By Seta B. Dadoyan, Special for the Armenian Weekly
Islam in Armenian Literary Culture. Texts, Contexts, Dynamics
(Louvain: Peeters, 2021), CSCO, Subsidia Tomus 147.
I. The subject, the “problematique” and basic theses concerning Armenian Studies
As the sciences of a people that by origination, land and habitat belongs to the vast region from the Southern Caucasus to Cappadocia and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, Armenian Studies (hayagitut‘iwn) in turn belong to that region, similar to Arab, Iranian, Syriac and other studies. Consequently, all matters related to the Armenians must be viewed and explained as the organic parts of the Near/Middle Eastern world. The ethnic, racial, religious and local differences peculiar to this region are aspects of its unique nature, and not dichotomies and dividing lines. Thus, the identity of each faction and community and nation is generated from this rich soil and reflects it, and not the contrary. Indeed, Armenians lived and persisted not in and because of isolation, but through their interactions and active careers everywhere with all peoples and cultures of the region.
Based on these historical-geographic realities, Armenian-Islamic interactive history – and not simply “Arab-Armenian relations,” or “mutual relations” as commonly referred to – is a discipline in Armenian and Near/Middle Eastern Studies.
However, it is apparently clear this situation is problematic.
The “problematique” is that from the literature in the fifth century, the Golden Age of the culture, everywhere and since, Armenian Studies have not developed based on this understanding of their status and along these lines, or as the sciences of a Near/Middle Eastern indigenous people. Therefore, there seem to be contradictions between the historical experiences of the Armenians in the broad region on the one hand, and the perspectives, the literature and the underlying policies of individuals and institutions on the other.
A more or less radical reconsideration of this discipline is a necessary and overdue task. In this respect, the primary argument in my research of the past three decades in Armenian-Islamic interactive history is the following: if Historical Armenia and the modern Republics are in the region that extends from the Southern Caucasus to eastern Asia Minor, and if since the seventh century it has been under Muslim control – be it Arab, Seljuk-Turkish, Mongol, Tartar, Persian – also, if to the last decades of the 20th century the broader region between the Black and Caspian Seas, to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine and Egypt was the habitat of the majority of the Armenians, then their experiences as the natives of this habitat must be studied as such. As the literatures of the region recorded, on the ground the historical and cultural development and the persistence of the Armenians depended on their dynamic interactions and not on insulated patterns or due to a mysterious essence. In fact, their experiences have been too diverse and complicated to respond to simplistic and quasi-epic constructs. It is very hard to trace a constant line of Armenian policy, ideology or strategy, except mobility and flexibility in different communities and places, that for centuries sustained the continuity of the whole. Consequently, Armenian histories should have reflected the peculiarities of these circumstances. Similar to nature, history also does not have private pockets and laws. In their own land and vast habitat, the Armenians were subject to the laws and the circumstances of the place. Therefore, the so-called “things Armenian” are at the same time “things Near/Middle Eastern” and must be historified as such and not as “purely” “things Armenian.”
Armenian histories should have reflected the situation of the Armenians of all backgrounds and classes at large in the heart of Islamic worlds, without essentialism and Armenocentrism, seeing all things Armenian as central and everything else peripheral. One of the reasons for this failure is that the narrow formulae and fixed constructs of mainstream historiography could not reach and explain the complicated experiences of the Armenians on the ground and everywhere. Even if the information was readily available (like the careers of very large factions of mostly heterodox Armenians in northern Mesopotamia and Syria from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, recorded in Arab histories), Armenian authors and scholars seem to have greatly marginalized and often obscured them. Often, we must depend solely on Arab sources.
The peculiarities of Armenian histories have roots in the early Middle Ages. Along with basic information, the medieval histories and the literature in general, contain semi-epic narratives. The early histories of the fifth century, or the Golden Age (Oskedar), focused on creating the story of a Christian people as the basis for its cultural and political identity. From Korun (biographer of Mashtots) to Eghishē (author of the Battle of Vardanants), and Khorenatsi (author of the first comprehensive history of Armenians), to the 12th to 13th centuries, the historians maintained narratives of the Armenians as a small, pious, heroic and resilient nation (azg) caught between the eastern empires—first Persian then Islamic, on the one hand, and western empires, or Roman then Byzantine. As far as the credibility of the histories is concerned, these nationally inspirational narratives had specificities and subsequent issues.
First, the authors were almost exclusively from the clergy. They composed their accounts in accordance with their loyalties to the church and the faith. They also had loyalties to aristocratic houses that could have western sympathies, like the Mamikonians, or eastern sympathies, like the Bagratunis. Next, the focus upon generating a purely national identity as a pedestal fostered “primarily” Armenian narratives with loose ties with the environment, except when a contrast was essential to highlight a concept. Gradually, episodes were de-contextualized and “national history” was insulated. Often, it is hard to draw a complete account without reference to non-Armenian sources. In particular, Arab chroniclers are very valuable because they viewed the Armenians as the natives of the region. In their literature, there are massive amounts of references to Armenians of all classes, backgrounds and locations.
During the Early Awakening in the 17th and 18th centuries, the ideal was liberation from the Sunnī Ottoman and Shī‘ī Safavid rules and the realization of a sovereign Christian land with the assistance of the Christian West. The overwhelming presence of Tsarist Russia in the region was a very significant factor at the time and later. I argue that the literature as well as the political culture of the Awakening started at a Muslim bias.
Predictably the medieval narratives of a heroic yet oppressed Christian nation were revitalized and deployed. The circumstances were most favorable for the comprehensive history of Mik‘aēl Vardapet Ch‘amche‘ants‘ (in the last decades of the 18th century). He wrote in the spirit and the pure language of the classical times and in the literature at least, the medieval paradigms were immediately adopted. From 1870 to the 1920s, the persecutions and the massacres by the Ottoman then Ittihadist states deepened the motifs of struggle-death-resurrection-survival. They continue in contemporary literature as well.
In the 19th century and the next, a great number of studies and primary texts were published everywhere including the modern Republics. In the 1960s, Armenian centers were established in Europe and the United States, and a good number of Armenologists have been active. However, with the exception of the scholars of Armenia, very few do or can write a scholarly paper in perfect Armenian. A parenthesis must be opened here about language. Naturally, most students of Armenian Studies are familiar with the language, and some with the classical language. I have discussed the reasons elsewhere. This reluctance and/or negligence has had negative consequences on the language. At present, Western Armenian is in decline; according to some, it is practically a “dying language.” Eastern Armenian is still in use but has its own problems of vocabulary and vernacular-idiomatic contamination. In both, there is a serious need for new terms and new concepts across all disciplines and technologies. Efforts made to save the spoken Western Armenian are not related to, nor can solve this problem.
Concerning the heavily nationalist aspects of some Armenian histories of the past century, it must be remembered that they constitute a special genre for special people with special emotional needs. My critique of historiography in general is that after the development of a new “market-place” of Armenian Studies, with institutions, chairs and publications, not much has really changed as far as the historiographic perspectives and tools are concerned. Despite increasing “objectivity” and decreasing “subjectivity,” most studies are still on traditional platforms. Seemingly critical formulae and smart verbosity do not touch the core issues. Most researchers share the same modernist historical philosophy. They believe that accurate and true accounts of the past can be produced based on credible “evidence.” In other words, given the “evidence,” texts correspond to realities and reconstruct them in a conclusive manner. These approaches to historiography have been questioned and abandoned by many. Similar to natural science, the social sciences too, are in constant evolution and change. New methods and new knowledge take over and the old explanations remain as bases and legacies. Aristotelian physics was followed by Newtonian, and the latter by Einsteinian, which in turn is questioned today. It is not the universe and nature that are changing, but our perspectives, tools and methods that need to change for better understanding.
A holistic, critical and contemporary Armenian Studies as part of Near/Middle Eastern Studies is an urgency. Just like the geoglyphs, which prior to aerial photography and satellites were invisible on horizontal levels and close distances, historical periods and developments must be viewed from a critical distance. The mapping of the total Armenian political, social and cultural development in its interactions in the Near/Middle Eastern world has not been done and remains as one of the primary tasks of Armenian Studies. My research and publication of the past three decades is dedicated to this task. What I call Armenian-Islamic interactive history is an effort in this direction. The objective is to move things Armenian into their natural and broad contexts.
II. The evolutionary process in my research of the past three decades – Six works
As per its title, this article is an analysis, rather a discourse, on the occasion of the publication of my last opus, Islam in Armenian Literary Culture. Texts, Contexts, Dynamics (Louvain: Peeters, 2021).
The sixth in Armenian-Islamic interactive history, this extensive study is a major phase, rather, a crowning of sorts of an existentially challenging and intellectually complicated process. It started three decades ago by the bold and extraordinary case of Yovhannēs Erznkats‘i (d. 1293), to which I shall refer below. It is a lone journey into the twilight zone and unchartered territory of “things Islamic-Armenian.” With no roadmap, I nevertheless moved by a firm intuition about the dimensions of the terrain to be explored and the revolution it could make in the way things Armenian, as well as Near Eastern, were seen and explained traditionally. The obvious hypothesis, which was also my foundational proposition from the beginning, was that there are things in Armenian and Near Eastern intellectual and social cultures that must be specifically categorized and studied as primarily “things Islamic-Armenian.” Furthermore, taken as distinct themes, they generated their own peripheries for a novel discipline, which was essentially interdisciplinary, holistic and critical. This new and alternative discipline in Armenian Studies could hopefully break the impasse created by mainstream narratives of things Armenian.
Change starts at a point, often at a new knowledge.
Given my familiarity with Arab sources and naturally, as a native of this world, familiar to the culture and the language, I was in a position to see serious insufficiencies ‒ both informational and philosophical ‒ in existing studies of so-called “Arab-Armenian relations.” The ultimate objective was to initiate a contemporary discipline of Armenian-Islamic interactive history as part of Near/Middle Eastern Studies.
Change starts at a point, often at a new knowledge. The most significant concept in philosophical hermeneutics, as far as my work is concerned, is “relevant information.” This is the kind of knowledge that becomes a new tool for a specific task or problem. From an ontological perspective, given this new knowledge, neither the knower nor the objects of his knowledge will remain the same, because relationships with the self and everything else will not be seen in the same light anymore. For instance, after the Copernican revolution – that the sun and not the earth is the center – astronomers and cosmologists could not remain the “same,” so to speak. Their horizon of seeing and explaining the universe was shattered; they had to move to new vantage points. The new knowledge required a new cosmology.
The “relevant information,” which smashed my horizon of things Armenian, was a casual encounter with an article in the 1958 volume of Banber Matenadarani. I was struck by the title: “Views Gathered from the Writings of Tajik Philosophers” (I Tachkats‘ Imastasirats‘ Grots‘ Kagheal Bank‘) by Yovhannēs Erznkats‘i (d. 1293). The publisher (S. Arewshatyan) had no clue about the identity of these “Tajik” or Muslim philosophers. As a student of philosophy, it was not hard to see immediately that the text was a beginner’s summary of the esoteric compendium of sciences, the encyclopedic four-volume Epistles of the Brethren of Purity or Rasā’il Ikhwān al-Ṣafā’ of the 10th century in Basra. It was an eclectic and neoplatonic compendium of the sciences of the day. The authors had strong mystical tendencies and Ismā‘īlī sympathies. From the point of orthodox Islam, the Epistles were considered unacceptable. However, in complete volumes, but more often in summaries, the Epistles circulated in the entire region. The Ismā‘īlī missionaries (dā‘īs) were instrumental in their proliferation in urban environments in particular.
Historically, Erznka or Erzinjān was a haven for heterodox factions, both Christian and Muslim. On the upper reaches of the Western Euphrates and on international trade routes, this beautiful, cosmopolitan city had also attracted Ismā‘īlī missionaries disguised as merchants and khojas. It is not surprising that the Rasā’īl in some form found its way to young Yovhannēs, before he entered the monastery. It is however surprising to see that the deep influence of this attractive encyclopedia continued through his intellectual career, as I have shown in the study of his philosophical prose. Even more surprising is to see that through Yovhannēs Erznkats‘i the esoteric and basically Islamic ideas of the Brethren or the Ikhwān, penetrated Armenian literature, also the constitutions of the urban youth coalitions or brotherhoods. This was a paradigm case that demonstrated similarity of circumstances in the broad region and interactions much closer than suspected or desired.
These and many paradigms of interactions that I gradually excavated stand as arguments against mainstream historiographic practices, traditions and narratives, even at present. Following some papers in this subject, in 1991 (Beirut) I published (in Armenian) Yovhannēs Erznkats‘i’s ‘Views from the Writings of Islamic Philosophers’ and Philosophical Treatises in the Light of their Islamic Sources – Ikhwān al Ṣafā’ [Yovhannēs Erznkats‘i: Imastasirakan Ardzakě Islamakan Aghbiwneru Lusin tak – Ikhwān al- Ṣafā’].
The research for the case of Yovhannēs Erznkats‘i led to hitherto unknown episodes and instances in Armenian-Islamic interactions throughout the Near/Middle East and from the beginning. These were all historical proofs of direct political, military and social-cultural Armenian involvement, from Cappadocia to the Euphrates, Iraq, Iran, al-Shām, Palestine and Egypt. There are many and detailed data about these cases and the Armenians in general in Arab histories, and these were my sources. Armenian historiography is either unaware or has avoided these sources. My next and “natural” theme was what I came to call the “Armenian Intermezzo.”
As I have argued previously and in this study as well, the two centuries from the last decades of the tenth century to the end of the twelfth, constituted a distinct phase in Armenian as well as Near Eastern history. It was what I call an “Armenian Intermezzo,” which came about after the gradual loss of all the dynasties and the rise of “Armenian Cilicia.” The Byzantine annexation of the dynastic territories and Seljuk invasions, also massive migrations into the west and south, expanded the Armenian habitat or oikumenē into the Islamic world. There were Apostolic, Chalcedonian, heterodox, and Muslim Armenians everywhere. In the Near Eastern towns and cities, they lived with the Muslims as natives of the place. The urban environments were mixed and cosmopolitan. Interactions, also conversions and intermarriages were common. As I found out in Arab histories, and as I also argued, the loss of sovereign states (that in fact were only partially autonomous), did not halt political activity. On the contrary, it proliferated and took intriguing patterns at the hands of novel factions and individuals from outside the aristocratic classes. There happened a fragmentation and a breakdown of Armenian political-cultural energy into more dynamic and flexible patterns and institutions. New and shifting alliances were made with all sorts of Christians and Muslims. Transitions into other religious-political cultures were inevitable and often beneficial. The question of Armenian identity at this time, awaits study and debate. Wandering militant and often heterodox factions at large in the entire area eventually found lands of their own within the vast Byzantine-Seljuk chaotic world, often in alliance with the Muslim powers. I discovered that during the two decades between 1060 and 1080, and almost simultaneously, there appeared at least five Muslim-Armenian powers, who were the allies of the local Muslims. They were the Dānishmandids in Cappadocia, the Bēnē Boghusaks in Sewawerak/Severek (just northeast of Samosata on the Euphrates), the “federal state” of Philaretus from Marash to Antioch, the Nāwiqīs/Awāqīs in al-Shām and Palestine, and the Fāṭimid Armenians in Egypt. In addition, there were Armenian mercenaries in small enclaves, and in fortresses over a dozen locations. The appearance of the Rubenids in Cilicia was simply part of this phase, and not an isolated and “purely” Armenian episode, as depicted.
It was the “Armenian Intermezzo” that led me to what is known as the “Armenian Period” in the last century of the Fāṭimid Caliphate in Egypt from 1073/4 to its fall in 1171. This period, in turn totally absent from mainstream Armenian histories ‒ both medieval and modern ‒ was not merely a transitory and isolated episode. It was the longest and most unique episode of Islamic-Armenian coexistence, also Armenian political dominance in a Muslim country. After some papers, I published The Fatimid Armenians: Cultural and Political Interactions in the Near East (Leiden: Brill, 1997).
The “Armenian period” in Fāṭimid Egypt had another significant and hitherto undiscovered peculiarity—the simultaneous involvement of both the Armenian establishment and heterodox-Muslim Armenians there. The arrival of Badr al-Jamālī in Dumyāṭ (Damietta) with his Armenian troops at the end of the year 1073/466H marked the beginning of Muslim Armenian political involvement and dominance in Fāṭimid Egypt. The assassination of the last and sixth (or seventh) Armenian vizier, Ruzzīk Ibn Ṭalā’i‘ in 1163/455H marked its end. Were it not for the “orthodox” interval of Bahrām’s (Vahram Bahlawuni) two year vizierate, his blatant abuse of power, and the bloody aftermath, it would have been harder to trace and compare two opposed levels/styles of Armenian interaction with Islam. The rise of Badr and powerful successors into the highest position in the Fāṭimid administration encouraged the massive inflow of all sorts of Armenians from the north and the formation of a community of almost a hundred thousand. Soon, many Armenians enrolled in the private troops of the Armenian viziers, as well as in the administration and army. The defense of Egypt was entrusted mainly to the Armenians for almost a century. Episodes like these lie scattered in Arab sources, a researcher who belongs to and is familiar to both sides, could and must do the synthesis and draw radically novel implications in Near/Middle Eastern and naturally Armenian Studies. The study was also a novelty for Interfaith Studies, the longest and most peaceful period of Christian-Muslim coexistence.
Only these few cases – and there are many more – are sufficient to demonstrate that the semi-epic images of the Armenians as a monolithic, small and perpetually mistreated and oppressed minority are not correct. They have to be reviewed in light of Arab and other local sources. Recently, several so-called interdisciplinary studies were made randomly about specific themes, but there was no perceivable change in the basic understanding ‒ rather, misunderstanding ‒ of the status of things Armenian as things Near/Middle Eastern.
Following the Fāṭimid Armenians, the natural task was to initiate a broad historiographic study that was based on structures by established paradigms of interaction. The total picture would be a geoglyph of the medieval Armenian condition in the Near/Middle Eastern worlds of Islam. I published a trilogy:
The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World Seventh to Fourteenth Centuries: Paradigms of Cultural-Political Interactions. 3 vols. New Brunswick, NJ & UK: Transaction Publishers, 2011, 2011, 2013).
-Vol. I. The Arab Period in Armīnyah-Seventh to Eleventh Centuries. 2011.
-Vol. II. Armenian Realpolitik in the Islamic World and Diverging Paradigms – The Case of Cilicia – Eleventh to Fourteenth Centuries. 2012.
-Vol. III. Medieval Cosmopolitanism and Images of Islam-Thirteenth to Fourteenth Centuries. 2013.
III. Islam in Armenian Literary Culture. Texts, Contexts, Dynamics (Louvain: Peeters, 2021)
One of the first Christian peoples, as of the early 640s the Armenians were under indirect and often direct Muslim control both on their own land and in their habitat, and never completely sovereign. Practically, from the seventh century, their historical experiences were mostly within Worlds of Islam. Naturally and as mentioned, there happened very close and often unexpected interactions.
However, the perceptions of the Armenians and their responses to Islam and the Prophet in the literary culture, at least, remained barely if at all studied. This is the “motive” and the “problematique” of this study. In its approach, themes, structure, sources and dimensions over 14 centuries, it is the first in Armenian and Near/Middle Eastern Studies. It is a known fact that in the History of Sebēos, there is one of the earliest testimonies about the Prophet and his teachings (in early 660s), less than three decades before his death in 632. From the eighth century to the 15th, more than 15 authors referred to “Mahmet” ‒ also spelled in different forms too ‒ and his “laws” as they referred to Islam.
Great primacy is given to the primary texts as the direct sources and the building blocks. In the literature of the past 14 centuries, I discovered a large number of texts. The first task was to locate, collect, categorize and contextualize the texts in their historical circumstances, hence the primacy of what I call “contexts.” Often in my translation, from classical, middle, vernacular and modern Armenian, I gathered all that was available in a complete whole. There may be other texts still waiting to be discovered. There were several hitherto unknown manuscripts of Armenian Ghurans. Strict chronology is maintained throughout as a running substratum for the discussions of a great number of texts, authors, episodes and analyses.
One of the indirect yet essential themes is the unique status and career of the Armenian church in the entire region and often under Muslim authorities and communities. Interfaith Studies appeared barely half a century ago. I started participating in these conferences in the early 1990s. However, the Armenian part in what is called the Christians of the Near/Middle East is barely if at all present in these occasions and academic publications. The Armenian experience in the Worlds of Islam appears very occasionally. On the other hand, it is very common to see serious gaps and errors in the references made to the Armenians and their church. Obviously, there is a lack of information. One of the reasons is the scarcity of the full primary texts in other languages. It is true that from the 19th century, and more so in the past century, prominent non-Armenian scholars made studies and translations, but these are not sufficient. In addition, the approaches are philological with little concern about the regional and historical circumstances of the Armenians in which these texts appeared.
Maintaining the contextuality of the texts meant regularly drawing the historical contexts in their vital and relevant aspects. The formulation of clear arguments based on the analysis of all the texts was in response to the essentially critical nature of the initiative. This was the analytical task. The organization of the themes and the sequence of the chapters had to reflect and sustain the consecutive and interrelated arguments.
Structured thematically and chronologically, the five parts had to lead the reader on a smooth path. The “Armenian Mahmet,” the “Armenian Pax Islamica” and the “Armenian Ghurans” were the basic themes that made a conceptual, also a logical, “tripod” to support the great number of textual citations and the arguments they generated.
Introducing the study by a chapter on the medieval “Armenian Mahmet” (Part One and Two) was to present the initial argument, that only remotely related to the Prophet, the cumulative and dynamic figure of the Armenian Mahmet generated by consecutive texts over seven centuries, was granted as a historical account and never questioned. As such, it became a solid ground, a context and a sufficient source for information on all aspects related to his “laws,” or Islam as well, at least in the literary culture.
By the end of the Middle Ages after the Seljuk, Mongol and Turkmen periods, the composite and rather gross figure of Mahmet also summarized the Armenians’ perceptions and knowledge of Islam as the faith and the instrument of power of their rulers. Simply, the “laws” of this Armenian Mahmet, the Qur’ān were greatly marginalized. Islam as an alternative religion and a moral system, became secondary to, yet closely tied to, the person of its founder.
Another argument emanated from the texts spread over 14 centuries concerning the manner in which the Armenians perceived their status under Muslim rule. This is what I call the Armenian Pax Islamica (Part Three) as recorded and deployed in Armenian literature, in its historical and literary records. Cited in full in this study, all the alleged covenants, agreements, pacts, compacts and treatises, named differently, acquired a peculiar legitimacy as historical documents, which originated from the Armenian Pax Islamica, almost always legislated by the Prophet himself, as assumed. As I show, in all the available texts and particularly in the few studies made in the 20th century and the next, at present the figure of Mahmet has metamorphosed into a fair oath-giver and guarantor, a “true Prophet,” as Sebēos said 14 centuries ago. All pacts from the first in 652 to 1811 were considered “re-confirmations” of the initial prophetic covenant, hence their historical, political and moral significance.
I also argue that in the midst of ongoing Islamic-Armenian historic relations and interactions, the significance of the alleged pacts superseded the issue of their authenticity, often raised and discussed by some historians for various reasons. Consequently, all references to texts related to Pax Islamica must be studied not as “courtroom exhibits,” but as the records of the historical circumstances of the Armenians in the worlds of Islam. Briefly put, the oaths/pacts reflected the Armenian, not the Islamic condition.
In Part Four, I argue that the primacy of the Armenian Mahmet was a major reason for a delay of a millennium in translating the Qur’ān, for the first time in 1680, but from Latin. While previously the biographies were polemical tools, the Armenian Ghurans that were made to the first decades of the 20th century, in turn became occasions/platforms for polemical sidescripts and attached texts.
What I call the Armenian Ghurans, the theme of Part Four, in turn reflected dispositions toward “the laws of Mahmet” or Islam. From the first translation in 1680 (rather paraphrase, from Latin) to the last in 2014 (from Turkish), 11 full Ghuran texts were available, translated from Latin, Arabic, French, Persian and Turkish; four of these were copies. They appeared in three clusters: the first group of five Ghurans in the 17th to 18th centuries; the second group of three Ghurans in 1910-1912; a group of two partial translations in 1991-1995, and a third group of three Ghurans in 2003-2014/5. This very peculiar sequence, through three phases each a century apart, shows that the subject of Armenian Ghurans is more complicated than it seems because of its political underpinnings.
I argue that the motive in all the translations, with the exception of the last three (two as apologies for conversion and one as cultural propaganda) was never interest in the scriptures (of the Muslims), as one would expect in the case of the Vedas, for instance. The first five Armenian Ghurans made in the Safavid World, as well as the second group of three made in the Ottoman World, were occasions and platforms for side-scripts and attached texts. In intent and form, the side-scripts were systematic polemical treatises on the margins of the Ghurans, or attached texts. The plan was to offer the Ghuran along with a refutation, also an additional text to inform or warn the reader. In all cases, the comments were again based on the person of Mahmet, whose “laws” were summarized in the Qur’ān, as the writers considered. I was very fortunate to discover a hitherto unknown extensive sequel of four major texts about/against Mahmet attached to the first copy of the first translation from Latin by Lehats‘i and of equal size. It simply showed that as of the first translation, and within the same year, the polemical strategies were motives in making the “Armenian Ghurans.”
Chronologically and also logically, Part Five entitled “Islam, the Prophet and the Qur’ān in Late Modern and Contemporary Literature,” traces the beginnings and development of what may be described as “Islamology” in Armenian intellectual culture. During the early and hesitant phases in the 19th century, the context and perspectives of the studies in things Islamic were still politically related particularly to Ottoman policies and practices. There were also unexpected surprises, such as an apology for Islam. The studies that appeared from the late 19th century to the present, are philological, and primarily parts of “Arab-Armenian” histories. There were over two dozen studies in random themes, such as preaching Christianity to Muslims, the figure of Christ or the Holy Virgin in the Qur’an, Shī‘ism. The third phase of “Armenian Ghurans,” three translations from Arabic, Turkish and Persian, was also part of this phase, but none of the initiatives was academically motivated.
This study in Islamic-Armenian interactive history through literary culture is hopefully a beginning. It is a statement by the force of the material it makes available and the theses it expounds. The effort is like sailing from the narrow pond of the Mediterranean, through the Pillars of Hercules, or mainstream historiography, into the open ocean of Near/Middle Eastern Studies.