Volume 11 (2011)
Edited by Alex Metcalfe
Felicitas Opwis, The Role of the Biographer in Constructing Identity and School: al-'Abb?d? and his Kit?b Tabaq?t al-fuqah?' al-sh?fi'iyya (.pdf 270 kB, pp. 1-35).
Abstract: This paper explores the role of the biographer in compiling a biographical dictionary, focusing on al-'Abb?d?'s (d. 458/1066) work on the Sh?fi'? 'school' of law. The paper argues that al-'Abb?d? straddles a fine line of faithful transmission of school doctrines and artful arrangement of the materials in order to shape the identity, authority structures, and doctrines of the school according to his vision. To highlight al-'Abb?d?'s role in constructing the identity and authority structures of the school the paper focuses on three areas: first, how al-'Abb?d? lays out his vision of the school in the entry of the eponym of the school by delineating the areas of law that distinguish al-Sh?fi'? from other founders of schools of law; second, how al-'Abb?d? deals with contradictory positions held among members of the school; third, how he gives the school of law also a theological identity (Ash'arism) by discussing such topics as free will, the createdness of the Qur'?n, and the definition of faith (?m?n). The paper details the author's range of editorial hints and techniques of presentation that guide his audience to the 'correct' Sh?fi'? doctrine. It presents reasons why al-'Abb?d? takes recourse to these measures and points to the effects of his presentation of school doctrines.
Gert Borg, Die martiya des A's? B?hila auf seinen Halbbruder al-Muntasir. Eine thematische Untersuchung (.pdf 290 kB, pp. 36-61).
Abstract: In some medieval anthologies of Classical Arabic poetry we find a poem by the pre-Islamic poet A's? B?hila, who probably died in the beginning of the seventh century AD. This widely appreciated poem is a dirge in commemoration of his half-brother al-Muntasir b. Wahb, who died in battle. In this article, the poem is analysed and evaluated, and from the number of textual variants it becomes clear that both the text and the verse order are severely damaged. The number of transmissions of this poetic text can effectively be limited to three. A more essential factor that contributed to the dismembering of the text is that it may have become entangled with another dirge, composed by the sister of the deceased, Da'j?' ukht al-Muntasir. Based on our knowledge of structure and thematic development of dirges composed by women, we are able to dissect these poems, and, in the process, we can 'reconstruct' both.
Jocelyn Sharlet, Tokens of Resentment: Medieval Arabic Narratives about Gift Exchange and Social Conflict (.pdf 266 kB, pp. 62-100).
Abstract: Stories about gift exchange can confirm individual relationships and communal bonds, but they can also articulate social conflict. This analysis focuses primarily on stories in the first of two extant monographic compilations on gift exchange, the tenth-century Book of Rarities and Gifts by the Kh?lidiyy?n, and concludes with a story from the anonymous eleventh-century Book of Treasures and Rarities. It explores expressions of social conflict through the features of rhetorical focal points, silence, communication at a distance, and the incongruity between fine gifts and tense situations. The discussion examines social conflict by following the development of main characters in other stories. These features of gift exchange stories suggest an interest in emotional experience, and the relationships among different stories about the same person imply an interest in character development. The pleasant practice of gift exchange offers a counterpoint to and a commentary on social conflicts.
Andrew Marsham, Public Execution in the Umayyad Period: Early Islamic Punitive Practice and its Late Antique Context (pdf 311 kB, pp. 101-136).
Abstract: This article considers early Islamic executions as symbolic events and part of political culture. Recent commentators have observed that Umayyad punishment of apostates, rebels and brigands was 'pre-classical'. There is less agreement about the extent to which 'Islam' affected Umayyad practice. It is argued here that the testimony of epistles and poetry provide a more secure basis for understanding Umayyad public capital punishment than the problematic anecdotal evidence of other sources. While Umayyad punitive practice was not 'classical' it was sometimes justified with reference to the Qur'?n, and in particular with reference to the two ideas of violation of God's 'covenant' and 'public violence'. Furthermore, when what is known of the forms of punishment is considered in a wider, late antique context, it is possible to identify features of Umayyad-era penal culture that appear to have been shaped by the wider, monotheist context.
Pavel Pavlovitch, The 'Ubâda b. al-Sâmit Tradition: at the Crossroads of Methodology (pdf 971 kB, pp. 137-235).
Abstract: During the past few decades, Western studies of the origin of Islam have made considerable advances in assessing sources which have long been considered a repository of exegetic, legal and historical material about the first centuries of Islam. Growing scepticism towards the Islamic foundation narratives and the traditional accounts of Islamic history undermined the notion that, unlike other religions, Islam 'was born in the full light of history' and 'its roots are on the surface' (A. Renan). The study of the first centuries of Islam has thus become the focus of clashing methodologies, often yielding conflicting accounts on how, when and where Islam emerged. While studying Muslim traditions (hadîth-s), Western Islamicists expressed varying opinions about reliability of lines of narrative transmission (isnâd-s), which, according to the traditional Muslim view, control the authenticity of the information included in the substantive part of the tradition (matn). One pole of the spectrum is represented by scholars who reject the link between the isnad and the matn. For them, the isnâd is a fictitious authentication device that does not give any information about the historical development of the narrative. These scholars prefer to study the relationship between topically affiliated narratives, whence they derive information about the chronological development of the concepts conveyed by these narratives (literary analysis). The other part of the spectrum varies in the degree of acceptance of the isnâd-s. Nevertheless, these scholars generally agree that, provided certain methodological stipulations are met, a considerable part of the transmission line is authentic and correctly represents the ways through which the traditions were transmitted. With certain qualifications, the method of scholars who accept the isnad may be described as isn?d-cum-matn analysis. In this article, I study the famous 'Ubada tradition dealing with the punishment for adultery and fornication (zinâ). First, I follow the historical development of the tradition by means of literary analysis. Then I apply to the same tradition the principles of isnad-cum-matn analysis. Although different in their treatment of the had?th material, the two approaches are shown as capable of yielding results that are not mutually exclusive.