The problem of anthropomorphism (tashbih) – the perception of a divine being in a human form – was one of the major bones of contention in Islamic theology from the 8th to the 14th centuries. These debates were not purely intellectual: the theological controversy was often a façade masking political struggles over hegemony. The way a scholar interpreted the descriptions of God in the Qur’an and hadith – God’s hand, God sitting on the heavenly throne – often reflected his political and social stature, as well as his theological affinity.Livnat Holtzman focuses on the inner debates on tashbih within the circles of Islamic traditionalism in medieval Medina, Baghdad, Nishapur, Damascus and Cairo. Through a close reading of the writings of Ash’ari and Hanbali thinkers, he evaluates the traditionalist endeavours to define anthropomorphism in the most formative period of Islamic thought.
Edinburgh University Press