ʿALĀʾ-AL-DĪN SAMARQANDĪ, ABŪ BAKR MOḤAMMAD B. AḤMAD B. ABĪ AḤMAD, Ḥanafī jurist and Mātorīdī theologian. The attribution of the konya Abū Manṣūr to him by Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ and Ebn Qotlūboḡā seems to be erroneous. There is very little information about his life. In his Mīzān al-oṣūl he mentions as his teacher Faḵr-al-Eslām ʿAlī b. Moḥammad Bazdavī (d. 482/1089), the foremost scholar of Ḥanafī law and legal methodology in Transoxiana, who taught in Samarqand. He thus cannot have been born much later than 465/1073. According to the biographical sources, he was a student of Abu’l-Yosr Bazdavī (d. 493/1100), the leading scholar of Ḥanafī law and legal methodology after the death of his brother Faḵr-al-Eslām, and of Abu’l-Moʿīn Nasafī (d. 508/1114), eminent representative of the theological school of Mātorīdī. Both these teachers taught mostly in Bokhara, and it is likely that he studied with them there, though they also stayed for some time in his home town, Samarqand. Abu’l-Yosr is reported to have transmitted Hadith from him (Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ, al-Jawāher al-możīʾa II, p. 270).

Later ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn seems to have lived, at least for some time, in Anatolia. This is indicated by reports that several of the princes of Anatolia (ǰamāʿa men molūk belād al-Rūm) proposed to marry his daughter Fāṭema, who combined beauty with erudition in Ḥanafī law, but he refused his consent. He then gave her in marriage to his pupil ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Kāsānī, when the latter presented to him his Ketāb badāʾeʿ al-ṣanāʾeʿ, based on Samarqandī’s Toḥfat al foqahāʾ (ibid., p. 244). Kāsānī is known to have been active at the court of the Saljuq Masʿūd I in Konya before his appointment by the Zangid Nūr-al-dīn to the professorship of the Ḥalāwīya madrasa in Aleppo ca. 543/1149. He had presumably followed his teacher to Anatolia and married his daughter there. After the marriage, Kāsānī is reported to have issued joint fatwās with his father-in-law and his learned wife, who had already added her signature to the fatwās of her father. It thus may be presumed that Samarqandī also stayed in Konya. He has been identified with Abū Aḥmad Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Abī Ḥāmed, described by Samʿānī as “resident in Bokhara, a virtuous imam in rendering fatwās, disputation, legal methodology, and theology” (M. L. ʿAbd-al-Barr, intro. to his edition of Toḥfat al-foqahāʾ). Samʿānī further states that Abū Aḥmad had sent him an eǰāza (license) and had died on 1 Jomādā I 539/30 October 1144. This identification must be considered tempting but unsafe. Other dates mentioned for his death in modern works, 538, 540, 552, do not seem to be based on early sources. Among his students was Żīāʾ-al-dīn Moḥammad b. Ḥosayn Yarsūḵī, a teacher of Marḡīnānī.

Works. 1. Toḥfat al-foqahāʾ, a compendium of Ḥanafī law, has been published twice (ed. M. L. ʿAbd-al-Barr, Damascus, 1958-59; ed. M. M. al-Kattānī and W. al-Zoḥaylī, Damascus, 1964). As the author states in the introduction, it was intended to supplement, elaborate, and elucidate the highly popular legal compendium Moḵtaṣar of Qodūrī. The work represents a distinct advance in methodical arrangement and terminological refinement over Qodūrī’s text (see Y. Meron, “The Development of Legal Thought in Hanafi Texts,” Stud. Isl. 30, 1969, pp. 79ff.). ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Kāsānī wrote his famous legal handbook Badāʾeʿ al-ṣanāʾeʿ taking the Toḥfat al-foqahāʾ as his model. When Samarqandī, highly pleased by the work of his pupil, gave him his daughter in marriage, the contemporaries used to pun that “he commented his Toḥfa and married his daughter.” Though influenced by the Toḥfa, Kāsānī’s book is an original and much more detailed work rather than a commentary on it. 2. Al-Taʾwīlāt al-mātorīdīya fī bayān oṣūl ahl al-sonna wa oṣūl al-tawḥīd, a commentary on Mātorīdī’s Koran commentary Taʾwīlāt al-Qorʾān in eight volumes. According to the introduction, it is based on the lectures of Abu’l-Moʿīn Nasafī, Samarqandī’s teacher, on Mātorīdī’s work and intended in particular to explain the theological doctrine of Mātorīdī (see Tafsīr al-Mātorīdī, ed. E. ʿAwdayn and S. ʿAwdayn, I, Cairo, 1391/1971, intro., pp. 18-19). The work is extant in manuscript. 3. Mīzān al-oṣūl fī natāʾeǰ al-ʿoqūl, on Ḥanafī legal methodology, also extant in manuscript. 4. Al-Lobāb fī oṣūl al-feqh, also on legal methodology. Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ (al-Jawāher II, p. 23) has a separate entry on the author of this work whose name he gives as Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Samarqandī. Ebn Qotlūboḡā, however, corrects him stating that the book is by ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn. It is not known to be extant. 5. Šarḥ al-Ṭaḥāwī, mentioned by himself in Toḥfat al-foqahāʾ as his work. It was probably a commentary on Ṭaḥāwī’s popular legal compendium al-Moḵtaṣar and is not known to be extant. M. L. ʿAbd-al-Barr assumed that two other works entitled al-Mabsūṭ and Šarḥ al-ǰāmeʿ al-kabīr, to which Samarqandī refers in Toḥfat al-foqahāʾ without mention of their author, were also by him. It seems more likely, however, that the works of his teacher Faḵr-al-Eslām Bazdavī with these titles are meant. 6. Īżāḥ al-qawāʿed fi’l-moʿammā, on riddles. This is described by Ḥāǰǰī Ḵalīfa as a short book in Persian in nineteen chapters. Ismail Pasha ascribes it definitely to ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Samarqandī, while Ḥāǰǰī Ḵalīfa merely gives the author’s name as Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Samarqandī. The authorship of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn must be considered uncertain. It is not known to be extant.

Several books have erroneously been ascribed to him as a result of a confusion with his contemporary ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd Osmandī Samarqandī (d. 553/1158). Brockelmann listed the Ketāb moḵtalef al-rewāya, which according to Ḥāǰǰī Ḵalīfa (Kašf al-ẓonūn [Istanbul], col. 1636) is a work of Osmandī, among those of Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Samarqandī. M. L. ʿAbd-al-Barr assumed in addition that a Šarḥ manẓūmat al-Nasafī extant in manuscript is by Moḥammad b. Aḥmad and that the latter was meant by Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ’s mention of a Šayḵ-al-Eslām ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Samarqandī as the author of a commentary (šarḥ) on Šaybānī’s al-Jāmeʿ al-kabīr (al-Jawāher II, p. 449). Both works are, according to Ḥāǰǰī Ḵalīfa (cols. 1868, 569), by Osmandī.


Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ, al-Jawāher al-możīʾa, Hyderabad, 1332/1914, II, pp. 6-7, 23, 28, 30, 244, 278.

Ebn Qotlūboḡā, Tāǰ al-tarāǰem, Baghdad, 1962, p. 60.

Laknavī, al-Fawāʾed al-bahīya, Cairo, 1324/ 1906, p. 154.

Kašf al-ẓonūn (Istanbul), cols. 209, 336, 371, 1542, 1916-17.

Ismail Pasha, Asmāʾ al-moʾallefīn, Istanbul, 1955, II, col. 90.

Brockelmann, GAL I2, p. 462, S. I, p. 640.

M. Götz, “Māturīdī und sein Kitāb taʾwīlāt al-Qurʾān,” Der Islam 41, 1965, pp. 30ff.

(W. Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 29, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, pp. 782-783

Cite this entry:

W. Madelung, “ʿALĀʾ-AL-DĪN SAMARQANDĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/7, pp. 782-783; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ala-al-din-samarqandi-abu-bakr-mohammad-b (accessed on 15 May 2014).