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on oral traditions and history

Reader comment on item: Uncovering Early Islam

Submitted by John Philips (Japan), Jun 2, 2012 at 02:50

There are rules for using oral traditions in history, just as there are rules for using written records, which are not always to be taken at face value either. I believe there was someone named Daniel Pipes who used oral traditions in a book about slave soldiers and Islam. That couldn't have been you, could it? ;-)

Even if we throw the baby out with the bathwater here, there are schools of Islam that also reject the hadith, for various reasons. Islam doesn't necessarily collapse without the hadith. That said, the closer one examines almost anything in history, the more of a Rashomon it becomes, almost as if the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics were operating in the everyday world of human experience. Whoever said that Muhammad was the first founder of a religion to live in the full light of history was wrong, because there is no such thing as the full light of history.


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