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Although scholars have long studied how Muslims authenticated and transmitted Muhammad’s sayings and practices (hadith), the story of how they interpreted and reinterpreted the meanings of hadith over the past millennium has yet to be told. Joel Blecher takes up this charge, illuminating the rich social and intellectual history of hadith commentary at three critical moments and locales: classical Andalusia, medieval Egypt, and modern India. Weaving together tales of public debates, high court rivalries, and colonial politics with analyses of ethnographic field notes and fine-grained arguments adorning the margins of manuscripts, Said the Prophet of God offers new avenues for the study of religion, history, anthropology, and law.
List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration and Conventions
I. ANDALUSIA IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE UMAYYADS
1. The Perils of Public Commentary
2. The Inner World of the Interpretive Tradition
II. EGYPT AND SYRIA UNDER THE MAMLUKS
3. For Sultans, Students, and Scholars
4. Rivalry and Revision in the Manuscript Age
5. Oratory in the Shade of the Sultan’s Garden
6. Gatekeepers of the Law
7. Mysteries of the Thresholds
8. The Art of Concision
III. EARLY MODERN INDIA AND BEYOND
9. Trustees across the Ocean: Gujarat to Deoband to Bhopal
10. Lost in Translation: Arabic to Urdu to English
Epilogue: Islamism, ISIS, and the Politics of Interpretation
Index of Names and Titles
Index of Subjects and Terms
Joel Blecher is Assistant Professor of History at George Washington University. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Oriens, and the Atlantic.
“Joel Blecher’s work is truly pioneering in calling attention to the importance of the hadith commentarial tradition for Muslim history. Said the Prophet of God is that rare ambitious work that draws on textual analysis from early and classical Arabic sources as well as anthropological fieldwork. This is a major contribution that opens new lines of inquiry and will quickly become a classic.”—Asma Sayeed, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Director of the Islamic Studies Program, University of California, Los Angeles
“This is a beautifully written book tackling one of the most important Islamic textual sources. Blecher convincingly unlocks an overlooked commentary tradition and does so in a dauntingly wide-ranging fashion. The reader is taken on a fascinating journey from Spain via Egypt to South Asia, from the ninth century to the present, and across a variety of methodological approaches. A real pleasure to read.”—Konrad Hirschler, Professor of Middle Eastern History, Institute of Islamic Studies, Free University of Berlin
“Said the Prophet of God is a first-rate monograph on a topic that has so far never been researched—the commentary tradition on hadith literature. Bridging historical periods and linguistic mediums, Blecher states that hadith is a universal Islamic phenomenon that needs global attention and a theoretical lens that looks beyond time periods and language barriers. This book makes a profound intervention in the field, opening a new research trend and becoming the starting point for any further scholarship on hadith.”—Walid Saleh, Professor of Religion, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto