Response to Farid Esack’s 2016 Presidential Address

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Shari L. Lowin



Prof. Esack, in his IQSA presidential address, discusses his discomfort with the qur’anic depiction of Lot as a righteous prophet of God who offers his daughters up for sexual assault in order to save his male guests from sexual assault. He writes that he is further bothered by the attempt on the part of Islamic exegetes to whitewash Lot’s actions and maintain his righteousness. In this reply, I look to pre-Islamic midrashic sources for comparison and then engage in a close rereading of the qur’anic accounts. In so doing, I show that the Qur’an appears to present two different Lots, one a righteous messenger of God and one a flawed townsman, on the biblical and midrashic model. Since Prof. Esack noted in his talk that he turned to scholarship on biblical materials with little success, I then turn to a discussion of Louis Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews and its use by modern scholars of Islam. The response ends with a call for scholars of the Qur’an to partner with scholars who have familiarity with and skill in reading the scriptural and exegetical materials of other religions.



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