‘Qādisiyyah, then and now: A Case study of history and memory, religion, and nationalism in Middle Eastern discourse’. PhD dissertation, Department of Near Eastern & Judaic Studies, Brandeis University, 2011.


The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, an engagement between the Arab-Muslim armies and the Sāsānian Empire of Iran waged during the 630s, became quickly a celebrated victory in the annals of the nascent Islamic civilisation. In fact, the perceptions of the battle in the first few centuries after its occurrence, much less those common in the modern Middle East, suggest that the memory we possess of the encounter differs starkly from the actual event. I examine the development of this process, both in the classical Islamic period and in contemporary history, against the background of several currents, from the need of the early Muslim polity to define and distinguish itself against its neighbours to the efforts of modern state and other actors to attract and mobilise their followers. In the first two parts, I examine the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah from within the context of early Islamic historiography, deconstructing the narrative. In the third part, I review the pressures upon the early shapers of the myth, their influences, and the gradual metamorphosis of the event into legend. In the final part, I investigate the abuse and manipulation of the battle’s memory with a particular focus on the discourse of Baʿthī Iraq under Ṣaddām Ḥusayn (Saddam Hussein). This analysis allows me to draw conclusions regarding the dynamic of religion and nationalism in modern Middle Eastern identity, as well as the important rôle that memory—such as that of al-Qādisiyyah—plays in connecting the two. At the end of this study, I have included an appendix that details numerous examples of how Qādisiyyah nomenclature has worked its way into Middle Eastern society.


This dissertation was honoured with the Foundation of Iranian Studies Best Dissertation Award in November 2012 and Brandeis University’s Nahum & Anne Glatzer Endowed Dissertation Prize in May 2012.



Table of contents

Volume one
Abstract (p. v)
Table of contents (p. vi)
Abbreviations (p. xi)
A Note on transliteration and style (p. xiii)
Preface (p. xv)
Introduction (p. 1)
1. Reporting al-Qādisiyyah (p. 7)
  1.1 A Traditional account of the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah (p. 9)
2. Recovering al-Qādisiyyah (p. 15)
  2.1 The Historiographical background to the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah (p. 17)
  2.2 Topoi in the Qādisiyyah narrative (p. 62)
  2.3 ‘Neither before al-Qādisiyyah nor after it’: Unique features of the narrative (p. 121)
  2.4 The Date and size: Perplexing unknown details (p. 232)
  2.5 The Non-Muslim sources and al-Qādisiyyah (p. 264)
  2.6 Towards distilling a contemporary perception of al-Qādisiyyah (p. 302)

Volume two
3. Remembering al-Qādisiyyah (p. 327)
  3.1 The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah in the first centuries of Islam (p. 328)
  3.2 The Eighth- to Tenth-Century mindset (p. 338)
  3.3 The Fate of al-Qādisiyyah (p. 362)
4. Recasting al-Qādisiyyah (p. 375)
  4.1 The Progression of al-Qādisiyyah towards modernity (p. 377)
  4.2 Qādisiyyat-Ṣaddām and the reshaping of the narrative (p. 388)
  4.3 Religion/nationalism in the modern Middle East (p. 451)
5. Conclusion: Recognizing al-Qādisiyyah (p. 466)
6. Appendix: The Many faces of al-Qādisiyyah (p. 473)
  6.1 Geography and toponymy (p. 473)
  6.2 Military and government institutions (p. 474)
  6.3 Culture and the arts (p. 476)
    6.3.1 Al-Qādisiyyah in modern Arabic poetry (p. 477)
  6.4 Education, religion, and recreation (p. 478)
  6.5 Miscellaneous (p. 480)
Selected bibliography (p. 481)
  Primary sources: Early and late Islamic civilization (p. 481)
  Primary sources: The Modern Middle East (p. 491)
  Secondary sources: Early and late Islamic civilization (p. 500)
  Secondary sources: The Modern Middle East (p. 522)

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