Langer, Robert: The Term Ġulāt and Its Derivatives: From Heresiography to Self-Description, in Kiyanrad, Sarah, Sauer, Rebecca und Scholz, Jan (Hrsg.): Islamische Selbstbilder: Festschrift für Susanne Enderwitz, Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Publishing, 2020, S. 39–56. https://doi.org/10.17885/heiup.531.c9252

Identifier (Buch)

ISBN 978-3-947732-19-7 (PDF)
ISBN 978-3-947732-18-0 (Hardcover)




Robert Langer

The Term Ġulāt and Its Derivatives

From Heresiography to Self-Description

Abstract Since medieval times, Muslim heresiographers have charac­terized several groups as ‘exaggerators,’ in Arabic ‘ġulāt.’ While the term re-surfaced in anti-Safawid texts in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it has regained actuality with the rise of Oriental studies since the nine­teenth century. Building on editions of medieval texts, writers researching non-mainstream Islamic, Islamicate or historically Islam-related communi­ties have used the term in the sense of ‘heresies’, when describing a spec­trum of groups and traditions on the margins of Sunni and Shii mainstream Islam. In this function, it became one standard descriptive denominator in discourses of contemporary groups such as the Syrian ʿAlawī-Nuṣairī, Iranian Kurdish Ahl-i Ḥaqq, or Anatolian Alevis. Besides other features, such as ‘syncretistic’ and ‘heterodox,’ even researchers with a background in the groups mentioned already sometimes include the term in attempts to describe their traditions. More recently, Kathryn Babayan adopted it as a denominator for an alleged sub-stream of Islam, broadly identified with late-antique pre-Islamic and implicitly ancient Iranian religion, curiously a relationship already noted by the mentioned early heresiographers. This contribution aims to trace back the history of the reception of the term ‘ġulāt’, and its implication for the recent history of alleged ‘ġulāt’ groups.

Keywords Ġulāt, Heresiography, ‘Heterodox’ Islam, Exaggerator