Comparative Islamic Studies, Vol 3, No 2 (2007)

Odors of Sanctity: Distinctions of the Holy in Early Christianity and Islam

Mary F. Thurlkill
Issued Date: 22 Jun 2009


Medieval scholars and cultural historians have recently turned their attention to the question of ‘smells’ and what olfactory sensations reveal about society in general and perceptions of holiness in particular. In this paper, I examine how early Christians and Muslims linked notions of the ‘sweet smell of sanctity’ with ideas of the body and sexuality. I demonstrate that early Christians associated the body’s sweet smells with salvation and spiritual transformation usually linked with asceticism. Early Muslims associated the body’s odors of sanctity with purity.

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DOI: 10.1558/cis.v3i2.133

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