“Like a donkey carrying books” – a Qur’anic response to a Rabbinic motif

Pondering Islam

One of the themes of my last few posts is that the Qurʾān often interacts with Rabbinic, Biblical and Christian tradition in an informed way. Previously I looked at how the Qurʾān responds to the crucifixion of Jesus in light of Rabbinic texts.  This post will give another example of the Qurʾān utilizing a Rabbinic motif to argue against the Prophet’s Jewish opponents.

“Like a donkey carrying books”

A rather harsh metaphor occurs in the Qurʾān for some of the Jewish opponents of the Prophet in Sūrah al-Jumuʿah:

مثل الذين حُمّلوا التورة ثم لم يحملوها كمثل الحمار يحمل اسفارا بئس مثل القوم الذين كذبوا بأياتِ اللهِ وللهُ لا يهدي القوم الظالمين

The example of those who were burdened with the Torah, but then did not carry it, is like an ass carrying books —evil is the example of the people which deny the signs of God, and God does…

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