Using techniques of form criticism and discourse analysis, this article aims at developing a better understanding of the famous Quranic verses (Q 54:1–2) on the splitting of the moon, traditionally understood as a miracle of Muhammad. It examines the vast body of biographical traditions and reports and investigates the contributions of Muslim theologians, exegetes, and philosophers. Analysis reveals that this miracle has a rich literary history traceable to an early oral reception of two parallel interpretations of the Quranic text. One was refined through narrative reception and entered the prevalent popular lore and the normative theological depiction of history. A separate section is dedicated to analyzing a single tradition that grew to become an exemplary folktale expressing the communal sectarian sentiments of the transmitters. However, a closer look into pre-Islamic poetry, classical Arabic lexicons, Quranic rhetoric, the Jewish and Christian milieus, and anthropological information provides a deeper insight into the cultural context of the text. It seeks to understand the rather complicated origins of the whole theological-narrative construct. In conclusion, the article proposes a specific reading of the historical origin of these verses, one that predates the hegemony of miraculous interpretation, without committing to a mutually exclusive reading of the possibilities of such origin.


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pp. 141-186
Launched on MUSE
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