Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the by Michael Cooperson

By Michael Cooperson

Premodern Arabic biography has served as a big resource for the heritage of Islamic civilization. within the first book-length examine to discover the origins and improvement of classical Arabic biography, Michael Cooperson demonstrates how Muslim students used the notions of heirship and transmission to rfile the actions of political, scholarly and spiritual groups. the writer additionally explains how medieval Arab students used biography to reconstruct the lifestyles tales of vital old figures. He then examines the careers of 4 of those figures, examining their relationships and their position in later biography.

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Lists of one’s own teachers, on the other hand, document a figurative genealogy back to the Prophet. Instead of parentage, the relevant relationship is the equally successive one of hearing and transmission. The implied narrative of succession to the Prophet, not the idiosyncrasies of any of the men named in the list, makes the best argument for one’s own authority to transmit H · adı¯th. An endless series of nearly indistinguishable entries does not therefore fail to take account of individuality.

However, not all groups could claim descent from Muh·ammad or any connection with religious scholarship. Of alSuyu¯t·¯ı’s sixteen groups, for example, three (scribes and essayists, calligraphers, and poets) have only a tangential relationship with prophecy, or none at all. Biographers of groups like these nevertheless endeavored to legitimate their subjects’ field of interest. A common tactic was to insist that their work, however far afield, had as its ultimate purpose the clarification of some aspect of the revelation.

Ja¯h·iz·, “T·abaqa¯t al-mughannı¯n”; cf. Mus·t·afa¯, Ta rı¯kh, I: 140 and I: 176. The development of the genre 9 quickly attained a precise knowledge of three: astronomy, geometry, and chemistry. Yet the fourth art, music (luh·u¯n, ghina¯ ), suffered from neglect. People grasped its principles only by intuition, or by hearing of Persian and Indian ideas on the subject. Then al-Khalı¯l b. Ah·mad derived a metrical system for poetry and music. His system came to the attention of Ish·a¯q b. Ibra¯hı¯m al-Maws·ilı¯, who, with his greater experience as a performer and auditor, perfected it and made it into a science.

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