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Violence in Early Islam. Religious Narratives, the Arab Conquests and the Canonization of Jihad by Marco Demichelis (April 2021)

Violence in Early Islam. Religious Narratives, the Arab Conquests and the (…)

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Marco Demichelis is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Navarra, Spain.

Marco Demichelis (Torino, 1979). I am Senior Research Fellow in Islamic Studies and History of Middle East within the ICS at the University of Navarra and Adjunct Prof. at the Pontificial Gregoriana University, Centre for Inter-religious studies. I reached Spain after having won a Marie Curie Fellow (IF 2016) sponsored by the same University; however, before it, I had been post-Doctoral Research Fellow within the Dept. of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Milan (2013-2016) and as Adjunct Prof. in History of Islamic World at the University of Turin (2010-2012).
My main research interests concern the Islam-Christian dialogue through a theological discourse, with a specific expertise on Kalam and Islamic Eschatology; Islamic and Western contemporary narratives as Orientalism and Occidentalism, but also Suprematicism and counter-Hegemonic ones; finally, as Historian of Islam but with an international relations and political background, my research and publications overlap in interdisciplinary expertise that from the formative Islamic age and its Classical Thought (IX-XIV centuries) reached the Nahda during the colonialism and the Cold War.
In the last years I edited for Gorgias Press (eds. with Paolo Maggiolini, 2017), The Struggle to Define a Nation: Rethinking Religious Nationalism in the Contemporary Islamic World, while a monographic work entitled Salvation and Hell in Classical Islamic Thought: Can Allah Save Us All? has been published by Bloomsbury Academic (2018). A second edited work, entitled: Religious violence. Political ends. Nationalism, citizenship and radicalizations in the Middle East and Europe, has been edited by OLMS, Religion and Society series too (2018). I published several essays in Italian: Il Pensiero Mu‘tazilita (PhD Diss. Torino/Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011), Storia dei Popoli Arabi. Dal Profeta Muhammad al XXI secolo (Torino: Anakelab, 2ed. 2015), L’Islam Contemporaneo. Sfide e Riflessioni tra Modernità e Modernismo (Torino: Anankelab, 2016), Etica Islamica. Ragione e Responsabilità (Milano: Edizioni Paoline, 2016) while my academic articles have been released on Oriente Moderno, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Aram, Parole de l’Orient, Arab Studies Quarterly, Archiv Orientalni, Annali di Scienze Religiose, Religions and ReOrient.

I also attended different period of research and Visiting during my academic career: Ifpo in Damascus (2007 and 2011), Birzeit University (2008-2009), Yale University (2014), Bamberg Universität (2017) and Catholic University of Lyon (2018).

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The concept of jihad holds a prominent place in Islamic thought and history. Beyond its spiritual meanings, the term has historically been associated with the sweeping Arab-Believers conquests of the 7-8th century BCE. But given advances in our understanding of the historicity and chronology of the Qur’an and early Islamic texts, is it correct to identify jihad and Islam with violent conquest?

In this book, Marco Demichelis explores the history of the concept of jihad in the early proto-Islamic centuries (7-8th). Deploying an interdisciplinary approach which combines the hermeneutical study of the famous ‘Verses of the Sword’ within the Qur’an itself, with historical writing by Islamic chroniclers as well as non-Islamic sources, numismatics, epigraphical and architectural evidence, the book questions the relationship between the religious concept of jihad and the conquests. The book argues that Christian Byzantine Foederati forices who previously fought against the Persians may have had a formative effect on the later emergence of more bellicose rhetoric. In so doing, it calls into question assumptions about warlike attitudes inherent within Islamic doctrine, and reveals a more nuanced and complicated history of religious violence in the pre, proto and early Islamic period.

Table of contents


Part 1
1. The Arabs outside Arabia before Islam
2. Ghazawat and Futuh: From rurality to urbanisation.
3. The religious factor: when did an Islamic identity emerge?
4. Can we still consider the Futuh Islamic?

Part 2
5. Qur’an, Otherness and Jihad
6. Qur’an and militant violence in Chronology
7. The process of Belligerency and the canonisation of Jihad in early Islam



(Photo Credit : Mike van Schoonderwalt)

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