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Grundsätzliches zu Tilman Nagels Monographie Mohammed.Leben und Legende


Schoeler, G (2011). Grundsätzliches zu Tilman Nagels Monographie Mohammed.Leben und Legende. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 65(1):193-209.

Abstract

This contribution is a review article of Tilman Nagel’s book Mohammed. Leben und Legende. My critique concerns some basic assumptions and hypotheses which this book is based on.
1. The first point of criticism is directed at Nagel’s view of the authenticity of the sources de-scribing the life of Muḥammad. He considers the extant Sīra- and Maġāzī-works by Ibn Isḥaq (d. 767) and al-Wāqidī (d. 823), in spite of their late date, as being, nevertheless, a suitable base for the reconstruction of the historical facts. However, according to Nagel, we have to uncover and leave aside the distortions caused by certain tendencies to discover the real events: we are dealing here, most importantly, with a tendency to de-historicize the person of Muḥammad (‘the destruc¬tion of history’) and certain legendary formation principles, e.g. ‘the demotion of Mecca to the categorically bad’. – In contrast to this stance, I propose to demonstrate that a de-historicization did not exist as a generally operating principle. Rather, historical traditions are to be found next to legal traditions from the outset and at any time (cf. the historical chapters in al-Buḫārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ). – In order to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic material, we have to take a radically different approach than Nagel did.
2. The second point of criticism concerns the fact that Nagel throughout his book uses late com¬pilations as his main sources. However, since A. Noth’s seminal investigations, it has become clear that in these late compilations ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traditions are to be found side by side. Thus, these works are absolutely not suited as a starting point to find out ‘what really happened’. – On the basis of a critical examination of Nagel’s presentation and interpretation of the ḥadīṯ al-ifk, the tradition of the slander against ʿĀʾiša, I will demonstrate that Nagel’s method leads to seriously wrong results.
3. Nagel maintains that al-Wāqidī can be regarded as an outstanding, almost modern historian who allegedly applied methods fitting contemporary empirical standards. Nagel therefore mostly relies on al-Wāqidī’s versions. However, the fact of the matter is that this historian compiled (i.e wrote up) reports of widely varying quality from any number of sources. He studiously fails to mention his main source, Ibn Isḥāq, and very often also other sources (ʿAbd ar-Razzāq, Mūsā ibn ʿUqba).
4. As to Nagel’s use of secondary literature, it must be said that he does not know, or intentionally ignores, fundamental investigations. Illustrated by his translation and interpretation of the taṣliya (eulogy after the name of the Prophet Muḥammad) I will show that a grave and embarrassing flaw would have been avoided if he had used a fundamental and easily available monograph on the subject by an outstanding German-speaking scholar of the second half of the 20th century.

Abstract

This contribution is a review article of Tilman Nagel’s book Mohammed. Leben und Legende. My critique concerns some basic assumptions and hypotheses which this book is based on.
1. The first point of criticism is directed at Nagel’s view of the authenticity of the sources de-scribing the life of Muḥammad. He considers the extant Sīra- and Maġāzī-works by Ibn Isḥaq (d. 767) and al-Wāqidī (d. 823), in spite of their late date, as being, nevertheless, a suitable base for the reconstruction of the historical facts. However, according to Nagel, we have to uncover and leave aside the distortions caused by certain tendencies to discover the real events: we are dealing here, most importantly, with a tendency to de-historicize the person of Muḥammad (‘the destruc¬tion of history’) and certain legendary formation principles, e.g. ‘the demotion of Mecca to the categorically bad’. – In contrast to this stance, I propose to demonstrate that a de-historicization did not exist as a generally operating principle. Rather, historical traditions are to be found next to legal traditions from the outset and at any time (cf. the historical chapters in al-Buḫārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ). – In order to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic material, we have to take a radically different approach than Nagel did.
2. The second point of criticism concerns the fact that Nagel throughout his book uses late com¬pilations as his main sources. However, since A. Noth’s seminal investigations, it has become clear that in these late compilations ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traditions are to be found side by side. Thus, these works are absolutely not suited as a starting point to find out ‘what really happened’. – On the basis of a critical examination of Nagel’s presentation and interpretation of the ḥadīṯ al-ifk, the tradition of the slander against ʿĀʾiša, I will demonstrate that Nagel’s method leads to seriously wrong results.
3. Nagel maintains that al-Wāqidī can be regarded as an outstanding, almost modern historian who allegedly applied methods fitting contemporary empirical standards. Nagel therefore mostly relies on al-Wāqidī’s versions. However, the fact of the matter is that this historian compiled (i.e wrote up) reports of widely varying quality from any number of sources. He studiously fails to mention his main source, Ibn Isḥāq, and very often also other sources (ʿAbd ar-Razzāq, Mūsā ibn ʿUqba).
4. As to Nagel’s use of secondary literature, it must be said that he does not know, or intentionally ignores, fundamental investigations. Illustrated by his translation and interpretation of the taṣliya (eulogy after the name of the Prophet Muḥammad) I will show that a grave and embarrassing flaw would have been avoided if he had used a fundamental and easily available monograph on the subject by an outstanding German-speaking scholar of the second half of the 20th century.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques
Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 65 (2011) > 1
Dewey Decimal Classification:950 History of Asia
Language:German
Date:2011
Deposited On:22 Jun 2011 07:00
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 08:30
Publisher:Schweizerische Asiengesellschaft / Verlag Peter Lang
ISSN:0004-4717

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