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Ziad Bou Akl, Une doxographie sunnite du ive/xe siècle. « Kitāb al-Maqālāt » d’Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qalānisī

Christopher Melchert
Référence(s) :

Ziad Bou Akl, Une doxographie sunnite du ive/xe siècle. « Kitāb al-Maqālāt » d’Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qalānisī, Berlin, De Gruyter (Scientia Graeco-arabica, 33), 2021, 104 p., ISBN : 9783110737424

Texte intégral

1Ziad Bou Akl provides an edition with translation and commentary of a reconstructed statement of contending theological positions apparently from the 10th century ce. His text comes from the margins of a 543/1148 Escorial manuscript of Ġazālī, al-Iqtiṣād fī al-iʿtiqād. They seem to be quotations from an earlier work, arranged as a sort of commentary on Ġazālī. Their concern strays often enough from Ġazālī’s to reassure us that they do faithfully reproduce passages from an earlier work. Regrettably, they cannot be depended on to reproduce the whole of the earlier text. On the basis of some poor joins, Bou Akl thinks they probably do preserve the original sequence of topics. However, he also points to the imamate as a topic absent from the marginal quotations but doubtfully from the earlier text. Other early controversies not covered include whether faith increases or decreases, whether one should say ‘I am a believer, God willing’, whether Adam was created in the image of God, and whether one should say one’s pronunciation of the Koran is create.

  • 1  Daniel Gimaret, « Cet autre théologien sunnite : Abū lʿAbbās alQalānisī », Journal asiatique, 277, (...)

2As for the authorship and title of the earlier text, al-Nasafī, Tabṣirat al-adilla, quotes Abū al-ʿAbbās, Kitāb al-Maqālāt, as saying that mercy and generosity may be counted among the divine attributes of action, matching a sentence in the margin of al-Iqtiṣād. The latest authors cited are the Muʿtazila Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Ḫayyāṭ (d. ca 300/912-13) and Abū ʿAlī al-Ğubbāʾī (d. 303/915-16), apparently furnishing a terminus post quem. Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qalānisī’s name and dates have both been hard to pin down. However, Bou Akl stresses a passage quoted by various later authors from al-Ḥākim al-Naysābūrī, Tārīḫ Naysābūr, remarked by Gimaret and others as well, according to which someone consulted Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qalānisī about a theological dispute that had erupted in Nišapur in 309/921, which clearly implies that he died some time later than this.1

3By far the most prominent name in the text is the Basran ʿAbd Allāh ibn Kullāb (d. ca 240/854-5), spotted by Josef van Ess as an early advocate of Sunni kalām in a pathbreaking article of the late 1960s. The text also refers to aṣḥāb Ibn Kullāb, which agrees with the prominence of the Kullābiyya as a negative reference group for Ibn Ḫuzayma on the occasion of that dispute in Nishapur. Two positions (qawlān) are attributed to Ibn Kullāb concerning whether God can be in some place and not another. Bou Akl infers that the second position was a retrospective attribution by followers who wished to dissociate Ibn Kullāb from Muʿtazili ideas.

4Indeed, Bou Akl characterizes al-Qalānisī in the end as the last representative of the Kullābiyya. Ḥanbali hostility led to the extinction of the school after him, giving way to the more self-effacing Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ašʿarī and his followers. Gimaret has argued for regarding al-Qalānisī as a predecessor to al-Ašʿarī, against van Ess’s identifying him as a contemporary. Bou Akl would stress their contemporaneity, but he does make out that al-Ašʿarī sometimes depends on al-Qalānisī for his information about the positions of past theologians, especially Ibn Kullāb. Indeed, there is some apparent verbal dependence. I would cite for example the positions of al-Talǧī (Ibn Šuǧāʿ) and Dāwūd al-Iṣbahānī (al-Ẓāhirī) as to whether the Koran is muḥdat, meaning that there was a time when it was not. They are separated by al-Qalānisī (§§ 34, 41) but brought together by al-Ašʿarī in the same words (Maqālāt, ed. Ritter, 583).

5It is striking that the text never mentions Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal. True, his usual position was that if the Companions did not discuss something, neither need those who have come after. Al-Qalānisī doubtfully would have attributed to him any of the six creeds quoted centuries later in Ibn Abī Yaʿlā, Ṭabaqāt al-ḥanābila. Still, it should have been easy to add his name to the two Companions, two Followers, and three later authorities cited as agreeing with ʿAbd Allāh ibn Kullāb that the speech of God is increate; yet al-Qalānisī submerges Aḥmad among kull ahl al-ḥadīṯ.

6Al-Qalānisī seems generally reluctant to name adherents of the ninth-century Šāfiʿi school, as well. Al-Muḥāsibī is cited not for his theological positions but only once as reporting the position of some Ǧahmiyya. Abū Ṯawr, al-Zaʿfarānī, and Ibn Surayǧ are completely missing. Dāwūd al-Iṣbahānī is named a few times, including for the proposition, otherwise unattested, that what God speaks is a language. Al-Karābīsī is named only once, as maintaining alongside Dāwūd that the speech of God is pronounced (yulfaẓu bihi, when someone recites the Koran). He does not mention their more notorious position that one’s pronunciation of the Koran is create.

  • 2  Van Ess, « Ibn Kullāb et la Miḥna », p. 219-25.

7As for terminology, aṣḥāb al-ḥadīṯ is ubiquitous. Ahl al-ḥadīṯ sometimes comes up as, apparently, an alternative name. There are also mutakallimū aṣḥāb al-ḥadīṯ but no mention of ahl al-iṯbāt, the term van Ess proposed (used by al-Ašʿarī, among others) for the middle party prepared to use kalām to defend traditionalist theological tenets.2 Ahl al-qadar come up, once mutakillimū al-qadariyya, the former once as an apparent sub-group of the muʿtazila. This documents the absorption of the Qadariyya by the Muʿtazila but not how distinct they were early in the ninth century.

8The translation looks good. Baʿḍ is consistently interpreted as ‘some’ rather than ‘a certain one of’, but admittedly it never clearly must be one or the other. Bou Akl generally maintains a high standard of accuracy, but there are a few questionable transliterations; e.g., saḫṭ rather than suḫṭ, suḫuṭ, or saḫaṭ, al-Raqqāshī rather than al-Raqāshī (Samʿānī). Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī (d. 327/938) the Sunni traditionist is repeatedly confused with Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī (d. 322/933-4) the Ismaʿili propagandist. Names in the text and commentary are indexed separately with some omissions; e.g., al-Talǧī. On the whole, the text and commentary are both highly valuable, so that this work belongs in every library that includes the longer Maqālāt of al-Ašʿarī.

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1  Daniel Gimaret, « Cet autre théologien sunnite : Abū lʿAbbās alQalānisī », Journal asiatique, 277, 1989, p. 227-61, at 232-3;

Josef van Ess, “Ibn Kullāb et la Miḥna”, trans. with additional notes by Claude Gilliot, Arabica 37, 1990, p. 173-233, at 187n.

2  Van Ess, « Ibn Kullāb et la Miḥna », p. 219-25.

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Christopher Melchert, « Ziad Bou Akl, Une doxographie sunnite du ive/xe siècle. « Kitāb al-Maqālāt » d’Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qalānisī »Bulletin critique des Annales islamologiques [En ligne], 36 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 mai 2021, consulté le 20 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Christopher Melchert

Oriental Institute - Oxford

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