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Publication of "The Arabs and Islam in Late Antiquity: A Critique of Approaches to Arabic Sources" by Aziz al Azmeh (Juillet 2014)

Publication of "The Arabs and Islam in Late Antiquity: A Critique of (...)

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The author

Aziz Al-Azmeh est professeur à la School of Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies du Central European University (CEU). Il est le directeur du Center for Religious Studies (CRS). Ses livres précédents (en anglais) sont An Essay in Reinterpretation (1982); Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred in Christian, Muslim and Pagan Polities (2001); Islams and Modernities (3rd edition, 2009); et The Times of History: Universal Themes in Islamic Historiography (2006).


The latest book by Aziz Al-Azmeh, university professor in CEU’s Department of History and director of CEU’s Center for Religious Studies, is a critique of Arabic textual sources pertaining to the history of the Arabs in late antique times, during the centuries immediately preceding Muhammad and up to and including the Umayyad period. Its purpose is to consider the value and relevance of these sources for the reconstruction of the social, political, cultural and religious history of the Arabs as they were still pagans, and to reconstruct the emergence of Muhammadan and immediately post-Muhammadan religion and polity. For this religion (including the composition and canonization of the Qur’an), the label Paleo-Islam has been coined, in order to lend historical specificity to this particular period, distinguishing it from what came before and what was to come later, all the while indicating continuities that do not, in themselves, belie the specificity attributed to this period of very rapid change. This is argued further in Al-Azmeh’s “The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allah and His People” (Cambridge University Press, 2014), to which this book is both a companion and a technical preface. Al-Azmeh illustrates his arguments through examination of orality and literacy, transmission, ancient Arabic poetry, the corpus of Arab heroic lore (ayyam), the early narrative, the Qur’an, and other literary sources.