The Iranian Origin of the Six Masters of Sunni Hadith

“If knowledge were located in the Pleiades (a constellation of stars), the Persians would surely attain it”–Prophet Muhammad

It is a little known fact that all six of the authors/compilers of the major books of Sunni ḥadīth—works that are together known as the Siḥāḥ al-Sitta—were of Persian/Iranian origin. Interestingly, these eminent figures are only six of hundreds of other Iranian scholars who were central to the shaping of the Sunni religious and intellectual tradition. In a scheme of early medieval Islamic history which is dominated by Arabo-centrism and in a contemporary world in which the association between Iran and Shi’ism is so central that one cannot think of one without the other, this fact of the Persian or Iranian origin of some of the most important figures of authority in Sunni Islam becomes increasingly relevant in challenging the dominant narratives and assumptions which continue to pervade the historical understanding (and contemporary vision) of Islam and Iran. It also emphasizes that some of the most important developments in traditionist Sunni scholarship in the medieval period occurred on the Iranian plateau.

(In this context, Iranian origin is intended to convey that these individuals were 1) descended from the indigenous inhabitants of the Iranian plateau; and 2) were Persian-speaking)

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