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The beginnings of Islamic learning in Sind—a reconsideration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009


Several works dealing with the cultural history of Islam in India assert that the province of Sind became a centre of Islamic learning shortly after its conquest by Muḥammad b. al-Qāsim al-Thaqafī at the beginning of the eighth century a.d.

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Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1974

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1 Ishāq, Muhammad, India's contribution to the study of hadith literature, Dacca, 1955, 23–4Google Scholar.

2 Futūh al-bnldān, ed. Goeje, de, Leyden, 1866, 441Google Scholar.

3 Hajar, Ibn, Tahdhīb al-tahdhīb, Hyderabad (Deccan), 1325/19071908, XI, 354–5Google Scholar, and the other sources mentioned by Isbāq, loc. oit.; to these may be added al-Rāzi, , al-Jarb wa 'l-ta'dīl. Hyderabad (Deccan), 1953, IV, pt. II, 286Google Scholar.

4 Ishāq, op. cit., 24–5; al-Taban, , Ta'rīkh, ed. Goeje, de, index, Leiden, 1901, especially II, 1410–13Google Scholar.

5 Ishāq, , op. cit., 26Google Scholar; al-Balādhuri, , op. oit., 441–2Google Scholar.

6 This was the kunya of al-Rabī“. See Sa'd, Ibn, Tabaqāt, ed. Sachau, , Leiden, 1904, VII, pt. n, 36Google Scholar.

7 Ahmad, Aziz, An intellectual history of Islam in India (Islamic Surveys, 7), Edinburgh, 1969, 3Google Scholar.

8 Ahmad, Zubaid, The contribution of India to Arabic literature, Lahore, 1967, p. xxxiGoogle Scholar. Cf. Ishāq, , op. cit., 26–8Google Scholar; Nadwi, Sulaymān, ‘Hindūstān meṉ ‘iltn-i ḥadis’, Ma'ārif (A'zamgarh), XXII, 1928, 251Google Scholar; Nizāmi, , Hayāt-i Sliaykh ‘Abd al-Haqq Muḥaddith Dihlawi, Delhi, 1953, 7Google Scholar; ‘Lakhnawī, Abd alHayy, Nuzhat al-khawātir, Hyderabad (Deccan), 1962, I, 24–5Google Scholar.

9 Al-Tabarī, , op. cit., III, 460Google Scholar; al-Balaāhurī, , op. cit.. 369Google Scholar.

10 Al-Tabarī, , op. cit,, III, 476Google Scholar.

11 A note on the way in which the conclusions regarding al-Rabīʻ b. Ṣabiḥ's role in India were reached may be useful here. The earliest source known to me which places al-Rabīʻ among the ʻulamā' of India is Sabhat al-niarjān min āthār Hindūstān by the eighteenth-century writer Ghulam, ʻAlī Āzād Bilgrāmi (Bombay, 1303/18851886, 26Google Scholar; cf. Brockelmann, , GAL, Suppl., II, 600)Google Scholar. He says that al-Rabiʻ ʻdied in Sind in 160, and therefore I have mentioned him among thec 'ulamāʻ of India, seeing a good omen in invoking his exalted memory' (māta bi-ard al-Sind sanat sittīn wa miʻa wa min thamma dhakartuhu fī ʻulamā' al-Hind tayammunan bi-dhikrild 'l-aʻlā). The second source is Tadhlcira-yi:ulamā'-i Hind by Raḥmān ʻAli, (Lucknow, 1894, 3)Google Scholar, who says that al-Rabiʻ came to Sind at the time of Muhammad b. al-Qāsim or afterwards and died there in 160/776–7. As the expedition of Muhammad b. al-Qāsim to Sind took place during the last decade of the first Islamic century, Rahmān ʻAir's vague wording may mislead a reader into thinking that al-Rabiʻ'sstay in Sind was a prolonged one and enabled him to play a part in cultural developments there.

Al-Rabiʻ b. Sabih is mentioned in several collections of biographies of traditionists; some of them mention the fact that he died in Sind. The classical biographers should, however, be given credit for not drawing from the short and ill-omened stay of al-Rabīʻ in India any conclusions regarding the development of Islamic learning there. See the sources listed by Ishāq, op. cit., 26–8. Some of these quote traditions according to which al-Rabiʻ w as the first Muslim to compile a mumnnaf (awwal man sannafa fī 'l-Islām), but they carefully point out that he did it in Basra. See Ibn Hajar, op. cit., in, 247–8; Khalīfa, Hājjī, Kashf al-zunūn, London, 1842, III, 28Google Scholar; al-Dhahabī, , Mīzān ali'tidāl, Cairo, 1325, 334 (all listed by Ishāq)Google Scholar; to these may be added: ʻal-Bōsnawī, Ali Dede al-Sigetwārī, Mubadārat al-awā'il wa musāmarat al-awākhir, Cairo, 1883, 67Google Scholar; al-Suyūtī, , al-Wasā'il ilā musāmarat al-awā'il, Baghdād, 1950, 113Google Scholar.

12 Nadwi, Abū Zafar, Ta'rlkh-i Sind, Aʻzamgarh, 1947, 356Google Scholar.

13 British Museum MS Or. 1787, fol. 60b; India Office MS Ethé 435, fol. 87b; ʻAlī b. Hāmid b. Abī Bakr al-Kūfi, Chach-nāma, ed. ‘Da'udpota, Umar b. Muhammad (Silsila-yi Makhtutat-i Farisiyya, 3), Hyderabad (Deccan), 1358/1939, 136Google Scholar. I am grateful to Mr. Simon Digby for putting this rare edition at my disposal.

14 BM Or. 1787 has here sar; we follow Ethé 435.

15 BM Or. 1787 has here sar kill; we follow again Ethé 435.

16 Elliot, and Dowson, , The history of India as told by its own historians, London, 1867, I, 165Google Scholar. Hodivala, S. H., in Studies in Indo-Muslim history, 2 vols., Bombay, 19391957Google Scholar, fails to note the error.

17 Fredunbeg, Mirza Kalichbeg, tr., The Chach nāmah, Karachi, 1900, 108Google Scholar. The sub-title of this passage in BM Or. 1787, evidently added by a late copyist, reads: firistādan-i Muhammad-i Qāsim, mar-rasūl-i Shāmī wa Mawlānā Islāmī-rā. Dā'ūdpota, 136, gives this sub-title without noting any variant among his five MSS. The sub-title given in 10 Ethé 435 reads, much more in keeping with the content of the passage itself; firistādan-i Muhammad-i Qāsim mar-rasūl-i Shāmï wa mawlāay-rā.

18 Nizāmī, ;, op. cit., 7Google Scholar; Ikrām, Muhammad, Āb-i kausar, ed. Lahore, , 1952, 3940Google Scholar; Mahmūd, Sayyid, Mullahida Hindūstānī qawmiyyat. Bombay, n.d., 12Google Scholar; Ahmad, Zubaid, op. cit., p. xxxiGoogle Scholar; Ishāq, , op. cit., 22–3Google Scholar.

19 Qureshi, I. H., The Muslim community of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, The Hague, 1962, 44Google Scholar.

20 Kitāb al-ansāb, fol. 236b, 1. 12; cf. Riyāsat, ʻAli Nadwi, ʻAhd-i islāmī kā Hindustān, Patna, 1950, 82Google Scholar; Lakhnawi, op. cit., I, 56–7; Ishāq, op. cit., 31–2.

21 Kitāb al-ansāb, fol. 236b, l. 17; cf. Riyāsat ʻAli Nadwi, op. cit., 82; Lakhnawi, op. cit., I, 54.

22 Kitāb al-ansāb, fol. 236b, l. 17; cf. Riyāsat ʻAli Nadwi, op. cit., 83; Lakhnawī, op. cit., i, 81. A passage in al-Khatib's, Ta'rīkh Baghdād, III, 333Google Scholar, suggests, however, that he received a tradition from ʻAlī b. Mūsā al-Daybuli in Daybul itself. Cf. Ishāq, op. cit., 34.

23 Kitāb al-ansāb, fol. 236b, ll. 21–9; cf. Riyāsat ʻAli Nadwī, op. cit., 83; Lakhnawi, op. cit,, I, 49; Ishāq, op. cit., 32–4.

24 Kitāb al-ansāb, fol. 543a, l. 30–543b, l. 2.

25 ibid., fol. 455b, ll. 3–4.

26 ibid., fol. 451a, l. 30–451b, l. 3.

27 Nadwi, Abū Zafar, Ta'rīkh-iSind, 356Google Scholar; Riyasat ʻAlī Nadwī, op. cit., 75.

28 Ibn al-Athir, ed. Tornberg, Leiden, 1865, VII, 334; cf. Tabarī, op. cit., III, 1907, 2159. There were, however, family ties between the governors of al-Mansūra and the family of Abu al-Shawarib in Mas'ūdī's times. See Murūj al-dhahab, Paris 1861, I, 377Google Scholar.

29 Extensive use of al-Sam ʻani's biographies has been made by Ishāq, op. cit., 28—41. However, the scholars mentioned in his account should really have been included in the chapter dealing with ‘Indian traditionists outside India’(pp. 191 ff.) rather than in that describing cultural activity in Sind itself. The only exception to this is Abū Mūsā Isrā'il b. Mūsā (al-Ansāb, fol. 593a, ll. 5–7; Ibn Hajar, op. cit., I, 261; al-Rāzī, op. cit., I, pt. I, 329–30; Ishāq, op. cit., 25–6), who is said to have lived in India. Cf. Muqaddasi, , Ahsan al-taqāsīm, ed. Goeje, de, Leiden, 1906, 481Google Scholar; Hawqal, Ibn, Sūrat al-Ard, ed. Kramers, , Leiden, 1938, 322, 324Google Scholar.

30 Ahmad, Aziz, op. cit,, 66Google Scholar.

31 See El, second ed., 8.V., and the sources quoted there; especially al-Aghānī, Būlaā, 1868, xvi, 81. In the El, second ed., article the following references should be corrected: Fawāt, I, 93; Muʻjam, 480.

32 Abū Maʻshar was also known as al-Sindī because of his Indian parentage. For biographical details about him and for a discussion of the possible reasons for his nisba, see Sachau's introduction to his edition of Ibn Saʻd, Tabaqāt, III, pt. l, pp. xxv–xxvii, and EI, second ed., s.v. ʻIshaq', correctly includes Abū Maʻshar among the traditionists who flourished outside India (pp. 202–4).

33 op. cit., 51.

34 This may add an element to the controversy over the alleged Indian influences on Abu Yazid al-Bistāmi by his teacher Abū ʻAH al-Sindī. See Zaehner, R. C., Hindu and Muslim mysticism, London, 1960, index, s.v.Google Scholar; and also the review of this book by Gelblum, T. in BSOAS, XXV. l, 1962. 173–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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