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History Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences

Hijra as history and metaphor: a survey of Qur’anic and Hadith sources

By Daoud S. Casewit, 1998

A number of recent studies’ have dealt with the hijra as a central con- cept underlying a range of past and present trends in Islamic thought and action. These authors commonly interpret the notion of hijra within the prism of socioeconomic and political factors prevalent in various post-pro- phetic periods without adequate appreciation of primary-texts. While not ignoring entirely the Qur’Bn and Hadith, the remarkably complex nature of the concept of hijra as portrayed in the early sources appears to have been seriously underestimated or simply understudied. Even conceding, if only for the sake of argument, Eickelman and Piscatori’s argument that “the significance of texts derives not from their inherent centrality but from the contingent political, social and economic circumstances of those interpreting them,”3the analyst needs to be well-informed as to what these texts on the subject matter of hijra relate. Without an adequate knowl- edge of the complexity of the hijra as revealed in the primary texts, any attempt to investigate what Masud terms the “dynamicinteraction between text and social, economic and political condition^”^ ap i o n ; will at best be flawed. The present article attempts to remedy this perceived gap in the litera- ture by a thorough exploration of the multifaceted significance of the hijra as expressed in the Qur’Hn and Hadith literature.’ The discussion is di- vided into three broad sections: (1)Qur’anic precedents (2)the historical hijra and (3)the metaphorical hijra.

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