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Anthropomorphism in IslamThe Challenge of Traditionalism (700-1350)$
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Livnat Holtzman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780748689569

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748689569.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Anthropomorphism in Islam

Livnat Holtzman

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter introduces the corpus of aḥādīth al-ṣifāt and its role in shaping the traditionalistic definition of anthropomorphism through the case-study of an anthropomorphic tradition attributed to Mujahid, one of the earliest Quran exegetes. According to this tradition, the ‘honourable station’ (maqām maḥmūd) which is mentioned in Quran 17:79, denotes that the Prophet Muhammad will sit on the heavenly throne with God. This marginal tradition which was rejected by the majority of the traditionalists became an iconic text due the relentless efforts of the Baghdadian Hanbalites of the ninth and tenth centuries. The Hanbalites toiled to prove the antiquity and the authenticity of the text, while using an array of rhetorical devices to promote this text and sanctify it. Thus, Abu Bakr al-Marwazi (d. 888), who was Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s (d. 855) foremost disciple, used to illustrate Muhammad’s sitting on the throne by standing up and sitting down. This gesture conveyed the Hanbalite creed that Muhammad’s sitting on the throne was actual rather than metaphoric. The political events that accompanied this anthropomorphic text are also surveyed in this chapter.

Keywords:   Mujahid, ‘honourable station’, maqām maḥmūd, Hanbalites, Baghdad, Abu Bakr al-Marwazi, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, gesture, actual sitting, metaphoric sitting, heavenly throne, Hanbalite creed

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