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Transmitters as Storytellers: Authorship in an Eighth Century Hadīth Collection
How were hadīths about the idyllic past narrated in eighth-century texts like the Musannaf ibn ‘Abd al Razzāq? Whose voice counted and why? Some of these questions strike us as we study the Kitāb al Jihād, i.e., the Chapter on Jihad present in the fifth volume of Musannaf ‘Abd al Razzāq. The ‘Kitāb al Jihād' comprises fifty-seven units; each unit carrying sub-sections of hadīths. I have translated twenty-two out of the fifty-seven units. Different hadīths have varying isnads that reported on the ethics of jihād. I argue that the locations of hadīth transmitters in centers of military power such as in Kufa, Damascus, and Baghdad can offer clues about the function of hadīths compiled in the chapter. Secondly, I argue that at times the isnāds acted more like authors and not just as mere transmitters. I substantiate my argument by carefully studying both the matn and the isnāds of the hadīths. As far as the matn is concerned, the text reveals the immediate objectives of jurists and soldiers on the battlefield. The hadīths are less a recollection of the Prophet’s example, and more an account of the stories and experiences of soldiers serving on the battlefield. I argue that it is largely the stories of later soldiers and jurists that informed the ethics of warfare and the imagination of empire for the early Muslim community. My second argument then leads back to my central question: who are the transmitters? As my study demonstrates, a study of the isnād or the transmitters reveals deeper questions of authorship. My paper investigates the hadīth transmitters mentioned in the isnāds to locate their time period and geographical location. I investigate each transmitter’s background by using biographical dictionaries such as Tabaqāt Ibn Sa’ad and Tārīkh al Kabīr. I also employ online softwares like Jawam’i al Kalim which is a collection of various biographical dictionaries. In my mind, the clusters of like-minded scholars, converge in the garrison towns of Kufa and Basra and are closely tied with the caliphal court. I map the city-wide scholarly map of power to argue that the earliest texts on jihād appeared at sites of imperial expansion, not at sacred sites like Medina. I argue this mapping offers us clues about the imagination of the Islamic empire in the minds of early Muslims and can also depict how the imagination of the empire was justified to the early Muslim community.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
Islamic World
Sub Area