More on rajim — banished from heaven or pelted with stones?


On the topic of the Qurʾānic word rajim used to describe Satan…An Ethiopic form of rajim (regemt) is used in the Ethiopic Bible (i.e. the Bible written in the ancient language of Ethiopia) for the cursing of the serpent in Genesis 3.14, and for the casting of the condemned into the fire with the devil in Matthew 25.41.  In other Ethiopic texts an adjectival form of this term is commonly used together with the word “Satan” in the phrase saytan ragum (compare the Quranic Arabic al-shaytan al-rajim).

The question regarding this term that has interested me is its relationship to the Arabic verb rajama, which comes from the same root but means “to stone” (used both for the stoning of people and for the stoning of pillars in the hajj).  Now elsewhere (Q 67.5) the Qurʾān describes the masabih (literally “lamps” but here it seems to be a reference to the stars) of heaven as rujum (a word from the same root as rajim and rajama).  Traditional Muslim scholars explain this verse with the tradition that God throws stars at demons, or “stones” with the stars (hence the idea that shooting stars occur when God – or an angel — is throwing a star at a demon).

However, the Qurʾān never actually has God doing such a thing – it mentions only that when demons or jinn try to listen into God’s conversations in heaven they are “pursued” by a shihab, a word which seems to mean something like a “fiery flash” (see Q 15.18; 37.10; 67.7; 72.9).

In order to explain the two different uses of the root r.j.m.  in the Qurʾān a scholar from the early 19th century, named van Vloten, argued that in the days of the Prophet Arabs used to throw stones (rajama) at snakes.  For this reason they began to call the devil “rajim” (he assumes that they connected the devil with snakes even though the Qurʾān does not have a snake in the Garden with Adam).  That is, they thought of the devil as a snake and liked to throw stones at snakes and so called him “the stoned one.”  I like van Vloten’s creativity…but perhaps he was too creative.

It seems that when the Qurʾān names Satan al-rajim it means simply to describe him as the one sent out or banished from heaven.  The Qurʾān means that Satan is an outcast from heaven.  It does not mean (imho!) that he is “stoned” or “pelted with stones.”

Ok — that’s it for my first modest post.  Happy to be here! Gabriel

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on the 100,000 “or more”


When the Quran (37.147) refers to God sending Jonah to 100,000 “or more” it seems to be in close conversation with the Bible.  This reference follows a verse (37.146) in which the Quran has God proclaim how he made a “yaqtīn” tree sprout over Jonah.  Similarly the Bible has a “castor-oil plant” (some sort of gourd, Hebrew qīqāyōn; Jonah 4:6) sprout over Jonah before it has God tell him:

“You are concerned for the castor-oil plant which has not cost you any effort and which you did not grow, which came up in a night and has perished in a night.  * So why should I not be concerned for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, to say nothing of all the animals?” (Jonah 4.10-1).

So why does the Quran speak of 100,000 or more?  The Arabic translated here as “or more” is aw yazīdūn, a phrase which matches the rhyme of verses around such such as 37.144 yub3athūn and 37.149 al-banūn.  It could be that the Quran did not want to emphasize the precise number (perhaps its audience already knew the tradition of 120,000?) and it was instead concerned with a phrase that would match the alternating rhyme ( here the rhyme goes between ūn and īn).  Wa-Allah 3alam! Gabriel

More on rajim — “outcast” or “pelted with stones”?


On the topic of the Qurʾānic word rajim used to describe Satan…An Ethiopic form of rajim (regemt) is used in the Ethiopic Bible (i.e. the Bible written in the ancient language of Ethiopia) for the cursing of the serpent in Genesis 3.14, and for the casting of the condemned into the fire with the devil in Matthew 25.41. In other Ethiopic texts an adjectival form of this term is commonly used together with the word “Satan” in the phrase saytan ragum (compare the Quranic Arabic al-shaytan al-rajim). The question regarding this term that has interested me is its relationship to the Arabic verb rajama, which comes from the same root but means “to stone” (used both for the stoning of people and for the stoning of pillars in the hajj). Now elsewhere (Q 67.5) the Qurʾān describes the masabih (literally “lamps” but here it seems to be a reference to the stars) of heaven as rujum (a word from the same root as rajim and rajama). Traditional Muslim scholars explain this verse with the tradition that God throws stars at demons, or “stones” with the stars (hence the idea that shooting stars occur when God – or an angel — is throwing a star at a demon). However, the Qurʾān never actually has God doing such a thing – it mentions only that when demons or jinn try to listen into God’s conversations in heaven they are “pursued” by a shihab, a word which seems to mean something like a “fiery flash” (see Q 15.18; 37.10; 67.7; 72.9). In order to explain the two different uses of the root r.j.m. in the Qurʾān a scholar from the early 19th century, named van Vloten, argued that in the days of the Prophet Arabs used to throw stones (rajama) at snakes. For this reason they began to call the devil “rajim” (he assumes that they connected the devil with snakes even though the Qurʾān does not have a snake in the Garden with Adam). That is, they thought of the devil as a snake and liked to throw stones at snakes and so called him “the stoned one.” I like van Vloten’s creativity…but perhaps he was too creative. It seems that when the Qurʾān names Satan al-rajim it means simply to describe him as the one sent out or banished from heaven. The Qurʾān means that Satan is an outcast from heaven. It does not mean (imho!) that he is “stoned” or “pelted with stones.” Ok — that’s it for my first modest post. Happy to be here! Gabriel