The Spiritual and Physical Progeny of ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī: A Preliminary Study in Abū Naṣr al-Qushayrī’s (d. 514/1120) Kitāb al-Shawāhid wa-l-amthāl

in Journal of Sufi Studies
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This article discusses discoveries made concerning the teachings of ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī based on a preliminary analysis of the manuscript Kitāb al-Shawāhid wa l-amthāl recorded by Abū Naṣr al-Qushayrī (d. 514/1120), one of Qushayrī’s six sons. This text is the most significant attestation to the transmission of Qushayrī’s influence as it was passed down directly by his progeny. The first part of this study will briefly examine the careers of Qushayrī’s sons and their intellectual and spiritual legacy. The primary questions here are: what did the sons receive from their father and how did they transmit it? What role did familial bonds play in the transmission of religious knowledge and the mystical path? How should we understand the term Qushayriyya that the biographical sources used to describe the Qushayrī family? The second part will concentrate on the above mentioned manuscript and its transmission. After summing up the life and the career of Abū Naṣr and discussing issues of this manuscript’s authorship, the significance of the term shawāhid will be analyzed according to the role of poetry in Sufi literature. Then three important aspects of the Kitāb will be also examined.

The Spiritual and Physical Progeny of ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī: A Preliminary Study in Abū Naṣr al-Qushayrī’s (d. 514/1120) Kitāb al-Shawāhid wa-l-amthāl

in Journal of Sufi Studies




Richard W. BullietThe Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press1972) 150–9. For a more detailed analysis of the history of this family see Francesco Chiabotti “ ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072) family ties and transmission in Nishapur’s Sufi milieu during the 10th and 11th centuries” forthcoming in Portrait of Family with Saints ed. Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen and Alexandre Papas (Klaus Schwarz Verlag).


SubkīṬabaqāt 5:68–9.


Ibid. 5:225–8; and BullietThe Patricians154.


Fritz MeierAbū Saʿīd-i Abū l-Ḫayr (357–440/967–1049): Wirklichkeit und legende (Tehran-Liége: Bibliothèque Pahlavi1976) 384–402. “The most internal circle of followers was constituted by his family” (ibid. 384). Other examples of the role of family members in the transmission of the spiritual path can be found on 444–5.


On him see Travis ZadehThe Vernacular Qur’an: Translation and the Rise of Persian Exegesis (London: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies2012) 345–50.


BullietThe Patricians167–8.




Helmut Ritter“Philologika XIII: Arabische Handschriften in Anatolien und İstanbul (Fortsetzung),” Oriens 3.1 (1950): 31–107.


SubkīṬabaqāt7:192–3; and Hartwig Derenbourg Les manuscrits arabes de l’Escurial 21 Morale et politique (Paris: Leroux 1903) 24.


SamʿānīTaḥbīr2:369. On his travels see Rudolf Sellheim “al-Samʿānī Abū Saʿd (incorrectly Saʿīd) ʿAbd al-Karīm” in EI2 8:1024. Samʿānī also received hadiths from a daughter of Abū Saʿd ʿAbd Allāh al-Qushayrī called Amat al-Qāhir al-Qushayriyya (d. 530/1136): “samiʿtu minhā awrāqan min al-ḥadīth bi-Naysābūr.” He also met the daughter of Abū Naṣr Amat Allāh al-Qushayriyya (d. 541/1147) Abu Naṣr had at least three daughters (Ḥurra Amat al-Raḥīm Sāra Amat al-Raḥmān Ḥalīla Amat Allāh) and all of them are mentioned by Samʿānī in his Taḥbīr (cf. Samʿānī Taḥbīr 2:400 413).


Ibn ʿAsākirTabyīn274.




BullietThe Patricians115–33.


ṢarīfīnīMuntakhab371. This term is absent in Fārisī Siyāq fol. 52a.


SubkīTabaqāt7:329. This title was already mentioned by Samʿānī Taḥbīr 2:369.


Erik S. OhlanderSufism in the Age of Transition: ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī and the Rise of Islamic Mystical Brotherhoods (Leiden: Brill2008) 91.


OhlanderSufism in the Age of Transition86.


BullietThe Patricians77.


André Miquel“Ibn Baṭṭūṭa,” in EI23:735. Ibn Battuta Voyages et périples choisis trans. Paule Charles-Dominique (Paris: Gallimard1992) 179.




MakdisiIbn ʿAqīl359.


Ibn ʿAsākirTabyīn309–10.






SubkīṬabaqāt7:163–5; and Ibn ʿAsākir Tabyīn 167.


Ritter“Philologika XIII” 51–2. It should also be noted that there is a problem with the folio order: fol. 93a does not follow fol. 92b; fol. 96a does not follow fol. 95b; fol. 105a does not follow fol. 104b; fol. 115a does not follow fol. 114b; fol. 125a does not follow fol. 124b; and fol. 137a does not follow fol. 136b. My thanks to Bilal Orfali for bringing this to my attention.




Walid A. SalehThe Formation of the Classical Tafsīr Tradition: The Qurʾān Commentary of al-Thaʿlabī (d. 427/1035) (Leiden: Brill2004) 19 174.


Claude Gilliot“Shawāhid,” in EI29:370–2. See also idem “Les citations probantes « (Shawāhid) » en langue” Arabica 43.2 (1996): 297–356 with a translation of the first chapter of the introduction to ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Baghdādī’s Khizanat al-adab and a detailed bibliography of the shawāhid literature. On mathal see R. Sellheim “Mathal” in EI2 6:815–25.


John Wansbrough“Arabic Rhetoric and Qur’anic Exegesis,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 31.3 (1968): 469–85.


On him see Jean-Jacques ThibonL’œuvre d’Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (325/937–412/1021) et la formation du soufisme (Damascus: IFPO2009); G. Böwering “Sulamī” in EI2 9:811–12; and Lutz Berger Geschieden von allem ausser Got (Hildescheim-Zürich-New York: Olms 1998).


SulamīSufi Treatises27.


QushayrīRisāla25; Knysh (trans.) Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism 108 (all English translations expect where noted are taken from Knysh’s Epistle); and Gramlich (trans.) Sendschreiben 143. Ritter has traced back the history of shāhid-doctrine in his The Ocean of the Soul: Men the World and God in the Stories of Farīḍ al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār trans. John O’Kahne and Bernd Radtke (Leiden: Brill 2003) 448–520 (Helmut Rittter Das Meer der Seele [Leiden: Brill 1955] 470–7).


SarrājLumaʿ357; and Gramlich (trans.) Schlaglichter 412.


SarrājLumaʿ327; and Gramlich (trans.) Schlaglichter 377.


QushayrīRisāla457. I have changed Knysh’s translation (Epistle 311–12) according to Gramlich’s version (Sendschreiben 417).


SulamīSufi Treatises28. See the editors’ index of poetic verses 167–75 of the Arabic text.


Bilal Orfali and Nada SaabSufism Black and White: A Critical Edition of Kitāb al-bayāḍ wa-l-sawād by Abū l-Ḥasan al-Sīrjānī (d. ca. 470/1077) (Leiden: Brill2012) 33. A contemporary of Qushayrī Shaykh Abū Saʿīd b. Abī l-Khayr used to quote the more popular Persian poetry instead of Arabic classical poetry. Despite this difference (we will see further on that Qushayrī quotes Persian poetry as well) Abū Saʿīd’s poetical citations were similarly used “to teach on different levels of consciousness” and “served as haiku-like encapsulation of a mystical state” (Terry Graham “Abū Saʿīd Abīʾl-Khayr and the School of Khurāsān” in The Heritage of Sufism: Classical Persian Sufism from its Origins to Rumi (700–1300) ed. L. Lewisohn [Oxford: Oneworld 1999] 83–135 especially the section “Spirituality in verse: Abū Saʿīd’s use of poetry” 94–106).


QushayrīRisāla424; idem (Knysh [trans.]) Epistle 286–7; and idem (Gramlich [trans.] Sendschreiben 381 (with a long note on the attribution of this poem) = Sulamī Kitāb al-Amthāl 88 which quotes the contest in which Rūdhabārī recited this poetry.


QushayrīRisāla310; idem (Knysh [trans.]) Epistle 199; idem (Gramlich [trans.]) Sendschreiben 266; and Sulāmī Kitāb al-Amthāl 88–9.


SulāmīKitāb al-Amthāl88.


F. Sobieroj“Funktionen von Dichtung” 183.


See also Bernd Radtke“Zweisprachigkeit im frühen persischen taṣawwuf,” Orientalia Suecana 38–39 (1991): 128. See Gramlich’s list of Persian words in Sarrāj’s Lumaʿ in idem (trans.) Schalglichter 26. On bilingualism see also Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi “Persian the Other Sacred Language of Islam: Some Brief Notes” in Fortresses of the Intellect: Ismaili and Other Islamic Studies in Honour of Farhad Daftary ed. Omar Ali-de-Unzaga (London: I.B. Tauris Publishers in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies 2012) 59–75; idem “Préface: Du Persan comme langue sacrée de l’Islam” in Khwâdjâ ʿAbd Allâh Anṣârî Cris du coeur: Munâjât—Présentation et traduction du persan de Serge de Laugier de Beaurecueil (Paris: CERF 2010) 9–17; N. Pourjavady “The Use of Persian as a Religious Language in the Early Centuries of Islam” in Religious Texts in Iranian Languages: Symposium Held in Copenhagen May 2002 ed. Fereydun and Claus V. Pedersen (Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab 2007) 237–45; idem “Philosophie iranienne et caractère sacrée de la langue persane” in Mélanges littéraires et mystiques (Tehran: Presses Universitaires d’Iran 1998) 7–40; idem “Poésie licite et poésie illicite” in Mélanges littéraires 63–91; idem “Signification du lexique mystique dans la littérature persane” in Mélanges littéraires 92–101; and Travis Zadeh’s introduction to The Vernacular Qur’an and the bibliography.


BullietThe Patricians157.


ṢarīfīnīMuntakhab452–3; Subkī Ṭabaqāt 5:304–6; Jāmī Nafaḥāt al-uns 2:513–5; Ibn al-Munawwar The Secrets of God’s Mystical Oneness 209; and Meier Abū Saʿīd-i Abū l-Ḫayr 56–7.


Cf. Laury SilversA Soaring Minaret: Abu Bakr Al-Wasiti and the Rise of Baghdadi Sufism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press2010). About this episode see Thibon L’œuvre d’Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulāmī 75; and J. Chabbi “Remarques” 63.


QushayrīRisāla132; idem (Knysh [trans.]) Epistle 78; and idem (Gramlich [trans.]) Sendschreiben 109.


Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen“Le saint musulman en père de famille,” in Saint et sainteté dans le christianisme et l’islam: le regard des sciences de l’hommeed. Denis Gril and Nelly Amri (Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose2007) 249–63.


J. Chabbi“Remarques” 5–72.


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    Süleymaniye Library (Istanbul), MS Ayasofya 4128, fol. 2b
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    Süleymaniye Library (Istanbul), MS Ayasofya 4128, fol. 2b

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