Talking with Prophets: Applying Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation to Prophetic Dialogue in the Qur'an Open Access

benShea, Adam (2016)

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In response to the long held view that the Qur'anic narrative is disjointed, this study supports the assertion that the Qur'an is a unified literary work. This dissertation aims to illustrate that the recurring prophetic stories and characters weave the Qur'anic text together.Along with prophecy, the central topics of the Qur'an are monotheism, Day of Judgment, and the covenant. However, prophecy is more crucial for understanding and unifying the Qur'an because the text uses the topic of prophecy both to introduce and to explain the other central topics. An understanding of prophecy in the Qur'an requires a study of prophetic dialogue because dialogue, rather than narration, develops the unified prophetic character and demarcates the distinct prophetic personalities. Due to the manner in which instances of prophetic dialogue are scattered across Qur'anic surahs, this dissertation uses socio-rhetorical interpretative analysis as a means to fuse together the central prophetic claims which are expressed repeatedly by the speaking prophets. Rather than assuming that recurring material in the Qur'an creates disparate textual units that divide the narrative, this dissertation looks at the way in which repetition texture creates a tension that unifies and progresses central narrative claims. This synthetic approach to the Qur'an shows uniformity in the prophetic role, consistency in the Qur'anic narrative, and the subtle but significant differences between individual prophets. Along with including an overview of the speaking prophets and their instances of dialogue, this dissertation includes close analyses of units of prophetic speech from Noah, Solomon, and Moses. In addition, detailed innertextual and intertextual analyses of the Qur'anic dialogue of Noah and Solomon show the development of these prophets inside of the Qur'an and between sacred texts. By documenting the instances of dialogue there is a framework for the uniform prophetic character and by focusing on specific moments of dialogue there is a window on the way in which the distinct prophetic personalities voice central textual assertions.

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

Overview of Qur'anic Studies 10

Scholarship on Qur'anic Prophets 17

Qur'an as Literature 25

Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation and the Utility of Repetition 31

Intertextual Analysis 48

A Unified Text 53

Chapter One: The Conflation of time and the unification of the narrative 61

Chapter Two: The Prophet and the Messenger of the Qur'an 82

General Prophetic Function 96

The Covenant and the Prophet 102

The Prophet as Hero 117

The Holy Prophet on the Periphery and in Society 126

Chapter Three: The Prophet as Personality 132

The Utility of Dialogue 135

Qur'anic Dialogue Types 138

Moses 152

Closes Analysis of a Prophetic Unit 167

Abraham 173

Jesus 190

Joseph 196

Lot 198

David 200

Jacob 201

Aaron 202

Zacharias 204

Job 205

Jonah 206

Ishmael 207

Adam 214

Chapter Four: Noah and Dialogue 215

General Overview of Noah in the Qur'an 216

Noah in Genesis and the Qur'an 217

Talking with Noah 235

Talking with Noah: Concluding Remarks 258

Chapter Five: Solomon and Dialogue 259

General Overview of Solomon in the Qur'an 260

Solomon between Sacred Texts 260

Talking with Solomon 268

Talking with Solomon: Concluding Remarks 286

Conclusion: Concluding Remarks on Prophetic Dialogue 287

Potential for Further Research 291

Bibliography 294

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