Frammenti di escatologia sciita: Dhū l-Qarnayn nell’opera di Ibn Bābawayh

  • Laura Bottini University of Catania
Keywords: Dhū l-Qarnayn, Alexander the Great, Muḥammad Ibn Bābawayh, Twelver Shi’ism


Sūrat al-Kahf, the eighteenth chapter of the Muslim Holy Book, transmits a story about a character, nicknamed Dhū l-Qarnayn which literally means ‘the two-horned one’. The ambiguity in the Quran in naming this figure led to a protracted debate about his identity: According to some sources it was Alexander the Great and according to others it was Cyrus or ʿAyyāsh. Scholars have already pointed to the importance of investigating the earliest stages of the accounts concerning this character with a view to understanding the entire tradition surrounding him. For this reason they have focused attention on the religious literature and, in particular, on the Sunni production of the Middle Ages. In this contribution, I will deal with the Twelver religious literature, in particular with four works written by Muḥammad Ibn Bābawayh, eminent traditionist and jurist who lived during the tenth century. Ibn Bābawayh narrates several accounts about Dhū l-Qarnayn in these works and in particular in the Kamāl al-dīn wa tamām al-niʿma fī ithbāt al-ghayba wa kashf al-ḥayra, one of the first works on the occultation of the twelfth imam. My analysis has a two-fold aim: To extrapolate the various motifs connected with Dhū l-Qarnayn in these texts and to verify how this character is utilized within the Imami circles in Ibn Bābawayh’s time.


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Author Biography

Laura Bottini, University of Catania

Laura Bottini is Lecturer at the University of Catania, where she teaches History of Islam.

One of her research lines focuses on Shi’ite Islamic religious minorities, in particular on Twelver Shi’ism in the Middle ages (Appunti per una storia del ʿilm al-rijāl imamita: i Rijāl di al-Barqī e i suoi predecessori. In Miscellanea Arabica 2013-2014, a cura di Angelo Arioli, 125-142, Roma: Aracne, 2014). Another line of research concern muslim-christian relations in Middle ages (al-Kindī. Apologia del Cristianesimo, traduzione dall’arabo, introduzione e cura di Laura Bottini, Milano: Jaca Book, 1998). She is also interested in Arabic manuscripts (Islamic manuscripts from the Library of the Istituto per l’Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino, Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente, 2017).


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