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Title: Tradition and innovation in the Mamluk period : the anti-bid‘a literature of Ibn al-Ḥājj (d. 737/1336) and Ibn al-Naḥḥās (d. 814/1411)
Author: Chatrath, Nick
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 4117
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This study seeks to contribute to a growing discussion about Islamic intellectual endeavours in the Middle Periods, providing new evidence from the genre of anti-innovation tracts (anti-bid‘a tracts) that has hitherto received relatively little modern scholarly attention. Specifically, this thesis examines tradition and innovation in Islam during the Mamluk period (648/1250 – 922/1517) through the lens of two jurists and their anti-innovation tracts. Ibn al-Ḥājj (d. 737/1336) was a Mālikī from North Africa who wrote Madkhal al-shar‘ al-sharīf. Ibn al-Naḥḥās (d. 814/1411), by contrast, was a Shāfi‘ī (and former Ḥanafī) from Damascus, who wrote a tract contained within his Tanbīh al-ghāfilīn, a work concerned with the duty of commanding right and forbidding wrong, and with naming and briefly discussing various sins and innovations. Ibn al-Ḥājj’s and Ibn al-Naḥḥās’ anti-innovation tracts are studied here for the first time in their own right, together with English translations of representative passages of their work that allow the reader to gain a direct impression of them. In addition to this, this thesis makes three unique arguments. First, anti-innovation tracts should be read as prescriptive yet flexible examples of furū‘. Second, the authors of the tracts investigated here, Ibn al-Ḥājj and Ibn al-Naḥḥās, were both ‘outsiders’ to Mamluk Egypt, who used this genre to define and regulate correct Muslim practices, in less formal ways that were both new and continuous with earlier thinking. Ibn al-Ḥājj’s programme - urging fledgling scholars, in almost encyclopaedic fashion, to know about and teach against innovative practices - was more important for him than addressing the topics of intention and innovation that feature in the full title of his work. Ibn al-Naḥḥās is an interestingly obscure figure. In an abbreviated and direct style, he urged non-specialists in Mamluk lands to censure innovations, and even to prevent them. Third, Ibn al-Ḥājj and Ibn al-Naḥḥās conceived of loyalty to their legal school in ways that require us to expand the terms of modern scholarly debates about such loyalty. This study contributes to the relatively recent, and fast-growing, literature on the Mamluk period in general, and its legal literature in particular. It supports a recent perspective on the Mamluk period, by illustrating the continuity and evolution of legal thinking during this period, which is both predicated upon, and differs substantially from, earlier periods of Islamic history. and deserves study in its own right.
Supervisor: Pfeidder, Judith Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; Arabic ; Islam ; Islamic law ; Intellectual history ; Mamluk period ; tradition ; innovation