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Ḥadīth Commentary in the Presence of Students, Patrons, and Rivals: Ibn Ḥajar and Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī in Mamluk Cairo

In: Oriens
Author: Joel Blecher
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The following essay shows how commentaries on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī in the Mamluk period were deeply embedded in the ethics and culture of live performance and vice versa. By focusing on the figure of Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852/1449) and the composition of his Fatḥ al-bārī, the primary objective is to make visible the complex web of institutional, political, economic, personal, and normative motivations that determined how the Ṣaḥīḥ was commented on, and who had the authority to comment in the first place. Parts one through three of this four-part essay examine the formulation of Fatḥ al-bārī in the presence of students, patrons, and rivals respectively. Part four is a case study that compares a chronicle account of Ibn Ḥajar’s commentary on a ḥadīth in the garden of the sulṭān on a summer afternoon with a section of Fatḥ al-bārī concerning the same ḥadīth. While previous investigations of medieval reading and commentarial practices have often been limited to manuscript and printed commentaries or glosses as source material, this study draws on evidence from Mamluk era chronicles, biographical dictionaries and commentarial prolegomena to offer a “thick” history of the local times, spaces, and stakes of live and written commentary on the Ṣaḥīḥ.

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