Why Medieval Arab Scholars Thought It Was Classier Not to Cite Sources, and Other Stylistic Choices


One of the fascinating things about al-Qāḍī al-Nu’mān’s Disagreements of the Jurists, which recently came out from the Library of Arabic Literature, is how it shows a dominant discourse exercising gravity on minority or marginalized discourse:

disagreementsIndeed, as much as anything, this interview with Devin Stewart (not with al-Qāḍī al-Nu’mān, who passed some thousand years ago) made me reflect on how the Western conceptualization of the novel has forced “minority” discourses to change how they argue for the value of their own literatures, including how Arabic literature argues for its own worth.

Stewart, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Emory College in Atlanta, recently translated al-Qāḍī al-Nu’mān’s Disagreements of the Jurists, one of the foundational legal texts of Ismaili Islam, and spoke over Skype about why this book is important in understanding Islamic legal traditions and the Fatimid Empire, why medieval scholars thought it was classier not to cite their sources, and…

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