ʿAbd al-Hamīd al-Kātib’s Use of the Qurʾān in His Religious Letters: Surprises and Explanations

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“ʿAbd al-Hamīd al-Kātib’s Use of the Qurʾān in His Religious Letters: Surprises and Explanations”


Professor Emerita

University of Chicago

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Monday, April 6, 2015 / 4:00PM / HSSB 4080

It has already been established that the “founder of Arabic prose,” ʿAbd al-Hamīd al-Kātib (d. 132/750), used the Qurʾān extensively in his letters, borrowing from it using numerous techniques. One would expect, thus, that ʿAbd al-Hamīd’s “religious letters” would be saturated, perhaps more than his other letters, with Qurʾānic material in various forms of formulation. A close examination of these letters, however, shows that, surprisingly, this is true only to an extent, and sometimes even not a great one; other sources, strikingly non-religious, influenced their textual choices too: narrative, descriptive, secretarial, and some hadīth-based. This is a rather peculiar phenomenon that calls for explanation, and this is what I intend to do in this lecture. I plan to first identify and group what I call ʿAbd al-Hamīd’s religious letters as those that deal with issues of law and theology, then analyze each one of them, showing Qurʾānic and non-Qurʾānic influences on it. I shall conclude with an attempt at identifying the reasons behind the clear mix of sources with which ʿAbd al-Hamīd was inspired in this particular epistolographic corpus.

Sponsored by the King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Chair in Islamic Studies and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UCSB

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