Al-'Iqd (The Necklace) and Rhetoric of Restoration
Stetkevych, Suzanne P.
The present monograph is a study of al-‘Iqd (The Necklace), a twenty-five volume anthology purportedly compiled and written in Córdoba by Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ‘Abd Rabbih al-Qurṭubī (d. 328/940). Specifically, the study looks at al-‘Iqd as a work of adab whose production advances the caliphal venture of the Umayyads in in 4th/10th century Iberian Peninsula, and in which Arabo-Islamic political and cultural genealogies are established through the rhetoric of restoration. To this purpose, I examine the competing premises within the work’s historiographical and epistemological enterprises: al-‘Iqd claims to incorporate and eclipse the major works of the powerhouses of the Islamic east. As such, the anthology serves as a space for formulating historical and cultural narratives in ways that produce and sustain the foundations of Umayyad legitimacy. While serving to transmit and encode an ideology of the Islamic empire to the new caliphate in Córdoba, al-‘Iqd, nonetheless, simultaneously introduces itself as a unique work of adab, and a harbinger of an emergent golden age. My inquiry focuses on two concepts of classical Arabo-Islamic culture that have been challenged and transformed in al-‘Iqd’s negotiation of the political and cultural conditions of its production. Primarily, al-‘Iqd places emphasis on critical acumen and on the concept of choice/selection (al-ikhtiyār) which is introduced as a superior alternative to the source of knowledge and to isnād (chains of authority in transmitting knowledge)—thus questioning the long accepted attitudes toward authority, authorship and views of the past. The second is al-‘Iqd’s unprecedented scope (themes, genres and vernacular language) that participates in creating a cultural repertoire within which specific notions of authority are infused: it unabashedly transforms conception of the paideutic role of knowledge production, and with that, notions of readership/audience and the political potentiality of adab in 4th/10th century Arabo-Islamic culture.
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