Presentation et objectifs
From the 1970s onwards a seemingly major shift has taken place in the study of Islam origins. Whereas the grand narratives of Islamic origins contained in the earliest Muslim writings have been usually taken to describe with some accuracy the hypothetical emergence of Islam in mid-7th-century Arabia, they are nowadays increasingly regarded as too late and ideologically biased – in short, as too eulogical – to provide a reliable picture of Islamic origins.
Accordingly, new timeframes going from the late 7th to the mid-8th century and alternative Syro-Palestinian and Mesopotamian spatial locations are currently being explored. On the other hand, a renewed attention is also being paid to the once very plausible pre-canonical redactional and editorial stages of the Qur’an, a book whose core many contemporary scholars agree to be a kind of “palimpsest” originally formed by different, independent writings in which encrypted passages from the OT Pseudepigrapha, the NT Apocrypha and other ancient writings of Jewish, Christian and Manichaean provenance may be found, and whose liturgical and/or homiletical function contrasts with the juridical purposes set forth and projected onto the Quranic text by the later established Muslim tradition.
Likewise the earliest Islamic community is presently regarded by many scholars as a somewhat undetermined monotheistic group that evolved from an original Jewish-Christian milieu into a distinct Muslim group perhaps much later than commonly assumed and in a rather unclear way, either within or tolerated by the new Arab polity in the Fertile Crescent or outside and initially opposed to it.
Finally the biography of Muhammad, the founding figure of Islam, has also been challenged in recent times due to the paucity and, once more, the late date and literary nature of the earliest biographical accounts at our disposal.
In sum three overall trends define today the field of early Islamic studies:
- (a) the traditional Islamic view, which many non-Muslim scholars still uphold as well;
- (b) a number of radically revisionist views which have contributed to reshape the contents, boundaries and themes of the field itself by reframing the methodological and hermeneutical categories required in the academic study of Islamic origins; and
- (c) several moderately revisionist views that stand half way between the traditional point of view and the radically revisionist views.
The Early Islamic Studies Seminar aims at exploring afresh different issues on the early history of Islam with the tools of Biblical criticism and the new methods put forth in the study of Second Temple Judaism, Christian and Rabbinic origins, and thereby contribute to the renewed study of formative Islam as part and parcel in the complex process of religious identity formation in late antiquity in close dialogue with scholars working in this latter field of research.
To achieve its goals the EISS develops several simultaneous activities such as different research projects and group discussions. In addition the EISS is also responsible for the contents of the Early islamic Studies section on 4 Enoch: The Online Encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism (Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Origins).
- Guillaume Dye (Free University of Brussels [ULB], Belgium, EU)
- Emilio Gonzalez Ferrin (University of Seville, Spain, EU)
- Manfred Kropp (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany, EU)
- Carlos A. Segovia (Camilo Jose Cela University, Spain, EU)
- Tommaso Tesei (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Israel)
- Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi (École Pratique des Hautes Études, France, EU)
- Mehdi Azaiez [University of Notre Dame, USA]
- Albert I. Baumgarten (Bar-Ilan University, Israel / The Enoch Seminar)
- Herbert Berg (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA)
- Emmanouela Grypeou (University of Oxford, England, UK, EU / The Enoch Seminar)
- Christian Lange (Utrecht University, Netherlands, EU)
- Basil Lourié (Scrinium, Russia / The Enoch Seminar)
- Gabriel Said Reynolds (University of Notre Dame, USA)