Al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ: The single surviving copy

By Hamza Baig, Adam DeSchriver, Ammar Farra and Ahmed El Shamsy

The Muwaṭṭaʾ of Mālik b. Anas (93–179/711–95) is one of the earliest surviving works of Islamic law, containing ḥadīth as well as legal opinions from earlier scholars and Mālik himself. Its aim is to encapsulate the legal tradition of Medina in the middle of the second Islamic century. The work survives in the curious form of varying recensions, each reflecting the copy made of Mālik’s work by one of his students. Mālik appears to have taught and modified his work over decades, and this fact, together with varying standards of accuracy on the part of the students copying the work, means that the recensions differ from one another. There is a long tradition that records variants between these recensions, but in recent times scholars such as Norman Calder and Jonathan Brockopp have questioned the extent to which we can actually attribute the Muwaṭṭaʾ to Mālik if indeed the text remained fluid and may have been amended by his successors.[1] Their questions have been fueled by the fact that the first two recensions to be published, that of the Andalusian Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā al-Laythī (152–234/769–839)[2] and that of Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī (d. 189/804 or 805),[3] differ significantly.[4] However, the recent publication of two other complete recensions—those of Yaḥyā b. Bukayr (d. 231/845) and Abū Muṣʿab al-Zuhrī (d. 242/856)[5]—has made it clear that al-Shaybānī’s recension is an outlier, containing not only al-Shaybānī’s notes from his studies with Mālik but also other material he obtained in Iraq, which he added into the text. The resulting work compiled by al-Shaybānī cannot be considered a recension of Mālik’s work. The three complete Muwaṭṭaʾ recensions in the proper sense that have been published have thus far been the subject of only one study,[6] which found enough similarity to indicate that they all go back to an identifiable singular text by Mālik. However, since Mālik kept revising his work, each recension is a snapshot of his evolving work at a particular point in time: Yaḥyā’s recension, for example, represents a late version of the Muwaṭṭaʾ relative to that of Abū Muṣʿab, since the latter studied with Mālik more than a decade earlier than the former. Each recension thus provides a unique window into a stage of Mālik’s legal thought.

Our series of essays this month adds to the mix a hitherto unpublished recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ, that of ʿAbd Allāh b. Maslama al-Qaʿnabī (ca. 130–221/747–836), which we examined collaboratively as part of the class “Classical Arabic Philology” taught by Ahmed El Shamsy at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2023. Al-Qaʿnabī was born and educated in Medina and then settled in Basra. Influential early scholars considered his transmission from Mālik more reliable than those of the other transmitters.[7] As we show in the next essay, his recension became especially popular in Iraq, but it was also known in al-Andalus, albeit to a lesser extent. Fragments of this recension, which are held at the Al-Azhar Library in Cairo and the Tunisian National Library, have been published,[8] but the complete work seems to exist in a single surviving manuscript, today held in the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul (MS Cârullah 428).[9]

The goal of this series of essays is to introduce al-Qaʿnabī’s recension and present the results of our research on it, answering questions such as: Who produced the manuscript? How did it end up in its present location? How widespread and known was al-Qaʿnabī’s recension? Who transmitted it? What can this recension tell us about scribal practices and about the theology of those who studied it? And finally, what can we learn about Mālik’s thought from this recension?

The copyist of the manuscript

The surviving copy of al-Qaʿnabī’s recension consists of 145 folios. It was transcribed by ʿAbd al-Raḥīm al-Jirahī (744–828/1343–1425), a well-traveled Shāfiʿī ḥadīth scholar. He was born into a scholarly family in Shiraz and passed away in the Iranian city of Lar. According to al-Sakhāwī, he was distinguished by his “extensive acquisition and dissemination of hadith narrations in his region.”[10] He performed the Hajj more than thirty times and attended readings of numerous ḥadīth collections in several cities. It is not surprising, then, that he would be interested in al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of the Muwaṭṭaʾ.

In the incipit of the manuscript, al-Jirahī presents several chains of transmission (isnāds) in the text and adds others in the margin. He begins by giving his isnād from the famous Zayn al-Dīn al-ʿIrāqī for the Muwaṭṭaʾ recension of Abū Muṣʿab al-Zuhrī.[11] This is an odd choice, since the manuscript contains a different recension.[12] Most of al-Jirahī’s isnāds for al-Qaʿnabī’s recension feature his teacher ʿAfīf al-Dīn al-Kāzarūnī (d. 802/1400) and the latter’s father, Saʿīd al-Dīn al-Kāzarūnī (d. 758/1357).[13]

The colophon of the manuscript states that the transcription was completed on Sunday, the 14th day of Jumādā al-Ūlā 802/January 12, 1400, in Lar. It was copied from a manuscript also in al-Jirahī’s possession that featured a Damascene samāʿ record and an isnād from the year 491/1098 and that was copied from yet another manuscript.[14] The “parent manuscript”—that is, al-Jirahī’s Vorlage—also contained a few samāʿ records, and al-Jirahī included them in his copy, though some are obscured by later damage to the manuscript. The parent manuscript was read by a-Jirahī’s teacher ʿAfīf al-Dīn al-Kāzarūnī to his (al-Kāzarūnī’s) father in the year 747/1346. ʿAfīf al-Dīn also records this date in his Shuʿab al-asānīd.[15]

There are corrections and collation notes throughout the margins of the manuscript. The collation was finished on Saturday, the 20th day of Jumādā al-Ūlā, just six days after the completion of the transcription. The collation process involved Rukn al-Dīn Maḥmūd b. ʿUthmān al-Lārī (d. 834/1430)[16] reading the text to al-Jirahī over several sittings, sometimes with al-Jirahī’s son ʿAfīf al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm (d. 839)[17] also present. At the end of the colophon, al-Jirahī writes that his dear friend Rukn al-Dīn read the newly copied manuscript aloud while he, al-Jirahī, was holding the aforementioned parent manuscript (wa-bi-yadī aṣluhā). These sessions took place at al-Jirahī’s residence in Lar.[18]

The end of the manuscript features two birth notices. One celebrates the birth of ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Muḥammad in Medina in the year 810/1408 (or 820?), and the other announces a birth in 817/1414. Both are written by al-Jirahī’s son ʿAfīf al-Dīn Muḥammad. The notices show that the manuscript stayed in the family for some time and was highly valued.

The fate of the manuscript 

The first folio, 1a, shows various identifying features, including different seals (an Ottoman-era stamp and a Turkish-era stamp) as well as the manuscript’s title. A small handwritten text reads: “From the kindest blessings of God upon Abū ʿAbd Allāh Walī al-Dīn Jār Allāh [Veliyyüddîn Cârullah Efendi] 1139 [1726 or 1727 CE].” The bottom seal, though mostly illegible, can be presumed to contain the following sentence, based on the known seal of the Cârullah library: “Abū ʿAbd Allāh Walī al-Dīn Jār Allāh endowed this book with the condition that it does not leave the library he built next to the Sultan Mehmet Mosque in Constantinople.” The text typically ends with the year in which the book was incorporated into the library.[19]

MS folio. Caption: MS Cârullah 428, fol. 1a.

The library’s founder was the Ottoman scholar Veliyyüddin Cârullah (1069–1151/1659–1738), who in 1134/1722 endowed eight hundred volumes of books to the Şeyhülislam Feyzullah Efendi’s madrasa in Fatih. In 1147/1734 these books were transferred to a custom-built library located in the courtyard of Fatih Mosque. Subsequently, the library was housed in the Beyazıt State Library and then in the Millet Library, and in 1963 it was transferred to the Cârullah Efendi section of the Süleymaniye Library, where it remains today.[20]

A large heading of folio 88b reads: “Waqf al-marḥūm Esʿad Efendī al-Muftī” (endowment of Esʿad Efendī, may God have mercy on him). This indicates the owner of the manuscript before Cârullah. “Esad Efendi” was probably Mehmet Esad, also known as Hocazāde (978–1034/1570–1625), the scion of a prominent Ottoman scholarly family who served as şeyhulislam.[21] Unfortunately, we have found no evidence of the manuscript’s journey from the Jirahī family in today’s Iran to Esad Efendi in Istanbul. However, by the mid-tenth/sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire extended to Iraq and parts of Persia, making it likely that it was in this period (i.e., in or close to Esad Efendi’s lifetime) that the work traveled from Persia to the political and intellectual center of the empire in Constantinople. What had been a popular and, as will be seen in the next essay, widely studied recension of Mālik’s work thus survived as a single copy in a city far from the traditional heartlands of the Mālikī school.


[1] See Jonathan Brockopp, Early Mālikī Law: Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam and His Major Compendium of Jurisprudence (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 75–77; Norman Calder, Studies in Early Muslim Legal Texts (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 63.

[2] Kitāb al-Muwaṭṭaʾ li-l-Imām Mālik b. Anas: Riwāyat Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā al-Laythī, eds. Muḥammad al-Rāwandī, Idrīs al-Ḍāwī, Muḥammad al-Idrīsī, et al., 2 vols. (Casablanca: Maṭbaʿat al-Najāḥ al-Jadīda, 1434/2013); now available in the translation of Mohammad Fadel and Connell Monette as Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ: The Recension of Yaḥyā Ibn Yaḥyā al-Laythī (d. 848) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019).

[3] Muwaṭṭaʾ al-Imām Mālik Abī ʿAbd Allāh b. Anas al-Aṣbaḥī: Riwāyat Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, ed. ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ʿAbd al-Laṭīf (Cairo: Lajnat Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-Islāmī, 1967).

[4] For a visualization of these differences, see Sarah Bowen-Savant, “A Tale of 3 ‘Versions,’” Kitab, September 10, 2017,

[5] Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ li-imām dār al-hijra Mālik b. Anas: Riwāyat Abī Muṣʿab al-Zuhrī al-Madanī (150–242), ed. Maḥmūd Khalīl and Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf, 2 vols. (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1412/1991 or 1992); al-Muwaṭṭaʾ li-imām dār al-hijra Mālik b. Anas: Riwāyat Yaḥyā b. Bukayr, ed. Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf and Muḥammad ʿAlī al-Azharī, 3 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2020).

[6] Ahmed El Shamsy, “The Ur-Muwaṭṭaʾ and Its Recensions,” Islamic Law and Society 28, no. 4 (2021): 352–81.

[7] Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥākim Ibn al-Bayʿ, Suʾālāt Masʿūd b. ʿAlī al-Sijzī, ed. Muwaffaq ʿAbd al-Qādir (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1988), 233.

[8] See the editor’s introduction to al-Muwaṭṭaʾ li-l-Imām Mālik b. Anas: Riwāyat ʿAbd Allāh b. Maslama al-Qaʿnabī, ed. ʿAbd al-Majīd Turkī (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1999).

[9] The Moroccan publisher Dār al-Ḥadīth al-Kattāniyya announced in October 2023 its plan to publish the complete recension on the basis of the Cârullah manuscript.

[10] Al-Sakhāwī, al-Ḍawʾ al-lāmiʿ, 12 vols. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Qudsī, 1934–36), 4:180.

[11] According to al-Sakhāwī, al-Jirahī read several ḥadīth books with al-ʿIrāqī in Medina; ibid.

[12] MS Azhariyya (khāṣṣ 3857/ʿāmm 53125), which is a descendant of MS Cârullah 428 and was copied in 891/1486, also features this isnād. Al-Turkī, who used MS Azhariyya in his partial edition of al-Qaʿnabī’s recension (and did not have access to Cârullah 428), speculated that this was a scribal error. However, its presence in the Cârullah manuscript, which was written by al-Jirahī himself, disproves that possibility.

[13] ʿAfīf al-Dīn al-Kāzarūnī, Shuʿab al-asānīd fī riwāyat al-kutub wa-al-asānid, ed. Abū al-Ḥasan al-Shabrāwī (Cairo: Dār al-Risāla, 2019).

[14] MS Cârullah 428, fol. 143a, lines 23–25 (including two additions in each margin).

[15] Fol. 143b, lines 11–12.

[16] Al-Sakhāwī, al-Ḍawʾ al-lāmiʿ, 10:140.

[17] See, for example, fol. 5a, marginal note.

[18] Fol. 143b, lines 12–21.

[19] For a clearer image of this seal, see Günay Kut and Nimet Bazraktar, Yazma Eserlerde Vakıf Mühürleri (Istanbul: Türkiye Yazma Eserler Kurumu Başkanlığı, 2021), 377.

[20] Tahsin Özcan, “Veliyyüddin Cârullah,” İslam Ansiklopedisi,

[21] Mehmet Münir Aktepe, “Esad Efendi, Hocazâde,” İslam Ansiklopedisi,

(Suggested Bluebook citation: Hamza Baig, Adam DeSchriver, Ammar Farra & Ahmed El Shamsy, Al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ: The single surviving copy, Islamic Law Blog (March 7, 2024),

(Suggested Chicago citation: Hamza Baig, Adam DeSchriver, Ammar Farra and Ahmed El Shamsy, “Al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ: The single surviving copy,” Islamic Law Blog, March 7, 2024,

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