Before and After Muhammad

Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused

Garth Fowden
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hhnh9
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    Before and After Muhammad
    Book Description:

    Islam emerged amid flourishing Christian and Jewish cultures, yet students of Antiquity and the Middle Ages mostly ignore it. Despite intensive study of late Antiquity over the last fifty years, even generous definitions of this period have reached only the eighth century, whereas Islam did not mature sufficiently to compare with Christianity or rabbinic Judaism until the tenth century.Before and After Muhammadsuggests a new way of thinking about the historical relationship between the scriptural monotheisms, integrating Islam into European and West Asian history.

    Garth Fowden identifies the whole of the First Millennium--from Augustus and Christ to the formation of a recognizably Islamic worldview by the time of the philosopher Avicenna--as the proper chronological unit of analysis for understanding the emergence and maturation of the three monotheistic faiths across Eurasia. Fowden proposes not just a chronological expansion of late Antiquity but also an eastward shift in the geographical frame to embrace Iran.

    InBefore and After Muhammad, Fowden looks at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alongside other important developments in Greek philosophy and Roman law, to reveal how the First Millennium was bound together by diverse exegetical traditions that nurtured communities and often stimulated each other.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4816-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prefatory Note and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 INCLUDING ISLAM
    (pp. 1-17)

    In this brief programmatic book, I contribute a new angle to the debate about “the West and the Rest.” One party is eager to explain how Europe and eventually North America—the North Atlantic world—left the rest in the dust from about 1500. The other side argues that Asia—China, Japan, and the Islamic trio of Mughals, Safavids, and Ottomans—remained largely free of European encroachment until the mid-1700s, but then either collapsed for internal reasons, or else were gradually undermined by colonial powers’ superior technological, economic, and military clout. Europe is relativized and its supposedly exceptional destiny undermined;...

  6. 2 TIME: BEYOND LATE ANTIQUITY
    (pp. 18-48)

    Just as what Europeans thought of as their discovery of “America” turned out to have had forerunners, so too the realization that Islam is to be read in the light of Antiquity long antedates the heightened American and European awareness of the Muslim world that has prevailed since 2001, and the concurrent reassessment of the historical narrative. This chapter shows questions about Islam were present at the very birth of modern late antique studies.

    Discussion of periodization can seem arid because periods are so obviously our creation imposed retrospectively. Yet they are indispensable: historians must divide time into periods if...

  7. 3 A NEW PERIODIZATION: THE FIRST MILLENNIUM
    (pp. 49-91)

    In 1999, the same year Andrea Giardina denounced late Antiquity’s elephantiasis, was also published what still stands as the most recent and authoritative statement of the maximalist position, namely Harvard’sLate Antiquity: A guide to the postclassical world, edited by Glen Bowersock, Peter Brown and Oleg Grabar.¹ By taking as its cutoff point approximately the year 800, this weighty tome espouses—and up to a point exemplifies—the view that the early Islamic world shows significant continuities with late Antiquity. But at the same time it places the Islamic synthesis achieved in ninth- to tenth-century Baghdad outside its remit, despite...

  8. 4 SPACE: AN EASTWARD SHIFT
    (pp. 92-126)

    If we are to weave Islam into the fabric of our history, we must go beyond its scripture’s dialogue with rabbinic Judaism and Syriac Christianity, or the caliphate’s reminiscences of imperial style in Iran and East Rome. Islam’s development of late antique artistic forms offers a strong hint in this direction. If Islam eventually touched everything, it is likely that everything touched Islam. To be serious about contextualizing its early history, we must pay attention to its physical, that is, geographical, as well as its mental and aesthetic environment. The geography is not just a stage for historical events to...

  9. 5 EXEGETICAL CULTURES 1: ARISTOTELIANISM
    (pp. 127-163)

    So far I have argued, rather theoretically, for the conceptual dimension of human experience as motivating our study of history; and I suggested this entails longer periodizations, especially in the case of the crucial millennium that saw the maturation of Greek philosophical thought and the emergence of rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What is now needed is practical demonstration of how such a culturalist, ideas-oriented approach can help articulate our grasp of historical time. History is not just about ideas; it concerns polities and economies and social struggles and every aspect of human society creative or destructive. Our First Millennium...

  10. 6 EXEGETICAL CULTURES 2: LAW AND RELIGION
    (pp. 164-197)

    If we may call Aristotle the founding genius or prophet of his school, its scriptures were his writings both exoteric and esoteric. The latter were “published” as a corpus only some three centuries after his death, but then became a dominant presence in various strands of First Millennium thought. Being, many of them, little more than cryptic lecture notes, they drew exegetes and commentators eager to annotate, cross-reference, explain. Alexander of Aphrodisias c. 200 CE was the earliest durable representative of this exegetical phase, which culminated in fifth- and sixth-century Alexandria, and then again among the early Arabic philosophers. There...

  11. 7 VIEWPOINTS AROUND 1000: ṬŪS, BAṢRA, BAGHDAD, PISA
    (pp. 198-218)

    I suggested in chapter 3 that the First Millennium periodization can be conceived of as an arch thrown from one support to another, but also as pivoted round a central event, here the rise of Islam. The First Millennium’s usefulness does not depend on its start and finish being shown to have cosmogonic significance. Even freely chosen points in the flow of time may illustrate either what is common to all history, and the arbitrariness of periodization, or else—in microform—the characteristics of a particular phase of human affairs.¹ Nevertheless, in the minds of Christian theologians and historians the...

  12. PROSPECTS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
    (pp. 219-224)
  13. Index
    (pp. 225-230)