The Qur'anic commandment of writing down loan agreements (Q 2:282)-perspectives of a comparison with rabbinical law

Reimund Leicht*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Our analysis of the basic structure of Q 2:282, as well as the functions of those persons involved in contracting a loan agreement, has attempted to reconstruct the essence of the Qur.anic stipulations on the written form. To achieve this it proved unnecessary to trace in detail the numerous legal stipulations of the verse which extend and modify this rule (e.g. the specific form of Qur.anic witness law; the admonishments issued to scribes and witnesses not to evade their duty; representing those who, for whatever reason, are deemed incapable of concluding an agreement; the exclusion of transactions involving circulating merchandise from the written requirement; the limits placed on the requirement when traveling in 2:283). Rather, in terms of the commandment to put agreements into writing we are able to summarize a couple of results which already identify the possibilities and limits for drawing a comparison between Qur.anic and rabbinical law. Basically, the analysis has made it clear that, even for a non-Aggadah verse dealing exclusively with legal issues, as embodied in Q 2:282, a comparison with rabbinical law is potentially productive for understanding the The perspective of comparative law helps us to develop lines of questioning valuable for comprehending the text. One issue that is not to be confused with this is, however, the historical dependence. As much as the parallel occurrences in the Jewish sources and the would seem to suggest that direct dependencies exist, the Jewish influence should most certainly not be overestimated: the Greek document traditions have also proven to be congruent with the Qur.anic conception of written loan agreements in many points. Nevertheless, we were able to show that not only the religious sanctioning of the written form for loan agreements but also the specific arrangement of the Qur.anic document-in particular with regards witnesses-is closely connected to Jewish role models. By all caution, it is to be reckoned that in this case Judaism had passed onto early Islam a general Hellenistic cultural artifact-the written loan agreement-in a specifically molded form. This deepens our understanding of the Qur'anic requirement of writing: as could be shown with regard to the scribe's art, the Qur'an verse analyzed here contains a peculiar sacralization of a professional activity, a clear sign that a legal instrument yet to become completely familiar was adopted in the course of Islam's reform project, even though this adoption was faced with considerable technical and perhaps even cultural barriers. This observation was also made precisely where the aspect of a fear of God in ensuring the correctness of the homology's dictation by the debtor was to guarantee the correct formulation of the document. Both cases show that the cultural-historical transition to the written form in concluding legal transactions obviously presented a considerable problem, one which the Qur'an sought to solve with the help of a transcendental reference. In this way, the written requirement for loan agreements proves to be a case study for the form in which innovations from the surrounding culture were adapted and religiously sanctioned in early Islam, so that they could then become building blocks for the reorganization of the Islamic community.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationTexts and Studies on the Qur'an
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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