HCAS People Contact Information

    Fabianinkatu 24 (P.O. Box 4)
    00014 University of Helsinki

    Tel. +358 2 941 21735



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Ilkka Lindstedt

PhD, Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Helsinki

Room 251

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
P.O. Box 4
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

Tel +358-(0)2941 23447
Email ilkka.lindstedt (AT) helsinki.fi




Research interests

  • Early Islamic history
  • Arabic epigraphy
  • Arabic historiography
  • Pre-Islamic Arabia

Current research

Early Islamic rock inscriptions as historical sources

The history of early Islam (the 7th and 8th centuries CE) is still an enigma. This is because our main source for the period, Arabic historiography, is tendentious and much later than the events it describes. The Islamic-era Arabic inscriptions are of utmost importance for the study of early Islamic history because they are contemporary documentary sources. Numbering a couple of thousands, the inscriptions are a true mine of information, giving us a window on the development of the early Muslim religion. They are especially interesting since many of them are graffiti (non-monumental inscriptions).

The earliest Arabic inscriptions show a remarkable interest in piety and afterlife, but they are monotheistic in a general sense, not yet Islamic per se. Abraham, Moses, and Aaron are often mentioned as messengers of God but Muhammad only rarely. What is more, the adherents of the new faith are called al-muʾminūn, Believers, not yet al-muslimūn, Muslims, revealing the ambivalence of demarcation between Islam and earlier monotheistic traditions.