Early Muslims and Peoples of the Book

Authored by: Fred M. Donner

Routledge Handbook on Early Islam

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138821187
eBook ISBN: 9781315743462
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter will deal with relations between the early Muslims and those who are designated in the Qur??n as “Peoples of the Book” (ahl al-kit?b) – generally understood to mean Jews, Christians, and sometimes adherents of some other religious confessions, including Zoroastrians. Our chapter title is somewhat problematic. Contemporary documents from the seventh century CE show that the community founded by Mu?ammad (d. 632 CE according to tradition) did not refer to its members as “Muslims,” or refer to its religion as “Isl?m,” until around 700 CE; nor are the members of Mu?ammad’s movement called “Muslims” in surviving contemporary sources from outside the community (mainly, Christian sources written in Syriac, Greek, Coptic, or Armenian). For this reason, the present chapter will refer to the followers of Mu?ammad as “Believers” (mu?min?n), the term that predominates in the Qur??n and is what, at first, they seem to have called themselves; likewise, when dealing with the seventh century CE, it will refer to the “community of Believers” (see Donner 2002–2003; Donner 2010).

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