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Marcel Poorthuis – Parable themes in Islamic transformation: an anthology with analysis

The similes and parables in Islamic tradition are strongly influenced by their Christian or Jewish predecessors. The Arabic mathal is related to the Hebrew mashal and both words convey a broad range of meanings, from proverb to simile and parable as such. Still, slavish copying is not in order here. Older studies of the Jewish sources of Islam often made the mistake to consider the Islamic stories as merely a bad copy of a Jewish original. Hence the specific characteristics of Islamic story-telling remained in the dark. It is clear, however, that the stories, even if relying on pre-Islamic predecessors, have been modelled and transformed in order to convey a message typical of Islam. Quite often, a conscious polemic with their predecessors can be detected. In this article, I have collected some examples of such story-telling from post-Qur’anic Islamic literature. By demonstrating the (often oral) influence of Jewish and/or Christian stories upon these narratives, the Islamic idiosyncrasies come to the fore.

 

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