This session presents new directions in early Islamic historiography. It is a conversation of historians working from very different angles on the formation and development of Islamic tradition in the Abbasid period. The first paper reconsiders the current narratives of early Islamic political history by tracing the transformation of the boundaries and meanings of the normative Islamic community (umma) during the early Abbasid period. The second underscores the subjectivity of the traditional Muslim critics’ rule of content-based criticism of hadith reports. The third presents a fresh perspective on the early development of Islamic legal communities by looking at the lives of law books during the same period. The fourth explores how diverse literary and musical genres associated with the Abbasid capital, Baghdad, elucidate the dynamic currents of collective memory in shaping broader notions of religious community and belonging.