BĀLAWĪ, prominent Nīšāpūr family of the 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries. Aḥmad b. ʿAbd-Allāh b. Aḥmad b. Bālūya (whence the family name Bālawī) had five sons all named Moḥammad but with different konyas. What little is recorded about them establishes that their social origins were commercial. They are called brokers and clothing dealers, but Abū Bakr Moḥammad is also said to be from an old and wealthy family so the family’s commercial origins may have been a generation or more earlier. Abū Naṣr Moḥammad was a courtier of the Samanid that ruled Khorasan from Bukhara. The last brother died in 374/984 at the age of ninety-four. Two members of a collateral line of Bālawīs are also known in this generation.
In the next generation the Bālawīs became noted more for scholarship and involvement with Islamic legal matters than commerce. Abū Moḥammad ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān held the office of mozakkī, which maintained the list of legal witnesses who served as bailiffs and notaries. He was patronized by the more noted mozakkī Abū ʿAmr Baḥīrī, who arranged for him to hold ḥadīṯ classes, the ultimate sign of acceptance into the religious and scholarly elite. A similar indication of acceptance may be seen in the marriage between a cousin and the daughter of Abū Bakr Aḥmad Ḥarašī Ḥīrī, who was also called ʿOṯmānī because of his descent on his mother’s side from the caliph ʿOṯmān. Ḥarašī was a leading Shafeʿite legal scholar. He served both as mozakkī and later as judge (qāżī), being the last Shafeʿite to hold the normally Hanafite-dominated post.
The Bālawī family continued for two more generations, and some members were called mozakkī. But little is known about them. One branch of the family acquired the additional name Kayyālī (grain measurer) through intermarriage with a little-known family that appears to have similarly advanced from commercial origins to positions of wealth, land ownership, and acceptance by other elite or patrician families.
R. W. Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur, chap. 7, with full references to the mss. ed. in facs. by R. N. Frye, The Histories of Nishapur, The Hague, 1965.
(R. W. Bulliet)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: December 15, 1988