Information about the author:
Alexandre B. Kudelin, Academician of RAS, DSc in Philology, Professor, Scholarly Director, А.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9802-5382
This is a study of an eminent monument of the classical Arab heritage, The Life of the Prophet (al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyya) by Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150/767) – Ibn Hishām (d. 218/833 or 213/828). Traditionally viewed by scholars as a historiographical work, Sīrah is marked by outstanding artistic merit, which, as a rule, is very rarely discussed in detail. This monograph, for the first time in world’s scholarship, draws close attention not to historiographic, but to literary aspects of the work. The book probes into specifics of Sīrah linked with the development of narrative coherence, which informed a wide range of texts of medieval Arabic classics, from different historiographical works to adab literature. By honing techniques of Arab historiography and breathing new life into them, Ibn Ishaq managed to work out methods and devices helping to combine discrete narrative fragments of different origins within various compositional structures. This book studies methods and devices that support a coherent plot-driven narrative in Sīrah by considering collective isnads, time shifts, inversions, retardations, flashbacks, various combinations of direct and indirect speeches, etc. Scrutiny of crystallization of coherent narrative and of its specific features backgrounds the examination of another process — the growth of artistic function (cf. the concept of fictionality) while it was still overlapping with historical function in medieval Arab historiographic and non-historiographic prose. This study of Sīrah flashes out particular details, which assist in recreating the setting of the famous events, the vivid outer and inner characterization of people, focusing on expressive disputes, highly individualized portraiture, motivations for actions, etc. The present study makes it possible to recognize that The Life of the Prophet by Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham is a work containing a multitude of features traditional for best monuments of fine writing.
The book will be of interest to orientalists, scholars in the humanities, medievalists, and readers interested in medieval culture and literature.