fact a statement of the relationship between the Korashy in Hejaz and the Korashy in Sinai, and obviously the movement is likely to have been from Sinai into Hejaz with the Muslim invasions. Undoubtedly the principal dealings of the late Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire was with the Saracen state in Sinai (centered on Faran). This is where Muhammad was located so we can conclude the Korashy (Quraishi) tribe to which he belonged was the same Korashy tribe still found in Sinai in the medieval period.

  4. Yes, and the text you cited interestingly connects Szoealeha also to Yitro’s Midianite tribe suggesting the Sinai Bedouins had ancient ties to tribes that had inhabited the region from the Biblical times.
    Many times northern Bedouines are presented in modern sources as recent arrivals, as if the Saracens/Ishmaelites/Midianites mentioned in pre-Islamic sources had somehow disappeared without a trace. But the earliest Christian sources that used the names “Saracens” and “Ishmaelites” on Arab invaders depict a continuity rather than discontinuity of the demographics of the regions from eastern Egypt to Transjordan.
    Your mention of Arab histories beginning from the times of the invasion is also interesting. I think Islamic communities in general tend to date their genesis to the time of their conversion. A non-Arab example would be the traditions of various Turkic tribes that view their origins in light of the conversion, usually with claims of Mirzade or Sayyid genealogy.

    • Brother Richard Brother Richard

      05/13/2016 at 12:56 pm Reply

      Fact is even Ammonites and Moabites still existed under that name at time Muhammad was in Sinai, as can be seen from the accounts of worship of idols at shrine of Abraham and Ishmael. This shows the Biblical landscape was still familiar, and so also would be the City of Midian at Ar-Moab, which was the ancient location of Baal-Peor.

      • I wonder if the deity name K’abar mentioned by Artzruni was in fact a corruption of the Arabic name qabar, ‘grave’, perhaps pointing to confusion between the two early Muslim sanctuaries: Abraham’s tomb (qabr Ibrahim) in Hebron and the Sinaitic sanctuary (ka’abat)?

        • Brother Richard Brother Richard

          05/15/2016 at 12:41 pm Reply

          No this is definitely the name Kabar “the Great One” meaning the Great Mother (“the Heavenly Venus” or Allat) worshiped in tandem with Dusares. This is why the belief spread in Christian circles in the early Islamic period that the cry Allahu Akbar was actually and properly the pagan cry Allah wa-Kabar, “Allah (the male god) and Kabar (the female)!”. The “Akbar” bit does raise suspicions because of its unusual form (in the context of a religious hurrah). It would mean that like the Black Stone, old pagan elements from the idolatrous days in the shrine on Sinai were retained amongst the followers of Muhammad though he did his best to rid his community of them. On the earlier point re. Yathrib, note Jethro’s name was originally Yether (Yatr) and ribu means “multitude” thus Iatr(r)ibu would be “the throng (multitude) of Jethro”. This very probable etymology confirms the tribal nature of the geographical term.

          • Yes, Kabar as a reference to Allat/Venus sounds logical, same with the etymology of Yathrib. So Yathrib would indeed refer to the Midianite territory in a wider sense, perhaps at one time having functioned as the general name of the loose political or trade league of mainly Jewish inhabited oasis from Dead Sea to perhaps Madyan, Tayma and al-Madina. I think most of these Jews were exiles and thus prefered to call the area under their control by an old geographic name related to Moses’ exile.

          • Brother Richard Brother Richard

            05/16/2016 at 12:57 pm

            I don’t know whether it would be true to say this area as a whole had a large population of Jews, as we’re talking here about east of the Dead Sea and southward. I would think it was mainly Nabataean in Muhammad’s days, but a large number of Jews (c. 12,000) immigrated into Ar-Moab, that is Midian-Medina, from Edessa after some conflict in the latter place just before Muhammad fled to Midian from Pharan-Mecca. These were the Jews with whom Muhammad allied and whom he led back into Israel in order to re-install them in their native land.

  5. Hello, we discussed a year ago about the original Sinaitic context of Quraan and the earliest layer of Islam. There was a word about the Sinaitic Badouin tribe Qararsha, allegedly descending from Prophet Mohamad’s tribe. I managed to find a source that explicitly connects this tribe to Wadi Feiran, Quraish (tribal confederation in Quraan) and the protectors of the Sinaitic monastery:

    “Qararsha, owning the palm groves of Wadi Feiran claim relationship with the Koreish (Quraish). In 1838 the Qararsha were excluded as protectors (ghafirs) of St. Catherine’s.” (Source: Field, Henry: “The Faiyum: Sinai Sudan Kenya”, University of California Press, 1952, p. 94).

    • Brother Richard Brother Richard

      02/21/2017 at 12:26 pm Reply

      Hello again. Yes, I note what Thomas Artzruni says: “At that time there were some despotic brothers in the regions of Arabia Petraea in the place (called) P’aran {Pharan}, which is now called Mak’a {Mecca} — warlike chieftains, worshipers of the temple of the Ammonites of the image called Samam and K’abar. It happened that one of them, called Abdla, died leaving a son of tender age called Mahmet {Muhammad}. His uncle Abutalib took and raised him until he reached puberty.” Here Muhammad’s family, of the Kureishy tribe, is definitely located in Pharan (Feiran), and this tradition has very ancient roots as can be seen from this link on the site: http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/original-christian-quran-online/content/original-quran11.html.
      Note also this on the Bedouin of Sinai: “1. The Szowaleha (Sawâlihah, Robinson; Soelhe, Ruppell; Saualhe, Lepsius). This is the largest of all, and boasts of being the first that settled in the land. They can be traced historically back to the Jedham, who were in Mohammed’s time the well-known inhabitants of Madian, on the east side of what is now the Gulf of Akaba. They seem to have entered the Sinai Peninsula somewhere between the seventh and the thirteenth centuries. If we can ascribe any historical foundation to Mohammed’s words, “Welcome are the ancestors of the wife of Moses; welcome the race of Shoaib” (i.e. Jethro), it would be certain that they are directly connected with the fate of Joseph (Gen. xxxvii. 27, 28), and with the marriage of Moses to the daughter of their priest Jethro (Ex. ii. 15, xviii. 14-23), as well as with the later fortunes of Israel (Num. xxx.). In the time of the greatest Mohammedan prosperity they were a cultivated and powerful people, far in advance of their descendants, as is manifested by the monuments of that time which remain, sparsely met with, it is true, yet satisfactorily exhibiting marks of what the Towara attained to after taking possession of the central mountain land of Sinai.” and “The subdivisions of the Szowaleha inhabiting the district mainly west and north-west of the convent, Burckhardt gives as four: 1. Ulad Said (Aulad Said, Robinson; Wellad Said, Lepsius); 2. Korashy (Kurrâshy, Robinson); 3. Owareme (Awarimeh, Robinson; Auarmi, Lepsius); and 4. Rahamy.” and “(2.) The Korashy (variously spelled by travellers). This seems to be a tribe which once came from the Hejas, and which was not affiliated at the outset in blood with the Towara, but which has at length become thoroughly blended with them. Their late sheikh Saleh was the first sheikh of the Peninsula. They seem to be out of favour at the convent; but under the powerful administration of their leader, they have long negotiated all bargains for safe conduct across the country. Schimper tells us that there are two subdivisions recognised among them.” — all these in context at: http://www.christianhospitality.org/resources/sinaitic-inscriptions-online/content/sinaitic-inscriptions10.html.
      Your source is an interesting one, as it shows the Feiran group still held this tradition as late as the 1950s. In the 19th century there were several detailed stories still told about Muhammad’s presence in the region, including the hoofprint of his horse etc. etc.

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