Author Topic: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"  (Read 707 times)

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Offline Jetavan

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Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« on: January 21, 2013, 08:17:37 PM »
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In his attempt to render this complex, revisionist history in a more popularly readable form, Tom Holland, a distinguished historian of the ancient world and winner of the Classical Association prize, has indeed written a lively and engaging account that is highly accessible to the educated reader. He displays a clear penchant for colorful, graphic, and often salacious details, although many are mentioned without providing any source. He also spends a good deal of time speculating about the motivations and religious and political attitudes of the key figures in this history, which adds personal and interpersonal drama to his imaginative retelling of Islamic antiquity.

Scholars of the subject may be troubled, however, by the degree to which he fills in the gaps in the written sources with suggestion and innuendo—gaps that have been partly created by his nearly complete dismissal of Islamic sources as a reliable basis for this history. In doing this, he has carved out a large space within which to reimagine this history.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 08:17:52 PM by Jetavan »
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 10:21:21 PM »
Interesting...not sure if I would read something written by a scholar who does not read the Arabic sources though.  And the fact that he puts no trust on oral tradition is also faulty.
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Offline Nephi

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 10:30:57 PM »
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his nearly complete dismissal of Islamic sources as a reliable basis for this history.
I've heard from some that there's real reason to suspect the reliability of at least some of the Islamic sources that are normally cited without hesitation.

An example comes to mind of doubting Mecca's prominence as the dominant religious and trading center in the Arabian Peninsula, as it is often portrayed by historians. I can't say one way or the other, but I've heard that the historical record doesn't show Mecca as the solely dominant religious/marketing hub of the Arabian Peninsula outside of much later Islamic sources.

Not that any of this allows for filling in the gaps with speculation.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 10:32:01 PM by Nephi »

Offline Orthodox11

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2013, 10:35:28 PM »
I recently saw his documentary on Channel 4. He raised some interesting points, but on the whole I can't say I was very impressed.

Offline JamesR

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2013, 10:46:12 PM »
I don't know how good of an argument this is, but I've always found it odd that Islam--around its very beginning--took so long to spread and could only be spread by violence. Most people thought Muhammed was a lunatic and he even doubted his revelations himself (till his wife told him otherwise) and he only had like a few legitimate followers who believed him. Everyone else was only converted through force--hence the invasion of Mecca. On the other hand, Jesus and His early Apostles converted large groups of people numbering in the 2,000-5,000's at a time, and that was through legitimate conversion, not force. This is a VERY good reason to object to some of Islam's sources. If people thought it was unreliable back then, maybe they were right.
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Offline dzheremi

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2013, 11:16:52 PM »
Interesting...not sure if I would read something written by a scholar who does not read the Arabic sources though.  And the fact that he puts no trust on oral tradition is also faulty.

This. There are better sources on early Islam that rely on primary sources, and don't seek to discredit traditional sources of knowledge in the modern fashion. Try Hoyland, Griffith, Brock, etc.

That said, I can appreciate those who look at traditional Islamic historiography with a critical eye; it just seems from this review that others probably do it better.

Offline Jetavan

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 11:31:15 PM »
I don't know how good of an argument this is, but I've always found it odd that Islam--around its very beginning--took so long to spread and could only be spread by violence.
I don't recall Khadijah converting under threat of violence.
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Offline Shanghaiski

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2013, 11:31:30 PM »
Interesting...not sure if I would read something written by a scholar who does not read the Arabic sources though.  And the fact that he puts no trust on oral tradition is also faulty.

Agree completely.
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2013, 12:37:38 AM »
I get tired of seeing and hearing revisionist history and re-imagining of history, as if you there was some other approach to history.

Guess what folks, historians don't just sit down with a calendar and start from the first day ever, right down what happened and move on.

History only makes sense within the horizon re-vision.
Ignorance is not a lack, but a passion.

Offline Shanghaiski

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2013, 12:55:19 AM »
I get tired of seeing and hearing revisionist history and re-imagining of history, as if you there was some other approach to history.

Guess what folks, historians don't just sit down with a calendar and start from the first day ever, right down what happened and move on.

History only makes sense within the horizon re-vision.

I'm a historian and I approved this message.
Quote from: GabrieltheCelt
If you spend long enough on this forum, you'll come away with all sorts of weird, untrue ideas of Orthodox Christianity.
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Offline dzheremi

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2013, 01:06:12 AM »
I'm not a historian, but I also agree, as I don't see how it could be otherwise.

Offline Kerdy

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2013, 03:12:27 AM »
I get tired of seeing and hearing revisionist history and re-imagining of history, as if you there was some other approach to history.

Guess what folks, historians don't just sit down with a calendar and start from the first day ever, right down what happened and move on.

History only makes sense within the horizon re-vision.

I'm a historian and I approved this message.

Unless of course, that history has already been thoroughly and accurately documented and someone simply wants to twist it into something else, which is normally why people use these terms.  It is one thing to discover new information.  It’s an entirely different thing to simply change history to support and promote an ideology.  There is a place for these terms.

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Islam’s Origins: A review of "In the Shadow of the Sword"
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2013, 06:55:16 AM »
I get tired of seeing and hearing revisionist history and re-imagining of history, as if you there was some other approach to history.

Guess what folks, historians don't just sit down with a calendar and start from the first day ever, right down what happened and move on.

History only makes sense within the horizon re-vision.

I'm a historian and I approved this message.

Unless of course, that history has already been thoroughly and accurately documented and someone simply wants to twist it into something else, which is normally why people use these terms.  It is one thing to discover new information.  It’s an entirely different thing to simply change history to support and promote an ideology.  There is a place for these terms.

You have an even more naive view than I thought. If you think that ideology first bears upon on how you understand the world in an explicit manner, then you have fallen for the most insidious of ideologies, the one that would tell you that you can be free of ideology.

Without ideology there is no history.

We'll leave the begging of the question which occurs in your first sentence.
Ignorance is not a lack, but a passion.