Al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ: Paths and vectors of transmission

By Kainat Jalaluddin, Yousef Aly Wahb, Hamza Baig and Ahmed El Shamsy


In the year 490/1096, an eight-year-old girl named Shuhda accompanied her father, the renowned ḥadīth expert Abū Naṣr Aḥmad b. al-Farj al-Daynūrī (d. 506/1112), to ḥadīth sessions in Baghdad. The ijāza she received for her participation in these sessions marked the beginning of a long career in ḥadīth transmission, which lasted until her death in 574/1178, in her eighties.[1] Her early immersion in the field, her longevity, the precision of her memory, and the fact that she retained her mental acuity throughout her life underpin her unique position among ḥadīth transmitters. She was honored with the title “Fakhr al-Nisāʾ” (the pride of women), recognized for her exceptional talent in calligraphy and profound knowledge of ḥadīth, and praised for her public oratory.[2]

Shuhda’s academic journey was marked not only by her access to numerous distinguished scholars, facilitated by her father’s connections and her marriage into a family of political influence, but also by her commitment to teaching. Her own illustrious teachers included Abū al-Khaṭṭāb Naṣr b. Aḥmad al-Biṭar (d. 494/1101), Ṭirād b. Muḥammad al-Zaynabī (d. 491/1098), Thābit b. Bundār (d. 498/1105), and Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Yūsuf (d. 492/1099).[3] Significantly, many of her mentors enjoyed long lifespans, as meticulously documented in her catalog of teachers (mashyakha), which contributed to the brevity and authenticity of her chains of transmission. Notably, the chains of transmission of some of Shuhda’s teachers match those of Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj (d. 261/875) in shortness, in spite of covering a significantly longer period of time—a feature that ḥadīth experts call transmission with a handshake (muṣāfaḥa). After narrating a particular ḥadīth, Shuhda declares, “My transmission of this hadith stands as though I heard it directly from Muslim himself and shook hands with him through it.”[4]

Shuhda’s mashyakha was compiled during her lifetime by her student ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Maḥmūd b. al-Mubārak (d. 649/1251), who reviewed it with her. It contains approximately 114 narrations, mostly prophetic ḥadīth. Featuring contributions from twenty-eight of her teachers, this compilation holds a special place in Islamic history as one of only a few mashyakhas compiled for female ḥadīth scholars. Shuhda’s mashyakha became an important source for later ḥadīth transmitters and historians.[5]

During her long life, Shuhda imparted her knowledge to a large number of students, many of whom became prominent ḥadīth scholars. Her students included influential figures such as Ibn ʿAsākir (d. 571/1176), al-Samʿānī (d. 562/1166), Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 597/1201), and ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Maqdisī (d. 600/1203). The last person to narrate from her was Ibn Qumayra (d. 650/1252), who passed away eighty-six years after Shuhda’s demise. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Hādī b. Yūsuf al-Maqdisī (d. 658/1259) also continued her chains of transmission, though probably only through an ijāza. Akram Nadwi’s recent work on female ḥadīth transmitters, Al-Muhaddithat, lists fifty-nine scholars who studied under Shuhda.[6] Most of the students hailed from Baghdad, but some traveled from other cities, such as Cairo, Damascus, Mosul, and Alexandria, to benefit from her instruction.

Renowned ḥadīth experts and historians such as Ibn Nuqṭa (d. 629/1231), al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348),[7] and Ibn al-Jawzī praised Shuhda, emphasizing her short and trustworthy chains of transmission. Her role as a bridge between generations made her a pivotal figure in the transmission of important works such as Abū ʿUbayd’s (d. 224/838) al-Amwāl.[8] She also transmitted well-known works, including Musaddad’s (d. 228/834) Musnad, various collections of Ibn Abī al-Dunyā (d. 281/894), and a section of ʿAbd al-Razzāq’s (d. 211/827) al-Jāmiʿ. One of her most significant contributions, however, is the transmission of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ.[9]

Shuhda’s Transmission of the Muwaṭṭaʾ

Shuhda holds a central position in the transmission chains for both Suwayd al-Ḥadathānī’s (d. 240/855) and al-Qaʿnabī’s recensions of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ. She transmitted al-Qaʿnabī’s recension through a Baghdadian isnād that passed through Abū al-Ḥusayn Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Qādir (d. 492/1098), ʿUthmān b. Dust al-ʿAllāf (d. 428/1036), Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Shāfiʿī (d. 354/965), and Isḥāq b. al-Ḥasan b. Maymūn (d. 284/897), who received it from al-Qaʿnabī.[10]

Other notable female figures who transmitted al-Qaʿnabī’s recension include Khadīja bt. Jaʿfar (d. after 394/1003), who transmitted it through her husband, the Cordoban jurist ʿAbd Allāh b. Asad (d. 350/961); ʿAjība bt. Abī Bakr al-Bāqdāriyya (d. 647/1249), who transmitted it from Shuhda’s teacher Thābit b. Bundār and whose chain of transmission intersects with Shuhda’s chain through al-ʿAllāf; and Zaynab bt. al-Kamāl (d. 740/1339), who transmitted it via an ijāza obtained from Ibrāhīm al-Baghdādī (d. unknown), a student of Shuhda.

Shuhda’s transmissions played a significant role in spreading al-Qaʿnabī’s recension in the sixth/twelfth century and beyond. Seven of her many students transmitted the recension from her and helped disseminate it widely. The majority of these students were from Iraq, with some residing and teaching in the Levant.

  1. Bahāʾ al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Manṣūr al-Maqdisī (d. 624/1226), a Ḥanbalī jurist who taught al-Birzālī (d. 739/1339) and al-Sharaf b. al-Nabulsī (d. 671/1272). Al-Dhahabī remarked that much of ḥadīth transmission in Damascus came to an end with al-Maqdisī’s death.
  2. Muwaffaq al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Mūṣilī (d. 629/1231), a Shāfiʿī jurist who resided in Aleppo. Ibn ʿAsākir and al-Shihāb al-Qūṣī (d. 653/1255) transmitted ḥadīth from him. He taught ḥadīth in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Baghdad, and Harran.
  3. Naṣr b. ʿAbd al-Rāziq al-Jīlī (d. 633/1236), a Ḥanbalī jurist and Abbasid chief judge who taught Ibn ʿAsākir.
  4. Abū al-Fatḥ Muḥammad b. ʿIsā b. al-Jaṣṣāṣ al-Baghdādī (d. unknown).[11]
  5. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Dulaf al-Baghdādī (d. 637/1239), a Qurʾān reciter (qārī) and a copyist. The Abbasid caliph al-Mustanṣir appointed him treasurer of his library.
  6. Ibrāhīm b. Maḥmūd b. Sālim b. al-Khayr (d. 648/1250), a Ḥanbalī jurist and frequent link in chains of transmission in Baghdad. He copied many books himself. He was one of Shuhda’s closest students and transmitted ḥadīth to scholars such as ʿAbd al-Muʿmin al-Dimyāṭī (d. 705/1305). Among his students was Zaynab bt. al-Kamāl, who transmitted Shuhda’s mashyakha from him.
  7. Abū Naṣr al-ʿAzz b. Faḍāʾil al-Baghdādī (d. 649/1251), a long-lived scholar who taught numerous students, including al-Dimyāṭī.

Two of these students are mentioned in the audition certificate (samāʿ) appended to the colophon of MS Cârullah 428: Muḥammd b. ʿIsā b. al-Jaṣṣāṣ and Naṣr al-Jīlī, who received al-Qaʿnabī’s recension from Shuhda in 630/1232.

The Spread of the Recension 

The transmission tree available at:

The transmission tree that we have compiled shows many of the known transmitters of al-Qaʿnabī’s recension and the chains of transmission that connect them (Shuhda appears in the middle near the top of the graph).[12] The information that we have about the backgrounds and careers of the transmitters named in the tree indicates that al-Qaʿnabī’s recension was popular primarily in the East—particularly in Iraq, but also in Mamluk Syria. The arguably greatest ḥadīth scholar of al-Andalus, Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d. 463/1071), also studied and transmitted the recension and used it for his magnum opus, his legal commentary on Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ (al-Tamhīd).[13] By doing so he diverged from the majority of his Andalusian compatriots, who generally relied on Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā al-Laythī’s transmission of the Muwattaʾ.

In the East, al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of the Muwaṭṭaʾ was from early on transmitted as a work of ḥadīth and early legal opinions, rather than as a work of Mālikī law. This is shown by the fact that its transmitters, such as Abū Bakr al-Shāfiʿī al-Bazzāz (260–354/874–965), typically belonged to other schools of law. The circles in which the work was transmitted and their methods of communal reading and continuous isnāds were part of the culture of postcanonical ḥadīth transmission, within which works of or containing ḥadīth and other early reports were transmitted communally as a ritual practice.[14] Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn al-ʿAlāʾī’s (d. 761/1359) catalog of all the books he studied provides an interesting insight into the importance that these circles assigned to the Muwaṭṭaʾ. Al-ʿAlāʾī begins his work by listing the recensions of the Muwaṭṭaʾ that he has studied (including al-Qaʿnabī’s), and he justifies the Muwaṭṭaʾ’s primacy by explaining that “according to most scholars it is the first book written in Islam.”[15] In other words, for al-ʿAlāʾī the Muwaṭṭaʾ represented a historical artifact of Islamic book culture.

This view of the Muwaṭṭaʾ may also explain the rich evidence of the transmission of al-Qaʿnabī’s recension in the Mamluk period, as indicated both by isnād evidence and the surviving manuscripts. However, the text does not seem to have been recopied after the ninth/fifteenth century, and there is no evidence of its transmission after this time. The disappearance of the work is likely connected to a broader cultural shift. As Garrett Davidson has shown, the culture of postcanonical ḥadīth transmission declined dramatically in the Ottoman period.[16] Many of the works it had cherished dropped out of active use, preserved as mere curiosities in libraries or lost altogether. The Cârullah manuscript of al-Qaʿnabī’s recension may thus be the last vestige of a tradition of textual reproduction and transmission that had kept the recension alive from Mālik’s lifetime in the second/eighth century to that of the copyist, al-Jirahī, in the ninth/fifteenth century but largely died out thereafter.


[1] Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-islām, ed. Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf, 50 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2003), 20:147.

[2] Salāh al-Dīn al-Ṣafādī, al-Wāfi bi-l-wafayāt, 29 vols. (Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 2000), 16:190; Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad b. Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Majmaʿ al-Muʾassas, ed. Muḥammad Shakūr, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifa, 1992), 1:475–76.

[3] Al-Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-islām, 20:147.

[4] Shuhda bt. Aḥmad al-Ibbarī, Mashyakhat Shuhda, ed. Rifʿat Fawzī ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī, 1994), 87.

[5] Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī mentions that he read Shuhda’s mashyakha to Zaynab bt. Aḥmad b. Manṣūr al-Maqdisī (d. 740/1339), who transmitted it via an ijāza from four of Shuhda’s students: Ibrāhīm b. Maḥmūd b. al-Khayr, Muḥammad b. Muqbil b. al-Mannī, Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Karīm b. al-Sayyidī, and al-Aʿazz b. Faḍāʾil b. al-ʿUlīq. Tāj al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Subkī, Muʿjam al-shuyūkh, ed. Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf et al. (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islamī, 2004), 565.

[6] Muhammad Akram Nadwi, Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam (Oxford: Interface, 2016), 158.

[7] We thank Athina Pfeiffer for providing us with a copy of al-Dhahabī’s record of studying al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of the Muwaṭṭaʾ (Princeton, MS Garrett 5099a, fol. 137a).

[8] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Majmaʿ al-Muʾassas, 1:475–76.

[9] Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ, 25 vols. (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1998), 23:45.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Nothing further is known about this student.

[12] The transmission tree is based on information from Muḥammad b. Masʿūd al-Kāzarūnī,‪‪‪‪‪‪‪‪‪‪‪ Shuʿab al-asānīd fī riwāyat al-kutub wa-l-asānīd, ed. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Shabrāwī (Cairo: Dār al-Risāla, 2019); Ibn Khayr al-Ashbīlī, Fihrist, ed. Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf and Maḥmūd Bashshār ʿAwwād (Tunis: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2009); Abū Jaʿfar al-Balawī, Thabat Abī Jaʿfar Aḥmad b. ʿAlī al-Balawī al-Wādī Āshī, ed. ʿAbd Allāh al-ʿUmrānī (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1983); Muḥammad al-Rūdānī, Ṣilat al-khalaf bi-mawṣūl al-salaf (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1988); Abū al-Ṭayyib al-Taqī al-Fāsī, Dhayl al-Taqyīd li-maʿrifat ruwāt al-sunan wa-l-masānīd, ed. Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Murād, 3 vols. (Mecca: Jāmiʿat Umm al-Qurā, 1990).

[13] Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd li-mā fī al-Muwaṭṭaʼ min al-maʿānī wa-l-asānīd, ed. Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf, 17 vols. (London: al-Furqān, 2017).

[14] Garrett Davidson, Carrying on the Tradition: A Social and Intellectual History of Hadith Transmission across a Thousand Years (Leiden: Brill, 2017).

[15] Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn alʿAlāʾī, Ithārat al-fawāʾid al-majmūʿa fī ishāra ilā al-farāʾid al-masmūʿa, ed. Marzūq b. Hayyās Āl al-Zahrānī, 2 vols. (Medina: Maktabat al-ʿUlūm wa-l-Ḥikam, 2004), 1:94.

[16] Davidson, Carrying on the Tradition, chap. 2, sec. 9.

(Suggested Bluebook citation: Kainat Jalaluddin, Yousef Aly Wahb, Hamza Baig & Ahmed El Shamsy, Al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ: Paths and vectors of transmission, Islamic Law Blog (March 14, 2024),

(Suggested Chicago citation: Kainat Jalaluddin, Yousef Aly Wahb, Hamza Baig and Ahmed El Shamsy, “Al-Qaʿnabī’s recension of Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ: The single surviving copy,” Islamic Law Blog, March 14, 2024,

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