Mairaj's Reviews > Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought

Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought by Michael Alan Cook
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Apr 27, 07

bookshelves: currently-reading

This is definately a scholarly, erudite, and well-documented work with tidbits of insights on the nature of the pre-modern Islamic cultural world.

I am currently on the chapter on the Hanbalites of Najd.

The best chapter so far is the one on Ibn Hanbal himself. It is rich in biographical and close to the streets of Baghdad details.

The comparisions between the Ibn Hanbal, the Hanbalites of medieval Baghdad and those of Damascus were also quite enlightening. The main object of analysis is what can explain the activism/passivism of these communities in there respective locales and time periods.

Here is my question - why do the Hanbalites get four separate chapters, while the rest of the schools only get one each - unless you count the Ghazali chapter as part of that of the Shafites? This is especially significant given the fact that in comparison to the Hanafis and Shafi'is, they were institutionally quite marginal.
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message 1: by Beaman (last edited Nov 11, 2007 04:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beaman Why more attention to the Hanbalis? I think the author says that for the Hanbalis we have types of sources that we don't have for other groups (look at the beginning of his discussion). Given that his book aspires to to give a comprehensive account of the sources, more sources means more chapters. Or does this reason not fully explain the level of detail on the Hanbalis?


Mairaj i agree with you. this ocurred to me a few weeks ago. i don't think it is just quantity of sources, i think it is type also. what you get with early hanbali sources that Cook liked is the close to the streets feel. Also the late nature of the formation of hanbalism gives a direct link to the eponymous founder - a sea of texts to track divergence/convergence - both substantively and formally - from the founding moment. You've got close to the streets feel - captured in the lively biographical tradition of hanbalism, perhaps because of their hadith-centeredness (the hadith scholars tracked bios), you've got late eponymous founder, you've got the rationalistic formalising tendency in Abu Ya'la and Ibn Aqil, you've got independent renegades in Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim, you've got different cities (Damascus vs. Cairo vs. Baghdad) and you've got the modern example - Wahhabism and the formation of the KSA. The other traditions do not have the variety of sources. The Shafi'is may come close in biographical sources - they had a pretty decent tradition. The Hanafis are the poorest - just Jawahir. The Malikis are better than the Hanafis, worse than the Shafi'is. I can't comment on the Imamis.


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