Islamic History, Part 1: Introduction

Islamic History Series Welcome to the first part of an extended series on Islamic history, from the life of Muhammad until, well, whenever I can't continue devoting any time to it, I suppose. I don't have much to say by way of introduction, but I will note that we're starting in one of the most … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 1: Introduction

Islamic History, Part 2: The pre-Islamic world

Islamic History Series There are two contextual parts to understanding the rise and rapid spread of Islam in the 7th century: the Arabian context and the wider world with which Arabia interacted. Students learning the history of Islam are usually taught the wider context first, probably because the Arabian context really flows directly into the … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 2: The pre-Islamic world

Islamic History, Part 4: Muhammad’s Revelations and the Hijrah (~570-622)

Islamic History Series I was trying to decide how to approach the story of Muhammad, obviously the single most important episode in the development of Islam and Islamic civilization. I could start with the traditional narrative of Muhammad's life, but that risks people reading the narrative and treating it as though it were settled fact. … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 4: Muhammad’s Revelations and the Hijrah (~570-622)

Islamic History, Part 5: Muhammad in Medina, war with Mecca, and Muhammad’s death (622-632)

Islamic History Series Having established Muhammad's initial ministry in Mecca and his eventual flight from that city, just ahead of a plot to assassinate him, we now pick up the story with Muhammad having arrived in the oasis city of Yathrib, although it wasn't "Yathrib" much longer. The city soon became known as "The City … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 5: Muhammad in Medina, war with Mecca, and Muhammad’s death (622-632)

Islamic History, Part 6: The problem with early sources

Islamic History Series We've reached a point in our overview of Islamic history where we need to stop talking about history and talk historiography, or the study of how history gets studied. Because the material regarding the life of Muhammad is so slim and presents so many challenges to the historian, I feel like I … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 6: The problem with early sources

Islamic History, Part 7: Alternative theories of the early Islamic community

Islamic History Series When you combine a major world-changing historical event with a near-total dearth of reliable primary sources, you inevitably get a lot of revisionist attempts to reconstruct the "real" history. For the origins of Islam and the nature of its earliest community, we have arguably the most world-changing event of the past 1500 … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 7: Alternative theories of the early Islamic community