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Pre-Eighteenth-Century Traditions of Revivalism: Damascus in the Thirteenth Century

Pre-Eighteenth-Century Traditions of Revivalism: Damascus in the Thirteenth Century

By Konrad Hirschler

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol.68:2 (2005)

Abstract: This article examines whether it is possible to trace eighteenth and nineteenth-century revivalist thought to earlier ‘medieval’ examples. The discussion is centred on the issue of ijtihad/taqlid, which featured prominently in revivalist thought. Taking the example of scholars in thirteenth-century Damascus, it firstly compares the respective readings of ijtihad/taqlid, by focusing on one individual, Abu Shama (d. 1267). It secondly asks whether a scholar like Abu Shama who had adopted a reading similar to later revivalists, also took a critical and oppositional stand against large sections of his contemporary society, i.e. a revivalist posture. It is this article’s main contention that the example of Abu Shama shows the need to study in more detail possible revivalist traditions prior to the ‘grand’ movements. The combination of the history of ideas and social history might allow a deeper understanding of how and in what contexts calls for reform and opposition to the current state of affairs were expressed.

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