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According to Andreas Kaplony, a Swiss Arabist reading Geniza texts here 
at the British School, Xaver in became a title in Islam from the 
examplar of Abraham, called the friend (Xaver) of God. By 
extension it came to be applied to the learned.

This is my memory of an earlier discussion, rather than his response to 
the specific issues here addressed.

Sigrid Peterson   UPenn   petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu
According to Herb Basser, who began by citing this from Judith Romney Wegner:

> >      Later, Islam adapted the title Xaver, Arabicizing it as *Habr*.
> > (I use "H" here because the normal Arabic transliteration is *habr* with an
> > underdotted h, which I can't reproduce here).They used it in the general con-
> > notation of "a non-Muslim religious authority" (such as a rabbi or bishop),
> > and also to mean a learned man or scribe.   Obviously the original referent
> > in Arabic was "a learned rabbi who is a member of a talmudic academy" (which
> > meant, in those days, either Sura or Pumbedita, which were geographically
> > and culturally quite close to Kufa and Basra (the sites of two early academies
> > of Islamic law founded about the 8th century). Basra is still on the map!
> > 

To which Herb replied:
> Obviously........????
> the arabic GueBeR refered to parsee priests, gnostics, and infidels-- the
> etymology is unclear-- (HBR to charm is one guess)
> lexicographers relate it with the talmudic HBR-- (Shab. 11a,45a, Pes
> 113b) a sassanian priest --
> hbasser