Isma’il ibn Ali al-Razi (d. 1054) on Umar b. al-Khattab’s Honoring of al-Hasan b. Ali and al-Husayn b. Ali

The following tradition is taken from an eleventh-century work by the Persian Muslim scholar Ismā‘īl ibn ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥasan al-Rāzī (d. 445/1054) entitled Kitāb al-Muwāfaqa bayn Ahl al-Bayt wa-l Ṣaḥaba. Ismā‘īl ibn ‘Alī al-Rāzī was an eleventh-century scholar who had studied theology/hadith in Damascus (with ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Naṣr al-Tamīmī), Baghdad (with Abī Ṭāher al-Mukhalaṣ), Mecca (with both Aḥmad ibn Ibrahīm ibn Firās and Abū Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Naḥās), and Rayy (with ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad ibn Fadalah). According to later scholars, he was inclined to the Mu’tazalite (rationalist) doctrine. He was also very well-versed (and wrote books on) Prophetic tradition (hadith), jurisprudence, and-according to the later Islamic scholar al-Dhahabī (d. 1348), he studied and taught Hanafi, Shafi’i, and Zaydi law.

This work was famously edited and commented upon by the famous Iranian Islamic scholar and exegete, Abū al-Qāsim al-Zamakhsharī (d. 1144). This tradition reveals the status of Ahl al-Bayt within Islam and shows how deeply rooted it is within the religious tradition. Moreover, this particular narration is important because it sheds light on the policy of the second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, with regard to the ‘atā’ (military stipend) and how it was based on the notion of sābiqa (precedence within Islam based on relatedness/closeness to the Prophet).  The translation is my own and is based on pp. 144–148 of the Mukhtaṣar Kitāb al-Muwāfaqa bayn Ahl al-Bayt wa-l Ṣaḥaba (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1999).  Continue reading

Subhat al-Akhbar: Art and Genealogy in the Service of Ottoman Imperial Legitimacy

One of the most beautiful historical treasures of the 17th-century Ottoman empire is a work known as the Subḥat al-Akhbār. It is a work in Ottoman Turkish delineating the genealogy of the Ottoman Sultans, from Adam, the first human being and prophet, to Sultan Mehmed IV (r. 1648–1687). As Professor Shahzad Bashir has noted: “genealogy was a major component of political ideology among Islamic dynasties, and this text comes in a long line of similar works produced throughout the medieval period.” It is a particularly interesting historical document for two reasons: 1) it provides significant insight into Ottoman political legitimation and self-representation; and 2) it demonstrates the importance of figural representation in Ottoman art well into the late seventeenth century. sultan Mehmed IV) Continue reading