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By Richard Foltz

This publication, the 1st of its variety, surveys Islamic and Muslim attitudes in the direction of animals, and human responsiblities in the direction of them, via Islam's philosophy, literature, mysticism and paintings.

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Additional resources for Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures

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His belief - which some would say is not withont basis - is that sailors and fishermen are prone to exaggerate their fantastic tales of sea creatures. 21 The importance given to whether a creature is carnivorous or not suggests an anthropocentric sense of priorities: one of the most important things to know about a given species is whether or not it poses any danger to humans. More important still, from al-Jahiz's point of view, is the fact that all animals - indeed all of Creation - are miraculous signs of God which offer valuable lessons for our own salvation.

While bird imagery appears in the work of virtually every Sufi poet, the best-known example is surely The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq al-tayr) by Farid aI-din 'Attar (ca. 1130--ca. 1229), an epic poem of nearly five thousand couplets which was completed in 1177. The gist of the poem is that the birds of the world have gathered together and decided they need a king. One of them, the hoopoe, insists that they have a king already, the Simorgh (a magical bird from ancient Iranian mythology), but that they must find him.

Sure enough, the humans come out and finish off the snake, and the craw's eggs are safe. Dimna's attempts to poison the ears of the lion king against his friend the bull also take the form of animal fables. The tale of the three fish and the fishermen, in which only the wise fish wastes no time before escaping, moves the king to an attitude of prudence. Dimna continues with the story of the bedbug and the 70 Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures flea, in which a seemingly insignificant flea makes his more visible friend the bedbug pay the penalty for their joint crime of devouring a sleeping woman's luscious flesh.

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