Ar. 3001 and the apotheosis of mĀlik b. anas

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Mālik b. Anas (d. 179/795) is much more than a famous jurist from Medina and the author of al-Muwaṭṭaʾ, he is also known as a larger-than-life figure who founded the Mālikī school of law. His followers recorded the most mundane details of his life, and he even appeared in dreams after his death, continuing to guide his devotees. In this article, I hope to trace some of the process by which Mālik attained this extraordinary status. It is my contention that whatever Mālik’s personal gifts may have been, scholarly authority is ultimately produced by a community of followers. It is their selective memory of his life, and their transmission of his words, that help to establish his authority. In the case of Mālik, this process coincides with the transformation of scholarly writings into books, in which the master’s words were carefully preserved verbatim and transmitted to future generations. Eventually, as Mālik’s authority increased, so also devotion to his Muwaṭṭaʾ increased. We can see this process in the physical copies of this text, preserved in manuscript. While the earliest manuscripts are simple, utilitarian vehicles for recording words, later manuscripts, such as the magnificent volume preserved in the Chester Beatty library in Dublin, display impressive techniques of calligraphy and illumination, normally reserved for the Qurʾān.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-274
Number of pages26
JournalJerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam
Issue number49
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Religious studies


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