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Charging Steeds or Maidens Doing Good Deeds? A Re-Interpretation of Qur'āan 100 (al-‘;ādiyāt)

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In A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, Gunter Lüling (2003) argues that about one-third of the Qur'ānic text is based on ancient Christian Arabic hymns that were reworked and given a new meaning by the Qur'ān editors after the Prophet's death. This was possible because the Uthmanic mushaf lacked dots, which allowed for different readings. In this essay, I reconstruct the first five verses of Koran 100 (wa-l-‘ādiyāt) by changing the dotting scheme of four words. Informed by a close examination of the syntactic structure and vocabulary of these verses and a comparison with cognates in Syriac and Hebrew, two languages with a clear influence on the Qur'ān, this reconstruction results in a narrative that is more coherent semantically and syntactically than the traditional interpretation. Whereas in the traditional interpretation these verses describe steeds charging into battle, in my reconstruction they refer to maidens bringing light to the world.

Affiliations: 1: Cornell University

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