Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun al-Rashid and the Narrative of the Abbasid Caliphate / Edition 1

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The reigns of the caliph Harun al-Rashid and his successor al-Ma'mun have long been viewed as the golden age of the medieval Islamic caliphate. Yet how did chroniclers represent this crucial period? Tayeb El-Hibri's book applies a new literary-critical reading to the sources to demonstrate how medieval narrators devised various elusive ways of shedding light on controversial religious, political and social issues, while ostensibly presenting a history loyal to the 'Abbasid dynasty. This is an important book that represents a landmark in the field of early Islamic historiography.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Al-Hibri's analysis is a careful argument for an 'Islamic salvation history'..." Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

"...a significant contribution to contemporary scholarship of classical Islamic narratives. It stands out for its literary-critical approach to the question of intentions and meanings...students of both classical Islamic literature and historiography will find it useful and informative." Arab Studies Journal

"El-Hibri...breaks with the traditional approach to the history of the Abbasid caliphate in the eighth and ninth centuries...He shows how decoding Isalmic historiography through study of its narrative strategies and thematic motifs can uncover important new layers of meaning." Book News

"...the book is very clearly written..." Religious Studies Review

"Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography is a pioneering work filled with powerful arguments that challenge historians to read Abbasid chronicles in fresh ways, to embrace techniques of literary criticism, and to consider their own assumptions carefully." Kate Lang, Journal of Near Eastern Studies

El-Hibri (Near Eastern Studies, U. of Massachusetts, Amherst) breaks with the traditional approach to the history of the Abbasid caliphate in the eighth and ninth centuries. He demonstrates how the various historical accounts were not in fact intended as faithful portraits of the past, but instead were used to shed light on religious, political, and social issues of the period in which they were written. He shows how decoding Islamic historiography through study of its narrative strategies and thematic motifs can uncover important new layers of meaning. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations and note on the dates; Genealogical table: the line of the early 'Abbasid caliphs; 1. Historical background and introduction; 2. Harun al-Rashid: where it all started and ended; 3. Al-Amin: the challenge of regicide in Islamic memory; 4. Al-Ma'mun: the heretic Caliph; 5. The structure of civil war narratives; 6. Al-Mutawakkil: an encore of the family tragedy; Conclusion; Select bibliography; Index.

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