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The Persistence of Heresy: Paul of Tarsus, Ibn Saba, and Historical Narrative in Sunni Identity Formation>1

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This article analyzes the way in which a distinctly Sunni Islamic identity establishes its internal and external borders at the intersection of the historical perceptions of Christianity and Judaism on the one hand and Shiism on the other. It is argued that community identity — performed here through the label of the Ahl al-Sunna wa-l-Jamāa, literally “People of the Prophetic precedent and the community” — is constituted in large part by a grand historical narrative. Drawing upon narrative theory and concepts surrounding canon formation, it is argued that in addition to the arenas of law and theology, community memory as performed through the practice of historical narration is a critical lens through which to understand the nature of authority, identity, and power in Muslim sectarian discourse.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies Georgia State University P.O. Box 4089 Atlanta, GA 30302-4089


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