Making Sense of Ismaili Traditions: The Modes and Meanings of the Transmission of Ḥadīth in the Works of al-Qāḍī al-Nuʿmān (d. 363/974)
Date: 30 September 2019
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Arab and Islamic Studies
This thesis examines the intellectual legacy of the famous Fatimid jurist, Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān b. Abī ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Aḥmad b. Ḥayyūn al-Tamīmī al-Qayrawānī (d. 363/974), better known as Qāḍī Nuʿmān, with a focus on the sources he consulted to construct his hadith works. His works represent the emergence of a new genre ...
This thesis examines the intellectual legacy of the famous Fatimid jurist, Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān b. Abī ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Aḥmad b. Ḥayyūn al-Tamīmī al-Qayrawānī (d. 363/974), better known as Qāḍī Nuʿmān, with a focus on the sources he consulted to construct his hadith works. His works represent the emergence of a new genre of literature promulgated under the rubric of ʿulūm Āl al-Bayt (sciences of the progeny of the Prophet) soon after the Fatimids established their hegemony over North Africa. Qāḍī Nuʿmān, the most prolific and versatile Fatimid scholar, was tasked with the responsibility of compiling a work of law that would serve as an authoritative point of reference for jurists, judges and bureaucrats in the burgeoning Ismaili state. It is evident that Nuʿmān had to have recourse to earlier collections of hadith as he cites them consistently in his writings and incorporates them into his works. These early hadith collections, most of which no longer exist, equipped Nuʿmān with the raw material from which he formulated and systematised various aspects of Ismaili belief and practice. This endeavour resulted in a corpus of works which received the imprimatur of the Fatimid state. It is detailing these lost sources and examining their role in the emergence of hadith literature that this thesis is primarily concerned. The fundamental aim of the thesis is to examine the historicity of Qāḍī Nuʿmān’s sources in his voluminous legal work, Kitāb al-īḍāḥ, by cross-examining its contents with other contemporary hadith collections of Zaydi and Imami provenance. Although the extant fragment of this work offers some valuable information on its sources, studying al-Īḍāḥ is beset by serious challenges to its authenticity, given that many of the original sources on which it was based are no longer extant. Furthermore, it is claimed that the alleged sources were collected in the first half of the second/eighth century in the East (Medina and Kūfa), whereas the text in question was composed in North Africa during the early fourth/tenth century. This thesis investigates the missing links between al-Īḍāḥ’s origins and its later dissemination throughout North Africa. Given the lack of contemporary historical evidence, including on popular conventional means of hadith transmission, this thesis establishes an alternative method to explore the credibility of al-Īḍāḥ. This work, when read alongside other contemporaneous Shīʿī hadith collections, reveals much more material in common. These Shīʿī materials trace their origins to the original sources of the second/eighth century, thus attesting that they originated from the same material independently of each other. The secondary aim of this research is to reconstruct Qāḍī Nuʿmān’s attitudes towards the hadith literature. Al-Īḍāḥ contains numerous asides and hints that can be deployed to construct his methodology. The text is not a mere hadith collection; rather the author reconciles contradictory reports through his own juristic reasoning to reach a legal opinion. This thesis also analyses Nuʿmān’s ambitiously eclectic framework for the contextualisation of hadith, borne out of his access to an unusually broad range of literature, encompassing Zaydi, Ismaili and Imami hadith corpora. Furthermore, his writing style evinces clear similarities, both stylistic and structural, to North African Sunni writings of the period. By examining the materials in al-Īḍāh in this comparative manner and placing the work in a wider context, we gain a clearer notion of Nuʿmān’s sources, and therefore the spread and dissemination of these literary forms. This thesis serves as a useful point of departure for future work on cross-regional and inter-sectarian—namely, Zaydi, Imami and Ismaili—modes of transmission in Islamic literature more broadly.
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