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The hand of God is over their hands (Q. 48:10): on the notion of covenant in al-Ṭabarī’s account of Karbalāʾ
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Religious Studies. (Minoritet, identitet, autenticitet)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9963-8124
2016 (English)In: Journal of Qur'anic Studies, ISSN 1465-3591, E-ISSN 1755-1730, Vol. 18, no 2, 58-88 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article is an analysis of the story of the killing of Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī at Karbalāʾ in 61/680, as it is presented by Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923). The main argument is that the notion of the divine covenant, which permeates the Qur’an, constitutes a framework through which al-Ṭabarī views this event. The Qur’anic idea of the covenant is read in structural/thematic continuity with the Hebrew Bible account of the covenant between Yahweh and the Hebrew people, which has, in turn, been traced back in its basic form to Late Bronze Era treaties between rulers and their vassals.


The present study focusses on four speeches ascribed to Ḥusayn during the encounter he and his group had with the vanguard of the Kūfan army led by al-Ḥurr. These are analysed in accordance with their use of Qur’anic covenant vocabulary. They are also categorised within the broader framework of the eight standard characteristics of Ancient West Asian and Biblical covenants, as presented by George Mendenhall and Gary Herion, which have recently been developed in a Qur’anic context by Rosalind Ward Gwynne. This article argues that al-Ṭabarī’s Karbalāʾ narrative presents the pact of loyalty to Ḥusayn as a clear extension of the divine covenant.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016. Vol. 18, no 2, 58-88 p.
Keyword [en]
Tabari, historiography, Islam, Karbala', Husayn b. Ali, covenant
National Category
Religious Studies History of Religions
Research subject
Intercultural Studies, Hämnd eller martyrium! Berättelsen om Botgörarna som en länk till Shi`ismens tidiga utveckling.
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-15338DOI: 10.3366/jqs.2016.0239OAI: diva2:745235
Hämnd eller martyrium! Berättelsen om Botgörarna som en länk till Shi`ismens tidiga utveckling.
Swedish Research Council, 421-2011-1806
Available from: 2014-09-10 Created: 2014-09-10 Last updated: 2016-08-04Bibliographically approved

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