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Global Islamic Studies Center pres.

IISS Lecture Series. Theology, Ideology and Polemic: The Image of the Rāfiḍa in al-Jāḥiẓ’s Corpus

Hussein Ali Abdulsater, Department of Classics, University of Notre Dame

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IISS is pleased to announce the public lecture "Theology, Ideology and Polemic: The Image of the Rāfiḍa in al-Jāḥiẓ’s Corpus" by Professor Hussain Abdulsater (Department of Classics, University of Notre Dame):

Texts are mirrors that can reflect sentiments and tactics that authors captured and channeled into society in their portrayals. In particular, sectarian polemics served as discourses of legitimation in the formative period of Islamic theological schools. According to the great Muʿtazilī master Abū ʿAlī al-Jubbāʾī (d. 915), his ancestor the great littérateur Abū ʿUthmān al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 868-9) is famed for his obsessive compulsion to argue against the Rāfiḍa.

This talk examines how Jāḥiẓ portrayed the Imāmī community (rāfiḍa) in terms of both its theological views and its social practices. What emerges from his writings on the Rāfiḍa is an image of a community of simple-minded fanatics. One the one hand, the Imāmīs adhere to anthropomorphic and deterministic beliefs and are blind followers of authority. On the other hand, they are passionate believers who strongly stand in solidarity with one another. This, for Jāḥiẓ, explains their coalition with the superficial traditionalists against the rationalist Muʿtazilīs.

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