Contradictory evidence and the exemplary scholar: The lives of Sahnun B. Sa id (D. 854)

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When writing biographies of historical figures, narrative convention requires that concision and clarity be wrested from sources that are multiple and often confusing. In this article, I argue that multiple accounts of a person's life may be more than an accident arising from the way that information was compiled. Rather, such multiplicity renders exemplary figures adaptable to a wide variety of circumstances, making them even more useful as a focus of devotion and emulation. Examining multiple accounts of early Maliki scholar Sahnun b. Sa id (d. 854), including those of his travels in search of knowledge and of his suffering under the mihna (trial) in Kairouan, I find that close attention to apparently contradictory evidence may not get us any closer to understanding the man himself, but it does offer us much information about the ways in which he was considered an exemplary individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-132
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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