FAŻL, b. Šāḏān NĪŠĀPŪRĪ AZDĪ, ABŪ MOḤAMMAD, Imami traditionalist, theologian, and jurisprudent (d. Moḥarram 260/October-November 873). After studying with his father Šāḏān b. Ḵalīl (according to several sources, Ḵalīl was Šāḏān’s laqab; see Moḥaddeṯ Ormavī, pp. 44-48), Fażl moved as a young man from Persia to Baghdad, where he met Ḥasan b. ʿAlī b. Fażżāl (d. 224/838-39), followed him to Kūfa, and studied with him there (Kaššī, pp. 433-34; Najāšī, pp. 34-35). Fażl’s arrival in Baghdad may have followed his expulsion from Nīšāpūr by order of the governor of Khorasan ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ṭāher (213-30/828-45), who appears to have disapproved of some of Fażl’s Shiʿite views (Kaššī, p. 452). Fażl is counted among the disciples of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Imams. Some authorities also maintain that he transmitted from Imam ʿAlī al-Reżā (d. 203/818-19, q.v.; Najāšī, p. 307). In various passages Fażl, indeed, mentions having heard traditions from the eighth Imam (e.g., Ebn Bābawayh, 1970, II, p. 119), and he could perhaps have met him during Imam ʿAlī al-Reżā’s stay in Nīšāpūr in 201/816-17. According to Kaššī’s informant, Abū-ʿAlī Bayhaqī, Fażl was in Bayhaq when news reached him of an impending Kharijite attack. He left, was overcome by fatigue, fell ill, and died (Kaššī, p. 455). He was buried in Nīšāpūr, and Shiʿites used to frequent his grave. Fażl’s death preceded by several months that of Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī (Modarressi, 1993, p. 39).
The sources record many complimentary statements that the eleventh Imam made about Fażl, yet the Imam did not always approve of Fażl’s views and actions. For example, he is said to have complained that Fażl had prevailed on the Nīšāpūrīs not to pay their religious dues to Imam al-ʿAskarī’s agent (wakīl), Ayyūb b. al-Nāb (or al-Bāb; Kaššī, pp. 454-55; Modarressi, 1993, p. 39). The agent’s name is not mentioned elsewhere; perhaps the reference is to Ayyūb b. Nūḥ b. Darrāj, described by Aḥmad Najāšī (p. 102) as an agent of the tenth and eleventh Imams).
Like other followers of Hešām b. Ḥakam, Fażl advanced the view that God is a body unlike any other body (Ebn Abi’l-Ḥadīd, III, p. 228). He held that the Imams have a thorough knowledge of the law and of the correct interpretation of the Koran but argued, in opposition to the views of some Nīšāpūrī Shiʿites, that the Imams do not know such things as the inner thoughts of men, and do not understand all human languages and the languages of all birds and other animals (Kaššī, p. 452-53). That Fażl was strongly opposed to the extremist Shiʿites can be seen not only from the titles of some of his works, but also from his critical pronouncements on ḡolāt such as Abū Somayna (Kaššī, p. 457). Fażl saw himself as the successor of Yūnos b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and Abū Jaʿfar Sakkāk in refuting the beliefs of non-Imamis (Kaššī, p. 452). He was a supporter of the use of reasoning in law and theology (Madelung, p. 84); in this he preceded other Imami scholars in Nīšāpūr, notably Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Jonayd (fl. mid-4th/10th cent.), who wrote a work of kalām in defense of Fażl (cf. Najāšī, p. 388).
Fażl is the author of numerous works on legal, doctrinal, and theological subjects. According to his younger contemporary Yaḥyā b. Zakarīyāʾ Ganjī, he composed 180 works; forty-eight were still known to Najāšī (p. 307). Thirty of these titles are also cited by Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad Ṭūsī (Fehrest, pp. 154-55), who, in addition, mentions two further titles. A major work that has survived (though no single manuscript containing the entire work appears to exist; see Moḥaddeṯ Ormavī, pp. 61-69) is the Ketāb al-īżāḥ fi’l-radd ʿalā sāʾer al-feraq. If it is indeed by Fażl (something that remains to be established; see Pākatčī), then it constitutes one of the earliest Imami works of anti-Sunni polemics. It contains attacks on the first three caliphs and the Morjeʾa criticisms of the Kharijites and others, and a defense of various Imami practices and beliefs. Fażl’s Ketāb al-ʿelal appears to be preserved in its entirety in two works of Ebn Bābawayh/Bābūya, the ʿElal al-šarāʾeʿ (pp. 251-75) and the ʿOyūn aḵbār al-Reżā (II, pp. 97-119). Fażl’s Ketāb al-ḡayba is cited in some later sources (Golpāyagānī, pp. 320, 466-67; al-Ḏarīʿa XVI, p. 78, no. 395) and may therefore be extant. Excerpts from Fażl’s Ketāb al-qāʾem are preserved in Ḥasan b. Solaymān Ḥellī’s Moḥtażar (pp. 4, 5, 89-90); furthermore, traditions on the Qāʾem on the authority of Fażl as cited by Ṭūsī (1965, pp. 260-63, 265-77, 281-86) may have been taken from this work. Kaššī has preserved statements of Fażl on various Companions, tābeʿūn, and later scholars (e.g., pp. 21, 39-40, 65, 107, 220, 378, 410-11); some of these statements are said to have been taken from a book of his (baʿż kotobeh; e.g., pp. 104, 438, 457), evidently a work of rejāl (cf.Āḡā Bozorg Ṭehrānī, p. 361). Fażl’s Ketāb al-naqż ʿalā Abī ʿObayd fi’l-ṭalāq is partially preserved in Abū Jaʿfar Kolaynī’s Kāfī (VI, pp. 93-96). Some of his views on the laws of inheritance are likewise cited there (Kāfī VII, pp. 88-90, 95-96, 98-99, 105-08, 116-18, 120-25, 142, 145-46, 148-49, 161-62, 166-68); these may well have been taken from Fażl’s Ketāb al-farāʾeż, which existed in three versions of varying lengths. Of Fażl’s polemical works, the Radd ʿala’l-Qarāmeṭa is the earliest known refutation of this sect, and his Radd ʿalā Ebn Karrām is the earliest known treatise against the founder of the Karrāmīya (van Ess, 1980, p. 75); a fragment of the latter work is cited by Ṭūsī (1964, II, pp. 346-47). Fażl’s works and teachings were transmitted chiefly by his disciple ʿAlī b. Moḥammad b. Qotayba Nīšāpūrī (Najāšī, p. 259).
As already noted by Ṭūsī (Fehrest, p. 155), the exegete and traditionist Abu’l-ʿAbbās Fażl b. Šāḏān Rāzī who, according to Ebn al-Nadīm (p. 287), was claimed by both Sunnis and Shiʿites, is probably not the same person as the subject of this article (cf. Ebn al-Jazarī, II, p. 10, where his death-date is given as ca. 290/903).
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Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: January 24, 2012
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