Virtues Of The Flesh: Passion and Purity In Early Islamic Jurisprudence

VIRTUES OF THE FLESH
  • Book Title:
 Virtues Of The Flesh
  • Book Author:
Zeev Maghen
  • Total Pages
311
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VIRTUES OF THE FLESH – Book Sample

PREFACE – VIRTUES OF THE FLESH

This book is about the interaction of law, lore and life in the highly significant corner of Muslim experience where human sexuality meets ritual purity. Part One examines the attitudes to sexual desire and its satisfaction evinced by Qur”a¯n, H. ad¯ıth and the legal literature proper;

probes certain underlying principles of fiqh al-.tah¯ara (purity jurispru- dence); and confronts the scholarly research relevant to both. This section describes the unique and, indeed, striking juxtaposition of piety and carnality found in the earliest Islamic sources, and assigns a central role to elements of the purity code in providing for this comfort- able coexistence.

 The investigation of such matters, valuable in itself, is undertaken primarily in order to erect the theoretical framework necessary for the analysis that follows.

That analysis is the burden of Part Two, which focuses on the exten- sive inter- and intra-scholastic disputes concerning mul¯amasa, cross-gen- der contact that leads to ritual impurity or preclusion. Here we join the Muslim jurists as they debate the definitions and elaborate the prescriptions of this sub-precinct of .tah¯ara law, observing their method- ologies of Qur”a¯n interpretation, H. ad¯ıth utilization and inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as the way in which these disciplines contribute, together and separately, to the construction of positive law.

A penultimate chapter advances tentative claims regarding the effects of mul¯amasa on the social dynamics of pre-modern Muslim communities, and speculates on the potential uses of legal literature in general as a spade for the unearthing of social history.

Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter discussed in this work, the following clarification is probably in order. It is news to no one that religion and sex are an explosive combination—to no one, that is, except the fuqah¯a” (Muslim jurists).

One of the central arguments of this book is that the positive and even playful treatment of sexually explicit material in the traditional texts of Islam promoted a remarkably easygoing attitude to the body and its urges among learned Muslims of earlier generations.

The sources I have utilized for my study of this topic are more-or-less identical to the sources that they utilized for their study of the same, and much of what is found in those sources is saturated with sexual vivacity.

It is not easy to do justice to such warmth and ardor in the sober tones of academia. Following the lead of the fuqah¯a”, then, and of the h. ad¯ıth reports they drew so heavily upon, I have endeavored to artic- ulate my findings in a professional but relaxed manner.

While I have done my best to steer clear of sensationalism, I have also been unwill- ing to suppress the enthusiasm and frequent humor of the original texts in the name of a scientific stolidity. Most of all, I have tried to let the sources speak for themselves.

I wish to extend my gratitude to Professor Eliezer Tauber, without whose encouragement and support this book would not have been written; to Professor Ya”akov Lev, for sharing with me his expertise on matters medieval and socio-economic; to Professor David Powers, who read the entire manuscript and offered numerous suggestions and insights that have improved it considerably;

 to Professor Bernard Weiss, who also braved his way through this volume and helped me polish its final form; to Ms. Trudy Kamperveen at Brill, whose kindness and diligence saw this project through to its completion; to Mr. Boris van Gool at Brill, who patiently and professionally prepared the proofs and index; to Professor Richard Bulliet, under whose tutelage I was fortu- nate enough to begin my studies of the Middle East and whose wisdom and intellectual example continue to guide me; and most of all to my family—past, present and future—who are the genuine motivation for, and purpose of, everything.

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