Anthropomorphism in Islam: The Challenge of Traditionalism (700-1350)

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More than any other issue in Islamic theology, anthropomorphism (tashbih) stood at the heart of many theological debates, and was mostly discussed within the circles of traditionalist Islam. The way a scholar interpreted the anthropomorphic descriptions of God in the Qur'an or the Hadith (for instance, God's hand, God's laughter or God's sitting on the heavenly throne) often reflected his political and social stature, as well as his theological affinity. This book presents an in-depth literary analysis of the textual and non-textual elements of aḥadith al-ṣifat – the traditions that depict God and His attributes in an anthropomorphic language. It goes on to discuss the inner controversies in the prominent traditionalistic learning centres of the Islamic world regarding the way to understand and interpret these anthropomorphic traditions. Through a close, contextualized, and interdisciplinary reading in Hadith compilations, theological treatises, and historical sources, this book offers an evaluation and understanding of the traditionalistic endeavours to define anthropomorphism in the most crucial and indeed most formative period of Islamic thought.Key FeaturesIncludes case studies of anthropomorphic traditions, tribal heritage and lore, the Hashwiyya and the traditionalistsExplores non-textual elements in the anthropomorphic traditions (including body-gestures and mimicry)Studies rhetorical devices and rationalized argumentations in the writings of traditionalist theologiansProvides the first in-depth literary and linguistic analysis of the anthropomorphic material in the Hadith
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh, United Kingdom
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages434
ISBN (Electronic)9780748689583, 9780748689576
ISBN (Print)9781474452649, 9780748689569
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Studies in Classical Islamic History and Culture


  • Ashʿarism
  • Hadith
  • Hanbalism
  • Islamic theology
  • Quran
  • anthropomorphism
  • aḥādīth al-ṣifāt
  • gestures
  • theological controversies
  • traditionalism


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