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ASPECTS OF THE CREED OF IMAM AHMAD IBN HANBAL: A STUDY OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM IN EARLY ISLAMIC DISCOURSE

  • Wesley Williams

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Today, the religion of Islam is most distinctly characterized by the emphasis it places on the transcendence of God.1 God's otherness (mukhālafa), it is said, is presupposed in Islamic thinking from the Qurءan.2 A review of the history of dogmatic development in Islam reveals, however, that during the formative period—that is, the period to about 9503—divine transcendence was only one alternative among several models attempting to explain God's unity. Indeed, it coexisted alongside its antithesis, “assimilation” (tashbīh), or as we term it, anthropomorphism.4 Muslim and Western scholars agree that, although the anthropomorphist model certainly existed—the various heresiographies attest to it—it existed only on the margins of Islam, in the extravagant fancies of a few deviant doctors.5 Thus, anthropomorphist ideas were relevant only marginally, if at all, to Islam's attempt at theological self-definition. Such, at least, is the current scholarly consensus. But how accurate is this reading of Islam's theological history?

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Wesley Williams is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48105, USA; e-mail: wwwillia@umich.edu.

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ASPECTS OF THE CREED OF IMAM AHMAD IBN HANBAL: A STUDY OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM IN EARLY ISLAMIC DISCOURSE

  • Wesley Williams

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