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Ian D. Morris Jul 27
Replying to @iandavidmorris
1) Such numbers are generally exaggerated. 2) Mecca was a net importer of food. 3) Not all soldiers with Meccan/Qurashi allegiance were necessarily resident in Mecca itself.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 27
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson does not accept that cult images from “multiple religions” should have been kept together at the Ka‘bah. He speculates that they were gathered after an earthquake (in Petra): dug out of the rubble and stored in a central public place.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 27
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Of course, there’s no need to imagine “multiple religions” operating here: syncretism is a thing, and it’s not altogether strange for people to revere (say) Jesus and Mary *alongside* local gods or spirits.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 27
Replying to @iandavidmorris
It’s odd that the Arabic tradition’s (late, hostile, and not altogether coherent) portrayal of the Meccan cult is basically trustworthy, in Gibson’s reading.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 27
Replying to @iandavidmorris
There’s more, but I really need to say this now: If you read Gibson and think he sounds reasonable, you are being duped. His arguments are very, very poor. Perhaps you don’t notice how poor they are, because you don’t have the training that specialists have: so I’m telling you.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 28
Replying to @iandavidmorris
This is weird: Gibson doubts that Mecca could have been subject to blockade. (You don’t have to fully encircle a city: patrols and signals can help to intercept supplies and counter raids.)
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Ian D. Morris Jul 28
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson understands this passage to mean that the journey from Mecca to Damascus took less than 40 days. If anything, I think the opposite is implied: the Umayyads in Mecca were too late to meet him. But in any case, 40 is a topos: see Conrad’s article
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Ian D. Morris Jul 28
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson: ”This passage does not tell us where the new Ka’ba was constructed.” Tabari: “Ziyād ibn Jiyal told me he was in Mecca on the day when Ibn al-Zubayr was overcome… They re-established it on its foundation and Ibn al Zubayr rebuilt it”
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Ian D. Morris Jul 28
Replying to @iandavidmorris
I’ll leave it to the palaeographers to say whether Surah 2 has survived in the earliest manuscripts, but let’s keep some perspective: those manuscripts are fragmentary.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 28
Replying to @iandavidmorris
I mean, Surah 2 *is* in manuscripts that have been provisionally dated to the latter half of the 7th century; if Gibson’s demanding *non-Uthmanic* variants, which are vanishingly rare, he’s really setting an arbitrarily high standard of evidence.
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Ian D. Morris
Gibson: “The Nabataeans and Edomites were both descendants of Abraham, and so they had a monotheistic background and were reluctant to put human characteristics onto gods” 😐
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson: ”In the massive collections of writing produced by Abbāsid authorsbetween [sic] 750 - 950 AD (132 - 340 AH) the writers seldom mention the city of Mecca” HOLD UP
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
The ABBASID writers SELDOM MENTION Mecca?!
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Anyway, Gibson goes on to cite Khalid b. al-Walid’s impossibly quick pilgrimage as evidence that he must have gone to Petra, not Mecca; but of course the unlikely speed of the pilgrimage is the very reason the anecdote is told. (Gibson has a profoundly literal habit of reading.)
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
“Trebuchet stones”? No citation; no way to confirm anything about this.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
“Is it any wonder that a mosque was built in Canton China (modern Guangzhou) while Muḥammad was still alive?” Why, yes. So much so that it didn’t happen.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
He cites this Huaisheng Mosque elsewhere, seemingly unaware that its claim to the seventh century isn’t taken remotely seriously.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson: “there was also a literary vacuum in the early Muslim empire created by zealous Muslims who destroyed books and manuscripts, erased inscriptions, burned libraries and destroyed all literature except Islamic writings” This is a breathtaking overstatement.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
“One can only surmise that the city of Petra is today bereft of all inscriptions because of the actions of zealous Muslims during Yazīd’s reign.” Evidence of targeted vandalism might help this case.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson, on the dearth of early Qur’an manuscripts, cites scholarship from the 1970s. But things have improved: he’s just not kept up.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson: Ibn Hisham, Bukhari, Tabari and Yaqut “are responsible for the bulk of Islamic history that has come down to us today.” He knows embarrassingly little about our sources.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Ibn Hisham “begins the practice of editing past writings”, says Gibson, much to my surprise.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE SO VERY TIRED
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Ian D. Morris Jul 29
Replying to @iandavidmorris
“Muḥammad met some of the tribe of Anṣār (Quraysh in Medina)” ?!?!
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Ian D. Morris Jul 30
Replying to @iandavidmorris
A former follower of Mukhtar tells the Zubayrids: “we are people who turn to the same qiblah as you”. Gibson understands this to mean that there were two qiblas. The point, however, is simply that both sides are Muslims, part of the same ‘people’, who may therefore be reconciled.
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Ian D. Morris Jul 30
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson also seems to think that the Ibn al-Zubayr in this passage is ‘Abd Allah, the self-declared caliph; in fact it’s Mus‘ab, his brother.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
This is really egregious: Gibson totally misrepresents this chart, which is about Chinese contacts with ‘Western’ powers. The first 2 regard Parthia (ānxī 安息). Others involve the Roman Empire (dàqín 大秦). Needham’s treatment of “Chinese-Arab” contacts is entirely post-Islamic.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
For the bold of heart, here’s Needham.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson further cites an envoy from “Arabia” as evidence for contact with China. But his own source, John E. Hill, says not Arabia but Egypt: literally Sea-West (hǎixī 海西), i.e. west of the Red Sea.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
”Joseph Needham argues in his three volume series Science and Civilisation in China (Needham, 1959) that celestial navigation was developed simultaneously by the Chinese and the Arabs.” There are considerably more than three volumes. Gibson does not show where this is argued.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson’s trying to argue that Chinese “celestial navigation” was borrowed from the Nabataeans. This would imply that the earliest (Petraean) Muslims had access to decent navigation for the purposes of establishing an accurate qiblah. But he simply doesn’t have the evidence.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson says that the Nabataeans determined latitude from the North Star. Again, no citation. But as a rough measurement of latitude, yeah, anyone *could have* done it.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Longitude is more of a problem. As Gibson says, it can be measured by distance walked. (This is highly imprecise, which is partly why ancient maps look all squashed and stretched.)
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
But Gibson wants a fairly precise longitude for his qiblah’s sake, so he makes the gobsmacking, unsourced assertion that the ancient Arabs used the rhythm of poetry to count their steps.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Gibson believes that al-Masjid al-Aqsa in the Qur’an refers to a mosque in Ji‘rānah, near Mecca. His source appears to be a television show by a Coptic priest. There is a long literature on this question, going back to Alfred Guillaume in 1953, but Gibson hasn’t done the reading.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @iandavidmorris
(The identity of al-Masjid al-Aqsa remains an open question, by the way. Gibson is right about that, despite his odd choice of source.)
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Ian D. Morris Oct 25
Replying to @PublicMedieval
Al-Shām is Greater Syria. Jerusalem is unambiguously in al-Shām. (On the name, see my old piece for : ) Gibson is speculating out of his depth.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 26
Replying to @PublicMedieval
Right. I’ve been avoiding chapter 18 on qiblahs because Gibson went on to self-publish another book on ‘Early Islamic Qiblas’, and I didn’t want to miss anything important. Looking at this companion piece, I don’t think there’s much to miss.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 26
Replying to @PublicMedieval
While he amasses more examples of mosques, his interpretive claims seem to be mostly lifted from ‘Qur’ānic Geography’, including mistakes on which I’ve already commented.
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Ian D. Morris Oct 26
Replying to @PublicMedieval
While I’m certainly a more competent historian than Gibson, I’m not specifically a historian of science, so the following comments are informed by David A. King’s scathing reviews: and
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Ian D. Morris Oct 26
Replying to @PublicMedieval
Gibson claims three stages for the qiblah: 1) All mosques pointed to Petra for the first century of Islam. 2) The second century was a “time of confusion” when some pointed to Mecca, others between Mecca and Petra, and still others were aligned parallel to the line between them.
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