Muhammad preaching his final sermon to his earliest converts (Paris BN 1489 fol. 5v )

 

REL 410/510: Islamic Origins: The Historical Muhammad and Islam in the Seventh Century

TR 2:00-3:50

 

Professor: Dr. Stephen Shoemaker 
Telephone: 346-4998 
sshoemak (at) uoregon (dot) edu 

Office: 813 PLC
Office Hours: TR 4-5:00

(or by appointment)

   

 

Course Description

 

Countless college textbooks and biographies of Muhammad present the beginnings of the Islamic religious tradition as it were a relatively straightforward affair.  All too often they relate the events of Muhammad’s life and the genesis of his religious community straight out of the traditional Islamic sources, bringing only a modicum of criticism to this traditional narrative.  Yet such confidence in these traditional accounts it largely unwarranted, and scholars of early Islam have long recognized that the earliest sources for the beginnings of Islam were arrestingly late in forming.  The earliest surviving narrative of Islamic origins was composed well over one hundred years after Muhammad’s death, and this narrative is known only as it was revised by Islamic scholars working two to three centuries after the events in question.  Moreover, the traditional narratives of Islamic origins are widely acknowledged to present a highly stylized, even mythical account of Islamic origins that was fashioned to meet the needs and interests of the Islamic tradition as it had developed by its second and third centuries.  Accordingly, scholars of early Islam have often made an undesirable choice between either accepting the basic outlines of the traditional narrative of origins (as in so many textbooks and biographies) or resigning themselves to relative ignorance about the events of the first Islamic century.

This course, however, pursues an alternative option, by following historical-critical approaches similar to those employed by scholars of biblical studies to illuminate the beginnings of Islam.  As such methods have proven highly effective in probing behind the surface of traditional materials to illuminate the origins of Judaism and Christianity, so one imagines that similar perspectives hold great potential for investigating the beginnings of Islam, which has largely been shielded from this critical lens.  The course will begin by setting Muhammad’s religious movement within the matrix of religions and cultures in late ancient west Asia.  Then we will examine and critique the traditional narrative of Islamic origins given by the Islamic sources and re-presented by many western scholars.  As an alternative to this received narrative, we will focus on several specific areas where historical-critical scholarship has met with some success in reconstructing the earliest history of Islam: the geographic location in which Islam had its genesis; the eschatological beliefs of Muhammad and his earliest followers; the formation of a sacred scripture; the establishment of a sectarian identity; and the formation of a sacred geography.  Finally, the course will conclude by considering the events of the "Islamic" conquest of the Near East and the process by which this earliest religious community evolved into the “classical Islam” of the Abbasid period that is reflected in most of our historical sources.  In all of this the course will pay especially close attention to evidence provided by non-Islamic sources from the period, which all too often have been overlooked in the study of Islamic origins.

 

Requirements

 

1.   Preparation of reading assignments prior to class and active participation in seminar (30% of grade).

2.   Each student will be responsible for initiating class discussion during one session.  Students will be expected to summarize the main points of the readings for that class and raise specific issues from the material for class discussion (20% of grade).

3.   A research paper or comparable project (ca. 8-10 pgs.; 12-15 pgs. for graduate credit) due 3/22, 1:00 PM.  Topics to be chosen in consultation with the instructor  (50% of grade).

 

Textbooks:

 

Required

  • Michael Cook, Muhammad (Oxford Univ. Press; ISBN: 0192876058)

  • Fred M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Harvard Univ. Press; ISBN: 0674050975)

  • Chase F. Robinson, ʿAbd al-Malik (Oneworld; ISBN: 1851685073)

Numerous other items are to be found online or in on Blackboard.  Please print out the online items and bring them to class.

 

Selected Bibliography for Islamic Origins

   

Course Outline  

 

Week 1

1/10 Introduction  

1/12 The Near East in the Early Seventh Century

Week 2

1/17  The Arabian Penninsula on the Eve of Islam

  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 27-39

  • Cook, Muhammad, 5-11

  • Ian Gillman & Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Christians in Asia before 1500, 77-88 (Blackboard)

  • The Book of the Himyarites (Blackboard)

1/19 The Traditional Account of Islamic Origins: Muhammad
  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 39-50

  • Cook, Muhammad, 12-60

  • Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, 7-13, 34-39, 46-55 (Blackboard)

Week 3

1/24  The Traditional Account of Islamic Origins: The Qurʾān

1/26  The Crisis of the Sources

Week 4

1/31  No class: instructor lecturing at Pomona College

2/2  Problems with the Arabian Context: Economy and Religion

  • Patricia Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, 231-50 (Blackboard)

  • Patricia Crone, "How Did the Quranic Pagans Make a Living?" Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 68 (2005): 387-99 (Blackboard)

  • Gerald R. Hawting, "John Wansbrough, Islam, and Monotheism." Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 9 (1997): 23-38 (Blackboard)

  • Gerald R. Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam, 1-20 (Blackboard)

Week 5

2/7  Problems with the Arabian Context: Polytheism and Idolatry 

  • Gerald R. Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam, 130-49 (Blackboard)

  • Patricia Crone,. "The Religion of the Quānic Pagans: God and the Lesser Deities." Arabica 57 (2010): 151-200 (Blackboard)

2/9  The Qurʾān: Questions and Problems

  • Michael Cook, The Koran, 117-43 (Blackboard)

  • Harald Motzki, "Alternative Accounts of the Qurʾān’s Formation." In The Cambridge Companion to the Qurʾān, 59-75 (Blackboard)

  • Lawrence Conrad, “Qur’anic Studies: A Historians Perspective,” 9-15 (Blackboard)

  • Shoemaker, Death of a Prophet, 146-58 (Blackboard)

Week 6

2/14 The Qurʾān: Questions and Problems

  • Herbert Berg, "The Implications of, and Opposition to, the Methods and Theories of John Wansbrough." Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 9 (1997): 3-22 (Blackboard)

  • Patricia Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, 203-30 (Blackboard)

  • Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Qurʾān and its Biblical Subtext, 3-36 (Blackboard)

2/16  Eschatology and Early Islam 

  • Doctrina Iacobi nuper Baptizati (selections) (Blackboard)

  • David Cook, "The Beginnings of Islam as an Apocalyptic Movement." Journal of Millennial Studies Volume, no. 1 (2001)  

  • M. J. Kister, "'A Booth like the Booth of Moses . . . ': A Study of an Early Ḥadīth." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 25 (1962): 150-5 (Blackboard).

  • Shoemaker, Death of a Prophet, 158-95 (Blackboard)

  • Uri Rubin, "Muḥammad's Message in Mecca: Warnings, Signs, and Miracles." In The Cambridge Companion to Muḥammad, edited by Jonathan E. Brockopp, 39-60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010 (Blackboard)

Week 7

2/21  Confessional Boundaries in Early Islam: The Community of the Believers 

  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 56-89, 227-32

  • Sebeos, Chronicle (Thomson, 94-102) (Blackboard)

  • Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism, 3-9 (Blackboard)

  • Robert G. Hoyland, "Sebeos, the Jews, and the Rise of Islam." Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations 2 (1995): 89-102 (Blackboard)

2/23  Confessional Boundaries in Early Islam: The Community of the Believers 

  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 90-106.

  • Apocalypse of Rabbi Shimon (Reeves, 76-89) (Blackboard)

  • Uri Rubin, Between Bible and Qurʾān, 11-35 (Blackboard)

  • Suliman Bashear, "Qibla Musharriqa and Early Muslim Prayer in Churches." The Muslim World 81 (1991): 267-82 (Blackboard)

Week 8

2/28  Jerusalem, the Holy Land, and Early Islamic Sacred Geography

  • S. D. Goitein, "The Sanctity of Jerusalem and Palestine in Early Islam." In Studies in Islamic History and Institutions, 135-48. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1966 (Blackboard)

  • Robert G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, 560-73 (Blackboard)

  • Moshe Sharon, "The Birth of Islam in the Holy Land." In Pillars of Smoke and Fire: The Holy Land in History and Thought, edited by Moshe Sharon, 225-35. Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1988 (Blackboard)

  • Uri Rubin, Between Bible and Qurʾān, 36-48 (Blackboard)

  • Isaac Hasson, "Muslim Literature in Praise of Jerusalem: Faḍāʾil al-Bayt al-Muqaddas." The Jerusalem Cathedra 1 (1981): 168-84 (Blackboard)

  • Ofer Livne-Kafri, "A Note on Some Traditions of Faḍāʾil al-Quds." Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 14 (1991): 71-83 (Blackboard)

3/1  Jerusalem, the Holy Land, and Early Islamic Sacred Geography

  • Amikam Elad, "Why Did ʿAbd al-Malik Build the Dome of the Rock?: A Re-examination of the Muslim Sources." In Bayt al-Maqdis: ʿAbd al-Malik's Jerusalem, 2 vols. Vol. 1, 33-58. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992 (Blackboard)

  • Josef van Ess, "ʿAbd al-Malik and the Dome of the Rock: An Analysis of Some Texts." In Bayt al-Maqdis: ʿAbd al-Malik's Jerusalem, 2 vols. Vol. 1, 89-104. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995 (Blackboard)

  • Moshe Sharon, "Praises of Jerusalem as a Source for the Early History of Islam." Bibliotheca orientalis 49 (1992): 55-67 (Blackboard)

  • Ofer Livne-Kafri, "Jerusalem in Early Islam: The Eschatological Aspect." Arabica 53 (2006): 382-403 (Blackboard)

Week 9

3/6  The Conquest of the Near East

  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 106-144.

  • Sebastian P. Brock, "Syriac Views of Emergent Islam." In Studies on the First Century of Islam, edited by G. H. A. Juynboll, 9-21, 199-203. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982 (Blackboard)

  • Theophilus of Edessa, Chronicle, selections (Hoyland, trans., 86-103, 114-21) (Blackboard)

3/8  Islam and the Umayyads.

  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 145-77
  • Stephen Humphreys, Muʿawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, 1-19, 115-36 (Blackboard)
  • John of Damascus, On Heresies 100/101
  • John bar Penkaya, Riš Mellē (Sebastian Brock, "North Mesopotamia in the Late Seventh Century," 59-61) (Blackboard)

Week 10

3/13  ʿAbd al Malik and the Formation of “Classical” Islam

  • Robinson, ʿAbd al-Malik, 1-9, 31-48, 59-80
  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 177-93
  • Robert G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, 545-59 (Blackboard)

3/15  ʿAbd al Malik and the Formation of “Classical” Islam

  • Robinson, ʿAbd al-Malik, 81-128
  • Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, 194-224, 233-35

 

Thursday, March 22: Paper due 1 PM