Zubadat al-Usul [A Treatise on the principles of Imami Shi`i fiqh and jurisprudence], for private use. Decorated manuscript in Arabic on buff paper.

Persia, probably Isfahan, Dhul-Qadah 1042 AH (May, 1633 AD).

£3,500

265 x 210mm, 124 leaves + 2 (later) flyleaves at front and back, complete; written space 150 x 120mm, 4 or 5 lines striking black naskh (contemporary style), key words and phrases in red, some overlining also in red, extensive marginal notation throughout, seemingly in a contemporary hand, two ink ownership seals to preliminary leaves, outer edge of first 7f (and a few later) mounted, later buckram boards, showing minor signs of wear, else well preserved.

Sheikh Bahai was a prolific scholar who compiled over 120 works on religious science and literature, designed the dome of the prestigious Imam mosque of Isfahan (that was made to echo seven times), and whose academic interests ranged from mathematics to religion & mysticism. Sheikh Bahai obtained an honoured place in the court of Shah Abbas I in Isfahan, after moving there in 1616, where he served as a royal wizir and confidant to the Shah until his death in 1633.

This work is focused on Islamic jurisprudence and Usul al-Fiqh (the roots, sources and principles upon which Islamic law are based), forming a comprehensive analysis and study of these areas. Interestingly, Bahai was often mistaken as a Sunni scholar but it was his love for the Imams that ultimately distinguished him as a Shi’a, hence the focus of this treatise being Imami fiqh and not Hanafi (more commonly associated with fiqh). The generous margins and wide spacing between lines of text suggest this volume was copied for the purposes of study. Furthermore, the extensive contemporary annotations (both interlinear and marginal) are of a scholarly and critical nature, implying this volume was used in an academic environment by one single teacher: all the marginalia appears to have been executed in the same hand.

There is a colophon on the final folio, in the same hand as the scribe’s, belonging to scholar Muhammad b. Mu’min b. Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Isfahani, claiming that he is a student of Sheikh Bahai himself. The inclusion of this colophon and the dating of this manuscript (being only 12 years after the author’s death), intimate that this manuscript was copied directly from one of Bahai’s original copies. UCLA library holds another copy of this work by scribe ‘Abd al-Qadir b. Haydar [Mss (32)] dated 1048 AH (1637 AD), 16 years after the author’s death, professing to have been written as a complete and comprehensive copy of the original. The present volume was compiled 4 years before the UCLA copy, reaffirming the likelihood of our scribe copying this volume from the original source. The links between our scribe and the author, and the proximity between the author’s death and the copying of this manuscript, make this an important source for further study into the teachings of Sheikh Bahai in Zubadat al-Usul and offer insight into his work through the marginal commentaries provided by one of his own pupils.

L1998

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