Remembering Community: Historical Narrative in the Formation of Sunni Islam Open Access

Barzegar, Abbas (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/fb4948909?locale=en
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Abstract

This project focuses on the relationship between historical discourse and collective identity in the development of Sunni Islam as an imagined community. By analyzing the construction of conventional Sunni narratives surrounding the early history of the Muslim community, particularly its discord in the first civil war (656-661) and its reconstitution under the Umayyad dynasty (661-750), this study argues that these seemingly inconsequential narratives-often taken as neutral versions of factual events from which other versions deviate-in fact provide a considerable amount of ideological support to the construction and maintenance of authority, authenticity, and orthodoxy in Sunni Islam. In order to make this argument, this study approaches Islamic historical discourse whether represented in the recorded sayings of Muhammad (hadith), historical chronicles (akhbar), or apologetic literature, through narrative analysis. In doing so, the development of putative Sunni historical categories such as the Community ( al-Jama'a), the Prophet's Companions ( al-Sahaba), and the Rightly Guided Caliphs ( al-Khulafa al-Rashidun) is shown to have taken place along the political backdrop of the early Abbasid Dynasty's (750-945) attempts to mitigate competing religious ideological forces in its realm. In this context, the political implications embedded in the hagiographic representations of Ali b. Abu Talib, Sunni Islam's fourth Caliph and Shiite Islam's first Imam, and Muawiya b. Abu Sufyan, the founding father of the Umayyad Dynasty, are also revealed. In conclusion, this study calls for a reexamination of the dynamics of authority in the study of Islam that prioritizes the discourses of collective identity and historical memory over those of law ( shari'a) and theology ( kalam).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments………………………………………….........................xii


I. Introduction…………………………………………...………………..........…..1


II: History, Myth, and Community: Approaching Islamic Historical Writing through Narrative…………………………….............19


III: Rethinking Islamic Orthodoxy through the Jama'a…............44


IV: The Persistence of Heresy: Paul of Tarsus, Ibn Saba' and the problem of Shiism…….……………………………………..............89


V: The Problem of Ali b. Abu Talib: Reflections on the Idea of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs……….….…127


VI: The Fada'il of Mu'awiya in the Formation of the Hanbali madhhab………….......……………...…......177


VII: Conclusion…………………………………………………......………….......232


Bibliography……………………………….......……………………….……….......242

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