ABSTRACT

This chapter explores the intertwining of ideas, history and politics in a particular reconsideration of the Isra'iliyyat. T h e purpose is to elucidate the general contours and prominences of a process rather than to dwell on its details. T h e Sunni Arab world is the focus. Central in earlier Islamic thought , the Isra'iliyyat literature was often deemed suspect in modern circles where a call was issued to contain and reduce its role in Islamic textual sources. This occurred within the larger modern review of earlier Islamic thought , in the search for a pristine Islam for modern emulation. T h e Isra'iliyyat were seen as alien and containing fantastical, irrational and, sometimes, subversive material. T h e presumed Jewish provenance and context of the Isra'iliyyat engendered a general review of Muslim­Jewish relations; and at one point the modern problem in Pales­ tine directed that review also to the theory and practice of Muslim­Zionist relations. The theoretical problem of the Isra'iliyyat would n o w assume a modern practical significance in both the intra­Islamic and Muslim­Jewish realms.