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موضوع: The Quest for the Historical Muhammad

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    جنسیت شهريور ۱۳۸۷
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    The Quest for the Historical Muhammad


    There has long been an undercurrent of unease among Western students of Islam about the part played by Mecca in the Muslim account of Islamic origins. In the Muslim sources Mecca is portrayed as a wealthy trading center, full of merchants exchanging goods by caravan with Yemen in the south and Syria and the Roman empire in the north. Yet there is no mention anywhere in the non‐ Muslim sources of a Mecca placed where the Mecca we know today is placed, that is to say in the southern Hijaz. Before the first world war D. S. Margoliouth noted that "The classical geographers, who devote considerable attention to Arabia, are apparently not acquainted with this settlement; for the Makoraba of Ptolemy (VI. vii. 32 ) is derived from a different root."Yet such is the weight of the traditional Muslim account amongst Islamicists, and such the general inertia in Islamic studies, that we still find the following in a book published in 1988: "Mecca is known to the ancient geographers as Macoraba."The identification of Macoraba with Mecca is demolished by Patricia Crone in Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam ( 1987)..

    After examining the various theories she says: "The plain truth is that the name of Macoraba has nothing to do with that of Mecca, and that the location indicated by Ptolemy for Macoraba in no way dictates identification of the two ... if Ptolemy mentions Mecca at all, he calls it Moka, a town in Arabia Petraea" (p. 136 ). That is to say a town in the northern part of
    Arabia in the area of the city of Petra in present day Jordan.

    In addition, the Qur'an twice describes its opponents as living in the site of a vanished nation, that is to say a town destroyed by God for its sins. There were many such ruined sites in northwest Arabia. The prophet frequently tells his opponents to consider their significance and on one occasion remarks, with reference to the remains of Lot's people, that "you pass by them in the morning and in the evening". This takes us to somewhere in the Dead Sea region. Respect for the traditional account has prevailed to such an extent among modern historians that the first two points have passed unnoticed until quite recently, while the third has been ignored. The exegetes said that the Quraysh passed by Lot's remains on their annual journeys to Syria, but the only way in which one can pass by a place in the morning and the evening is evidently by living somewhere in the vicinity.

    Crone well describes the odd silence of the non-Muslim sources on Meccan trade :
    It is obvious that if the Meccans had been middlemen in a long-distance trade of the kind described in the secondary literature, there ought to have been some mention of them in the writings of their customers. Greek and Latin authors had, after all, written extensively about the south Arabians who supplied them with aromatics in the past, offering information about their cities, tribes, political organization, and caravan trade; and in the sixth century they similarly wrote about Ethiopia and Adulis. The political and ecclesiastical importance of Arabia in the sixth century was such that considerable attention was paid to Arabian affairs, too; but of Quraysh and their trading center there is no mention at all, be it in the Greek, Latin, Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic, or other literature composed outside Arabia before the conquests. This silence is striking and significant. (p. 134 )
    This silence cannot be attributed to the fact that sources have been lost, though some clearly have. The fact is that the sources written after the conquests display not the faintest sign of recognition in their accounts of the new rulers of the Middle East or the city from which they came. Nowhere is it stated that Quraysh, or the "Arab kings," were the people who used to supply such-and‐ such regions with such-and-such goods: it was only Muhammad himself who was known to have been a trader. And as for the city, it was long assumed to have been Yathrib. Of Mecca there is no mention for a long time; and the first sources to mention the sanctuary fail to give a name for it, whereas the first source to name it fails to locate it in Arabia. (The Continuatio Arabica gives Mecca an Abrahamic location between Ur and Harran, n. 21.) Jacob of Edessa knew of the Ka'ba toward which the Muslims prayed, locating it in a place considerably closer to Ptolemy's Moka than to modern Mecca or, in other words, too far north for orthodox accounts of the rise of Islam; but of the commercial significance of this place he would appear to have been completely ignorant. Whatever the implications of this evidence for the history of the Muslim sanctuary, it is plain that the Qurashi trading center was not a place with which the subjects of the Muslims were familiar. (p.
    137 )

    As Crone maintain the earliestreference to Mecca occurs in the Continuatio Byzantia Arabica, which is a source dating from early in the reign of the caliph Hisham, who ruled between 724-743 A.DTherefore, the earliest corroborative evidence we have for the existence of Mecca is fully 100 years after the date when Islamic tradition and the Qur'an place it. Why? Certainly, if it was so important a city, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it
    Crone concludes that if Qurashi trade existed at all the silence of the classical sources must be due to its totally insignificant nature.

    It was assumed by practically all Islamicists before Crone that Mecca must have been involved in the spice trade, presumably because spices are indelibly linked in the Western mind with the romance of Araby. By careful examination of the documentary evidence on the classical spice trade Crone shows that Mecca, even if it existed as a trading center, could not have been involved at all.

    To begin with it is simply not true that Mecca, that is Mecca in the location that we know today, was situated at the crossroads of major Arabian trade routes. Neither was it a natural stopping-place on the so-called incense route from south Arabia to Syria: "as Bullier points out ( Camel and Wheel, p. 105), these claims are quite wrong. Mecca is tucked away at the edge of the peninsula: 'only by the most tortured map reading can it be described as a natural crossroads between a north‐ south route and an east-west one.' And the fact that it is more or less equidistant from south Arabia and Syria does not suffice to make it a natural halt on the incense route" (p. 6). What is more: "Why should caravans have made a steep descent to the barren valley of Mecca when they could have stopped at Ta'if? Mecca did, of course, have both a well and a sanctuary, but so did Ta'if, which had food supplies, too" (pp. 6- 7 ). In fact it would appear that Mecca was not on the incense route at all, since going from south Arabia to Syria via Mecca would have involved a substantial detour from the natural route. Indeed "the incense route must have bypassed Mecca by some one hundred miles. Mecca, in other words, was not just distant and barren; it was off the beaten track, as well

    If Mecca does not make sense as a trading center, for spices, incense, or any other conceivable commodity, what of its purported role as a sanctuary and place of pilgrimage? On examination of the sources Crone confirms the conclusion of Wellhausen, reached as long ago as 1887, that "the pre-Islamic Arabs did trade during the pilgrimage. But they did not go to Mecca during the pilgrimage, because the pilgrimage did not go to Mecca before the rise of Islam" (p. 173 ). Moreover, the Hubal-Allah sanctuary at Mecca, of which the Quraysh are supposed to have been the guardians, does not make any sense either, in fact "there would seem to be at least two sanctuaries behind the one depicted in the tradition, and Quraysh do not come across as guardians of either" (p. 195 ).

    Taking all these factors into account Crone summarizes the problems surrounding Mecca and the rise of Islam as follows:
    We seem to have all the ingredients for Muhammad's career in northwest Arabia. Qurashi trade sounds perfectly viable, indeed more intelligible, without its south Arabian and Ethiopian extensions, and there is a case for a Qurashi trading center, or at least diaspora, in the north. One might locate it in Ptolemy's Moka. Somewhere in the north, too, there was a desert sanctuary of pan-Arabian importance, according to Nonnosus... Jewish communities are well attested for northwest Arabia. Even Abrahamic monotheism is documented there, and the prophet who was to make a new religion of this belief was himself a trader in northwest Arabia. Yet everything is supposed to have happened much further south, in a place described as a sanctuary town inhabited since time immemorial, located, according to some, in an unusually fertile environment, associated with southern tribes such as Jurhum and Khuza'a, linked with Ethiopia and the Yemen, and endowed with a building accommodating Hubal and his priests. Why? What is the historical relationship between these places? (pp. 196 -99)

    Nobody knows. All we do know is "the sources on the rise of Islam are wrong in one or more fundamental respects"

    ویرایش توسط Borzin : ۱۳۸۷/۰۷/۰۹ در ساعت ۱۲:۵۹


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