Talk:Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Talk:Arabian mythology)
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Arab world (Rated Start-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Arab world, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the Arab world on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
 
WikiProject Mythology (Rated Start-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is supported by WikiProject Mythology. This project provides a central approach to Mythology-related subjects on Wikipedia. Please participate by editing the article, and help us assess and improve articles to good and 1.0 standards, or visit the WikiProject page for more details.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
 
WikiProject Islam (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Islam, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Islam-related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
 
WikiProject Ancient Near East (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Ancient Near East, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Ancient Near East related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
 
WikiProject Religion (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Religion, a project to improve Wikipedia's articles on Religion-related subjects. Please participate by editing the article, and help us assess and improve articles to good and 1.0 standards, or visit the wikiproject page for more details.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
 

Allat's image[edit]

I see the image of Allat in "Religion in Mecca" saying it is from Taif. However I'm unable to confirm it at all if this image is what it is described as in the caption and details of the image. The website from which this image has been taken is dead. And I'm unable to find any reliable website on Google that contains this image and tells where it is from. As far as Taif goes, Allat's dhrine in Taif was destroyed. If this Bas-relief is really from Taif then that means there must have been some sort of ruins of the shrine at Taif which there isn't. John F. Healey and Venetia Porter describe on page number 107 of their book "Studies on Arabia in Honour of G. Rex Smith" that The formal archaeological surveys and investigations that have taken place so far in Saudi Arabia are silent on the pagan temples that the Prophet ordered destroyed in al-Hijaz and Najd. I think there is considerable amount of doubt for this Allat image as it's original source does not seem to be known. KahnJohn27 (talk) 17:30, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Nice as the image is, its caption does seem to be flaky. I looked through all instances of the image turned up by Google's image search, and none of them is on a reliable site. I propose replacing it by the old drawing of Kaaba's black stone shown here. Msubotin (talk) 15:28, 28 November 2015 (UTC)

Sources[edit]

Taking a step back, I decided to understand the nature of the sources we are dealing with. Donner's article in the Cambridge Companion was very helpful in this regard. Hawting's book is quite influential, with about a dozen journal reviews. But it is written for the specialist, and it has been hard for me to get a grip on it. Having read some of the reviews, I now see that Hawting bases his analysis directly on the text of Quran, and finds that the people that Quran calls polytheists are in fact monotheists that are imperfect from Quran's point of view. Accordingly, I have added a section on Sources prefacing the whole discussion. Given the uncertainty surrounding the whole subject, I don't think there is too much point in debating what is "true" or "factual." We simply have no idea. So, we should just report the multiple points of view, and let the readers make up their own mind. - Kautilya3 (talk) 21:13, 24 November 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for the good start. I've moved it under Mecca, because it doesn't really apply to the sections on other regions, whose history depends primarily on other evidence. I will try to integrate it with the Humphrey digest I made above. We want to alert the reader to the controversies in the field rather than simply discussing skeptical views, which would be WP:UNDUE. Msubotin (talk) 21:25, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
@Msubotin: @Kautilya3: Good to see something meaningful and of real value and relevance added to this article. From a short look it looks a fine piece. Good job guys. KahnJohn27 (talk) 21:41, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Thank you, KahnJohn27. I'm sure it's been exhausting for all involved and I'm glad that it looks like a way forward. Msubotin (talk) 21:50, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Looks good but I've got a couple of questions on it. It is Mecca specific, right? The opening sentence is "The majority of our information about the pre-Islamic religion in Arabia comes from the text of Quran itself and the literature dealing with the biography of the prophet Mohammad." That seems broader than Mecca. Also, next citation is page 23 of Donner but I can't see anything in the cited page that supports that statement. I don't think it's true either. The Quran has very little on the south and east which comes from other quite rich sources (including in relation to Nestorianism as well as southern paganism). I think it should probably be amended to refer to Mecca or the Hejaz. Also minor point: we've got Berkey making the same point twice in that section and in the background section (not much known on polytheism generally). I think there's probably some rationalisation to be done between the background section and the sources section, but I'm not quite sure what goes where. DeCausa (talk) 22:35, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it looks like Donner's discussion may have been stretched a little beyond its intended scope. Let me read it in full and then try integrating it with Humphrey. On the second thought, I think the discussion in Sources should be appended to Background, specifying that it refers to Mecca. I went ahead and moved it together with the additional information. Msubotin (talk) 22:43, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Indeed, Meccan is probably the right interpretation. Donner is talking about "Quran's historical context" on p.23. The text of Quran is not mentioned on this page, but it is talked about later in relation to Hawting. Berkey can also be added of course.
On the subject of integration, I think the remark about Crone and Cook should also be integrated into this section. - Kautilya3 (talk) 23:05, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Donner also wrote a review of Hawting here[1] where he says another possibility is that the Meccans might have been "converted" to a monotheistic religion by the time of Mohammad. It seems a bit far-fetched, but there could have been a significant monotheistic element in Meccan beliefs of the time (coming from Judaism or Christianity or both). - Kautilya3 (talk) 23:10, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
I would suggest putting Hawting's theory and other positive statements about religion in Mecca into the main narrative (currently "Interpretation"), perhaps at the end of it, following the more traditional reading of sources. Msubotin (talk) 23:38, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Sorry, I don't like this edit. Hawting's view has found widespread acceptance among scholars. Moreover, it comes directly from the analysis of Quran, overriding the unreliable tradition. So there is no way than we can give the tradition priority.
The Donner's point in the review is just a theory. So we can't mention that at all. We are also not mentioning the other part of Hawting's analysis that Quran itself was set in Syria/Iraq, because it did not find acceptance by scholars. We report views that have scholarly consensus, not every view mentioned by everybody. - Kautilya3 (talk) 00:20, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Could you point me to discussion of acceptance of Hawting's view? As far as I can tell, the reliability of tradition for this period is a matter of continued controversy with no consensus in the field. It's very hard for a non-specialist to judge these things without WP:OR, because scholars in all fields share a natural human tendency to trump up the level of acceptance of the views they personally agree with. One thing I like about Humphreys is that he seems to bend over backwards to be fair and has good things to say about works promoting diametrically opposing views. Msubotin (talk) 00:41, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
I don't think anybody is defending the tradition. The fact that it was composed 150 years after the fact immediately makes it unreliable. The only people peddling it are the scholars of Islam. Among the historians, it seems to have been discredited a long time ago. Note how Donner explicitly marks as it as the "tradition" in his review article.
The Hawting view is cited by Donner in his review article, which means it is accepted. You can read the Bulletin of SOAS article that I cited, which is in fact a preface to a special issue dedicated to Hawting. It mentions a dozen reviews of the Hawting's book.
WP:OR means writing one's views on Wikipedia. Assessing scholarly sources and scholarly consensus is not OR. That is something we are expected to do.- Kautilya3 (talk) 01:02, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Ok, can you share your experience of how this has been (successfully) done on Wikipedia in other matters of scholarly controversy? What criteria are we supposed to use as non-specialists to gauge the level of acceptance for this or that view? Do we track down a sample of reviews of Hawting's work and tally the yea's and the nay's? Msubotin (talk) 01:10, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
We can do that. But remember that consensus does not mean a tally. You are expected to assess the sources. For example, a review article titled "Historical context" in a volume titled "Cambridge Companion" gets very high points. This is the about highest quality source you can imagine. You cannot count it the same as some unknown scholar writing in some cornerplace journal. So it will be quite labour-intensive if you want to look at all the sources and figure out the consensus. But looking at a sample of reviews is not a bad idea.
You ask what criteria we should use. The quality of the journal, the quality of the reviewer, the specialism of the reviewer and the view itself that has been expressed and the depth of the analysis. And you should remember that we are dealing with history, the qualified reliable sources are described in WP:HISTRS. Most Islamic scholars that you have been using here probably don't qualify. - Kautilya3 (talk) 01:37, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
I missed two paragraphs starting with "I don't think..." That argument sounds circular to me. The scholars of early Islamic sources are the only ones who are qualified to assess reliability of early Islamic sources, based on their knowledge of them, together with other available evidence (very skimpy in this case). As I hope the digest of Humphrey makes clear, the situation is more complex than that. The sources achieved their "definitive form" one or two centuries after the fact. They were based on other sources written down earlier (scholars don't agree when), and those earlier sources recorded an oral tradition with attribution chains (scholars don't agree how authentic, either the tradition or the chains, which are two different assessments). Anyway, it's fun to discuss this, but it may be too much talk for the minor content dispute that we're having here. Let me read some more stuff and work on the text. Msubotin (talk) 02:12, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Donner seems to be in the skeptical camp himself, but his assessment of the field seems to agree with Humphreys in general outlines: "The issues raised by these recent skeptical writers and their critical predecessors have yet to be definitively resolved by scholars of the Qur'an. There is evidence to support the contention that some reports of the sira literature are of dubious validity... On the other hand, there is evidence to support the contention that the sira narratives originated independently of the Qur'an.... Scholars differ greatly in their judgements about the degree to which these characteristics undermine the historical reliability of the sira literature, some rejecting its testimony almost completely, others feeling that the main outlines of the sira are probably authentic. But... there is as yet no generally accepted and foolproof method for distinguishing what might be true from what might be false." That hardly sounds to me like a consensus to dismiss Muslim historiography and replace it with inferences from other sources. Msubotin (talk) 03:47, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Donner might be in the skeptical camp, but this is a review article that is trying to document the contemporary scholarly consensus (or the lack of it). Even if he is a skeptic, he gave a detailed account of the tradition, clearly labelling it as such. That is scholarly WP:NPOV. We should do the same. We could follow his presentation style, for example, with a section called traditional account, and another called contemporary analysis. To do that, we would need to know precisely which of our sources are documenting tradition and which are contesting it. Instead, I followed the approach of writing a short preface, which castes sufficient doubt on the tradition ahead of time so that the reader can keep it in mind. Your edit basically killed its purpose. - Kautilya3 (talk) 09:48, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Sorry, I'm not sure which part of my edit(s) you're referring to. The background section seems to cast plenty of doubt (I would still like to expand it a bit to better reflect the assessments by Humphreys and Donner above). I agree that the presentation of material in the Mecca section could be clearer (some statements that seem to come only from the book of Idols are labeled as such, while others, of apparently similar nature are sourced from elsewhere), but much of it -- and I'm not exactly sure how much -- does not reflect a traditional Islamic account but rather modern scholarly views. Even when the two rely on the same sources, they often interpret them differently. We can't even present a single "traditional" account because the medieval Islamic tradition itself is full of scholarly controversy. I'm trying to give different modern interpretations of source material a voice while avoiding WP:UNDUE in discussion of methodological issues. Msubotin (talk) 13:12, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
This [1] is the edit you mentioned above. You can't move it out because it is the only one listed that bases its analysis on Quran. Donner's endnote 4 makes clear that Montgomery Watt and F. E. Peters are basing their analysis on the Sira literature. Incidentally, I am not sure why the reference to Sira literature has been removed. It is used throughout the article of Donner. - Kautilya3 (talk) 18:19, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
I disagree about the placement of this passage, but I don't feel strongly about it. If you do, I would be ok with moving it back. You're right about "sira". When I looked at the literature he cites in a footnote, I realized that he uses the word in the usual way (the exclusion of hadith apparently reflects the tendency to give more credence to sira works than hadith among Western scholars, contrary to the tendency in traditional Muslim historiography), so I was going to put it back when I expanded this paragraph. Msubotin (talk) 18:39, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
I'm done with my expansion. I've dropped the Hawting ref because I don't have access to that page to check whether it agrees with the new phrasing. Msubotin (talk) 00:35, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
I've re-added the theory about Mecca being already Christian, properly attributed, based on Donner's assessment that it's a better hypothesis than the one proposed by Hawting. One thing I've noticed in the review is that Donner seems unconvinced by Hawting's argument about unreliability of The Book of Idols (aka Kitab al-asnam). Msubotin (talk) 02:06, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Self-revert. Seems like a work with very low acceptance and based on details like in this review [[2]] not of very good quality. Msubotin (talk) 02:46, 26 November 2015 (UTC)

New account notice[edit]

Since I've taken part in some heated discussion on this page, I'm making this extra step of noting my privacy-related move a new account: msubotin -> Eperoton (talk) 21:14, 28 November 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Donner, Fred M. (2001), "Review of "The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History" by G. R. Hawting", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 121 (2): 336–338, JSTOR 606608