Kitāb al- staqṣa’ li-madhāhib al-‘alm al-Fiqha’ [An Investigation of the Islamic Fiqh Doctrines]

[Damascus, 793 AH/1391 AD]


Arabic manuscript on paper, 260 x 180 mm, part seven of twenty from a much larger collective work, complete in itself, 95 ff., modern page numbering, single column, 21 lines per page, tidy black naskh with chapter headings and key words highlighted in red, text panel 190 x 140 mm, modern inspection notes for sale in red on upper front pastedown and occasional marginal annotations. A very clean copy in excellent condition with minor soiling to fore edge and thumb marks, small early wormholes, recto of first folio repaired covering final words of opening colophon. Nineteenth century brown morocco inlaid paper binding; extremities worn.

Incipit states that the manuscript is dedicated to the shuru al-alaq (conditions of divorce). The two main types of divorce in Islam are repudiation (talaq) and mutual divorce (khul’) – the former is initiated by the husband whilst the latter by the wife. In Islam, certain criteria must be filled before a divorce can be permitted, such as attempts to reconcile and evidence that both parties have considered the matter for some time and are not over hasty in making this decision.

The parent work, and all its component parts, is extremely rare and seems to survive nowhere in its entirety. Three other parts of the same parent work as the present part are held in al-Azhar University Library, Cairo. Although little is known about the author, he is listed in Dar al-‘Ilm lil-Malayīn’s Bibliographical Dictionary, Al-A‘lām (vol. IV, p. 212).

As the cradle of Islam, Damascus is where the Umayyads – the second dynasty of hereditary rule after the death of the Prophet Muhammed, often remembered for their remarkable military prowess and patronage of many early Islamic monuments – set up the first Islamic caliphate. It remained a lively hub of intellectual activity beyond the late fourteenth century when this manuscript was composed. Michael Chamberlain writes in ‘Knowledge and Social Practice in Medieval Damascus 1190-1450’ (1994) about the distinctive scholarly rigour of medieval Syrian institutions for Islamic learning (madrasahs) where this manuscript was likely produced. 1391 AD was a particularly vital year for scholars of Islamic law with the important contemporary Hanafi jurist (chief-qāī) Abu’l Walīd Muammad b. Kamāl al-Dīn Muammad b. Muammad b. Mamūd b. al-Shina Zayn al-Dīn al-alabī captured by the first Mamluk sultan, Barquq, and sent to Cairo before being welcomed back to Syria upon his release.

From the library of a British collector since the 1970s.

GAL II 182


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