Abraham’s Other Children

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Folklore and oral tradition – especially ancient oral history – are fraught with historical inaccuracies and internal contradictions but provide a compass for contemporary cultural narrative. This book tries to produce the traditional (oral) history – from the Arab perspective – from Abraham to the Prophet Mohamed. This is not a small task, as within the Arab tradition, there are several versions of the same narrative. Another obstacle is that of selection: given the scope of this work, there will inevitably be gaps in the broad swath of history reported here.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part starts around the time Azar marries Ebtal (Abraham’s parents) and Harah marries Shama (Sarah’s parents). In this narrative, Abraham (like Mohamed) finds refuge in a mountain cave and comes face to face with the angel Gabriel. There are other parallels with biblical prophets woven into Abraham’s life as well. The first part continues until the King Cyrus’s death and the rise of Zoroastrianism.

The second part chronicles the Age of Ignorance (according to Arab folklore). This is the period when Arabia was at the edges of great empires and had shifting alliances (primarily between the Greeks and Persians). By the end of the second part, the Quraysh (the family of the Prophet Mohamed) are firmly in charge of the affairs in Mecca. The third part starts with Abdul Motaleb (Prophet Mohamed’s grandfather). It quickly gets to Mohamed’s birth and his childhood. It chronicles his prophethood, initial hardships, and eventual triumph. It ends just before Mohamed’s death.

Presenting such a range of oral tradition in so few pages is not an easy task. Consolidating differing accounts into a coherent narrative requires not only editorial deftness but also a dose of creative flare. The work remains faithful to Arab folklore but lacks the rich characters that are part of Arab folklore, primarily due to lack of space. It is best viewed as a distillation of Arab folkloric history. As such, it does an excellent job of portraying the Arab folkloric legend and history.

Reviewed By:

Author Heidi Tawfik
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 344 pages
Publish Date 2018-May-15
ISBN 9780962945519
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue November 2018
Category Historical Fiction


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