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Economic Botany Section

Al-Zein, Mohammad [1], Musselman, Lytton John [1].

The Quranic Talh: Banana or Acacia?.

Evidences from the Quran and its different ancient and modern interpretations, as well as Islamic religious heritage and classical Arabic literature, were used to determine the identity of Quranic talh. Talh is mentioned once in the Quran as a reward for the “people of the right hand”, meaning the people of heaven (Quran 56: 29). All sources identified talh as either banana or acacia. Talh has been identified as banana in several classical and modern interpretations of the Quran as well as in some classical Arabic dictionaries. Although banana is not native to Arabia, it is very likely that Arabs were familiar with bananas, as they were first cultivated in the Mediterranean region ca. 650 A.D., at the time of the rise of Islam. Further evidence is from etymology. Banana is from banan, Arabic for finger. Bananas, being sweet compared to acacia fruits, also fit well in the context of heaven. The adjective used to describe talh in the Quran literally means neatly stacked or piled one above another, descriptive of individual bananas in a hand. The adjective, however, describes the talh trees rather than fruits. A critical reading of verses 27 to 33 of the 56th sura in the Quran suggests that the two trees, namely sidr and talh, are mentioned as sources of shade rather than fruit. Acacia has flowers crowded in inflorescences and grows in habitats similar tosidr. Talh has also been identified as acacia in many references. Acacia is thought to be the tree of Bai’at Rizwan (Quran 48: 18). It grows in the deserts of Sudan, Libya, Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula. Its common name in Yemeni Arabic is talh, and it has lent its name to many places in the Arab world (Karkur Talh in Libya for example).

Related Links:
Plants of the Bible and the Quran

1 - Old Dominion University, Department of Biological Sciences, Norfolk, Virginia, 23529-0266, USA


Presentation Type: Paper
Session: 21-1
Location: Maybird (Cliff Lodge)
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Time: 2:00 PM
Abstract ID:276

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