Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures By Richard M. Foltz (Oxford: One World, 2006. 192 pages.)

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Mohamad Khan



In his peculiarly self-abasing preface to Animals in Islamic Tradition and
Muslim Cultures, Richard Foltz speculates that the audience for his book
will probably consist of “non-Muslims who are sympathetic to Muslim culture
and interested in learning more about what it has to offer in terms of
animal rights” (p. xii). This appears to be less of a prediction than a presupposition
guiding the book. Appropriately, Animals in Islamic Tradition is a
very broad outline of representations of non-human animals from the pre-
Islamic era to the present in as many fields as a 192-page book can encompass.
As a result, his study tends to be kaleidoscopic, treating each subject in
a very general manner, hastily running through the basics and garnishing
them with selected curiosities. For perhaps the same reason, the book is written
in a very simple style, neither extremely engaging nor boringly obscure,
and tends to provide summary rather than analysis.
The issue of the non-human animal in Islam and in Islamicate cultures
is not a single question, but rather a vast number of disparate questions that
ultimately require detailed attention in themselves. Given the lack of attention
hitherto received by each of these specific questions, any general survey
such as Foltz’s must necessarily be tentative and exploratory. The book
is divided into seven chapters that deal, respectively, with references to animals
in the Qur’an and the hadith literature (chapter 1), animal-related
injunctions in Islamic law (chapter 2), scientific and philosophical studies
(chapter 3), literary and artistic representations (chapter 4), animal rights in
the contemporary era (chapter 5), Islamic vegetarianism (chapter 6), and
Muslim attitudes toward dogs (chapter 7). Each chapter is further divided
into several subheadings, making the book something of a collection of wellcategorized
articles rather than a tightly bound narrative building up to a
central argument ...

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