The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From by G. R. Hawting

By G. R. Hawting

Why and lower than what situations did the faith of Islam emerge in a distant a part of Arabia initially of the 7th century? conventional scholarship keeps that Islam built against the idolatrous and polytheistic faith of the Arabs of Mecca and the encircling areas. during this learn of pre-Islamic Arabian faith, G. R. Hawting adopts a comparative non secular point of view to indicate an alternate view. by means of reading a number of the our bodies of proof which live to tell the tale from this era, the Koran and the substantial assets of the Islamic culture, the writer argues that during truth Islam arose out of clash with different monotheists whose ideals and practices have been judged to fall wanting real monotheism and have been, as a result, attacked polemically as idolatry. the writer is adept at unravelling the complexities of the resource fabric, and scholars and students will locate his argument either attractive and persuasive.

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Additional info for The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History

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Bakka = Makka, the ‘house’ = the Ka ba, the standing place of Abraham = the stone that now bears that name at Mecca) which are problematic and not self-evident. Without discussing all of this in detail, the general point to be made is simply that the tradition goes considerably beyond what is evident from the Koran itself, even though there is no obvious contradiction between the scripture and the tradition. In particular, the Koran does not clearly refer to the concept of Abraham introducing monotheism in Arabia and its subsequent degeneration into idolatry and polytheism among the descendants of his son Ishmael.

One possible explanation for the traditional understanding that many passages of the Koran were directed against Arabs who were idolaters and polytheists of the crudest sort, and for the creation in the Muslim literary tradition of the image of the idolatrous and polytheistic Arab society, is that the koranic polemic against shirk was no longer properly understood. Once the historical situation that had engendered it was left behind, the polemic of the Koran could have been misunderstood and read literally.

Among the texts cited by Wellhausen as evidence for the decline of polytheism and the emergence of monotheistic tendencies were koranic passages such as the above-mentioned 29:61–5, which attack the opponents for refusing to give Alla¯h the recognition He alone deserves even though they really know that He is the source and controller of creation. From Muslim tradition other than the Koran he referred to a story concern¯ s) who was found ing the Meccan Abu¯ Uh·ayh·a (the Umayyad Sa ¯ıd b. al- A · weeping on his deathbed, not at the prospect of his imminent death but because he was afraid that the idol al- Uzza¯ would not be worshipped after him (akha¯fu an la¯ tu bada al- Uzza¯ ba dı¯).

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