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Imagining the ArabsArab Identity and the Rise of Islam$
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Peter Webb

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474408264

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474408264.001.0001

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Interpreting Arabs: Defining their Name and Constructing their Family

Interpreting Arabs: Defining their Name and Constructing their Family

(p.177) 4 Interpreting Arabs: Defining their Name and Constructing their Family
Imagining the Arabs

Peter Webb

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 4 investigates the changing faces of Arabness in early Islam. As an identity, Arabness was a fluid intellectual construct, and because Arab communal consciousness developed unevenly in early Islam, Muslims faced manifold challenges when they tried to define the word ‘Arab’ and delineate the boundaries of Arab community. The uneven parameters of Arabness and the debates over the identity’s meaning manifest in this chapter’s findings from the evolving dictionary definitions of ʿarabī, the disputes over membership to the Arab community, and the protracted process by which Muslims constructed Arab genealogy by fusing disparate pre-Islamic groups into one consolidated Arab family tree. By the early tenth century AD, Arabic literature articulates a largely cohesive sense of Arab identity and genealogy traced through a succession of ancient prophets, Judaic and Arabian: this chapter questions how that archetype of Arabness emerged by undertaking comprehensive analysis of the earlier disagreements which accompanied the processes of imagining Arabness in Islam’s first centuries.

Keywords:   Arab history, Arab identity, Arabic lexicography, genealogy, hadith, ethnicity

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