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Forthcoming Chapter from Adams (2018)

Danielle Adams (Ph.D. 2018) has her first post-Ph.D., peer-reviewed publication coming out this fall, on November 1. It’s a chapter in an edited volume from Routledge titled Intersections of Religion and Astronomy, edited by Chris Corbally from UArizona and Aaron Ricker and Darry Dinell of McGill University. Dr. Adams’ chapter in the book is an overview of the final chapter from her dissertation, titled in the edited volume “Early Islamic Encounters with the Rains Stars of pre-Islamic Arabian Astronomy.”  

Abstract: While Muammad recited the messages that would form the Qur’an, he also identified the local ascriptions of agency to the celebrated “rain stars” (al-anwāʾ) as polytheistic practices that needed to be purged from Arabian culture, according to the collection of prophetic traditions called the Hadith. This essay surveys the encounter between early Muslims and the cultural milieu of pre-Islamic Arabian astronomy, in particular the agency-laden Arabian complex of the rain stars. It begins with an overview of the practical uses of astronomy in pre-Islamic Arabia, including the forecasting of seasonal changes by means of the rain stars. It then turns to the Qur’anic proscriptions that informed the early Islamic perceptions of pre-Islamic Arabian astronomy and the charge of polytheism against those who “worshipped” the stars. The ascription of divine agency to the rain stars in particular, for bringing the seasonal rains, drew the condemnation of the Qur’an and the special ire of Muammad. After describing the early Islamic positioning of pre-Islamic astronomy represented in the Qur’an and the Hadith, this essay shows that the term al-anwāʾ (rain stars) was redefined by Islamic scholars as an Islamic lunar zodiac of 28 lunar stations (manāzil al-qamar) devoid of any divine agency. This Islamic repositioning of the pre-Islamic rain stars exemplifies the notion that astronomy can shape—and be shaped by—religious beliefs and traditions, a core finding of cultural astronomy. (Anthro News date: 08/21/2020)

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