Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


New documentary texts and the early Islamic state 1

a1 University of St Andrews

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This article is intended as a contribution to the debate on the nature of the early Islamic state (especially 1–70 AH/622–690 AD), as regards both its government and its ideology. It presents and discusses new documentary evidence that sheds light on these subjects and tries to advance a little further the discussion of two questions that have been particularly hotly debated in recent years. These are: whether the Muslims merely continued the administrative practices of the Byzantines and Persians or introduced innovations, and why recognizably Islamic messages do not appear in the material record before the reign of the caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (65–85 AH/685–705 AD). Finally, this article attempts to draw attention to the relative under-use of documents, whether papyri, coins, rock inscriptions or the like, and to illustrate the different ways in which they might be deployed to enhance our knowledge of this very important topic.

(Published Online September 19 2006)


1 This article began its life as a lecture given in French at the Collège de France (January 2005) at the invitation of Dr Arietta Papaconstantinou. I am immensely grateful to her for the initial impetus to write this article and for her very helpful comments during its progress. The figures are taken from Arabia Revue de Sabéologie 1, 2003, 295–8, 301, by kind permission of Professor Christian Robin and with gratitude to Dr ‘Ali al-Ghabban, gifted epigrapher and special advisor for culture and heritage in Saudi Arabia.