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Between Divine Message and History

Abdelmajid Sharfi

Publication Year: 2005

Why this book? What can it add to the many works that have already explored Islam as a history, a doctrine, a law, and a code of ethics? The bulk of Islamic thought nowadays is either a repetition of and rumination about what the ancients have already said, or the tackling of partial issues that falls short of a comprehensive view and a theoretical framework. All too often ideology replaces real knowledge. This work attempts to introduce the characteristics of the Mohammedan Mission, with the aspiration to be faithful to its essential purposes and to historical truth at the same time. The author thus illustrates the different ways in which people have understood the Mission and the reasons that led them to those various interpretations. The book presents several alternative interpretations that actually existed but did not enjoy widespread acceptance and popularity.

Published by: Central European University Press

Title page, copyright page

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pp. 2-4


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pp. iv-5

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pp. 1-9

What is the purpose of this book? What can it add to the many writings that have already probed Islam as a history, a doctrine, a law, and a code of ethics? I believe that the bulk of Islamic thought today is either a repetition and regurgitation— often distorted by oversimplifications—of what the ancients have said, ...

Part One

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Chapter One – The Theoretical and Historical Background

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pp. 13-26

The prophetic mission in a general sense can relatively easily be defined as a message that the prophet-messenger took upon himself to convey to his contemporaries and, through them, to a specific nation and to all humanity. However, the exegeses of this mission and its content remain infinitely diverse. ...

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Chapter Two – The Mohammedan Mission

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pp. 27-44

If we were to compare what we know of Mohammed with what we know of other great men—such as Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, and Jesus—who had a profound and lasting influence on history, we find that Mohammed, unlike them, was always in the spotlight. Nevertheless, even the earliest and most reliable reports on his life ...

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Chapter Three – The Characteristics of the Mohammedan Mission

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pp. 45-57

Before embarking on the study of the outcome of the Mohammedan Mission, we must first consider some of its exegeses, in order to rectify them and to place them in their proper context. This will provide us with a solid base on which to proceed. I am well aware that religion—any religion— is not identical with the form in which it is manifested in history, ...

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Chapter Four – The Issue of Legislation (Tashri)

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pp. 58-85

If the situation is correctly summed up at the close of the previous chapter, and we have every reason to believe that it is, we must seek a radical solution that will go beyond spurious compromises, reconcile the contemporary Muslim with his religion, and rid him of the dualism that impedes creativity, hampers initiative, and thwarts the spirit of adventure. ...

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Chapter Five – The Seal of Prophecy

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pp. 86-96

What we can conclude from such examples is that the Mohammedan mission is distinguished by a unique and deeply significant feature. On the one hand, it belongs to what Mohammad Iqbāl calls the “ancient world,” not only with regard to its source but also with regard to its inclusion of many aspects of the environment from which it emerged. ...

Part Two

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Introduction to Part Two

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pp. 99-100

In this part I am not concerned with the historical events in themselves, even though what befell the Muslims after the Prophet’s death and throughout the Rashidun and Ummayid reigns is definitely still in need of critical study.101 The information available on the first century after the Prophet was not recorded until about the middle of the second. ...

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Chapter Six – The Prophet’s Caliphate

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pp. 101-116

1. First, we note that at that moment in history (after Mohammed’s death), it was no longer possible to go back to what things were like in Ḥijāz before the mission. The Islamic call had created a new situation in both Ḥijāz and the Arab Peninsula, which made the tribal system incapable of responding to the bonds forged by Islam between individuals and groups, ...

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Chapter Seven – Institutionalizing Religion

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pp. 117-130

Like other religions and doctrines, Islam was subjected to the requirements of organization and institutionalization. The principles carried by the mission could not have materialized in history, and particularly in the seventh century, had they not answered such requirements. Institutionalization is in fact the transition from theory to practice, ...

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Chapter Eight – Theorizing for the Institution

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pp. 131-191

Having observed the effects of institutionalization on Islam, I will now examine the traces of this process in the theoretical works of scholars in the different fields of Islamic thought. It is common knowledge that initially these fields were not separate from each other: ...

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pp. 192-198

The comparison of the Mohammedan Mission, on the one hand, and its applications in history, on the other, raise many critical issues that the Muslim must face honestly and boldly. Although my survey may have thrown a negative light on the manifestations of the Mission, as seen from our modern perspective, it is not permissible to generalize. ...


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pp. 199-205

Back cover

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p. 208-208

E-ISBN-13: 9786155053757
Print-ISBN-13: 9789639241879

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2005

Edition: first