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Abraham in Islamic and Jewish Exegesis



Jewish and Muslim exegetical narratives on the shared forefathers (known as midrash aggadah and inline image al-anbiyā ’/isrā’iliyyāt) have long been recognized as a meeting point of Judaism and Islam. Early studies of the forefathers, Abraham in particular, strove to ‘prove’ that much of what appeared in the Islamic exegetical materials derived from the traditions that predated Islam, mainly Judaism. More recent scholarship has abandoned such a reductionist approach for a more moderated view. Studies of the Jewish and Muslim exegetical material on Abraham show that while scholars continue to trace the historical development of the Muslim exegetical narratives, they also look to uncover the inner meaning of the narratives themselves. This article traces the shift from the purely reductionist treatment of the Muslim and Jewish exegetical narratives to the more nuanced approach, especially as it applies to Abraham. Four categories of Abrahamic motifs are singled out here: Abraham and his sacrifice of his son, Abraham and his relationship with Sarah, Abraham and his later visit to Ishmael, and narratives relating to Abraham’s birth and early life.