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Abrahamic ReligionsOn the Uses and Abuses of History$
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Aaron W. Hughes

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199934645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199934645.001.0001

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On History

On History

(p.118) 6 On History
Abrahamic Religions

Aaron W. Hughes

Oxford University Press

Taxonomies that employ “Abrahamic” as their mode of comparison use an ahistorical and theological term as if it performed real historical and analytical work. Such schematization works on the assumption not only that we know what “Abrahamic religions” are, but what the three religions that comprise it denote. To show the complexity involved, two sustained examples are provided—seventh-century Arabia and tenth- and eleventh-century Muslim Spain. Rather than see “Jews,” “Christians,” and Muslims working with or against one another, we need to imagine a set of shared cultural vocabularies or semantics that various subcultures within each of the so-called religions either share or resist. Some of these subcultures may well share more with subcultures of the other two “religions” than they do with those of their own. These subgroups, whether assimilating to or fighting against this cultural semantics, ultimately define group identity in similar ways. This messiness and overlap has often been neatly dismissed, even in academic circles, using the “orthodox/heterodox” binary. Yet such binaries are usually constructed later and only imposed retroactively.

Keywords:   history, Arabian Peninsula, Mecca, Muhammad, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Muslim Spain, Moses Maimonides

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