The Chronology of al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān’s Works

In: Arabica
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  • 1 University of California, Los Angeles
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A chronology of an author’s works is necessary for understanding his or her intellectual evolution. Al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān wrote numerous books on diverse disciplines, such as jurisprudence, history, traditions of the Messenger of God and the Ismāʿīlī imams, biographies of the Fāṭimid caliph-imams, refutations of the Sunnī schools of law, and allegorical interpretation of the Qurʾān and the šarīʿa. The chronology of al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān’s corpus, which consists of more than fifty titles, is based primarily on pieces of evidence in his extant works. The sequence of al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān’s legal works suggests that The Pillars of Islam (Daʿāʾim al-islām), compiled under the directions of al-Muʿizz around 349/960, was his crowning achievement after serving the first four Fāṭimid caliph-imams since 313/925. In fact, al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān began and completed his first work Kitāb al-Īḍāḥ, a massive collection of legal traditions transmitted on the authority of the family of the Prophet, while he was still serving al-Mahdī (r. 297/909-322/934). The chronology further reveals that after composing The Pillars of Islam, al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān devoted his energies to the explication of the major Ismāʿīlī theological doctrine, namely the theory of taʾwīl (hermeneutics). In his Asās al-taʾwīl, he justifies the twin concepts of taʾwīl and bāṭin (the inner, hidden, esoteric meaning behind the literal wording of sacred texts)—from a jurist’s viewpoint—and argues that these concepts are firmly grounded in the foundational texts of Islam, viz., the Qurʾān and the Hadiths of the Prophet.

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