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The Reader in al-JāḥiẓThe Epistolary Rhetoric of an Arabic Prose Master$
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Thomas Hefter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748692743

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748692743.001.0001

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Passive Addressee and Critical Reader in the Abū al-ʿĀṣ/Ibn al-Tawʾam Debate

Passive Addressee and Critical Reader in the Abū al-ʿĀṣ/Ibn al-Tawʾam Debate

(p.214) 5 Passive Addressee and Critical Reader in the Abū al-ʿĀṣ/Ibn al-Tawʾam Debate
The Reader in al-Jāḥiẓ

Thomas Hefter

Edinburgh University Press

The final chapter looks at an exchange of pseudonymous letters between an advocate of limitless generosity and a proponent of extreme miserliness in a later section of Kitāb al-Bukhalā’. While both letters are clearly parodies of extreme positions with many fallacious arguments, both also contain a number of cogent passages and offer intelligent uses of certain texts in support of their position. The two writers do not address their letters to each other but to an unfortunate addressee whose property, ethical outlook and social aspirations they treat as their own concern rather than his. The reader can hardly help but contrast himself with the helpless addressee as he sorts through the arguments posed from either extreme and this, it is argued, is al-Jāḥiẓ’s way of prompting his audience to sort through the through the contradictory threads of their Arabic and Islamic heritage on the question of generosity and avarice.

Keywords:   Kitāb al-Bukhalā’, Pseudonymity, Miserliness, Generosity, Golden mean

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