Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period by Tarif Khalidi

By Tarif Khalidi

In a piece that surveys a whole culture of historic suggestion and writing throughout a span of eight-hundred years, Tarif Khalidi examines how Arabic-Islamic tradition of the premodern interval seen the previous, the way it recorded it, and the way it sought to reply to the various complicated questions linked to the self-discipline of heritage.

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Recorded in both memory and writing from the earliest decades after the death of the Prophet, the Hadith rapidly asserted its authority as a repository of the community's early religious and historical experiences. The periods it traversed in its first hundred and fifty years of existence may roughly be described as moving from an initial stage of collectanea, simple jottings recorded as heard or remembered, to a second stage when these were put together in a book, to a final stage when the various items were classified according to subject.

Hence the form' that Hadith took was bound up with the development of the isnad and with the emerging class of scholars who sought to regulate the production of religious scholarship. As may be expected, the new isnad expert was a different type of scholar from the earlier rawiya or qass, who was, or came to be perceived as, a relic from the days of jahiliyya. More often than not, these experts were in government service. e. Sufyan al-Thawri (d. n6 14 15 16 Baghdadi, Kifaya, p. 230. , the biographies of some of these early experts in Dhahabi, Tarajim, and in Abu Zur'a, Tarikh, 1:198 ff.

At issue, to begin with, is a cluster of reasons which may have dictated the concise and fragmentary character of earliest Hadith such as the scarcity of writing materials and early suspicion of any non-Qur'anic texts. But there are more complex reasons for the form that Hadith took, reasons which have to do with the evolution of religious knowledge in general and which need to be examined in some detail. 7 The transition from this early sahifa stage to a stage of greater control and legalization of the material was 6 7 To substantiate the arguments of this paragraph would require lengthy documentation.

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