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Book of Idols

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Title: Book of Idols  
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Subject: Religion in Saudi Arabia, Arabian mythology, Islamic literature, Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia
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Book of Idols

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.  
  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.  
  3. ^ Simsar, Mehmed A. (1953). "Rev. of I-Tisham Ibn-Al-Kalbi, The Book of Idols or The Kitdb al-Asnam".  


  • 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

  • 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.

External links

  • A digital copy of the translation by Nabih Amin Faris (with permission of Princeton University)
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