The Ambiguous Ishmael


– Ishmael and Hagar –

The important differences of interpretation of Ishmael’s role in the transmission of the Abrahamic inheritance, according to Judaism and Islam, focused in particular on the question of the identity of the son of Abraham who was taken to the sacrifice on Mount Moriah. For the Jews, it is unquestionably Isaac, as Genesis indicates. Muslims claim that it was Ishmael. However, the Koran does not name the son chosen for the sacrifice. In fact, Sura 36 indirectly suggests that this son was Isaac, contrary to later reinterpretations of later Islamic traditions.

It may be that, contrary to the historical importance of this controversy, this is not really an essential question, since Ishmael appears as a sort of inverted double of Isaac, and the linked destinies of these two half-brothers seem to compose (together) an allegorical and even anagogical figure – that of the ‘Sacrificed’, a figure of man ‘sacrificed’ in the service of a divine project that is entirely beyond him.

The conflict between the divine project and human views appears immediately when one compares the relatively banal and natural circumstances of the conception of Abram’s child (resulting from his desire to ensure his descent ii, a desire favored by his wife Sarai), with the particularly improbable and exceptional circumstances of the conception of the child of Abraham and Sarah.

One can then sense the tragic nature of the destiny of Ishmael, the first-born (and beloved) son of Abraham, but whose ‘legitimacy’ cannot be compared to that of his half-brother, born thirteen years later. But in what way is it Ishmael’s ‘fault’ that he was not ‘chosen’ as the son of Abraham to embody the Covenant? Was he ‘chosen’ only to embody the arbitrary dispossession of a mysterious ‘filiation’, of a nature other than genetic, in order to signify to the multitudes of generations to come a certain aspect of the divine mystery?

This leads us to reflect on the respective roles of the two mothers (Hagar and Sarah) in the correlated destiny of Ishmael and Isaac, and invites us to deepen the analysis of the personalities of the two mothers in order to get a better idea of those of the two sons.

The figure of Ishmael is both tragic and ambiguous. I will attempt here to trace its contours by citing a few ‘features’ both for and against, by seeking to raise a part of the mystery, and to penetrate the ambiguity of the paradigm of election, which can mean that « the election of some implies the setting aside of others », or on the contrary, that « election is not a rejection of the other ».iii

Elements Against Ishmael :

a) Ishmael, a young man, « plays » with Isaac, a barely weaned child, provoking the wrath of Sarah. This key scene is reported in Genesis 21:9: « Sarah saw the son of Hagar mocked him (Isaac). » The Hebrew word מְצַחֵק lends itself to several interpretations. It comes from the root צָחַק, in the verbal form Piel. The meanings of the verb seem at first glance relatively insignificant:

Qal :To laugh, rto ejoice. As in : Gen 18,12 « Sara laughs (secretly) ». Gen 21:6 « Whoever hears of it will rejoice with me.

Piël : To play, to joke, to laugh. As in Gen 19:14 « But it seemed that he was joking, that he said it in jest. » Ex 32:6 « They stood up to play, or to dance ». Judge 16:25 « That he might play, or sing, before them ». Gen 26:8 « Isaac played or joked with his wife. Gen 39:14 « To play with us, to insult us ».

However, Rashi’s meanings of the word in the context of Gen 21:9 are much more serious: ‘idolatry’, ‘immorality’, and even ‘murder’. « Ridicule: this is idolatry. Thus, ‘they rose up to have fun’ (Ex 32:6). Another explanation: This is immorality. Thus ‘for my own amusement’ (Gen 39:17). Another explanation: this is murder. So ‘let these young men stand up and enjoy themselves before us’ (2 Sam 2:14). Ishmael was arguing with Isaac about the inheritance. I am the elder, he said, and I will take double share. They went out into the field and Ishmael took his bow and shot arrows at him. Just as in: he who plays the foolish game of brandons and arrows, and says: but I am having fun! (Prov 26:18-19).»

Rashi’s judgment is extremely derogatory and accusatory. The accusation of ‘immorality’ is a veiled euphemism for ‘pedophilia’ (Isaac is a young child). And all this derived from a special interpretation of the single word tsaḥaq, – the very word that gave Isaac his name… Yet this word comes up strangely often in the context that interests us. Four important biblical characters ‘laugh’ (from the verb tsaḥaq), in Genesis: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Ishmael – except Hagar, who never laughs, but cries. Abraham laughs (or smiles) at the news that he is going to be a father, Sarah laughs inwardly, mocking her old husband, Isaac laughs while wrestling and caressing his wife Rebecca (vi), but only Ishmael, who also laughs while playing, is seriously accused by Rashi of the nature of this laughter, and of this ‘game’.

b) According to the commentators (Berechit Rabbah), Ishmael boasted to Isaac that he had the courage to voluntarily accept circumcision at the age of thirteen, whereas Isaac underwent it passively at the age of eight days.

c) Genesis states that Ishmael is a ‘primrose’, a misanthropic loner, an ‘archer’ who ‘lives in the wilderness’ and who ‘lays his hand on all’.

d) In Gen 17:20 it says that Ishmael « will beget twelve princes. « But Rashi, on this point, asserts that Ishmael in fact only begat ‘clouds’, relying on the Midrash which interprets the word נְשִׂיאִים (nessi’im) as meaning ‘clouds’ and ‘wind’. The word nessi’im can indeed mean either ‘princes’ or ‘clouds’, according to the dictionary (vii). But Rashi, for his own reason, chooses the pejorative meaning, whereas it is God Himself who pronounces this word after having blessed Ishmael.

Elements in Favor of Ishmael:

a) Ishmael suffers several times the effects of Sarah’s hatred and the consequences of Abraham’s injustice (or cowardice), who does not defend him, passively obeys Sarah and remorselessly favors his younger son. This has not escaped the attention of some commentators. Ramban (the Nahmanides) said about sending Hagar and Ishmael back to the desert: « Our mother Sarai was guilty of doing so and Abram of having tolerated it ». On the other hand, Rashi says nothing about this sensitive subject.

Yet Abraham loves and cares for his son Ishmael, but probably not enough to resist the pressures, preferring the younger, in deeds. You don’t need to be a psychoanalyst to guess the deep psychological problems Ishmael is experiencing about not being the ‘preferred’, the ‘chosen’ (by God) to take on the inheritance and the Covenant, – although he is nevertheless ‘loved’ by his father Abraham, – just as Esau, Isaac’s eldest son and beloved, was later robbed of his inheritance (and blessing) by Jacob, because of his mother Rebekah, and despite Isaac’s clearly expressed will.

(b) Ishmael is the son of « an Egyptian handmaid » (Genesis 16:1), but in reality she, Hagar, according to Rashi, is the daughter of the Pharaoh: « Hagar was the daughter of the Pharaoh. When he saw the miracles of which Sarai was the object, he said: Better for my daughter to be the servant in such a house than the mistress in another house. » (Commentary of Genesis 16:1 by Rashi)

One can undoubtedly understand the frustrations of a young man, first-born of Abraham and grandson of the Pharaoh, in front of the bullying inflicted by Sarah.

c) Moreover, Ishmael is subjected throughout his childhood and adolescence to a form of disdain that is truly undeserved. Indeed, Hagar was legally married, by the will of Sarah, and by the desire of Abraham to leave his fortune to an heir of his flesh, and this after the legal deadline of ten years of observation of Sarah’s sterility had elapsed. Ishmael is therefore legally and legitimately the first-born son of Abraham, and of his second wife. But he does not have the actual status, as Sarah jealously watches over him.

d) Ishmael is thrown out twice in the desert, once when his mother is pregnant with him (in theory), and another time when he is seventeen years old (being 13 years old at the time of Isaac’s birth + 4 years corresponding to Isaac’s weaning). In both cases, his mother Hagar had proven encounters with angels, which testifies to a very high spiritual status, which she did not fail to give to her son. Examples of women in the Hebrew Bible having had a divine vision are extremely rare. To my knowledge, in fact, there are none, except for Hagar, who had divine visions on several occasions. Rashi notes of Gen 16:13: « She [Hagar] expresses surprise. Could I have thought that even here in the desert I would see God’s messengers after seeing them in the house of Abraham where I was accustomed to seeing them? The proof that she was accustomed to seeing angels is that Manoë when he first saw the angel said, « Surely we will die » (Jug 13:27). Hagar saw angels four times and was not the least bit afraid. »

But to this, we can add that Hagar is even more remarkable because she is the only person in all the Scriptures who stands out for having given not only one but two new names to God: אֵל רֳאִי , El Ro’ï, « God of Vision »viii , and חַי רֹאִי , Ḥaï Ro’ï, the « Living One of Vision »(ix). She also gave a name to the nearby well, the well of the « Living One of My Vision »: בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי , B’ér la-Ḥaï Ro’ï. x

It is also near this well that Isaac will come to settle, after Abraham’s death, – and especially after God has finally blessed him, which Abraham had always refused to do (xii). One can imagine that Isaac had then, at last, understood the depth of the events which had taken place in this place, and with which he had, in spite of himself, been associated.

In stark contrast to Hagar, Sarah also had a divine vision, albeit a very brief one, when she participated in a conversation between Abraham and God. But God ignored Sarah, addressing Abraham directly, asking him for an explanation of Sarah’s behavior, rather than addressing her (xiii). She intervened in an attempt to justify her behavior because « she was afraid, » but God rebuked her curtly: « No, you laughed.

Making her case worse, she herself later reproached Ishmael for having laughed too, and drove him out for that reason.

e) Ishmael, after these events, remained in the presence of God. According to Genesis 21:20, « God was with this child, and he grew up (…) and became an archer. « Curiously, Rashi does not comment on the fact that « God was with this child. On the other hand, about « he became an archer », Rashi notes proudly: « He was a robber… ».

f) In the desire to see Ishmael die, Sarah twice casts spells on him (the ‘evil eye’), according to Rashi. The first time, to make the child carried by Hagar die, and to provoke his abortionxv, and the second time to make him sick, even though he was hunted with his mother in the desert, thus forcing him to drink much and to consume quickly the meager water resources.

g) At the time of his circumcision, Ishmael is thirteen years old and he obeys Abraham without difficulty (whereas he could have refused, according to Rashi, the latter counts to his advantage). Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael (Gen 16:16). Rashi comments: « This is written in praise of Ishmael. Ishmael will therefore be thirteen years old when he is circumcised, and he will not object. »

h) Ishmael is blessed by God during Abraham’s lifetime, whereas Isaac is blessed by God only after Abraham’s death (who refused to bless him, knowing that he was to beget Esau, according to Rashi).xvi

i) Ishmael, in spite of all the liabilities of his tormented life, was reconciled with Isaac, before the latter married Rebekah. Indeed, when his fiancée Rebekah arrives, Isaac has just returned from a visitexvii to the Well of the Living of My Vision, near which Hagar and Ishmael lived.

Moreover, his father Abraham ended up « regularizing the situation » with his mother Hagar, since he married her after Sarah’s death. Indeed, according to Rashi, « Qeturah is Hagar. Thus, for the second time, Ishmael is « legitimized », which makes it all the more remarkable that he gives precedence to his younger brother at Abraham’s funeral.

(j) Ishmael lets Isaac take the precellence at the burial of their father Abraham, as we know from Gen 25:9: « [Abraham] was buried by Isaac and Ishmael, his sons. « The preferential order of the names testifies to this.

k) The verse Gen 25:17 gives a final positive indication about Ishmael: « The number of years of Ishmael’s life was one hundred thirty-seven years. He expired and died. « Rashi comments on the expression « he expired » in this highly significant way: « This term is used only in connection with the righteous. »

Let’s now conclude.

On the one hand, Islam, which claims to be a ‘purer’, more ‘native’ religion, and in which the figure of Abraham represents a paradigm, that of the ‘Muslim’ entirely ‘submitted’ to the will of God, – recognizes in Isaac and Ishmael two ‘prophets’.

On the other hand, Ishmael is certainly not recognized as a ‘prophet’ in Israel.

These two characters, intimately linked by their destiny (sons of the same father, and what a father!, but not of the same mother), are also, curiously, figures of the ‘sacrifice’, although in different ways, and which need to be interpreted.

The sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah ended with the intervention of an angel, just as the imminent death of Ishmael in the desert near a hidden spring ended after the intervention of an angel.

It seems to me that a revision of the trial once held against Ishmael, at the instigation of Sarah, and sanctioned by his undeserved rejection outside the camp of Abraham, and the case againt Ishmael should be re-opened.

It seems indispensable, and not unrelated to the present state of the world, to repair the injustice that was once done to Ishmael.

_______________

i Qur’an 36:101-113: « So we gave him the good news of a lonely boy. Then when he was old enough to go with him, [Abraham] said, « O my son, I see myself in a dream, immolating you. See what you think of it. He said, « O my dear father, do as you are commanded: you will find me, if it pleases God, among those who endure. And when they both came together and he threw him on his forehead, behold, We called him « Abraham »! You have confirmed the vision. This is how We reward those who do good. Verily that was the manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a bountiful sacrifice. And We perpetuated his name in posterity: « Peace be upon Abraham. Thus do We reward those who do good, for he was of Our believing servants. And We gave him the good news of Isaac as a prophet of the righteous among the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. »

This account seems to indicate indirectly that the (unnamed) son who was taken to the place of the sacrifice is, in fact, Isaac, since Isaac’s name is mentioned twice, in verses 112 and 113, immediately after verses 101-106, which describe the scene of the sacrifice, – whereas the name Ishmael, on the other hand, is not mentioned at all on this occasion. Moreover, God seems to want to reward Isaac for his attitude of faith by announcing on this same occasion his future role as a prophet, which the Qur’an never does about Ishmael.

ii Gen 15, 2-4. Let us note that the divine promise immediately instils a certain ambiguity: « But behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This man shall not inherit you, but he who comes out of your loins shall be your heir. If Eliezer [« this one, » to whom the verse refers] is clearly excluded from the inheritance, the word of God does not decide a priori between the children to come, Ishmael and Isaac.

iiiCourse of Moïse Mouton. 7 December 2019

ivTranslation of the French Rabbinate, adapted to Rachi’s commentary. Fondation S. et O. Lévy. Paris, 1988

« v » Hagar raised her voice, and she cried. (Gen 21:16)

viGn 26.8. Rachi comments: « Isaac says to himself, ‘Now I don’t have to worry anymore because nothing has been done to him so far. And he was no longer on guard. Abimelec looked – he saw them together. »

viiHebrew-French Dictionary by Sander and Trenel, Paris 1859

viiiGn 16.13

ixGn 16, 14: Rachi notes that « the word Ro’ï is punctuated Qamets qaton, because it is a noun. He is the God of vision. He sees the humiliation of the humiliated. »

xGn 16, 14

xi Gn 25.11

xiiiGn 18.13

xivGn 18.15

xvRachi comments on Gen 16:5 as follows: « Sarai looked upon Agar’s pregnancy with a bad eye and she had an abortion. That is why the angel said to Hagar, « You are about to conceive » (Gen 16:11). Now she was already pregnant and the angel tells her that she will be pregnant. This proves that the first pregnancy was not successful. »

xviRachi explains that « Abraham was afraid to bless Isaac because he saw that his son would give birth to Esau. »

xviiGn 24, 62

Burning Hurqalyâ


« Henry Corbin »

In matters of religion, one of the common errors is to want to choose with whom one can talk, and to exclude from one’s field of vision extreme ideologues, stubborn minds, closed mentalities. This is human.

It is incomparably easier to begin detailed debates or circumstantial glosses if there is already an a priori agreement on the substance. This avoids infinite misunderstandings and deadlocked dead ends. Who thinks it possible, indeed, to ever agree, on any point whatsoever, with such and such an ultra tendency of such and such a monotheistic religion?

It’s human, and it’s easier, but, on the other hand, the ultras of all acabits, irreconcilably ‘other’, absolutely ‘foreign’ to any dialectic, remain in the landscape. They continue, and for a long time, to be part of the problem to be solved, even if they don’t seem to be part of the solution. Precisely because they have nothing in common with the proponents of the very idea of ‘dialogue’, they can be interesting to observe, and must be, in every respect, if one considers the long-term destiny of a small Humankind, standing on its dewclaws, on the surface of a drop of mud, lost in the cosmic night.

Nevertheless, it is infinitely easier to speak to ‘open’ minds when trying to cross cultural, traditional or religious barriers.

« The conditions of the Christian-Islamic dialogue change completely if the interlocutor is not legal Islam but spiritual Islam, whether it is Sufism or Shî’ite Gnosis. » i

Henry Corbin was an exceptional personality. But he admitted that he did not want to waste his time with the ‘legitarians’. This is understandable. And yet, they are basically the key lock. If world peace and universal understanding are to be achieved, ‘spiritualists’ and ‘legitarians’ must find, whatever the difficulties to be overcome, a common ground…

Dialogue with the ‘other’ begins with mastering the other’s language.

In theory, we should be able to understand all of them, or at least decipher them, particularly these chosen languages, chosen for conveying this or that sacred message.

Sanskrit, for example, should be part of the minimal baggage of any researcher interested in a comparative anthropology of the religious fact through time. It is the oldest and most complex language, which still testifies to the wonders of the human spirit, trying to approach mysteries that are seemingly beyond its reach.

I hasten to add (biblical) Hebrew, which is much simpler, grammatically speaking, but full of a subtle delicacy that can be seen in the play on words, the etymological shifts, the radical drifts, the subliminal evocations, and the breadth of the semantic fields, allowing for the most daring and creative interpretations.

Koranic Arabic is also a necessary acquisition. The Koran is a book with a very ‘literary’ and sophisticated writing that no translation can really render, as it requires immersion in the musicality of classical Arabic, now a dead language. Puns and alliterations abound, as in Hebrew, another Semitic language.

The famous Louis Massignon sought in good faith « how to bring back to a common base the textual study of the two cultures, Arabic and Greco-Latin »ii.

For our part, we would also like to be able to bring the study of Vedic, Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Zoroastrian and Avestic cultures, at least in theory if not in practice, to a « common base ».

And, still in theory, one should particularly have solid notions of Ancient Egyptian (very useful if one wants to understand the distant foundations of the ancient ‘mosaic’ religion), and Avesta (indispensable to get an idea of the progressive, ‘harmonic’, transitioniii in ancient Iran from Zoroastrianism and Mazdeism to Muslim Shî’ism).

In the absence of these indispensable add-ons, one can minimally rely on a few genius smugglers. Henry Corbin is an incomparable pedagogue of Shî’ite Islam. Who else but him could have allowed the discovery of a concept like the one of Ḥûrqalyâ?

Ḥûrqalyâ is the land of visions, the place where mind and body become one, explains Henry Corbin. « Each one of us, volens nolens, is the author of events in ‘Ḥûrqalyâ‘, whether they abort or bear fruit in its paradise or its hell. We believe we are contemplating the past and the unchanging, as we consume our own future. » iv

His explanation of Ḥûrqalyâ is rather short and somewhat obscure. We would like to know more.

Looking in the famous Kazimirsky dictionaryv, I discovered the meaning of the verbal root حرق (ḥaraqa): « To be burned, to burn. To set on fire, to ignite; to burn with great fire. To burn each other (or to sleep with a woman). To reduce to ashes. »

It is also the word used to designate migrants who ‘burn’ their identity papers.

With different vocalizations of the same verbal root, the semantic spectrum of the resulting nouns widens considerably:

ḥirq « the tallest branch of the male palm tree, which fertilizes the flowers of a female palm tree »;

ḥourq « avarice »;

ḥaraq « fire, flame, burn »;

ḥariq « which loses its hair; which produces violent lightning (cloud); « fire;

ḥourqa « burning heat in the intestines »;

al- ḥâriq « the tooth (of a ferocious beast) »;

ḥâriqa « burning (said to be a very sensual woman in the carnal trade) »;

ḥâroûqa « very sensual woman », or in the plural: »who cuts (swords) »;

ḥirâq « who destroys, who consumes »; « who burns the path, who runs very fast (horse) »;

ḥourrâq « burning firebrand »;

ḥârraqa « vessel to be set on fire ».

You get the idea…

But in the context that interests us here, it is the noun حَرْقً (ḥarq), used by mystics, that we must highlight. It means « the state of burning », that is, an intermediate state between برق (barq), which is only the « lightning of the manifestations of God », and الطمس فى الذات, al-tams fi-l-dhat, « annihilation in the ‘that’, in the divine essence »vi.

The etymology of the word ḥûrqalyâ, shows that it means a state that lies between the lightning flash and the ash or annihilation .

Let us return to the glossary proposed by Corbin.

« A whole region of Hûrqalyâ is populated, post mortem, byour imperatives and our vows, that is to say, by what makes the very meaning of our acts of understanding as well as our behaviors. As well as all the underlying metaphysics is that of an incessant recurrence of Creation (tajaddod), it is not a metaphysics of the Ens or the Esse, but of the Estovii, ofbe !’ in the imperative. But the event is put to the imperative only because it is itself the iterative form of the being for which it is promoted to the reality of event. » viii

We learn here that Creation is a continuous act, a continuous iteration, an imperative to be, a ‘be!’ infinitely repeated, implying a ‘become!’ no less perpetual.

Esto! Or the unceasing burning of the moment, that is to say of the presence (to oneself, or in oneself ?).

Perhaps we can read in these ever-changing, ever-challenging moments « the mystery of the primordial Theophany, of the revelation of the divine Being, who can only reveal himself to himself in another self, but can only recognize himself as other, and recognize this other as himself only because he is God in himself. » ix

Another image, often used in the Psalms, is that of clothing. It is necessary to reach this state where the body is no more than a ‘garment’ that one can freely undress or put on, because it is really the other in oneself that is the true garment of oneself.

___________________________

iHenry Corbin. Heavenly earth and resurrection body. From Mazdean Iran to Shî’ite Iran. Ed. The boat of the sun. Buchet/Chastel. 1960. p.12

ii Louis Massignon. Lettres d’humanité tome II, 1943, p.137

iiiAccording to the expression of H. Corbin. op.cit. p. 111

ivHenry Corbin. Heavenly earth and resurrection body. From Mazdean Iran to Shî’ite Iran. Ed. The boat of the sun. Buchet/Chastel. 1960. p.13

vA. de Biberstein Kazimirski. Arab-French dictionary. Volume I. Ed Al Bouraq. Beirut. 2004, pp. 411-412.

vi The mystical meaning of the word tams is precisely the annihilation of the individuality of man’s attributes in the attributes of God. The word dhat means « that » and, in context, the very essence of God.

viiIn Latin: ens = « being », esse = « to be », esto = « Be! »

viiiHenry Corbin. Heavenly earth and resurrection body. From Mazdean Iran to Shî’ite Iran. Ed. The boat of the sun. Buchet/Chastel. 1960. p.16

ixHenry Corbin. Heavenly earth and resurrection body. From Mazdean Iran to Shî’ite Iran. Ed. The boat of the sun. Buchet/Chastel. 1960. p.111

The Poisonous Death of the Prophet


The prophet Muhammad may have been poisoned, according to Hela Ouardi, a Tunisian academic. In her book, « The Last Days of Muhammad » (2017), she takes a cautious and documented look at the last hours of the Prophet. He died in a few days from a strange illness. Yet he was a man in his prime, robust and even corpulent.

« Muhammad was a lover of tayyibât, a delicacy celebrated in the Koran: women, perfumes and food.i The prophet is a gourmand, fond of meat, honey and sweetsii. Muslim traditionalists describe the strong appetite of the Prophet in gargantuan scenes such as the one where he is seen swallowing half a sheep aloneiii. »iv

The famous Boukhâri, quite an illustrious authority on Islamic chains of tradition, reports two theories that can explain such a quick death, pleurisy and poisoning.

But pleurisy is excluded from the outset, at least if one believes the words of the Prophet himself. « In his Tabaqat, Ibn Sa’d relates that the mother of Bisht, Muhammad’s companion, visiting the Prophet, said to him: ‘I have never seen anyone suffering from a fever like the one that overwhelms you. – God multiplies suffering to multiply the reward,’ he replies. – People say that you are suffering from pleurisy, » she said, to which he replied: « God will never inflict it on me; it is a satanic disease; in fact I am suffering from this meal I have had with your son and I feel that this dish [of goat] will rupture my aortav. »vi

Muslim tradition reports that « the Prophet’s entourage, convinced that the Prophet was suffering from pleurisy, administered against his will a remedy suspected of being a poison that only accelerated the end; this remedy was given to the Prophet on Sunday, the day before his death.vii»viii

This could all be found in a novel by Agatha Christie. All the more so as the sudden death of the prophet did not fail to redistribute the political cards.

« Two men then played a leading role: Abû Bakr and ‘Umar who had to improvise and set up a new political institution based on the idea of replacing the Prophet: the Caliphate. The Caliphate still nourishes the collective Muslim imagination, which sees it as an infallible political institution. »ix

And Hela Ouardi pushes the point of the argument even further, in a politically sensitive direction: « After the death of the Prophet, Abû Bakr and ‘Umar will thus make a decisive entry on the stage of history. Are they not finally the true founders of a new religion that they must rebuild on the ruins of a primitive belief that suddenly collapsed the moment Muhammad died? »x

These two men will soon be murdered themselves, by the very people on whom they had sought political and religious ascendancy.

Today, Islam is still paying a heavy price for the endless excesses of this original conflict.

iTabaqât 1/410

iiTabaqât 1/391 ; Muslim 4/185. His favourite meal was tharîd, a kind of « ratatouille » with bits of bread (Tabaqât 1/393). Muhammad often compared his wife Aisha to his favourite meal (Bukhâri 3/1252 ; Dârimî Sunan 2/144 ; Muslim 4/1886 ; Ibn Mâjah Sunan 2/1092 ; Tirmidhî 4/275 ; Hâkim Mustadrak 4/129 ; Muttaqî Kanz 12/33)

iiiTabaqât 1/393 ; Ibn Hanbal Musnad 45/172

ivHela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.164

vTabaqât 2/236 ; Balâdhuri Ansâb 2/221

viHela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.171-172

viiWâqidî Maghâzi 3/1119 ; Tabaqât 2/190 ; Bukhâri 5/2159-2160 ; Ibn ‘Asâkir Tarîkh Dimashq 2/56 : Muttaqî Kanz 10/573

viiiHela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.172

ix Hela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.233

x Hela Ouardi. Les derniers jours de Muhammad, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2017, p.233