Scriptures are not just text of revelation which one must understand within the border of sacred theological paradigm but it can also be approached as a collective memory of a profane history. In this context one should not neglect to read re-examine the scriptures as veracious historical evidences through philology, this is what we will try to attempt in this post.
In the Qur’an there is an interesting keyword which we argue linguistically refer to prophetic claim: abna‘ ( ابناء ):
لَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ ۖ وَإِنَّ فَرِيقًا مِّنْهُمْ لَيَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ. الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۖ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَThose to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it]. The truth is from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. (Q 2:146-7)
The Quran thus told us that “Those to whom We gave the Scripture” ie the Israelites will recognize Prophet Muhammad like their own sons. This consequently imply that Prophet Muhammad has legitimate right of the biblical prophecies via biological genealogies not only through his character, the signs he brought, and the truth of his message.
By employing the term ابناء (abna’) in arabic, whih cognate with hebrew בני (b’ney), the Quran thus link the prophetic claim of Muhammad through genetic ancestry with the Israelites. Therefore this verse do not merely speaks allegory as, I am sure, many of used to think.
Lets analyze this verse :
الذين اءتينهم الكتاب يعرفونه كما يعرفون ابناءهم
Alladhīna ʾātaynāhumu l-kitāba yaʿrifūnahū ka-mā yaʿrifūna ʾabnāʾahum
אלה אשר נתנו להם את הספר מכירים אותו כפי שמכירים את בניכם
(2:146 סורת אלבקרה)
Elleh asher natannu lachem et has-Sefer machchirim oto kefiy shemmachchirim et b’neychem 
Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons.
Traditional Historical sources in Tarikh Al Islam confirm the accuracy of the genetic link of the Prophet of Islam to Israelite because genealogically Prophet Muhammad (p) is not of a “pure” arab stock or A’rab ‘Aaribah العرب العاربة rather he is considered as “arabized” arab or A’rab Musta’ribah العرب المستعربة . This may surprise some but it should not.
Hāshim ibn Abdul Manan (whom the tribe is named hence Banu Hashim or Hashemite) the great-grandfather of Prophet Muhammad married to Salma bint Amr of Banu Najjar a priestly Israelite clan from the city of Medina (Yathrib as known to the Arabs) the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. This makes Banu Hashim a unique both an Ishmaelite and Israelite clan and this comes as no surprise that this clan is prominent to this day.
We have textual evidence that the city of Medina is always a city of particular significant for the jews as in Targum Onkelos 10:30 which was written in Judeo Aramaic from 1AD there is reference of settlements of Joktanides which is called מָדִינְחָא Medincha [5,6], and there is no reason to think that this is the city other than Medina in Arabia. There must be particular reason why the Israelite clans, the large number of them, settled in the primary Arab city of Medina, I would assume this was to do with the prevailing messianic/prophetic expectation at that time of but that perhaps another topic for another post. The fact is to such a great extend Medina had been known by the Israelites 6 centuries prior to the advent prophet Muhammad, a Hashemite (qabilah banu Hashim), whom paternal bloodline are the descendants of Patriarch Abraham through his first-born son and seed (zera), prophet Ishmael, but also claim maternal bloodline of priestly Israelite ancestry from the tribe of Banu Najjar.
Exceptional Clan Solidarity
To be sure, the solidarity of the Hashemite clan was exceptionally strong. In Tarikh Al Islam we learnt that although the message of Prophet Muhammad the hashemite incited the resentment of other Arabic tribes, the Hashemites were always united to protect one of his son, whether they are believers or not to the point that other tribes enforced a economic and social boycott against the Hashemites. For years the hashemites lived in exile and endured misery and hunger. Never once Prophet Muhammad (p) stop in preaching the message of revelation still the Hashemite clan were always by his side with exceptional patience and fortitude because they believed the noteworthiness of Muhammad’s prophetic role.
Hāshim ibn Abdul Manan also married another woman Qaylah (or Hind) bint Amr ibn Malik of the Banu Khuza’a from whom he had a son Asad (who was Ali Ibn Abi Thalib‘s maternal grandfather the 4th Caliph, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad). Asad ibn Hāshim then married to Zahna bat Kafnai Gaon, an Exilarch princess, the daughter of Kafnai Gaon of Baghdad, the 32th Babylonian Exilarch (C. 530 – C. 580/581): a very noble royal family who traced their ancestry through the Davidic patrilineal line/ Malkhut Beit David (מלכות בית דוד). From this marriage Asad ibn Hāshim and Zahna bat Kafnai Gaon bore Fāṭimah bint Asad, who then was married to Abu Thalib bin Abdul Muthalib ibn Hashim.
Fatimah the Blessed Memory
I will argue there must be a good reason why Asad ibn Hāshim and Zahna bat Kafnai named his daughter Fāṭimah. It turns out that Fāṭimah is no ordinary for name in the Oral Torah. As a daughter of a prominent jewish leader, Hazna must realized the significance of this name and play part in choosing it as a good name for her daughter, a name from the collective memory of her tradition which is the wife of prophet Ishmael the noble patrilineal ancestor of her husband: פטימא Phetima.
Here is the text from Targum Jonathan on Genesis/Sefer Bereshit 21:21 found in most rabbinic bible Mikraot Gedolot (מקראות גדולות):
וְיָתִיב בְּמַדְבְּרָא דְפָּארָן וּנְסֵיב אִתְּתָא יַת עֲדִישָׁא וְתֵרְכָהּ וּנְסִיבַת לֵיהּ אִמֵיהּ יַת פְּטִימָא אִתְּתָא מֵאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם
‘And he dwelt in the wilderness of Pharan and took for a wife Adisha, but put her away. And his mother took for him Phetima to wife from the land of Egypt.
And also it was no coincidence that Prophet Muhammad too also gave his youngest daughter (from Khadija), Fāṭimah. Even until now she is one of the most loved and revered woman figure and prominent character in the religion of Islam and after her name is most muslims give name to their daughter. It is the most popular muslim girl’s names. Undoubtedly it is to do with divine plan to preserve this noble name Phetima פְּטִימָא (Ar: Fāṭimah فاطمة) for generations to come.
Their Own Son
The Ishmaelite – Israelite blood union within the Hashemite genealogy proved the mature and stable existence of religious and political axis between the Babylonian Exilarch in Baghdad – and their counterpart in Yathrib in pre-Islamic Arabian peninsula (The Hijaz) through the uniquely influential and mixed Ishmaelite and Israelite ancestry, the Hashemite clan. Thus genealogically it makes perfect sense that the Qur’an designate Prophet Muhammad as “their own son” for the Israelites (ie. those who had been given scriptures) not only in the sense through the prophecies in the Bible.
It may explain why when Prophet Muhammad made his Hijrah هِجْرَة and the city was soon renamed Madīnat مَـديـنـة, the the jews of Yathrib who had the upper hand with their large settlement and huge property never objected to the name. This is a strong indication that the jews had already familiar with the name which was medintā מְדִֽינְתָּא֙ in Judeo -Aramaic and they were there awaiting the arrival of a future prophet. This is further supported by the most prominent Gaonic Rabbi: Saadia Gaon ben Yosef / Rasag who mentioned the location Mecca مكة and Medina المدينة for his rendering of Genesis/Bereishit10:30.
- Subhi ‘Ali ‘Adwi, הַקּוּראָן בְּלָשׁוֹן אַחֵר Ha-Qur’an BeLashon Akher, 2015.
- The Banu Najjar / b’ney Naggar בני נגר (Arabic: بنو نجّار) tribe literally translates to “Sons of the Carpenter.” It may also be hinting at a rabbinic lineage as the termנגר naggar in the Talmud signifies a learned, wise and literate in the Torah. [Jesus the Jew: a historian’s reading of the Gospels by Geza Vermes 1983; p21-22 ]
- This bloodline from Salma and their father Hashem, makes the Hashemites in specific, unique among their Ishmaelite clans in Arabia and the entire Middle East, as they are both Ishmaelite by paternal descent, and also Israelite through maternal descent, from the Royal House of Judah, from whom the Bani an-Najjar originally descend.
- Joktanites: ancient Arab tribes of southern Arabian peninsula
- Onkelos on the Torah Bereishit Noach Ch 10:30 p57 by Drazin & Wagner
- Medincha or Medinta? Are we sure the Aramaic term is מָדִינְחָא Medincha with chet? But as far as my knowledge of Aramaic goes I would expect the correct spelling should read מְדִֽינְתָּא֙ medintā with taw. The latter simply mean the “city” in singular exactly cognates with the arabic مدينة where the blessed city are known for until today.
- Lineage from Ishmael according to classical accounting are considered the “Arabized” arabs or A’rab Musta’ribah العرب المستعربة . They were arabized because Ishmael had to learn arabic when je came to Mecca and subsequently married into arab tribe of Jurhum. From Ishmael came the “Northern Arabs” associated with Adnān and later to Prophet Muhamad (in contrast to the biblical Joktanites which give rise to “Southern Arabs” like the Yemenis)
ان الله اصطفى كنانة من ولد اسماعيل و اصطفى قريسا من كنانة واصطفى قريسا بني هاشم و اصطفى ني بني هاشم – صحيح مسلم
Verily Allah granted eminence to Kinana from amongst the descendants of Isma’il, and he granted eminence to the Quraish amongst Kinana, and he granted eminence to Banu Hashim amonsgst the Quraish, and he granted me eminence from the tribe of Banu Hashim. (Sahih Muslim » The Book of Virtues).
- Exilarch (Heb: ראש גלות Rosh Galut, Aram: ריש גלותא Reysh Galuta or Resh Galvata, Ar: رأس الجالوت Raas al-Galut lit. “leader of the captives”) refers to the leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community in Babylon following the deportation of King Jeconiah and his court into Babylonian exile after the first fall of Jerusalem in 597 BCE
- See my previous article entitled The Road to Shur in this blog.