Middle East Studies

An Enigmatic Arabic Papyrus from Early Islam

Thursday, March 13, 2014

5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute 

Speaker: Fred Donner, professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago

The origins of Islam have been the subject of intense debate for the past forty years, largely because of uncertainty about the reliability of the sources on which the traditional narrative of Islam's beginnings was based. The only way to resolve these debates is to examine closely every scrap of truly documentary evidence from the time of Islam's origins; but there is, unfortunately, only a very limited corpus of such documents. The talk begins by reviewing very briefly some of the diverse views that have been advanced about Islam's origins, and then moves on to examine a newly-identified early Arabic papyrus document and its implications for our understanding of the world in which Islam began and the nature of the earliest community.