Early Islam between Myth and History

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 110H/728CE) and the Formation of His Legacy in Classical Islamic Scholarship


This volume examines the process through which a historical character named al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī was transformed into a myth by several groups in medieval Islam. Al-Ḥasan lived in the city of Basra, southern Iraq, and was famed for his piety, which attracted to him a large number of disciples who went on to play important roles in the formation of several religious trends. The literary corpus (sayings, stories and letters) ascribed to him has been used as a window into early Islamic religious and intellectual thought. But as this study shows, this corpus was largely forged in different periods, in some cases even a thousand years after al-Ḥasan's death. It tells us more about the beliefs of those who forged the sayings, stories and letters rather than about al-Ḥasan's thought and time.

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Suleiman A. Mourad, Ph.D. (2004) in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University, is Assistant Professor of Religion at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA. He has published extensively on the images of Jesus in the Qur’ān and Islam.
"What makes Suleiman Ali Mourad’s Early Islam between Myth and History so interesting and valuable is the attention it pays to the murky space of [the] uncertain knowledge we have of the formative period of Islam. His detailed and systematic approach to uncovering errors, contradictions, biases, deceptions, and omissions in the work of medieval and modern scholars provides a model for working through the historiographical layers surrounding early Muslim figures of great symbolic importance. He succeeds in not only in presenting us with what is undoubtedly the most accurate information we have to date on the life, thought and works of al-Hasan al-Basri, but he also succeeds in critically examining the role of scholars in creating, developing, and maintaining his legacy." - Kristin Zahra Sands, in: International Journal of Middle East Studies, August 2008
"Mourad's monograph [...] is a fine and readable piece of scholarship on studying al-Hasan in the English language. It is an unmatched study with respect to its raising doubts about the authenticity of a number of essential sources generally accepted by modern scholarship as al-Hasan's works." - Saeed Zarrabi Zadeh and Jamal Malik, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung, 134.11
"[...] this book provides fascinating insights into the historical context of the mystical and theological issues in which al-Hasan's profile and authority were frequently invoked." - Mustafa Shah, in: MESA Review of Middle East Studies 43.1 (2009)
All those interested in medieval Islam, including intellectual history, Islamic religious thought (especially asceticism, mysticism and theology), intra-Muslim schisms, and historical criticism.
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