Sunday, 30 June 2019

The Symbolism of Precious Stones in Islam

A new article by Luca Patrizi, “‘A Gemstone Among the Stones’: The Symbolism of Precious Stones in Islam and its Relation with Language,” has just been published in Historia Religionum 10 (2018), pp. 107-126, https://doi.org/10.19272/201804901009. The article is based on a paper that was presented at the inaugural conference of the ENSIE at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice in June 2018.

Abstract: The recourse to the symbolism of precious stones is attested in different religious contexts. While several specialists of Judaism and Christianity analyzed this symbolism in the context of the Old and New Testaments, as in the Jewish and Christian exegetical literature, its presence and nature in the Islamic sources so far did not gain the attention of the scholarly world. Yet in Islamic literature, this symbolism already occurs in its two main sources, the Qu- ran and the sayings of the prophet Muḥammad. Precious stones appear likewise in the title of a number of Islamic literary and religious texts, and some of these texts have been even structured according to the gemstones’ names. Their symbolism is used in particular in the Islamic esoteric literature, exerting in this way a strong influence on Western Hermetic and Alchemical doctrines. Numerous examples are to be found in Sufi literature, including in the works of two of its most important authorities, al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) and Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 1240). The symbolism of precious stones, as it is the case for the Jewish and Christian contexts, appears moreover in Islamic sources as closely related to the idea of language, as we intend to show in this article.

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