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Recasting Qushayrī’s Risāla in Fifteenth-Century Egypt

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Abstract The scholarly works of the Egyptian Sufi and chief qadi Zakariyyā al-Anṣārī (d. 926/1520) often reflect a late-medieval Muslim trend of subtle intellectual innovation—that is, innovation that cloaks itself in the received tradition while often diverging markedly from it. It is particularly his celebrated Iḥkām al-dalāla ʿalā taḥrīr al-Risāla, a commentary on ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī’s (d. 465/1072) Risāla in Sufism, that embodies such an intellectual trend quite starkly. This study examines the Iḥkām to understand how Anṣārī adapted an eleventh-century Nishapuri handbook in Sufism to his own fifteenth-century Egyptian context. It argues that Anṣārī’s redirecting of Qushayrī’s Risāla occurs through three broad interpretative techniques: a recasting in content, a recasting in form, and a recasting in tone and objective of the original text. After exploring these techniques in depth, a few larger implications for the field of commentary theory are noted in a concluding section. A preliminary consideration of Anṣārī’s biography, particularly those biographical details related to his scholarly training and career, his background in Sufism, and the writing of his Iḥkām, appears as a preface to the textual analysis that comprises the second half of the study.

Affiliations: 1: University of Puget Sound USA


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