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The sectarian Milieu, Content and composition of islamic salvation history (John WANSBROUGH)

WANSBROUGH (John), The sectarian milieu, content and composition of islamic salvation history, Foreword, Translations, and Expanded notes by Gerald Hawting, Amherst, Prometheus Books, 2006, XXII+200 p. ISBN 1-591-02378-5


John Edward Wansbrough fut professeur d’études sémitiques et co-directeur de l’École d’études orientales et africaines (SOAS) de Londres.

Thème de l’ouvrage

In The Sectarian Milieu Wansbrough “analyses early Islamic historiography – or rather the interpretive myths underlying this historiography — as a late manifestation of Old Testament ‘salvation history.’” Continuing themes that he treated in a previous work, Quranic Studies, Wansbrough argued that the traditional biographies of Muhammad (Arabic sira and maghazi) are best understood, not as historical documents that attest to “what really happened,” but as literary texts written more than one hundred years after the facts and heavily influenced by Jewish, and to a lesser extent Christian, interconfessional polemics. Thus, Islamic “history” is almost completely a later literary reconstruction, which evolved out of an environment of competing Jewish and Christian sects. As such, Wansbrough felt that the most fruitful means of analyzing such texts was literary analysis. Furthermore, he maintained that it was next to impossible to extract the kernel of historical truth from works that were created principally to serve later religious agendas.

Although his work remains controversial to this day, his fresh insights and approaches to the study of Islam continue to inspire scholars. This new edition contains a valuable assessment of Wansbrough’s contributions and many useful textual notes and translations by Gerald Hawting (University of London), plus the author’s 1986 Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture, “Res Ipsa Loquitur.”
John Wansbrough (1928-2002) was Professor of Semitic Studies and Pro-Director of London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Besides The Sectarian Milieu (1978), he also published Quranic Studies (1977), Lingua Franca in the Mediterranean (1996), and many scholarly articles.

(Source : Prometheus Books)

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