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Heavenly Cords and Prophetic Authority in the Quran and Its Late Antique Context

Kevin van Bladel
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Vol. 70, No. 2 (2007), pp. 223-246
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40379198
Page Count: 24
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Heavenly Cords and Prophetic Authority in the Quran and Its Late Antique Context
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Abstract

The asbāb mentioned in five passages of the Quran have been interpreted by medieval Muslims and modern scholars as referring generally to various "ways", "means", and "connections". However, the word meant something more specific as part of a biblical-quranic "cosmology of the domicile". The asbäb are heavenly ropes running along or leading up to the top of the sky-roof. This notion of skycords is not as unusual as it may seem at first, for various kinds of heavenly cords were part of Western Asian cosmologies in the sixth and seventh centuries CE. According to the Quran, a righteous individual may ascend by means of these cords to heaven, above the dome of the sky, where God resides, only with God's authorization. The heavenly cords are a feature of quranic cosmology and part of a complex of beliefs by which true prophets ascend to heaven and return bearing signs.

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