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The Namesake Taboo

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Chapter Summary

The namesake taboo was not restricted to the names of caliphs, as we learn from an anecdote about the litterateur Abu Zayd al-Balkhi. In short, the namesake taboo protects the dignity of those who wield political power by forbidding the mention by name in their presence of any persons who share their names. There are doubtless other attestations of the namesake taboo to be found in the sources. But they are hard to locate, even with electronic search facilities, and the attestations are at least enough to establish the existence of this exotic phenomenon. The very presence of the namesake taboo in a Muslim context goes against the grain. This at least makes it intriguing, which perhaps does something to mitigate the shame of presenting an aniconic tuḥfa to Oleg Grabar.

Keywords: Abu Zayd al-Balkhi; caliphs; Muslim; namesake taboo; Oleg Grabar; political power



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