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Der Islam

Journal of the History and Culture of the Middle East

Ed. by Heidemann, Stefan / Hagen, Gottfried / Kaplony, Andreas / Matthee, Rudi

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.21

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.195
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.682

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Volume 91, Issue 1


Al-Jāhiliyya: Uncertain Times of Uncertain Meanings

Peter Webb
Published Online: 2014-05-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/islam-2014-0005

Abstract:Al-Jāhiliyya” evokes vivid images of idol worship, tribalist antagonisms, and violence commonly assumed to be emblematic of the Muslim representation of pre-Islamic Arabia as a “barbaric” anarchical society. Such associations, however, overlook manifold complexities of the era’s portrayal in classical Arabic literature, and this paper calls for a more nuanced reading of classical narratives of al-Jāhiliyya. Exploration of the word’s semantic shifts evidenced in Arabic lexicography and Qurʾānic exegesis between the third/ninth and seventh/ thirteenth centuries reveals that only after the fourth/tenth century did the now common Jāhiliyya stereotypes become virtually synonymous with pre-Islam. Via a survey of third/ninth century Arabic writings, this paper also explores how and why certain discourses articulated rather positive memories of pre-Islamic times.

: pre-Islam; Arab history; Jahiliyya; Arabic lexicography; Qurʾan exegesis

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Published Online: 2014-05-01

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Der Islam, Volume 91, Issue 1, Pages 69–94, ISSN (Online) 1613-0928, ISSN (Print) 0021-1818, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/islam-2014-0005.

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© De Gruyter 2014. Copyright Clearance Center

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