World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


(Re-)Interpreting Islamic Concepts - 2/2 (374) - Panel

· Date: THU 22, 5.00-7.00 pm

· Language: English

· Description: Paper Presenter: Mazem Mutabagani (Associate Professor Orientalistics-King Saud University), "Leadership in crisis: The Islamic Pattern Abu_Bakr, The First Caliph in Islam".
After the Prophet’s death (P.B.U.H), a group of Madenese (Al-Ansar) and three of the Makkans (Muhajirin) gathered at the Sagifat bani Saedah to choose a leader amongst them. The meeting resulted in the nomination of Abu Bakr. He was heeled a Caliph the next day by the rest of the population of al-Madina unanimously. Though Abu Bakr was known to be a lenient person he proved to be so strong and even tough when it came to the security of the state and Islam. He faced total rebellion from almost the whole Peninsula. In addition to the foreign threats he anticipated from Byzantine and Persians Monarchies. The paper will look into his abilities to handle the situation effectively. His two years in office can be said to be leadership in crisis. This paper will deal with the qualities needed in such times and how it was apparent in the leader-ship of Abu Bakr. The paper will rely mainly on Islamic sources for the historical data, but will benefit from Western, and modern Arab Historians viewpoints in analyzing this data and evaluating the leadership of Abu Bakr.

Paper Presenter: Alfons H Teipen (Associate Professor, Furman University) “The flags at the battle of Uhud: early Islam and the contestation over authentic Judaism”
The early biographical narratives of the life of Muhammad as recorded in the eighth and ninth century CE by Ibn Ishaq's Sira (in the recension of Ibn Hisham), al-Waqidi's Maghazi, and Ibn Sa'ds Tabaqat, while overall agreeing in their recollection of the Prophet's life, exhibit small but significant differences in the details of narration. These differences in details allow for a critical analysis of the narratives'' Sitz-im-Leben, they are reflective not primarily of the seventh century historical reality they purport to describe, but rather provide insight into the conceptualization of reality as conceived by their eighth and ninth century collector-authors (A. Noth, S. Leder, A. Teipen)This paper will study narrative vignettes of the three biographical traditions related to the fate of military flags appearing in the context of the Battle of Uhud. Differences in the portrayal of the fate of the flags during the battle are to be attributed to different understandings of the relationship between the main Muslim protagonists, their polytheist Meccan opponents, and the Jews of Medina. Ibn Ishaq's focus on the dismal fate of the Meccan-polytheists' flag evokes the utter defeat of polytheists' schemes by portraying a sequence of polytheist flag bearers finding their deaths, moving from Meccan male nobility through male slaves to a female flag bearer, symbolizing the approaching defeat of pre-Islamic polytheism. Al-Waqidi, on the other hand, constructs parallel accounts of the fates of the polytheists'' and Muslims'' flags. While he does not mention a female polytheist flag-bearer, he evokes biblical-qur'anic themes of the suffering prophetic community to validate the claim of Muslim supersession of Judaism. Lastly, Ibn Sa'd, while keeping the basic outline of al-Waqidi, deemphasizes the suffering prophet motif via insertion of an angel who carries the Muslim flag. Read within the contexts of themes of victory, suffering, and defeat, the flag vignettes of the three narrative accounts point to different conceptualizations of the fates of polytheists, Muslims, and the Jews of Medina. The paper will suggest that these differences in portrayal of the battle flags has important repercussions for our understanding the portrayal of Jews and polytheists in early Muslim biographies of Muhammad.

Paper presenter: Christian Lange (Lecturer in Islamic Studies-University of Edinburgh), “Plight of the living dead: notes on the punishment of corpses in Islamic history”
There are many examples in Islamic historiography of the punishment of corpses. This paper will discuss a number of cases (mainly from the late Abbasid period) in order to explore the meaning(s) of such practices. It is proposed that acts of post-mortem mutilation or “shaming” of corpses ought to be understood in the light of common notions of al-barzakh, the intermediary state between death and resurrection, in which the (recently) deceased remain conspicuously alive. This can also be supported by fiqh discussions about the legal status of the human corpse, not only in the area of criminal law (e.g., the question whether the dead are among the ahl al-uquba, “people of punishment”) but also of Islamic ritual (esp. in burial rites and the role of the dead during the ajj). Morbid though as the topic may seem, it illustrates how permeable the dunya/akhira divide was conceived in traditional Islamic societies, and what this meant for these societies' economies of punishment and social discipline.