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The Emergence of Islam

Classical Traditions in Contemporary Perspective

by Bariel Said Reynolds

Publication Year: 2012

Gabriel Said Reynolds tells the story of Islam in this brief illustrated survey, beginning with Muhammad's early life and rise to power, then tracing the origins and development of the Qur’an juxtaposed with biblical literature, and concluding with an overview of modern and fundamentalist narratives of the origin of Islam. Reynolds offers a fascinating look at the structure and meaning of the Qur'an, revealing the ways in which biblical language is used to advance the Qur'an's religious meaning. Reynolds' analysis identifies the motives that shaped each narrative—Islamic, Jewish, and Christian. The book’s conclusion yields a rich understanding of diverse interpretations of Islam’s emergence, suggesting that its emergence is itself ever-developing.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-3


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pp. iii-iv

Illustrations and Features

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pp. v-vii

Illustration Acknowledgments

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pp. viii-9

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pp. ix-xvi

The story of the emergence of Islam, as it is usually told, is rather straightforward. Muhammad was born in Mecca, a pagan city in western Arabia in 570 CE. At the age of forty, he began to proclaim revelations from the one true God, the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. ...

Timeline of Traditional Chronology from the Birth of Muhammad to the Death of 'Ali

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pp. xvii-xx

The Family Tree of the Prophet Muhammad according to the Traditional Biography

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pp. xxi-xxii

Part 1: The Prophet Muhammad and the Rightly Guided Caliphs

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Introduction to Part 1: Historical Overview

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pp. 3-10

Islam today is a global religion with adherents from diverse nations, races, and cultures. The story of its origins, however, takes place among a specific group of people: the Arabs of the late antique Near East. The Arabs at the time lived in an area that stretched from modern-day Yemen ...

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Chapter 1: Muhammad in Mecca

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pp. 11-30

The Prophet Muhammad, according to the traditional Islamic sources, was an orphan. His father, Abdallah, died three months before he was born, and his mother, Amina, died when he was only six. After his mother died, Muhammad was adopted by Abu Talib, his paternal uncle. ...

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Chapter 2: Muhammad in Medina

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pp. 31-58

The Prophet’s migration from Mecca to Medina held such great significance to later Muslims that they chose it to mark the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Thus Islamic years are abbreviated ah, from the latin anno hegirae, “in the year of the hijra.” ...

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Chapter 3: The Birth of an Empire

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pp. 59-78

The Prophet was dead and no new prophet was to be born. In the Bible (2 Kgs. 2), the prophet Elisha takes up the mantle of the prophet Elijah, but no one—according to Islamic belief—could take up Muhammad’s mantle. The Quraan describes Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets” (33:40). ...

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Conclusion to Part One

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pp. 79-82

In his work Muhammad at Medina (published in 1956), William Montgomery Watt introduces his examination of Muhammad’s moral character in the following way: “We may ask, ‘Was Muhammad a good man according to the standards of the Arabia of his day?’ ...

Part 2: The Qur'an

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Introduction to Part 2: History and Literature

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pp. 85-92

At various points in the first part of this book, I reflect on the uncertain quality of the story of Islam’s origins that I tell there. This uncertainty is a product of the Islamic sources on which this story is based. Ibn Ishaq, the earliest Islamic biographer of Muhammad, is said to have died in 767 CE, well over a century after the Prophet’s death. ...

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Chapter 4: The Qur'an and Its Message

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pp. 93-120

The Quraan is a relatively short book (just over half the length of the New Testament). It is divided into 114 chapters, or suras, and each of these suras is divided into verses. According to Islamic tradition, the division into suras was revealed by God to the Prophet; ...

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Chapter 5: The Qur'an and the Bible

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pp. 121-134

A second step to understanding the religious context in which the Quraan emerged is found in its close relationship with biblical literature. According to the traditional biography, Muhammad spent most of his life, and the first half of his prophetic career, in Mecca, the heart of a deeply entrenched pagan culture. ...

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Chapter 6: Rethinking the Biography of the Prophet

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pp. 135-152

In the previous two chapters, I suggest that the Quraan was proclaimed in a milieu where people were hotly debating theology, and in particular theology involving Christ (that is, Christology), and where they knew the literature of Jews and Christians well. ...

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Chapter 7: The Historical Context of the Qur'an

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pp. 153-166

Most introductory books on Islam begin with the biography of Muhammad and then explain the Quraan according to that biography. In the present chapter, we will do things the other way around. Instead of asking what the biography of the Prophet can teach us about the Quraan, ...

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Conclusion to Part Two

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pp. 167-168

At this point, the reader who had hoped for a year-by-year description of the rise of Islam might justifiably feel disappointed. Due to the nature of our sources, a precise history of Islam’s emergence has proven to be elusive. The Islamic sources on the life of the Prophet are late; ...

Part 3: Contemporary Perspectives

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Introduction to Part 3: Classical Texts and Contemporary Religion

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pp. 171-172

The conviction that Muslim societies today should be modeled on that of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina reflects a notion about the Prophet himself, namely, that he was the perfect man. Muhammad was impeccable (“free from sin”) and infallible (“free from error”). ...

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Chapter 8: Contemporary Muslim Narratives of Islam’s Emergence

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pp. 173-204

The story of Islam in the modern era is a story of remarkable growth. In the year 1900, the global population of Muslims was 200 million; by 2010, this number had risen to 1.6 billion. Even in terms of percentage of world population, the number of Muslims has grown considerably, ...

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pp. 205-208

In the course of this book, it has become apparent that the question of Islam’s emergence is far from settled. Earlier generations of critical scholars, following medieval Islamic historical sources, generally thought of Islam as a tradition that emerged in reaction to a sort of vulgar Arab paganism. ...

Glossary of Proper Names and Technical Terms

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pp. 209-212

Bibliography and Further Reading

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pp. 213-222


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pp. 223-226

E-ISBN-13: 9781451408126
E-ISBN-10: 1451408129
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800698591
Print-ISBN-10: 0800698592

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012