Everlasting Doubt: Uncertainty in Islamic Representations of the Past

and Shahzad Bashir

Abstract:

Utilizing treatments of uncertainty regarding history in four major Arabic and Persian works (Ṭabarī, Bīrūnī, Badāʾūnī, and Abū l-Fażl), this article treats Islam as an ever-changing set of arguments rather than a panoply of beliefs and practices. ‘Islamic history’ is internally varied, without necessary universality or internal cohesion. The Islamic case underscores the methodological point that the interrelationship between religion and history is a multichannel and multidirectional affair whose valences differ in treatments of history of Islam versus that of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so on. Each of these histories has its distinctive history as a subject, with attendant fields of possibility and impossibility. An overarching history of religions must then be a vast, ever-expanding matrix not reducible to generalizations except in thematic treatments conceptualized with self-conscious attention to categories of analysis.

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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte is a specialised journal dealing primarily with religions of the ancient world. The different aspects of the field of research are covered in essays, reports on the main areas of religious studies and in individual articles.

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