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Friday, 20 December 2013

Hagarism, Explanation of Early Islam

From Wikipedia on Hagarism, an Explanation of Early Islam:

Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (1977) is a book on the early history of Islam written by the historians Patricia Crone and Michael Cook. Drawing on archaeological evidence and contemporary documents in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Syriac, Hagarism depicts an early Islam very different from the traditionally-accepted version derived from Muslim historical accounts.Although the central hypotheses behind Hagarism have been generally rejected, even by the authors themselves,the book has been hailed as a seminal work in its branch of Islamic historiography

Hagarism explained

The word "Hagarism" relates to the 7th-century Arabian Peninsula Hagarene tribes, i.e. the descendants of the Egyptian servant girl Hagar, who bore Abraham their son Ishmael.

According to the book Hagarism, the Arab conquests and the formation of the caliphate were a peninsular Arab movement inspired by Jewish messianism. In alliance with the Jews, the Arabs attempted to reclaim the Promised Land from the Byzantine Empire. The Qur'an was a product of 8th-century edits of various materials drawn from a variety of Judeo-Christian and Middle-Eastern sources. The Prophet Muhammad was the herald of Umar "the redeemer", a Judaic messiah.


Hagarism begins with the premise that Western historical scholarship on the beginnings of Islam should be based on contemporary historical, archaeological and philological data, as is done for study of Judaism and Christianity, rather than Islamic traditions and later Arabic writings. The tradition expresses dogma, and tells historically irreconcilable and anachronistic accounts of the community's past. By relying on contemporary historical, archaeological and philological evidence, the authors attempt to reconstruct and present what they argue is a more historically accurate account of Islam's origins.

In summary:

"Virtually all accounts of the early development of Islam take it as axiomatic that it is possible to elicit at least the outlines of the process from the Islamic sources. It is however well-known that these sources are not demonstrably early. There is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century, and the tradition which places this rather opaque revelation in its historical context is not attested before the middle of the eighth. The historicity of the Islamic tradition is thus to some degree problematic: while there are no cogent internal grounds for rejecting it, there are equally no cogent external grounds for accepting it. In the circumstances it is not unreasonable to proceed in the usual fashion by presenting a sensibly edited version of the tradition as historical fact. But equally, it makes some sense to regard the tradition as without determinate historical content, and to insist that what purport to be accounts of religious events in the seventh century are utilizable only for the study of religious ideas in the eighth. The Islamic sources provide plenty of scope for the implementation of these different approaches, but offer little that can be used in any decisive way to arbitrate between them. The only way out of the dilemma is thus to step outside the Islamic tradition altogether and start again."

According to the authors, 7th century Syriac, Armenian and Hebrew sources depict the formation of Islam as a Jewish messianic movement known as Hagarism, which migrated into the Fertile Crescent. It drew considerable influences from the Samaritans and Babylonian Judaism. Around 690 AD the movement shed its Judaic identity to develop into what would later become Arab Islam.[13] The surviving records of the period describe the followers of Muhammad as Hagarenes, because of the way Muhammad invoked the Jewish god in order to introduce an alien monotheistic faith to the Arabs.

Muhammad claimed biological descent for the Arabs from Abraham through his slave wife Hagar. This united the ancestors of the tribe with the religion, in the same way as the Jews claimed descent from Abraham through Sarah and their ancestral faith. During this early period, the Jews and the Hagarenes united under a faith loosely described as Judeo-Hagarism, in order to recover the holy land from the Christian Byzantines. The scholars believe that the early manuscripts from eye witnesses suggest that Muhammad was the leader of a military expedition to conquer Jerusalem, and that the original hijra referred to a journey from northern Arabia to that city.

As time went on, the Hagarenes concluded that the adoption of Judaism and Christian Messianism did not provide them with the unique religious identity that they desired. They feared that being too influenced by Judaism might result in outright conversion and assimilation. Thus the hagarenes contrived to create a religion of their own and decided to splinter off from Judaic practices and beliefs.

Driven by a quest for theological legitimacy, they developed a version of Abrahamic monotheism. It evolved from a blend of Judaism, Samaritanism and Christianity to become what became recognized as Islam. The authors propose that Islam was thus born and fashioned from Judaic mythology and symbology, that is; the creation of a sacred scripture similar to the Jewish Torah: the Qur’an, and identification of a Moses-like prophet; along with a sacred city of Mecca, modeled on the Jewish holy city of Jerusalem, adjacent to a holy mountain.

As late as the eighth century, some mosques have prayer niches oriented to the north - to Jerusalem, rather than to Mecca, which ultimately replaced it as Islam's holy city.

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