Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis

By Reuven Firestone | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

THE TYRANT
The Islamic legend about Abraham, Sarah, and the tyrant is dominated by sixteen reports attributed to Abū Hurayra. 1 Of the total of twenty-eight traditions, sixteen are full narratives, while the remainder consist of narrative fragments or comments referring to some aspect of the story. Half of the narrative traditions are given on the authority of Abū Hurayra, 2 and the other half are given on the authority of a variety of sources which will be detailed below.A paradigmatic rendition of the legend based on all the narrative traditions attributed to Abū Hurayra follows.
1. Abraham told only three lies: one which can be found in Q. 37:89, 3 one in Q. 21:63, 4 and his statement to the tyrant when he told him that Sarah was his sister (7/8). 5
2. _________________________________________________________. 6
3. The tyrant (jabbār) or king of a town through which Abraham passes is told that Abraham is with a beautiful woman (7/8). The tyrant/king sends a message to Abraham asking who she is. Abraham tells him that she is his sister (7/8).
4. __________________________________________________________.
5. Abraham then speaks with Sarah and tells her not to contradict him (8/8), for she is indeed his sister "to God" (1/8) or they are the only believers or Muslims on earth (6/8) or both (1/8).
6. Sarah is brought to the tyrant and begins to pray (4/8), affirming to God that she is a true believer and that she has remained chaste to everyone aside from her husband. She requests that God prevent the infidel from touching her (3/8).
7. The tyrant/king reaches out to her and is stricken (8/8) with a seizure (4/8), or his hand is stricken (1/8).
8. Sarah prays to God to release him (1/8), or the tyrant/king tells her to pray to God to release him, for he says that he will not do it again (3/8).

-31-

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