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Roy Vilozny


This paper explores the role that the myth of the Nasnās, a pre-Adamic humanlike creature, plays in the Shiite exegesis of Qurʾān 2:30. It aims to shed light on the blurry line between myth-making, fiction and Quranic commentary. Of a cosmological nature, this verse has long provoked speculation by Muslim exegetes about universal history. Nevertheless, the Shiite evocation of the Nasnās in this context is unique and reflects a somewhat different cosmological perception. Whether this perception is the result of commentators’ endeavors to tackle some of the theological difficulties posed by this verse or a mere reflection of their heretofore existing cosmological notions, is an additional tension to be addressed.

Michael Ebstein


The following article aims at highlighting the mythic elements inherent in Muḥyī l-Dīn Ibn al-ʿArabī’s teachings on the Divine names. The article begins with a very general introduction to the subject of Divine names in Islamic mysticism and then proceeds to clarify the meaning of the term “mythic” as it is used in this study. The core of the article is devoted to an examination of four main areas in which the Divine names, according to Ibn al-ʿArabī, play a central role: the creation of the world (cosmogony); its management; mystical experiences and knowledge; magic and theurgy. The main claim is that in all four areas, Ibn al-ʿArabī’s discourse is to a great extent mythic. The implications of this claim for the understanding of Akbarian thought and for the study of Islamic mysticism in general are discussed in the concluding paragraph of the essay.

Orkhan Mir-Kasimov


This article discusses the interpretation of the Christian apocalyptic texts, such as the Revelation of St John and the pseudo-Clementine Book of the Rolls, by Faḍl Allāh Astarābādī (d. 796/1394), the founder of a mystical and messianic movement which was influential in medieval Iran and Anatolia. This interpretation can be situated within the tradition of ‘positive’ Muslim hermeneutics of the Christian and Jewish scriptures which was particularly developed in Shiite and especially Ismāʿīlī circles. Faḍl Allāh incorporates the Christian apocalyptic texts into an Islamic eschatological context, combining them with Qurʾān and ḥadīṯ material. Faḍl Allāh’s hermeneutical enterprise, focused on the figure of Jesus, produces an original version of Islamic myths regarding the eschatological Saviour.

Daniel De Smet


In apparent contradiction with the story of Adam as told in the Bible and the Qurʾān, Shiite tradition accepts the existence of several Adams (usually seven) prior to « our Adam », the father of mankind. Each Adam opened an era during which the earth was inhabited by « pre-Adamites », rational creatures preceding the appearance of the human species. In this paper we study the evolution of this myth of the pre-Adamites, starting from traditions attributed to the first Imams and their use in writings stemming from the Shiite milieu in Kūfa ; then we move to pre-Fatimid and Fatimid Ismailism, Druze and Nuṣayrī literature, before ending with the Ṭayyibī Ismailis. Although there are many differences in details, all these movements share a common myth, which was elaborated with a remarkable continuity from the first centuries of Islam until today. This myth is rooted in the sources of Shīʿism, which seem close to Manichaeism.

Torsten Hylén


The developing myth about the events at Karbala, as well as the image of al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī and the cult connected with him, were important factors in the shaping of early Shiite identity. In this article, I argue that some of the earliest traces of this process are found in the account of the Tawwābūn, or Penitents, events which took place in the years immediately following the death of al-Ḥusayn at Karbala in 60/680. Important elements of this story originate at least as early as the late first/early eighth century. In the story we see the image of al-Ḥusayn in process of transformation from that of someone merely human to someone ascribed traits that transcend the human. In the same course of events, the story of his death at Karbala is in process of being elevated from a tragic story to a myth with its associated rituals.


Ze'ev Safrai

Seeking out the Land describes the study of the Holy Land in the Roman period and examines the complex connections between theology, social agenda and the intellectual pursuit. Holiness as a theological concept determines the intellectual agenda of the elite society of writers seeking to describe the land, as well as their preoccupation with its physical aspects and their actual knowledge about it.
Ze'ev Safrai succeeds in examining all the ancient monotheistic literature, both Jewish and Christian, up to the fourth century CE, and in demonstrating how all the above-mentioned factors coalesce into a single entity. We learn that in both religions, with all their various subgroups, the same social and religious factors were at work, but with differing intensity.