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Reading The Qurʾan As Homily: The Case Of Sarah'S Laughter

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Chapter Summary

For when Qurʾanic exegesis (tafsir) arose, the exegetes (mufassirun) were either not aware of the details of the biblical story to which the Qurʾan alludes, or, perhaps more likely, were mistrustful of biblical literature and commentary. Instead of turning to biblical literature for the details of the visitation story, mufassirun attempted to find those details by extrapolating references in the Qurʾan. This proved particularly vexing in regard to one peculiar detail of passage: the mention of Abraham's wife laughing in Qurʾan 11:71. There is reason to believe, then, that in its reference to Sarah's laughter the Qurʾan is participating in an interpretive tradition, prominent in the thought of Syriac Christian writers like Ephrem, according to which the annunciation to Sarah is connected with that to Mary. In this case, at least, a clearer understanding of the Qurʾan emerges not by separating it from Bible, but by joining the two together.

Keywords: biblical literature; Qurʾan; Sarah's laughter



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