The Arabic Historical Tradition & the Early Islamic Conquests: Folklore, Tribal Lore, Holy War, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Arabic Historical Tradition & the Early Islamic Conquests

Folklore, Tribal Lore, Holy War, 1st Edition

By Boaz Shoshan


198 pages

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The early Arab conquests pose a considerable challenge to modern-day historians. The earliest historical written tradition emerges only after the second half of the eighth century- over one hundred years removed from the events it contends to describe, and was undoubtedly influenced by the motives and interpretations of its authors. Indeed, when speaking or writing about the past, fact was not the only, nor even the prime, concern of Muslims of old.

The Arabic Historic Tradition and the Early Islamic Conquests presents a thorough examination of Arabic narratives on the early Islamic conquests. It uncovers the influence of contemporary ideology, examining recurring fictive motifs and evaluating the reasons behind their use. Folklore and tribal traditions are evident throughout the narratives, which aimed to promote individual, tribal and regional fame through describing military prowess in the battles for the spread of Islam. Common tropes are encountered across the materials, which all serve a central theme; the moral superiority of the Muslims, which destined them to victory in God’s plan.

Offering a key to the state of mind and agenda of early Muslim writers, this critical reading of Arabic texts would be of great interest to students and scholars of early Arabic History and Literature, as well as a general resource for Middle Eastern History.


"Shoshan’s inclusion of possible intertextual connections between Arabic-Islamic and Christian sources in his discussion (pp. 65–66) establishes this aspect as an important part of Islamic-Arabic narrativity that should be further explored. The parallel depiction of astrology and scripture as the sources for foreknowledge of Islamic victories among the Sassanians or the Byzantines respectively is also quite strikingly shown."

Georg Leube, Bayreuth, Plekos 19 (2017)

Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: Tribal Lore on the Conquests Chapter 2: Tropes of Islamic Superiority Chapter 3: Yarmūk – Another View Chapter 4: ʿUmar in Jerusalem Chapter 5: When Muslims Meet Infidels Chapter 6: The Conquest of Egypt: Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam and Beyond Epilogue

About the Author

Boaz Shoshan is professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev where he has also served as chair of the General History department. His research focuses on the historiography of early Islam and the history of the Mamluk period.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Classical Islam

The nature of the historical period in which the emergence of Islamic civilization occurred has produced vigorous scholarly debate. While the general impact of the newly formed Arab empire on pre-existing cultures is evident to historians, establishing the varied trajectories of the transition from pre-Islamic times to the period in which the establishment of an Islamic social, political, administrative and cultural order is a matter of significant discussion. Routledge Studies in Classical Islam is dedicated to the best scholarship on that period, revealing the difficulties and the complexities in establishing the history of the time. Focusing on the Arab and Persian worlds up to the tenth century, the series includes original textual sources in translation, modern scholarly works not previously available in English, and newly commissioned works dedicated to examining the period critically in light of the evidence that is available to historians today. Every work in this series focuses on the question of "how do we know" when it comes to establishing the history of this controversial period, producing a persuasive body of insightful scholarship as conducted in the academic community today.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Middle East / General
RELIGION / Islam / History
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies