Crone Patricia - Cook Michael - Hagarism The making of the islamic world

Authors : Crone Patricia - Cook Michael
Title : Hagarism The making of the islamic world
Year : 1977

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Islamic civilisation is the only one in the world which went through its formative period later than the first millennium B.C. Its emergence thus constitutes an unusual, and for a number of related reasons a peculiar, historical event. This book is an attempt to make sense of it. In making the attempt we have adopted an approach which differs appreciably from that of more conventional writing in the field. First, our account of the formation of Islam as a religion is radically new, or more precisely it is one which has been out of fashion since the seventh century: it is based on the intensive use of a small number of contemporary non-Muslim sources the testimony of which has hitherto been disregarded.* Secondly, we have expended a good deal of energy, both scholastic and intellectual, on taking seriously the obvious fact that the formation of Islamic civilisation took place in the world of late antiquity, and what is more in a rather distinctive part of it. Finally, we have set out with a certain recklessness to create a coherent architectonic of ideas in a field over much of which scholarship has yet to dig the foundations. It might not be superfluous for us to attempt a defence of this enterprise against the raised eyebrows of the specialist, but it would certainly be pointless: it is in the last resort by specialists that our work will be judged, and the judgment of specialists is not open to corruption by prefaces. What has been said should also suffice to warn the non-specialist what not to expect: this is a pioneering expedition through some very rough country, not a guided tour. There is however one particular group of readers who are in a special position. For although the characters who appear in our story are all of them dead, their descendants are very much alive. In the first place, the account we have given of the origins of Islam is not one which any believing Muslim can accept: not because it in any way belittles the historical role of Muhammad, but because it presents him in a role quite different fro m that which he has taken on in the Islamic It follows, of course, that new discoveries of early material could dramatically confirm, modify or refute the positions we have taken up. tradition. This is a book written by infidels for infidels, and it is based on what from any Muslim perspective must appear an inordinate regard for the testimony of infidel sources. Our account is not merely unacceptable; it is also one which any Muslim whose faith is as a grain of mustard seed should find no difficulty in rejecting. In the second place, there is a good deal in this book that may be disliked by the Muslim who has lost his religious faith but retained his ancestral pride. What we wish to stress for such a reader is that the strong evaluative overtones of the language in which we have analysed the formation of Islamic civilisation do not add up to any simplistic judgment for or against. We have presented the formation of the new civilisation as a unique cultural achievement, and one to which the maraudings of our own barbarian ancestors offer no parallel whatever; but equally we have presented the achievement as one which carried with it extraordinary cultural costs, and it is above all the necessary linkage between the achievement and the costs that we have tried to elucidate. In the course of our research we have been helped by a number of scholars and institutions. Dr Sebastian Brock, Mr. G. R. Hawting and Dr M. J. Kister were kind enough to give us their comments on an earlier draft of Part One. Dr Brock, Dr P. J. Frandsen and Professor A. Scheiber assisted us over queries in areas of their specialist competence. Consultation of a rather inaccessible Syriac manuscript was made possible by a grant from the British Academy and greatly facilitated by the kindness of Father William Macomber and Dr J. c. J. Sanders. Professor Bernard Lewis was good enough to make available to us his translation of a Jewish apocalyptic poem prior to publication. The completion of our research was greatly helped in different ways by the Warburg Institute and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Over and above these debts of execution, we would also like to put on record what we owe to two influences without which this book could hardly have been conceived. The first was our exposure to the sceptical approach of Dr John Wansbrough to the historicity of the Islamic tradition; without this influence the theory of Islamic origins set out in this book would never have occurred to us. † The second is the powerful and suggestive analysis of cultural meaning displayed in the work of John Dunn; without it we might still have developed our account of the beginnings of Islam, but we would have had only the haziest notion what to do with it. Finally, we would like to thank Professor J. B. Segal for teaching us Syriac, and Dr D. J. Kamhi for introducing us to the Talmud. What goes without saying should in this case be said: none of those who have helped us bear any responsibility for the views expressed in this book. P.C. M.A.C. ...

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