Attachment to the Prophet in Islam
Attachment to the Prophet is shared by all the different individuals, groups and communities which define themselves as Muslims, whether Sunnī or Shīʿī, whether attached to the letter or rather the spirit of Islam, whether proponents of Islamic reform or secular Muslims. As a focus for personal emulation and normative precedence and as a source of hope for salvation, cultural pride and empowerment, the Prophet of Islam continues his presence among the Muslim believers. This includes eschatological beliefs about him which connect the beginnings of Islam (and for some also the origin oft he whole created world) with the present time and the end of days. A metahistorical immediacy is also evoked by the transmitted Prophetical sayings, which speak to the believer and suggest blessing and even victory for those who keep hold the Prophetic Sunna. Building on patterns of piety which emerged already in later medieval times, the Prophetic model has since the early modern period (its beginning taken here from c. 1450) increasingly moved among both Sunnī and Shīʿī Muslims into the core of personal and collective efforts to strengthen the individual and to renew Islamic culture and politics. But the increased attachment to the Prophet has equally reinforced and deepened the existing fractures within Islam, and also the tensions and conflicts with non-Muslims, which have gained in intensity whenever the Prophet and his image are at stake.
A Franco-German research group
The joint explorative enterprise intended by this Franco-German research group, which has been engaged in academic exchange for a number of years, seeks to explore the various forms of attachment to the Prophet which have contributed to the formation of the Muslim individual and to the development of Islamic culture and politics since the early modern period, in a time of continuing expansion but also decentering of the Muslim world.
A four-years program
The four-years programme will in its first year focus on the development of the doctrinal, cultural and medial representations of the Prophet (1. ʺRepresentations of the Prophet: figurations and controversies”). It will shift in the second year to the Prophet as a ressource of personal and collective empowerment and of legal and political authority and power (2. “Heirs of the Prophet: authority and power”). The third year will be dedicated to the dynamics of individual and collective experience connected with Prophetic piety (3. “Prophetic piety between individual and collective experience”). The last year will be devoted to the publications. The programme is designed to clear the ground for interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to the history of Prophetic piety and its different dimensions since the early modern period. Its larger goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the interplay between religion, society and politics in a central field of Islamic culture which has turned over the last decades into an arena of conflict on an increasingly global scale.