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Muhammad’s Miracles: Science, Faith, and the Prophet’s Tricks in Medieval East Norse Texts
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Scandinavian Languages.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3890-4630
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper, I talk about the lives of the Prophet Muhammad found in vernacular saints’ lives (Old Swedish Legendary), devotional works (Consolation of the Soul), and travel descriptions (John Mandeville) from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Denmark and Sweden. The paper focuses on stories about how Muhammad deceived people into believing that he was a Prophet using tricks, natural phenomena, and his alleged medical condition: trained animals to appear to worship him, used magnets to create a floating coffin, and epilepsy to give the impression of divine ecstasy.

These lives of Muhammad are adaptations of works in Latin and German, while their presentation of Muhammad as a false prophet is traceable to Byzantine polemical authors, such as John of Damascus. The East Norse portrayal of Muhammad as a trickster owes a debt of gratitude to Gautier de Compiègne’s Otia de Machometi (before 1150). However, rather than the East Norse lives of Muhammad being free-standing works, they are found as integrated sections in collections of devotional and didactic works aimed at teaching and nurturing Christian piety in their readers. This is perhaps an unexpected textual context: why, for example, would a false Prophet be found in a collection of Christian saints’ lives? When the Qur’ān attributes no miracles to the Muhammad whatsoever, what is the reason for these Christian writers to do so and then to set about exposing them as false? Hermeneutical argumentation and strawman-polemics are key to understanding the purpose of “Muhammad’s miracles” among a readership that had little, if any, chance of ever coming into contact with Islam.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
East Norse; Muhammad; miracles; Islamophobia
National Category
Languages and Literature History of Religions
Research subject
Scandinavian Languages; History of Sciences and Ideas; History of Religions
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-332099OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-332099DiVA: diva2:1151635
Conference
The Natural and the Supernatural in Medieval and Early Modern Worlds, University of Western Australia
Funder
Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, KAW 2011.0248
Available from: 2017-10-24 Created: 2017-10-24 Last updated: 2017-10-24

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
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More styles
Language
  • de-DE
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  • nn-NB
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Output format
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