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G. Vajda: "Isrliyyt", in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Volume IV, page 211.


an Arabic term covering three kinds of narratives, which are found in

the commentators on the urn, the mystics, the compilers of edifying histories and writers on various levels. 1. Narratives regarded as historical, which served to complement the often summary information provided by the revealed Book in respect of the personages in the Bible (Tawrt and Indjl), particularly the prophets (i al-anbiy). 2. Edifying narratives placed within the chronological (but entirely undefined) framework of the period of the (ancient) Israelites (ahdBan Isrl). 3. Fables belonging to folklore, allegedly (but sometimes actually) borrowed from Jewish sources. The line of demarcation between this class and the preceding one is difficult to establish. The prophetic legends appeared very early in Muslimliterature, although few if any traces still survive which in fact go back, in the form in which we have them, to the first century of the idjra

The earliest sources of information were either converted Jews or, perhaps, Arabs who had had contacts, before their conversion to Islam, with the Jews and Christians of the Arabian peninsula and the neighbouring regions. Mention may be made of Abd Ubayd b Sharya al-jurhum see ibn sharya], whose narrations concerning the ancient history of the kings of the Arabs and Persians and biblical history (the confusion of languages, the dispersal of mankind) were said to have been recorded in writing by order of Muwiya, Abd Allh b Salm q.v.], Kab al-Abr q.v.] and, later, Wahb b. Munabbih [q.v.]; the last-named is believed to have written a K. al-

Mubtada, entitled also Isrliyyt; there is no reason to question the authenticity of

this belief, and it may be accepted that authors like Ibn ishm (d ) made extracts from it which in turn were passed on to later authors; however, the particular

compilations which claim to relate certain traditions of these personages do not offer the smallest guarantee of their authenticity or antiquity, or of their earlier date in relation to the great compositions of tarkh, tafsr and ia al-anbiy produced from the 3rd/9th to the 5th/11th centuries. Narratives of the second category were perhaps already utilized by al-asan al-Bar [q.v.], d. 110/728, and thus contemporary of Wahb; they certainly formed part of the stock of edifying parenesis, at least from the time of Mlik b Dnr q.v.], d. about 131/748; it may therefore be thought that this genre made its first appearance in devotional literature during the period of the tbin. Al-Musib q.v.] did not hesitate to have recourse to it (Riya, ed. M. Smith, 234, l. 11-12, 242 f.); Ibn Abi 'lDuny q.v.] used it freely, and, of the later and very popular authors, besides Ab Nuaym al-Ibahn (ilyat al-awliy), ha l (Iy) and Muwaffa al-Dn Ibn udma (K. al-Tawwbin, ed. G. Makdisi, Damascus 1962). The practice of introducing folklore themes (such as the motif of the three wishes) into narratives set in the time of the Ban Isrl is one which the moralists and men of letters readily adopted. It was the works of pure imagination of this kind, and also the extravagant flights of fancy of the u in their over-loaded, embellished versions of the histories of the prophets which have caused the Isrl yyt to be condemned by strict scholars such as Ibn Kathr (cf Laoust, in Arabica, ii (1955), 75, where the reference should be

Bidya, i, 6), a condemnation repeated in more specific terms by al-Sakhw (Iln,

trans. apud Fr. Rosenthal, A History of MuslimHistoriography,2 Leiden 1968, 335); however, the feeling of distrust and the warnings sounded on this subject go back to a very much earlier date; they are to be found in Ibn utayba [q.v.], in his Tawl

mukhtalif al-adth (see G. Lecomte, Le Trait des divergences du adth d Ibn Qutayba, Damascus 1962, 310-16), and they have left traces in the classical
collections of adth (cf. G. Vajda, in JA, 1937, 115-20). (G. Vajda)


In addition to the references given in the text and the accounts of Brockelmann, S I, 101 and Sezgin, I, 305-7, see also M. Lidzbarski, De propheticis, quae dicuntur,

legendis arabicis, Leipzig 1893

I. Goldziher, Isriliyyt, in REJ xliv (1902), 63-5 C. H. Becker, Papyri Schott-Reinhardt, l. 8 f., Heidelberg 1906 L. Cheikho, Quelques lgendes islamiques apocryphes, in MFOB, iv (1910), 33-56 B. Chapira, Lgendes bibliques attribues Kab al-Ahbr, in REJ, lxix (1919), 86107, lxx (1920), 37-43 R. Basset, Mille et un contes, rcits et lgendes arabes, Paris 1924-7 (cf. B. Heller,

Rcits et personnages bibliques dans la lgende mahomtane, in REJ, lxxxv

(1928), 113-36 idem, La lgende biblique dans l Islam, ibid , xcviii (1934), 1-18 idem, The Relation of the Aggada to Islamic Legends, in MW, xxiv (1934), 281-6 J. Horovitz, in IC, i (1927), 553-7 S. D. Goitein, Isriliyyt (in Hebrew), in Tarbiz, vi ( 9 4-5), 89-101, 510-22 G. Vajda, in REJ, ci (1937), 94-6 J. Finkel, An Arabic story of Abraham, in HUCA, xii-xiii (1937-8), 387-409 H. Ritter, Das Meer der Seele, Leiden 1955, 95 f., 305, 356, 430, 567 A A Duri, Ilmal-tarkh, Beirut 1960, 103-17 N. Abbot, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri, Chicago 1957, 36 (cf. A. Dietrich, in Isl., 1959, 202) G. Vajda, La description du Temple de Jrusalem d aprs le K. al-maslik walmamlik d'al-Muhallabi, in JA 1959, 193-202

Scht inger, Ursprung und Entwicklung der arabischen Abraham-Nimrod Legende, Bonn 1961 G. H. A. Juynboll, The authenticity of the tradition literature, Leiden 1969, 121-38. See further ban isrl.

[Print Version: Volume IV, page 211, column 2]

Citation: Vajda, "Isrliyyt " Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by:

P. Bearman; , Th. Bianquis; , C.E. Bosworth; , E. van Donzel; and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2011. Brill Online. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preuss. Kulturbesitz. 28 September 2011 <http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-3670>