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Crossroads to Islam : The Origins of the Arab Religion and the Arab State (Yehuda D. NEVO & Judith KOREN)

Crossroads to Islam : The Origins of the Arab Religion and the Arab State (…)

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Yehuda D. Nevo répertoria plus de quatre cent inscriptions arabes dans le désert du Neguev. C’est à partir de ce corpus qu’il réexamina les origines de l’islam et les débuts de l’histoire islamique.


In this controversial exploration of the early history of Islam, archaeologist Yehuda D. Nevo and researcher Judith Koren present a revolutionary theory of the origins and development of the Islamic state and religion. Whereas most works on this subject derive their view of the history of this period from the Muslim literature, Crossroads to Islam also examines important types of evidence hitherto neglected: the literature of the local (Christian) population, archaeological excavations, numismatics, and especially rock inscriptions. These analyses lay the foundation for a radical view of the development of Islam.

According to Nevo and Koren, the evidence suggests that the Arabs were in fact pagan when they assumed power in the regions formerly ruled by the Byzantine Empire. They contend that the Arabs took control almost without a struggle, because Byzantium had effectively withdrawn from the area long before. After establishing control, the new Arab elite adopted a simple monotheism influenced by Judaeo-Christianity, which they encountered in their newly acquired territories, and gradually developed it into the Arab religion. Not until the mid-8th century was this process completed.

This interpretation of the evidence corroborates the view of other scholars, who on different grounds propose that Islam and the canonized version of the Koran were preceded by a long period of development. This new view turns on its head the traditional history of the rise of Islam, which claims that Islam began with Muhammad in Mecca and Medina around 622; then spread throughout Arabia under his charismatic leadership; and finally, after Muhammad’s death (632), inspired his followers to conquer widespread territories both in the East and West. By contrast, Nevo and Koren suggest that the rise of the Arab state created a need for a state religion, eventually called Islam.

This absorbing and controversial rethinking of Islam’s early history is must reading for students and scholars of Islamic history and anyone interested in the origins of the world’s second largest religion.
Yehuda Nevo (1932-1992) was a practicing archaeologist who was Director of Field Research of the Negev Archaeological Project at his untimely death. His previous publications include Pagans and Herders (1991) and Ancient Arabic Inscriptions from the Negev (1993), coauthored with Zemira Cohen and Dalia Heftmann.

Judith Koren (Haifa, Israel) is an information specialist who collaborated with Nevo for many years on the historical synthesis elaborated in Crossroads to Islam. (Source: Prometheus Books)

Table des matières

Introduction: The Traditional Account and Its Problems 1

Pt. I The Background
1 The Foundering of Empire 17
2 The Byzantine East on the Eve of Invasion 27
3 The Role of the Church 51
4 The Demographic Background 67

Pt. II The Takeover and the Rise of the Arab State
1 The Takeover 89
2 Political Events: The Evidence of Contemporary Texts 103
3 The Evidence of the Coins 137
4 The Foundation of the Arab State: A Suggested Reconstruction 155

Pt. III The Arab Religion
1 The Religious Background 173
2 Religious Events: The Evidence of Contemporary Texts 207
3 The Chosen Prophet 247
4 The Official Faith: Mohammedanism and Walid’s Islam 271
5 From Monotheism to Islam: Religious Development in the Popular Inscriptions 297
6 Scripture and Salvation History 337

App. A Qu’ranic and Non-Qur’anic Versions of Locutions 355
App. B Chronology of al-Sam 361
App. C: Appendix of Inscriptions 365
Bibliography 427
Index 451

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