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The Reputation of Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq in Contemporaneous and Later Sources

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The intellectual abilities and activities of the great Abbasid-era scholar and translator, Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq (d. 260/873 or 264/877), have been lauded and eulogised from the Middle Ages through to modern times. However, it is clear that most of the information which has shaped Ḥunayn’s reputation derives from much later reports in histories and biographical dictionaries. This is particularly true of Ḥunayn’s purported “autobiography,” which, as a number of recent investigations have concluded, is most likely a later fabrication. However, I would suggest that there are three extant reports which were plausibly composed by contemporaries of Ḥunayn: namely, Abū Maʿshar, Yūsuf b. Ibrāhīm b. al-Dāya and Ibn al-Munajjim. In the course of this study, I discuss the reliability of these accounts and evaluate how far they support the later descriptions of Ḥunayn. Following this, I investigate a report, found in Ibn Rabban al-Ṭabarī’s (fl. 235/850) Firdaws al-ḥikma, which appears to be the only extant criticism of Ḥunayn’s intellectual achievements.

Affiliations: 1: Cambridge University UK


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