Book of Idols

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The Book of Idols (Kitāb al-Așnām), written by the Arab scholar Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi (737 – 819), describes gods and rites of Arab religion. The text is critical of pre-Islamic religion and decries the state of religious corruption which the Arabs had supposedly descended to since the founding of the Kaaba.[1] The book was instrumental in identifying shirk (the sin of polytheism) with "the idolatry of the pre-Islamic Arabs."[2]

Ahmad Zaki Pasha, the Egyptian philologist, discovered the text; he bought the sole extant manuscript at auction in Damascus[2] and the manuscript, one of many in his extensive collection, was donated to the state after his death in 1934. Zaki Pasha announced his discovery at the XIVth International Congress of Orientalists.[3]


  1. ^ Brown, Daniel W. (2004). A new introduction to Islam. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-631-21604-9. 
  2. ^ a b Hawting, Gerald R. (1999). The idea of idolatry and the emergence of Islam: from polemic to history. Cambridge UP. p. 68, 88–95. ISBN 978-0-521-65165-3. 
  3. ^ Simsar, Mehmed A. (1953). "Rev. of I-Tisham Ibn-Al-Kalbi, The Book of Idols or The Kitdb al-Asnam". Speculum 28 (1): 166–69. doi:10.2307/2847201. 


  • Faris, Nabih Amin (1952). I-Tisham Ibn-Al-Kalbi, The Book of Idols or The Kitab al-Asnam. Princeton: Princeton UP.  English translation.

Additional literature[edit]

  • H. S. Nyberg. "Bemerkungen zum Buch der Götzenbilder von Ibn al-Kalbi." Lund: Svenska Institut i Rom. Ser. 2, Bd. 1, 1939. pp. 346-66.

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