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THE STRUCTURE OF THE FIHRIST: IBN AL-NADIM AS HISTORIAN OF ISLAMIC LEGAL AND THEOLOGICAL SCHOOLS
Compiled in 987–88, Ibn al-Nadim’s work al-Fihrist (The Catalogue) needs little introduction to scholars of Middle Eastern and Islamic history.1 Countless specialized studies have used the Fihrist as a source of data. Because it includes the titles of a large number of works that are no longer extant, as well as biographical information on little-known early authors, it throws light on otherwise obscure facets of medieval Islamic intellectual history in many fields. Choice anecdotes, such as the account of al-Ma mun’s (r. 813– 33) conversation with Aristotle in a dream, considered to have triggered the translation movement, have been quoted in numerous studies.2 Little attention has been paid, however, to Ibn al-Nadim as a thinker, despite the fact that the Fihrist, like Dewey’s decimal system, is as much an exercise in mapping out the organization of human knowledge as a simple inventory of book titles.3 The following remarks focus first on the methods Ibn al-Nadim adopted in compiling the Fihrist and second on the arguments he makes about the history of Islamic sciences, in many cases not explicitly but through order, presentation, and the calculus of inclusion and exclusion, emphasis and de-emphasis. Particular attention will be paid to the Islamic legal madhhabs and theological schools. Determining Ibn al-Nadim’s views on these topics, as an Imami Shi i and Mu tazili theologian, promises to provide a better understanding of his conception of the Islamic sciences, the overall message of his work, and Islamic intellectual history itself. As is well known, Ibn al-Nadim’s work contains ten large divisions, each termed maq¯ la, divided into subdivisions, each termed fann. (In the following discussion, I will a use the term “book” to indicate maq¯ la and “chapter” to indicate fann.) The ten books a of Ibn al-Nadim’s work are the following:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Book I: Language, Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the Qur an Book II: Arabic Grammar Book III: History, Genealogy, and so forth Book IV: Poetry Book V: Theology Book VI: Law Book VII: Greek Sciences: Philosophy, Mathematics, Medicine Book VIII: Stories, Fables, Entertainment Literature
Devin Stewart is Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga. 30322, USA; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2007 Cambridge University Press 0020-7438/07 $15.00
9. Book IX: Other Religions 10. Book X: Alchemy
In scholarly writing to date, only limited attention has been paid to the structure of the Fihrist and the historical and ideological information that the structure conveys.4 Holger Preissler makes the important observation that, when the author does not state his principles of organization, one is forced to deduce them from the material, which could lead to faulty hypothetical reconstructions. He also adds that we are not likely to find one single principle, but rather several principles that are interwoven according to a hierarchy of sorts.5 The principles undergirding the Fihrist’s organization include person, topic, geography, and chronology. The basic building blocks of the Fihrist are book lists, which fall into two categories: lists of books by a single author, which dominate the work, and lists of books in a specific genre. The latter are found, for example, in part of the chapter on Qur anic studies (maq¯ la I, fann 3), which gives lists of works on exegesis, variant a readings, pointing of the text, abrogating and abrogated verses, the legal verses of the Qur an, and so on. Geography occasionally appears as an organizational principle, as in the section devoted to works on the number of verses in the Qur an, which is subdivided into lists of works by the inhabitants of Medina, Mecca, Kufa, Basra, and Syria.6 In the Fihrist as a whole, chronology is a fundamental ordering principle, operating at four distinct levels: the internal order of lists of works within a single genre; the internal order of the chapter, or fann; the internal order of the maq¯ la, that is, the order of the chapa ters or fanns within an individual maq¯ la; and the order of the book as a whole, that is, a the order of the maq¯ las within the Fihrist. An understanding of these four chronological a principles helps to interpret the work and the ideas behind it. Using them, the investigator may retrieve information from the work that has eluded investigators to date and also gain insight into Ibn al-Nadim’s method of composition, ideology, and historical analyses. Dimitry Frolow’s brilliant analysis of Ibn al-Nadim’s list of works on Qur anic exegesis brings out the use of chronology at the first level above, within an individual genre.7 Skipping over the second level of chronological arrangement for the moment, one finds that maq¯ la IV, on poetry, provides a clear example of the chronological a arrangement of the chapters, or fanns, within one book. It contains two chapters: the first devoted to ancient poets—essentially pre-Islamic and Umayyad poets—and the second devoted to modern poets— Abbasid poets. Maq¯ la I includes three chapters placed in a apparent chronological order: the first on various world scripts known to Ibn al-Nadim, and the second and third chapters on scriptures, first the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, then the Qur an. The arrangement here seems based on the notion that script and scripture are inextricably linked and that the sacred texts necessarily postdated the invention of writing. Regarding the fourth level of chronology, that of the order of maq¯ las in the work as a whole, the fact that maq¯ la V, Islamic theology, a a occurs before maq¯ la VI, Islamic law, suggests an underlying point about the historical a development of the two fields. According to Ibn al-Nadim’s view, Islamic theology became an established field or reached an advanced state before Islamic law did. This assessment may be related to his Mu tazili ideology and based on the idea that theology takes precedence over law and is the more important field for Islam in general. Ibn al-Nadim’s reliance on chronology at the level of the internal order of the fann has been stressed by several scholars but has been questioned by Valeriy Polosin.8 Ibn al-Nadim, Preissler argues, seeks the origin, the first appearance of each science,
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 371 and then follows it up until his own time, following the . abaq¯ t model, which was a t a predominant form of historiography in Ibn al-Nadim’s era.9 Polosin, however, had earlier criticized J. Lippert for stating that Ibn al-Nadim follows a more or less chronological order in the chapters of the Fihrist, holding that the text itself does not support this conclusion.10 Despite significant breaks and exceptions, many chapters of the Fihrist do in fact follow chronological order, and this clearly reflects Ibn al-Nadim’s intentions, so that the modern researcher can use this feature of the text to make other deductions about the material. Ibn al-Nadim does not, however, adhere to chronology at all times. In most cases when he breaks chronological arrangement, though, he does so for a discernible reason. Here one must disagree with Polosin, who takes Ibn al-Nadim’s departures from such order as evidence of the lack of an overall systematic approach.11 When Ibn al-Nadim arranges authors in chronological order, he apparently thinks first and foremost in terms of death dates, rather than birth dates or dates of activity or authorship. One would expect this from what is known of other Islamic works throughout the medieval period, particularly biographical dictionaries, which share significant features with the Fihrist and regularly include death dates in individual entries, often without giving any other significant dates regarding the subject of the biographical notice. More importantly, it is clear that Ibn al-Nadim provides death dates or, in cases where the year is itself missing, intended to provide death dates much more frequently than birth dates, which appear only occasionally.12 As an example of the internal order of a fann, one may consider the chapter on Dawudi or Zahiri jurists, the fourth chapter of the sixth book, which is devoted to Islamic law. This chapter includes entries on eleven jurists, beginning with Dawud b. Khalaf himself and ending with Abu al-Hasan al-Kharazi, a contemporary of Ibn al-Nadim. The entries are evidently placed in chronological order, even though Ibn al-Nadim provides death dates for only two of the jurists, Dawud and Ibn al-Mughallis. In cases where the individual jurists are little known from other sources, something true of nearly all Zahiri jurists, a result of this fascinating school of thought’s early demise, Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement gives a good idea of their relative chronology and may help fix their dates within a narrow range. Zahiri Jurists (maq¯ la VI, fann 4) a
Jurist 1. Dawud b. Khalaf 2. Muhammad b. Dawud 3. Ibrahim b. Jabir 4. Ibn al-Mughallis 5. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Salih al-Mansuri 6. Abu Sa id al-Raqqi 7. al-Nahrabani 8. Abu al-Tayyib ibn al-Khallal 9. al-Riba i, Ibrahim b. Ahmad b. al-Hasan (“near our own time . . . died . . .”) 10. Haydara, Abu al-Hasan [b. Umar] (“. . . he was a friend of mine. He died . . .”) 11. Abd al- Aziz b. Ahmad al-Isbahani al-Kharazi (serving as judge of the lower quarter on the east side of Baghdad when Ibn al-Nadim was writing, in 987) IN’s Date d. 884 d. 910 d. 922 d. 936 d. ? d. ? d. ? d. ? d. ? d. 969 d. 1001 Known Date
One may deduce from Ibn al-Nadim’s articulation of this chapter that, at least according to his assessment, Zahiri jurists numbers five to nine, about whom little is known from other sources, died between 936 and 969, and approximately in the order in which they are presented. The chronological pattern appears to hold, and its recognition provides useful results. Individual entries within a chapter do not always appear in chronological order, but there is usually a discernible reason for departure from a chronological arrangement. Ibn al-Nadim explains the main reason for such departures in the third chapter of the third book: “When I mention a certain author, I follow him with mention of someone who is close to him and similar to him, even if his dates [mudda] are later than [the dates] of those whom I mention13 after them. This is my method in the entire book— may God provide assistance through His generosity and bounty.”14 For an example of this principle, one may examine the chapter devoted to Shafi i jurists, the third fann of the sixth maq¯ la, where Ibn al-Nadim interrupts a chronological list of al-Shafi i’s a disciples in order to group the disciples of Abu Thawr (d. 854) together, immediately following the entry on Abu Thawr himself. After presenting four jurists who studied with Abu Thawr—Ibn al-Junayd (d. ?), Ubayd b. Khalaf al-Bazzaz (d.? ), al- Iyali (d. ?), and Mansur b. Isma il al-Misri (d. 918–19)—he returns to list disciples of al-Shafi i.15 Other similar examples occur in the chapter on jurists of the ashab al-had¯th, the sixth . ı .. ¯ fann of the sixth maq¯ la. The entry on Ahmad b. Hanbal is followed immediately by a jurists whom Ibn al-Nadim considers his disciples, rather than other jurists whose deaths occurred soon after his. These Hanbali jurists are Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Hani , known as al-Athram (d. 886–87?), Ahmad b. Muhammad b. al-Hajjaj al-Marwazi (d. 888), and Ishaq b. Rahawayh (d. 853?). This is in addition to Ahmad b. Hanbal’s sons Abd Allah (d. 903) and Salih (d. 880?), as well as his grandson Zuhayr b. Salih (d. 915– 16), all mentioned in the entry on Ahmad b. Hanbal himself.16 These entries on Hanbalis are followed by another case, where the entries on a father, son, and grandson are grouped together: Abu Khaythama Zuhayr b. Harb (d. 849), Ahmad Ibn Abi Khaythama (d. 892–93), and the latter’s son Abu Abd Allah Muhammad (d. ?).17 Many examples provide explicit evidence that Ibn al-Nadim was concerned with chronological order within the individual chapter. At the end of the fifth chapter of the sixth book, on Shi i legal scholarship, Ibn al-Nadim gives an entry on the Shi i scholars of the Al Yaqtin and informs the reader that these entries should be inserted in the proper place, earlier in the chapter—a confirmation that he is endeavoring to stick to a chronological presentation within each chapter. He reports that Ali b. Yaqtin died in Baghdad in 798–99 and that his father, Yaqtin, died later, in 801. He clearly intends that they should be inserted in the proper passage according to chronological order based on their death dates.18 A similar remark occurs in the chapter devoted to jurists of the ashab al-had¯th. The heading of the entry on Ali b. al-Madini is followed . ı .. ¯ by the phrase qabla h¯ dh¯ al-mawdi (“before this spot”). The intention behind it is to a a . indicate that this entry, devoted to an author who died in 872, is out of place according to chronological sequence and should be placed earlier in the chapter instead of where it is now, following the entry on Muslim b. al-Hajjaj, who died in 875. An example showing Ibn al-Nadim’s efforts to figure out correct chronological order even when information is limited occurs in the second chapter, on mathematics, in the seventh book, devoted to the Greek sciences. Ibn al-Nadim places the entry on Menelaus just before that of Ptolemy,
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 373 author of the famous Almagest, and introduces him as follows: “Before Ptolemy, because he [Ptolemy] mentioned him in the book the Almagest.”19 Ibn al-Nadim thus uses the information available to him to determine chronological order, even when he does not have specific dates.
T H E H IS T O R Y O F T H E L E G A L M A D H H A B S A C C O R D IN G T O IB N A L -N A D IM
The internal order of the maq¯ las on Islamic theology and law can be taken to represent a Ibn al-Nadim’s assessment of the history of these disciplines. The book on Islamic law conveys, by its organization as much as its content, Ibn al-Nadim’s view of the history of the Islamic legal madhhabs, contrasting in several respects with other common portrayals. It contains eight chapters, arranged in the following order:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Malik and his followers Abu Hanifa and his followers Shafi i and his followers Dawud and his followers Shi a ¯ al-muhaddithun wa-ashab al-had¯th . ı .. ¯ al-Tabari and his followers al-Shurat [= Kharijis]
The first conclusion one draws from this arrangement is that there were eight madhhabs, in Ibn al-Nadim’s view, instead of the usual four counted by later Sunni authors: the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi i, and Hanbali madhhabs.20 Hans Wellisch merely remarks that Ibn al-Nadim is adopting a traditional arrangement. He writes that some of the Fihrist’s maq¯ las “follow a traditional subdivision of a topic as in the book on Islamic law which a is arranged by schools of famous commentators and their pupils and adherents . . .”21 This critic fails to note that Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement is quite different from the “traditional” one. Ibn al-Nadim recognizes not only the madhhabs of Dawud and alTabari, the Zahiris and Jariris, as extant in his time, but also a Shi i and a Khariji madhhab as well. This is quite unusual in comparison with other accounts, even when they do not limit themselves to those four coordinate madhhabs that came to be considered equally orthodox by Sunni Muslims. For example, a century after Ibn al-Nadim, Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi (d. 1083) would present five madhhabs in his Tabaqat al-Fuqaha : the four well-known Sunni madhhabs as well as the Zahiri madhhab. He considered the Jariri madhhab defunct by the time he was writing and discounted the existence of Shi i and Khariji madhhabs altogether.22 Presumably, Ibn al-Nadim’s more inclusive approach is a result of his adherence to Imami Shi i Islam, but even he is not entirely ecumenical. His chapter on Shi i legal scholarship focuses strictly on Imamis and excludes not only the Isma ilis but also the Zaydis. This is somewhat odd, given that Zaydis are included along with Imamis in the chapter on Shi i theology in the fifth maq¯ la. a The second conclusion one may draw is that the chapters in the book on Islamic law are arranged in a chronological order meant to reflect the historical foundation of the eight madhhabs presented. Limiting consideration for the moment to the chapters based on individuals, one finds the following order:
1. 2. 3. 4. 7.
Malik (d. 795) Abu Hanifa (d. 765) al-Shafi i (d. 820) Dawud (d. 884) al-Tabari (d. 923)
These figures are presented in chronological order by date of death, with one notable discrepancy: the placement of Abu Hanifa, who clearly died before Malik. If Ibn alNadim were simply following standard views, he would have placed Abu Hanifa first because his death date precedes that of Malik, yet he does not do this. Is the chronological arrangement a result of chance or coincidence? It seems improbable, given the trouble that Ibn al-Nadim takes to follow a chronological arrangement elsewhere. In Ibn alNadim’s view, the Hanafi madhhab must not have been created by Abu Hanifa himself, but was merely named after him and actually created by others who died after Malik but before al-Shafi i. This view is corroborated by other medieval accounts that assign a key role in forming the Hanafi legal tradition to his two famous students, Abu Yusuf (d. 798) and Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani (d. 804–5). Both died after Malik, but before al-Shafi i. Ibn al-Nadim has not only adopted a chronological arrangement here but has also put considerable thought into the order of chapters, his choices of placement reflecting studied judgments about the history of the formation of the madhhabs. Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement reflects an understanding that Abu Hanifa is unlike Malik, al-Shafi i, Dawud, and al-Tabari: they are the actual founders of the madhhabs that have been named after them, but Abu Hanifa is not. The Hanafi madhhab was created posthumously. The question then arises how Ibn al-Nadim defines the beginning of a legal madhhab, if he is not adopting the simple method of determining the dates of the eponymous founder. His focus must be the textual tradition within the madhhab; his work, after all, is concerned with books. He cannot be conceiving of the madhhab for this purpose as simply a school of thought, held together by a shared approach or methods. This impossibility is suggested by his including in the chapter on the Hanafi madhhab even earlier figures associated with the use of ra y “discretionary opinion” in legal interpretation, such as Hammad b. Abi Sulayman (d. ca. 737–38), Rabi at alRa y (d. 753–54), and Ibn Abi Layla (d. 765–66). However, he includes them without placing this chapter before the Maliki chapter despite the fact that they preceded Malik by many years. The dates of these figures do not count for Ibn al-Nadim’s chronological arrangement of the madhhabs because they did not establish the textual tradition that came to define the Hanafi madhhab. Ibn al-Nadim’s understanding must be that the madhhab comes into being qua madhhab when there is an established tradition of texts that are taught, commented on, and passed down in a regular manner through a chain of disciples. It is not a matter of method or general approach alone, or even of isolated opinions, but of textual transmission. Another anomaly in Ibn al-Nadim’s presentation is the absence of Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 855) and the Hanbali madhhab as the focus of an independent chapter. Instead, Ibn al-Nadim includes him and other Hanbalis in the chapter on ashab al-had¯th (fann . ı .. ¯ 6), who, together with the Shi a (fann 5) and the Kharijis (fann 8), make up the three chapters that do not feature individuals in their titles. It is noteworthy that Ibn al-Nadim does not devote any other section of the Fihrist to scholars of hadith or to the science of
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 375 hadith criticism. To him, the ashab al-had¯th are primarily adherents of a legal school . ı .. ¯ whose method is broadly characterized by strict reliance on hadith reports. For him, hadith does not constitute a major, distinct field of study within the Islamic sciences, on a par with Qur anic studies, theology, or law. Ibn al-Nadim’s slight to Ahmad b. Hanbal, like al-Tabari’s famous omission of the Hanbalis’ leader in his Kitab ikhtilaf al-fuqaha , is typical of Shi i sources from the period, which regularly omit mention of the Hanbalis, their great enemies, when listing or referring to the established Sunni madhhabs.23 Nevertheless, Ibn al-Nadim is making claims to comprehensive coverage. He may not omit Ahmad b. Hanbal altogether, but by not assigning him a separate chapter, he implies that the Hanbali madhhab does not have the recognized status of the other Sunni madhhabs. Who is included in the ashab al-had¯th madhhab and why does the chapter devoted . ı .. ¯ to them occur after those of the Zahiris and the Shi a? Hanbali apologists would argue that the madhhab dates back to the time of the eponym himself, who died in 855, but Ibn al-Nadim obviously does not hold this view, because Dawud, whose madhhab precedes that of ashab al-had¯th in Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement, died in 884. As with . ı .. ¯ the Hanafis, Ibn al-Nadim is clearly not dating the group as a whole to the time of the earliest adherents of the ideological trend, because he also includes in this chapter al-Thawri (d. 777–78?) and al-Awza i (d. 773–74?), who lived much earlier than Dawud and even earlier than Malik. Could it be that Ibn al-Nadim is setting the date of the ashab .. ¯ al-had¯th later because they include figures such as al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)? It is difficult . ı to identify a particular author or collection of texts that represents the core of their legal madhhab. The concept of “the six books,” the idea that there are six canonical Sunni hadith collections, postdates Ibn al-Nadim considerably. In any case, he includes only three of the six—al-Bukhari, Muslim, and al-Tirmidhi—in this chapter. The element that seems to hold the chapter together is that many of the cited figures authored a work entitled Kitab al-Sunan, all apparently books devoted to the law, based primarily on hadith reports but arranged according to the standard legal chapters. In Ibn al-Nadim’s view, it seems, the corpus of this sort of work had merely come to a point of closure toward the end of the 9th century. In 987, however, when Ibn al-Nadim was writing, the Hanbali legal madhhab was certainly an established institution and was referred to as such by people in Ibn al-Nadim’s immediate environment in Baghdad. No other identifiable group of ashab al-had¯th were voicing a similar claim with the same . ı .. ¯ insistence. Whereas Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement of the chapters in the book on Islamic law is intended to diminish the Hanbalis’ importance in Islamic legal history, one senses that he nevertheless cannot ignore their claims and placed the chapter on the madhhab of the ashab al-had¯th in its current position on the grounds that the Hanbali madhhab was . ı .. ¯ not actually established until a generation or two after the death of its supposed founder. One is therefore tempted to link its establishment in Ibn al-Nadim’s assessment with the activity of Ibn Hanbal’s son, Abd Allah, who assembled his father’s major compilation of hadith, the Musnad, and died in 903. The chapter devoted to Shi i jurists also raises questions. Which Shi a does Ibn alNadim intend? A close reading of this chapter indicates that he means Twelver or Imami Shi a, excluding Zaydi and Isma ili Shi a. Zaydi Shi a appear only in the book on theology, and Isma ili Shi a appear only in the chapter devoted to Sufi theology, as will be seen below. The Zaydi and Isma ili legal madhhabs are therefore not recognized in
Ibn al-Nadim’s presentation. For him, only the Twelvers have a regular legal madhhab. He does not mention in the Fihrist his contemporary al-Qadi al-Nu man (d. 974), the great legal scholar of the early Fatimids, who wrote a number of works on Isma ili law and jurisprudence and died not long before Ibn al-Nadim compiled the Fihrist in 987. Why are the Twelvers placed where they are, after the Zahiris but before the ashab al.. ¯ had¯th and the Jariris? If Ibn al-Nadim is indeed intent upon chronological arrangement, ı . then this placement indicates his assessment that the Shi i madhhab came into being some time in the late 9th or early 10th century, that its “founder” would have died, in effect, between 884, the death date of Dawud, and 923, the death date of al-Tabari. Could Ibn al-Nadim be thinking about the first or lesser occultation of the twelfth imam? Probably not, because this had occurred in 874, before the death of Dawud b. Khalaf. He certainly ignores as “founders” of the madhhab the earlier imams who would later be upheld as having established the Imami madhhab, especially Ja far al-Sadiq (d. 765). The chapter on Shi i law mentions collections of oral traditions that were gathered from the statements of imams of the Twelver line, including Ja far al-Sadiq, Musa al-Kazim (d. 799), Ali al-Rida (d. 818), Muhammad al-Jawad (d. 835), as well as the tenth and eleventh imams (d. 868 and 874, respectively). He thus admits that the Shi a were latecomers to the field of law; the other Sunni madhhabs have historical precedence, with the exception of the Hanbalis and the Jariris. It seems Ibn al-Nadim does not consider the madhhab to have been formed until after the time of the eleventh imam, yet nowhere in this chapter does he mention the twelfth imam or broach the question of the occultation, perhaps an intentional praeteritio avoiding a sensitive and divisive issue. He appears to date the formation of the Imami madhhab to about 900, given that it appears after the Dawudi madhhab and before the Jariri madhhab. No particular works stand out as representing the chief texts of Twelver law that constitute the core of the new madhhab; one supposes, rather, that in Ibn alNadim’s judgment the corpus of material embodying the legal legacy of the imams has reached some sort of closure at this date, with the deaths of the main transmitters from the tenth and eleventh imams. The eighth and last chapter in the book on Islamic law is devoted to Khariji legal scholarship, which Ibn al-Nadim places after the chapter devoted to al-Tabari and the Jariri madhhab. He reports that the Kharijis are persecuted and that consequently their books have been kept hidden, although they have writings on both law and theology. This disclaimer bears on his assessment of the historical development of Khariji legal and theological traditions; he admits to being handicapped by the difficulty of access to sources. Ibn al-Nadim mentions only four authors in this chapter, without providing death dates for any. He begins the chapter stating that he is going to present their “earlier jurists” (wa-min fuqah¯ ihim al-mutaqaddim¯n). This phrase appears to refer to the first a ı two jurists alone. There is a break just after them and before the last two, where he inserts the phrase wa-minhum (and among them are . . .). The first, Abu Firas Jubayr b. Ghalib, must have been contemporary with Malik b. Anas, because his works include an Epistle to Malik. The second, Abu al-Fadl al-Qartalusi, wrote refutations of Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi i, so he must date to a later time, no earlier than the time of al-Shafi i but perhaps quite a bit later. The third and fourth jurists were contemporaries of Ibn al-Nadim. He met Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Abd Allah al-Barda i in 951–52 and reports that he was friendly and outwardly a Mu tazili, although he wrote a number of Khariji
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 377 legal works. He also met Abu al-Qasim al-Hadithi, author of several works on Khariji theology and law. A close reading of this section suggests that Ibn al-Nadim means to date the formation of the Khariji madhhab to the activity of Abu al-Fadl al-Qartalusi in particular. He reports that al-Qartalusi has two important legal compendia, al-Jami alKabir and al-Jami al-Saghir, and that the latter is a standard reference for his disciples (wa- alayhi yu awwilu ashabuh). If this is the case, and if Ibn al-Nadim is consistent in .. ¯ his presentation, al-Qartalusi must have preceded the Khariji jurists Ibn al-Nadim had met by a generation or so and died shortly after al-Tabari did in 923. In sum, Ibn al-Nadim’s presentation indicates that, in his view, there were eight Islamic legal madhhabs in existence by the late 10th century and that they had been established in a particular order at fairly specific dates. According to the analysis above, Ibn al-Nadim’s interpretation of this historical development is as follows:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. the Maliki madhhab, established by the death of Malik in 795 the Hanafi madhhab, established by the deaths of Abu Yusuf and al-Shaybani in 798 and 804 the Shafi i madhhab, established by the death of al-Shafi i in 820 the Dawudi madhhab, established by the death of Dawud in 884 the Imami [Twelver] Shi i madhhab, established by about 893–903 the ashab al-had¯th [pseudo-Hanbali] madhhab, established by about 903–13 . ı .. ¯ the Jariri madhhab, established by the death of al-Tabari in 923 the Khariji madhhab, established about 933, perhaps by the death of Abu al-Fadl al-Qartalusi
T H E H IS T O R Y O F IS L A M IC T H E O L O G Y A C C O R D IN G T O IB N A L -N A D IM
Ibn al-Nadim treats Islamic theology in the fifth book of the Fihrist, which is divided into five chapters, devoted to the Mu tazila, the Shi a, the Mujbira, the Kharijis, and the Sufis, respectively. As Polosin notes, the Fihrist confirms Ibn al-Nadim’s adherence to Mu tazili theology.24 Even discounting for later interpolations, the length and abundance of information included in the chapter on Mu tazili theology is striking, once the missing material is restored, particularly in comparison with the other chapters—an important confirmation of Ibn al-Nadim’s predilection for the Mu tazila. The chapter on the Mu tazila is twenty-two pages in Tajaddud’s edition (pp. 201–22), as opposed to four pages for the Shi a (pp. 223–27), three for the Mujbira (pp. 229–31), two for the Kharijis (pp. 233–34), and thirteen for Sufis (pp. 235–47). As with the chapters of the book devoted to Islamic law, Ibn al-Nadim seems to have arranged the five chapters in the book on theology in a chronological order that reflects the historical development of the discipline according to his assessment. As was the case in the book on law, the chronology is not based simply on the earliest figure mentioned in each chapter, but rather on the establishment of a body of texts that are passed on through a continuous line of teachers. It is not odd that Ibn al-Nadim treats the Mu tazila first in his description of theology; their pivotal role in the development of Islamic theology is well known.25 It seems unlikely, however, that Ibn al-Nadim is arguing that the Mu tazili school of theology was established by al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 728), despite the fact that he devotes the first entry proper in the chapter to him. Although Ibn al-Nadim ascribes works on theology to him, he did not establish a line of disciples. Al-Hasan al-Basri’s inclusion, yet peripheral
position, with respect to the chapter as a whole is hinted at in the heading that appears following a brief discussion of how the Mu tazila got their name. The heading reads Dhikr awwal man takallama fi-l-qadar wa-l- adl wa-l-tawh¯d (Mention of the first ı discussed the divine decree and God’s justice and oneness).26 Al-Hasan was known to have written about predestination in a work that Ibn al-Nadim cites in his entry, an Epistle to Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (r. 685–705) in Refutation of the Predestinarians,27 so one may interpret the heading’s use of the term qadar as intended to include him in particular, whereas the Mu tazilis’ term for themselves was ahl al- adl wa-l-tawh¯d (the ı proponents of God’s justice and oneness) tout court. The heading of the chapter as a whole also includes the Murji a along with the Mu tazila as the announced topic of the chapter, although the Mu tazila are decidedly preponderant.28 This suggests that Ibn al-Nadim dates the formation of the Mu tazili school proper to the next scholar presented in the chapter, Wasil b. Ata (d. 748), followed by Amr b. Ubayd (d. 761). Both wrote theological works and taught students who carried on their work. Abu Amr Uthman b. Khalid al-Tawil was a student of Wasil and Ubayd, and he taught the prolific Mu tazili theologian Abu al-Hudhayl Muhammad b. al-Hudhayl al- Allaf (d. 841).29 Ibn al-Nadim does not accept in a literal sense the oral report placed just prior to the first biographical entries in the chapter, according to which Abu al-Hudhayl al- Allaf claimed that his chain of authority for Mu tazili teachings went back not merely to Wasil b. Ata , but to the Prophet Muhammad, and from him to the angel Gabriel and ultimately God Himself!30 He apparently dates the establishment of the Mu tazila as a recognizable school of theology to the early 8th century. The second chapter is devoted to Shi i theology. Ibn al-Nadim’s placement of the chapter on Shi a as second, immediately following the Mu tazilis, might seem surprising. Shi i Islam, in his view, has precedence over all other theological schools except that of the Mu tazilis, primarily because of the Shi i discussion of the topic of the imamate at an early date. This chapter consists of two parts, one devoted to Imami or Twelver theologians, followed by one listing of Zaydi theologians. If one judges by the space allotted to each group, the Imamis dominate.31 The presentation of the Imami theologians begins with Ali b. Isma il b. Mitham al-Tammar, also known as al-Mithami. Al-Mithami’s death date is not given, but Ibn al-Nadim reports that he was a prominent companion of Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 661), which would mean that he lived in the 7th century.32 Although Ibn al-Nadim reports titles authored by alMithami ostensibly devoted to theological topics, including Kitab al-Imama and Kitab al-Istihqaq,33 he clearly does not intend that al-Mithami actually established the Imami theological school, because that would require the placement of this chapter before that of the Mu tazilis. Rather, he must be arguing that the school dates to the work of Hisham b. al-Hakam, who appears immediately after al-Tammar and was the author of many theological works that had been preserved in a continuous tradition. He reports that Hisham had “opened up [fataha] theological discussion of the imamate, refined . (Imami) doctrine through rational inquiry, and was skillful in the craft of theology.”34 Ibn al-Nadim does not provide an exact death date for Hisham b. al-Hakam but reports that he died in hiding a short while (mudayda) after the fall of the Barmakids, which occurred in 803. Other sources report that his death date actually occurred somewhat earlier, in 795–96.35
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 379 Does the fact that Ibn al-Nadim places the Zaydi Shi a after the Imamis within this chapter indicate the Imamis’ chronological precedence as an established theological school? It would appear not to be so in this case; rather, the arrangement is based on the superiority of the Imami school of theology over that of the Zaydis, which was actually quite early. After the entry on the most recent Imami theologian included in the first section, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Ibn al-Nadim presents a new heading—al-Zaydiya. This is followed by a short paragraph explaining who the Zaydis are—that is, they are Shi a who believed in the imamate of Zayd b. Ali Zayn al- Abidin (d. 740) and believe that anyone who is a descendant of Fatima may be the legitimate Imam if he satisfies the necessary conditions.36 This paragraph is followed by an entry on Abu al-Jarud Ziyad b. Mundhir al- Abdi, who was a contemporary of Ja far al-Sadiq.37 This entry is followed by another heading, Wa-min mutakallim¯ al-Zaydiyya (And among the Zaydi ı theologians is . . .), followed by a list of three names: a contemporary of Muhammad al-Baqir named Fudayl al-Rassan Ibn al-Zubayr, Abu Khalaf al-Wasiti, and Mansur b. al-Aswad. No information is provided about their writings or activities. This statement is followed by two full entries, one for al-Hasan b. Salih b. Hayy, who Ibn al-Nadim reports was born in the year 718–19 and died in 784–85, and Muqatil b. Sulayman, whose death date Ibn al-Nadim omits but who is known from other sources to have died in 767.38 That completes the entire section, so that there are in effect only three full entries, on Abu al-Jarud, al-Hasan b. Salih b. Hayy, and Muqatil b. Sulayman. One should perhaps leave Abu al-Jarud out of consideration as a crucial Zaydi theologian, because, according to Ibn al-Nadim, he became an outright heretic before the end of his life. Ja far al-Sadiq cursed him, and he drank alcohol and took the side of infidels before he died.39 In addition, in the paragraph defining the Zaydiya, Ibn al-Nadim makes the following remark: “Most of the hadith experts (al-muhaddith¯n) follow this doctrine, ı . such as Sufyan b. Uyaynah, Sufyan al-Thawri, Salih b. Hayy and his son, and others.”40 Sufyan b. Uyaynah died in 814 and Sufyan al-Thawri died in 777–78. This suggests that in Ibn al-Nadim’s assessment, the Zaydi school of theology was established by the mid-8th century, by the deaths of Muqatil b. Sulayman and Sufyan al-Thawri, a bit before the foundation of the Imami school of theology. The third chapter is devoted to the theology of the Mujbira. Ibn al-Nadim’s placement of this chapter after the one devoted to Shi i theologians also seems to indicate the Shi i relative superiority in theological matters in addition to chronological precedence. Ibn al-Nadim’s presentation does not give the impression of a tripartite division of Islamic theology into Mu tazili, Ash ari, and Hanbali schools, commonly suggested by later works such as al-Ghazali’s (d. 1111) Faysal al-Tafriqa.41 Ibn al-Nadim slights both the Ash aris and the Hanbalis, as he does not consider them to merit their own chapters as independent schools of theological thought. He lumps al-Ash ari (d. ca. 935) together with theologians such as Husayn b. Abd Allah al-Najjar (early 9th century) and Ibn Kullab (d. ca. 854–55). He slights al-Ash ari in particular by giving his name merely as Ibn abi Bishr and leaving out his well-known nisba al-Ash ari, which was shared by many historical figures revered by the Shi a as their predecessors.42 Ibn al-Nadim refers to them all in the third fann by the pejorative epithets mujbira (coercers, compulsionists), referring to their exaggerated belief in predestination, and hashwiyya (stuffers), referring to their indiscriminate gathering and recording of dubious . hadith reports.43 The Hanbalis are neglected to an even greater degree, and Ahmad b.
Hanbal and his followers do not appear at all. Ibn Kullab and al-Ash ari, however, are each described as having a group of disciples.44 The chapter begins with the entry on al-Najjar, followed by Hafs al-Fard, originally a Mu tazili who later defected. It would appear from this presentation that, in Ibn al-Nadim’s view, this loose theological school was established by those two in the early 9th century. It is not known when Hafs alFard died, but Ibn al-Nadim describes him as a peer of al-Najjar and reports that he debated Abu al-Hudhayl al- Allaf, which suggests a death date in the first half of the 9th century.45 The fourth chapter is devoted to the Kharijis. As in the chapter on Khariji legal scholarship, Ibn al-Nadim begins with a disclaimer, confessing that they may have books ¯ of which he is unaware, because they are “hidden and preserved” (mastura mahfuza).46 . ¯. The chapter is short, including entries on eight authors and two lists of Khariji leaders and scholars who wrote no known books. No death dates are provided for any of the figures cited.47 In contrast with his method in the chapter on Shi i theologians, which demarcates Imami and Zaydi Shi a, in this chapter Ibn al-Nadim does not attempt to place in separate sections the adherents to the various factions within the Khariji movement, such as the Najdiyya, Bayhasiyya, and Ibadiyya, mentioning the subsect of only three of the eight theologians presented. The first entry is on al-Yaman b. Ri ab, identified as a leading Khariji who belonged to the Tha labi subsect and then adopted the position of the Bayhasiyya. Ibn al-Nadim reports eight book titles, most ostensibly on theological topics.48 Yaman b. Ri ab was a prominent Khariji theologian, native of Kufa, and brother of the Imami theologian Ali b. Ri ab. W. Montgomery Watt and Josef Van Ess date him to the late-8th century on the grounds that he wrote against Hammad b. Abi Hanifa, who died in 793, as well as the Murji a and Mu tazila in general. This makes sense, given that his brother Ali transmitted from Ja far al-Sadiq and Musa alKazim.49 The placement of this chapter in the book suggests that Ibn al-Nadim sets the formation of the Khariji school of theology somewhat later, in the mid-9th century. This may indicate an estimation on his part that Yaman b. Ri ab actually died then and not earlier. The fifth chapter in the book on theology announces that it is devoted to ascetics, but in a pejorative manner: Akhb¯ r al-suyy¯ h wa-l-zuhh¯ d wa-l- ubb¯ d wa-l-mutasawwifa a a. a a . al-mutakallim¯n al¯ al-khatar¯ t wa-l-was¯ wis (Reports of wandering mendicants, ası a a . a cetics, devoted worshippers, and the Sufis, who have produced theological discussions based on vain inspirations and false suggestions).50 As with hadith scholarship, Ibn al-Nadim’s placement of Sufism, which appears nowhere else in the Fihrist, suggests that he does not consider it an independent Islamic science on a par with Qur anic studies, theology, and law. This is the most complex of the five chapters on theology and merits careful attention. The organization of the chapter may be described as follows:
A. B. C. D. E. F. G. Ascetics and Sufis (Tajaddud, 235–38) Isma ilis (Tajaddud, 238–41) al-Hallaj (Tajaddud, 241–43) Imami Shi a, eight entries (Tajaddud, 243) Zaydi Shi a, five entries (Tajaddud, 244) Imami Shi a, eleven entries (Tajaddud, 244–47) Shi a of unknown affiliation, two entries (Tajaddud, 247)
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 381 This chapter comes close to what Polosin terms Ibn al-Nadim’s “compositional chaos.”51 Despite the oddities that this arrangement presents, though, one may make some sense of it without too much speculation. Sections A–C seem to constitute the fifth chapter proper, whereas D–F represent additions intended for the second chapter that Ibn al-Nadim placed here, at the end of the book on Islamic theology, for the sake of expediency. He must have run out of space in the section of the original draft allotted for the second chapter, and therefore placed these entries here as a temporary or ad hoc solution. There is no ideological reason why the entries in sections D–F and probably G as well do not belong in the second chapter, with the other entries on Zaydi and Imami Shi i theologians. Nor is there any compelling reason why these entries should appear instead in the fifth chapter, along with Sufis and ascetics. This is corroborated by chronological considerations presented below. In addition, the famous Imami theologian Ibn al-Mu allim, better known to posterity as al-Shaykh al-Mufid, appears twice in the Fihrist, once in the second chapter of the book on theology and again in this, the fifth chapter of the same book. It consequently appears unlikely either that the evidently awkward arrangement was intended as a final version or that it resulted from the incorrect collation of folios in the autograph or subsequent copies. We must therefore consider sections D–G of the fifth chapter as properly belonging to the second chapter instead. In addition, one might suppose that Ibn al-Nadim may have intended to place section B, on the Isma ilis, with other Shi a, but this hypothesis can be rejected safely, because it is sandwiched in between section A, on ascetics and Sufis, and section C, on al-Hallaj. Ibn al-Nadim’s view is that al-Hallaj belongs with the Sufis, and so apparently do the Isma ilis. This is confirmed by chronological considerations as well, as will be pointed out below. One must conclude that Ibn al-Nadim interpreted Isma ili doctrine as having fundamental similarities with Sufism, focused as it was on esoteric knowledge and inner meanings. Sections A–C are presented in an intentional chronological sequence. Ibn al-Nadim begins section A, devoted to ascetics and Sufis, as is the case with the Mu tazilis, with an account that gives a genealogy of Sufism going back to the very beginning of Islam, and, as in that case, he discounts the historical import of the report entirely. He quotes a contemporary Sufi author whom he had met, Abu Muhammad Ja far al-Khuldi (d. 959), giving his own silsila, or spiritual genealogy, as follows:
Ja far al-Khuldi (d. 959) from Abu al-Qasim al-Junayd b. Muhammad (d. 910) from Abu al-Hasan al-Sari al-Saqati (d. 865) from Ma ruf al-Karkhi (d. 815–16) from Farqad al-Sabakhi (d. 748–49) from al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 728) from Anas b. Malik (d. 709), the companion of the Prophet
Ibn al-Nadim’s presentation suggests that he does not view Anas b. Malik as the founder of the Sufi school of theology. This chapter looks as if it has two beginnings. After the quotation from al-Khuldi appears one major heading: Asm¯ al- ubb¯ d wa-la a zuhh¯ d wa-l-mutasawwifa min khat. ihi (The names of devoted worshippers, ascetics, a .t . and Sufis, from his [i.e., al-Khuldi’s] handwriting). A list of names follows without any
additional information, quoted from an unidentified work by al-Khuldi, probably his lost biographical work devoted to Sufis, Hikmat al-Awliya .52 Then Ibn al-Nadim presents three entries devoted to ascetics: Yahya b. Mu adh al-Razi (d. 821–22), al-Yamani Umar b. Muhammad (d. ?), and Bishr b. al-Harith (d. 841), who is known as Bishr al-Hafi.53 These entries are then followed by a second heading: Asm¯ al-musannif¯n min al-zuhh¯ d a ı a . ¯ wa-l-mutasawwifa wa-dhikr m¯ sannafuhu min al-kutub (Mention of the authors among a. . the ascetics and Sufis and mention of the books they authored). This arrangement seems to suggest that Yahya b. Mu adh al-Razi, al-Yamani Umar b. Muhammad, and Bishr al-Hafi, because they appear before this last heading, are not considered authors proper despite the fact that Ibn al-Nadim attributes a Kitab Qiyam al-Layl wa-l-Tahajjud to alYamani and a Kitab al-Zuhd to Bishr.54 The conclusion to be drawn is that Ibn al-Nadim probably considers their works mere expressions of piety or prayer manuals, rather than works devoted to the “theology” of Sufism. He must date the foundation of Sufism as a theological school to the work of the first figure presented after the second heading, al-Harith b. Asad al-Muhasibi (d. 857–58). This scholar, in Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement, appears to be the real founder of Sufi theology as a recognized approach. It may be that Ibn al-Nadim drew significant material from the now-lost work of al-Khuldi that he mentions, although he does not provide a title, and that his interpretation of the history of Sufism owes a great deal to al-Khuldi’s presentation. The heading that appears later on in the section, Ta ifa ukhr¯ min al-mutasawwifa (Another group of Sufis), followed a .¯ . by six entries before the section on Isma ilis, may suggest that at this point Ibn al-Nadim left off quoting entries from one source and switched to another.55 Regarding the Isma ilis, Ibn al-Nadim places their establishment as a political movement and theological school in the late 9th century. He quotes several lengthy accounts about the rise of the Isma ilis, the first of which describes Hamdan Qarmat’s establishment of a revolutionary network in southern Iraq in 874–75. His lieutenant, Abdan, is reported to have written a large number of books, although they include falsely attributed works.56 After several other accounts of the spread of the Isma ili movement in Iraq, Iran, North Africa, and Egypt, Ibn al-Nadim presents eight bibliographical entries proper, all of d¯ ¯s of the Isma ili movement: Abdan (d. 899), al-Nasafi (d. 943), Abu Hatim al-Razi aı (d. 934), the Banu Hammad (Abu Muslim and Abu Bakr), Ibn Hamdan, Abu Abd Allah Ibn Nafis, al-Dabili, and al-Hasanabadhi.57 This list confirms the impression that, in Ibn al-Nadim’s view, Abdan founded the Isma ili school of theology. He does not provide a death date for Abdan but states that he began his mission in 874–75 and remained active through the following decades. Other sources report that Abdan continued to serve in the Isma ili da wa until he was murdered in 899. All the other figures Ibn al-Nadim mentions were active in the 10th century; he met Ibn Hamdan in Mosul and al-Hasanabadhi in Baghdad, and Ibn Nafis and al-Dabili were also his contemporaries. The Banu Hammad, Ibn Nafis, and al-Dabili were apparently all representatives of the d¯ ¯ Abu Ya qub al-Sijistani (d. after 971). aı It is a simple matter to establish a date for section C; al-Hallaj died in 922. Ibn alNadim’s articulation of this section suggests that he believed al-Hallaj, although similar to the Sufis, does not belong with them per se; otherwise he would have simply included this figure in section A. He may have intended that al-Hallaj, like the Isma ilis, had some connection with Shi i Islam but deviated from the true religion to follow an illegitimate, mystical method.
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 383 The dates for sections A–C therefore form a neat chronological sequence, suggesting that they are intended to form a unit. This sequence corroborates the argument made above that sections D-G, or at least D-F, belong with the second chapter and not here, because the Imami and Zaydi Shi i schools of theology were held by Ibn al-Nadim to have been established in the late-8th to early-9th century, earlier than the dates just established for the Sufis, the Isma ilis, and al-Hallaj. If they were intended to form part of the fifth chapter, the Imami and Zaydi Shi a would necessarily precede sections A–C. Ibn al-Nadim’s fifth maq¯ la, the book on Islamic theology, defines five “schools.” In a this, his presentation resembles but is somewhat looser than that found in the book on Islamic law. As in the book on law, Ibn al-Nadim’s arrangement of chapters represents his interpretation of the discipline’s history. This may be presented in outline as follows:
1. the Mu tazili school, established by the death of Wasil b. Ata in 748 2A. the Zaydi Shi i school, established by the deaths of Muqatil b. Sulayman in 767 and Sufyan al-Thawri in 777–78 2B. the Imami Shi i school, established by the death of Hisham b. al-Hakam, which Ibn al-Nadim sets erroneously shortly after 803 (actual death date 795–96) 3. the Mujbira-Hashwiyya school, established by the deaths of al-Najjar and Hafs al-Fard in the early-9th century 4. the Khariji school, established by the death of al-Yaman b. Ri ab in the early-middle-9th century 5A. the Sufi school, established by the death of al-Harith al-Muhasibi in 857 5B. the Isma ili school, established by the death of Abdan in 899
C O N C L U S IO N
Valeriy Polosin accuses Ibn al-Nadim of “compositional chaos.” From his viewpoint, the apparent order found in some chapters of the Fihrist actually results from Ibn al-Nadim’s having lifted or paraphrased entire sections of text from earlier sources that did in fact adhere to stricter principles of order, such as al-Sirafi’s (d. 979) Akhbar al-Nahwiyin al-Basriyyin. The method that Ibn al-Nadim followed in composing the work—mapping out books, chapters, or sections in his codex of blank folios and gradually filling in the blank areas—resulted in the random placement of certain entries; Ibn al-Nadim simply placed them in the blank space that remained available.58 Although this accurately describes Ibn al-Nadim’s method of composition to a degree, it is nevertheless an unfair and exaggerated assessment. The elements of order evident in the Fihrist are not mere exceptions, nor do sections that appear at first glance to be arranged cogently turn out to be hopelessly muddled upon closer examination. Ibn al-Nadim endeavored to follow chronological order in many individual chapters and sections within chapters but lacked sufficient information to do this perfectly and was constrained by the method of filling in the blanks just described. Polosin’s view holds for certain limited parts of the work. For example, at the end of the chapter on Shafi i jurists, the chronological order is quite a bit disturbed, so that Ibn Khayran (d. 932) appears last, after Ibn Abi Hurayrah (d. 956) and al-Qaffal alShashi (d. 976),59 in contrast to many other passages from the book on law, such as the chapter on Zahiri jurists. This suggests that when Ibn al-Nadim was unsure of particular authors’ placement as he recorded additional entries, he tended to put them at the end
of the chapter in question. His intent may have been to finish recording the necessary information and then perhaps create a new redaction of the entire work at a later date. In any case, these occasional elements of disorder in the text do not negate the fact that the Fihrist is on the whole constructed with a great deal of thought and care. It is unlikely that the elements of order in the Fihrist are all derivative, as Polosin argues. Although Ibn al-Nadim was certainly influenced by the sources, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, on which he drew, he shows originality of thought, something that is particularly clear in the many cases where he exhibits a willingness to ignore rigid doctrinal considerations. Polosin claims that Ibn al-Nadim was decidedly not a scholar and did not belong to academic circles per se, but, like other warr¯ qs a (booksellers), earned a living on their periphery.60 Although this may be true in a general sense, it does not mean that Ibn al-Nadim was devoid of scholarly insights. As this study has endeavored to demonstrate, Ibn al-Nadim drew a great deal on his personal insight and ability to weigh the evidence available in composing the chapters and books of his magnum opus. The objection may be raised that one’s assessment of the meaning of a certain structural element in the Fihrist, or Ibn al-Nadim’s intention behind it, is, and must remain, hypothetical. Any given structural element, omission, or inclusion may have been the result of expedience, oversight, or carelessness rather than intent, and if it was intended, the exact reasoning behind it may remain opaque, particularly over a millennium after the fact. Nevertheless, given Ibn al-Nadim’s own remarks regarding structure and chronology, the many pieces of evidence presented in the Fihrist that may be used to test such hypotheses, and the examples of other taxonomies provided by other works from roughly the same period, conjectures about the meaning behind the structure of maq¯ la VI, on Islamic law, and maq¯ la V, on Islamic theology, may be made with some a a degree of reliability. In some cases, one runs the risk of reading too much into the text, but overall the evidence shows that Ibn al-Nadim based these sections on a careful and well-informed argument about the history of those fields. A great deal remains to be learned from the Fihrist through an analysis of its organization and the articulation of its component parts beyond an examination of content of individual entries. The impressions of medieval authors that Ibn al-Nadim was an Imami Shi i and a Mu tazili are confirmed by his presentation of Islamic theology and law in the fifth and sixth maq¯ las of his work. His prejudice against other Islamic schools of a thought such as Sufism, the Hanbalis, and the Ash aris is evident, as is his relatively sympathetic attitude toward the Zahiri and Jariri schools of law. Ibn al-Nadim may well be drawing some of his framework in these cases from unacknowledged earlier works, but the choices involved nevertheless seem to fit his personal ideology. Perhaps more important than the issue of Ibn al-Nadim’s biases is that of his historical insight. His identification of eight madhhabs, rather than four or five, seems to be a more accurate portrayal of legal scholarship in the late-10th century than other contemporary and later accounts that limit their number for various ideological reasons. His presentation of the legal madhhabs and the schools of theology evinces a sophisticated understanding of the historical development of those fields in particular. The identification of Abu Yusuf and al-Shaybani as the true founders of the Hanafi madhhab is a conclusion confirmed by modern scholarship.61 Ibn al-Nadim shows in a number of instances an objectivity that is very much at variance with the scholarship of his contemporaries. For
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 385 example, Ibn al-Nadim’s cosectarian al-Sharif al-Murtada (d. 1044), a prominent figure in Baghdad in the late 10th and early 11th centuries and a leading Imami jurist and theologian, argues that the Imami madhhab should be considered legitimate by Sunnis because Imamis’ legal opinions are based on pronouncements of early imams such as Ja far al-Sadiq, Muhammad al-Baqir, Zayn al- Abidin, and even Ali b. Abi Talib.62 He means to suggest that the Imami madhhab has chronological precedence over all Sunni legal madhhabs on the grounds that these figures predate the Sunni madhhabs’ eponymous founders.63 One may contrast this argument with the approach of Ibn alNadim, who admits that the Imami madhhab postdates the Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi i, and Zahiri madhhabs on historical grounds. We may also contrast Ibn al-Nadim’s portrayal of the history of theology with that of al-Ash ari in his famous work Maqalat al-Islamiyyin. Al-Ash ari gives ten basic divisions: (1) Shi a, (2) Kharijis, (3) Murji a, (4) Mu tazila, (5) Jahmiyya, (6) Dirariyya, (7) Husayniyya, (8) al- Amma, (9) ashab al-had¯th, and (10) the Kullabiyya.64 The . ı .. ¯ arrangement is also chronological after a fashion. The Shi a and Kharijis appear first because, al-Ash ari reminds the reader, the first conflict of opinion among Muslims had to do with the imamate. Ibn al-Nadim differs here significantly from al-Ash ari in that he does not date the theological schools of the Shi a and the Kharijis to their actual conflicts over the issue in the early decades after the Prophet’s demise, whereas al-Ash ari does. As in the chapter on law, Ibn al-Nadim apparently considers that the theological school comes into being qua theological school when such issues as the imamate are discussed in a particular way and those discussions are recorded in works that are transmitted and have come down to his time in a regular manner. The comparison also suggests that Ibn al-Nadim is slighting the Murji a by not giving them a chapter separate from that of the Mu tazila, whereas al-Ash ari treats them as distinct, and that he stresses the Mu tazila’s crucial role in the history of Islamic theology. He also grants the Sufis a certain status as theologians, however minor, that al-Ash ari’s arrangement does not accord them. Despite widespread recognition of the tremendous importance of the Fihrist itself, Ibn al-Nadim has been underestimated in modern scholarship. Many have viewed him as a bumbling bookshop owner who, as a hobby, collected lists of old books in a cluttered office at the back of his shop. He may have been a connoisseur of book lore and trivia, but he was not himself a serious scholar, merely reporting what he had read or what others had told him. This view must change. Ibn al-Nadim should be taken seriously as a substantial thinker in his own right, an intellectual historian who, like his erudite and more touted colleagues, carefully crafted original interpretations of the past, and in some cases may be equally if not more insightful than they are.
1 For scholarship on Ibn al-Nadim and the Fihrist to date, see primarily Gustav Fl¨ gel, ed., Kitab al-Fihrist, u
2 vols. (Leipzig: F. C. W. Vogel, 1871–72); Bayard Dodge, ed. and trans., The Fihrist of al-Nadim: A TenthCentury Survey of Muslim Culture, 2 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970); Valeriy V. Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima kak Istoriko-Kulturniy Pamyatnik X Veka (Moscow: Nauka, 1989); also Ibn an-Nadim und die mittelalterliche arabische Literatur. Beitr¨ ge zum 1. Johann Wilhelm F¨ ck-Kolloquium (Halle 1987) a u (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1996); Devin J. Stewart, “Scholarship on the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim: The Work of Valeriy V. Polosin,” Al- Usur al-Wusta: Bulletin of Middle East Medievalists 18 (2006): 8–13. The following discussion of the text of the Fihrist is based on the edition of Rida Tajaddud, ed., Kitab al-Fihrist (Tehran: Dar
al-Masirah, 1971), supplemented by reference to MS 3315, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and MS 1934, Sehit Ali Pasa, Istanbul. ¸ ¸ 2 Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco–Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early Abbasid Society (2nd–4th/8th–10th centuries) (London: Routledge, 1998), 95–104. 3 The chief exception in this regard is Dimitry Frolow, “Ibn al-Nadim on the History of Qur anic Exegesis,” Wiener Zeitschrift f¨ r die Kunde des Morgenlandes 87 (1997): 65–81, which argues that Ibn al-Nadim’s u presentation of works in the genre of Qur anic exegesis uses chronology and regional groupings to stress the leading role of Shi i scholars in the field at the expense of the Syrians, presenting an original view of the history that is at variance with other extant accounts. 4 J. Lippert, “Ibn al-Kufi, ein Vorg¨ nger Nadim’s,” Wiener Zeitschrift f¨ r die Kunde des Morgenlandes 11 a u (1897): 147–55, esp. 153; Dodge, The Fihrist, xix; Hans H. Wellisch, The First Arab Bibliography: Fihrist al- Ulum (Champaign–Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois, 1986), 34; Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima, 45– 48; Holger Preissler, “Ordnungsprinzipen im Fihrist,” in Ibn an-Nadim und die mittelalterliche arabische Literatur, 38–43; Frolow, “Ibn al-Nadim on the History of Qur anic Exegesis.” 5 Preissler, “Ordnungsprinzipen,” 38–39. 6 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 40. 7 Frolow, “Ibn al-Nadim on the History of Qur anic Exegesis.” 8 Lippert, “Ibn al-Kufi,” 153; Dodge, The Fihrist, xix; Wellisch, The First Arab Bibliography, 34; Preissler, “Ordnungsprinzipen,” 40. 9 Preissler, “Ordnungsprinzipen,” 40. 10 Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima, 61. 11 Ibid., 61–62. 12 Wellisch’s statement, “Within each section or subdivision the arrangement is generally chronological by date of birth of a writer . . .” is correct regarding the principle of chronology, but not about the importance of the date of birth, which is usually lacking. Wellisch, The First Arab Bibliography, 34. 13 Reading adhkuruhu, as in Fl¨ gel, Kitab al-Fihrist, 1:146, for adrakahu in Tajaddud’s text and MS 3315, u fol. 87r. 14 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 163. 15 Ibid., 265; MS 1934, fols. 41v–42r. 16 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 285–86. 17 Ibid., 286. 18 Ibid., 279; MS 1934, fol. 58r. 19 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 327; MS 1934, fol. 102v. 20 Melchert has made this point in the course of a discussion of the Zahiri legal school. Christopher Melchert, The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law, 9th–10th Centuries C.E. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997), 178. 21 Wellisch, The First Arab Bibliography, 34. 22 Al-Shirazi, Tabaqat al-Fuqaha , ed. Ihsan Abbas (Beirut: Dar al-Ra id al- Arabi, 1970). 23 Al-Sharif al-Murtada, al-Intisar, ed. al-Sayyid Muhammad Rida b. Hasan al-Kharsan (Beirut: Dar alAdwa , 1985), 1–2. 24 Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima, 68. 25 See W. Montgomery Watt, The Formative Period of Islamic Thought (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1973), 209–50, 297–303; Josef Van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra: Eine Geschichte des religi¨ sen Denkens im fr¨ hem Islam, 6 vols. (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 1991), pass. o u 26 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 202. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid., 201. 29 Ibid., 202–3. 30 Ibid., 202. 31 Ibid., 223–26 and 226–27, respectively. 32 See Hossein Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shi ite Islam: Abu Ja far ibn Qiba al-Razi and His Contribution to Imamite Shi ite Thought (Princeton, N.J.: Darwin Press, 1993), 113, and sources cites therein; idem, Tradition and Survival: A Bibliographical Survey of Early Shi ite Literature, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2003), 42–44. 33 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 223. 34 Ibid.
The Structure of the Fihrist: Ibn al-Nadim as Historian 387
Madelung, “Hisham b. al-Hakam,” in P. J. Bearman et al., eds., Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960–2005), 3:496–98 (hereafter EI2 ); Modarressi, Tradition and Survival, 1:259–68. 36 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 226. 37 Ibid., 226–27. On Abu al-Jarud, see Modarressi, Tradition and Survival, 121–25. 38 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 227. On al-Hasan b. Salih b. Hayy, see Modarressi, Tradition and Survival, 256–57. 39 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 226. 40 Ibid. 41 Al-Ghazali, Faysal al-Tafriqa bayn al-Islam wa-l-Zandaqa (Cairo: Matba at al-Sa ada, 1907), 2–3. 42 Ibn al-Nadim may have in mind a comparison with the companion Abu Musa al-Ash ari (d. 664) and his descendants. 43 See W. Montgomery Watt, “Djabriyya,” EI2 , 2:365; art. “Hashwiyya,” EI2 , 3:269. 44 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 230, 231. 45 Ibid., 230. 46 Ibid., 233. 47 Ibid., 233–34. 48 Ibid., 233. 49 On Yaman b. Ri ab (and not, as in many sources, Rabab) al-Tahhan al-Sa di, see W. Montgomery Watt, The Formative Period in Islamic Thought, 17; Van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 1:382–83; 2:599–600; Michael Cook, Early Muslim Dogma: A Source-Critical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 98–99; Modarressi, Tradition and Survival, 189–91. 50 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 235. 51 Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima, 62. 52 J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 149, n. 2. On al-Khuldi, see Akram Diya al- Umari, Mawarid al-Khatib al-Baghdadi fi Tarikh Baghdad (Beirut: Dar al-Qalam, 1975), 196–97; GAS, 1:661; Ja far b. Muhammad b. Nusayr al-Baghdadi, al-Fawa id wa-l-Zuhd wal-Raqa iq wa-l-Marathi, ed. Majdi Fathi al-Sayyid (Tanta, Egypt: Dar al-Sahaba li-l-Turath, 1989). Mojaddedi refers to accounts transmitted from al-Khuldi as Hikayat al-Awliya and doubts that they formed a published book. Jawid Ahmed Mojaddedi, The Biographical Tradition in Sufism: The Tabaqat Genre from al-Sulami to Jami (Richmond, Va./Surrey: Curzon Press, 2001), 61–63. 53 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 235. Some manuscripts of the Fihrist ascribe a title Kitab Murad al-Muridin to Yahya b. Mu adh. See Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 235, n. 4. The date 821–22 given for Yahya b. Mu adh al-Razi is Ibn al-Nadim’s. Al-Sulami gives the much later date of 872 instead. 54 Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 235. 55 Ibid., 237–38. 56 Ibid., 238. 57 Ibid., 240–41. 58 Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima, 61–62. 59 Along with many other inconsistencies. See Tajaddud, Kitab al-Fihrist, 268–69; MS 1934, fol. 44v–46r. 60 Polosin, Fixrist Ibn an-Nadima, 76–96. 61 Joseph Schacht, “The Schools of Law and Later Developments of Jurisprudence,” Law in the Middle East I: Origin and Development of Islamic Law, ed. Majid Khadduri and Herbert J. Liebesny (Washington, D.C.: Middle East Institute, 1955), 63; Melchert, Formation, 32–33; idem, “Review of Nurit Tsafrir, The History of an Islamic School of Law: The Early Spread of Hanafism,” Journal of Near East Studies (forthcoming). 62 Al-Sharif al-Murtada, al-Intisar, 2–3. 63 Devin J. Stewart, Islamic Legal Orthodoxy: Twelver Shiite Responses to the Sunni Legal System (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1998), 151–55. 64 Al-Ash ari, Maqalat al-Islamiyyin, 2 vols., ed. Muhammad Muhyi al-Din Abd al-Hamid (Cairo: Maktabat al-Nahda al-Misriyya, n.d.), 1:65.
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