John Wansbroughjohn wansbrough, john wansbrough quranic studies
John Edward Wansbrough February 19, 1928 – June 10, 2002 was an American historian who taught at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies SOAS
By his fundamental criticism of the historical credibility of the classical Islamic narratives concerning Islam's beginnings and his attempt to develop an alternative, historically more credible version of Islam's beginnings, Wansbrough founded the so-called "revisionist" school of Islamic Studies
- 1 Life
- 2 Research
- 3 Reception and Critique
- 4 Publications
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 External links
- 7 References
Wansbrough was born in Peoria, Illinois He completed his studies at Harvard University, and spent the rest of his academic career at SOAS He died at Montaigu-de-Quercy, France Among his students were Andrew Rippin, Norman Calder, Gerald R Hawting, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook
Wansbrough began studying early Islamic manuscripts and the Quran He realized that the early Islamic texts addressed an audience which was familiar with Jewish and Christian texts, and that Jewish and Christian theological problems were discussed Criticism of "infidels" was addressed obviously to monotheists who did not live monotheism "purely"1
These observations did not fit to the Islamic narratives on Islam's beginnings which depicted Islam to come into being within a polytheistic society Wansbrough analyzed the classical Islamic narratives which had been written 150 to 200 years after Muhammad with the historical-critical method, especially literary criticism Thus, he claimed countless proofs that these texts are not historical accounts but later literary constructions in the sense of the concept of a "salvation history" Heilsgeschichte of the Old Testament Their historical core is meager and cannot be detected2
On this basis, Wansbrough developed the theory that Islam did not come into being as a new religion on its own but derived from conflicts of various Jewish-Christian sects The Quran was written and collected in a long process over 200 years and thus cannot be attributed to Muhammad The person of Muhammad would be a later invention, or at least Muhammad cannot be related to the Quran For later times, Muhammad had only the function to provide an own identity to the new religious movement according to the role model of a Prophet of the Old Testament3
Reception and Critiqueedit
By his fundamental criticism of the historical credibility of the classical Islamic narratives concerning Islam's beginnings and his attempt to develop an alternative, historically more credible version of Islam's beginnings, Wansbrough founded the so-called "revisionist" school of Islamic Studies His influence cannot be overestimated
Yet Wansbrough's theory is today considered to be too radical in detail, especially in the total separation of the emergence of the Quran from the person of Muhammad However, Wansbrough's rejection of the classical Islamic narratives as historical accounts widely finds acceptance Also his realization that Islam came into being within a milieu shaped or strongly influenced by Jews and Christians is broadly supported4
- Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation Oxford, 1977
- The Sectarian Milieu: Content and Composition Of Islamic Salvation History Oxford, 1978
- Res Ipsa Loquitur: History and Mimesis 1987
- Lingua Franca in the Mediterranean Curzon Press 1996
- Res Ipsa Loquitur: History and Mimesis Reprint by World Scientific Publishing 2012
This line of research was investigated in Egypt by Nasr Abu Zayd but he was expelled from Egypt because of his conclusions about the Qur'an Students and scholars who doubt the traditional view of the genesis of the Quran as well:
- Michael Cook
- Patricia Crone
- Martin Hinds
- Gerald Hawting
- Christoph Luxenberg
- Gerd R Puin
- Andrew Rippin
- Carlos A Segovia and Basil Lourié, eds The Coming of the Comforter: When, Where, and to Whom Studies on the Rise of Islam and Other Various Topics in Memory of John Wansbrough Orientalia Judaica Christiana 3 Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2012 ISBN 978-1-4632-0158-6
- John Wansborough remembered, The Religion Report, Radio National Australia, 26 June 2002
- ^ Oliver Leaman ed, The Qur'an, an Encyclopedia, 2006; p 477
- ^ Harald Motzki et al, Analysing Muslim Traditions, 2010; p 285 ff
- ^ Andrew Rippin ed, The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an, 2006; pp 199 f
- ^ Michael Cook, Review of: The Sectarian Milieu by Wansbrough, in: The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland No 2 1980, pp 180-182
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