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The Epistemology Of Excellence: Sunni-Shi'I Dialectics On Legitimate Leadership

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Chapter Summary

Two competing visions of knowledge were articulated in the medieval period by the Sunnis and the Shiʿa. This chapter discusses the primary features of the discourse that emerged in the construction of two distinctive types of religio-political authority. It elaborates on how a certain epistemology of moral excellence, forefronting the role of specialized and privileged knowledge in the legitimate leader of the Muslim polity, is adumbrated in the literature which records this dialectics. The focus is primarily on how the possession of knowledge is invoked as a cardinal trait in the disputes regarding succession to Muhammad in the case of Abū Bakr and ʿAlī only.

Keywords: ʿAlī; Abū Bakr; legitimate leadership; moral excellence; Muhammad; Muslim polity; religio-political authority; religious knowledge; Shiʿa; Sunni



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