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Classics

Theology-Fiction: Prophesying the Umma to Come

Into the crisis of authority in contemporary Sunni Islam

[This article is published in Oasis no. 25. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe]

Al-Juwaynī’s misfortune is to have had the great al-Ghazālī as his disciple. And yet the imam al-Haramayn (the title by which he is known) was a thinker of considerable originality, even if his style is frequently contorted. Born in Nishapur, Persia, in 1028, he divided his interests between law and dialectic theology, following the Shafi‘ite school in the first domain and the Ash‘arite one (which was increasingly becoming the expression of Sunni orthodoxy) in the second. Greatly appreciated by the powerful Seljuk vizier Nizām al-Mulk (himself a champion of Sunnism), he was appointed to run an important madrasa in his native town, where he died in August 1085.
It is to none other than Nizām al-Mulk that al-Juwaynī dedicates the Ghiyāthī, the work from which the following pages have been taken. The subject is the organization of power in the Islamic community and, in the first section, after criticizing the Shi‘ite position, the author presents the Sunni vision of the functions of the imam-caliph, largely following in the footsteps of the jurists of his time, especially al-Māwardī (d. 1058).

[This article is published in Oasis no. 25. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe]

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