Intellectual Life in the Hijaz before Wahhabism

Ibrahim al-Kurani’s (d. 1101/1690) Theology of Sufism

Naser Dumairieh


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Intellectual Life in the Hijaz before Wahhabism

Islamicate Intellectual History


Editorial board

Judith Pfeiffer (University of Bonn) Shahzad Bashir (Brown University) Heidrun Eichner (University of Tiibingen)


The titles published in this series are listed at

Intellectual Life in the Hijaz before Wahhabism

Ibrahim al-Kurant’s (d. 1101/1690) Theology of Sufism


Naser Dumairieh


Cover illustration: (New York, NY. 10027, Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, ms Or 229, Collection 1D: 0032).

Dal@il al-khayrat wa shawarigq al-anwar fi dhikr al-salah ‘ala al-nabi al-mukhtar, Muhammad ibn Sulayman Jazuli, (d. 1465). Copy completed in 1251/1835-1836 by Hasan Niyazi Afandizadah Muhammad Amin Hilmi. Full page polychrome (white, blue, pink, red/orange tones with highlights in gold) illustrations of Mecca and Medina (f. 12°13"). In the image of Medina, 5 tombs are represented (the three usual ones and two others in a square below). Textblock is border ruled in wide gold, narrow blue and red. Text is punctuated throughout by gold roundels with white centers, edged with four orange and blue dots. Rubrications in red.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Dumayriyah, Nasir Muhammad Yahya, author.

Title: Intellectual life in the Hijaz before Wahhabism : Ibrahim al-Kurani's (d. 1101/1690) theology of Sufism / by Naser Dumairieh.

Description: Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2022. | Series: IsLamicate intellectual history, 2212-8662 ; 9 | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2021052522 (print) | LCCN 2021052523 (ebook) | ISBN 9789004499041 (hardback) | IsBN 9789004499058 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: karani, Ibrahim ibn Hasan, 1616 or 1617-approximately 1690. | Muslim philosophers—Saudi Arabia—Hejaz—Biography. | Hejaz (Saudi Arabia)- Intellectual life-17th century. | Hejaz (Saudi Arabia)—History—17th century. | Sufism—History-17th century.

Classification: LCC BP80.K863 D86 2022 (print) | LCC BP80.K863 (ebook) | DDC 297.2/041092—dc23/eng/20211203

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Acknowledgements 1x Introduction: When All Roads Led to the Hijaz 1

1 The Seventeenth-Century Hijaz in Its Global and Local Context 18 1 __ The Seventeenth-Century Hijaz in its Global Context 19 1.1 European Navies in the Indian Ocean 19 1.2 Iran’s Conversion to Shi'ism 23 1.3. The Mughal Empire’s Generous Donations to the Hijaz 27 1.4 Ottomans and the Hijaz 35 2 The Seventeenth-Century Hijaz in its Local Context 42 3 Conclusion 48

2 Intellectual Life in the Hijaz in the Seventeenth Century 50 1 Educational Institutions in the Hijaz in the Seventeenth Century 51 1.1. Madrasas, Ribats, and Zawiyas 52 1.2 Libraries, Book-Binders, and Book Scribes in Medina 57 1.3 Theoretical and Practical Sciences in the Hijaz 61 1.3.1 Medicine 61 1.3.2 Agriculture (Um al-filaha) 62 1.3.3 Astronomy 62 1.3.4 Chemistry (San‘at al-kimiya’) 63 1.3.5 Music Theory and Practice 63 Rational Sciences in the Hijaz 64 3. Isnad asa Source for Intellectual Life in the Seventeenth-Century Hijaz 76 3.1 The Isnad of Intellectual Texts 80 4 How the Rational Sciences Reached the Hijaz 83 4.1 Al-Taftazant’s (d.793/1390) Works 83 4.2 Al-Sharif al-Jurjants (d. 816/1413) Works 84 4.3 ALIji’s (d. 756/1355) Works go 4.4 Al-Dawani’s (d. 908/502) Works 91 5 Conclusion 94


3 Ibrahim al-Kurani’s Life, Education, Teachers, and Students 97 1 Al-Kirani’s Life 98 1.1 Al-Kurani’s Early Life and Studies in His Homeland 99



1.2 AlKuraniin Baghdad 99

1.3 Al-Kuraniin Damascus 101

1.4 Through Cairo to the Hijaz 102

Al-Kurani’s Education 103

Al-Kuarani’s Teachers 10

Al-Kurani’s Contacts with Other Scholars of HisTime 120 Al-Kurani’s Students 121

Al-Kirani’s Affiliation to Sufi Orders 130

Conclusion 134

-Kurani’s Works = 138

Al-Kurani’s Works (Examined) 140 Al-Kurani’s Works (Inaccessible) 167 Works Misattributed to al-Kirani 170 Conclusion 171

5 Al-Kurani’s Metaphysical and Cosmological Thought 175


an fw bd

13 14

God is Absolute Existence (al-wujid al-mutlaq or al-wujud

al-mahd) 178

God's Attributes and Allegorical Interpretation (tawil) 184

God’s Manifestations in Sensible and Conceivable Forms 193

Nafs al-amr in al-Kurani’s Thought 202

Ash‘arites and Mental Existence 207

Realities: Uncreated Nonexistent Quiddities 21

6.1 Classifications of Nonexistents 216

6.2 The Description of Nonexistent and the Concept of “Thing” (shay?) 217

God’s Knowledge of Particulars 220

Creation 222

Unity and Multiplicity 229

Destiny and Predetermination 240

Kasb: Free Will and Predestination 245

11.1 Good and Bad According to the Intellect (al-husn wa-l-qubh al“aqliyyayn) 253

11.2 Legal Responsibility (al-taklif) 256

The Unity of the Attributes (wahdat al-sifat) 258

Wahdat al-Wujid 260

Conclusion 268


6 Al-Kurani’s Other Theological and Sufi Thought 271

1 2


The Faith of Pharaoh 272

The Precedence of God’s Mercy and the Vanishing of the Hellfire (fan@ al-nar) 277

Satanic Verses 282

Preference for the Reality of the Ka‘ba or for the Muhammadan Reality 288

God’s Speech (kalam Allah) 294

Conclusion 301

Conclusion 303

Appendix 1: Al-Kurani'’s Teachers, Additional to Those Mentioned in the

Text 315

Appendix 2: Al-Kurani’s Students, Additional to Those Mentioned in the

Text 318

Appendix 3: Al-Karani’s Works Ordered Alphabetically 323 Bibliography 328 Index 358


Many professors, colleagues, and scholarly institutions contributed to this research through discussions and observations, or through the support and basic resources they provided for this research. It is difficult to mention all the names, but I will refer in particular to Robert Wisnovsky’s help and sup- port during my years at McGill's Institute of Islamic Studies. Many thanks to all the Institute’s faculty members, administrators, and librarians, especially Jamil Ragep and Stephen Menn. I am also sincerely grateful for the Institute's finan- cial support during my research period, and to the FRQSC grant that allowed me to revise and improve the primary draft of the current work during my two-year fellowship at the Université de Montréal, Institut d’ études religieuses 1ER. Many thanks to |’ Institut (1£R) and all its staff, especially Damien Janos and Alain Gignac. My deepest appreciation also extends to Pasha M. Khan and Mohammed Rustom for their insightful comments and helpful suggestions. Many other institutes, libraries, and research centers were very helpful in pro- viding access to my sources, especially manuscripts, to all of them my sincere gratitude.

Among the friends and colleagues who impacted my work, I would like to mention by name Hasan Umut, Leila El-Murr, Brian Wright, Pauline Froissart, Ian Greer, and Giovanni Carrera. And special thanks to Jessica Stilwell.

Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude to Judith Pfeiffer and the edi- tors of the Islamicate Intellectual History Series, as well as my two anonymous reviewers.

Academic research can only be done at the expense of other aspects of life, including the family, so I want to apologize for my long preoccupation away from my family, and dedicate this work to my family in Syria and to the two stars of my life, Florence and Neijem.


When All Roads Led to the Hijaz

“In the sixteenth century of our era, a visitor from Mars might well have supposed that the human world was on the verge of becoming Mus- lim.”!


By the beginning of the sixteenth century, most of the Islamic world was dom- inated by three strong empires: Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal. Although the birthplace of Islam in the Hijaz seems far from their centers, the changes which occurred in these empires were reflected positively in the situation in the Hijaz. The Ottoman expansion into the Hijaz, as well as throughout the Levant, Egypt, and most of North Africa, facilitated travel across these areas, and with the Ottomans’ subsequent efforts to secure pilgrimage routes the number of pil- grims, scholars, and students who headed to the Hijaz increased. Generous donations from the Mughals and the Ottomans helped increase investments in the region’s educational institutions and maintain endowments that pro- vided their teachers and students with the necessities of life. At the same time, the conversion of Iran to Shi‘ism forced numerous Sunni scholars to disperse to other parts of the Islamic world, carrying their knowledge with them to other intellectual centers in the Indian Subcontinent, Anatolia, Dam- ascus, Cairo, and the Hijaz. In addition to these intra-Islamic world changes, a fundamental global shift in navigation routes occurred in the sixteenth cen- tury, and the Hijaz was one of the beneficiaries of this shift. The discovery of the Cape of Good Hope route at the end of the fifteenth century resulted in the spread of European navies and merchant fleets into the Indian Ocean, which reinforced the connection of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia with the Arab world and enhanced opportunities for safe travel, which in

1 Marshall G.S. Hodgson, “The Role of Islam in World History,” in Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam and World History, ed. Edmund Burke (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni- versity Press, 1993), Pp. 97-125) P- 97.

© KONINKLIJKE BRILL NV, LEIDEN, 2022 DOI:10.1163/9789004499058_002


turn resulted in yet further increase in the number of pilgrims, students, and scholars who journeyed to study in the Hijaz, thus facilitating the circulation of knowledge through different parts of the Islamic world.

In addition to these global factors, local conditions in the Hijaz played a fundamental role in the region’s benefiting from global changes. The rulers of the Hijaz (Sharifs) had significant experience managing ambitious external powers that looked to dominate the holy cities, allowing them to obtain the maximum benefit from the generosity provided by the Ottoman and Mughal Empires. The relatively stable environment in the Hijaz in this period cre- ated suitable conditions for visitors, students, and scholars. Within a century, under the influence of these global and local factors, the Hijaz became one of the primary Islamic scholarly destinations, and the most important intel- lectual center in the Islamic world. During the seventeenth century, hundreds of students and scholars from different parts of the Islamic world formed a vibrant community that discussed the bulk of intellectual issues in the history of Islam. The annual meeting of pilgrims played a vital role in gathering schol- ars and in spreading and circulating knowledge, in a movement that looked like a heartbeat. Pilgrims, students, and scholars brought with them to this heart of the Islamic world their particular scholarly traditions, and later these students and scholars carried their scholarly experiences back out to their regions.

In this book I argue that rational and transmitted sciences as well as Sufi theories and practices flourished in the Hijaz and made it one of the most intellectually dynamic centers of the seventeenth-century Islamic world. The principal case study on which my argument is based revolves around the works and thought of Ibrahim b. Hasan al-Kurani (1025—-101/1616-1690), a leading scholar who can be considered representative of Hijazi intellectual activities in this period. He was one of the main hadith transmitters (musnid) in the eleventh/seventeenth century and has been described as one of the leading scholars in the revival of the hadith studies of the preceding centuries; he was also affiliated with numerous Sufi orders and became the head of some of them. In addition, he was a philosopher and theologian (mutakallim) who wrote around one hundred treatises in which he discussed most of the intellec- tual issues that have historically constituted Islamic philosophy and theology. His work on these philosophical and theological issues is based largely on the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 638/1240). As a result of his multidisciplinary train- ings, al-Kurani's thought, I argue, represents the parallel and converging devel- opments of the Islamic rational sciences (maqulat) and transmitted sciences (manqulat), and the historical moment when Islamic sciences and mystical experience were combined in both theory and practice.


By its provision of a clear image of intellectual life in this region, I hope that this book pushes even further the recently increased volume of research on post-classical Islamic thought by including new geographical zones, prin- cipally the Hijaz, as well as by shedding light on an important source for the study of post-classical Islamic thought, which is the Akbarian Sufi corpus which engaged with a wide range of theological and philosophical issues. Beyond the idea that Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought cannot be ignored in the study of the develop- ment of Islamic thought in the post-classical period, I contend that it became a main source of Islamic theology, or even an independent school of Islamic the- ology. Through the course of making this argument, as I will elaborate below, I will also show that the chain of transmission (isnad), a tool that is mainly associated with the transmitted sciences, can be a valuable implement for the study of the rational sciences, as it allows historians to trace scholars and texts from the seventeenth-century Hijaz back to the intellectual centers and schol- ars of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Using the isndd allows us to obtain a more precise understanding of how knowledge circulated between different parts of the Islamic world, such that we can visualize the continuity of Islamic scholarship through the post-classical period by mapping the circu- lation of knowledge, revealing names of scholars who studied and taught the rational sciences, and tracing new patterns of relationships between the differ- ent schools of thought.

This important intellectual center that flourished in the seventeenth century has not yet attracted the attention of many researchers who work on the his- tory of the region, whose interest in the history of the Hijaz remained for along time confined to the formative period of Islam or to the twentieth century with the Arab Revolt (1916-1918) initiated by Sharif Husayn b. ‘Ali (d. 1350/1931). The lack of interest in the intellectual history of this region can be explained at least in part by the fact that soon after the beginning of Islam, the centers of politi- cal, cultural, social, and economic activity shifted to Damascus, then to Bagh- dad, Cairo, Isfahan, Shiraz, and many other cities around the Muslim world. The Hijaz, from this perspective, remains only symbolically important, without major historical events, until the beginning of the twentieth century. Another reason for the scholarly inattention to the Hijaz is the fact that non-Muslims are prohibited from entering these two cities. And with the destruction of histori- cal sites, which deprived scholars of scientific archeological evidence, histori- ans have been forced to rely principally on literary texts based on history and travel, and on bio-bibliographical (tabaqat) works. Manuscripts, which con- stitute the basis of the present research, are a rich source for the intellectual history of this region; however, most of the manuscripts written by scholars of this region during the seventeenth century have not yet been published and


remain scattered in different libraries and archives around the world, posing an additional challenge to studying the Hijaz after the formative period of Islam.

Another ideological factor that has contributed to the lack of interest in the intellectual life of the region before the twentieth century is the dominance of the anti-Sufi ideology of Wahhabism in the Arabian Peninsula, including the Hijaz. Wahhabi literature describes the intellectual and religious life in the Hijaz as one that had regressed to the mire of pre-Islamic polytheism and ignorance (jahiliyya), indicating the absence of any intellectual activity and implying that the intellectual environment before the eighteenth century was as bad as, if not worse than, that of pre-Islamic Arabia in the seventh century cE. This narrative of “ignorance” finds its roots in the works of Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1115-1206/1703--1792),? the founder of the Wahhabi move- ment, and most Wahhabi literature to date repeats this narrative.?

The Wahhabi narrative of “ignorance” has been challenged by a few studies that have tried to show that Najd, and Arabia more broadly, was in reality full of scholars engaged in various intellectual activities.t However, these efforts to shed light on some positive aspects of religious life in pre-Wahhabi Arabia have been targeted by Wahhabi researchers in an effort to discourage what they have considered to bea pernicious direction of study that casts doubt on the account

2 See for example Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Salih al-Fawzan, Sharh al-Qawaid al- arba‘ (Beirut: Mwassasat al-Risala, 2003), p. 31. The comment of Salih al-Fawzan (b. 1933), who is a member of Saudi Arabia’s Committee of Senior Scholars (hay ‘at kibar al-‘ulam@’), confirms the same idea, Ibid., pp. 34-35. See also, Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, Kashf al- shubuhat, ed. ‘Abd Allah b. Ayid al-Qahtani (ks, al-Riyad: Dar al-Sumay‘, 1998), pp. 77, 79-

3 Salih al-‘Abbtid’s Aqidat al-shaykh Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-salafiyya wa-atharuha ft- l-‘alam al-Islami collects evidence from the writings of Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab and historians of his life and movement, as well as from his followers and other authors, to prove that Arabia specifically and the Islamic world generally was in a period of “ignorance” worse than the pre-Prophetic jahiliyya. Salih al-Abbud, Agidat al-shaykh Muhammad b. ‘Abd al- Wahhab al-salafiyya wa-atharuha fi al-‘alam al-Islamt (Ksa, Medina, al-Jami‘a al-Islamiyya bi-l-Madina al-Munawwara, PhD dissertation 1408/1987-1988), p. 35 and after.

4 For example, ‘Abd Allah al-Uthaymin, in an article entitled “Najd mundhu al-qarn al-Ashir al-hijn hatta zuhtr al-shaykh Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab” (“Najd from the Tenth Cen- tury until Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab’), tries to demonstrate that there were numerous such scholars in the region. ‘Abd Allah al-Uthaymin, “Najd mundhu al-qarn al-4shir al-hijri hatta zuhir al-shaykh Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab,’ al-Dara, September 1978, pp. 32- 46. Also the book Ulama’ Najd khilal thamaniyat qurin (“Najdi Scholars during Eight Cen- turies”) by Al Bassam mentions around one hundred scholars from the tenth/sixteenth to the twelfth/eighteenth century. These and other studies focus mainly on Hanbali scholars to con- vince their audience that Arabia before the twelfth/eighteenth century was full of righteous scholars.


of the spread of polytheism before the Wahhabi movement and which might suggest that its founder was not working to guide people back to the Quran and the Sunna, but rather sought fame and leadership.® This current book may sim- ilarly find it difficult to change the Wahhabi perspective by demonstrating that the Hijaz was a center of intellectual activities such as philosophy, theology (kalam), and Sufism, as Wahhabis actually condemn such intellectual activi- ties as being the symptoms and factors of decline and ignorance, rather than of progress and prosperity.®

The idea that philosophy and the rational sciences are factors of “decline” is an ideological Wahhabi perspective, and this study is unlikely to change it. Nevertheless, this study will undoubtedly offer researchers a better idea of intellectual life in the pre-Wahhabi Hijaz and will contribute to countering the narrative of ignorance that remains widespread in Wahhabi circles. Alongside challenging the narrative of “ignorance,” this book forms part of the increasing scholarly efforts in recent decades toward refuting the concept of “decline” in the historiography of Islam and re-evaluating the development of post-classical Islamic intellectual history in general.

This decline paradigm that hindered the study of Islamic intellectual history in the post-classical period is no longer acceptable in most Western academic circles.” A growing number of prominent scholars have extended the borders of their research to include works from disciplines such as logic, mathematics, astronomy, and psychology, in addition to philosophical and theological texts. In their efforts, these scholars have focused their attention on areas throughout the Islamic world, primarily Ottoman Turkey, Safavid Persia, Mughal India, and

5 Husayn b. Abi Bakr Ibn Ghannam, Tarikh Ibn Ghannam al-musamma Rawdat al-afkar wa- Lafham li-murtad hal al-imam wa-tidad ghazawat dhawi al-Islam, ed. Sulayman b. Salih al- Kharashi (ksa, al-Riyad: Dar al-Thulithiyya li-I-Nashr wa-l-Tawzi‘, 2010), p. 108, cf. the editor’s introduction.

6 Many Wahhabi writers consider the efforts of the movement to have been directed primarily against these disciplines. In Agidat al-shaykh Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab al-salafiyya, the author has a chapter entitled: “[Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s] refutation of the methods of jahiliyya and of the theologians (ahl al-kalam),’ al-“Abbiad, Agidat al-shaykh Muhammad b. ‘Abd al- Wahhab al-salafiyya, p. 198. Another work has a chapter dealing with the role of the “shaykh al-Islam” [Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab] in combating philosophy, logic, and lm al-kalam. ‘Ali al-Zahrani, al-Inhirafat al-‘aqadiyya wa-l-‘ilmiyya fi al-qarnayn al-thalith ‘ashar wa-l-rabi‘ ashar al-hijriyayn wa-atharuha ft hayat al-umma (KSA, Mecca: Dar al-Risala li-l-Nashr, n. d), p. 244.

7 Forsome reasons behind the spread of this narrative for a long time in the twentieth century see Dimitri Gutas, “The Study of Arabic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Essay on the Historiography of Arabic Philosophy,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (2002), 29

(1), 5-25-


North Africa. Although scholarship on the intellectual life of the Hijaz started later than the study of these other areas, it is steadily expanding.

Scholarly interest in some aspects of the intellectual life of the pre-Wahhabi Hijaz, mainly in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, initially appeared as a side interest to studies of other fields. References to the Hijaz as a center of intellectual activity revolving around hadith and Sufism in the seventeenth cen- tury appear mainly in two fields of study: the study of Sufism in Southeast Asia and the study of “reform” movements in the eighteenth century.

Studies of Sufism in Southeast Asia have led scholars to a number of promi- nent Javanese and Malay Sufis who studied in the Hijaz in the seventeenth century, which has resulted in the expansion of these studies to include their connections to the region. Azyumardi Azra, for instance, in his book The Ori- gins of Islamic Reformism in Southeast Asia, examines the connections between Southeast Asia and the Middle East, especially the Hijaz, in order to clarify the transmission of religious ideas from centers of Islamic learning to that part of the Muslim world. Azra, following Voll’s assumptions, which will be mentioned below, argues that the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries constituted one of the most dynamic periods in the socio-intellectual history of Islam, and that “the origins of Islamic dynamic impulses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were networks of Muslim scholars (‘ulama@), centered in Mecca and Medina.”? The connection between the Hijaz and Southeast Asia had earlier caught the attention of Anthony Johns, who wrote an article clarifying the rela- tionship between Ibrahim al-Kurani and the Javanese scholar ‘Abd al-Ra’tf al- Singkili (d. 1105/1693).!° In another study, Johns introduced a text that al-Kurani wrote at the request of some Javanese students in Medina, Ithaf al-dhaki. Johns offers an outline of Ithaf al-dhaki, mentioning that he is preparing a crit-

8 See Martin Van Bruinessen, “Studies of Sufism and the Sufi Orders in Indonesia,” Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 38, Issue 2 (Jul., 1998), pp. 192-219; and Anthony H. Johns, “Friends in Grace: Ibrahim al-Kuarani and ‘Abd al-Raif al-Singkeli,” in Spectrum: Essay pre- sented to Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana on his Seventieth Birthday, ed. S. Udin (Jakarta: Dian Rakyat, 1978), pp. 469-485.

9 Azyumardi Azra, The Origins of Islamic Reformism in Southeast Asia: Networks of Malay- Indonesian and Middle Eastern Ulama’ in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, South- east Asia Publications Series (Australia: Asian Studies Association of Australia in associa- tion with Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, Nsw, 2004), p. 1.

10 —_ Johns, “Friends in Grace: Ibrahim al-Kurani and ‘Abd al-Raif al-Singkeli,’ pp. 469-485.

11 Anthony H. Johns, “Islam in Southeast Asia: Reflections and New Directions,” Indonesia, No. 19 (Apr, 1975), PP. 33-55-


ical edition of this text, but this project was never realized.!2 The notices that Johns collected in order to prepare his edition of Ithaf al-dhaki were given to Oman Fathurahman, who published al-Kurant’s text in 2012.!5 Fathurahman’s main interest is the intellectual and spiritual life in Southeast Asia, but ref- erence to the Hijaz is an indispensable aspect of Southeast Asian intellectual history.!+

The other field that has speculated about the intellectual life in pre-Wahhabi Hijaz is the study of the reform movements of the eighteenth century.!5 The rise of numerous reform movements during this period in different parts of the Islamic world has made some scholars speculate as to whether a connec- tion between these movements existed. Fazlur Rahman was probably the first person to use the controversial term “neo-Sufism”!® in describing these pre-

12 Johns, “Islam in Southeast Asia: Reflections and new directions,’ p. 51. Johns also wrote a short entry on al-Kurani in £1’, less than one page, in which he mistakenly said that al- Kurani studied in Turkey and Persia. See Johns, “Al-Kurani.” In The Encyclopaedia of Islam, and ed., vol. v. Leiden: Brill, 1986.

13 Oman Fathurahman, Ithaf al-dhaki: tafsir wahdatul wujud bagi Muslim Nusantara (Shef- field, Eng: Society of Glass Technology, 2012). During the preparation of this edition and after its publication, Fathurahman published several articles to clarify different aspects of the text and its manuscripts. Oman Fathurahman, “Ithaf al-dhakt by Ibrahim al-Kurani: A Commentary of Wahdat al-Wujiid for Jawi Audiences,” Archipel: Etudes interdisciplinaires sur le monde insulindien, n. 81, (2011), pp. 177-198; Fathurahman, “New Textual Evidence for Intellectual and Religious Connections between the Ottomans and Aceh,” in From Ana- tolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks, and Southeast Asia, ed. Peacock, A.C.S. and Annabel Teh Gallop (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Fathurahman, “Further Research on Ithaf al-dhaki Manuscripts by Ibrahim al-Kurani,” in From Codicology to Technology: Islamic Manuscripts and their Place in Scholarship, ed. Stefanie Brinkmann and Beate Wiesmiiller (Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2009), pp. 47-58.

14 He extended the chains of some Sufi orders in South East Asia to the Hijaz; see Oman Fathurahman and Abdurrauf Singkel, Tanbih al-Masyi: Menyoal Wahdatul Wujud: Kasus Abdurrauf Singkel di Aceh Abad 17 (Bandung: Ecole francaise d’ Extréme-Orient, 1999); Fathurahman, Shattariyah Silsilah in Aceh, Java, and the Lanao area of Mindanao (Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Tokyo University of For- eign Studies, 2016).

15 Among the leaders and movements that arose in this century are Wahhabism, the move- ment led by Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, (d. 1792); al-Saniisiyya in North Africa led by ‘Ali al-Sanisi (1787-1859); al-Tijaniyya led by Ahmad al-Tijani (d. 1815); the Mahdist move- ment in the Sudan; as well as reformist figures such as Shah Wali Allah Dihlawi (1703-1762) in India and ‘Uthman Ibn Fidi (1754-1817) in West Africa.

16 The term is very controversial; it became widespread without clarification or examination of its meaning. Some scholars refute the term and its usage except with a clear and strict definition. See R.S. O’Fahey and Bernd Radtke, “Neo-Sufism Reconsidered,” Der Islam. 70:1,


Modernist reform movements.!” John Voll, a historian of the Islamic world with a special interest in African history and the eighteenth century, suggested that a scholarly community in Mecca and Medina played a critical role in these movements. This group and their connections came to be known as the al- Haramayn circle or network. Voll describes this influence as moving “from the center to the frontiers of Islam.”!® These movements, in Voll’s words, “represent a climax of developments in earlier centuries.” The main two aspects of this assumed intellectual life in the pre-Wahhabi Hijaz were the spread of hadith studies and the fact that most of the teachers and students were affiliated to Sufi orders.?°

Voll pursued his theory in several studies that attempted to link numerous scholars and movements from the eighteenth century in different regions of the Islamic world with scholars from the seventeenth-century Hijaz. Never- theless, Voll’s interest remained largely confined to drawing the net of connec- tions based on the thesis of the centrality of hadith and Sufism for both Hijazi and other reformist scholars in the eighteenth century; he was not necessarily interested in studying the intellectual productions of the Hijazi scholars them- selves.

This theory of a transregional network of scholars that goes back to the Hijaz was refuted in a recent book by Ahmad Dallal, in which he argues that the eighteenth-century reform movements were regionally rooted and had dis- tinct characteristics based on their regional intellectual, political, and histori- cal contexts.”! Dallal argues for primacy of internal factors in the emergence

(1993), 52-87; John Voll, “Neo-Sufism: Reconsidered Again,” Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Etudes Africaines, Vol. 42, No. 2/3, Engaging with a Legacy: Nehemia Levtzion (1935-2003) (2008), pp. 314-330.

17. Fazlur Rahman, “Revival and Reform in Islam,’ in The Cambridge History of Islam, ed. P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton and Bernard Lewis (UK: University Press, 1970). He pre- sented the same ideas in Islam, chapter 12, “Pre-Modern Islam Reform,” where he talked about “orthodox Sufism” based on the Quran and Islamic doctrine. Fazlur Rahman, Islam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 194.

18 Nehemia Levtzion and John O. Voll (eds.), Eighteenth-Century Renewal and Reform in Islam (NY: Syracuse University Press, 1987), p. 8.

19 __Levtzion and Voll (eds.), Eighteenth-Century Renewal and Reform in Islam, p. 6.

20 See John Voll, “Hadith Scholars and Tariqah: An ‘Ulama Group in the 18th Century Hara- mayn and their Impact in the Islamic World,” Journal of Asian and African Studies, Jul 1, XV, 3-4 (1980), pp. 264-273; Voll, “Muhammad Hayya al-Sindi and Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab: An Analysis of an Intellectual Group in Eighteenth-Century Madina.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 38, No. 1 (1975), PP- 32-39.

21 Ahmad 6&. Dallal, Islam without Europe: Traditions of Reform in Eighteenth-Century Islamic


of eighteenth-century reform movements, and for the shared Islamic heritage

that underlies the religious aspects thereof. However, Dallal does not deal in

any substantial length with the intellectual life in the Hijaz. This undercuts his

argument for the primacy of regional factors in the reform movements of the

eighteenth century, because the omission does not allow any basis for compar-


Alongside these two fields of study, references to the Hijaz, mainly with

regard to hadith and Sufism, have also frequently appeared as a side inter-

est in studies of some better-known scholars of the period, such as al-Yusi (d. 1691),? al-Nabulusi (d. 1731),?8 and al-Zabidi (d. 1791).24 While these studies




Thought (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018). Bernard Haykel in his study on al-Shawkani argued as well that the substantive content of the ideology of Islamic revival needs to be thoroughly researched before any broad generalization can be made about the nature of Islamic thought in a given period or across a vast expanse of geo- graphic space. Bernard Haykel, Revival and Reform in Islam: The Legacy of Muhammad al-Shawkant (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 13. Haykel emphasizes the impor- tance of viewing al-Shawkani's life and work “within his local context and intellectual tradition,’ Ibid., p. 232. This perspective is clear in the outline of his book, a great part of which deals with the historical and intellectual contexts of the Zaydi madhhab and Yemeni history.

Justin Stearns’s study on the rational and natural sciences in the Maghrib in the age of al- Yusi (d. 1102/1691) discusses al-Nabulusi’s attitude toward natural science and the idea of occasionalism. Al-Nabulusi’s opinion was presented through his response to al-Kurani’s works on occasionalism and human free will. However, Stearns does not cite any of al- Kurani’s work’s directly and says only that al-Kurani was involved in the revival of hadith studies in the seventeenth century (p. 67). Justin Stearns, “‘All Beneficial Knowledge is Revealed’: The Rational Sciences in the Maghrib in the age of al-Yusi (d. 1102/1691),’ Islamic Law and Society, 21 (2014) 49-80.

Samuela Pagani in I/ Rinnovamento Mistico Dell’islam refers to al-Nabulusi’s connection with the scholars of the Hijaz. This connection would be discussed later by Akkach, El- Rouayheb, and Copty. See Samuela Pagani in J/ Rinnovamento Mistico Dell’islam: Un Com- mento di Abd Al-Gani Al-Nabulusi a Ahmad Sirhindi (Napoli: Universita Degli Studi di Napoli V orientale, 2003), p. 34 and after; Samer Akkach and Nabulusi ‘Abd al-Ghani ibn Ismail, Letters of a Sufi Scholar: The Correspondence of ‘Abd Al-Ghani al-Nabulusi (1641- 1731), Islamic History and Civilization, v. 74 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. go2—95; El-Rouayheb’s Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century: Scholarly Currents in the Ottoman Empire and the Maghreb (NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 285 and after; and Atallah S. Copty “The Legacy of Ibrahim al-Kurani and its Influence on the Writings of ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi,’ in Early Modern Trends in Islamic Theology: ‘Abd al-Ghani al- Nabulusi and his Network of Scholarship, eds. Lejla Demiri and Samuela Pagani (Tiibingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019), pp. 97-106.

The centrality of the Hijaz for hadith transmission appears through al-Zabidi’s teachers in India, Yemen, and the Hijaz who are connected to the hadith scholars of the seven- teenth century Hijaz, and is confirmed by the fact that scholars in the eighteenth century


refer to aspects of intellectual life in the Hijaz as a marginal extension to their main interest, other studies have shown some direct interest in the intellectual activities of pre-Wahhabi Hijaz. Sufi orders, mainly the Naqshbandiyya?> and the Shattariyya,?° have received some attention, and al-Qushashi, al-Kurani’s teacher, was the subject of an interesting study.2”

While most of the studies mentioned above focus on the hadith-Sufism aspects of intellectual life in pre-Wahhabi Hijaz, the figure of al-Kurani has himself received some special interest. Basheer Nafi’s discussion of some of al- Kuranr’s theological ideas was one of the first attempts to explore al-Kurani’s thought.?® Nafi studied al-Kurani through the current of “neo-Sufism” studies and posited a connection between Sufism and reform, an interpretation that is refuted by Khaled El-Rouayheb.?9 Other scholars focused on some specific

continued to head toward the Hijaz looking for “the remaining scholars in the haramayn to provide direct links back to the hadith transmitters of the uth/17th century.” Stefan Reichmuth, The World of Murtada al-Zabidi (1732-1791): Life, Networks and Writings (U.K., Cambridge: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2009). p. 30.

25 Atallah S. Copty, “The Naqshbandiyya and its Offshoot, the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya in the Haramayn in the uth/17th Century,” Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 43, Issue 3, Transformations of the Naqshbandiyya, 17th-20th Century (2003), pp. 321-348; Dina Le Gall, A Culture of Sufism: Naqshbandis in the Ottoman World, 1450-1700 (Albany: State University of New York Press. 2005), pp. 87-105; Samuela Pagani, I/ Rinnovamento Mistico Dellislam, p. 34 and after.

26 El-Rouayheb, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century, p. 249 and after.

27. Rachida Chih, “Rattachement initiatique et pratique de la Voie selon al-Simt al-majid @ al- Qushshashi (m. 1661)”, in Le Soufisme a l’époque Ottomane, XVI°-XVIII° siécle: Sufism in the Ottoman Era, 16th-18th Century, ed. Rachida Chih and Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen (Le Caire: Institut Frangais d’ Archéologie Orientale, 2010); Chih, “Discussing the Sufism of the Early Modern Period: A New Historiographical Outlook on the Tariqa Muhammadiyya,” in Sufism East and West: Mystical Islam and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Modern World (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2019), pp. 104-126. Other aspects of Sufism in the seventeenth- century Hijaz are mentioned in Denis Gril’s paper about treatises on Sufi isndd entitled “De la khirga a la tariqa: continuité et évolution dans |’identification et la classification des voies.” Gril particularly mentions Sufi works of isnad by al-Qushashi al-‘Ujaymi. See Le Soufisme a l’ époque Ottomane, xvI°-XV11I° siécle: Sufism in the Ottoman Era, 16th-18th Century, pp. 57-81.

28 Nafi elaborates on the issues of kalam nafsi (God’s unuttered speech), God’s attributes, and wahdat al-wujid. He also tries to shed some light on intellectual life in the Hijaz by mentioning four scholars active there in the seventeenth century. These scholars are al-Qushashi, al-Babili, al-Rudani, and al-Tha‘alibi. Basheer Nafi, “Tasawwuf and reform in pre-modern Islamic culture: In search of Ibrahim al-Kurani,” Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 42, issue 3, Arabic Literature and Islamic Scholarship in the 17/18 Century: Top- ics and Biographies (2002), pp. 307-355.

29 ~ El-Rouayheb, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century, p. 312 and after.


works by al-Kurani, such as his work on the satanic verses,®° his defence of wah- dat al-wujid,*! or some aspects of his thabat “curriculum vitae.”3?

The work that constitutes the deepest and most serious attempt to examine some intellectual aspects of the seventeenth-century Hijaz within the broader intellectual context of Islamic thought in the Arabic-speaking regions of the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire is El-Rouayheb’s ground-breaking study, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century.*° This study not only sheds light on intellectual life in the Hijaz, but also presents a clear picture of the complexity and sophistication of the intellectual debates that took place in the seventeenth-century Hijaz.3+ El-Rouyaheb mentions that early narra-

30 Guillaume’s interest in al-Kurani’s work on the satanic verses started from his attempt to reconstruct and extract the lost text of Ibn Ishaq’s sia from the sira of Ibn Hisham; in 1957, Alfred Guillaume published one of al-Kurani’s short texts entitled “al-Lum‘at al-saniya fi tahqig al-ilq@ fi-l-umniya.’ Guillaume gives a brief introduction to the incident of the satanic verses, then he summarizes the arguments of al-Kurani’s text with the Arabic edi- tion from one manuscript. Alfred Guillaume and Ibrahim al-Kurani, “Al-Lum‘at al-saniya fi tahgqigq al-ilga fi-l-umniya,’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 20, No. 1/3, Studies in Honour of Sir Ralph Turner, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1937-1957 (1957), pp. 291-303. It seems that Ibn Ishaq’s sira had contained the story of the satanic verses, so Guillaume was interested in using other historical documents to restore the sira of Ibn Ishaq. More discussion of this topic appears in Chapter Six.

31 Alexander Knysh’s “Ibrahim al-Kurani (d. 1101/1690), an Apologist for wahdat al-wujud’’ is another short study that emerged in the context of Knysh’s interest in the reception of Ibn ‘Arabi's thought in later centuries; based on a single manuscript from the Yahuda Collec- tion, it presents some aspects of Ibrahim al-Kurani’s defence of the controversial doctrine of wahdat al-wujid. Alexander Knysh, “Ibrahim al-Kurani (d. 1101/1690), an Apologist for wahdat al-wujud,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, vol. 5, No.1 (Apr., 1995), PP. 39-47-

32 Harith Ramli “Ash‘arism through an Akbari Lens: The Two ‘tahqigqs’ in the Curriculum Vita of Ibrahim al-Karani (d. 1019 [sic]/16g0).” In the text, the date of al-Kurani’s death mentioned is incorrect. Furthermore, in this paper Ramli attempts to demonstrate that al-Kurani’s project in his main thabat al-Amam was a reconciliation of intellectual and spiritual verification (tahqiq). Ramli used only al-Kurani’s thabat to support his argu- ment and did not study any of his other works or ideas. Harith Ramli “Ash‘arism through an Akbari Lens: The two ‘tahgiqs’ in the Curriculum Vita of Ibrahim al-Kurani (d. 1019 [sic]/1690),” in Philosophical Theology in Islam: Later Asharism East and West, eds. Ayman Shihadeh and Jan Thiele, Islamicate Intellectual History, 5. (Leiden: Brill. 2020).

33 Khaled El-Rouayheb’s Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century, one of the most important of these works, sheds light on interesting intellectual debates in the Hijaz during the seventeenth century, especially some aspects of al-Kurani’s theological and Sufi thought, although the Hijaz was not its main focus. El-Rouayheb’s Islamic Intellectual His- tory in the Seventeenth Century: Scholarly Currents in the Ottoman Empire and the Maghreb (NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 235 and after.

34 El-Rouayheb discusses four of the main ideas in al-Kurani’s thought: figurative interpre-


tives of “decline” and “stagnation” admitted the existence of “exceptions,” but unfortunately in spite of the attempt to refute these narratives, recent academic work “has often succumbed to the temptation to underline the importance of an individual figure by portraying his background and opponents in dark colors.”35 In El-Rouayheb’s narration, the “rational sciences” were cultivated vigorously in the Ottoman Empire throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With numerous examples from throughout the Ottoman Empire including North Africa, Cairo, and the Hijaz, he convincingly demonstrates that the intellectual history of these regions during this period needs to be fun- damentally re-examined. This book, following El-Rouayheb’s statement that “The list of ‘exceptions’ has simply become too long for the idea [of decline] to be taken seriously,’3° demonstrates that al-Kurani was not an “exception” to the intellectual life of the Hijaz. Rather, he worked within an active intellec- tual environment packed with scholars discussing various aspects of Islamic thought, not only among themselves, but with scholars from different regions of the Islamic world.

The present book thus builds on the efforts of the aforementioned schol- ars and attempts to give a more comprehensive overview of intellectual life in a geographical area that has not yet received sufficient attention, the Hijaz in the seventeenth century. The centrality of al-Kurani in the intellectual activities of this period does not manifest only through his essential role in the vari- ous Islamic disciplines in the Hijaz, including Sufism, hadith, and the rational sciences, but also through the vital role that he played in the vigorous intellec- tual discussions occurring in the various parts of the Islamic world, extending from Southeast Asia and India to the Maghrib. By examining the intellectual activities of these regions through the lens of his involvement, this study will participate in rectifying the still-prevalent view of stagnation and “decline” in post-classical Islamic thought.

As mentioned above, the historian of this region is reduced principally to relying on textual sources, such as historiographies, travelogues, bio-biblio- graphical works, and manuscripts. These sources are very rich, and I contend that, rather than being limiting, they are sufficient to construct a detailed pic- ture of the vibrant intellectual life in the Hijaz during the seventeenth cen- tury. The fact that most of the works of the scholars who will be mentioned throughout this book are still in manuscript form is a major challenge. How-

tation (ta’wil), the value of rational theology (kalam), occasionalism and human acts, and the doctrine of wahdat al-wujid. All these topics will be discussed in this study.

35 El-Rouayheb, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century, p. 5.

36 —_ El-Rouayheb, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century, p. 5.


ever, manuscripts are a promising source that can be full of surprises and, when

carefully examined, may change our perspective of the development of post-

classical Islamic intellectual history. A substantial number of primary sources

for the Hijaz’s history have been edited and published.*” There are also an

increasing number of secondary studies based on these primary sources, as well

as on Western travelers’ accounts and manuscripts, that have recently become

accessible.38 More importantly for this research and for intellectual studies in



Among the main sources for the history of the Hijaz are: Taqi al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Fasi, al-TIqd al-thamin ft tarikh al-balad al-amin, ed. Muhammad Hamid al-Fari (Beirut: Muassasat