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The divine man’s Holy Spirit. Some new remarks regarding Imamate and prophecy

Prof Mohammad Ali AMIR-MOEZZI Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne).

A certain number of Imamite traditions speak of the imam’s ‘‘five spirits’’ among which is the holy spirit (rūḥ al-quds). This notion of the divine man’s ‘‘intellective organs’’ – which can be found in other esoteric Shi’ite sources as well as in al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī’s work – seems to find its origins in a number of Manichean and Gnostic anthropologic and noetic doctrines. These in turn appear to be exegeses of Isaiah 11: 2-3 and commentaries on the 19th logion of the Gospel of Thomas (in particular Manichean writings such as the Coptic Psalter and the Chinese treatise so-called “Traité Chavannes-Pelliot”). These traditions, alongside many others pertaining to the imams’ qualifiers, allusively or implicitly emphasize the latter’s and even their initiated followers’ prophetic capacities. How does one accord this doctrine with the orthodox dogma according to which Muḥammad is the “last of the prophets”? Has the Quranic expression khātim/khātam al-anbiyā’ always had this particular meaning for Muslims? Examining this expression’s historical background seems to prove the contrary – at least during the very first centuries of the Hijra. This explains the ancient Shi’ite texts’ ambiguous stand as well as a certain practice of the taqiyya applied to this data. CV: Mohammad Ali AMIR-MOEZZI is professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne University) where he holds the classical Islamic studies chair once held by Louis Massignon, Henry Corbin and Daniel Gimaret. He is the author of a great number of books and articles dealing with such subjects as classical Shi’ite Islam and the history of the Quran. Among these: Le Guide divin dans le shi’isme originel (Paris, Verdier, 1992; English transl. The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism, New York, SUNY Press, 1994); La religion discrète: croyances et pratiques spirituelles dans l’islam shi’ite, Paris, Vrin, 2006 (English transl. The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam: Beliefs and Practices, London-New York, I.B.Tauris, 2011); Le Coran silencieux et le Coran parlant. Sources scripturaires de l’islam entre histoire et ferveur, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2011 (transl. The Silent Quran and the Speaking Quran, forthcoming, Columbia University Press). He also supervised the Dictionnaire du Coran, Paris, 2007.

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Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies