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A Hermeneutical Biography Of Al-Biqāʿī

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Chapter Summary

Mamluk Cairo of the Ninth Hijri Century was a crowded city. So many illustrious names, so many big reputations, and so little modesty! By then, autobiographies had become exercises in self-aggrandizement, turning into heavy tomes. We encounter a proliferation of book-length biographies of famous scholars - those who were modest enough not to write full fledged autobiographies, but were famous enough to entice others to write their biographies. Al-Sakhāwī described al-Biqāʿī as "the harbinger of outrageous behavior, of calamities, of disorder, and the holder of contradictory irreconcilable opinions". Al-Sakhāwī sneered that al-Biqāʿī wrote no work on jurisprudence or grammar, and he even asserted, in a flight of exaggeration, that al-Biqāʿī wrote no book in any other art! Nor did al-Biqāʿī finish reading the six canonical works of prophetic traditions.

Keywords: al-Biqāʿī; Al-Sakhāwī; hermeneutical biography; Mamluk Cairo



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