2013年11月23日 星期六

書評:先知的死亡 (The Death of a Prophet)作者: Stephen Shoemaker

書評人蘇怡文(Su I-Wen)
科系伊斯蘭與中東研究 (Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies) 博士生
研究興趣Islamic historiography, early Islamic history, Arabic literature

編者蘇怡文評論這本「先知的死亡」The Death of a Prophet。穆斯林認為先知穆罕默德於西元632年過世。不過該書的作者Stephen Shoemaker以早期非穆斯林的資料為主,並引用少數穆斯林資料作為旁證,駁斥上述的說法。作者認為穆罕默德其實不是死於632年,在634635年期間,反而帶領穆斯林征服巴勒斯坦。


此類論述以P. CroneM. CookHagarism為代表。此書以非穆斯林/阿拉伯語史料來解讀早期伊斯蘭歷史,認為伊斯蘭最初階段並不如後來穆斯林史料所言的如此具體,具有詳細的儀式與獨立身分,而是代有末世論(eschatological)性質的一神信仰,沒有嚴謹區別穆斯林、基督徒與猶太教徒。
抱持同樣觀點來解析伊斯蘭擴張的作品如F. M. Donner的著作「穆罕默德與信徒:伊斯蘭的起源」(Muhammad and the believers : at the origins of Islam)。然而,這些懷疑論觀點並非被所有學者接受。懷疑論的論述經常被抨擊之處在於全然否定穆斯林史料的真實性。R. B. Serjeant(這需要再確認)批評Hagarism非穆斯林比穆斯林還能理解伊斯蘭的歷史嗎?
Book Review
In this book, Shoemaker observes that the non-Muslim sources unanimously indicate the involvement of Prophet Muhammad in the military campaign in Palestine. Such an indication means that the year of his death would be 634, the time of Islamic conquest of Palestine, which contradicts the traditionally assumed year of death, 632, according to Muslim sources. The contradictory traditions regarding the death of Prophet Muhammad, as Shoemaker argues, reflect the ideological transformation of Islam from a non-sectarian monotheist community closely linked with the eschatological faith to “an imperial faith whose confessional identity was grounded in Arab identity and a distinctively Islamic holy land in the Hijaz ”. Shoemaker seeks to determine if Muhammad’s participation in the invasion of Palestine might have comported with the beliefs of the earliest Believers.
In the first chapter of the book, Shoemaker examines the non-Muslim sources, comprising ten Christian and Jewish chronicles and an alleged letter form the Caliph ‘Umar II to Byzantine emperor Leo III. Among these sources, four of them date back to the seventh century, earlier than the earliest extant Muslim tradition, Ibn Ishaq’s Sira. Shoemaker evaluates the reliability of these sources by the criterion proposed by Robert Hoylan, which asks the source of the observation, its character and its subject. Nevertheless, to what extend Hoyland’s criterion can be valid is not known. Assuming that it is qualified, it seems that Shoemaker sometimes accredits the sources more than they deserve and overly emphasized their testimony of Muhammad’s presence in the conquest, while some of them are not free from doubt. Chronological Charts by Jacob of Edessa is one example, where Shoemaker tries to interpret the raids in “the Arabs began to make raids in the land of Palestine ” as the initial phase of the Islamic conquest. However, based on the text and the chronology, such a statement is unconvincing.
When addressing the chronicle of Theophilus, Shoemaker’s confidence on the contents of Chronicle 1234 and Chronicle of Siirt is sanguine, as he concludes that “Theophilus has perhaps here also combined two separate traditions about Muhammad’s relation to the Near Easter conquest: one reporting his direct involvement, as indicated in the first section, and the second that remembered Muhammad as remaining behind, sending forth his followers instead to assault the Roman and Persian empires”. Based on his critical approach to the Muslim sources in the following chapter, it appears that his evaluation on the lost work of Theophilus is uncritical and partial.
Shoemaker adopts a skeptical attitude to address the Muslim sources on the death of Muhammad. He first identifies the main sources and then points out the inherent problems of them, including the forgery, chronology, and reliability of isnad. Shoemaker reviews the previous studies on isnad, discussing the views of Goldziher, Schacht, Cook and Crone, and criticizing the isnad-critical approach of Motziki. His skepticism towards the credibility of Muslim traditions and urgent dismissal of any possible historical facticity within them lead him to misunderstand the recent studies made by Görke and Schoeler, charging that their “claims that ‘Urwa may be identified as the author of a significant corpus of sira are not especially persuasive”. Nonetheless, their research only implies that the isnads date back to ‘Urwa as the common source, never claiming him as the author, as they have responded Shoemaker’s charge in a recent article.[1]
In addition to this, he seems too affirmative as excluding the Muslim traditions from the domain of truth, when asserting “Ibn Ishaq’s hagiography of Muhammad presents a mythical portrait of Muhammad that is quite removed from the actual events of the early seventh century, whatever they may have been”. Yet, whether there is a historical kernel within ibn Ishaq’s narratives cannot be known.
In the second half, Shoemaker argues that Muhammad’s biography, revised by the Muslim sources, presents a vision different from the original one indicated by the exterior sources. Based on the contentions of Fred Donner, he suggests that Muhammad might have initiated his preach with a strong eschatological notion, expecting the Hour to happen in the imminent future, possibly within his lifetime. The messianic movement of Muhammad was accepted by other monotheist groups, especially Jews, who are depicted as troublemakers denying the prophecy of Muhammad in the later Muslim traditions, and this could be testified by The Secrets of Rabbi Shim‘on b. Yahai, which identifies Muhammad as the fulfillment of Jewish messianic hopes. With the death of Muhammad and delaying of the Hour, the first followers had to reinvent the primitive doctrines and reinterpret the past to justify their present needs. Against this background, Shoemaker explains Muhammad presence in the invasion of Palestine as the earlier view of Muslims, who would see his leadership in the military campaign a symbol of the eschatological religious movement focusing on Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Such a view was abrogated when the doctrinal focus was reoriented from Jerusalem to Hijaz, especially Mecca and Medina, where Muhammad died according to the revised Muslim viewpoint.
Shoemaker’s work is not of much novelty. He is simply reproducing the previous arguments of Hoyland, Cook and Crone in the first half of the book and Donner in the second part. The original contribution is that he recognizes the unanimity of the exterior sources regarding Muhammad’s engagement in the conquest, and endeavors to reveal a different perspective of the origin of Islam through the divergent sources. This approach seems promising, but Shoemaker fails to develop a sufficient link between the divergent views on the death of Muhammad and the background of the ideological and doctrinal transformations. He explains the reason why Muhammad must die in Medina before the conquest or without direct involvement as a consequence of the earliest biographical traditions of the Prophet developed in Medina. Therefore, the biographies are colored by local boosterism  However, this explanation is not convincing. That Muhammad died in the way of conquest does not contradict the attempts to reinforce the position of Mecca or Medina in the first place, and second, as the most of Maghazi has confirmed his role as a military leader, a Muhammad saga in the conquest of Holy Land sounds reasonable. If relocating Muhammad’s death in Medina is a later attempt to secure the status of Hijaz in the Muslim community while his real death happened outside, there is no narrative tension within the Muslim traditions as it is found in the section about Abu Bakr’s speech after Muhammad’s death.   
Another problem with Shoemaker’s methodology is his arbitrary use of the Muslim sources. First, he strongly rejects any possible approach to confirm their authenticity, but when a certain hadith favors his argument, it is endowed with reliability. The order of Muhammad recorded in a number of sources including Ibn Sa‘d’s Tabaqat, saying “Nay, a booth like the booth of Moses: thuman and wood, because the affair [al-amr] will happen sooner than that” should be genuine because it “is extremely unlikely that believers in later generations would invent such a tradition and ascribe it to Muhammad, since it was so patently contradicted by the passing of time ”, according to Shoemaker. Even though the observation of Kister, who suggests that this hadith accurately reflects the eschatological perspective, is somehow persuasive, the sentence can still be understood in a rhetorical sense, by which Muslims are reminded of the transience of this life (al-dunya).
Likewise in his discussion on the report on the reaction of Muslims after Muhammad’s death Shoemaker accepts the reliability of the part where ‘Umar refused to believe Muhammad’s death and persisted that he had just gone and hidden, and like Mose shall return after forty days, while asserted the words of Abu Bakr and his recitation of Quranic verse (3:144) as later interpolations in the revised traditions. After Abu Bakr soothed the crowd and recited the verse, according to Ibn Ishaq and al-Tabari, people did not know the verse before, and they learn it from Abu Bakr. Judging from the context, the verse seems to be inserted later, as Shoemaker suggests. Nevertheless, ‘Umar’s reaction may not testify the fact that most early Muslims expected the Hour within the lifetime of their Prophet, since this discourse could simply be used to dramatize the story. Without a criterion for evaluating the Muslim traditions, it seems that Shoemaker randomly manipulates these sources to support or refute an argument.
To argue that the verse (3:144) is later interpolated, Shoemaker resorts to Casanova’s theory on the collection of Quran, suggesting that Quranic texts were fixed during the reign of ‘Abd al-Malik, while the formation time of Quran is still under debate. Even if Casanova’s theory is lent to credibility, Shoemaker does not show any consistent standard in deciding which verse is later interpolated and which is early fixed.
As a whole, Shoemaker’s work is not without provoking arguments synthesized from the secondary sources, but overstates the reliability of the exterior sources and lacks an impartial method to assess the traditional sources.

[1] A. Görke, H. Motzki and G. Schoeler, “First Century Sources for the Life of Muhammad,” Der Islam 89(2012), 2-59.