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This looks a lot like the alternation in the MT between two forms of a Tyrian king's name, either חִירָם or חִירוֹם depending on whether the consonantal text has a waw or not. חִירוֹם reflects the more original Phoenician form, but someone decided to read the Hebraized form חִירָם wherever the rasm allowed.

What do you think of the suggestion (found in my new BFF Jeffery and probably elsewhere) that the Ibrahim variant was created through contamination with Isra'il? Wouldn't be the strangest contamination of a personal name in the Qur'an.


There is indeed no need to invoke imala here. As far as I know, Arabic has no native words with two long /a:/ sequences in a row; if any do exist, they must be vanishingly rare. It therefore seems reasonable to assume that an original form 'abraahaam was dissimilated to 'ibraahiim within Arabic, much as French chocolat becomes Algerian Arabic shikula, or Classical Arabic jumu`ah is borrowed into Algerian Arabic as jamu`a "Friday prayer". Under this assumption, the Hisham tradition should reflect influence from a dialect of Arabic where this change did not apply, perhaps mediated as you suggest by the consonantal skeleton provided by the text. One might then expect to see knock-on effects on other names whose original form did not conform well to Arabic phonotactics; are there any?


@Benjamin: I really like this parallel you mentioned about ḥirom/ḥiråm; It does seem very similar to this. The difference being that ḥyrm and ḥyrwm are both actually correct ways of spelling ḥirom. ʔibrahīm simply should not be writable as ʔbrhm. Long ī is always spelled with y.

I'm sympathetic to Jeffery's argument. To this we may add ʔismāʕīl as well. So maybe ʔifʕālīl was reinterpreted as a 'vowel pattern for biblical figures'.

Still doesn't explain both spellings existing though (Which Jeffery seems to be unaware of? Ignores? SPELLINGS MATTER GUYS!). And not just in isolated Surahs, some Surahs have both and one Aya even has both!

Is ابرهم a Nabataeogram? Why this specific name? Why nothing else? Especially since the Nabataeans weren't primarily Jewish, it doesn't make much sense (the name seems to be unattested in Nabataean even).

@Lameen: Thanks! Those are very nice parallels.

I'll see if there is anything to that. One that comes to mind that could show something is ǧibrīl, but it is read as such by Hišām, and not as ǧibraʔīl that we see in several other traditions. Which honestly makes it look more alien from an Arabic phonotactic perspective.

But yeah, the problem remains: why are both spellings present in the first place?

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