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Mathieu Tillier, Naïm Vanthieghem, Supplier Dieu dans l’Égypte toulounide. Le florilège de l’invocation d’après ālid b. Yazīd (iiie/ixe siècle)

Christopher Melchert
Bibliographical reference

Mathieu Tillier, Naïm Vanthieghem, Supplier Dieu dans l’Égypte toulounide. Le florilège de l’invocation d’après ālid b. Yazīd (iiie/ixe siècle), Leyde, Brill, (Islamic history and civilization: studies and texts, 193), 2022, vii, 201 p., ISBN : 9789004521797

Index terms

Mots-clés :

prière, papyrologie, Égypte, hadith
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1‘Florilegium’ is an Early Modern translation of Greek anthologia, literally a collection of flowers, to which a collection of short poems and epigrams seemed analogous. The title page of the collection edited by Tillier and Vanthieghem apparently calls it Kitāb mā yataḍammanu l-duʿāʾ and says it was set down from Khālid b. Yazīd, presumably by dictation, in the year 267/880-1. It comprises 39 hadith reports pertaining to supplication (duʿāʾ), mostly either sample prayers or encouragements to pray, all but one going back to the Prophet. Three additional reports not pertaining to supplication are written on the title page, probably just because it offered some handy blank space. (It cannot be ruled out, of course, that there were more reports on additional sheets now lost.) Khālid b. Yazīd is unknown in the biographical record of ninth-century ulema, likewise his source for the collection, Māǧid b. Bishr al‑Khurāsanī, from whom every item is related. Māǧid’s most important immediate sources are (in descending order) ‘Uthmān b. Abī Shayba (Kufan, d. 239/853), Ibrahīm b. Duḥaym (Damascene, d. 245/859), and Hishām b. ʿAmmār (Damascene, d. 244/858-9?). Altogether, about two-thirds of Māǧid’s immediate sources are Iraqi, about a seventh Egyptian. Māǧid must have got to Egypt before the death of one of his shaykhs, Yūnus b. ʿAbd al‑Aʿlā, in 264/877. But Tillier and Vanthieghem think he probably taught Khālid b. Yazīd in the 250s, while Khalīd began to teach just about the time of this manuscript.

2Tillier and Vanthieghem offer a thorough study of the manuscript. Among other features, qāf is indicated by a superscript dot, fāʾ by a subscript, as regularly in later Maghribi manuscripts. Yadʿū is regularly spelt with an alif at the end (as at Q. 17:110). The taṣliya is written every time after alnabī but a quarter of the time not after rasūl Allāh, probably indicating an idiosyncratic scribal practice unrelated to the exact wording as it was handed down. Circles separating reports sometimes have dots inside, sometimes not. There is no clear rule that the dots indicate collation of manuscripts to make sure that the text is correct, contrary to what some have inferred from some remarks of al‑Khatīb al‑Baghdādī.

3They also try to characterize the Egyptian setting at the time of Ibn Ṭūlūn, as by listing jurisprudents who died in Egypt between 255 and 280 after al‑Dhahabi, Tārikh alislām, and al‑Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb almadārik. Regrettably, this is to downplay the Ḥanafi presence – they do include the qadi Bakkār b. Qutayba (d. 270/884), but the Ḥanafi biographer Ibn Abi l-Wafāʾ mentions three others as well, including al‑Ṭaḥāwī’s leading teacher Ibn Abī ʿImrān (d. 280/893). Khālid’s concentration on hadith from the Prophet agrees with the eclipse of hadith from Companions and later Muslims in juridical texts and general hadith collections across the ninth century. (The editors use the terms ḥadīth and āthār to distinguish the two, but they were still interchangeable in the ninth century, as witness al‑Ṭaḥāwī’s two treatments of discrepant Prophet hadith, K. Muhskil alāthār and Sharḥ ma ʿānī l-āthār.) They assiduously identify quotations in other collections, finding some intersection with contemporary general hadith collections but more with later specialized collections (although the difference does not look very wide to me); for example, 19 percent intersection with the Musnād of Aḥmad, 13 percent with the Musannaf of Ibn Abī Shayba, by contrast with 20 percent intersection with Kitāb alDaʿawāt alkabīr of al‑Bayhaqī, 17 percent with al‑Ṭabarānī, Kitāb alDuʿāʾ. Notably, they also compare supplications inscribed on stone. A chart lists names by which God is invoked.

4Tillier and Venthieghem offer two transcriptions of the text, the first including all the odd diacritics of the original, heavily annotated, the second corrected with French translation on facing pages. Fourteen colour plates at the end allow us to compare their transcriptions directly with the papyrus sheets. The translation strikes me as entirely sound. They correct many names in the manuscript, such as al‑Faḍl b. Zukayr for ibn Dukayn, Abū ʿUthmān al‑Hindī for al‑Nahdī. It fits that al‑Bukhārī, alTarkīh alkabīr, should be mainly a list of names, traditionists evidently needing such reference works to help them. I do wish Tillier and Vanthieghem had been more inclined to consult medieval reference works in addition to modern, to avoid such mistakes as ‘Sufyan b. ʿUyayna (m. 196/811)’ (p. 120), citing Spectorsky’s article in EI2 (primary sources always indicate 198/814), and ‘al‑Awzaʿī (m. 157/774)’ (p. 105; more precise than any primary source I have seen). Some dates are inconsistent; for example, ʿAbd al‑Razzāq and Ibn Abī Shayba correctly said to have died in 211/827 and 235/849, respectively (p. 28), later 211/826 and 235/849-50 (p. 37). But in a work replete with names, I have remarked only one mistake, ‘Mihnāl’ once for Minhāl (p. 36).

5The editors are to be congratulated for a thorough study of a very difficult text. Their example will be of strong interest to other toilers on early manuscripts. The significance of the text is less clear. The effect of writing on the accuracy of hadith transmission has been a subject of debate for some time. Sufyān b. ʿUyayna seems to have been one of the last to reject written notes, so writing had been well established in Egypt for at least two generations when our copy of Khālid b. Yazīd’s collection was set down. The many garbled and occasionally missing names suggest that written transmission was still fairly haphazard.

6This may be the earliest extant book devoted to supplication, as the editors say, but it seems small to the point of insignificance next to kitāb alduʿāʾ within the Muṣannaf of Ibn Abī Shayba, comprising some 800 items. Over half of that, by the way, is made up of quotations of the Prophet, although they make up less than a quarter of the collection as a whole and less than that of the earlier sections treating juridical problems. (ʿAbd al‑Razzāq’s small chapter on supplication – 22 items – is about three-quarters from the Prophet.) There may have been a strong trend over time to resort more to Prophet hadith, less to Companion and Follower hadith, but it did not prevail in jurisprudence alone. To disregard Companion and Follower hadith may have seemed to entail rejecting long-held ideas of what was right and good (to the opponents of al‑Shāfiʿī, for example), but appealing to God by the very words of the Prophet must have seemed the best practice from early on.

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Electronic reference

Christopher Melchert, “Mathieu Tillier, Naïm Vanthieghem, Supplier Dieu dans l’Égypte toulounide. Le florilège de l’invocation d’après ālid b. Yazīd (iiie/ixe siècle)Bulletin critique des Annales islamologiques [Online], 38 | 2024, Online since 14 April 2024, connection on 23 June 2024. URL:; DOI:

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