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The Genesis of Literature in Islam

From the Aural to the Read

Gregor Schoeler
Translated by Shawkat M. Toorawa

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In the beginning was the Qur'an, the first book of Islam and also the first book of Arabic literature. Occasioned by the need to understand and interpret the word of God, and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims made an inventory and study of their tradition. This involved the collection, transmission and instruction of the sacred text, of the words and deeds of Muhammad, and also of poetry, both from before and after the rise of Islam, or pre-Islamic events, indeed of all matters regarded as pertinent to the proper and scholarly study of the tradition.

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Translator's Preface
Author's Preface
1. The Oral and the Written during the Jahiliyya and Early Islam
2. The Qur'an and Qur'an 'Readers'
3. The Beginnings of Religious Scholarship in Islam: Sirah, Hadith, Tafsir
4. Literature and the Caliphal Court
5. The Turn toward Systematisation: The Tasnif Movement
6. The Birth of Linguistics and Philology
7. Books and their Readership in the Ninth Century
8. Listening to Books, or Reading Them?
Concluding Remarks: From the Aural to the Read

About the Author

Gregor Schoeler is Professor and Chair of Islamic Studies in the Orientalisches Seminar at the University of Basel. His publications include The Oral and the Written in Early Islam (2006).


A review such as this cannot do justice to the wealth of detail and useful insights contained in this book and readers are strongly recommended to read it for themselves....--the present work is clearly an important contribution to the necessary task of appreciating the co-existence and interplay of the oral and the written in early Islamic culture and how expectations about the one should not allow us to mistake or misunderstand the other.
- Yasin Dutton, University of Cape Town, Journal of Islamic Studies

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