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IslamisationComparative Perspectives from History$

A. C. S. Peacock

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474417129

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417129.001.0001

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What Did Conversion to Islam Mean in Seventh-Century Arabia?

What Did Conversion to Islam Mean in Seventh-Century Arabia?

Chapter:
(p.83) 5 What Did Conversion to Islam Mean in Seventh-Century Arabia?
Source:
Islamisation
Author(s):

Harry Munt

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417129.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

In a late seventh- or very early eighth-century Coptic homily anachronistically attributed to the church father Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373), it is lamented that, following the Arab conquest of Egypt in the early 640s, ‘many Christians, Barbarians, Greeks, Syrians and from all tribes will go and join them in their faith’.1 This prophecy comes across as somewhat hysterical to many modern observers – at least within its seventh-or eighth-century context – since it is now the generally accepted consensus of historians that the processes through which the inhabitants of the conquered territories of the Middle East converted to Islam were extremely gradual and persisted for centuries. Monumental changes to the political, social and religious life of many communities in this region came in the decades and centuries after the conquests – developments to which many non-Muslims fully contributed – but Muslim-majority populations are not thought to have emerged widely until the ninth or tenth centuries at the very earliest.

Keywords:   Islam, Arabia, Conversion, Muhammad, Political

IN A LATE SEVENTH- or very early eighth-century Coptic homily anachronistically attributed to the church father Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373), it is lamented that, following the Arab conquest of Egypt in the early 640s, ‘many Christians, Barbarians, Greeks, Syrians and from all tribes will go and join them in their faith’.1 This prophecy comes across as somewhat hysterical to many modern observers – at least within its seventh- or eighth-century context – since it is now the generally accepted consensus of historians that the processes through which the inhabitants of the conquered territories of the Middle East converted to Islam were extremely gradual and persisted for centuries. Monumental changes to the political, social and religious life of many communities in this region came in the decades and centuries after the conquests – developments to which many non-Muslims fully contributed – but Muslim-majority populations are not thought to have emerged widely until the ninth or tenth centuries at the very earliest.2

However, one group in particular is often offered as an exception to this model of very gradual conversion to Islam: the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula itself. The majority of the inhabitants of Arabia are frequently assumed to have converted to Islam during the twelve years or so between Muhammad’s hijra (migration) to Medina in 622 and the death of the first caliph Abu Bakr in 634. Uriel Simonsohn broadly reflects a scholarly consensus when he notes that the whole process of conversion to Islam in the Middle East began with ‘the mass Islamization of Arabian tribes in the seventh century’.3 This is certainly a picture offered by a large number of extant sources, although it is hard to argue with Aziz Al-Azmeh, who has raised the slight problem that ‘it is difficult to discern what adherence to Muhammad’s new religion implied at the time’.4 This chapter will suggest some ways that we might gain a (slightly) better appreciation of what conversion to Islam did actually mean in seventh-century Arabia.

There are three principal obstacles to the study of the Arabian tribes’ conversion to Islam. First, the sources for processes of Islamisation in Arabia are generally quite problematic.5 Most extant literary sources written by Muslims assume that the Arabian tribes’ conversion was more or less completed during the mid-seventh century, but these works were not written until the ninth century at the earliest. They present quite schematic (p.84) overviews of the tribes’ acceptance of Islam and rely upon generous use of literary topoi;6 they are far more interested in using conversion narratives to demonstrate the tribes’ role in the realisation of God’s plan for mankind than in understanding the messy reality of how conversion actually works. Thus, as Anders Winroth has written of the analogous situation of stories of the conversion of Scandinavians to Christianity in later narratives, ‘the conversions tend to be quick and immediately complete’.7 The second obstacle is that modern scholarship in general has been happier thinking about processes of conversion in the early Islamic centuries as they played out in mostly non-tribal urban settings; Richard Bulliet, for example, in his pioneering study explicitly noted his reluctance to integrate sociological and anthropological models of tribal conversions into his analysis.8 This contrasts notably with research into later periods of premodern Islamic history, where studies of the Islamisation of tribal and nomadic groups has been taken more seriously.9 Third, there is the problem that whatever beliefs and practices the earliest Muslims in seventh-century Arabia may have considered important, there is no good reason to assume that they were identical to those understood by the authors of extant sources from the ninth century and later, who lived and worked throughout the lands between al-Andalus and Central Asia.10

In spite of the problems, however, there is no good reason why a range of modern sociological and anthropological research into the many aspects of religious conversion among urban, agrarian and nomadic societies should not be brought to bear, even if (as in this chapter) fairly indirectly, on the question of the Islamisation of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. More fundamentally, there are some contemporary sources for seventh-century Arabia which do have material bearing on the processes of conversion to Islam in that period. In this chapter, we will look briefly at four sets of sources in particular – Syriac Christian observers, the Quran, the so-called ‘Constitution of Medina’ and seventh-century Arabic graffiti – to see what light they can shed on two particular issues: the supposed rapidity of Arabia’s Islamisation and how we might best understand what the processes of Islamisation actually involved in seventh-century Arabia.

Conversion as an Event

Before we deal with this contemporary evidence, it seems a good idea to start with a brief overview of the picture of Arabia’s Islamisation that we get from the ninth-century Arabic sources. Historical and legal sources from this period do generally describe a very rapid Islamisation of Arabia in the mid-seventh century, achieved through the mass conversion to Islam of most Arabian tribes, on the one hand, and the apparent expulsion of some recalcitrant Christian and Jewish groups on the other.11 After the completion of the so-called ‘Wars of Apostasy’, or Ridda Wars (Ar. ḥurūb al-ridda), by 634, the vast majority of Arabia’s population is generally assumed to have been Muslim.12 For several reasons, of course, we have to be wary of such a picture. One of these – our sources’ interest in using narratives of Islamisation as part of the construction of a salvation history for the early Muslim community – has already been mentioned. A second reason is that it would seem that a number of tribal elites had a good reason to push their ancestors’ conversion to Islam back to the time of Muhammad, since (p.85) this allowed for the establishment of prophetic precedence and sanction for decisions that became controversial later on. To give just one example, it allowed the people of Jurash (between Mecca and Najran) to claim that their protected grazing ground (Ar. ḥimā) had been granted to them by Muhammad himself, at a time when there was a common aphorism that ran, ‘There can be no ḥimās except [those] belonging to God and His Prophet.’13 Third, a number of sources do actually admit to the persistence of significant non-Muslim communities in Arabia long after the mid-seventh century. The mid-tenth-century traveller al-Muqaddasi, for example, famously observed that in his day the relatively large settlement of Qurh in the northern Hijaz – about 170 miles north-west of Medina – was ‘dominated by Jews’.14 This occasional and significant acceptance of lasting Christian and Jewish communities aside, there is still an almost unanimous assumption of the eradication of all forms of Arabian polytheism during the middle of the seventh century.15

Many of us today might consider this ninth-century picture of such rapid Islamisation to be a sociologically and anthropologically questionable model of religious conversion. There is something of a track record in modern scholarship of accepting the occurrence of mass conversion events, particularly amongst nomadic populations, but recent scholarship on the Islamisation of groups such as the Seljuq Turks and the Mongols is rapidly nuancing such understandings.16 Even so, there may be some evidence pointing towards a slightly earlier Arabian parallel for such a rapid process of conversion. Our knowledge of pre-Islamic South Arabian history has improved immeasurably over recent decades and Christian Robin has demonstrated in a number of studies how around the year 380 there was a remarkable and essentially all-pervasive transformation in the religious content of the epigraphic record of South Arabia from polytheistic invocations to monotheistic ones, a transformation which accompanied the acceptance of Judaism by members of the ruling Himyarite elite. As Robin himself puts it: ‘Ce rejet du polythéisme est radical et définitif. Dans tout le Yémen, aucune inscription postérieure à 380 n’est explicitement polythéiste.’17 We can hardly assume that these epigraphic texts represent the beliefs of the entire population of the region, nor that they give us an accurate indication of the full extent of the processes of South Arabia’s monotheisation,18 but the way in which contemporary evidence for late antique Arabia can offer such a startling picture of rapid conversion to a biblical monotheistic religion is noteworthy.

Might there be a way of situating the depiction of rapid conversion to Islam among Arabia’s tribes in the mid-seventh century within a more nuanced understanding of the broader processes of conversion? Such a swift Islamisation of Arabia is perhaps a more sociologically plausible model if we understand conversion in this instance as being intimately linked with the territorial expansion of the nascent Muslim community’s political authority. This is certainly how many modern historians have understood the process of Arabia’s Islamisation.19 It is also perhaps significant that the monotheisation of South Arabia in the late fourth century followed a century or so after the initial expansion of the authority of a new ruling elite there, in this case the Himyarites.

What we could call the political aspect of conversion does dominate a number of ninth- and tenth-century Arabic accounts of the Islamisation of Arabia’s tribal elites. Oman can offer a representative example here.20 This is an account of the conversion (p.86) to Islam of Oman’s ruling brothers, Jayfar and ʿAbd, offered by one of our earliest chroniclers of the Islamisation of Arabia, Ibn Saʿd (d. 845):21

The Messenger of God sent ʿAmr b. al-ʿAs in Dhu’l-Qaʿda of the year 8 [= February–March 630] to Jayfar and ʿAbd – the two sons of al-Julanda; they were both Azdis and Jayfar was the ‘king’ – to summon them to Islam. He sent with him a sealed letter to the pair of them. According to ʿAmr: When I arrived in Oman I first went to ʿAbd, the more sagacious and easy-going of the two. I said, ‘I am a messenger of the Messenger of God to you and your brother.’ He replied, ‘My brother has precedence over me in both age and authority. I will get you an audience with him so he can read your letter.’ I stayed around for a few days before he summoned me. I came before him and handed the letter to him still sealed. He broke the seal and read it through to the end. Then he handed it to his brother, who read it likewise, although I thought that his brother was weaker than him. He said, ‘Leave me today and come back in the morning.’ When morning came, I returned and he said, ‘I have been pondering to what it is you are summoning me. Surely I would be the weakest of the Arabs were I to hand authority over to a man nowhere nearby?’ ‘I will leave tomorrow,’ I replied. When he was convinced that I was leaving, he rose for the day and sent for me. I came before him and he and his brother accepted Islam together and agreed to pay the ṣadaqa to the Prophet. They gave me free rein in determining the ṣadaqa and arbitrating between them22 and gave me every assistance against those who opposed me. I took the ṣadaqa from the wealthy among them and redistributed it to the poor among them. I continued to oversee their affairs until I heard that the Messenger of God had passed away.23

Slightly later in the same work, Ibn Saʿd offers another version of the story of Oman’s conversion to Islam:

They say that the people of Oman converted to Islam, so the Messenger of God sent al-ʿAlaʾ b. al-Hadhrami to them to instruct them in the laws of Islam and to ascertain the ṣadaqa on their properties. A delegation from them set out for the Messenger of God, led by Asad b. Yabrah al-Tahi. They met the Messenger of God and asked him to send back with them someone to oversee their affairs. Makhraba al-ʿAbdi, whose name was Mudrik b. Khut, said, ‘Send me to them, since they act graciously towards me. They took me prisoner at the Battle of Janub, but treated me well.’ So he sent him with them back to Oman. After them, Salima b. ʿIyadh al-Azdi came, leading some of his people, and asked the Messenger of God about how he worshipped and to what he was summoning [people]. The Messenger of God informed him and so he said, ‘Beseech God to unite our words and hospitality.’ He made the invocation for them and Salima together with those with him converted to Islam.24

There are clearly important differences between the two accounts, which we could take as an indication that Ibn Saʿd was attempting to make an Islamisation event out of earlier accounts that emphasised process more heavily; we might, however, with perhaps better reason, see the conflicting accounts as Ibn Saʿd’s attempt to juggle the existence of varying narratives on Arabia’s conversion to Islam that a matrix of (p.87) ninth-century concerns had given rise to. What we can simply note here is that both accounts, albeit the first a little more clearly than the second, foreground the political connotations of conversion. Jayfar’s original objection to conversion was a fear that the political subjugation it implied would make him look weak; the principal ways through which the Omanis demonstrated their conversion was to agree to the remittance of tribute – called ṣadaqa in both accounts – to Medina as well as to accept the governance and mediation of an official appointed from Medina by Muhammad. We should also note the suggestion in the first account that the followers of ʿAbd and Jayfar all converted with them as well as the more explicit assumption in the second that the inhabitants of Oman converted together.

The paradigm of political conversion established by Ibn Saʿd and others of his era generally continued into later Arabic accounts as well. We can stick with the case of Oman for the time being and simply note that the Prophet’s letter to ʿAbd and Jayfar alluded to in earlier accounts such as Ibn Saʿd’s is provided with a full text in later accounts, at least from the fourteenth century onwards. The summons to Islam in this letter gives significant place to a political threat:

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Jayfar and ʿAbd, the sons of al-Julanda: Greetings to those who follow guidance. To begin, I call you both to Islam. Convert to Islam! I am the Messenger of God to all people, ‘that he might warn those who are alive and that the word may be proved true against the unbelievers’.25 If the pair of you acknowledge Islam, I will confirm you in your rule, but if you refuse to acknowledge Islam then your rule will come to an end and my cavalry will set up camp in your lands and my prophethood will have authority over your rulership. Written by Ubayy b. Kaʿb and sealed.26

Aziz Al-Azmeh has recently analysed a number of ninth- and tenth-century accounts of Muhammad’s diplomatic engagements with the tribes of Arabia as he attempted to bring them under Medina’s political sway. In particular, he notes that in these accounts Muhammad offers protection for lives and property, expecting in return ‘political allegiance and the payment of a variety of levies on livestock and produce, sometimes specified in great detail, and of course for adopting Paleo-Muslim cultic observances, as they developed, and the repudiation of pagan worship’.27 As can be seen in the texts about Oman’s conversion offered above, the last two expectations – adoption of new cultic rites and the rejection of polytheism – do not always come across explicitly. Even if we can assume that they may have been taken as given, it is interesting that their significance is not prioritised; pride of place goes to political allegiance and the payment of tribute.

A small detour to medieval Iceland may actually give us some hesitation in always assuming the priority of the adoption of new cultic observances in episodes of conversion. Ari Thorgilsson’s Íslendingabók, written around 1125, includes a fascinating discussion of the Icelandic elites’ decision to convert as a group to Christianity at an assembly of the Althing in either 999 or 1000. It was apparently proclaimed that everyone should convert to Christianity and all those unbaptised should become so, but also that ‘the old laws should stand as regards the exposure of children and the eating of horse-flesh. People had the right to sacrifice in secret, if they wished, but it would be punishable by the lesser outlawry if witnesses were produced.’28 Now, (p.88) of course, seventh-century Arabia was not Iceland, but there is some evidence that alerts us to the potential that there too political ‘conversion’ need not have meant the renunciation, even in theory, of older cultic arrangements. In some accounts of Muhammad’s dealings with Arabia’s tribes, he is actually presented as giving ground on the question of the repudiation of former cultic practices. For example, in some ninth-century and later versions of the text of a letter sent by Muhammad to the leaders of Thaqif in al-Taʾif, the continuing existence of their ḥaram, loosely ‘sanctuary’, at Wajj is guaranteed.29 Aziz Al-Azmeh, who argued for the significance of cultic alterations in Muhammad’s agreements with the tribes of Arabia, has also suggested that these agreements were at the time seen as only a pledge made to a specific person, and thus the military campaigns that followed many of the tribes attempting to break away from political allegiance to Medina after the Prophet’s death were only ‘later spiritualised’ as the ‘Wars of Apostasy’.30

With this evidence for the political impetus to and ramifications of conversion to Islam, we might consider comparing the Islamisation of Arabia in the seventh century with the Christianisation of the Arab tribes along the borders of the Roman Empire in the fourth to sixth centuries. Recent research seems to be cementing agreement that among the myriad reasons why a large number of Arabs converted to Christianity in late antiquity, political manoeuvring played an important role in convincing many tribal elites to adopt Christianity first of all, and then particular church allegiances more specifically.31 Just as our Arabic sources for the Islamisation of Arabia tend to focus on the political significance of conversion, with the decision of tribal elites to convert generally signifying changes in political allegiance and resulting in the conversion of most of their followers, so too did fourth-, fifth- and sixth-century observers of the Christianisation of the Syrian Arab tribes. Cyril of Scythopolis’ (d. c. 558) account of the conversion of the ‘Saracen’ Aspebetos, later Peter, and his followers to Christianity at the hands of Euthymius (d. 473) serves as a widely cited example of this; in Cyril’s text, the conversion of Aspebetos and his followers is even introduced with the words, ‘Now, Aspébetus, though a pagan and a Persian subject, became an ally of the Romans in the following way.’32 Slightly earlier, Sozomen’s (d. c. 449) account of the conversion of the ‘Saracen’ Zokomos and his followers in c. 364 also makes many of the same points.33

We have here then a possible model of what we can call political conversion that may explain a part of what was going on in seventh-century Arabia. There are plenty of grounds for caution. For one thing, there is something of a gulf between the suggestion that Arabian tribes converted to Christianity to gain access to the patronage networks of an empire whose hegemony over much of the Near East had been established for centuries, with the suggestion that others converted to Islam to ingratiate themselves with a distant prophet whose community had little by way of hegemony at this point at all. For another, while the model of political conversion may help to make sense of narratives that assume rapid Islamisation in the Arabian Peninsula, it does not really offer any help for understanding other, more gradual, aspects of the process(es) of Islamisation that no doubt continued long after the triumph of Medinan political authority during the Ridda Wars, but in which our later Arabic sources are far less interested.34 Finally, the objection can be raised that it is a model that, so far in this discussion at least, has been based exclusively on non-contemporary (p.89) sources. As we turn now to the available contemporary evidence for conversion to Islam in seventh-century Arabia, we actually get more of a window onto conversion as a dynamic process that meant different things to different people, rather than as a somewhat static political event.

Conversion as a Process

We can start the discussion of contemporary sources on Arabia’s Islamisation with an external observer, who actually also brings us back to Oman. Sometime between 649 and his death in 659, the Catholicos of the Church of the East in Iraq, Ishoʿyahb III, wrote a number of letters to a variety of addressees.35 In one of these (Letter 14), Ishoʿyahb famously berated his disobedient subordinate Simeon, the metropolitan bishop of Rev-Ardashir in Fars, for failing to halt the conversion of rhetorically vast numbers of Omani Christians (here called by the Syriac term Mazūnāyē) to Islam. The Catholicos’s understanding of the process of conversion, as it is on display here, is a rather crude expression of what some anthropologists call the ‘utilitarian’ approach, understanding conversion as conveying material advantages:36

Where are your sons, anchorite father? Where are your holy places, feeble priest? Where is that great nation of the Mazūnāyē,37 they who without seeing sword nor fire nor tortures, solely out of desire for half of their possessions, were seized with frenzy and consumed all of a sudden by the abyss of apostasy and have perished forever?38

And then slightly later in the same letter:

How is it indeed that your Mazūnāyē on their account abandoned their faith? This, as even these Mazūnāyē say, is not because the ayyāyē39 forced them to abandon their faith, but solely because they ordered them to surrender half of their possessions to keep their faith. They thus abandoned the faith which is for eternity and kept the half of the possessions which is for a trifling amount of time.40

We might of course question Ishoʿyahb’s motives in declaiming so bitterly the apostasy of Omani Christians.41 The impression he offers that mass conversions to Islam had taken place among eastern Arabian Christians for no good reason does not, for one thing, fit with the evidence for flourishing seventh-century literary activity among Christians from the region, nor with the evidence for continuing church structures there in the acts of the synod of George I, held in 676 (more on this soon), nor with the archaeological evidence for the construction of new monasteries and churches in the region during the seventh and early eighth centuries.42 As one recent study has put it: ‘These are clearly not the activities of a moribund Christian community.’43 Instead, it seems as though the Catholicos in Iraq was rhetorically using a panicky tone about the apostasy of Omanis, the scale of which is no doubt enhanced, to score points against a long-standing opponent.44 Nevertheless, Ishoʿyahb’s letter offers one contemporary understanding of what conversion to Islam could mean in seventh-century Arabia: the preservation of property.

(p.90) Before we turn to the contemporary evidence from western and central Arabia, it is worth noting briefly that the nineteen extant canons agreed at the synod convened in May 676 in eastern Arabia by Ishoʿyahb III’s successor, George I (in office c. 661–81), offer some insight into the protracted developments in a range of practices that accompanied the process of Islamisation there.45 Alongside the Catholicos George, this synod was attended by the metropolitan bishop of eastern Arabia (Syr. Bēt Qaṭrāyē) and five other eastern Arabian bishops, including Stephen, bishop of the Omanis (Syr. Mazūnāyē).46 The canons of this synod display considerable concern with protecting the authority of the formal ecclesiastical structures and officials in eastern Arabia, which was coming under threat on a range of fronts, some of which involved the region’s new Muslim population, almost invariably referred to in the text as ‘pagans’ (Syr. ḥanpē). Canon 6 warns Christians not to settle disputes before non-Christian officials and canon 14 orders Christian women not to marry ‘pagan’ men; canon 18 criticises the practice of burying Christian dead as the ‘pagans’ do. Canon 19 gives us a possible reference to a Muslim poll tax on Christians (Syr. ksep rīshā), which may have been what Ishoʿyahb III had in mind when he bemoaned the apostasy of the Omani Christians for monetary reasons.

Interestingly, canon 18 may actually give evidence of the persistence of pre-Islamic burial customs in eastern Arabia even after that region’s process of Islamisation was already long underway, since the ‘pagan’ burial rites criticised in canon 18 do not correspond particularly closely with known Muslim ones. More important, however, is the light that these debates shine on the gradual process of Islamisation in seventh-century Arabia.47 There were relatively few clear-cut points at which someone officially stopped acting like a Christian and started acting like a Muslim; instead practices changed gradually as communal boundaries became more fluid. It was not just with Muslims that the priests thought boundaries were becoming too fluid: canon 17 finds fault with Christians who drank in Jewish taverns after mass, even though there was no lack of local Christian drinking holes. We might finally note that, even if the eastern Arabian Christian clergy were worried about the breakdown of rigid boundaries between their flock and their Muslim neighbours, they themselves were actually adopting some ‘Islamic’ practices: the date of the synod is given according to the Islamic hijri era, to ‘Īyār [May] of the year 57 of the rule of the Ṭayyāyē’.48

The evidence for western and central Arabia is of a rather different sort to that already covered for eastern Arabia. Rather than texts written by Christians in Syriac that owed a considerable amount to the observations of clergymen who mostly lived and worked outside of the Arabian Peninsula, the texts to which we now turn were composed in Arabic and by people who identified in some way with the new faith promulgated by Muhammad. The best known of these is, of course, the Quran.49 This text unfortunately does not outline precisely and concisely what was expected immediately of converts to the new faith, but there are plenty of indications. Belief in the unique oneness of God and in the imminence and reality of His judgement at the end of days come across frequently as key messages.50 There are also a number of diatribes against those whom the Quran frequently labels as ‘hypocrites’ (Ar. munāfiqūn), people who profess to follow the Messenger’s leadership and guidance, but who in reality shy away whenever they get the opportunity. These hypocrites feature prominently throughout a number of Quranic suras, but (p.91) the single lengthiest polemic can be found in Q. 9: 38–129. To give just a sample of this passage, Q. 9: 44–5 runs:

  1. 44. Those who believe in God and the Last Day do not ask your permission to strive with their persons and their possessions. God is well aware of those who protect themselves.

  2. 45. The only ones to ask permission are those who do not believe in God and the Last Day, and whose hearts feel doubt – they waver in their doubt.

Certain beliefs, then, are important, but it is in the manifestation of sharing in those beliefs by striving for God that believers are measured. It was in light of evidence such as this that Chase Robinson concluded that, for the nascent Muslim community, ‘Warfare against non-Muslims (polytheist and monotheist alike) – holy war (jihad), conducted ‘in the path of God’ – was the proving ground of belief and piety.’51

This striving in the path of God consisted of emigration alongside fighting, as can be seen in Q. 8: 72:

Those who have believed and have migrated and striven with their possessions and their persons in God’s way, and those who have given them shelter and helped them – those are the friends of one another. Those who have believed but have not migrated – you have no duty of friendship towards them until they migrate.

This emphasis on the significance of emigration (Ar. hijra) for new Muslims persisted throughout the decades after Muhammad’s death and bears interesting parallels with Late Antique narratives of the Christianisation of Arab tribes, which ‘often revolved around rhetorical biblical scenes of renewal, rebirth, and the rejection of a nomadic lifestyle’.52 Evidence such as this does help us to understand how the political implications of conversion could sit quite comfortably beside other convictions in seventh-century Arabia: belief in God and the Last Day meant, in practice, fighting in God’s path to expand the territorial authority of His Messenger.53

Another document produced by the nascent Muslim community in western Arabia adds further support to this understanding of the significance of Islamisation in the mid-seventh century. The so-called ‘Constitution of Medina’ is only preserved in two ninth-century texts, but its authenticity is generally accepted by many scholars today.54 Most of the clauses in this treaty are aimed at organising the community ruled by Muhammad in Medina – which consisted of Jews as well as groups of believers (Ar. muʾminūn) and Muslims, a category distinct from ‘believers’ in the text – so that violence within that community is restricted as much as possible and military campaigns against its enemies are as effective as possible. One clause in the text aims to further this aim by the establishment of a ḥaram, a particular practice of sanctifying space found in pre-Islamic Arabia and adopted by Muhammad and his followers.55 The significance of sacred spaces, in no small part through the opportunities they provide for enacting a range of necessary social functions, in converting Arab tribes to Christianity in the fourth to sixth century has been highlighted recently and the text of the ‘Constitution of Medina’ suggests that practices of sacred space had a similarly important social role to play in the Islamisation of western Arabia.56 This reminds us of the social role that conversion to Islam could play in seventh-century Arabia, as well as its political one.

(p.92) The final group of contemporary sources worth considering here is the surviving corpus of Arabic graffiti from seventh-century western and central Arabia. This is still a rapidly expanding body of evidence, so any conclusions drawn from it for the time being must remain tentative, but initial understandings are certainly worth considering. We have very little knowledge about most of the people who inscribed these texts on rock faces along Arabia’s trade and pilgrimage routes – although those responsible for a small number have been identified57 – but their thoughts offer a vital source of information from a context quite different to the literary texts we otherwise mostly use to investigate seventh-century Arabian society. There is an ever-expanding range of studies of these texts and publications of new ones, but only a very small sample can be considered here. The potential of these texts has been nicely demonstrated in a recent article by Frédéric Imbert, in which he charts a number of developments in the formulae of invocations offered.58 He suggests that the texts progress from the simple provision of a name and date to the introduction of religious formulae generally based around God’s role as an almost tangible protector (for example, as a given individual’s thiqa, ‘guarantor’, or walī, ‘protector’), and to texts simply asking for God’s forgiveness for the inscriber, mostly by using one of what go on to become two standard formulae: Allāhumma ighfir li-fulān, ‘O God, forgive so-and-so!’, and ghafara Allāh li-fulān, ‘May God forgive so-and-so’. Professions of faith similar to the ‘classical’ Islamic shahāda are rather rare for quite a long time, although by the late seventh century some individuals had started to inscribe verses from the Quran onto rocks.59 We also get references to Islamic cultic practices by the end of the first century AH, with, for example, at least two texts – one from Najd dated to AH 82 (701–2) and one from the north-west Hijaz dated to Dhu’l-qaʿda AH 91 (August–September 710) – which seek God’s acceptance of their inscribers’ pilgrimages to Mecca (Ar. ḥijja).60

In some respects, these texts remain quite similar to extant pre-Islamic graffiti from the Hijaz. For example, a number of so-called ‘transitional’ Nabataean-Arabic texts of the third to fifth century call for their inscribers to be remembered, the author of at least one of which has been identified as Jewish.61 There may be a significant difference between the perhaps vainglorious pre-Islamic seeking of remembrance and the more humble seventh-century begging for forgiveness, but the latter was still a way inscribers could seek to immortalise their name on rock: ‘Ainsi, écrire “ô Dieu, pardonne à untel” procéderait d’une stratégie, d’un enrobage religieux dont la finalité ne serait encore que de parler de soi et de pérenniser son nom, éventuellement celui de ses proches réunis dans la prière adressée à la divinité.’62 Nonetheless, in these seventh-century Arabic texts’ gradual adaptation of existing regional practices of epigraphic invocation, we can see something of the gradual process through which western and central Arabia’s Islamisation proceeded, a process which continued long after the acceptance by the areas’ tribes of the political and perhaps religious authority of Muhammad’s community in Medina. That they corroborate neither Ishoʿyahb’s utilitarian understanding of conversion nor the Quran’s emphasis on striving in God’s path as the principal public indication of adherence to its message offers a valuable reminder that processes and competing discourses of conversion are always complicated and multifaceted, no less so in the case of the Islamisation of Arabia.

(p.93) Models of Conversion and Seventh-Century Arabia

Much of the above plays the necessary role of reminding us that the conversion of Arabia’s inhabitants to Islam was presumably no less complex a process than the Islamisation of any other area of the world into which Islam later spread. We have to reject many aspects of the appealing simplicity of later narratives of conversion events throughout Arabia in the mid-seventh century and think much more about gradual and varied processes. As Elizabeth Fowden has recently put it in a discussion of the Christianisation of pre-Islamic Arab tribes, ‘What we need to leave space for in our reconstructions is the interplay of the clearly-drawn converter we find in the historical and hagiographical texts and the much less clear-cut process on the ground.’63

Apart from pointing out the complexity of the process, however, are there any firmer conclusions we can draw about how Islamisation proceeded in seventh-century Arabia and what conversion to Islam at the time may have meant? To an unfortunate extent, the answer might be no. Chase Robinson has reminded historians of the first Islamic century that ‘as long as our evidence remains so weak, the models we choose to apply will exert disproportionate power on our explanations’.64 Perhaps the most obvious source of models to help investigate Arabia’s Islamisation would come from studies of the conversion to monotheistic religions of other (semi-)nomadic and tribal groups, for example the conversion to Islam of the Seljuqs or the Christianisation of Arab groups in the fourth to the sixth century. As we saw earlier, however, there is a significant problem here, in that these potential comparisons offer models of tribal groups’ conversion to the religion of a hegemonic imperial neighbour, which does not fit with many current understandings of the political significance of the Medinan Muslim community in seventh-century Arabia.

We might start, however, to move towards answers if we consider the following argument drawn from a study of the spread of Pentecostalism in Africa:

Conversion does not necessarily imply a rejection of other identities, but involves their assimilation within a complex of discourses and practices governing all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life which enable them to be mediated through and subsumed within a collective system of representations.65

And if, as Thomas Bauer has put it, ‘Alle Kulturen müssen mit kultureller Ambiguität leben’, then conversion to Islam in seventh-century Arabia seems to have meant finding ways of negotiating and, to an extent, reconciling those ambiguities.66 A great many modern studies of the early Islamic Middle East outside of Arabia have emphasised the cultural interchange between the many different communities of the region and have demonstrated a number of ways in which the negotiation of confessional and communal identities, beliefs and practices owed much to dialogue, be it polemical or otherwise, between the adherents of different faiths and sects as many of their members converted between one and another. In so many instances of conversion, be it of Arab tribes to Christianity or Near Eastern Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians to Islam, we now know that the process did not entail the wholesale rejection of the complex range of pre-conversion identities. We should not assume that conversion to Islam in seventh-century Arabia was anything other than a similar process.

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Notes:

(1.) Cited by Robert G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam (Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 1997), p. 283.

(2.) The classic study, although much critiqued, remains Richard W. Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979). At least two studies on Egypt in particular have suggested that perhaps the most crucial phase in the conversion of that territory’s population to Islam did not come until the Mamluk period; see John Iskander, ‘Islamization in Medieval Egypt: The Copto-Arabic “Apocalypse of Samuel” as a Source for the Social and Religious History of Medieval Copts’, Medieval Encounters 4, no. 3 (1998), esp. p. 219 n. 1; and Tamer El-Leithy, ‘Coptic Culture and Conversion in Medieval Cairo, 1293–1524 A.D.’, doctoral thesis, Princeton University, 2005.

(3.) Uriel Simonsohn, ‘Conversion to Islam: A Case Study for the Use of Legal Sources’, History Compass 11, no. 8 (2013), p. 650.

(4.) Aziz Al-Azmeh, The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allāh and His People (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 388.

(5.) The term ‘Islamisation’ can, of course, be used to refer to a number of related if distinct phenomena, but in this chapter it will be employed rather simply as shorthand for conversion of people to Islam.

(6.) On many ninth- and tenth-century Arabic sources’ reliance upon schemata and topoi more broadly, see Albrecht Noth and Lawrence I. Conrad, The Early Arabic Historical Tradition: A Source Critical Study, trans. Michael Bonner, 2nd edn (Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 1994).

(7.) Anders Winroth, The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), p. 121.

(9.) See, for example, Devin DeWeese, Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994); A. C. S. Peacock, Early Seljūq History: A New Interpretation (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 99–127; Judith Pfeiffer, ‘Reflections on a “Double Rapprochement”: Conversion to Islam among the Mongol Elite during the Early Ilkhanate’, in Linda Komaroff (ed.), Beyond the Legacy of Genghis Khan (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 369–89.

(10.) A recent study to argue this point quite forcefully is Fred M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers at the Origins of Islam (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2010).

(11.) On several issues surrounding this latter phenomenon, see now Harry Munt, ‘“No Two Religions”: Non-Muslims in the Early Islamic Ḥijaz’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 78, no. 2 (2015), pp. 249–69.

(12.) For two overviews of some aspects of this common narrative of Arabia’s Islamisation, see W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Medina (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956), pp. 78–150; Wilferd Madelung, The Succession to Muḥammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 46–50. For some more critical analysis, see Ella Landau-Tasseron, ‘From Tribal Society to Centralized Polity: An Interpretation of Events and Anecdotes of the Formative Period of Islam’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 24 (2000), pp. 180–216.

(13.) For a discussion of ḥimas, with references for the Jurash episode, see Harry Munt, The Holy City of Medina: Sacred Space in Early Islamic Arabia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 28–31; for the aphorism, see for example Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafiʿi, Kitab al-Umm, ed. Rifʿat Fawzi ʿAbd al-Muttalib (al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafaʾ, 2001), vol. 5, pp. 80, 87.

(p.95) (14.) Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Muqaddasi, Ahsan al-Taqasim fiMaʿrifat al-Aqalim, ed. Michael Jan de Goeje, 2nd edn (Leiden: Brill, 1906), pp. 83–4; for a discussion of this and other examples, see Munt, ‘No Two Religions’, pp. 259–64.

(15.) How historically reliable depictions of pre-Islamic Arabian paganism in Muslim sources actually are is widely debated in modern scholarship; compare, for example, Gerald R. Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), and Al-Azmeh, Emergence of Islam. The point to take away here, however, is that Muslim authors of the ninth century and later widely agreed that the paganism they describe had not survived beyond the mid-seventh century.

(16.) See the references above, n. 9.

(17.) In English: ‘This rejection of polytheism is radical and final. Throughout Yemen, no inscription after 380 is explicitly polytheist.’ The quotation is from Christian J. Robin, ‘L’Antiquité’, in Ali Ibrahim al-Ghabbân et al. (eds), Routes d’Arabie: Archéologie et histoire du Royaume d’Arabie Saoudite (Paris: Musée du Louvre and Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2010), p. 88, but for a more detailed discussion, see his ‘Ḥimyar et Israël’, Comptes rendus des séances de l’année: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (2004), pp. 831–908.

(18.) Aziz Al-Azmeh (Emergence of Islam, pp. 255–6) has recently raised some objections to accepting the historical accuracy of the impression of such a sweeping and complete conversion event in South Arabia.

(19.) See, for example, M. A. Shaban, ‘Conversion to Islam’, in Nehemia Levtzion (ed.), Conversion to Islam (New York and London: Holmes and Meier, 1979), pp. 25–6 on ‘enforced adherence’ to Islam; and, in a different way, Chris Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (London: Allen Lane, 2009; repr. Penguin, 2010), p. 283, where the political expansion of Medina’s polity is discussed without much reference to religious change.

(20.) For two more thorough overviews of the Arabic sources’ material on the Omanis’ conversion to Islam, see Isam Al-Rawas, Oman in Early Islamic History (Reading: Ithaca, 2000), pp. 35–57; John C. Wilkinson, Ibâḍism: Origins and Early Development in Oman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 67–90.

(21.) On this aspect of Ibn Saʿd’s work, see Giovanna Calasso, ‘Récits de conversion, zèle dévotionnel et instruction religieuse dans les biographies des “gens de Baṣra” du Kitab al-Ṭabaqat d’Ibn Saʿd’, in Mercedes García-Arenal (ed.), Conversions islamiques: Identités religieuses en Islam méditerranéen/Islamic Conversions: Religious Identities in Mediterranean Islam (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2001), pp. 19–47.

(22.) The Arabic word for ‘them’ has now moved from the dual to the plural and so presumably now refers as well to those under the authority of Jayfar and ʿAbd.

(23.) Muhammad ibn Saʿd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, ed. ʿAli Muhammad ʿUmar (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, 2001), vol. 1, p. 226.

(24.) Ibid., vol. 1, p. 303.

(25.) Q. 36: 70. All translations of the Quran in this chapter are taken from The Qurʾan, trans. Alan Jones (Cambridge: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2007).

(26.) Muhammad Hamidullah, Majmuʿat al-Wathaʾiq al-Siyasiyya li’l-ʿAhd al-Nabawi wa’lKhilafa al-Rashida, 4th edn (Beirut: Dar al-Nafaʾis, 1983), pp. 161–3 (no. 76), text at p. 162.

(28.) Íslendingabók, Kristni Saga: The Book of the Icelanders, the Story of the Conversion, trans. Siân Grønlie, (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2006), p. 9; discussion in Winroth, Conversion of Scandinavia, pp. 135, 151–2; and Jenny Jochens, ‘Late and Peaceful: Iceland’s Conversion through Arbitration in 1000’, Speculum 74, no. 3 (1999), pp. 621–55, esp. at pp. 647–54.

(29.) See, with further references, Munt, Holy City of Medina, pp. 24–5, 32–3.

(31.) See especially the overviews in Greg Fisher, Between Empires: Arabs, Romans, and Sasanians in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 34–71; and recently Greg Fisher et al., ‘Arabs and Christianity’, in Greg Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 276–372.

(32.) Cyril of Scythopolis, The Lives of the Monks of Palestine, trans. Richard M. Price (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1991), pp. 14–17 (= Vita Euthymii 10; quotation from p. 14). For a recent discussion with further bibliography, see Fisher et al., ‘Arabs and Christianity’, pp. 302–11.

(34.) For two studies of comparative examples in which more gradual processes of conversion to Christianity accompanied, but were not restricted to, shifting political allegiances, see Christopher Haas, ‘Mountain Constantines: The Christianization of Aksum and Iberia’, Journal of Late Antiquity 1, no. 1 (2008), pp. 101–26; Winroth, Conversion of Scandinavia, esp. pp. 103–4.

(35.) For background and further bibliography, see Hoyland, Seeing Islam, pp. 174–82; Herman G. B. Teule, ‘Ishoʿyahb III of Adiabene’, in David Thomas and Barbara Roggema (eds), Christian–Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Volume 1 (600–900) (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 133–6; Ovidiu Ioan, Muslime und Araber bei Īšōʿjahb III. (649–659) (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009).

(36.) See, for example, the discussion in Joel Robbins, Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 84–6. Ishoʿyahb’s letter is a crude expression of this view, but Robbins does note (at p. 85) that one of the problems of the utilitarian approach to understanding conversion is that it often becomes ‘something of a caricature of itself’.

(37.) The text here actually reads Marūnāyē, perhaps ‘people of Merv’, and although the emendation to Mazūnāyē, ‘Omanis’, is widely accepted in modern scholarship, some doubt about this persists; see esp. the discussion in Hoyland, Seeing Islam, p. 181, n. 28. I favour the amended reading Mazūnāyē for two reasons. First, and this is the more tenuous reason, Ishoʿyahb wrote this letter between 649 and 659, and, although we are told that a tentative Arab garrison was stationed in Merv in c. 651, it was not until about twenty years later that a serious garrison was installed there; see Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates (Harlow: Longman, 1986), pp. 72, 86. Second, and more convincingly, what we know of the diocesan structure of the Church of the East in the seventh century suggests that as metropolitan of Rev-Ardashir, Simeon could have been held accountable for eastern Arabia, but not for Merv, which had been raised to metropolitan status itself by 524; see Jean-Maurice Fiey, ‘Diocèses syriens orientaux du Golfe Persique’, in Mémorial Mgr Gabriel Khouri-Sarkis (1898–1968) (Leuven: Imprimerie Orientaliste, 1968), pp. 177–219 (esp. 215–17 for Mazūn, ‘Oman’); and David Wilmshurst, The Martyred Church: A History of the Church of the East (London: East and West, 2011), pp. 76–9, 118–21.

(38.) Ishoʿyahb III, Liber epistularum, ed. and trans. Rubens Duval (Leipzig: Harrassowitz; Paris: E Typographeo Reipublicae, 1905), pp. 248 (Syr.)/pp. 179–80 (Lat.).

(39.) Ṭayyāyē is a common word in Syriac texts used to describe those peoples often known in English as ‘Arabs’; after the advent of Islam, it also came to refer to Muslims.

(41.) See, for example, the discussion in Ioan, Muslime und Araber, pp. 100–3.

(42.) Mario Kozah et al. (eds), The Syriac Writers of Qatar in the Seventh Century (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2014); Herman G. B. Teule, ‘Ghiwarghis I’, in David Thomas and Barbara Roggema (eds), Christian–Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Volume 1 (600–900) (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 151–3; Robert A. Carter, ‘Christianity in the Gulf (p.97) during the First Centuries of Islam’, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 19, no. 1 (2008), pp. 71–108.

(44.) See also the ever so slightly different take in Michael Philip Penn, Envisioning Islam: Syriac Christians and the Early Muslim World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), p. 169.

(45.) For an overview, see Hoyland, Seeing Islam, pp. 192–4.

(46.) For the text of the record from the synod, including the nineteen canons agreed there, see Synodicon orientale ou recueil de synodes nestoriens, ed. and trans. J.-B. Chabot (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1902), pp. 215–26 (Syr.)/pp. 480–90 (Fr.).

(47.) In this aspect, this text is very similar to a number of other Syriac texts from regions to the north of the Arabian Peninsula, which have been put to good use in studies of communal boundaries and Muslim–Christian interactions in Syria and Iraq; see, for example, the brief discussion of Jacob of Edessa’s (d. 708) writings in Hoyland, Seeing Islam, pp. 160–7.

(49.) For more detailed thoughts on the Quran’s usefulness as a source for seventh-century Arabian history, with further bibliography, see Harry Munt, ‘The Arabian Context of the Qurʾan: History and the Text’, M. A. S. Abdel Haleem and Mustafa Shah (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Qurʾanic Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

(50.) See, for example, Patricia Crone, ‘The Quranic Mushrikūn and the Resurrection’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 75, no. 3 (2012), pp. 445–72; and 76, no. 1 (2013), pp. 1–20.

(51.) Chase F. Robinson, ‘Prophecy and Holy Men in Early Islam’, in P. A. Hayward and James Howard-Johnston (eds), The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution of Peter Brown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 249; see also Donner, Muhammad and the Believers, pp. 82–6.

(52.) The quotation is from Fisher et al., ‘Arabs and Christianity’, p. 277; for further discussion of these narrative topoi in Late Antique texts, see Konstantin Klein, ‘Marauders, Daredevils, and Noble Savages: Perceptions of Arab Nomads in Late Antique Hagiography’, Der Islam 92, no. 1 (2015), pp. 13–41. For more on the significance of emigration to early Muslims, see Patricia Crone, ‘The First-Century Concept of Hiğra’, Arabica 41, no. 3 (1994), pp. 352–87.

(53.) Richard Bulliet also cautioned that ‘the notion of religious conversion as a moral or spiritual act that could be taken independently of other social or political action may not have been widespread in seventh-century Arabia’; see his ‘Conversion Stories in Early Islam’, in Michael Gervers and Ramzi Jibran Bikhazi (eds), Conversion and Continuity: Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands, Eighth to Eighteenth Centuries (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990), p. 124.

(54.) The fundamental study is Michael Lecker, The ‘Constitution of Medina’: Muḥammad’s First Legal Document (Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 2004).

(55.) For a more detailed discussion of the practice in pre-Islamic Arabia and of Muhammad’s adoption of it in Medina, see Munt, Holy City of Medina, pp. 16–64.

(56.) Ibid., esp. pp. 57–64; Elizabeth K. Fowden, ‘Des églises pour les Arabes, pour les nomades?’, in Françoise Briquel Chatonnet (ed.), Les églises en monde syriaques (Paris: Geuthner, 2013), pp. 391–420. For some discussion of the significance of Mecca’s sacred space and pilgrimage rites to the nascent community, see al-Azmeh, Emergence of Islam, pp. 328–38.

(57.) See, as a recent example, Frédéric Imbert, ‘Califes, princes et compagnons dans les graffiti du début de l’islam’, Romano-Arabica 15 (2015), pp. 59–78.

(58.) Frédéric Imbert, ‘L’islam des pierres: L’expression de la foi dans les graffiti arabes des premiers siècles’, in Antoine Borrut (ed.), Écriture de l’histoire et processus de canonisation dans les premiers siècles de l’islam: Hommage à Alfred-Louis de Prémare (p.98) (Aix-en-Provence: Presses Universitaires de Provence, 2011), pp. 57–78. For another similar discussion, albeit one that ranges well beyond seventh-century texts, see Robert G. Hoyland, ‘The Content and Context of Early Arabic Inscriptions’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 21 (1997), pp. 77–102.

(59.) Frédéric Imbert, ‘Le Coran dans les graffiti des deux premiers siècles de l’hégire’, Arabica 47, no. 3 (2000), pp. 381–90.

(60.) Fahd bin Saleh al-Hawas et al., ‘Taqrir Awwali ʿan Aʿmal al-Tanqibat al-Athariyya bi-Madinat Fayd al-Taʾrikhiyya bi-Mintaqat Haʾil (al-Mawsim al-Awwal 1427h.–2006m.)’, Al-Atlal 20 (2010), p. 35; Ali Ibrahim al-Ghabbân, Les deux routes syrienne et égyptienne de pèlerinage au nord-ouest de l’Arabie Saoudite (Cairo: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, 2011), vol. 2, pp. 499–501 (no. 1).

(61.) For examples, see the texts discussed in Robert G. Hoyland, ‘The Jews of the Hijaz in the Qurʾān and in Their Inscriptions’, in Gabriel Said Reynolds (ed.), New Perspectives on the Qurʾān: The Qurʾān in Its Historical Context2 (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 91–116 (that mentioned here is no. 4, at pp. 94–5); and Laïla Nehmé, ‘A Glimpse of the Development of the Nabataean Script into Arabic Based on Old and New Epigraphic Material’, in Michael C. A. Macdonald (ed.), The Development of Arabic as a Written Language (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2010), pp. 47–88.

(62.) Imbert, ‘L’islam des pierres’, p. 71. In English: ‘After all, to write “O God, forgive so-and-so!” is part of a strategy, a religious veneer the purpose of which is still only to talk about oneself and immortalise one’s name and possibly those of one’s relatives, brought together in a prayer addressed to the deity.’

(63.) Elizabeth K. Fowden, ‘Rural Converters among the Arabs’, in Arietta Papaconstantinou, Neil McLynn and Daniel L. Schwartz (eds), Conversion in Late Antiquity: Christianity, Islam, and Beyond (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), p. 178.

(64.) Chase F. Robinson, ‘Reconstructing Early Islam: Truth and Consequences’, in Heribert Berg (ed.), Method and Theory in the Study of Islamic Origins (Leiden: Brill, 2003), p. 131.

(65.) Ruth Marshall-Fratani, ‘Mediating the Global and Local in Nigerian Pentecostalism’, in André Corton and Ruth Marshall-Fratani (eds), Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America (London: Hurst, 2001), p. 86, cited by Henri Gooren, ‘Anthropology of Religious Conversion’, in Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 91.

(66.) Thomas Bauer, Die Kultur der Ambiguität: eine andere Geschichte des Islams (Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2011), p. 17. In English: ‘All cultures have to live with cultural ambiguity.’ Also see discussion in Fowden, ‘Rural Converters’, pp. 193–4.