QURANIC POLITICS

and THE PREHISTORY OF CALIPHATES

My book, Quranic Politics and the Prehistory of Caliphates (forthcoming, 2018)is a comprehensive analysis of Quranic communalism and its post-Quranic transformations. In the book, I situate the Qur’an’s complex program of community-formation and boundary making in the charged sectarian and hellenized environment of late ancient Arabia. I show that the Qur’an’s liturgical, juridical, didactic and polemical rhetoric expresses a distinctly ecumenical communal orientation. The early Muslim historiographical tradition subordinates Quranic ecumenism to the communal supersessionism and exclusivism of the new imperial order under the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates (800s-900s C.E). By contextualizing / historicizing Quranic passages in the prophetic biographies and prosopographies, the early historiographical tradition is able to press the subversively ecumenical language of scripture into the service of competing normative ideologies in the early empire. I trace this radical transformation in early Muslim communal thought by looking at the development of the Quranic term “a Middle People” (ummatan wasatan), the text’s appellation for its addressee-community (Q2:143).