The content in this collection is available only to Washington University in St. Louis users. For other users, access may be requested through your institution's interlibrary loan services. Please email digital AT wustl DOT edu with questions.

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



Ahmet Karamustafa, Cornell Fleischer, Asad Ahmed, Daniel Bornstein, Derek Hirst, Mark Gregory Pegg


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study is part of a growing research focus on Islamic apocalypticism and divination in medieval Islamic culture. Though some work is being done on magic ( sihr ) and astrology ( tanjîm ), there is less scholarly interest in Islamic apocalyptic writings, including prophetic traditions ( hadîth ) on the end of time ( qiyâma ) and its tribulations ( fitan wa-malâhim ) and various forms of prophecies, numerology and divination, such as hurûf and jafr wa-jâmi'a . Such scarcity of interest reflects the standard scholarly view that medieval Islamic culture was dominated by Sunni orthodoxy and had little tolerance for Shi'a sympathies, divination, and the occult. This view is hardly supported by historical evidence. Medieval Islamic literature points to a distinct interest in divination, occultism, and apocalyptic prognostication. The study uses unpublished and primary sources to recover the Islamic apocalyptic tradition of the 7 th /13 th century Eastern Mediterranean. In addition to a lengthy introduction and conclusion, the study has four main chapters: a literature review; an overview of the life of the medieval scholar Ibn Talha and his prophecy, al-Durr al-munazzam ; an account of the special role of the House of the Prophet ( Ahl al-Bayt ) in Islamic divination and apocalyptic visions; and finally, a brief review of the lives of three scholars, two Sunni and one Shi'i, namely al-Ganjî, al-Sulamî, and al-Irbilî, who can be seen as examples of the continued appeal of divination and the complexity of medieval Islamic religiosity. A critical examination of the authors and texts considered in this study reveals two important findings: first, that divinatory and apocalyptic activities had a significant place in medieval Islamic culture; and secondly, that some respected Sunni scholars had such a strong loyalty to the 'Alîds and the Imâms that they are hardly distinguishable from their Shi'i counterparts. This brings into question the conventional view that sees medieval Islamic culture mainly in terms of a triumph of an orthodox form of Sunnism. Overall, this dissertation is meant as a road map, highlighting an otherwise marginalized cultural milieu to help offer a fresh look and a paradigm shift in the study of medieval Islamic divination and apocalyptic literature in the Levant.


Permanent URL: Print version available in library catalog at Call #: LD5791.8.PhD2008 M26.

Off-campus Download COinS