BAḠDĀDĪ, ʿABD-AL-QĀHER B. ṬĀHER ŠĀFEʿĪ TAMĪMĪ (ca. 350/961-429/1038), mathematician, Shafeʿite jurist and Asḥʿarite theologian. He was born in Baghdad, the son of a wealthy merchant by the name of Ṭāher b. Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ebrāhīm (cf. Taʾrīḵ Baḡdād IX, p. 358 n. 4923; Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt2 V, pp. 51ff.). Early on his father left the capital and settled in Nīšāpūr; there he spent much of his money for scholarly purposes and by that acquired some recognition among the educated circles of the town. The son had wide interests; he was said later on to master seventeen different disciplines. As early as 370/980-81, he took part, as he reports himself (Farq bayn al-feraq, ed. Badr, p. 213.10ff.), in a discussion with a Karrāmī theologian in the presence of Nāṣer-al-Dawla Moḥammad b. Ebrāhīm Sīmjūr, the military commander of the Samanids. Yet we do not know anything about his career during the next forty years. We suspect that his theological activities were possibly hampered by the growing influence the Karrāmīya acquired in Nīšāpūr. Sübüktigin (d. 387/997) who had taken the place of the Simjurids as supporter of the declining Samanid suzerainty was impressed by the asceticism of Abū Yaʿqūb Esḥāq b. Maḥmašāḏ, a Karrāmī living in Nīšāpūr; his son Maḥmūd (of Ḡazna) supported Abū Yaʿqūb’s son Moḥammad b. Esḥāq and made him raʾīs of the town in 398/1007. We may assume that it was during this period that ʿAbd-al-Qāher wrote his (lost) Ketāb fażāʾeḥ al-Karrāmīya. The Karrāmī raʾīs was deposed in 410/1019, but the opposition that got the better of him was directed by a Hanafite, the qāżī Ṣāʿed b. Moḥammad Ostowāʾī, whereas ʿAbd-al-Qāher was a Shafeʿite. Only in 411/1020, when profiting from the new intellectual climate the Shafeʿite jurist and Asḥʿarite theologian Abū Esḥāq Ebrāhīm b. Moḥammad Esfarāʾīnī started lecturing in the ʿAqīl mosque in Nīšāpūr, did the tide seem to turn in his favor. He attended Esfarāʾīnī’s courses and, after the latter’s death in 418/1027, took over his chair. He was then in his late sixties and universally known as Shaikh Abū Manṣūr or Abū Manṣūr-al-Motakallem. His prestige was, however, rather short-lived, for when the Saljuqs appeared on the horizon one decade later he left for Esfarāʾīn. Toḡrel entered Nīšāpūr in Šawwāl, 429/July, 1038; ʿAbd-al-Qāher died in Esfarāʾīn in the same year. He seems to have had relations with this town long before; perhaps he studied there with Esfarāʾīnī before 411. Esfarāʾīn was a stronghold of Shafeʿism; moreover, ʿAbd-al-Qāher’s tribe, the Tamīm, had settled there. His daughter may have been the mother of Šāhfūr b. Ṭāher Esfarāʾīnī (d. 471/1079).
Since we do not hear of any official position held by ʿAbd-al-Qāher it is quite possible that, besides spending his father’s great fortune, he gained his living as a mathematician and geometer. As such he is mentioned by Neẓāmī ʿArūżī in the beginning of the third chapter of his Čahār maqāla (ed. Qazvīnī, p. 61.14f.), as the author of a Ketāb al-takmela on arithmetic which was highly praised. The only trace of his activity in this field is his Ketāb al-īżāḥ ʿan oṣūl ṣenāʿat al-massāḥ, a treatise on the art of surveying (i.e., mostly on plain geometry) which is preserved in its Arabic original and a Persian translation of the sixth century (facsimile edition of both texts by Aḥmad Goḷčīn-e Maʿānī, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968).
In theology and jurisprudence he was strong in disputation; this may have cost him some sympathies. As a Shafeʿite, he composed verses against Abū Ḥanīfa (cf. Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt2 V, p. 142.3ff.) and started a protracted controversy with a Hanafite jurist who had defended the superiority of his maḏhab (for the contents cf. Sobkī, pp. 145ff., n. 4, according to the Ṭabaqāt al-wosṭā). He wrote Manāqeb al-emām al-Šāfeʿī and fought for Šāfeʿī’s doctrine that the Koran may not be abrogated by the Sunna (ibid., pp. 136f., n. 4). He composed a commentary on the Meftāḥ fī forūʿ al-Šāfeʿīya by Ebn al-Qāṣṣ Ṭabarī (d. 335/946; cf. Kašf al-ẓonūn (Istanbul), p. 1769.20f.). In theology, he retains, together with his teacher Esfarāʾīnī and Ebn Fūrak (d. 406/1015), the responsibility for the spread of Asḥʿarism in Nīšāpūr and obviously also Esfarāʾīn. Like the two others, he adjusted the doctrine to the requirements of anti-Karrāmī polemics; thus, in contrast to Ašʿarī’s or Bāqellānī’s approach, he used metaphorical language in the explanation of the divine attributes in order to avoid Karrāmī anthropomorphism. His Ketāb oṣūl al-dīn (Istanbul, 1346/1928) which, for each problem of scholastic theology, defines the “orthodox” Asḥʿarite position after having enumerated the “sectarian” aberrations, was certainly intended as a kind of catechism for the general reader.
In Europe, ʿAbd-al-Qāher has been mainly known as a heresiographer. His Ketāb al-farq bayn al-feraq which heavily leans on older sources but furnishes some original information, was edited three times (by Moḥammad Badr, Cairo, 1328/1910; by Moḥammad Zāhed Kawṯarī, Cairo, 1367/1948; by Moḥyī-al-Dīn ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd, Cairo, ): There is an English translation (in two parts: part 1 by K. Chambers Seelye, New York, 1920; part 2 by A. S. Halkin, Tel Aviv, 1935) and a Persian one (by Moḥammad Jawād Maškūr, Tehran, 2nd ed., 1344 Š./1965). ʿAbd-al-Qāher’s grandson(?) Šāhfūr b. Ṭāher used the book in his courses and published an adapted version under the title al-Tabṣīr fi’l-dīn (ed. Kawṯarī, Cairo, 1374/1955). The Hanbalite scholar ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Rasʿanī (d. 661/1263) shortened it into a moḵtaṣar (ed. Ph. Hitti, Cairo, 1924). ʿAbd-al-Qāher had used most of the material contained in the book in his Ketāb al-melal wa’l-neḥal (ed. A. N. Nader, Beirut, 1970).
He seems to have been positive toward Sufism. He wrote a treatise about the superiority of a patient poor man over a grateful rich one (Kašf al-ẓonūn, Istanbul, p. 462, last line). Qošayrī was among his pupils.
The main biographical notice is ʿAbd-al-Ḡāfer Fāresī, Sīāq taʾrīḵ Naysābūr, ed. R. N. Frye, in Histories of Nishapur, Cambridge, Mass., 1966, text II, fol. 55a.15ff.; slightly shortened version in Ṣarīfīnī, Moḵtaṣar, ed. Frye, ibid., text III, fol. 105a.4ff. (= ed. M. Kāẓem-al-Maḥmūdī, Tehran, 1403/1983, pp. 545f.).
It is used in all later accounts, cf. Ebn ʿAsāker, Tabyīn kaḏeb al-moftarī, Damascus, 1347/1928-29, pp. 253f.
Qefṭī, Enbāh al-rowāt, Cairo, 1950ff., II, pp. 185f., no. 400.
Ebn Ḵallekān III, p. 203, no. 392.
Kotobī, Fawāt al-wafayāt II, Beirut, 1973, pp. 370ff.
Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt1 III, pp. 238ff.; Ṭabaqāt2 V, pp. 136ff. (with additions from the Ṭabaqāt al-wosṭā).
Asnawī, Ṭabaqāt al-šāfeʿīya I, Baghdad, 1391/1971, pp. 194ff., no. 169.
Ebn Kaṯīr, al-Bedāya, Cairo, 1351-/1932-, XII, p. 44.
Soyūṭī, Boḡyat al-woʿāt, ed. M. Abu’l-Fażl Ebrāhīm, Cairo, 1384/1964, II, p. 105, no. 1555.
Yāfeʿī, Merʾāt al-janān III, Hyderabad, 1337-/1918-, III, p. 52.
Bağdatlı Paşa, Hadyat al-ʿārefīn I, Istanbul, 1951, p. 606. 7ff. Cf. also GAL I, p. 482; S. I, pp. 666f.
H. Laoust, in REI 29, 1961, pp. 19ff.
M. Allard, Le problème des attributs divins, Beirut, 1965, pp. 316ff. and 329ff.
H. Halm, Die Ausbreitung der šāfiʿitischen Rechtsschule, Wiesbaden, 1974, pp. 52f. and 82.
D. Gimaret, Théories de l’acte humain, Paris, 1980, pp. 119f.
There is a Ketāb al-nāseḵ wa’l-mansūḵ of his preserved in the ms. Berlin, Ahlwardt 478.
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(J. van Ess)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 22, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 4, pp. 409-410