Two recent publications

Pavel Pavlovitch wrote to us the following suggesting two recent publications:

  1.    Luke Yarbrough, “’I’ll Not Accept Aid from a mushrik’. Rural Space, Persuasive Authority, and religious Difference in Three Prophetic ḥadīths,” in Alain Delattre, Marie Legendre, and Petra M. Sijpesteijn (eds.), Authority and Control in the Countryside. From Antiquity to Islam in the Mediterranean and Near East (Sixth–Tenth century), Brill 2019, 44–93.

This is an excellent essay with a clear focus on the methodology of studying early ḥadīth including in-depth reflections on Behnam Sadeghi’s ‘Travelling Tradition Test’. The essay clearly shows the advantages and limitations of modern-day isnād– and matn-critical approaches to ḥadīth. To me, the largest challenge of this type of analysis is how to deal with the ubiquity of single-strand isnāds featuring large time gaps between the death dates of successive generations of transmitters. Apart from common links, personal reliability, and geography of dispersal, we must pay close attention to the factor of highness (ʿuluww) in the shaping of these isnāds.

The essay may be downloaded from Luke Yarbrough’s profile at Academia.

  1. (Beg your pardon for my self-promotion). Pavel Pavlovitch, “The Origin of the Isnād and al-Mukhtār b. Abī ʿUbayd’s Revolt in Kūfa (66–7/685–7),” al-Qanṭara 39.1 (2018), 17–48.

The article includes a study of Ibn Sīrīn’s tradition:

Lam yakūnū yasʾalūna ʿan al-isnād. Fa-lammā waqaʿat al-fitna qālū: “Sammū la-nā rijāla-kum fa-yunẓaru ilā ahl al-sunna fa-yuʾkhadhu ḥadīthu-hum wa-yunẓaru ilā ahl al-bidaʿ fa-lā yuʾkhadhu ḥadīthu-hum.”

The examination of its isnāds shows that it was most likely circulated in Baghdad at the beginning of the third century AH, less likely, in Bagdad in the third quarter of the second century AH. The former chronology finds support in the tradition’s matn: The dichotomy ahl al-sunna/ahl al-bidaʿ points to the miḥna as the life setting of Ibn Sīrīn’s statement.

To find out the earliest stage of isnād deployment, I also study a tradition in which Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī states, inna-mā suʾila ʿan al-isnād ayyām al-Mukhtār. This is a solitary tradition, the only version of which is found in Aḥmad’s ʿIlal wa-maʿrifat al-rijāl. Its isnād, Jābir b. Nūḥ (d. 183/799–800) -> al-Aʿmash (d. 147–8/764–5) -> Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī (d. c. 96/715), is impossible to verify.

Nevertheless, I think that both traditions reflect correctly concerns from the end of the first/seventh century, based on two general arguments.

First, Ibn al-Madīnī’s madārāt al-isnād as well as the earliest known common links flourished towards the end of the first century. This suggests that the initial urge to cite one’s informants may be dated in the same period.

Second, the ‘criterion of embarrassment’ suggests that Ibn Sīrīn’s and al-Nakhaʿī’s statements, although possibly inauthentic with respect to their earliest speakers, may reflect the actual chronology of the isnād’s emergence, because they contradict the established narrative, which sees the event as a consequence of the first civil war.

In the Conclusion, I propose to consider the formation of the isnād as a process that took a century to accomplish. Furthermore, the isnād in legal traditions and isnād historical akhbār developed at different paces, and these two developments should not be subsumed under a common chronological and typological denominator.

The article may be downloaded from the web page of al-Qantara or from my profile at Academia.

Kind regards,

Pavel Pavlovitch