Salvaging the Rational Heritage of Islam: The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition Project
The world heritage of Islamic literature in its entirety is an extraordinarily rich one. Moreover, the manuscript tradition continued longer in the Middle East than anywhere else and only a fraction of the Islamic literary heritage is available by now in print. At the same time, attempts to reduce the intellectually rich and diverse Islamic literary heritage to a bare minimum abound and increase. Limiting the canon of allegedly authentic Islamic literature to what encapsulates a particular brand of Islam is a strategy that is characteristic of Wahhabism, Salafism, jihadism, and their respective proponents. Whatever goes against this interpretation of Islam is classified as “heretical” and banned from distribution. Moreover, libraries holding books that are seen as containing deviant views are targeted for destruction in an attempt to allegedly “purge” Islam. Preserving this vulnerable heritage and making it accessible to a wider audience is therefore of imminent significance. The talk will focus on efforts to salvage the literary heritage of the Zaydi community in Yemen, past and present.