Patricia Crone, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton: "Who were the Deniers of the Afterlife in the Qur'an?"
Tue, April 27, 2010 • 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM • Art Building 1.120
The Qur'an is our only reliable source for the religious milieu in which Islam arose, but what kind of milieu was it? The Islamic tradition insists that throughout his period in Mecca, Muhammad was confronting Arabian pagans of a straightforward polytheists kind. Ten years ago it was suggested that Arabian though they may have been, the opponents were actually monotheists abusively written off as polytheists. No attempt has been made to prove or disprove this hypothesis so far, nor is it going to be easy to do so, given that the Qur'an is notoriously allusive. On top of that, the opponents seem to have been a diverse lot. This lecture will focus on a particular group among them, undoubtedly the most extreme in that its members denied the existence of life after death, and possibly even of God. What sort of beliefs might they represent and with what wider religious trends in the Near East might they be connected?