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Full Access Qur’ānic Commentators on Jewish and Zoroastrian Approaches to Menstruation 1

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Qur’ānic Commentators on Jewish and Zoroastrian Approaches to Menstruation 1

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Abstract The early Qur’ānic commentators argued that, in pre-Islamic times, Arabs observed many Jewish customs relating to menstruation. From the tenth century on, we find Qur’ānic commentators who claim that pre-Islamic Arabs observed Zoroastrian menstruation customs rather than Jewish ones. From the eleventh century on, commentators combined Jewish and Zoroastrian customs in their commentary on Qur’ān 2:222. This paper sets out the close relationship between Jewish and Zoroastrian rules regarding menstruation, which may explain why Jewish and Zoroastrian menstruation customs are connected in some Muslim scholars’ commentaries: the Muslim commentators were making an accurate assessment of the similarities between the two sets of customs. At the same time, we only find Jews and the Zoroastrians mentioned side by side in the Qur’ānic commentaries from the eleventh century on, since only by then had Muslim scholars’ understanding of other religions expanded enough to provide this knowledge. Early commentators simply did not know enough about Judaism and Zoroastrianism to notice the similarities. It is possible, though by no means certain, that the post-tenth century Qur’ānic commentators who mention only the Jews in regard to pre-Islamic menstruation rituals did so because they were not familiar with Zoroastrian customs and their similarities to those of Judaism.

Affiliations: 1: Center of Basic Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan, 52900 Israel hagaimazuz@gmail.com

10.1163/157007012X622935
/content/journals/10.1163/157007012x622935
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Abstract The early Qur’ānic commentators argued that, in pre-Islamic times, Arabs observed many Jewish customs relating to menstruation. From the tenth century on, we find Qur’ānic commentators who claim that pre-Islamic Arabs observed Zoroastrian menstruation customs rather than Jewish ones. From the eleventh century on, commentators combined Jewish and Zoroastrian customs in their commentary on Qur’ān 2:222. This paper sets out the close relationship between Jewish and Zoroastrian rules regarding menstruation, which may explain why Jewish and Zoroastrian menstruation customs are connected in some Muslim scholars’ commentaries: the Muslim commentators were making an accurate assessment of the similarities between the two sets of customs. At the same time, we only find Jews and the Zoroastrians mentioned side by side in the Qur’ānic commentaries from the eleventh century on, since only by then had Muslim scholars’ understanding of other religions expanded enough to provide this knowledge. Early commentators simply did not know enough about Judaism and Zoroastrianism to notice the similarities. It is possible, though by no means certain, that the post-tenth century Qur’ānic commentators who mention only the Jews in regard to pre-Islamic menstruation rituals did so because they were not familiar with Zoroastrian customs and their similarities to those of Judaism.

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/content/journals/10.1163/157007012x622935
2012-01-01
2016-12-05

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