Thanks to Zeca for sharing this interesting article : The New Historiography of Islamic Origins: A Review of Some Recent Trends in the Field.
I posted it on Reddit and got this response from Juan Cole:
"This is a fine and detailed look at how contemporary academics view the later Muslim sources on early Islam. It seems to me, however, flawed in two ways. It does not attend to how Cook and Crone drastically revised their views over time. It focuses solely on the issue of views of the later sources, but all historians believe you should treat late sources carefully. This focus allows the author to group all these writers together as stemming from a revisionist 'tradition.' But other theses of the revisionists such as the lateness of the Quran, the origins of Islam in Jordan or Palestine, an Aramaic substrate for quranic Arabic, or the reliability of early Christian accounts of Islam, are ignored. That is why he is confused about my seeming to accept a revisionist school while being critical of it. What I accept is the universal historians' precept that late sources are often unreliable. I reject almost everything else the revisionists propose."
J.J Little , the author of the article heard about it,and came with this reply to Juan Cole's comment:
"I respect Prof. Cole, but I strongly disagree with his assessment of my article.
Firstly, the broader context of my article. Many people claim that Hagarism is total rubbish, completely discredited, etc.; I hear this all the time. This is clearly false (i.e., a huge exaggeration), and the point of this article was to push back against this popular narrative by documenting some of the major influences that Hagarism still exerts, in terms of both methodology and historical reconstruction, upon the field of Islamic origins. Scholars like Fred Donner, Stephen Shoemaker, and Sean Anthony have already openly acknowledged this influence and impact—I am merely providing some details.
Now to Cole’s comments here:
“It [i.e., the article] does not attend to how Cook and Crone drastically revised their views over time.”
Firstly, this is irrelevant to the article: I am documenting a specific set of approaches and conclusions in Hagarism that have become generalised in the field. I made that clear in the article. I am not arguing that all or most of the views expressed in Hagarism are still correct, or anything like that, for which the authors’ revisions would be relevant.
Secondly, I am not aware that Crone and Cook revised their views on the specific ideas discussed here—on the contrary, these recur in their later works. So, again, not relevant.
Thirdly, I did in fact acknowledge that Crone and Cook’s views shifted on some issues—e.g., on the early canonisation of the Quran: “although even Crone and Cook themselves came to adopt this position.”
“It [i.e., the article] focuses solely on the issue of views of the later sources, but all historians believe you should treat late sources carefully.”
Firstly, this seems like an understatement: historians of Islamic origins are now quite skeptical (either rejecting or else treating as suspect almost all Hadith, etc.), not merely ‘careful’ (an adjective that could probably even apply to the likes of W. M Watt), as I document in detail.
Secondly, this common skepticism in Islamic origins is specifically the result of Hagarism’s influence, as I document in the article, and as has been acknowledged by other historians. This alone would validate my thesis of Hagarism’s enduring influence.
Thirdly, the statement that my article “focuses solely on the issue of views of the later sources” is straightforwardly untrue. I point not just to methodological skepticism, but also to: the prioritisation of early non-Muslim and proto-Islamic sources; the pan-Abrahamitic thesis; the (revival of the) apocalyptic thesis; the lateness of muslim and ʾislām as primary self-identifiers; and the lateness of a discrete religious identity. This is a very specific set of tendencies that were notably disseminated/revived by—or in some cases originated with—Hagarism.
“This focus allows the author to group all these writers together as stemming from a revisionist 'tradition.' But other theses of the revisionists such as the lateness of the Quran, the origins of Islam in Jordan or Palestine, an Aramaic substrate for quranic Arabic, or the reliability of early Christian accounts of Islam, are ignored.”
Again, this just seems orthogonal to the aim of the article. The article is saying: Hagarism has had a major impact on the field (in terms of both skeptical methodology and revisionist conclusions) and here are various specific examples in recent scholarship. The article is not saying: all of Hagarism’s views are correct and widespread in current scholarship; all revisionism is correct and widespread in current scholarship; etc. Since I am not saying anything like that, what is the relevance of other revisionist theses (including some of the other views expounded in Hagarism)’s not being widespread? Again, I feel like I was clear in my article: I am talking about a very specific set of tendencies or trends.
“That is why he is confused about my seeming to accept a revisionist school while being critical of it. What I accept is the universal historians' precept that late sources are often unreliable. I reject almost everything else the revisionists propose.”
With all due respect, I think—as I said in the article—that Cole does not appreciate the ultimate influences upon his work. I document several specific correspondences between his views and those of Hagarism and Hagarism-influenced scholarship at the end of the article, the genealogy of which is expounded in the entire preceding article.
Cole is quite skeptical (even if idiosyncratically, in my opinion) and definitely revisionist. The fact that he doesn’t accept an alternative proto-Islamic sacred geography, or the late canonisation of the Quran, etc., is totally irrelevant. There are several competing strands of revisionism, as was humorously pointed out by Walid Saleh in a famous review: their mutual disagreement doesn’t make each not revisionist.
Let me put it another way: if Donner is a revisionist, and Cole accepts and restates Donner’s core revisionist thesis, it just follows therefrom that Cole is a revisionist. Maybe he is a moderate revisionist (compared to Crone or compared to Inarah crackpots)—but he is a revisionist none the less.
Anyway, those are my immediate thoughts. Again, I respect Prof. Cole and wish him well!
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THESE COMMENTS?
HOW SHOULD WE LOOK UPON COOK AND CRONE'S HAGARISM?https://islamicorigins.com/the-new-historiography-of-islamic-origins/