Narratives of the Life of Muhammad

Redefining sira literature

By Gurdofarid Miskinzoda

© 2015 – Routledge

224 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415603416
pub: 2016-07-01

About the Book

Sira stands for al-sira al-nabawiyya, meaning the biography of Prophet Mu?ammad, and is one of the earliest types of literature in the Muslim tradition, shaping the identity and content of this tradition as it has also developed alongside it.

This book represents a shift away from the prevalent view that the main value of sira lies in its utility as a historical source for the life of Mu?ammad. It examines the nature and role of sira as a distinct genre of the Muslim literary and historical tradition and as an independent scholarly discipline. Beginning with a discussion of contemporary scholarship and approaches to the study of sira, the book then outlines a number of defining characteristics typical of sira as a genre, as well as examining the role of the chronological narrative, the textual and functional role of variant reports and the divergences between them, and the centrality of the relationship between the text of the Qur’an and sira. Particular attention is paid to the question of narrativity and historical discourse as it occurs in sira, and the ability of sira authors to resort to a number of other scholarly disciplines in order to extrapolate further meaning from their source material.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach to provide a concise and original insight into the nature of sira as a distinct form of literature, this book is essential reading for students and scholars interested in the historiography of Islam, and early Islamic history and literature.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: New Trends in the Understanding of Sīra

Chapter 2: Sīra and Historical and Literary Analysis


Chapter 3: The Sources and the Case Study

Chapter 4: Problems of Describing Sīra as a Genre

Chapter 5: Chronology and Narrative

Chapter 6: Variants

Chapter 7: Relating Events to Revelation

Chapter 8: Literary Models of Story and History in Sīra


About the Author

Gurdofarid Miskinzoda obtained her PhD in the History of the Near and Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is currently a Research Associate and Shi’i Studies Coordinator at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.

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:
RELIGION / Islam / General
RELIGION / Islam / History
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies