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Prophethood, Marriageable Consanguinity, and Text: The Problem of Abraham and Sarah's Kinship Relationship and the Response of Jewish and Islamic Exegesis

Reuven Firestone
The Jewish Quarterly Review
Vol. 83, No. 3/4 (Jan. - Apr., 1993), pp. 331-347
DOI: 10.2307/1455157
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1455157
Page Count: 17
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Prophethood, Marriageable Consanguinity, and Text: The Problem of Abraham and Sarah's Kinship Relationship and the Response of Jewish and Islamic Exegesis
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Abstract

The story of Abraham hiding his marital relationship with Sarah from a threatening authority in a foreign land occurs twice in Genesis and is treated in some detail in both Jewish and Islamic exegetical literature, the latter despite the fact that it neither occurs nor is alluded to in the Qur'ān. The biblical renditions of the story raise questions about the character of the patriarch when they portray him as either lying about his relationship with Sarah, or as having engaged in a forbidden (incestuous) marital union. Both Jewish and Islamic exegesis respond to these problems. Although it has often been suggested that Islamic tradition is "dependent" upon Jewish tradition, the nature of the exegetical responses to the problem of Abraham and Sarah's kinship suggests that Muslim religious scholars evolved a uniquely Islamic exegesis within a shared realm of religious and literary discourse during the early Islamic period. A finding of anecdotal interest suggests that one solution to the problem of Abraham and Sarah's kinship and marital relationship, which originated in a Jewish context but was subsequently lost, turns up as a popular tradition in Islamic exegesis on the subject.

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