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FORUM: Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity (Part 2)

Detail, Muhammad Leads the Israelite Prophets in Prayer in Jerusalem, folio from an Eastern Turkish Miʿrāj Nāma, Herat, 15th c. (Supplément turc 190, f. 7r; courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France).

Michael Pregill


This is the second part of our forum on “Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity,” dedicated to exploration of the intersections of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam reflected in the Qur’an, understandings of the career of Muhammad, and the formation of Muslim identity, community, and tradition.

The title of this forum was selected deliberately. Islam was born out of the imperial struggles of Late Antiquity, a period during which claims of political authority were commonly intertwined with assertions of religious truth. Islam was unusual in this period in that it recognized the partial authenticity of the Jewish and Christian messages while asserting its superiority as the final revelation to humanity, as well as establishing a world empire aiming to restore God’s rule on earth. The narrative of Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension (the Isrāʾ and Miʿrāj) epitomizes the tension between Islam’s acknowledgment of its continuity and compatibility with Judaism and Christianity and its supersessionist appropriation of the symbols and traditions of its predecessors. Muhammad miraculously travels to Jerusalem, where he meets the Israelite prophets; they not only recognize him and welcome him into their fellowship, but acknowledge him as their leader. Formative Islam thus embraces Jews and Christians as fellow members of a family of religions tracing their lineage back to ancient Israel – the  “People of the Book” – yet tacitly positions itself as superior, the culmination and perfection of what went before.

Like the seven scholars who contributed to the first part of the forum, the five scholars whose work is represented here all explore the complex social, political, and religious factors that inform the intersections of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in this period. Their subject matter ranges from the coevolution of Bible and Qur’an as intertwined genres to Muslim historians’ understanding of Islam’s origins to Jewish narratives of the influence of “Jewish Muslims” on the Qur’an. Read together, both parts of our forum demonstrate the breadth, sophistication, and diversity of contemporary scholarly approaches to the rise of Islam in the late antique milieu.

The first part of this collaborative forum may be found here.


01Ulrika Mårtensson

Back to the Sources: The Meaning of the Abrahamic Election According to Some Classical Muslim Authors

Scholars disagree on the usefulness of classical Islamic sources for obtaining historical information about the Prophet and the origins of the Qur’an. One school argues that these sources are confessional and cover up the fact that the Qur’an and Islam emerged out of Judaism and Christianity. However, another school recognizes that at least some of the classical historians actually emphasized the significance of Judaism, Christianity and the Bible for the Prophet and the Qur’an… Read more

 


02John C. Reeves

Con-‘text’-ualizing Bible in/and/with Qur’an

There is no such thing as ‘the Bible’; instead, we have a variety of ‘Bibles’ which vary enormously in terms of their contents, editorial structures, and regional distributions up to and well beyond the seventh century. The so-called ‘Masoretic Text,’ the basis for modern Western translations of the Hebrew Bible, did not exist as such in Muhammad’s day. Therefore, to affirm (as many do) that Qur’an presupposes ‘the Bible’ begs the question ‘which (or whose) Bible’? Read more

 

 


03Mehdy Shaddel

Food, Identity, and ‘Third-Way’ Groups in Late Antiquity and at the Origins of the Qur’an

The sacred book of Islam is invitingly rich in food-related regulations, reflecting the need for legislation on various issues in an emerging community. Dietary practices were, and still are, commonly used as markers of ethno-religious identity, and, accordingly, qur’anic commandments concerning food are of importance because of the light they shed on the many ethico-religious trends current in the qur’anic milieu and the boundaries separating them from each other. Read more

 


04Stephen J. Shoemaker

Biblical Criticism and the Qur’an: The Hour Has Drawn Nigh

For too long, study of the Qur’an and the rise of Islam has remained quarantined from the hermeneutics of suspicion and the critical approaches that have defined biblical and early Christian studies for well over a century. It seems that now the hour has arrived for a critical turn in the study of early Islam, a turn that in some respects represents a return to the critical spirit characteristic of some of the earliest Western scholarship on Islamic origins… Read more

 

 

 


05Liran  Yadgar

Jewish Accounts of Muhammad and His Apostate Informants

What was the Jewish knowledge of Islam, its institutions and dogmas, in the pre-modern period? How familiar were Jews living under Islam with its holy scripture, the Qur’an, its contents and its language, and how did they use this book in their works? What was their understanding of the Prophet Muhammad and his role in history, and what did they make of the rise of Islam? Read more

 

 

 

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FORUM: Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity (Part 2)


Michael Pregill


This is the second part of our forum on “Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity,” dedicated to exploration of the intersections of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam reflected in the Qur’an, understandings of the career of Muhammad, and the formation of Muslim identity, community, and tradition.

The title of this forum was selected deliberately. Islam was born out of the imperial struggles of Late Antiquity, a period during which claims of political authority were commonly intertwined with assertions of religious truth. Islam was unusual in this period in that it recognized the partial authenticity of the Jewish and Christian messages while asserting its superiority as the final revelation to humanity, as well as establishing a world empire aiming to restore God’s rule on earth. The narrative of Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension (the Isrāʾ and Miʿrāj) epitomizes the tension between Islam’s acknowledgment of its continuity and compatibility with Judaism and Christianity and its supersessionist appropriation of the symbols and traditions of its predecessors. Muhammad miraculously travels to Jerusalem, where he meets the Israelite prophets; they not only recognize him and welcome him into their fellowship, but acknowledge him as their leader. Formative Islam thus embraces Jews and Christians as fellow members of a family of religions tracing their lineage back to ancient Israel – the  “People of the Book” – yet tacitly positions itself as superior, the culmination and perfection of what went before.

Like the seven scholars who contributed to the first part of the forum, the five scholars whose work is represented here all explore the complex social, political, and religious factors that inform the intersections of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in this period. Their subject matter ranges from the coevolution of Bible and Qur’an as intertwined genres to Muslim historians’ understanding of Islam’s origins to Jewish narratives of the influence of “Jewish Muslims” on the Qur’an. Read together, both parts of our forum demonstrate the breadth, sophistication, and diversity of contemporary scholarly approaches to the rise of Islam in the late antique milieu.

The first part of this collaborative forum may be found here.


01Ulrika Mårtensson

Back to the Sources: The Meaning of the Abrahamic Election According to Some Classical Muslim Authors

Scholars disagree on the usefulness of classical Islamic sources for obtaining historical information about the Prophet and the origins of the Qur’an. One school argues that these sources are confessional and cover up the fact that the Qur’an and Islam emerged out of Judaism and Christianity. However, another school recognizes that at least some of the classical historians actually emphasized the significance of Judaism, Christianity and the Bible for the Prophet and the Qur’an… Read more

 


02John C. Reeves

Con-‘text’-ualizing Bible in/and/with Qur’an

There is no such thing as ‘the Bible’; instead, we have a variety of ‘Bibles’ which vary enormously in terms of their contents, editorial structures, and regional distributions up to and well beyond the seventh century. The so-called ‘Masoretic Text,’ the basis for modern Western translations of the Hebrew Bible, did not exist as such in Muhammad’s day. Therefore, to affirm (as many do) that Qur’an presupposes ‘the Bible’ begs the question ‘which (or whose) Bible’? Read more

 

 


03Mehdy Shaddel

Food, Identity, and ‘Third-Way’ Groups in Late Antiquity and at the Origins of the Qur’an

The sacred book of Islam is invitingly rich in food-related regulations, reflecting the need for legislation on various issues in an emerging community. Dietary practices were, and still are, commonly used as markers of ethno-religious identity, and, accordingly, qur’anic commandments concerning food are of importance because of the light they shed on the many ethico-religious trends current in the qur’anic milieu and the boundaries separating them from each other. Read more

 


04Stephen J. Shoemaker

Biblical Criticism and the Qur’an: The Hour Has Drawn Nigh

For too long, study of the Qur’an and the rise of Islam has remained quarantined from the hermeneutics of suspicion and the critical approaches that have defined biblical and early Christian studies for well over a century. It seems that now the hour has arrived for a critical turn in the study of early Islam, a turn that in some respects represents a return to the critical spirit characteristic of some of the earliest Western scholarship on Islamic origins… Read more

 

 

 


05Liran  Yadgar

Jewish Accounts of Muhammad and His Apostate Informants

What was the Jewish knowledge of Islam, its institutions and dogmas, in the pre-modern period? How familiar were Jews living under Islam with its holy scripture, the Qur’an, its contents and its language, and how did they use this book in their works? What was their understanding of the Prophet Muhammad and his role in history, and what did they make of the rise of Islam? Read more

 

 

 

FORUM: Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity (Part 2)

FORUM: Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity (Part 2)