Narrating Muḥammad's Night Journey
Tracing the Development of the Ibn ʿAbbās Ascension Discourse
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Discusses the historical development of the well-loved story of the Prophet Muhammad’s night journey to the divine realm and back again.
This book provides an exhaustive examination of the historical development of a key story in the life of Muḥammad, the tale told of his journey to the divine realm and back. It shows how in the early centuries of the Islamic community, both Sunnī and Shī'ī Muslims appropriated this fascinating story and interpreted it to suit their own ends. In particular, the book traces the development of a critical and influential strand of this rich ascension literature ascribed to one of Muḥammad's famous companions, the scholar known as Ibn ʿAbbās. Frederick S. Colby demonstrates that this version of the tale originated in the early period and spread throughout the Islamic world, affecting how people from Spain to Afghanistan came to think about Muḥammad and his legacy. Colby also includes translations of richly textured ascension narratives that have never before appeared in English.
Frederick S. Colby is Associate Professor of Comparative Religion at Miami University in Ohio. He edited and translated The Subtleties of the Ascension: Early Mystical Sayings on Muhammad's Heavenly Journey, by the famous mystic Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulamī.
"…this is a valuable book … It is also a mine of data culled from an impressive range of well-documented sources." — American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
"The author's tracing and analysis of the historical permutations and reinvestments of this version of the narrative are based on an impressive array of sources, and demonstrate his mastery of the Islamic textual tradition in a happy marriage with theoretical considerations in religious studies, especially those concerning orality, orthodoxy, and textual permutation … The excellent translations of an early version of the Ibn 'Abbas narrative and a later influential version attributed to Abu-l Hassan Bakri are real gems." — CHOICE
"Muhammad's heavenly ascension is without doubt one of the most central topoi in Islamic thought, practice, and piety, and as a superb historical analysis of its development through the prism of Ibn 'Abbas's recension, this book fills a major void in scholarship. Equally significant is the work's methodological sophistication, which makes it a clear model in the study of major themes in Islamic religious history." — Ahmet T. Karamustafa, author of Sufism: The Formative Period
"This is a very important subject that will be of interest to all serious students of premodern Islam." — Marion Holmes Katz, author of Body of Text: The Emergence of the Sunnī Law of Ritual Purity