Arabic Papyri for the Early Islamic Period, Seventh Century


ACLS Fellowship Program


Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations


The narrative of the origins of Islam in the seventh century as described in Islamic traditional sources long served as the basis for Western scholarly and popular views. However, recent work has shown that these sources are unreliable; they are all from much later and present an idealized retrospective picture, rather than an accurate historical account. A clear view of how Islam began must rest on seventh-century documents, but such documents are very few. This project is an edition, with translation and commentary, of early Arabic papyri from the Austrian National Library that on paleographical grounds can be dated to the seventh century. It also involves a search for additional early Arabic papyri in the collection of the Berlin State Museum, now accessible to scholars after a hiatus of more than 70 years.