Did Shāh Walī Allāh transmit a Zaydī Ḥadīth Collection?


Los Angeles


Fri, 03/17/2017 - 12:00am to Sat, 11/26/2022 - 6:01am


CMES Faculty Travel Award 

Scott Lucas, Associate Professor, Islamic Studies

The 227th Meeting of the American Oriental Society


The inaugural publication of Turath Publishing’s Forty Ḥadīths Series was al-Arbaʿīn of Shāh Walī Allāh (d.1762), the entirety of which he narrated from his Meccan teacher, Abū Ṭāhir al-Madanī (d. 1733). This collection is identical in content, and nearly identical in arrangement, to a popular Zaydī forty-ḥadīth collection called Silsilat al-ibrīz bi’l-sanad al-ʿazīz, ascribed to Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī al-Balkhī (d. 532/1137-8). Al-Balkhī appears as “Abū Muḥammad” in Shāh Walī Allāh’s isnād for his al-Arbaʿīn, although the isnāds for the two books diverge in several places. In an interesting twist, most of these forty ḥadīths are found also in al-Masʿūdī’s (d. 345/956) much earlier Murūj al-dhahab, where he credits Ibn Durayd’s (d. 321/933) alMujtanā as one of his sources for them.

This paper will explore the relationship between the 4th/10th century books by Ibn Durayd and al-Masʿūdī, the Zaydī Silsilat al-ibrīz, and Shāh Walī Allāh’s al-Arbaʿīn. It will analyze the isnād of Silsilat al-ibrīz, and the sources for its ḥadīths that the Yemeni Sunnī-turned-Zaydī scholar, Ṣāliḥ b. al-Ṣiddīq al-Namāzī (d. 975/1567-8), identified in his commentary, al-Qawl al-wajīz. (I have collected copies of several manuscripts of al-Qawl alwajīz held by the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, and it has been published in Iran). Ultimately, the answer to the question posed in the title of this paper depends upon how one defines a Zaydī ḥadīth collection, especially when it consists of ḥadīths that are found in famous Sunnī books. In this particular case, it may be more accurate to claim that the Zaydīs have transmitted a short Sunnī ḥadīth collection, rather than crediting Shāh Walī Allāh with transmitting a Zaydī one.