“This is what was related in the tash'ith”: Muslim historians’ use(s) of Syriac hagiography

By Reyhan Durmaz
Submitted to Session P4733 (Old Texts, New Methods: Innovative Methodologies for Medieval History, 2017 Annual Meeting
All Middle East; Anatolia; Fertile Crescent; Islamic World;
7th-13th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Syriac hagiography constituted a significant literary source for Muslim historians in antiquity. Some referred to them as sources of historical information, while others utilized them as archives of rhetorical themes and topoi; and yet others embedded stories of Christian saints within their texts to redefine and expand the contours of the Muslim community. This paper revisits the writings of three Muslim authors, namely, Ibn Ishaq (8th c.), al-Tabari (10th c.) and Ibn al-Azraq (12th c.), with regard to the ways in which they appear to have made use of Christian saints’ stories and Syriac hagiography in general. The primary aim of my paper is to take the scholarly discussion out of the discourse of impact and influence, and bring a nuanced understanding of the various literary roles Syriac hagiography played in Islamic literature. Secondly, I would like to show, as a small number of scholars pointed out heretofore, the impact of Islamic literature on the expansion and transmission of Christian saints’ dossiers across time, languages and religious boundaries, through the active agency of Muslim authors.