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The Shi'i Past in the Great Book of the Songs

A New Perspective on the Kitāb al-Aghānī by Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī and Shīʿī Islam in the Tenth Century


The Kitāb al-Aghānī (the Book of the Songs) stands as one of the most important extant sources for Arabic literature and Islamic history. Compiled during the first half of the tenth century, the Kitāb al-Aghānī emerges from a pivotal period in the formation of Islamic sectarian identities, a subject of keen and ongoing scholarly debate that is fundamental to our understanding of the later development of Shīʿī Islam. The present study addresses the question of whether or not its compiler, Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī’s, sectarian leanings can be discerned from the Kitāb al-Aghānī through an analysis based primarily on redaction criticism. By examining the compiler’s editorial interventions, this book argues that al-Iṣfahānī, to some extent at least, presents past people and events central to the Shīʿī worldview in accordance with his sectarian affiliation.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0714-4
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Publication Status: In Print
Publication Date: Feb 26,2021
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 500
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0714-4
$156.00
Your price: $93.60

The Kitāb al-Aghānī (the Book of the Songs) stands as one of the most important extant sources for Arabic literature and Islamic history. Compiled during the first half of the tenth century, the Kitāb al-Aghānī emerges from a pivotal period in the formation of Islamic sectarian identities, a subject of keen and ongoing scholarly debate that is fundamental to our understanding of the later development of Shīʿī Islam. While its compiler, Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (died after 356/967), is generally viewed as a ‘Zaydī Shīʿī’, no in-depth study has investigated what can be gauged from the Kitāb al-Aghānī about his sectarian perspectives. 
 
The present study addresses the question of whether or not al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian leanings can be discerned from the Kitāb al-Aghānī through an analysis based primarily on redaction criticism. By examining the compiler’s editorial interventions, this book argues that al-Iṣfahānī, to some extent at least, presents past people and events central to the Shīʿī worldview in accordance with his sectarian affiliation. Furthermore, this work questions the label ‘Zaydī’ that is commonly associated with al-Iṣfahānī. Based on textual analyses of the Kitāb al-Aghānī, as well as on evidence from his Maqātil al-Ṭālibīyīn (‘The Ṭālibid Martyrs’) and other sources rooted in the tenth-century milieu, this book suggests that al-Iṣfahānī’s religious thought can be construed as a ‘mild’ form of Shīʿism―in the sense that it neither comprises belief in a specific lineage of imams, nor repudiation of most of the Companions including the first three caliphs. However, it cannot necessarily be identified with any sect, as set down in the heresiography.

The Kitāb al-Aghānī (the Book of the Songs) stands as one of the most important extant sources for Arabic literature and Islamic history. Compiled during the first half of the tenth century, the Kitāb al-Aghānī emerges from a pivotal period in the formation of Islamic sectarian identities, a subject of keen and ongoing scholarly debate that is fundamental to our understanding of the later development of Shīʿī Islam. While its compiler, Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (died after 356/967), is generally viewed as a ‘Zaydī Shīʿī’, no in-depth study has investigated what can be gauged from the Kitāb al-Aghānī about his sectarian perspectives. 
 
The present study addresses the question of whether or not al-Iṣfahānī’s sectarian leanings can be discerned from the Kitāb al-Aghānī through an analysis based primarily on redaction criticism. By examining the compiler’s editorial interventions, this book argues that al-Iṣfahānī, to some extent at least, presents past people and events central to the Shīʿī worldview in accordance with his sectarian affiliation. Furthermore, this work questions the label ‘Zaydī’ that is commonly associated with al-Iṣfahānī. Based on textual analyses of the Kitāb al-Aghānī, as well as on evidence from his Maqātil al-Ṭālibīyīn (‘The Ṭālibid Martyrs’) and other sources rooted in the tenth-century milieu, this book suggests that al-Iṣfahānī’s religious thought can be construed as a ‘mild’ form of Shīʿism―in the sense that it neither comprises belief in a specific lineage of imams, nor repudiation of most of the Companions including the first three caliphs. However, it cannot necessarily be identified with any sect, as set down in the heresiography.

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ContributorBiography

I-Wen Su

I-Wen Su, Ph.D. (2016), the University of Edinburgh, is an Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Culture, at National Chengchi University (Taiwan = Republic of China).

Acknowledgments (ix) 
List of Tables and Figures (xi) 
Notes on Conventions (xiii) 
Abbreviations (xv)


Introduction (1)

Part One
Chapter One. Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī: His Life, His Beliefs, and His World (49)
Chapter Two. The Kitāb al-Aghānī: Its Structure, Textual Problems, Authorship, and Manuscripts (95)

Part Two
Chapter Three. Genre, Readership, Prejudices, and Limitation of Sources (115)
Chapter Four. Shīʿī Agenda at Work (143)

Part Three
Chapter Five. The Book of Songs in a New Light (209)
Chapter Six. Al-Iṣfahānī’s Shīʿism in the Context of the Būyid Age (249)

Conclusion (283)

Appendix One. Al-Iṣfahānī’s Sources and Their Availability (289)
Appendix Two. A list of the Ṭālibids in the First Two Parts of the Maqātil al-Ṭālibīyīn (309)
Appendix Three. The Manuscripts of the Aghānī (321)
Appendix Four. Textual Comparison (329)
Appendix Five. Analyses Pertaining to Chapter Three (417)
Appendix Six. The Article about Shurayḥ b. al-Ḥārith: The Use of a Rare Source (439)
Appendix Seven. Textual Comparison between the Aghānī and Sharḥ nahj al-balāgha (443)

Bibliography (445)

Index (473)

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