Early Islam

An alternative scenario of its emergence

Authored by: Markus Gross

Routledge Handbook on Early Islam

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138821187
eBook ISBN: 9781315743462
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315743462.ch18

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Abstract

If intellectual curiosity, a fascination with the orient, or the growing need for experts on the Middle East prompts the decision of high school graduates to apply for the study course Islamic Studies, they will be taught roughly the same outline of a narrative about the origin of this religion as generations of students before them: a man later known as the Prophet Muḥammad was born in Mecca around 570 CE, received his first revelation at about the age of 40, founded the religion of Islam and started a new empire, which just one generation after his death had become the dominant power of the whole region due to the relentless war-like efforts of his political and religious successors, the caliphs. Islamologists have of course done a lot of “fine tuning,” occasionally modifying the traditional picture, albeit only to a limited extent. The core outline, however, has been questioned by only very few mavericks of the academic community. Summarily, such scholars are labeled revisionists, although their findings and conclusions might differ greatly. The first generation of them appeared in the 1970s – people like Günter Lüling (see 1974, 2003), John Wansbrough (see 1978), and Patricia Crone and Michael Cook (see 1977), but their opinions and research results have mostly been left out of standard works 1 in Islamic Studies. At best, in some specialized articles they are mentioned as outsiders. But up to now they can hardly be found in introductory books, scholarly overviews, or encyclopedia articles.

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