The Kitāb Sībawayh of ʾAbū al-Ḥasan ʾAḥmad b. Naṣr

Jean Druel, “The Kitāb Sībawayh of ʾAbū al-Ḥasan ʾAḥmad b. Naṣr: A non-Sīrāfian recension of the Kitāb”, in Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik 71 (2020), pages 29‒56.

The Milan-Kazan codex of SĪBAWAYH’s (d. ca 180/796) Kitāb is a 5ᵗʰ/11ᵗʰ century North-African parchment today split between three collections: 1) Milan, Ambrosiana, X 56 sup. (115 folios), 2) Kazan, National Archives of the Republic of Tatarstan 10/5/822 (48 folios), and 3) London, Bernard Quaritch Ltd catalogue 2018/3, item number 11 (6 folios). When put together, these three manuscripts contain only one fourth of the whole text of the Kitāb. This codex sheds a new light on the gradual stabilisation of SĪBAWAYH’s text. Its recension is linked to a certain ʾABŪ AL-ḤASAN ʾAḤMAD B. NAṢR, mentioned on the first folio of the Milan fragments.
Focusing on one specific issue, namely the possibility to form the diminutive of the names of the days of the week, this paper compares SĪBAWAYH’s teaching according to the text as accepted by scholars to date (as in DERENBOURG 1881‒1889), along with the early commentaries and the recension of the Milan-Kazan codex according to its four successive hands.
At this point, it is impossible to say that this recension is pre-Mubarradian, that is to say one that escaped the “authoritarian stranglehold” on the text by AL-MUBARRAD (HUMBERT 1995:92). However, the Milan-Kazan codex surely contains a non-Sīrāfian recension of SĪBAWAYH’s Kitāb, that is a recension which, unlike the “received” text of the Kitāb, was not influenced by AL-SĪRĀFĪ’s commentary.

Islam of the Qurʾān vs Islam of the Hadith: Overcoming the divide between the “new thinkers of Islam” and the “Ulamas”

Youssouf Sangaré

University of Clermont-Auvergne (France)

icon-calendar June 21, 2020

Click here to watch the lecture on Youtube (in French with Arabic subtitles)…

The Iraqi Shiite theologian al-Sayyid Kamāl al-Haydarī (born in 1956) is one of the most active theologians on social networks, where he is highly followed. In his writings, he states that after the death of the Prophet Islam became sectarian and that Ḥadīṯ largely reflects these quarrels that have arisen around the question of the succession of the Prophet. However, al-Haydarī is not a “Qurʾanist” in the sense that it does not reject Ḥadīṯ. He simply notes that the Qurʾān is pluralistic in nature and that it founds a culture of pluralism (iḫtilāf). Al-Haydarī derives from this the principle that pluralism is a “divine tradition” (al-iḫtilāf sunna ilāhiyya). This implies for example that divisions between Shiites and Sunnis are legitimate. Within this framework, the personal effort of interpretation (iǧtihād) should make it possible to implement this “culture of pluralism”.

The oldest manuscripts of the Qurʾān

Emilio Platti

IDEO, Professor Emeritus of the Catholic University of Leuven

icon-calendar Tuesday January 24ᵗʰ, 2017

Following the discovery of extremely old manuscripts of the Qurʾān, and the Birmingham folios having been dated between 568 and 645 AD (56 before Hiǧra and 25 after) with Carbon 14 techniques, scholars largely refuse today the late dating of the earliest copies of the Qurʾān proposed for example by John Wansbrough in his book entitled Quranic studies (Oxford University Press, 1977). See also Patricia Crone and Michael Cook who suggested that there was no indication of the existence of the Qurʾān before the end of the 1st/7th century (Hagarism, Cambridge University Press, 1977). It now seems that a better dating should be closer to the middle of the 1st/7th century, or even earlier.

The discovery in 1972 of very old Qurʾānic manuscripts in Ṣanʿāʾ elicited new studies, and the ultraviolet techniques that are now available revealed that one of the codices is actually a palimpsest, i.e. it contains an older text that has been washed away and replaced by a later one. A first edition of this older text was published by Behnam Sadeghi and Mohsen Goudarzi in Der Islam 87 (2010) under the title “Ṣanʿāʾ 1 and the origin of the Qurʾān” and an analysis of the manuscript was published between 2008 and 2014 by Elizabeth Puin under the title “Ein früher Koranpalimpsest aus Ṣanʿāʾ”. A new edition of the text is due to be published on February 28, 2017 by Asma Hilali at the Oxford University Press under the title The Sanaa palimpsest. Unfortunately, these two editions only contain the text of the 36 folios from the manuscript of Dār al-Maḫṭūṭāt (Ṣanʿāʾ) and not the 40 other folios of the same codex that were found recently in al-Maktaba al-Šarqiyya (also in Ṣanʿāʾ).

Interestingly, this older version that has been washed away seems to be, until now, the only one among all the copies of the Qurʾān to differ from the ʿUṯmānic canonical version. After the ʿUṯmānic unification of the Qurʾānic text, variant versions have indeed been erased and replaced by the canonical text. The Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest is a convincing proof that different versions from the time of the Pophet’s companions did actually exist, a fact that was common knowledge in the Islamic medieval tradition represented among others by Ibn Abī Dāwūd’s book Kitāb al-maṣāḥif.

Archeology and water in medieval Morocco

Thomas Soubira

Archeologist, PhD student in Toulouse University

icon-calendar Monday December 19ᵗʰ, 2016

The archeological site of Sijilmasa is being excavated by a French Moroccan team. This “harbour” of transsaharian trade between the 8th and the 15th centuries has remarkable hydrolic archeological remnants that can be observed on the entire excavation zone: water harvesting, transportation, storage, and disposal of sewage water. All this equipement reveal a creative human effort and a great diversity of techniques used to manage such a precious resource in this arid zone.

Located in the Tafilalt lowland, this site is inhabited since prehistoric times. The city of Sijilmasa—or, probably rather an agglomerate of fortified houses—was founded around the mid-8th century by the Berber tribe of the Banū Midrār, at the convergence point of many caravan routes. In the beginning of the 16th century, Leo Africanus (d. 957/1550) describes it as a ruined city.

At the end of the 18th century, this very oasis zone is also the cradle of the Alaouite dynasty, that still rules Morocco today. The site of Sijilmasa was only preserved from destruction because it was used as the burial site of the Alaouites.

Reflection on the argument from cannibalism in Islamic theology

Eric van Lit

PhD in Islamic studies

 Tuesday December 13ᵗʰ, 2016

seminar-ericA little problem keeps popping up century after century, in the writings of all kinds of Muslim theologians (80 to 90 authors have been identified so far); what happens if one person were to eat another person, can they both have bodily resurrection?

The first occurrence of this theological question is to be found long before the advent of Islam, in Athenagoras’ De resurrectione in the second century and Augustin (fifth century) does not hesitate to call it the strongest argument against bodily resurrection. It is also discussed by Thomas Aquinas and many medieval christian theologians.

When al-Sayyid al-Šarīf al-Ǧurgānī (d. 816/1413) deals with this issue, making a distinction between essential and non essential body parts, he actually answers the anthropological and philosophical question of what is a person. What is the link between our identity as separate persons and our body? Another question that emerges from this one is: What is resurrection, the gathering of scattered body parts or a new creation? These questions are actually what makes the cannibalism argument relevant in the end.

Some theologians argue that the body is but a mere instrument, and the soul alone will be judged at resurrection. ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 877/1472) is an early example of this. This nips in the bud the very point of the discussion, that has gone as far as whether the bodily parts of a righteous person would suffer hell’s fire if these parts had been eaten by a sinner, thus becoming part of his body.

Ethics and spirituality in Islam

97965Francesco Chiabotti, Eve Feuillebois-Pierunek, Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen et Luca Patrizi (éd.), Ethics and spirituality in Islam: Sufi adab, Brill, Leyde, 2016, 792 pages.

The notion of adab is at the heart of Arab-Islamic culture. Born in the crucible of the Arabic and Persian civilization, nourished by Greek and Indian influences, this polysemic notion could cover a variegated range of meanings: good behavior, knowledge of manners, etiquette, rules and belles-lettres and finally, literature. This collection of articles tries to explore how the formulations and reformulations of adab during the first centuries of Islam engage with the crucial period of the first great spiritual masters, exploring the importance of normativity, but also of transgression, in order to define the rules themselves. Assuming that adab is ethics, the articles analyse the genres of Sufi adab, including manuals and hagiographical accounts, from the formative period of Sufism until the modernity.

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