Telling the Story in “Storeys”

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This article examines the functionality of stories and storytelling as a pedagogical agent for transmitting the precepts, prescripts, and philosophies of Islamic theology. In order to plot the trajectories in the emergence, development, and socio-cultural function of the genre among the Arabs of pre-Islamic times, the article compares the latter with the Islamic era. It rereads selected stories from the Qur’an, the Sīrah (biography of Prophet Muhammad), and the Hadith in order to investigate how their thematic postures and subject matters intersect with, strengthen, or even contest the pre-Islamic corpus. The article draws its discussion from, among others, Sayyid Qutb, Sabry Hafez, Martin McQuillan, Roland Barthes, and Muhammad Hussayn Haykal. Of relevance to this article are the following questions: exactly what is the reason for the popularity of storytelling across cultures and civilizations, be it Eastern or Western, and how does its patronage by the Qur’an further enhances its status? Sequel to a careful exploration of these and other questions, the article’s conclusion posits that whereas some narratives can be classified as non-factual and serve merely as a pastime, the stories from the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sīrah are serious, momentous, truth-centered, and instructive, thus serving pedagogy and mediating knowledge in Islamic weltanschauung.