An Edition Concerning the Histories of Nishapur

In an earlier post on Frye and the Histories of Nishapur I drew attention to the importance of consulting the earliest surviving recension of Fārisī’s Kitāb al-Siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr as it is preserved in the facsimile edition prepared by Richard N. Frye. I was unaware at the time that an edition of that work had been published (Harvard at least had not and still does not own it). However, a few days ago while browsing the Arabic books at Şam Kitabevi in Istanbul I came across an edition prepared in Iran.

This work, edited by Muḥammad Kāẓim al-Maḥmūdī, was published by Mīrās-i Maktūb in 2005. I wish I had come across this book sometime earlier during the past seven years. It would have made the task of dealing with Fārisī much easier (On further investigation, a copy appears readily available at Yale where I could have accessed it earlier had I known of its existence, but by then I was reading from own copy of Frye).The indices are especially helpful and exceed Jaouiche’s indexing of the Kitāb al-Siyāq.

Nevertheless, I still believe Frye’s facsimile should be checked against the edition. An edition after all is ultimately an interpretation of how a manuscript should be read and the Fārisī manuscript can be quite difficult to read in places. For instance, my question concerning what appears to be a marginalia scrawling in the manuscript remains unanswered by the edition.

In any case, consider this 1) an update to the material available for Nishapur and 2) a notice to check out Şam Kitabevi for its Iranian editions of Arabic and Persian works (among other things) if you are ever in Istanbul. The location of the bookstore is marked on our Islamicana Map of Istanbul.

Abū al-Ḥasan al-Fārisi. 2005. al-Mukhtaṣar min mitāb al-siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr. Tehran: Mīrās-i Maktūb.


Frye and The Histories of Nishapur

Richard N. Frye’s The Histories of Nishapur is an invaluable source for Islamic history, especially for documenting the local history of a medieval Islamicate city. I, like many other scholars, have made and continue to make frequent use of this book. To my surprise, however, I discovered shortly after I moved to Connecticut that Yale University did not own a single copy, where I had previously had access to five at Harvard. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of this rare book from the online site of Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.

This substantial tome is concerned with Nishapur, a city in Khurasan (or the northeastern region of modern day Iran) and provides facsimile editions of three important manuscripts on the city’s historical personalities. The texts, two of which are in Arabic and the third in Persian, are biographical dictionaries or ṭabaqāt. A number of important studies have used Frye’s collection to great advantage, the most famous being Richard Bulliet’s seminal book The Patricians of Nishapur.

The three text included in Frye’s Histories are:

1. Kitāb aḥvāl-i Nīshāpūr, a Persian manuscript from the Bursa Central Manuscript Library: Hüseyn Çelebi, Tarih 18, 74 folios.

2. Kitāb al-Siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr, an Arabic manuscript written by ʿAbd al-Ghāfir ibn Ismāʿīl al-Fārisī (d. 529/1134) and stored in the Dil ve Tarih Fakültesi Library in Ankara: İsmail Saib 1544, 98 folios.

3. al-Muntakhab min kitāb al-siyāq li-tārīkh Naysābūr, an Arabic recension of al-Fārisī’s Kitāb al-Siyāq written by Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣarīfīnī (d. 641/1243). The manuscript of 146 folios is from the Köprülü Library in Istanbul, no. 1152.

Perhaps, because of the book’s relative scarcity, I have noticed in recent years that some scholars are bypassing or overlooking Frye’s valuable collection altogether. Compounding the issue is the ready availability of edited print editions al-Ṣarīfīnī’s al-Muntakhab, such as the ones published by Dār al-Fikr and Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya. Not only are these print editions easier to read and navigate than the manuscript facsimiles in Frye’s book, they can also be more easily located in Arabic bookstores and on library shelves than the difficult-to-find and now costly The Histories of Nishapur.

But to pass over a work like al-Fārisī’s Kitāb al-Siyāq would be a mistake. As Frye has pointed out, al-Fārisī’s text has significant differences from al-Ṣarīfīnī’s. To focus on one would be to overlook much in the other. For example, al-Fārisī provides important information on the lives of Abū’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072) and Ibn Ḥabīb (d. 406/1016) that is entirely absent in al-Ṣarīfīnī’s al-Muntakhab. This latter text, after all, appears about a century later. One would be wise to consult both texts.

To aid in navigating the manuscripts of Frye’s collection, Habib Jaouiche has compiled and published a useful index that covers the two Arabic manuscripts contained in the book. While Jaouiche only indexes the biographical entries in the texts, rather than every occurrence of a name, his work is nonetheless helpful.

Frye, Richard N., ed. 1965. The Histories of Nishapur. London: Mouton & Co.

Jaouiche, Habib, ed. 1984. The Histories of Nishapur: ʿAbdalġāfir al-Fārisī – Siyāq Taʾrīḫ Naisābūr, Register der Personen- und Ortsnamen. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

Bulliet, Richard. 1972. The Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Book: Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar

Several copies of my new book Sufi Master and Qur’an Scholar: Abū’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī and the Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt arrived today at the office. This work, which has evolved over the years from an idea into a prospectus into a dissertation into a book, is finally in print. I am indebted to many colleagues and friends for their help and support in composing this work. My thanks to you all.

Sufi Master and Qur'an Scholar by Martin Nguyen

While I knew how the book would appear well before it arrived (it is a handsome tome), I was unaware of the readers’ comments that would appear printed on back. They read:

“The detailed analyses and the vast cumulative data presented in Nguyen’s work have produced a fresh, original, thorough and well-articulated book. It has the potential to become one of the main textbooks in the study of Sufism as well as, more generally, in the fields of hermeneutics and medieval Muslim culture.”
-Sara Sviri, Department of Arabic and Department of Comparative Religions, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“This excellent book is the first in-depth study in English of one of the monuments of Sufi Qur’an commentary, the Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt of Abū’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī. Clearly written and well-annotated throughout, this timely study brings to light some important and hitherto unexplored aspects of the celebrated Sufi theologian of Nishapur.”
-Annabel Keeler, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

The praise is generous and undeserved, but heartening nonetheless.

The book has been published by Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies. My experience working with them has been absolutely superb. For more information on the book, including availability, please visit my Lata’if al-ishārāt project page on this site.