Study of the prophet muhammad p b u h
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Study of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h). Critical issues. Aims of session. To identify the issues raised concerning non-Muslim, Western studies of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) To consider the ways that scholars have identified the wider context for such studies.

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Study of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h)

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Study of the prophet muhammad p b u h

Study of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h)

Critical issues


Aims of session

Aims of session

  • To identify the issues raised concerning non-Muslim, Western studies of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.)

  • To consider the ways that scholars have identified the wider context for such studies.


Gabrieli f 1977 muhammad and conquests of islam london world university library

Gabrieli, F. (1977)Muhammad and Conquests of Islam London: World University Library.

  • Muhammad in history- although ‘he stands in the full light of history, is as difficult to grasp and evaluate in historical reality as are those two other great founders, Buddha and ‘Jesus.’(1977, 7)

  • tradition of exaltation

  • Tradition of denigration

  • More objective modern views


Tradition of exaltation

Tradition of Exaltation

  • Human but venerated

  • Supernatural events, qualities and capacities –

    ‘isma = immunity from error

  • metaphysical and mystical primordial being

    “So the memory of the historical person of the Meccan merchant, and of the able and realistic head of state of Medina, is lost on the one hand in the speculations of a mysticism wholly foreign and unknown to him, while on the other hand it materialises in the most naive beliefs of popular piety.”(Gabrieli, 1977, 11)


Tradition of denigration judgment of medieval christianity

Tradition of denigrationJudgment of medieval Christianity

  • Heretic, sexually immoral, epileptic

  • Blasphemer – denied divinity of Christ

  • Muhammad for the Latin Middle Ages = ‘a false Prophet of the lusts of the flesh, preacher of a vile heresy, and render of the seamless garment of the universal Church.’ (Gabrieli, 1977, 15)


Modern historical view

Modern Historical View

  • From 18th century interest develops

  • 19th century dominated by reductionist accounts

  • Twentieth century more scientific

    Buhl – genuine nature of prophetic inspiration

    Watt – methodological revaluation of tradition

    ‘shows how far the West has come from the hatred of the Middle Ages, towards a more just and sympathetic appreciation of the Prophet of Islam.”(Gabrieli, 1977, 21)


Standard version of the prophet s life rippin 1990

Standard version of the Prophet’s life (Rippin, 1990)

  • 570 Birth in the year of the elephant

  • 610 Revelations begin

  • 622 Hijra - move to Yathrib

  • 624 Battle of Badr

  • 625 Battle of Uhud

  • 627 Battle of the Ditch

  • 629 Treaty of Hudaybiya

  • 630 Return to Mecca

  • 632 Death of Prophet


Study of the prophet muhammad p b u h

Watt, W.M ‘Muhammad’ in Holt, P.M. (1977) The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • ‘For the occidental reader there are grave difficulties in attaining a balanced understanding of the historical role of Muhammad.

  • Expectation concerning the nature of a religious leader

  • May not be free from inherited prejudices

  • Historical problems in the study of remote periods- fact and legend

  • Difficult to date or interpret historical material in the Quran


Study of the prophet muhammad p b u h

Rodinson,M. A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad’ in Swartz, M.L. (1981) Studies on Islam.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Comments on Watt’s works: methodologically important

    ‘He has taken the sources seriously, analyzed them, and formulated his conclusions with great sharpness and clarity. Taking as his point of departure the great Muslim biographies… The clear and direct way in which he formulates his conclusions on the various events of the Prophet’s life, the confident fashion in which he employs his conclusions, has appeared to some to indicate an exaggerated confidence in the reliability of these latter.’ (Rodinson, 1981, 46)


Study of the prophet muhammad p b u h

Rodinson, M. A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad’ in Swartz, M.L. (1981) Studies on Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.- comments on his own biography

‘Attempted to show the relationship between the eschatological visions of the early preaching of Muhammad and the international political situation of that period. Taking the sociological correlations of his preaching as established, the author attempted to show how a personal, psychological evolution shaped Muhammad into an instrument capable of formulating and communicating an ideology that corresponded to the needs of the time and milieu.”(Rodinson, 1981, 50)


Khan a muhammad as object and subject in studies in religion 1978

Khan, A. ‘Muhammad as object and subject’ in Studies in Religion 1978.

  • Tendency of West to focus on Muhammad as the founder and prophet (birth- occupation- qualities- mission- man of God)

  • “This simple and basic account… is at best a sketch of Muhammad seen from outside Islam, and can hardly be accepted as a complete or true picture of Muhammad as understood within Islam… These pictures… blur Muhammad’s full significance … even though they are based on historical certainty.”(373)


Khan object subject

Khan: Object - subject

  • Need to move beyond ‘Muhammad’ as an ‘object in history’ to see as a ‘subject for belief’

  • This way of seeing Muhammad escapes notice ‘because traditional Islamic thought and the Shari'ah have not been eager to promote the idea of Muhammad as a subject for belief.’


Khan muhammad

Khan: Muhammad

  • as the model of moral perfection: ‘Exemplar characterizing the human form that is perfectly oriented towards the divine essence.

  • “blessing for all people: universal mission to transform all to ‘self at peace

  • ‘the archetypal man: the spiritual Muhammad in perfect harmony with the Divine, symbol of the Islamic vision of human life


Rippin a 1990 muslims volume 1 the formative period london routledge

Rippin, A. (1990) Muslims, Volume 1. The Formative Period.London: Routledge.

  • ‘The biography of Muhammad has served a number of important functions in Islam, each of which has coloured it in crucial ways.

  • the framework for the revelation of the Qur’an

  • As a source for the sunna of Muhammad

    ‘the summary of the life of Muhammad as presented here is fraught with difficulties and insoluble problems.”(Rippin, 1990, 34)


Rippin the mythic dimensions of muhammad s biography

Rippin: The mythic dimensions of Muhammad’s biography

  • “The overall effect is to create a picture of both Muhammad and the Muslim community in its ‘pristine’ form; this means that the picture which emerges, and the impulse behind its composition, is a normative one- this is a picture of how the Muslim community should be, projected back into the times of its founder who has been described in mythic terms.”(Rippin, 1990, 35)


Rippin problem of non muslim critical studies

Rippin: Problem of non-Muslim critical studies

  • “It has often been commented that while Muslims may think those who deny the existence of God or who utter blasphemies about Him are misguided, such discussions will not offend in the same manner in which discussions over Muhammad will. Those who insinuate evil of Muhammad or who cast aspersions on him are considered to be insulting Islam.”(Rippin, 1990, 40)


Sharifi h 1 biographies vary in quality and understanding

Sharifi,H. (1) Biographies vary in quality and understanding:

- knowledge of original Arabic sources

  • different socio-cultural backgrounds

  • Depth of knowledge of Islam and the life of the prophet

  • Ability to respond to the metaphysical and theological aspects of Islam

  • Motives when dealing with the phenomenon of ‘prophet

‘A Muslim Assessment of Books on the Life of the Prophet

Muhammad’ in Ashraf, A. (ed.) (1986) Resources for the teaching of

Islam in British Schools. Cambridge: The Islamic Academy. pp. 25-43.


Sharifi 2 motives of author

Sharifi (2): Motives of author

  • ‘most importantly, in their different motives when dealing with the rare phenomenon of a “Prophet”. Basically, it is this last point which determines the approach of the author, gives him direction and colours the conclusions the author would like his readers to draw from the biography.” (1986, 25)


Sharifi 3 criteria for assessment

Sharifi (3) Criteria for assessment

1. Nature of objectivity in dealing with:

  • the historical nature of the Prophet’s life

  • The Prophet’s function

    2. Quality of discernment- must understand what prophethood means and accept this dimension

    3. Awareness of the main aim of Religious Education - phenomenology


Sharifi 4 problems

Sharifi (4) Problems

  • Lack of objectivity

  • Claim of Jewish, Christian and pagan impact

  • Subjective reconstruction of historical events

  • Distortion of facts

  • Misunderstanding the phenomenon of prophecy

  • Reductionist attitudes


Sharifi 5 lack of objectivity

Sharifi (5) Lack of objectivity

  • “The orientalists who came first to deal with Islam and the Prophet doubted the reliability of the traditional sources with the excuse that the piety of an earlier time was mostly responsible for producing them.”(1986, 29)

  • Ïn Watt’s book on the life of the Prophet it is difficult to find any description of the Prophet or an event which, despite being based on traditional accounts, is not twisted or mingled with personal comments and interpretations beginning with words such as “perhaps” or ‘it is probable,’ etc.”(1986,30)


Sharifi 6 objectivity expectation

Sharifi (6)Objectivity – expectation

  • “What we ask from Western scholars like Andrae and Watt is to give evidence for such personal and subjective interpretations and the twisting of facts if they claim any objectivity in the context of a western scientific approach. Secondly, if they are reluctant to rely on traditional accounts in describing a case like the above, is it objective to rely on their own personal views as a base for an historical description?”(1986, 31)


Sharifi 7 phenomenon of prophet

Sharifi (7) Phenomenon of Prophet

“None of the writers of this group has understood the Prophet of Islam properly. Even when praising him, they do it out of their purely human perspective considering his administrative talent or his statesmanship. A Prophet is himself the norm, and if one wants to understand a prophet one is in need of a metaphysical knowledge and a profound religious insight.”(1986, 38)


Sharifi s thesis questions and responses

Sharifi’s thesis:Questions and responses

  • How far do the criticisms represent criticisms of the Western approach to the study of religion rather than weakness in biographies?

  • Consider each of the problems in your response to this question: (slide 4.)


Bibliography

Bibliography

  • Gabrieli, F. (1977)Muhammad and Conquests of Islam London: World University Library.

  • Khan, A. ‘Muhammad as object and subject’ in Studies in Religion, 1978.

  • Rippin, A. (1990) Muslims, Volume 1. The Formative Period.London: Routledge.

  • Rodinson, M. A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad’ in Swartz, M.L. (1981) Studies on Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • Sharifi, H. ‘A Muslim Assessment of Books on the Life of the Prophet Muhammad’ in Ashraf, A. (ed.) (1986) Resources for the teaching of Islam in British Schools. pp. 25-43. Cambridge: The Islamic Academy.

  • Watt, W.M ‘Muhammad’ in Holt, P.M. (1977) The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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