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Language and Heresy in Ismaili Thought


The Kitab al-Zina of Abu Hatim al-Razi


The heretofore unpublished Kitab al-Zina, virtually unknown in western scholarship, is a glossary of important Islamic terms by the 9th/10th-century Ismaili polymath Abu Hatim al-Razi. Some lament that Razi’s historical approach to etymology failed to catch on and that had it done so, the face of Arabic dictionary writing might have been altered for the better. His organization of material was uniquely Ismaili as he took pains to synthesize contradictory information into a harmonious whole. This study examines sections of Razi’s work with a view towards his contributions to the field of grammar and linguistics.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-59333-781-0
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jun 17,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 210
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-59333-781-0
$135.00
$81.00

The heretofore unpublished Kitab al-Zina, until now virtually unknown in Western scholarship, is a glossary of important Islamic terms by the 9th/10th-century Ismaili polymath Abu Hatim al-Razi. Some lament that Razi’s historical approach to etymology failed to catch on and that had it done so, the face of Arabic dictionary writing might have been altered for the better. His organization of material was uniquely Ismaili, as he took pains to synthesize contradictory information into a harmonious whole. Though unlike any other work in its tradition, Zina was at the same time a product of its environment, and studying it brings new insights regarding intellectual trends and debates of the era.

This book examines sections of Kitab al-Zina, each chosen for its contribution to our understanding of Razi’s world. After introductory chapters on Razi and the intellectual milieu in which he lived, Chapter 4 examines Razi’s entry on the word “kalima.” This entry illuminates the broader debate regarding the use and meanings of “kalima,” “kalim” and “kalam.” Chapter 5 covers Razi’s creative views on the etymology of place names. Chapter 6 explores Razi’s views on grammar, his place in the grammatical tradition, and his affiliation with the Kufan school. Chapter 7 discusses Zina’s heresiographical section, which deals with the names of Islamic sects. This section reveals information about the term “Murji’a” which clarifies other previously problematic Shi’i texts. The conclusion shows how Razi expressed Ismaili doctrine subtly in a text that is preponderantly devoid of outright advocacy for the Ismaili cause. The book contains a foreword by Ismail Poonawala of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Jamal Ali teaches Arabic at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a Ph.D. in Arabic from UCLA. His research interests include the history of Arabic linguistic and religious thought.

The heretofore unpublished Kitab al-Zina, until now virtually unknown in Western scholarship, is a glossary of important Islamic terms by the 9th/10th-century Ismaili polymath Abu Hatim al-Razi. Some lament that Razi’s historical approach to etymology failed to catch on and that had it done so, the face of Arabic dictionary writing might have been altered for the better. His organization of material was uniquely Ismaili, as he took pains to synthesize contradictory information into a harmonious whole. Though unlike any other work in its tradition, Zina was at the same time a product of its environment, and studying it brings new insights regarding intellectual trends and debates of the era.

This book examines sections of Kitab al-Zina, each chosen for its contribution to our understanding of Razi’s world. After introductory chapters on Razi and the intellectual milieu in which he lived, Chapter 4 examines Razi’s entry on the word “kalima.” This entry illuminates the broader debate regarding the use and meanings of “kalima,” “kalim” and “kalam.” Chapter 5 covers Razi’s creative views on the etymology of place names. Chapter 6 explores Razi’s views on grammar, his place in the grammatical tradition, and his affiliation with the Kufan school. Chapter 7 discusses Zina’s heresiographical section, which deals with the names of Islamic sects. This section reveals information about the term “Murji’a” which clarifies other previously problematic Shi’i texts. The conclusion shows how Razi expressed Ismaili doctrine subtly in a text that is preponderantly devoid of outright advocacy for the Ismaili cause. The book contains a foreword by Ismail Poonawala of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Jamal Ali teaches Arabic at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a Ph.D. in Arabic from UCLA. His research interests include the history of Arabic linguistic and religious thought.

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Contributor Biography

Jamal Ali

Jamal Ali teaches Arabic at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a Ph.D. in Arabic from UCLA. His research interests include the history of Arabic linguistic and religious thought.

Ismail Poonawala

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Foreword by Ismail Poonawala (page 9)
  • Acknowledgments (page 15)
  • Abbreviations (page 17)
  • 1. Introduction (page 19)
  • 2. Razi the Lexicographer (page 31)
  • 3. Kitab al-zina: Content (page 49)
  • 4. The entry on kalima (page 75)
  • 5. Razi the Etymologist (page 93)
  • 6. Razi the Grammarian (page 109)
  • 7. Razi the Heresiographer (page 143)
  • 8. Conclusion (page 169)
  • Bibliography (page 179)
  • Index (page 187)
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