Historiographical Studies - Helda


Historiographical Studies - Helda

studies have noted this and comment that it means that al-Madāʾinī’s forefathers were not

Arabs. 105 I try to be more specific. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Samura was an Arab commander who

campaigned in Sijistān, Khurāsān, Kābul, and Zābulistān. 106 Hence, one of al-Madāʾinī’s

forefathers was, most likely, a war prisoner of Iranian descent who converted (or was made to

convert) to Islam. This is what the term mawlā often means. 107 As it happens, al-Madāʾinī

wrote a work on ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Samura, the patron of one of his forefathers. 108

Al-Madāʾinī was born in al-Baṣra, where he spent a considerable part of his life,

receiving his basic education. He also started to teach there since Khalīfa b. Khayyāṭ, who, as

far as we know, never left the town, is mentioned among his students. 109 Al-Madāʾinī

travelled and sojourned elsewhere, at least in al-Kūfa, al-Madāʾin, and Baghdad. His stay in

al-Kūfa is probably linked to studies of Muʿtazilite theology. 110 His teacher was a nebulous

figure called Muʿammar ibn/abū al-Ashʿath of whom we know next to nothing. Whether his

name should be emended to Muʿammar b. ʿAbbād, as at least one medieval source does,

remains to be settled. The emendation is not, however, very credible, even if we read the

names without diacritical points. 111 Three of al-Madāʾinī’s other teachers given in

biographical sources such as al-Dhahabī 112 are also Kūfan, including his earliest teacher,

ʿAwāna b. al-Ḥakam (d. 147/764–5 or later).

Although we have no information of al-Madāʾinī’s exact activities during his stay in al-

Madāʾin – whence his nisba – the information that he did live there at some point of his life

seems credible enough because in one narrative al-Madāʾinī himself recounts being there.

There are also indications, but no decisive proof, that he visited Damascus and went to Mecca

on the pilgrimage.

Later in life, al-Madāʾinī settled in Baghdad. 113 We do not know whether this was before

or after the so-called fourth fitna between the brothers al-Amīn and al-Maʾmūn in the years

105 Rotter 1974: 104.

106 Gibb 1960.

107 Crone 1991: 876.

108 Study I: Bibliography of al-Madāʾinī, Kitāb ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Samura. Note also that al-Madāʾinī wrote a

work called Kitāb Fatḥ Kābul wa-Zābulistān.

109 Study III: Khalīfa b. Khayyāṭ (s.v.).

110 I refer the reader to Study I: Early Life for a longer discussion.

111 The words ʿAbbād and al-Ashʿath do not resemble each other in the slightest.

112 Al-Dhahabī, Taʾrīkh: VI, 104.

113 Study I: See Baghdad and Die.


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