Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 16

Arietta Papaconstantinou

Confrontation, Interaction, and the Formation of the early Islamic Oikoumene

In: Revue des tudes byzantines, tome 63, 2005. pp. 167-181.

Abstract This article discusses three recent collections on the early Islamic period. The first two are part of Ashgate' s Formation of the Classical Islamic World series, containing the reprints of some of the most significant scholarly contributions to the subjects of Muslim relations with Byzantium and with the other confessions within their own empire; the third is the result of a conference aiming to bring out the importance of documentary evidence for the study of this period. The thirty-nine articles and three introductions cover a number of important issues in the history of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East of the early Islamic period, both showing on which themes research has tended to focus and highlighting new or recently re-evaluated questions. Rsum REB 63, 2005, p. 167-181. Arietta Papaconstantinou, Confrontation, interaction, and the formation of the early Islamic oikoumene. Review article - Cet article traite de trois rcents recueils sur la priode proto-islamique. Les deux premiers font partie de la srie The Formation of the Classical Islamic World chez Ashgate, et contiennent des rimpressions de contributions parmi les plus significatives dans le domaine des relations qu'entretenaient les musulmans avec Byzance et avec les non-musulmans de leur propre empire ; le troisime est le rsultat d'un colloque dont l'objectif tait de faire ressortir l'importance des sources documentaires pour l'tude de cette priode. Les trente-neuf articles et trois introductions couvrent bon nombre de questions importantes concernant la Mditerrane orientale et le Proche-Orient aux dbuts de l'Islam ; ils montrent sur quels thmes la recherche a eu tendance se focaliser, et mettent en lumire des problmatiques nouvelles ou rcemment rvalues.

Citer ce document / Cite this document : Papaconstantinou Arietta. Confrontation, Interaction, and the Formation of the early Islamic Oikoumene. In: Revue des tudes byzantines, tome 63, 2005. pp. 167-181. http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rebyz_0766-5598_2005_num_63_1_2310

CONFRONTATION, INTERACTION, AND THE FORMATION OF THE EARLY ISLAMIC OIKOUMENE Review article1 Arietta PAPACONSTANTINOU Michael Bonnhr (ed.). Arab-Byzantine Relations in Early Islamic Times, The Formation of the Classical Islamic World 8, Aldershot, Ashgate 2005. Robert Hem and (ed.). Muslims and Others in Early Islamic Society, The Formation of the Classical Islamic World 18. Aldershot, Ashgate 2004. Petra M. Sijpksteijn & Lennart Sundelin (eds.), Papyrology and the History of Early IslamicEgypt, Islamic History and Civilization 55, Leiden, Brill 2004. Without Contraries is no progression William Blake2

'How late can late antiquity go?' is a question that has probably crossed the minds of many a scholar in the field. For some, Islam marks the beginning of a new era. at least in the Middle East; for others, Islam was the locus where late antiquity lived on, while the Roman empire that had conceived it turned 'mediev al'.3 However undecided the periodisation debate, it is undeniable that the study of the early Islamic period has burgeoned, not only among Islamicists, but also among specialists of the Christian cultures which lived within and around the new 1 This text has greatly benefitted from informal discussions with Muriel Debi and Sophie Mtivier: many thanks are also due to Julia Bray and Chase Robinson for their suggestions and to Garth Fowden for avant-premire disclosure of his work. 2. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 3. 3. In the mainstream view, early Islam is unambiguously set in the medieval period, and the seventh century marks the end of antiquity, late or not. See for example the periodisation of A. Camkron. The Mediterranean world in late antiquity, 395-600, London 1993; this is also implied in titles such as "Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam", despite the fact that the Darwin Press series seeks among other things to highlight the continuity between the two. The alternative view is voiced most vigorously by Garth Fowden in his forthcoming article "Late antiquity: period or idea?", in Comparative perspect ives the Roman Empire, ed. J. Arnason. See also his Qusayr 'Amra: art and the Umaxyad elite in on late antique Syria. Berkeley 2004. or T. Sizgorich. Narrative and community in Islamic late antiquity. Past and Present 185. 2004. p. 9-42, whose titles could hardly be more explicit; or F. M. Ci ovhr and R. S. Humphreys. Toward a definition of late antiquity, in Tradition and innovation in late antiquity, ed. F. M. Clover and R. S. Humphreys. Madison 1989, p. 3-19 (ca 400-700). The question is discussed and contextualised by C. F. Robinson. Reconstructing early Islam: truth and consequenses. in Method and theory in the study oj Islamic origins, ed. H. Berg. Islamic History and Civilization 49. Leiden 2003. p. 101-134. Revue des tudes Byzantines 63. 2005. p. 167-181. .



empire - and that much of the impetus for this comes from students of late anti quity. As a result, scholars have become increasingly conscious of the role played by the contemporary cultural environment in 'the formation of the classical Islamic world', and the series set up by Lawrence Conrad under that title amply takes this development into account. Thus, next to three volumes on pre-Islamic Arabia and the Sasanian and Byzantine Near East before Islam, the series includes two symm etrical volumes on Arab-Byzantine relations in early Islamic times (ABR) and on Muslims and others in early Islamic society (MO), put together respectively by Michael Bonner and Robert Hoyland. The series aims to bring together some of the most significant scholarly contri butions to each subject. To the extent that volumes of this sort are supposed to give a general view of the most representative research in a given field, the choice of the articles is extremely important and has much to say on the interests and orienta tions the editors, and beyond them, on the historiographical trends that underlie of them. In the case of ABR and MO, two seemingly similar subjects, the difference of approach to the broader question of cultural encounters is striking, if understan dable point. ABR reflects a historiographical tradition that tends to insist on to a political and military history, and to see cultural interaction as an exchange of elements between worlds that remain essentially separate; MO gives a more inte grated vision of social interaction and cultural borrowing, which are shown to happen at various levels in often very subtle ways. The subjects are of course diffe rent, and partly account for the difference in viewpoint. ABR concerns the inhe rently conflict-driven relations between two antagonistic political entities, while MO has to do with those, more prone to compromise, between ruled and rulers within the same state. Both editors, however, could have oriented their volumes the other way round. There is enough bibliography to choose from for one to present a negative picture of Muslim/non-Muslim interaction - but evidently Hoyland does not understand relations between 'Muslims and others' the same way as, say, Bat Ye'or.4 The same, though perhaps to a lesser extent, is true of Arab relations with Byzantium. Although wars and other forms of conflict have indeed long dominated research, there is much work, both recent and less so, that bears with it a more positive view of their interaction than Bonner's choices allow for. Indeed, Bonner maintains a strong tilt towards conflict and military matters, evidently a conscious choice: 'This volume on Arab-Byzantine relations begins and ends with war' is the book's first sentence. More than just begin and end, though, war is the dominant theme in the collection. The thematic areas chosen are: war and diplomacy; frontiers and military organisation; polemics and images of the 'other'; exchange, influence and convergence; martyrdom, jihd and holy war. This admittedly reflects, at least in part, the reality of those relations - or at least the way the protagonists themselves seem to have seen them. War is an everrecurring theme in sources both Arab and Byzantine, and their confrontation was 4. Bat Ye'or, The dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, London 1 985; or ead., Les chrtients d'Orient entre jihd et dhimmitude: vif -XXe sicle, Paris 1991. A useful survey of Western views of the dhimmi in M. J. Saleh, Government relations with the Coptic community in Egypt during the Ftimid period (358-567 A.H. I 969-1171 C.E.), Diss. University of Chicago 1995, p. 9-52.


] 69

interpreted by some as a new version of the age-old conflict between East and West. This ultimately Byzantine (or early Islamic) vision of confrontation between two worlds dominates ABR, and even though 'exchange, influence and convergence' are taken into account, they are of a kind that keeps the exchanging entities intact. Hoyland's choices are more oriented towards two-way intercultural traffic. Although the articles are not separated into sections, the main themes addressed are the theoretical, legal and practical aspects of convivencia within the Islamic state, intellectual exchange (significantly titled 'Dialogue' in the introduction), and the framework of Islamisation ('conversion' or 'apostasy' according to viewpoint). These are probably the most controversial thematic areas on the question of Muslim/non-Muslim relations, and Hoyland has definitely chosen his camp. Among other things, the articles selected highlight the gap between the mislea Official' discourse of confrontation and attempts at communal control, and a ding pervading tendency towards melting-pot practices on the part of the population. In the editor's own words, 'inter-confessional exchange was, to the chagrin of rel igious leaders, all too common' (p. 30). The two (or more) worlds of 'Muslims and others' are here shown in continuous interaction, of a kind that contributed to their slow transformation and redefinition. As often in the study of this period, Egypt is practically absent from Bonner's collection, which reflects above all the lack of interest in this province among scholars of Arab-Byzantine relations, but even, to a point, among students of early Islam in general.""1 This geographical separation echoes the situation among special ists the Roman period, and can be explained in part by the difficulty of access of to Egyptian sources, especially papyri, usually perceived as hermetic and userunfriendly. Nevertheless, papyri make for extremely important and useful sources, and are gradually becoming more widely recognised as such. Showing the extent of their contribution is one of the aims of the volume edited by Petra Sijpesteijn and Lennart Sundelin under the title Papyrology and the history of early Islamic Egypt (PEIE), and this is clearly expounded in Sundelin's introduction. This is of course not entirely new material, as can be seen from the inclusion in MO of two articles based on Egyptian documentary evidence. But after more than a century of neglect, papyrologists have recently become more interested in the early Islamic period and the corpus of published documents in Greek, Coptic and Arabic is steadily rising, so that more general studies using this evidence, even in the realm of Arabic litera ture,6 are now becoming an attainable goal. More than anything, the three volumes perfectly complement each other. Toget her, their thirty-nine articles and three introductions cover a number of important issues in the history of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East of the early

Islam" Note for A. Camfron exclusion Conrad. Introduction, in covered by the "Late early Islamic Early .1. project: example the and L. I. of Egypt from the areas The Byzantine and antiquity and Near East, 1. Problems in the literary source material, ed. A. Cameron and L. I. Conrad. Princeton 1989. p. 10 (though it is 'hoped that the impact of other regions will receive due consideration as the project proceeds"). 6. R. . Khoi'ry. L'apport spcialement important de la papyrologie dans la transmission et la codification des plus anciennes versions des Mille et une nuits et d'autres livres des deux premiers sicles islamiques. PEIE. p. 63-95.



Islamic period, and for all their differences, they converge in covering a number of themes on which research has tended to focus, but also in bringing up some issues that are in bad need of further study. One might also hope that they will have the salutary effect of fostering more sustained intellectual relations between Arabists and Byzantinists - or should one say between Islamicists and Others', probably even less developed than the former. Their choice of articles by special ists various fields should help bridge the persistent bibliographical and histoin riographical gaps from which the relevant disciplines still suffer. In its own way, each of the three collections tells the story or stories of the varying and multi-faceted encounters between what became Islam and the mater ial,cultural and political environment in which this happened. The best known and most traumatic events in those encounters were probably the conquests, followed by the continuing warfare that was to plague certain key areas for a long time.7 One of these was the Arab-Byzantine frontier in Anatolia, which roughly followed the line of the Taurus, from the coast of Cilicia to Armenia. As all pre-modern frontiers, it tended to spread over a large area, practically affecting the whole of Asia Minor. Bonnerbegins his collection with Clive Foss's classic 1975 article 'The Persians in Asia Minor and the end of antiquity',8 which has little to do with Arab-Byzantine relations, but argues that the Persian destruction of Asia Minor was such that not only did it facilitate the Muslim conquests, it also downgraded the region for centur ies come. Its status as a frontier region after the Muslim conquest was of course to instrumental in maintaining it under constant tension, and in creating very specific local patterns of settlement, based on small-scale, fortified kastra or simply on towns with citadels, studied in parallel for both sides of the divide by John Haldon and Hugh Kennedy in another well-known article from 1 980.9 Another effect of the continuing warfare was the need for efficient military (re)organisation on both sides, a subject addressed among other things by Haldon and Kennedy for the frontier region. The origin and evolution of the Byzantine 'thematic system' as a way to maintain a local, self-sustained army have been the matter of considerable debate and speculation, and the thorough re-evaluation of the evidence by John Haldon is also included in ABR.{0 Less prominent in scholarship,

7. J. Wellhausen, Arab wars with the Byzantines in the Umayyad period, ABR, p. 31-64, a transla tion Die Kmpfe der Araber mit den Romern in der Zeit der Umaijiden, Nachrichten von der of kniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Gttingen, Phil.-Hist. Klasse 4, 1901, p. 414-447. 8. English Historical Review 90, 1975, p. 721-774; ABR, p. 3-29. 9. J. Haldon and H. Kennedy, The Arab-Byzantine frontier in the 8th and 9th centuries: military organisation and society in the borderlands, ZRVI 19, 1980, p. 79-1 16; ABR, p. 141-178. Several papers 500-1000' (April Oaks dwelt least partly on this question in settlement recent archaeological finds at the Dumbarton 2005) SpringatSymposium on 'Urban and rural the light of in Anatolia and the Levant, (in particular the contributions by Michael Decker, Christopher Lightfoot, Marc Waelkens and Mark Whittow). 10. J. Haldon, Seventh-century continuities: the ajnd and the 'thematic myth', in The Byzantine and early Islamic Near East, III, States, resources and armies, ed. A. Cameron, Princeton 1 995, p. 379423; ABR, p. 95-139. This article is meant to close a debate with Man Shahd concerning the relation between the themes and the early Islamic ajnd: see Bonner's introduction, p. xxui-xxiv, and now C. Zuckerman, Learning from the enemy and more: studies in 'Dark Centuries' Byzantium, Millennium 2, 2005, p. 125-134.


17 1

and disregarded by Bonner, has been the question of naval warfare and the orga nisation of the fleet. Arabic apocalyptic accounts going back to the early Islamic period show that for some time there was fear of a Byzantine attack on the coastal areas." By the mid-650s, the Arabs had at their disposal an efficient fleet, and the future caliph Mu'wiya has come down as its initiator. The papyri clearly show how the system worked, although the earliest texts, dating from the late seventh century, post-date Mu'wiya. The building and manning of the fleet was based on requisitions of Christian craftsmen and crewmen, several of which have been preserved. Only the fighters on the ships were Arabs. This system of corves was sufficiently resented to be remembered in later Christian texts such as the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, as the article by Frank Trombley in PEIE shows.12 A recent study of the Byzantine evidence by Constantine Zuckerman has shown that this system - corves and all - was almost immediately copied by the Byzantine emperor Constans II (641-668), who, 'learning from the enemy', set the bases for the creation of 'the first regular Byzantine war fleet'.13 One of the questions raised by Bonner in his introduction is that of the cost of this continuous warfare (p. xviii). He finds the huge amounts given in the sources might be exaggerated, although recent work by John Haldon tends to confirm an extremely high global cost.14 In most cases, and Bonner gives some examples, the symbolic gain of these otherwise totally negative-balance expeditions seems to have been sufficient to ensure the victors domination over internal affairs - still today a powerful incentive for seemingly pointless wars of aggression. In recent years, historians have tended to regard frontiers as zones of interaction where a specific 'frontier culture' emerges, a question Bonner also briefly discusses in his introduction, although he maintains in his choices a predominantly military vision. In his opinion, this view is sustained by the Arabic sources, which present 'the frontier district as an ideologically charged place where people came, not to mix with those different from themselves, but rather to fight them and to stake out more securely their own territory of self (p. xxvii). One may of course reverse this perspective, considering that if the Arabic sources insist so much on 'separation', it is perhaps precisely because they did not find it sufficient in practice. It is not only a question of the people who 'came', for whatever reason, to the frontier, but also

U.S. Bashear, Apocalyptic and other materials on early Muslim-Byzantine wars: a review of Arabic sources. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 3rd series. 1. 1991, p. 173-207 (here p. 182-183); ABR.p. 181-215 (p. 190-191). 12. F. Trombly, Sawrus bn al-Muqaffa' and the Christians of Umayyad Egypt: war and society in documentary context, PEIE, p. 199-226. Less well-known are the requisitions of workers for the great Umayyad building sites, in particular the mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem, and the palace of the amir al-mu'minm in both cities: F. Morei.li, Legname, palazzi e moschee. P. Vindob. G 31 e il contributo dell'Egitto alla prima architettura islamica. Tyclw 13. 1998, p. 165-190. 13. Zuckerman. Learning from the enemy (n. 10). p. 107-125 (quot. p. 108). 14. The high cost is to be explained mainly by the logistics involved: see J. Haldon, La logistique de Mantzikert quelques problmes d'approvisionnement au xiL' sicle, in Guerre et socit' (ixe-xut si cle), d. D. Barthlmy and J -CL Chf.ynet. Paris (forthcoming 2006). whose calculations could be applied, with adaptations, to most military campaigns. An overview of the question of campaign expen ses M. F. Hlndy. Studies in the Byzantine monetary economy c. 300-1450. London - New York 1985. in p. 221-224. :

1 72


of those who were naturally there. It is a pity that Bonner does not mention in this context Elizabeth Key Fowden's work on the cult of St Sergius as a frontier cult promoting a specific form of interaction between the various groups that popula ted zone between Rome and the Sasanid empire, notably the Arabs.15 Her final the chapter on the early Islamic period shows that although the Syrian plain slowly lost this frontier status, cultural integration was strong enough for the saint's cult site to become common to Muslims and Christians. Situations specific to the frontier region are also at the centre of Bonner 's own article on the development of jihd ideology in the context of the move of Muslim legal and religious scholars and ascetics to the frontier zone,16 although he has chosen to put it in the final section in the company of 'martyrdom'. Bonner sees the frontier as the environment in which ideas of holy war and martyrdom were formed, both in their literal sense as in the symbolic version of the struggle against the self, and this is certainly true to a great extent. It would probably be helpful in studying the development of this concept to take into consideration the role of the late anti que literary heritage, and in particular the borrowing and remodeling of Christian hagiographical topoi in Islamic literature.17 Beyond the long-term practical and discursive management of warfare, maintai ning administering the immense conquered territories involved the organisation and of a stable state, a subject on which Egyptian evidence gives extremely precious insights.18 In particular, papyri show with great clarity the increasing centralisation of the state from the late seventh century onwards. They yield much information on the various levels of the Muslim administration in the provinces, on the fiscal administration and the practical aspects of tax levies, and on the introduction of the poll tax (Jizya, in Greek ). Texts such as the one published by Klaas Worp in PEIE, a list of town quarters that were separate fiscal units,19 show the sort of organisation involved at a very local level, and make clear that the Arab system was immediately efficient in great part because it relied on a pre-existing administ rative network. Another example is afforded by the band, or postal service, an essential instr umentfor maintaining cohesion and control over a vast territory. The article by Adam Silverstein in PEIE shows that despite its oft-noted 'loose' character, the Islamic state was held together early on by a number of essential structures, functioning from Africa to Central Asia.20 Although the main documentary evidence dates from the early Abbasid period, a sahib al-barld already existed in Egypt under the governor Qurra ibn Shark (709-714) and even served as an intelligence agent for the governor. 15. . . Fowden, The barbarian plain: saint Sergius between Rome and Iran, The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 28, Berkeley 1999. 16. Some observations concerning the early development of jihd along the Arab-Byzantine frontier, Stadia islamica 75, 1992, p. 5-31; ABR, p. 401-427. 17. On this question see Sizgorich, Narrative and community (n. 3). 18. See P. M. Sijpesteun, Shaping a Muslim state. Papyri related to a mid-eighth-century Egyptian official, Diss. Princeton University 2004, and ead., The Arab conquest of Egypt and the beginning of Muslim rule, in Egypt in the Byzantine world, 450-700, ed. R. S. Bagnall (forthcoming). 19. K. A. Worp, Town quarters in Greek, Roman, Byzantine and early Arab Egypt, p. 227-248. 20. A. Silverstein, Documentary evidence for the early history of the Band, p. 153-161.



With time, and parallel to the process of centralisation, the papyri show Arabs gradually settling on agricultural land from the late seventh century onwards, and the emergence of an expanding group of Muslim landowners in the eighth century. A document published by Petra Sijpesteijn in the same volume shows their integra tion the local agricultural and commercial network, a fact that fostered a relat in ively high degree of interaction with the local population, not only through trade, but also through the employment of Christian workers.21 Much of the commercial activity took place in cities, and this document, like many others, gives information one rarely gets from other sources. Not only does it bring to light the existence of Rosetta (Rashd) almost a century and a half before the foundation date given by later Muslim sources (735 instead of 870s), it also highlights the continuing impor tance of Alexandria within the economic system of early Islamic Egypt, a fact that has been obscured by the swift rise to prominence of Fustt. Other than an import ant of commerce, it was also a key political and military site because the fleet port was partly stationed there, and ships were built and repaired in its shipyards. The governors of Egypt even chose to reside in Alexandria part of the time, which is not surprising considering not only the garrison stationed in the city, but also the great number of Bedouin creating unrest in the surrounding area,22 as well as the presence of the Coptic Patriarchate, the governing institution of the largest religious group in the country. This brings up another aspect of state organisation, namely the way Muslims dealt with the non-Muslim communities, still, and for some time to come, the majority of the population. As the text presenting MO claims, this is 'arguably the single most important issue in the history of the early Islamic Middle East, since the Muslims were initially a minority in the lands that they had conquered and so had to reach some modus vivendi with the various religious communities in their realm'.23 Thejizya and the corves for the fleet were of course one aspect of those relations, but otherwise the Muslims had a 'laissez-faire' attitude (MO, p. xiii) that the locals certainly appreciated to a certain point, especially those who had long resented state interference in their affairs. This also prompted a certain degree of reshuffling and redefinition, especially among Christian communities accustomed to using state privilege in their dealings with each other, with the aim to gain a dominant position through the support of the new rulers.24 The organisation of non-Muslims in autonomous, self-governing and selfcontained communities based on religious allegiance was already under way before the arrival of Islam, a development first charted by Michael Morony for Iraq in the article included in MO and then refined in his later work.25 The efficiency and

21. P. M. Sijprsikijn. Travel and trade on the river. PEIE, p. 1 15-152. 22. See C. Dcobert, Marotide mdivale. Des Bdouins et des chrtiens, in Alexandrie mdiv ale d. C. DHcoBhRi. tudes alexandrines 8. Cairo 2002. p. 127-167. 2, 23. Quotation from the presentation of the volume on the Ashgate site: http://www.ashgate.com 24. Still in the 760s the Monophysite History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria shows the two Christian communities bringing rival petitions before the Muslim governor: Hist. Patr. 18 (PO 5, 120-26). 25. M. Morony. Religious communities in late Sasanian and early Muslim Iraq, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 17. 1974. p. 1 13-135: MO. p. 1-23. See also id.. Iraq after the Muslim conquest, Princeton 1984.

1 74


rigidity of this communal organisation were helped by the semi-official recogni tion the Sasanians had accorded it, and only intensified under the Muslims. that Morony's model is built up mainly out of evidence from Iraq, and concerns the transition from the Sasanian to the Islamic state. However, it has also been widely accepted for the passage from Byzantium to Islam, since the integrationist policies of both pre-Islamic 'superpowers' are seen to have resulted in a centrifugal drive on the part of dissident religious groups and in their gradual transformation into independent communities.26 The relevance of this model is perhaps less immediate for Egypt, where the extremely centralised structure of the two main churches, Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian, did not allow for any important implantation of dissident groups during the Byzantine period - though these undeniably existed. Several articles are included in MO, chosen so as to cover both the theoretical and the practical aspects of the legal and religious status of non-Muslim communiti es. Mahmoud Ayoub's theologically-oriented analysis of the notion of dhimma in the Qur'an and the hadith is followed by two studies of the legal situation of the communities to which the term was applied. A little-known and very helpful article by Nophyte Edelby on the legislative autonomy of the Christian communit ies the situation in the various fields of legal practice, concluding that they surveys had full autonomy in the exercise of private justice as long as no prejudice was brought to public order. This finds a perfect complement in Antoine Fattal's much better-known study of the court procedures to which dhimml were subject, seen mainly through Muslim sources. In both these subjects much remains to be done, especially in terms of chronological differentiation, an aspect not much taken into consideration here. It is a field where documentary evidence can be put to good use, and yield a more nuanced view, as S. D. Goitein's article on minority self-rule shows. It is based on the documents of the Cairo Geniza, and shows how day-to-day legal dealings between Jews and Muslims functioned in practice.27 The system of self-rule was of course an efficient way of administering by proxy and maintaining public order, but it also greatly contributed in defining more and more sharply the new Muslim identity by opposing it to that of the other groups. This was reinforced by the spelling out of rules of differentiation, espe cially between Muslims and the other monotheistic religions, where confusion was more of a risk. Once again, MO couples two complementary articles, M. J. Kister's ' "Do not assimilate yourselves..." Ltashabbah...\ an analysis of the ideology behind the separation and a study of the various recommendations given to Muslims; and Albrecht Noth's examination in this light of the famous Ordinances of 'Umar',

26. See for instance J. P. Berkey, The formation of Islam: religion and society in the Near East, 600-1800, Cambridge 2003, p. 91-92 and n. 2; also MO, p. xm. 27. M. Ayoub, Dhimmah in Qur'an and hadith, Arab Studies Quarterly 5, 1983, p. 172-182; MO, p. 25-35; N. Edelby, The legislative autonomy of Christians in the Islamic world, MO, p. 37-82 (transi, of: L'autonomie lgislative des chrtiens en terre d'islam, Archives d'histoire du droit oriental 5, 19501951, p. 307-351); A. Fattal, How Dhimmis were judged in the Islamic world, MO, p. 83-102 (transi, of: Comment les dhimmis taient-ils jugs en terre d'Islam, Cahiers d'histoire gyptienne 3, 1951, p. 321-341); S. D. Goitein, Minority selfrule and government control in Islam, Studia Islamica 31, 1970, p. 101-1 16; MO, p. 159-174.


1 75

which reinterprets this much-debated list of regulations as intended to protect Muslims rather than to discriminate against others, which is how it had long been understood (and still is in many cases).28 Both authors argue that although those rules and recommendations are preserved in late sources, their themes seem to belong to a phase when the Muslim community still needed to construe its distinc tive nature. The independence of these religious communities meant among other things that they were to live 'by the book', and Hoyland rightly points out in his introduc tion this must have posed a problem for the Christians, who could evidently not that use the Gospels as the Jews used the Torah (p. xv). This led to the composition of church legislation among these communities, which naturally included the field of private law. The consequences of this were twofold: within Christian communities, the church acquired a profile of 'civil' authority, which it did not have in Roman times; but also, many aspects of life that used to be thought of as being outside the religious sphere took on a definitely - and exclusively - religious hue. This seemingly stiff and immobile community system, however, was undermi ned and foremost by the simple coexistence of the communities in the same first cities, where their members interacted during festivals and other occasions, and participated in all forms of commerce, not only material. The Mazdean regulations on interaction with other communities studied by Jean de Menasce29 reflect how wary most religious leaders were of the religious volatility of their flocks, and their attempts at communal control. In the long run, these communities gradually under wenta process of Islamisation which for all its slowness did know some important peaks. The various factors involved in this process are still the matter of- someti mes heated - debate, where one of the most controversial points is the degree of force and coercion exerted by the Muslims. This is unfortunately a question often plagued by the recent context and ideas of an 'intolerant' Islam, or coloured by the retrojection of later relations between East Christians and Muslims onto the early medieval period, which tend to obscure the situation of the early period. It is however noteworthy that martyrological literature does not figure very prominently in early East Christian writings - at least when one compares the quantity of texts that were inspired by the Roman persecutions. Bonner includes in his collection the recent article by David Woods on the Sixty Martyrs of Gaza, members of the Gaza garrison said to have been martyred at the arrival of the Arabs because they did not convert, which is however of very doubtful authenticity, at

28. M. J. Kistek, "Do not assimilate yourselves..." La tashabbahu..,. Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 12, 1989, p. 32 1-353; MO, p. 125- 157; A. Noth, Problems of differentiation between Muslims and non-Muslims: re-reading the "Ordinances of 'Umar' (al-shurat al-'umurixxa). MO, p. 103-124 (transi, of: Abgrenzungs-probleme zwischen Muslimen und nicht-Muslimen. Die "Bedingungen "Umar's (as-surtal- 'umariyya)' unter einem anderen Aspekt gelesen, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 9. 1987. p. 290-315). 29. J. DB Menasce, Questions concerning the Mazdaeans of Muslim Iran, MO, p. 331-341 (transi, of: Problmes des mazdens dans l'Iran musulman, in Festschrift fr Wilhelm Eilers, ed. G. Wiesshnkr. Wiesbaden 1967. p. 220-230; the article is also reprinted in J. de Menasck. tudes iraniennes - Cahiers de Studia lranica 3. 1985. p. 97-107).

1 76


least concerning the martyrdom account.30 The reasons for conversion that appear in contemporary sources are in fact quite different, and have to do with social and economic status, as the three articles in MO show quite clearly. Among the first to argue this was Claude Cahen in an article exploring the socio-economic logic of Islamisation, where he brought to light the various sources of converts, of which slaves were one of the most important, and the motivations that could lead to con version, such as the possibility to abandon work on the land.31 On these questions, the volume of documentation has risen since Cahen's article, in particular through the publication of new papyri, the value of which is evident in the short but import ant article by Gladys Franz-Murphy on the economic and symbolic aspects of conversion in Egypt, where the author goes beyond the mechanical explanation of conversion as a way to avoid the jizya and relates it to the transfer of tax liability from the church to the Muslims, which entailed a great loss of both prestige and influence for communal institutions.32 The third article by Daniel Pipes tackles the problem of the mawl status in early Islam, which varied with period and context, but always implied servile status of some form.33 A non-Arab convert had to become the mawl (client) of a Muslim, which initially at least put off individuals of some status, leaving conversion for the lower classes. The Arab conquests did not only durably change the political status quo in the eastern Mediterranean: they were intrumental in creating a new balance in the cultural sphere too, since the Arabs with their language and their religion now had to be considered on equal terms by the one-time superior Byzantines. The cultural encounter had, in fact, been going on for centuries but with a very different flavour. Scholars, especially Byzantinists, have tended to see 'Islam' and 'Byzantium' as two different worlds, basically watertight, with some discrete, uncontinuous borro wing. This is, for instance, the view offered by John Meyendorff in his influential 1964 article 'Byzantine views of Islam', and by Gustav von Grunebaum concer ning fields of philosophy, literature and piety, both part of Bonner 's collection.34 the A mirror article by Ahmad Shboul on the image of the Byzantines in Arabic lit erature does not fundamentally change the picture. It charts the evolution from a generally positive image in pre-Islamic times to the antagonistic view that emerged 30. D. Woods, The 60 Martyrs of Gaza and the martyrdom of Bishop Sophronius of Jerusalem. Aram 15, 2003, p. 129-150; ABR, p. 429-450; for an assessment of this text see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as others saw it. A survey and evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian writings on early Islam, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam 13, Princeton 1997, p. 347-351. 31. C. Cahen, Socio-economic history and Islamic studies: problems of bias in the adaptation of the indigenous population to Islam, MO, p. 259-276 (transi, of: Histoire conomico-sociale et islamologie: le problme prjudiciel de l'adaptation entre les autochtones et l'Islam, Correspondance d'Orient, Brussels 1961; repr. in C. Cahen, Les peuples musulmans, Damascus 1977, p. 169-188). 32. G. Frantz-Murphy, Conversion in early Islamic Egypt: the economic factor, in Documents de l'Islam medieval: nouvelles perspectives de recherche, ed. Y. Raghib, Cairo 1991, p. 11-17; MO, p. 323329. 33. D. Pipes, Mawlas: freed slaves and converts in early Islam, Slavery and Abolition 1, 1980, p. 132-177; MO, p. 277-322 (also published in Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, vol. 1, ed. J. R. Willis, London 1985, p. 199-247). 34. J. Meyendorff, Byzantine views of Islam, DOP 18, 1964, p. 115-132; ABR, p. 217-234; G. E. von Grunebaum, Parallelism, convergence and influence in the relations of Arab and Byzantine philosophy, literature and piety, DOP 18, 1964, p. 91-111; ABR, p. 295-316.


after the conquest of Syria. This is also the view offered by Muslim apocalyptic texts, where expectations of a Byzantine comeback are prominent.3"1 The watertightness thesis is however disturbed by Lawrence Conrad's famous article on the Arabic sources used by the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes, which gave an unex pected view of the extent and character of early Arabic narratives in Syria and their circulation beyond Muslim circles.36 H. A. R. Gibb's study of the continuing com mercial and cultural relations between the Umayyads and Byzantium despite the constant wars also goes in the same direction.37 The articles in MO give a very different picture by bringing to light the deeper levels, beyond the exchange of stereotypes, where intercultural traffic took place. This happened, of course, in a very different context, one in which both Muslims and non-Muslims had to constantly negotiate their relative positions. A tradition of 'gentlemanly' disputations (A/0, p. xxi) and controversy was established under the first Abbasids and flowered in subsequent centuries,38 greatly helped by the adopt ionof Arabic as a lingua franca - and perhaps even offered an incentive for the adoption of Arabic by some communities. Many of the texts that have come down to us are apologetic, and perhaps intended, at least partly, for internal consumption, considering the fear of apostasy and the Abbasid assimilationist policies. However, as the articles by Sidney Griffith, Sarah Stroumsa and perhaps even more, by Carl Becker demonstrate, these texts and the ideas they contained were known to Muslims and in several cases contributed to the formation of Islamic theology and dogma, especially through the questions they asked and the general conceptual framework in which these were formulated and answered.39 35. A. Shboul. Byzantium and the Arabs: the image of the Byzantines as mirrored in Arabic litera ture, in Byzantine papers: proceedings of the First Australian Byzantine Studies Conference, Byzantina Australiensia 1. ed. E. Jeffreys. M. Jeffreys and A. Moffatt. Canberra 1981, p. 43-68; ABR, p. 235260: S. Bashfar. Apocalyptic and other materials on early Muslim-Byzantine wars: a review of Arabic sources, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 3rd series. 1. 1991, p. 173-207; ABR, p. 181-215. 36. L. I. Conrad. Theophanes and the Arabic historical tradition: some indications of intercultural transmission. BF 15. 1990, p. 1-44; ABR. p. 3 17-360. On this question, see also R. Hoyland, Arabic. Syriac and Greek historiography in the first Abbasid century: an inquiry into inter-cultural traffic. Aram 3, 1991, p. 211-233. More generally, a less static view of Arab perceptions of Byzantium is given in N. M. Ei.-Cheikh. Byzantium viewed by the Arabs. Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs 36, Cambridge MA 2004. 37. H. A. R. Gibb. Arab-Byzantine relations under the Umayyad Caliphate, DOP 12, 1958, p. 219233; the reprint is taken from Gibb's Studies on the civilisation of Islam. Boston 1962 (repr. Princeton 1982). p. 47-61 , which is a pity because the footnotes have jumped to the end, while there is no change in the text justifying this preference: ABR. p. 65-79. 38. See for instance S. Griffith. The Kitb Misbhal-'Aql of Severus ibn al-Muqaffa": a profile of the Christian creed in Arabic in tenth-century Egypt, Medieval Encounters 2. 1996, p. 15-42. 39. S. H. Griffith, Comparative religion in the apologetics of the first Christian Arabic theologians. Proceedings of the Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Conference, Villanova University 4. 1979. p. 6386; MO. p. 175-199; S. Stroumsa, Jewish polemics against Islam and Christianity in the light of JudaeoArabic texts, in Judaeo- Arabic Studies: Proceedings of the Founding Conference of the Society for Judaeo-Arabic Studies, ed. N. Gold, Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations 3, Amsterdam 1997, p. 241250; MO. p. 201-210; C. H. Becker, Christian polemic and the formation of Islamic dogma, MO. p. 241-257 (transi, of: Christliche Polemik und islamische Dogmenbildung. Zeitschrift fr Assyriologic 25. 1911, p. 175-195). See also J. Waardenburg, Muslim studies of other religions: the medieval period, in The Middle East and Europe: encounters and exchanges, ed. G. J. van Gelder and E. df: Moor. Orientations 1. Amsterdam 1992. p. 10-38: MO. p. 21 1-239.



The role of Roman and Byzantine art forms in the formation of Islamic art has also been a favourite subject, especially in the work of Oleg Grabar whose early article on the subject is included in A/?.40 Grabar argued that ultimately, what the Muslims picked out of the models they had at hand was the classical heritage rather than the specifically Byzantine forms. He focuses among other things on the Umayyad palaces, which, with their agricultural ties, their numerous buildings and their display of luxury 'resembled in many aspects Roman and late antique palace architecture rather than Byzantine' (p. 77 / 271). Still in the late sixth / early seventh century, however, there were very similar 'Byzantine' palaces in rural areas, such as the famous Apion estate in Oxyrhynchos, which though not excavated is known from documents to have possessed all the attributes of a 'late antique' palace.41 Grabar also insists on the way the borrowed forms were given new meaning, by dwelling on the example of Qusayr 'Amra - on which there has been a considera ble of work since that article, perhaps in part ignited by his remarks.42 amount Artistic exchange also needs to be understood through the wide circulation of objects of all sorts, through trade of course (pottery etc), but also through more official channels such as diplomatic gift exchange, a subject that has exploded in recent years. Bonner has kept 'diplomacy' in the 'war' section, by including Hugh Kennedy's overview of the known embassies between the two courts from the conquest to the eleventh century.43 However, much recent work, in particular by Anthony Cutler, has concentrated on the role played by these embassies in cultural transmission and exchange in the broadest sense, especially through gift exchange, which included not only objects and textiles, but also manuscripts, and thus texts.44 The ceremonial aspects of diplomatic exchange have also been studied, especially the Umayyad and Fatimid borrowings from Byzantine and Persian ceremonial. 4S

40. O. Grabar, Islamic art and Byzantium, DOP 18, 1964, p. 69-88; ABR, p. 263-293. 41 . See R. Mazza, L'archivio degli Apioni. Terra, lavoro e proprit senatoria nell'Egitto tardoantico, Munera. Studi storici sulla Tarda Antichit 17, Bari 2001, esp. the description of the residence p. 84-86. 42. See now Fowden, Qusayr 'Amra (n. 3), with further bibliography. 43. H. Kennedy, Byzantine-Arab diplomacy in the Near East from the Islamic conquests to the mid-eleventh century, in Byzantine diplomacy. Papers from the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1 990, Aldershot 1992, p. 133-43. 44. See for instance A. Cutler, Les changes de dons entre Byzance et l'Islam (ixe-xic sicles), Journal des Savants 1996, p. 51-66; id.. Imagination and documentation: eagle silks in Byzantium, the Latin West and 'Abbsid Baghdad, BZ 96, 2003, p. 69-74; id.. The emperor's old clothes. Actual and virtual vesting and the transmission of power in Byzantium and Islam', in Byzance et le monde ext rieur. Contacts, relations, changes, d. M. Balard, Byzantina Sorbonensia 21 , Paris 2005, p. 195-210; and the more economic perspective in id., Gifts and gift exchange as aspects of the Byzantine, Arab, and related economies, DOP 55, 2001, p. 247-278. See also O. Grabar, The shared culture of objects, in Byzantine court culture from 829 to 1204, ed. H. Maguire, Washington DC 1997, p. 1 15-129, and A. Shalem, Objects as carriers of real or contrived memories in a cross-cultural context, Mitteilungen zur sptantiken Archologie und byzantinischen Kunstgeschichte 4, 2005, p. 101-119. 45. O. Grabar, Notes sur les crmonies umayyades, in Studies in memory of Gaston Wiet, ed. M. Rosen-Ayalon, Jerusalem 1977, p. 51-61; M. Canard, Le crmonial ftimite et le crmonial byzantin: essai de comparaison, Byz. 21, 1 95 1 , 355-420, repr. in his Byzance et les musulmans du ProcheOrient, London 1973, no. XIV.


1 79

Lying between art and theology, the question of attitudes to images has been at the centre of much debate, bearing, to put it briefly, on the possible relation between Islamic aniconism and the development of Byzantine Iconoelasm in the wake of the conquests. The iconophile Byzantines accused their opponents of propagating Islamic - and ultimately Jewish - doctrines and practices, calling them or , and this idea was long taken for granted. Mainstream Byzantinism from the middle of the twentieth century onwards has preferred to stress the internal dynamics of Byzantine theology or of the political crisis the empir e going through, and to deny any outside influence, especially from Islam, was deemed, sometimes even explicitly, too culturally immature to be apt to influence Byzantine Christianity.46 This is a position first criticised in passing by Peter Brown in a famous article on the iconoclastic controversy,47 and systematically deconstruc ted by Patricia Crone in another famous article entitled 'Islam, Judaeo-Christianity, and Byzantine iconoelasm'. 4S Although Crone's is a detailed, nuanced and nearexhaustive examination of the subject dating back to 1980, it seems to have had no impact whatsoever, either positive or negative, on most Byzantinists writing on Iconoelasm, and one may hope that its inclusion in Bonner's volume will give it some new impetus. Beyond the specific case of Iconoelasm, Crone's article also has the merit of opening up a whole world of small religious groups functioning at the intersection of the three mainstream monotheist religions, whose impact on theological debates has been - and often still is - underestimated by many Byzantinists, who tend to adopt the view from the capital and to consider that small groups only had side effects and that Eastern Christians were now living in a diffe rentworld. One last field where cultural exchange appears is that of language. Islam arr ived in an area of largely bilingual societies, which in some cases adopted Arabic as a third language, at least for a time. This raises various questions, barely touched upon in MO, which is concerned with Islamisation but not Arabicisation. This last subject is tackled by Sebastian Richter in PEIE through the question of linguistic interference between Arabic and Coptic. Richter notes its almost total absence until the translation movement of the tenth century, except to refer to new realities such as amir or mawl.49 In the eleventh century, however, the last Coptic documentary archives show greater penetration of Arabic, even of words that might have been

46. See for instance G. Dagron, L'iconoclasme et rtablissement de l'orthodoxie (726-847). Histoire du Christianisme. IV, Evques, moines et empereurs (610-1054), d. G. Dagron. P. Riche and A. Vaichfz. Paris 1993. p. 103. 47. P. Brown. Adark-age crisis: aspects of the iconoclastic controversy, English Historic al Review 88. 1 973. p. 1 -34; repr. in his Society and the holy in late antiquity, Berkeley 1 982, p. 25 1 -30 1 . with a presen tationof the endogenic" argument p. 252-254. 48. Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 2. 1980, p. 59-95; ABR. p. 361-397; see also on this question S. H. Griffith, Images, Islam and Christian icons: a moment in the Christian/Muslim encounter in early Islamic times, in La Svrie de Byzance I 'Islam, vif-vnf sicles, ed. P. Canivet and J.-P. Rfy-Coquais. Damascus 1992. p. 121-138, and the interesting remarks in Becker, Christian polemic. MO. p. 253-257. 49. T. S. Richter, O.Crum Ad. 15 and the emergence of Arabic words in Coptic legal documents. PEIE. p. 97-114.

1 80


translated. This is a conclusion that actually fits the more general picture of the progress of Arabic in Egypt, since it was practically ignored by Egyptian Christian authors until the tenth century, contrary to their Syrian counterparts who adopted it as early as the eighth century. PEIE also contains two articles on Greek/Egyptian linguistic contact, focusing only partly on the Islamic period. Sarah Clackson's piece criticises the linguistic divisions of scholars working on a bilingual society, showing how separation of academic disciplines has brought prejudice to the study of late antique and early Islamic Egypt, and it is nicely complemented by Sofia Torallas Tovar's survey of Egyptian intrusions into the Greek of Egypt, which will be a useful instrument for further research in the field.50 Though still the products of literate members of society, papyri are in many respects sources that are closer to orality than the scholarly and redacted texts that have come down to us through the manuscript tradition, and thus allow an invaluable side glimpse into the linguist ic practices of the population. This is certainly a field in which much remains to be done. As is evident from the above, the three volumes cover a number of issues per taining to the formation of the Islamic world, and it would be unfair to complain about what is missing. Like papyrology, there are other areas that allow a new or different appreciation of these issues. For instance, epigraphy and archaeology in many ways shed light on the relations between Christians and Muslims, by revea ling existence of shared holy places in the Umayyad period,51 or of the building the of churches by Christian communities despite the much-decried prohibition contai ned the Ordinances of 'Umar';52 and important work on the numismatics of the in period has shown interesting patterns of cultural borrowing and redefinition, and has brought new insights concerning early state administration and economic history.53 As for the little-known diyrt literature, which brings to light the complex, though perhaps purely literary, interaction between Muslim elites and monastic culture, one feels it would have deserved a place in MO.54 50. S. J. Clackson, Papyrology and the utilization of Coptic sources, PEIE, p. 21-44; S. Torallas Tovar, Egyptian lexical interference in the Greek of Byzantine and early Islamic Egypt, PEIE, p. 163198. 51. See E. K. Fowden, Sharing holy places, Common knowledge 8, 2002, p. 124-146. 52. Much material in R. Schick, The Christian communities of Palestine from Byzantine to Islamic rule: a historical and archaeological study, Princeton 1995. 53. C. Foss, A Syrian coinage of Mu'awiya?, Revue numismatique 158, 2002, p. 353-365 (but see J. Johns, Archaeology and the history of early Islam: the first seventy years, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 46, 2003, p. 419-421). More generally, C. Morrisson, Le monnayage omeyyade et l'histoire administrative et conomique de la Syrie, in La Syrie de Byzance l'Islam (n. 48), p. 309-3 1 7. For a recent bibliographie survey see A. Oddy, Whither the Arab-Byzantine coina ge? review of fifty years' research, BMGS 28, 2004, p. 1 2 1 - 1 52. A 54. Though admittedly scholarly literature has tended to make too much of the 'information' on monasteries, while these are in fact treated as stereotyped settings. For instance G. Troupeau, Les cou vents chrtiens dans la littrature arabe, Nouvelle revue du Caire 1, 1975, p. 265-279, repr. in his tudes sur le christianisme arabe au Moyen ge, Aldershot 1995, no. XX. See now H. Kilpatrick, Monasteries through Muslim eyes: the diyrt books, in Christians at the heart of Islamic rule: church life and scho larship in 'Abbasid Iraq, ed. D. Thomas, History of Christian-Muslim Relations 1, Leiden 2003, p. 1937, with references to previous bibliography, and the forthcoming study by . . Fowden, The lamp and the wine flask: early Muslim interest in Christian monasticism, in Islamic crosspollinations, ed. J. Montgomery.



In a way, the need for these collections is self-evident, in that they demonstrat e how separately scholarly traditions touching upon the early Islamic world have evolved, and how useful it can be to break down those barriers. They are timely volumes, reflecting the recent surge of interest in that period, and more particularly the insistence on the cultural context within which Islam was gradually formed. Although the way to such a vision was opened some time ago, by early Islamicists like Oleg Grabar or, more polemically, Patricia Crone (and, as some articles in ABR and MO show, even before that), it has only recently entered the mainstream of 'later' late antique studies and begun touching specialists of the other religious groups involved. Hoyland's own Seeing Islam as others saw it was a landmark in this "promiscuity of approach ',^ which today should appear as an obvious necess ity anyone working in the field, and Clackson's plea in PEIE for multilingual to study of multilingual societies is here perfectly to the point. The two Variorum volumes are well-thought, the experience of the Collected Studies series having served to improve user-friendliness and to make citation of the works easier. Outside the actual reprints, copy-editing is of varying quality, most careful in MO, which contains several translated - and thus not photographically reprinted - articles, less satisfactory in ABR, which only contains one translated article. Bonner has a tendency to misquote famous titles, such as, note 90 of the introduction, 'R. Stephen Humphreys, Islamic history: a framework for interpreta tion" (1. inquiry), or, note 45, 'Robert Hoyland, Islam as others saw if (1. Seeing Islam...), which is also misdated (1995 for 1997). The listing of the entire series (p. ii of both volumes) misprints Hoyland's middle initial. A more general problem of Variorum reprints is the lack of a list of journal abbreviations, or of a reference to an external list, both for the reprinted articles (which admittedly presents a practical problem), and for the introduction or transla tions,for which it would have been easier. The difficulty becomes particularly acute in the case of volumes such as these, whose readership will go well beyond special ists each field. in Arietta Papaconstantinou Universit Paris I - CNRS (UMR 8167)

Cited n. 30: see p. 32 for the quotation.