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Finding our place in the past : genealogy and ethnicity in Islam

Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
Author Savant, Sarah Bowen.
ISBN/ISSN 9780542693823
Broad Subject History
Religion
Summary It has been argued that Islam is unique among the world's religious traditions for the diversity of peoples who have embraced it as members of a single, worldwide Muslim community. This study contributes to studies of conversion to Islam by reflecting on one strategy, genealogical representation, for presenting Islam as a universal faith to non-Arab Muslims. Specifically, it considers how classical Muslim scholars promoted early Persians' assimilation into Islam by depicting them as descendants of Muslim prophets, such as Noah or Isaac.

The study investigates genealogies in works of adab (belles-lettres) and universal history that were written amidst the conversion of Iran in the ninth and tenth centuries CE. The sources were chosen because of the ample evidence of literary context they provide and their pointed attention to the Persians' ancestry. They reveal Persian and Arab scholars' efforts to show the antiquity of Persians' connections to the true monotheism (islam) God revealed to prophets before Muhammad, and thus, that Islam was a religion as Persian as it was Arab in origin.

The first two chapters---drawing on writings by Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276/ 889), Ibn 'Abd Rabbih (d. 328/940), and al-Mas'udi (d. 345/956)---document Persians' concerns to envision their place in Islam vis-a-vis Arabs, the conflicts that arose as Persians remade themselves as descendants of prophets, and a few attempts to determine what was to be done with indigenous ancestors from Iran's mythic past. These chapters highlight poetic boasting by "Shu'ubi" litterateurs who sought to show that Arabs occupied a comparatively unexceptional place in Islam's salvation history. The second two chapters look closely at attempts by the historians Abu H&dotbelow;anifah al-Dinawari (d. c. 281/894-895) and al-T&dotbelow;abari (d.310/923) to rework indigenous Persian genealogies so as to give Persian figures new genealogies and roles in salvation history.

Language English
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Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
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