Prosopographical approaches to the nasab tradition : a study of marriage and concubinage in the tribe of Muḥammad, 500-750 CE
Robinson, Majied John
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This thesis will demonstrate how prosopographical methods can be used to provide a narrative of social change for the Quraysh tribe of Late Antiquity. By applying these methods to records of their marriage behaviour, it will be shown that the pre-Islamic Quraysh led a far more marginal existence than is widely thought, and that in the post- Islamic period they were surprisingly flexible with regard to their marriage practices and ideas on group membership. The first three chapters focus on historiography and methodology. Chapter One introduces the methodological preliminaries that lie at the heart of this research; these concern the nature of the data, the manner in which it is extracted and the way it will be structured within databases. Issues regarding the quality and reliability of the marital records as preserved in the nasab (tr: genealogical) literary tradition are also discussed in this section. Chapter Two provides a historiography of the nasab tradition, paying particular attention to the nature of its emergence and the possible effects of social and cultural contexts on the quality of the marriage data. This provides the groundwork for Chapter Three which focuses more narrowly on the work from which most of our data are extracted – the Nasab Quraysh of al-Zubayrī (d. 851). The remaining five chapters outline how the data within the nasab tradition can be analysed and incorporated into existing secondary scholarship. Chapters Four and Five establish that the data show a rapid rise in concubinage at the same time as the Arab military conquests of the seventh century. This has implications for our current consensus on the nature of marriage and identity in the seventh and eighth centuries. Chapters Six to Eight investigate the marriages made by the Quraysh to Arab women in the sixth to eighth centuries, and will show how practice adapted to context. To conclude, it will be argued that this investigation not only establishes the high quality of the marriage data as preserved in the nasab tradition, but also the enormous potential of prosopographical methods when applied to the study of early Islamic history.