New Approaches to Islam's Formation: An Arabic Papyrus from the Early Islamic Period

Fred M. Donner

Professor Donner will discuss the birth of Islam through an early Arabic papyrus in the context of other documentary and literary evidence. The subject of Islam’s birth has been a popular and controversial subject in the last few decades in European and North American academic discourses largely because of the uncertainty about the reliability of literary sources from which the traditional narrative derives its arguments. The lecture will begin by briefly reviewing the leading arguments about Islam's origins and examining a newly-identified early Arabic papyrus document that has been housed at the Oriental Institute since 1947and its implications for our understanding of the world in which Islam began and the nature of the earliest community.

Fred M. Donner, Ph.D.,  has been a professor of early Islamic history in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago since 1982. He is the author of The Early Islamic Conquests (1981), Narratives of Islamic Origins (1997), and recently Muhammad and the Believers: at the origins of Islam (2010). He has translated a volume of the medieval Arabic chronicle of al–Tabari (1993), written over forty scholarly articles, numerous encyclopedia entries, and scores of reviews. He served in 2011 President–Elect of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. He received his PhD in Near Eastern Studies (1975) from Princeton University.

This talk is cosponsored by International and Area Studies, the Department of History, and the Religious Studies Program.