By Richard Foltz

This booklet, the 1st of its type, surveys Islamic and Muslim attitudes in the direction of animals, and human responsiblities in the direction of them, via Islam's philosophy, literature, mysticism and paintings.

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Extra resources for Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures

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Typical of Muslim literature, al-Jahiz's use of animals is instrumental: although ostensibly a comprehensive zoological catalogue, the Book of Animals aims primarily at demonstrating the magnificence of God through a study of his created beings. 4 The fact that he describes the kangaroo (or at least some large marsupial) indicates that even in the ninth century, Middle Eastern Muslims possessed information on the fauna of far-off Australia, thanks to their Indian Ocean trade networksY In other areas, however, al-Jahiz was little more than a trans.

Withont having previonsly received any preparation, training, education, or apprenticeship, lacking any repeated or graduated practice, these animal species are able, spontaneously, to improvise and execute acts so rapidly and suddenly, that the best informed thinkers and the most erudite philosophers, even if they possess able hands or have access to tools, are incapable of accomplishing them. 23 Nevertheless, following the standard Qur'anic interpretation of his time, al-Jahiz accepts without question the received cosmic hierarchywhich places humans above all other animals, due to what he calls their capacity for reason and their "mastery" (tamkin).

THE CASE OF THE ANIMALS VERSUS MAN The so-called "Pure Brethren" (Ikhwan al-safa') were a group of radical Muslim philosophers who lived and wrote in the southern Iraqi city of Basra during the latter third of the tenth century. Their very name contains an animal reference, as it is borrowed from a fable about a group of doves in the Kalila and Dimna stories (which will be discussed in chapter four). The Brethren wrote their treatises collectively and - due probably to the unorthodox nature of many of their positions - anonymously.

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