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Footnote: The Quranic word al-Samad

Reader comment on item: Conservatism's Hidden History
in response to reader comment: Michael: ܫܡܥ (Syro-Aramaic) שמע (Hebrew) اسمع (Arabic) Or To Hear

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Oct 6, 2018 at 07:58

Dr Pipes,

al-Tabari starts his tafsir of Q112:2 by saying: واختلف أهل التأويل في معنى الصمد or al-mufasereen did not agree on the meaning of the word al-Samad! Or al-Mufasereen had no idea what al-Samad really means

This fact did not stop him from providing very different 7 meanings for the word al-Samad!

We must conclude that al-Tabari did not know what this word really means!

So the question should be why would al-Tabari (he wrote his tafsir some 250-300 years after the death of Muhammad and it is the earliest extant tafsir) and the rest of al-Mufasereen are unable to tell us what the word al-Samad really means

Michael Cook provides two very plausible explanations:

1. "The material which makes up the Koran did not become generally available as a scripture until decades after the death of Muhammad with the result that by the time this happened memory of the original meaning of the material has been lost."

2. Or "much of what found its way into the Koran was already old by the time of Muhammad"

What was Muhammad's understanding of the meaning of the word al-Samad? we will never know. Did Muhammad speak Syriac? Logic would dictates that if he was indeed a trader and he traveled to Syria to conduct trade then he must have had knowledge of Syriac and he was able to witness Late Antique Christianity in Syria and he would have understood what the word al-Samad means

However, the meaning of al-Samad was lost when al-Tabari wrote his tafsir. al-Tabari was not a linguist and his knowledge of Syriac would have been very limited

The meaning of the word al-Samad and the history behind it is indeed a cautionary tale about reading al-Tabari due to the fact that al-Tabari is really Allah's editor in-chief

Submitting....

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