The Inner-Qurʾānic Development of the Images of Women in Paradise: From the Ḥūr ʿĪn to Believing Women 

The Inner-Qurʾānic Development of the Images of Women in Paradise: From the Ḥūr ʿĪn to Believing Women 

This article explores the inner-qurʾānic development of the images of women in the qurʾānic Paradise and explains the possible reasons for this development via a consideration of qurʾānic images of women more broadly. Women appear in the qurʾānic Paradise as “houris” (ḥūr ʿīn), “spouses” (azwāj), “spouses who acted righteously” (wa-man ṣalaḥa min … azwājihim), “pure spouses” (azwāj muṭahharah), and “believing women” (muʾmināt). Such references to women in Paradise correspond to the inner-qurʾānic development of the female image. The “houris” are mentioned only in the Meccan period, while references to “pure spouses” and “believing women” occur exclusively in the Medinan period. Furthermore, after the believing men are rewarded with the houris in earlier Meccan verses, later Meccan verses discuss earthly spouses. In these later Meccan verses, as earthly women gradually rise in station as the spouses of believing men in Paradise, the houris seemingly disappear. In parallel with this development in the qurʾānic account of women in Paradise, the early Meccan sūrahs do not explicitly describe women as “believing women,” thus putting forward no explicit rules of good conduct for earthly spouses. Finally, it is not until the Medinan verses that women are treated as moral agents.

Review of Jefrey Einboden, The Qurʾān and Kerygma

An enduring interest in scholarship on the Qurʾān is the text’s engagement with biblical and post-biblical traditions. How does the Qurʾān develop or contest biblical characters, motifs, imagery, and diction? How should scholars characterize the relationship between the Bible and the Qurʾān, and precisely what texts or traditions does the Qurʾān engage with in particular? Does the Qurʾān exhibit an awareness of the text of the Bible itself, or does it reflect engagement with oral traditions? These are important questions in our endeavor to understand the genesis of the Qurʾān, but in his recent book Jeffrey Einboden reminds us that these questions address only part of the Qurʾān’s relationship with post-biblical traditions. Yes, the Qurʾān is shaped by earlier lore, but the text has also, in turn, shaped the inheritance of biblical literature.

Review of Carlos Segovia, The Quranic Jesus

The Quranic Noah (2015), this book is Carlos A. Segovia’s most recent contribution to the literature on the Qurʾān and its relationship to late antique Judaism and Christianity. The book also belongs to the same series, which aims to bring Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into interdisciplinary conversations about the reception and mediation of ideas within these religions. Segovia’s main purpose in this book is to “reread the Jesus passages in light of the Christological developments contemporary with the composition of the quranic corpus” (23). The author’s main concern is that in the modern study of the qurʾānic Jesus, scholars have basically moved in a single direction which is thematic and descriptive and focuses primarily on biographical episodes of Jesus and select verses which create a qurʾānic counter-Christology. This approach overlooks the multi-layered, polyvalent, and “highly complex Christology” (1) contained in the Qurʾān.

Review of Michael Pregill, The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur’an

Michael Pregill’s The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur’an sets out, via a thick reading of a single pivotal and representative narrative in the story of the Calf (or “Golden Calf” in common Jewish and Christian discourse), to situate the Qur’an within the larger religious and literary context of the Late Antique world. That it takes him nearly 450 pages to present and develop his argument attests to the complexity of the intertextual relationships he examines and the sticky methodological issues that have plagued and continue to beset those trying to make sense of traditions known from the Bible as they occur in the Qurʾān. It also attests to the extent of due diligence he undertook through his exhaustive reference to earlier research on the episode in its many literary settings. The core passage in question is found in Q Ṭā Hā 20:83–98, a qurʾānic chapter ripe with renderings of stories known also in the Jewish and Christian Bibles as well as other pre-Islamic extra-biblical works; a second and shorter telling is found also in Q al-Aʿrāf 7:148–153 and a brief reference in Q al-Baqarah 2:51–54.

Review of Gabriel Said Reynolds, Allah: God in the Qur’an

Gabriel Said Reynolds’ most recent book, Allah: God in the Qur’an, explores Allah’s characterization in the Qurʾān through His relationship with creation. Reynolds frames his discussion around the dichotomy of divine mercy and justice (or vengeance) in the Qurʾān; but the book is more than an analysis of the Qur’ān’s presentation of these characteristics. Rather, the book offers a wide-ranging introduction to theological debates framed by the Qurʾān, with a methodological intervention by Reynolds as to how to reconcile these dichotomous elements and the contentious debates they engender.

Review of Zishan Ghaffar, Der Koran in seinem religions

The Arab Muslim conquest of Palestine and Jerusalem from 636 to 640 CE marked the rise of the Islamic empires at the expense of Byzantium. Yet Byzantine Palestine was captured once before. As part of the war between the Byzantine and the Sasanian Empires, the troops of Khosrow II conquered various Palestinian cities, allegedly with the help of local Jewish groups, and took Jerusalem in 614, leading to a brief period of Jewish rule in the city. These events sent shock waves throughout the Christian Roman Empire and, though more difficult to reconstruct, also through the Byzantine and Sasanian Jewish communities. While Christians responded to the events by increasing their hopes for a military victory and by ever more urgently preparing for Christ’s return, many Jews hoped for the imminent rebuilding of the Temple and the end of the exile.

Review of W. Richard Oakes Jr., The Cross of Christ

In the middle of his translation of several traditions from al-Ṭabarī’s (d. 310/923) interpretation of Q al-Nisāʾ 4:157, Richard Oakes presents a story that would likely intrigue many readers well familiar with the Gospel passion accounts but with only the most general Islamic explanation of how Jesus did not die on the cross (190–191). As recorded by Oakes in his recently published The Cross of Christ: Islamic Perspectives, al-Ṭabarī’s story[1] begins with Allāh telling ʿĪsā that he will leave this world. ʿĪsā becomes “anxious about death” and calls his disciples together.[2] ʿĪsā prepares food for the disciples and tells them, “Come to me tonight, for I have need of you.” ʿĪsā gives them dinner and gets up to serve them. After the meal, ʿĪsā begins washing their hands with his own and then wipes their hands with his garment. In response to the protestations of the disciples ʿĪsā explains that he is leaving them an example: “Sacrifice yourselves for others as I have sacrificed myself for you.” Among other details included in al-Ṭabarī’s story, the disciples are not able to stay awake that night when ʿĪsā asks them to pray; ʿĪsā says that one of his disciples will deny him three times before the rooster crows next morning, and Peter then denies ʿĪsā in two encounters; and another disciple approaches “the Jews” and works out a price of thirty dirhams to point them to ʿĪsā. So, reports al-Ṭabarī, “They seized him and bound him tightly.” They bind him with rope and lead him away, saying, “You revived the dead and scolded Satan and freed the demon-possessed—and you cannot rescue yourself from this rope?” They spit on him and lay thorns on him and bring him to the piece of wood upon which they wanted to crucify him.

Review of Sarah R. Bin Tyeer, The Qur’an and the Aesthetics of Premodern Arabic Prose

I have attended several presentations by Islamic art historians in which they purported to present an Islamic theory of aesthetics that drew on the Qurʾān. These talks were characterized by sweeping generalizations about the qurʾānic text, an appalling absence of concrete examples, and great leaps from the text to rather vague aesthetic principles.