In the absence of any real certainty about the nature and intention of the early sources that tell us the story of the early Islamic period, how can we use them? What sort of methodological approaches may we deploy to elucidate the meanings of texts, often similar in their core elements, but with divergent perspectives and intentions that cut across a range of genres? In The Rebel and the Imam in Early Islam
(Cambridge University Press, 2019), Professor Najam Haider
, Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Barnard, follows his two earlier books on Shi'ism with an exploration of the link between early Islamic historical writing and Late Antique and Classic Rhetoric. Najam seeks not to supplant positivist approaches to history with his new methodology, but rather to ask new kinds of questions relating to intention, meaning, and community.
Aaron Hagler is an assistant professor of history at Troy University.