Updates (February 2020) – the Syriac Legend of Alexander

As usual, it has been a while since this site has received an update, but for the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be given some time to focus on some research.

The next post (to be released in a few days) will be on the Syriac Legend of Alexander, and its relation to the Dhuʾl Qarnayn story in Surah al-Kahf. My article is fairly long (almost 20 pages), similar to my “Isaiah 42” article, but even then it only really scratches the surface of the issue. But that is tangential.

Now, about this essay. I wrote it primarily in assessing Van Bladel’s (now rather well known) article in GSR’s The Qur’an in Historical Context. The basic premise of his paper is that the Qur’an essentially borrows from a particular Alexander story probably written around 630AD.

I have been familiar with Van Bladel’s work for a while, but only now have had the time to appraise it. The issues of Dhu’l Qarnayn’s identity, precedents to the story, how the Qur’an shapes existing tradition, are all very complex, so my essay only focuses very narrowly on Van Bladel’s thesis, pertaining to whether or not the Qur’an took from the Syriac Legend.

If you’ve read Van Bladel’s paper, or perhaps come across arguments (probably online) that the Qur’an borrows from the Syriac Legend of Alexander, this will interest you. I was surprised to find that some of the arguments were just plain bad, especially where he deals with the Syriac language of the text.

Anyway – shall be up in a few days InshaʾAllah.

Another thing: I am a big fan of long form articles, and hereon out I hope my website will feature mostly these sorts of articles. Unfortunately short blog posts rarely break any ground with existing problems. Once I have enough “long” articles, I will probably move ‘blog’ style posts (like this one) to another tab on this website. If you have any suggested topics of research (particularly pertaining to Syriac literature and the Qur’an), please feel free to comment.


4 thoughts on “Updates (February 2020) – the Syriac Legend of Alexander

  1. The Quran is clearly using the dual form qarnayn. Afaik the Syriac language has lost the dual. Appearently the Romance speaks of an undetermined number of horns. How do we get from plural to dual when in later (!) Antiquity the depiction of Alexander with 2 horns has gone extinct?

    Are you aware of Tommaso Tesei’s work? On Twitter he told me that Dhul-Qarnayn is an allusion to Daniel’s two horned ram -> Achaemenid empire.

    I wonder if the romance is alluding to the beast with many horns elsewhere in Daniel. ~slm


    Liked by 1 person

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