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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Studying Elites in Early Islamic History: Concepts and Terminology

From the book Volume 1 Transregional and Regional Elites – Connecting the Early Islamic Empire

  • Hannah-Lena Hagemann , Katharina Mewes and Peter Verkinderen


This paper conceptualizes the term elite for the study of early Islamic history and aims to provide a usable definition for historians of early Islam. It gives an overview of existing terminology referring to socially dominant groups in Arabic and Persian sources as well as in the social sciences and related fields, discussing and dismissing its suitability for the field of Islamic Studies. The article traces the development of the term elite in scholarly discourse from the 19th century onward and presents its own definition suited to the complex organizational structure of early Islamic society, pointing out both the challenges of and possible strategies for studying early Islamic elites.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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