The Islamic Origins Debate Goes Public

The Islamic Origins Debate Goes Public

By Peter von Sivers

History Compass, Vol.1 (2004)

Abstract: A central part of modern secularization has been the de-theologization of the stories of religious origins. Islam is no different, even though this de-theologization tends to be obscured by contemporary fundamentalism. In Islam, the story of origins centers on Mecca, Medina, the prophet Muhammad, the early Muslim community, and the expansion out of Arabia. A few scholars at the end of the nineteenth century and many at the end of the twentieth century raised the question of whether this story should be considered a theology – that is, an apologia or justification – of origins rather than a history as traditionally understood. This article provides a survey of the Islamic origins literature produced by Middle East scholars in the last century.

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