BAḤĪRĪ, a major Shafiʿite family of Nishapur in the eleventh century. The family’s eponym is Baḥīr b. Nūḥ b. Ḥayyān b. Moḵtār about whom nothing concrete is known. The names are recorded of several family members who lived in the early tenth century, but Abū ʿAmr Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Moḥammad b. Jaʿfar b. Baḥīr is the first Baḥīrī to be more than just a name. He held the post of mozakkī in Nishapur which gave him the authority to place people on the official list of court witnesses. Witnesses functioned as bailiffs and notaries, and only men of unimpeachable honesty and social standing could be appointed. Abū ʿAmr was also a prominent teacher of ḥadīṯ (tradition).
Abū Naṣr ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān, the eldest of Abū ʿAmr’s four sons, inherited the post of mozakkī, which then passed to his brother Abū ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān ʿAmr when he died only three years after his father in 399/1009. ʿAmr also taught ḥadītÂ¯ in the Old Congregational Mosque in Nishapur, a stronghold of the city’s Hanafite faction, during the period when the Hanafites supported the persecution of the Shafiʿite-Asḥʿarite faction launched by the vizier ʿAmīd-al-Molk Kondorī. This may indicate that the Baḥīrīs were Shafiʿites but not Asḥʿarites. Another brother, Abū ʿOṯmān Saʿīd Mūlqābādī (named for the part of Nishapur the family lived in), served with distinction in the army of Maḥmūd of Ghazna during his invasions of India.
Several Baḥīrīs served as mozakkīs or other functionaries of the qāżī’s court in the next generation. The most remarkable was Abū Saʿīd Esmāʿīl who was born in 419/1028 and died in 501-02/1108. An Asḥʿarite, unlike earlier family members, he was closely associated with the family of the noted Shafiʿite Sufi Abu’l-Qāsem Qošayrī. Unspecified financial misfortune forced him to sell the last of his family’s estates, but subsequent success as a merchant enabled him to become a landowner again. In later life he was considered an important scholar and teacher of ḥadīṯ.
Little is known about later members of the family, including one Abū Saʿd Moḥammad who is described as being pure of heart but strange and savage of nature. The last known figure is Abū Bakr ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān, who studied under Qošayrī in his youth and died at the age of 87 in 539-40/1145.
R. W. Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur, Cambridge, Mass., 1972, chap. 12, with full references to the mss. ed. in facs. by R. N. Frye, The Histories of Nishapur, The Hague, 1965.
See also Habib Jaouiche, The Histories of Nishapur. Register der Personen- und Ortsnamen, Wiesbaden, 1984.
(R. W. Bulliet)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 23, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 5, p. 486