chapter  13
29 Pages

The impact of the Qur'ān on the epistolography of 'Abd al-Hamīd

That the Qur'an had a noticeable impact on classical Arabic literary prose is a claim with which few, if any, scholars disagree, although little work has been actually done to ascertain the exact nature and magnitude of this impact. What has consequently been virtually ignored so far is the attempt to answer the question of whether the Our'an's impact increased or decreased with time, say from the second/eighth until the fourth/tenth century, or whether time had nothing to do with this phenomenon, it being contingent solely on the temperament, inclination, education, or needs of the individual prose writers at all times. But, of course, researchers in the later periods have advantages which researchers in the earlier periods do not have: the texts they study are well preserved, well attested to, and have no problems of authentication, since they were contemporaneously recorded by historians of various kinds; and, besides, by the third/ninth century, or perhaps slightly earlier, the state of the quranic text in Muslim society had become permanently defined and unquestionably clear. In order, then, to start attempting to answer the above mentioned question, the challenge lies in trying to elucidate the impact of the Qur'an, as a literary text, on the works of the prose writers of the earlier periods, beginning with the second/eighth century and then going back to the first/seventh century, the periods in which there was much flux in the definition of Islam, and ones in which recording was only gradually becoming the standard mode of preserving originally oral or partially written literary materials.