Mistaken Identity An Investigation into Abū Ḥanīfa’s al-Fiqh al-akbar

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Ramon Harvey



Since the writings of Shiblī Nuʿmānī and A. J. Wensinck in the early twentieth century, scholarship has often questioned the ascription of the creed al-Fiqh al-akbar II to the well-known theologian and jurist Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 150/767). But there has hitherto been little attempt to determine how and when this text entered the Hanafi theological tradition and who its true author was. In this article I show that until the early eighth/fourteenth century, theological and biographical works referring to al-Fiqh al-akbar consistently mean the text written by Abū Muṭīʿ al-Balkhī (d. 199/814), which was later renamed al-Fiqh al-absaṭ. I then trace the entry of al-Fiqh al-akbar II into the mainstream tradition, showing that the key figure in its popularization was the legal theorist ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Bukhārī (d. 730/1329), who extensively quotes from the creed and attributes it to Abū Ḥanīfa. Finally, I propose that clues in the reception history and content of al-Fiqh al-akbar II corroborate the claim recorded in some texts that it was instead likely written by an obscure late fourth/tenth-century Hanafi scholar named Abū Ḥanīfa Muḥammad b. Yūsuf al-Bukhārī.

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