EṢFAHĀNĪ, ABU’L-ŠAYḴ ABŪ MOḤAMMAD ʿABD-ALLĀH b. Moḥammad b. Jaʿfar b. Ḥayyān ḤĀFEẒ ANṢĀRĪ (274-369/887-979), traditionist and Koran commentator, important principally for his Ṭabaqāt al-moḥaddeṯīn. Probably he received the laqab Abu’l-Šayḵ because of the great age (95 or 96) to which he lived.

He was born into a learned family of Isfahan and began to hear tradition in his father’s circle from a very early age (Ḏahabī, Sīar, p. 277). Isfahan being then a center of traditionists, it was only at the age of about twenty-six that he felt the need to travel to hear others. He went to Mosul, Ḥawrān, Ḥejāz, and Iraq.

A Sunnite traditionist, he took no discernible position in feqh between the Shafiʿite and Hanafite schools, which were then competing bitterly in Isfahan. As an expert in esnāds he was critical, but perhaps too inclusive, in what he himself related. Ḏahabī (Sīar, p. 279) criticized him for filling his books with trivia (wāhīyāt). Balūšī, who lists fifty-one titles attributed to him, notes some surprising omissions from his biographies of men who came to Isfahan (Ṭabaqāt I, introd. pp. 97-105, 123-24). Sezgin (GAS I, pp. 200-201) lists nine titles which exist at least in part.

The Ṭabaqāt is valuable not only for its biographical notices, but also for the early information it gives on the history of Isfahan. Abu’l Šayḵ’s disciple Abū Noʿaym Eṣfahānī used it extensively in his Aḵbār Eṣbahān. After a preface describing Isfahan, its geography, the history up to the Islamic conquest, the Ṭabaqāt speaks of 690 transmitters who had come to Isfahan, arranged in eleven categories, from the time of the Companions to Abu’l-Šayḵ’s own generation. His Tafsīr, now lost, is frequently quoted in Soyūṭī’s al-Dorr al-manṯūr. He also wrote on feqh questions, but these works have not survived. His Ketāb al-ʿaẓama, partly surviving in manuscript, is a mystical work.


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

Abu’l-Šayḵ al-Eṣfahānī, Ṭabaqāt al-moḥaddeṯīn be-Eṣbahān wa’l-wāredīn ʿalayhā, ed. ʿA. ʿA. H. Balūšī, 4 vols., Beirut, 1987-92.

Idem, Ketāb aḵlāq al-nabī, Cairo, 1378/1959, repr. 1392/1971.

Idem, Ketāb al-amṯāl, ed. E. Y. ʿErsān, M.A. thesis, University of Rīāż, 1403/1983.

Abū Noʿaym Eṣbahānī, Aḵbār Eṣbahān, ed. S. Dedering, 2 vols., Leiden, 1931-34, II, p. 90.

Ebn Taḡrīberdī, al-Nojūm al-ẓāhera, 12 vols, Cairo, 1929-56, IV, p. 136.

Esmāʿīl Pasha Baḡdādī, Hadīyat al-ʿārefīn, ed. K. R. Bilge and I. M. Kemal Inal, 2 vols., Istanbul, 1951-55, repr. Tabrīz, 1387/1967, I, p. 447.

Ḵaṭīb Baḡdādī, al-Kefāya fī ʿelm al-rewāya, Hyderabad, 1357/1937, p. 313.

Brockelmann, GAL, S. 1, p. 347.

Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḏahabī, Taḏkerat al-ḥoffāẓ, 4 vols., Hyderabad, 1955-58, III, pp. 945-47.

Idem, al-ʿEbarfī aḵbār al bašar , ed. Ṣ. Monajjed and F. Sayyed, 5 vols., Kuwait, 1960-66, II, pp. 351-52.

Idem, Sīar aʿlām al-nobalāʾ, ed. B. ʿA. Maʿrūf and H. Sarḥān, 25 vols., Beirut, 1981-88, XVI, pp. 276-80.

Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad b. ʿAlī Dāwūdī, Ṭabaqāt al-mofasserīn, ed. ʿA. Aḥmad ʿOmar, 2 vols., Cairo, 1392/1972, I, pp. 240-41.

Ebn al-ʿEmād, Šaḏarāt al-ḏahabfī aḵbār man ḏahab, ed. H.ṟ Qodsī, 4 vols., 1350-51/1931-32, Cairo, III, p. 69.

Samʿānī, ed. Yamānī, IV, p. 322.

(Martin McDermott)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

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