Not in God’s Path

A Revised Chronology of the "Origins of Islam”

Parvaneh Pourshariati

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

One of the paradigmatic chronological demarcations in Middle and Near Eastern studies has been the notorious notion of a “pre-Islamic” vs. an “Islamic” divide in this history. For some in the field, the cue has come from the Arab conquests of the region in the seventh century, a series of conquests which have been, regularly and fallaciously, also identified as “Islamic Conquests.”  For others, and even more problematically, the watershed has been based on the date of the Hijra, or Prophet Muhammad’s Immigration from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE –  a single event in Islamic narratives of origin. What are the chronological problems that beset this history? Where was Prophet Muhammad when the Arab conquests began, and what is “Islamic” about the purported inception of “Islamic” history?

Parvaneh Pourshariati is an Associate Professor of History in the Department of Social Sciences at New York City College of Technology (CUNY). From 2000-2014 she was a faculty member of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the Ohio State University.  Recently, she has been a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (Summer 2013) and a Lady Davis Visiting Professor /Hebrew University of Jerusalem/Israel (Fall 2012).  Pourshariati served as the President of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS) from 2012-2015.  A specialist in late antique, early medieval/modern, history of Iran and the Middle East, she received her Ph.D. from the Department of History at Columbia University.  Pourshariati’s research focuses on the social and cultural history and interconnections of the Middle East, the Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia in the Late Antique and medieval period. As a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW, Pourshariati will be working on a project that is partly a sequel to her Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire (I.B. Tauris in 2008):  Merchants and Ideologies in Late Antique Middle East  (500-900 C.E.):The Arab Conquest of Iran and the Fertile Crescent and its aftermath.

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