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Title: The political thought of al-Jahiz with special reference to the question of Khilafa (Imamate) : a chronological approach
Author: El-Attar, Jamal F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2687 630X
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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The aim of this thesis is to study some of the earliest literary works in classical Arabic Literature, namely those of the Abbäsid man of letters, al-Jähiz (160-250/776-869), that have dealt with the question of caliphate (Imäma), and are concerned with knowing who has the right to rule and the criteria underlying that right. The importance of this research lies in its attempt to reconstruct chronologically al-Jähiz's political works and thought by unfolding the full politico-religious heritage before al-Jähiz in order to understand the forces that had moulded his thought (Islamic, Umawi, °Uthmäni, Muctazili, Khäriji, Shi'i, Hanbali, etc.), and assist any future study of his impact on other political authors. While benefiting from previous studies on al-Jähiz, generalizations that present him as a non-changeable entity have been avoided, in order to reach a more comprehensive judgement and fruitful understanding of al-Jähiz's political philosophy. Thus a detailed analysis of twenty seven extant Jähizian works that span half a century of °Abbäsid polity must precede any global assessment of the broad lines of al-Jähiz's political theory, which has to await the laborious yet indispensible and promising task of tracing the doctrinal constants and variants displayed in al- Jähiz's political thought throughout the varying political eras. Scholars of al-Jähiz are therefore offered a unique opportunity in which the full spectrum of his political thought is re-assembled after detecting the developmental stages and major landmarks followed, by linking them to their respective politico-religious settings and also guided by the chronological markers and contextual pointers that prove that link. My critical examination of al-Jähiz's political literature also aims at unveiling the ideological and political concerns of the `Abbäsid community and caliphate and evaluating al-Jähiz's role in the propagation and shaping of °Abbäsid politics. I have also tried to interpret and account for the phenomenon of the marriage between `history' and `contemporary politics' in al- Jahiz's time, and relate his hostile and tendentious anti-Umayyad position plus his views of the Shia to the growing pro-°Abbäsid historiographic activities, and his special brand of Ftizäl.Much effort has been exerted to extract al-Jähiz's political formula and doctrine by distinguishing his quoted views from his own views. The thesis is also concerned with answering the following questions: What factors underly his pro- Alid and anti-Rafidi output and were they mutually irreconciliable? How do his pro- Alid writings fit in with his pro-`Abbäsidism and fondness for the charismatic Häshimi stock of Quraysh, what influence had this on his initial Basran (`Uthmäni) milieu and how much can be gained from the totality of his heresiographic scanning in understanding the formative period of Muslim sects? Were al-Jähiz's views constantly bound by the necessity to observe the fluctuating interests of the regime or were they capable of sidestepping those pressures? Were his views on Imäma more concerned with the criteria according to which rulership was acquired or with the manner in which it should be practised? A full literature review is given, with an outline of the method and guidelines followed, difficulties incurred and suggestions for further studies on al-Jähiz.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available