The Earliest Writings on the Life of Muḥammad: The ‘Urwa Corpus and the Non-Muslim Sources

Andreas Görke, Gregor Schoeler

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract / Description of output

The main part of this book consists of a compilation and evaluation of the corpus of traditions about the life of Muḥammad attributed to the early scholar ‘Urwa ibn al-Zubayr (c. 643- c. 712). ‘Urwa was the nephew of the Prophet's wife ‘A’isha, who was also his most important informant. The authenticity of a large part of these traditions is certain, since they were handed down independently from each other by two or more tradents of ‘Urwa. They are thus the oldest authentic Muslim reports about the Prophet. The authors argue that ‘Urwa’'s reports by and large correctly reflect the basic features of the historical events described.

Somewhat older than ‘Urwa's traditions about Muḥammad is only a report in a non-Islamic Armenian source attributed to the chronicler Sebeos (wrote around 660). This and other external evidence partly agree with the Islamic sources, sometimes providing new perspectives on the life of the Prophet. But there are also contradictions. The authors can show that in such cases the ‘Urwa transmission is preferable.

The crux of the much-discussed so-called Hagarism hypothesis, which proposes an alternative narrative of the origins of Islam (Muḥammad established a community which comprised both Arabs and Jews. He and these allies then set off to conquer Palestine) is demonstrably based on a misreading of a Sebeos passage.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherGerlach Press
Number of pages328
ISBN (Electronic)9783959941273
ISBN (Print)9783959941266
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024

Publication series

NameSLAEI - Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam
PublisherGerlach Press
ISSN (Print)2941-1556
ISSN (Electronic)2941-1572


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