The Implications of Unbelief: Tracing the Emergence of Distinctively Shi˛i Notions Regarding the Food and Impurity of Non-Muslims

in Islamic Law and Society
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Abstract

The distinctively Shi˛i conception of non-Muslims as bearers of a contagious form of impurity emerges gradually, reaching its classical form only in the 5th/11th century. Contrary to common scholarly presumptions, Q. 9.28 does not constitute the point of origin for this conception but rather serves as retroactive justification for its validity. This essay utilizes Hadīth collections and works of law from the 2nd/8th through 5th/11th centuries to trace the emergence of Shi˛i notions regarding the impurity of non-Muslims and the parallel emergence of distinctively Shi˛i norms regarding the meat of animals slaughtered by non-Muslims. It concludes by suggesting that the differences between Sunni and Shi˛i notions regarding the food and impurity of nonMuslims reflect the different ways in which Sunnis and Shi˛i conceive of the Islamic community itself.

The Implications of Unbelief: Tracing the Emergence of Distinctively Shi˛i Notions Regarding the Food and Impurity of Non-Muslims

in Islamic Law and Society

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