The Creation of Arabian Jewish Tradition: The Myth and Image of Muhammad's Jewish Companion Abdallah ibn Salam (d. 43/663) in Classical Islam

Stafford, Samuel, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
al-Rahim, Ahmed H., AS-Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the myth and image of the first and most significant Jewish convert to Islam, ʿAbdallāh b. Salām (d. 43H/663CE), and his representation in the classical (until 13th c. AD) and post-classical (until 17th c. AD) works of Arabic literary biography and qurʾānic commentary. Ibn Salām belongs to the venerated generation of Muslims known as the Companions – a group that includes the earliest followers of Muḥammad – and his conversion to Islam is regarded as a pivotal moment in Muḥammad’s career in Medina. The dissertation identifies the literary tropes used by the biographical sources, including the biographies of Muḥammad and the Companions, to construct Ibn Salām’s image as the ideal Jewish convert to Islam. In portraying Ibn Salām as the quintessential Jewish convert to Islam and faithful Companion of the prophet, the biographical literature simultaneously constructs an Arabian Jewish tradition on the eve of Islam that was deeply engaged in the study of Jewish scriptures and eagerly anticipating Muḥammad’s advent. The dissertation then examines how the qurʾānic exegetes employ Ibn Salām’s image to interpret scriptural verses that identify and praise a minority among the People of the Book.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Companions, Jewish Converts, Qurʾān Commentary
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