Book: Buddhist Violence and Religious Authority
Chapter: 12. Authority and Apocalypse: Three Cases from Classical Islam
Michael Jerryson’s work on religion and violence in Buddhist traditions insists on an appreciation of how various actors gain authority to advocate for the violent interpretation of religious texts. A contextual understanding of the dynamic forces involved in the construction of authority can also help us to understand the ubiquitous phenomenon of charismatic religious authority across religious traditions more broadly, a concept that has been under theorized in the study of religion. Using examples from lesser-known apocalyptically charged movements in classical Islam, this article examines the relationship between the construction of authority and various phases of the apocalyptic myth (its imminence, its distance and its reinterpretation). My examples are drawn from three rival movements (the Fatimids, the Abbasids, and the Almohads) who each deployed iterations of the apocalyptic myth to build and consolidate authority.