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Motzki's Forger: The Corpus of the Follower 'Atā' in Two Early 3rd/9th-Century Hadīth Compendia

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Twenty years ago, Harald Motzki argued that preserved in the Musannaf of the 3rd/9th-century Yemeni scholar 'Abd al-Razzāq al-Şan'ānī are literary materials upon which we may rely to provide us with facts concerning the 1st/7th century. In particular, he pronounced (presumptively) authentic the body of hadīth ascribed in that work to the Meccan Follower 'Atā' in the transmission of his student Ibn Jurayj. Analysis of the corpus attributed to the same man in the Musannaf of a near-contemporary, the Iraqi jurist Ibn Abī Shayba, reveals that the claim to its authenticity cannot be sustained, at least in the sense Motzki intended. I show, moreover, how the evidence precludes the main interpretative principle that governed his analysis from being upheld without contradiction. Arguing that hadīth specialists have often reasoned from a false dichotomy (faithful transmission versus outright fabrication), I propose that future enquiry reckon more fully with the concept of fluid transmission.

Affiliations: 1: Pembroke College, St Aldates, Oxford. OX1 1DW. United Kingdom;, Email:


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