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Idols and Images

(2,125 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
Physical representations — usually of deities or supernatural powers; also, any false god. Various words in the Qurʾān are understood by the commentators (see exegesis of the qurʾān: classical and medieval ), sometimes not unanimously, as referring to, or in some way connected with, such representations. The most obvious are two of the most common Arabic words for idols, awthān (sing. wathan) and aṣnām (sing. ṣanam), both of which occur in the Qurʾān only in their plural forms. The words ṭāghūt and jibt are often understood to refer to idols in general or to a particular idol…

Parties and Factions

(2,176 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
Divisions within groups. The Qurʾān has a relatively rich and varied, but not precisely differentiated, vocabulary which refers to parties or factions within larger communities or groups (see community and society in the qurʾān ). Although the words and phrases concerned are sometimes used in the Qurʾān in an apparently neutral way, for example, with reference to groups among the believers themselves (see belief and unbelief ), they are often employed there in a derogatory sense or in polemic against opponents. The opponents are accused of dividing their relig…

Atonement

(952 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
The act of making amends for an injury or an offense. The idea that acts, whether moral or ritual lapses, can be atoned or compensated for by other acts occurs on a number of occasions in the Qurʾān, but it does not seem possible to construct either a clear or complete doctrine of atonement on the basis of the qurʾānic references alone. In three passages, the act which atones, expiates or compensates is called a kaffāra (cf. the cognates in the other Semitic languages; see foreign vocabulary ), but ¶ there are other words used as well which are not easy to distinguish in sense. q 5:45 says that wai…

Idolatry and Idolaters

(3,334 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
Worship of a created thing as a god; those who engage in such worship. The Arabic root used most frequently in the Qurʾān in words and expressions suggestive of the ¶ idea of idolatry is sh-r-k. That root commonly appears in Arabic in various words connected with the idea of “sharing, participating, associating,” etc., and the basic level of meaning is often appropriate, too, in qurʾānic passages. For example, the noun shirk seems to mean something like “partnership” or “portion” in “do they [those upon whom you call beside God] have any shirk in the heavens?” ( q 35:40; 46:4; see heaven and sky )…

Calf of Gold

(2,059 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
The image of a calf worshipped by the Israelites while Moses (q.v.) was on the mountain receiving the tablets of the Law. Allusion to this story is made in five passages of the Qurʾān. There, as in the main biblical account ( Exod 32), the object of worship is not explicitly called a “calf of gold” but simply a “calf” ( ʿijl, Heb. ʿēgel). ¶ The Qurʾān says that it was made from ornaments ( ḥulī, q 7:148; zīna, 20:87), Exodus 32:2-3 from golden rings (nizmey ha-zāhāb). The qurʾānic allusions to the story ( q 2:51, 54, 92, 93; 4:153; 7:148-53; 20:83-98) display several verbal and conceptual paral…

Kaʿba

(3,021 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
A cube shaped building situated inside the Great Mosque (al-masjid al-ḥarām) at Mecca. Although the term kaʿba is attested only twice in the Qurʾān ( q 5:95, 97), there are other qurʾānic expressions that have traditionally been understood as designations for this structure (i.e. certain instances of al-bayt [lit. “the house,” see house, domestic and divine ]; as well as of masjid [see mosque ]). In Islamic tradition, it is often referred to as “the house (or sanctuary) of God” (bayt Allāh), and for the vast majority of Muslims it is the most sacred spot on earth. The name K…

Pre-Islamic Arabia and the Qurʾān

(5,043 words)

Author(s): Hawting, Gerald R.
Definitions The Qurʾān itself does not contain any concept equivalent to those designated in ancient and modern times by the term Arabia. That name is generally given today to a region understood to be the ancestral home of the Arabic speaking peoples (see arabs ). In the past the term has been applied to different geographical areas at different times, reflecting changing political and administrative divisions as well as changes of climate and settlement patterns. Currently it tends to be used predominantly with reference to the Arabian peninsula ( jazīrat al-ʿarab), which, geograph…