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Contemporary Bioethics and the History of the Unborn in Islam

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - COBHUNI (Contemporary Bioethics and the History of the Unborn in Islam)

Reporting period: 2020-03-01 to 2021-02-28

The project „Contemporary Bioethics and the History of the Unborn in Islam“ (COBHUNI) investigated the different ways of how pre-natal life was conceptualized in texts of Muslim, Jewish and Christian authors in the Middle East in the course of history, with a particular focus on the period approx. 5th to 13th centuries. Texts in Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew, and Aramaic were analyzed in order to understand better, in how far they interacted with each other. In which contexts was reference to the unborn made? Did these contexts change over time? In how far can changes on the linguistic and the conceptual level be detected and in case such changes can be identified, how can they be explained?
Research often assumes that texts or text segments (apparently) speaking about pre-natal life with a sort of minimum sophistication would indicate medical knowledge according to the standards of the respective period. Also, contemporary research on Islamic Bioethics pertaining to beginning of life questions generally focusses on a few Qur’anic passages and hadiths (sayings of the prophet Muhammad). Taken together, both discursive habits result in the idea of a specific, distinctive Quranic and/or Islamic Embryology.
The COBHUNI project could show the following:
1) The Qur’an and hadith material is much broader and more diverse than hitherto thought of.
2) Historically, references to the Unborn were much more often made in contexts whithout direct links to areas of medico-ethical deliberations than one might expect from the viewpoint of contemporary bioethics.
3) As such, the Islamic texts can be situated in a continuum of ongoing debates in the Mediterranean and Middle East of the 7th to 13th centuries. In the earlier phases of this period, the respective texts are linked to concepts or debates, which are also well-known from Jewish and Christian traditions (examples being the concept of „the chamber of souls“ or the resurrection debate with reference to aborted fetuses). During the centuries these links became less visible or were cut, either through rephrasings of the texts, transposition oft exts to other topics, or development of a specific exgesis.
The project results are diseminated through 9 published or forthcoming articles plus one co-authored monograph currently under preparation.

Eich, Thomas: „The topos of the unborn in early Islamic predestination debates: A study of the ḥadīth of Ḥudhayfa b. Asīd in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim”, forthcoming in Rocznik Orientalistyczny / Yearbook of Oriental Studies, 1/2021.
Eich, Thomas: „Zur Abtreibung in frühen islamischen Texten.” In: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 170:2 (2020): 345-361.
Eich, Thomas: “Patterns in the history of the commentation on the so-called ḥadīth Ibn Masʿūd.” In: Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 18 (2018): 137-162.
Eich, Thomas: “The Term nasama in Hadith with a Focus on Material about Predestination and the Unborn.” In: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 108 (2018): 21-48.
Eich, Thomas, Alicia Gonzáles Martínez, Tillmann Feige: “Clear-cut methodology for Arabic OCR and post-correction with low technical skilled annotators.” In: ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 129473 (2017): Second International Conference on Digital Access to Textual Cultural Heritage. Conference Proceedings, Göttingen, June 2017: 67-70.

Khaoula Trad, "The Impact of Maghribi ḥadīth commentaries in the Mashriq", under review with al-Qantara.
Khaoula Trad, "The Impact of Maghribi Ḥadīth Commentaries on the Mashriq." Maribel Fierro und Mayte Penelas (eds.): The Maghrib in the Mashriq. Knowledge, Travel and Identity. Berlin & Boston 2021: 213–236.
Florian Jäckel, "Re-negotiating interconfessional boundaries through intertextuality : The Unborn in the Kṯāḇā ḏ-Huddāyē of Barhebraeus (d. 1286)." In: Medieval Encounters, 26.2 (2020): 95-127.
Melanie Guénon, "ʿAbd al-Majīd al-Zindānī’s iʿjāz ʿilmī Approach : Embryonic Development in Q. 23:12–14 as a Scientific Miracle." In: Journal of Qur’anic Studies, 21.3 (2019): 32-56.
Doru Constantin Doroftei, "When the Angel infuses the Soul... Some aspects of Jewish and Christian embryology in the cultural context of Late Antiquity", Judaica. Beiträge zum Verstehen des Judentums, 74, Heft 1-2 (März Juni 2018): 23-68.
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