Title “The Life of Muhammad” by Ibn Ishāq — Ibn Hishām: Between Historiography and Literature
Author(s) Alexander B. Kudelin.
Information about the author(s) Alexander B. Kudelin, Academician of the RAS, Doctor of Philological Sciences, Professor, Scholarly Director, А.M.Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia. E-mail: abkudelin@rambler.ru
Received August 01, 2016
Published September 25, 2016
Issue Vol. 1, no 1–2
Department World Literature
Pages 91-107
DOI DOI:10.22455/ 2500-4247-2016-1-1-2-91-107
UDK 82.091
BBK 83.3(0)
Abstract The article examines correlations of historiographical and literary aspects within the seminal text of Arabic classics “The Life of the Prophet” (Al-sīra al-Nabawiyya ) by Ibn Isḥāq – Ibn Hishām. We build our analysis around Al-sīra by placing it against two essential elements of pre-Islamic and early Islamic lore of the Arabs; namely, the accounts of tribal battle clashes knows as ayyām al-ʻarab (the days of the Arabs) and khabars (i.e. “tidings,” “news,” “reports”), which contain information of historical, biographical, or amusing nature. Our analysis shows that the content and some operative specifics of the ayyām al-ʻarab and khabars were brought to bear upon the narrative of Al-sīra and helped to establish its intermediate position between a work of literature and a historiography. Thus, “The Life of the Prophet” employs different modes of viewing reality — from historiographical methods of chronicling events (which look back to khabars) to literary techniques of coloring these events and putting them into a coherent narrative form (which are genetically similar to ayyām al-ʻarab). By retrospectively observing the Ibn Isḥāq – Ibn Hishām writing against the ayyām al-ʻarab and khabars in the light of the achievements of modern historiography, we may venture certain conclusions. The work of Ibn Isḥāq — Ibn Hishām, as well as the works of Arabic historians written over a century later, extensively drew upon the days of the Arabs and khabars. It is to these mainstays of pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabic lore that “The Life of the Prophet” is indebted in manner and form: it looms large between historiography and literature; it brings together two different tendencies — a search after documentary precision and after artistic and coherent depiction of the narrated events
Keywords Arabic studies, pre-Islamic and early Islamic narratives, Ibn Isḥāq, Ibn Hishām, Al-sīra al-Nabawiyya, ayyām al-ʻarab (the days of the Arabs), khabars (akhbār), Medieval studies.
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