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

By Reuven Firestone | Go to book overview
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Chapter 8

THE TRANSFER TO MECCA
While the Qur'ān refers to Abraham and Ishmael in Mecca, 1 it provides no explanation as to how they arrived there. The traditions found in this chapter fill out the qur'ānic references by establishing a context for the transition of our two main protagonists from Syria to the Ḥijāz. Three versions of the transfer are found repeated often in the sources. Each is told on the authority of a separate early traditionist: Ibn 'Abbās, 2 'Alī, 3 and mujāhid. 4
THE IBN 'ABBĀS VERSION
The "Ibn 'Abbās" version of the transfer to Mecca is made up of twelve full narratives, 5 an additional two which are incomplete, 6 and five fragments referring to one or two motifs from the full story. 7 Nineteen full and partial renditions make up the paradigmatic Ibn 'Abbās version which follows:
1. The narrative takes place subsequent to Sarah's behavior toward Hagar. Sarah's jealousy of her handmaid after the birth of Ishmael causes conflict and strife between the two women (8/19).
2. Hagar lets down her dress or soaks the bottom of her dress to hide her tracks from Sarah (9/19).
3. Abraham gives Hagar and Ishmael a saddlebag of dates and a water skin (4/19), or a water skin only (8/19).
4. Abraham personally brings Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca (9/19), to the Houses 8 (6/19), or to the location of Zamzam 9 (6/19), and leaves them under a large tree (9/19) 10 (in all versions Abraham brings them to Mecca without God commanding him to do so and without any supernatural assistance).
5. After depositing them there, Abraham departs on his return to Syria, and arrives at Kadā (7/19). 11

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