On the Arabian origins of the Qur'ān: The case of al-furqān

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article draws attention to hitherto unnoticed Arabic texts in which the word furqān features as a genuine Arabic term denoting 'dawn' or 'morning'. It suggests that this genuine Arabic word is reflected in the Qur'ān, especially in those passages in which the term furqān stands for revealed scriptures. The Qur'an calls these scriptures furqān in the sense that they are a guiding light that leads one out of darkness. The Syriac/Aramaic connotations of the term as encountered in other Quranic passages - mainly those referring to Moses - are also discussed, and their origin in the Syriac and Aramaic translations of the Book of Exodus is further clarified. The article shows that in these translations the Syriac / Aramaic purqān stands for redemption through separation, and this seems also to be the meaning of the Quranic furqān of Moses. The conflation of the Arabic and the Aramaic furqāns in the Qur'an is also demonstrated, and finally the evidence of the tafsīr is analysed. It is shown that the exegetes are aware of the targumic sense of furqān (redemption through separation), but they tend to prefer the sense of the local Arabian furqān (light of dawn), so much so that they have derived from the sense of light as opposed to darkness a series of secondary meanings revolving around the idea of separation of truth from falsehood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-433
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Semitic Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


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