By Tarif Khalidi
In a piece that surveys a whole culture of ancient concept and writing throughout a span of eight-hundred years, Tarif Khalidi examines how Arabic-Islamic tradition of the premodern interval seen the previous, the way it recorded it, and the way it sought to reply to the various complicated questions linked to the self-discipline of historical past.
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Additional info for Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period
Reviews the literature on the subject of the early historical tradition but his own views are, in many places, questionable. See also the interesting article by Gregor Schoeler, 'Die Frage der schriftlichen oder miindlichen iiberlieferung der Wissenschaften im friihen Islam', Der Islam, dill, (1985), 201-30, who argues that the controversy over written versus oral transmission hinges upon an exact definition of the terms 'written' and 'oral'. Ibn 'Abd al-Barr, Jami\ 2:120-33, cites and comments upon numerous reports warning against excess in Hadith collection.
Baghdadi, Taqyid> p. 64. Important parallels in Jewish and early-Christian literary traditions are found in B. Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1964), especially pp. , 196 ff. See also J. Pedersen, The Arabic Book (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), chapter 3. The classical literature on the isnad is vast. A modern Muslim view is forcefully set forth in Azmi, Studies, chapter 6, who among other things re-examines the theories of Schacht and Robson.
Again, khabar and naba* occupy approximately the same area of meaning; khabar is perhaps closer to hadith in its meaning of parable while naba* is more often a piece of information, of neutral moral content. The word e ilm is still more problematic. In Qur'anic, and particularly Medinese usage, it connotes knowledge or wisdom, especially such as is derived from sacred scriptures, and is therefore often contrasted with zann, or guessing, an attribute of the unbelievers. 1 A set of terms was thus provided through which to report and unveil the past.