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Competitive hagiography in biographies of al-Awza'i and Sufyan al-Thawri.

THE EARLY DEVELOPMENT of Islamic law involved both the elaboration of increasingly complex systems for deriving positive law from Islamic sources (whose validity and relationship to each other were still by no means settled) and the process of defining boundaries between the emerging Islamic legal madhhabs. Modern discussions of the origins of Islamic law and the advent of madhhabs typically follow Joseph Schacht's basic chronology, according to which legal decisions were initially made on case by case bases relying upon past precedents. This approach eventually led to regional variations of a "living tradition," which ultimately transformed into eponymous madhhabs, some of which survive today. While the influence of particular sources on early Islamic law and the timing of events have been the focus of vigorous debate, most scholars accept in some form the basic progression from living tradition to regional school to eponymous madhhab. (1)

The emergence of eponymous madhhabs marked a pivotal change in the way approaches to Islamic law were labeled and discussed. Once particular methods for deriving Islamic law were attached to the individual "founders" of madhhabs, legal discourse could no longer be limited to debates about methods, but instead required the defense and criticism of the long-departed legal titans for whom the madhhabs were named. An examination of medieval Arabic biographical literature illustrates the melange of praise, insult, and legal reasoning this transition produced. The increasing focus on the madhhabs' legendary founders induced students

of prominent jurists to claim particular views for their shaykhs while rejecting the validity of rival shaykhs' similar conclusions. Competition also led later generations of scholars to insist on comparing and ranking their predecessors according to every conceivable criterion. As a consequence of fervent rivalry between madhhabs, biographies of a school's eponym provide evidence of th e scholar's exemplary personal qualities, justifications for his interactions with political authorities, and numerous testimonials from later authorities asserting his superiority to the founders of rival madhhabs, in addition to sometimes disappointingly cryptic descriptions of his jurisprudence.

Competition, along with the nature of the opponent, also affected the degree to which biographers focused on any particular aspect of the eponym's greatness. Biographers seeking to distinguish between rivals who held fundamentally different views about central issues of jurisprudence could do so without deviating far from fiqh. For instance, students of Malik b. Anas could contrast their madhhab to Abu Hanifa's by demeaning the latter's acceptance of personal reasoning ([ra.sup.[contains]]y), which Malik rejected in favor of the sunna of the Hijaz. Abu Hanifa's students could respond in similar fashion, lauding the virtues of reason and questioning the primacy of the Hijaz. In such an exchange, the focus remained on jurisprudence and the boundary between the two madhhabs was drawn primarily on methodological grounds.

When scholars' approaches to jurisprudence did not differ substantially, the bases for comparison necessarily shifted away from fiqh. Instead, students of scholars with similar views had to compare their shaykhs' exemplary personal qualities to their rivals' deficiencies of piety or character. Biographies of legal scholars are filled with anecdotes emphasizing the subject's personal virtues. Aside from their obvious hagiographic function, stories of the shaykh's merits were also used to distinguish him from his rivals. Consequently, in some cases the subtle differences in legal reasoning that may (or may not) have separated eponyms are obscured by the biographical dialogue about the relative personal qualities of the rival madhhabs' founders.

The biographies of [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Rahman b. [Amr.sup.[subset]] al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i (d. 157/774) and Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161/778) illustrate how followers of scholars whose legal approaches differed only subtly struggled to delineate between them and to define the boundaries between their madhhabs. In the absence of specific, significant legal disagreements or clear regional affinities, biographers of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i focused their discussions on other aspects of their shaykhs' lives, particularly on their responses to the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution and their interactions with the new regime. Hence, the boundary between the two madhhabs was drawn not on theoretical or regional grounds, but instead on the basis of the historical roles of their eponyms. In biographies of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Sufyan al-Thawri, their followers used their responses to the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution as evidence of the superiority of one shaykh over the other.

After a brief overview of the jurisprudence of Sufyan al-Thawri and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, this article goes on to describe al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's and Sufyan's responses to the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]], paying particular attention to the hagiographic dialogue implicit in these reports. Next it discusses reports detailing direct interactions between the two shaykhs that are more explicitly competitive. Finally, it considers the significance of this dialogue between followers of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Sufyan al-Thawri and its implications for our understanding of the medieval Arabic biographical sources.


While it is beyond the scope and intent of this article to offer a comprehensive comparison of the fiqh of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Sufyan al-Thawri, a brief overview of their legal thinking is in order. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Sufyan al-Thawri approached Islamic jurisprudence in similar ways. Both relied on the "living tradition" of the community as a major source of Islamic law and both were also noted muhaddiths. In contrast to the Hanafis, neither accepted the validity of [ra.sup.[contains]]y as a distinct source of Islamic law. In fact, both were reportedly hostile to the ashab al-[ra.sup.[contains]]y and to Abu Hanifa specifically. (2) Despite this, both used rudimentary logical and analogical reasoning to answer some legal questions. (3) Both also rejected the parochial views of Malik, who favored the traditions of Medina over those of other regions. (4) Due in part to the similar methods they employed, Sufyan al-Thawri and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i agreed on many points of positive law, as eviden ced by numerous citations, particularly relating to the division of spoils, compiled by their shared pupil Abu Ishaq al-Fazari (d. 185/802) in his Kitab al-siyar. Indeed, even when they disagreed, their methods for deriving law remained essentially similar. (5)

Their similar jurisprudence and their association with the Umayyad regime made it difficult for their followers to claim particular views exclusively for one shaykh or the other. (6) However, with the emergence of eponymous madhhabs as the standard nomenclature for classifying legal traditions, distinctions between Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i had to be made.

Modern scholars have also found it difficult to fit Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i into their models for classifying legal thinkers. Beginning with Schacht, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i has generally been described as a leader of the ancient Syrian regional school. His influence survived longest in Syria and al-Andalus, where his Umayyad patrons were still respected after the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution, but it had been more widespread during the Umayyad era. (7) His association with the defeated regime, combined with the rising prominence of Hanafis and Hanbalis in the new capital city of Baghdad, ultimately led to the demise of the [Awza.sup.[subset]]iya madhhab.

Most scholars also classify Sufyan al-Thawri regionally, treating him as something of a dissenter within the Iraqi tradition. This classification rests on the following tenuous assumptions: first, the fact that he spent significant portions of his life in the Hijaz and Yemen, where he acquired much of his had ith knowledge, must not detract from his Iraqi affinity; (8) second, his objection to Abu Hanifa's [ra.sup.[contains]]y is surely a mere variant within the Iraqi tradition rather than a fundamental rejection of one of its major tenets. By contrast, his acceptance of hadith from a broad array of sources and his students' criticism of Malik's rejection of non-Medinan traditions are evidence of his regional affinity. Finally, the parallels between Sufyan's approach to fiqh and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's jurisprudence should be dismissed in favor of their geographical origins.

Biographies of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i do not rely on geography to distinguish between them, implying that regionalism was not as prominent as modern scholars tend to believe. Their followers thus found it difficult to create distinctions to clarify the boundaries between the separate eponymous madhhabs that eventually claimed Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[contains]]i as their founders. The absence of fundamental theoretical disagreements, their association with the Umayyad regime, and the fact that their most prominent students refused to choose one over the other forced biographers to contemplate other aspects of their lives to separate them.

The [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution provided a convenient focus for creating contrasts between the two men, since their responses to the defeat of their Umayyad patrons were so different. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i was able to accommodate the new regime without either condemning his former patrons or acknowledging the justice of the revolution. The [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] allowed him to retire to Beirut, provided him with a stipend, and corresponded with him about various legal matters. Many of his students went on to become qadis for the new dynasty. (9) By contrast, Sufyan al-Thawri fled from the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] and spent the rest of his life hiding from them to avoid interrogation.

The stark contrast between al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's adaptation to the new political climate and Sufyan al-Thawri's self imposed exile became the focus of their followers' efforts to separate them. But, while this contrast allowed students to distinguish between the two shaykhs, it also forced them to confront the negative connotations of their respective responses. For example, as a loyal advisor to Hisham and other Umayyads, how had al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i survived the revolution, avoiding the fate of the Umayyad princes at Nahr Abi Futrus? How could al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i have served both regimes without compromising his principles? How could Sufyan al-Thawri's students explain the cowardice implicit in his perpetual flight? Biographies of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Sufyan al-Thawwri illustrate how their followers emphasized their opposite responses to the revolution, but simultaneously struggled to justify these very responses in the face of criticism from their rivals. The result is a subtle, but impor tant hagiographic dialogue in the biographical sources.

AL-[AWZA.sup.[subset]]I'S ENCOUNTERS WITH THE [ABBASIDS.sup.[subset]]

Biographies of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i include several accounts of his initial encounters with the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. Some describe a meeting between al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] b. [Ali.sup.[subset]], the first [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] governor of Syria. Others detail a meeting between al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and al-Mansur, which may have occurred during al-Mansur's visit to Syria in 140/757. Given al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's prominence as an advisor to the caliph Hisham and his closeness to the Umayyad regime, his interrogation by [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] authorities is not surprising, though his survival of the experience perhaps is. Stories of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's encounters with the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] may be rooted in actual events, but they also include later legendary accretions that explain how he could associate with both regimes without sacrificing his integrity.

Ibn [Asakir's.sup.[subset]] [Ta.sup.[contains]]rikh madinat Dimashq and al-Dhahabi's Kitab siyar [a.sup.[subset]]lam al-[nubala.sup.[contains]] both contain multiple versions of a report describing al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's interrogation by [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] b. [Ali.sup.[subset]] in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. Ibn Abi Hatim also included fragmentary reports of this encounter in his Taqdima. While the reports appear under several isnads, most of them originate with two of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's students, [Utba.sup.[subset]] b. Hammad al-[Qari.sup.[contains]] and Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Firyabi. Despite minor variations in chronology and slight differences in detail, reports of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's interrogation by [Abdal.sup.[subset]]-lah b. [[Ali.sup.[subset]] follow essentially the same narrative. Some specify that the interrogation took place immediately upon [Abdallah's.sup.[subset]] arrival in Hama after he had slain the Umayyad princes at Nahr Abi Futrus. Some describe [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] holding his kafirkubat, the instrument with which he had killed the Umayyad princes; (10) in others he holds a cane rod or has armed aides at his side. (11) One report begins with al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's journey to Hama to face his "mihna," and describes how he was subjected to an all-night diatribe on the doctrine of qadar by the notorious heretic Thawr b. Yazid on the last night of his journey. In this version, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i met his interrogator after a long journey and a sleepless night. (12)

With this ominous setting established, [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] questions al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i on three pertinent topics. The order in which the topics appear varies slightly, but most reports begin with [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] asking al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i whether the Umayyads' blood was licit for the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i does not answer [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] directly, but instead responds with prophetic hadiths. In some reports he cites Muhammad's command to his men to fight their opponents until they accept Islam and then to protect them. In others, he cites Muhammad's enumeration of the three circumstances in which the blood of a Muslim is licit, namely, when he has committed murder, in certain cases of adultery, and when he has become an apostate. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i prudently avoids suggesting whether the Umayyads fit into any of these categories.

[Abdallah.sup.[subset]] then asks him whether [Ali.sup.[subset]] received the designation (wasiya) from Muhammad. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i avoids answering this question directly as well, this time relying on a logical argument reflecting his predestinarian views. He tells [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] that if [Ali.sup.[subset]] had received the designation, none could have stood in his way. His answer implies that anyone who believes that God designated [Ali.sup.[subset]] as Muhammad's successor must also believe that God could not ensure the success of his designee.

Finally, [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] asks al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i whether the property of the Umayyads was licit for the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. The reports include three different responses from al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, none of which directly answers the question. In some, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i states that what was illicit for the Umayyads was also illicit for the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]; in others he answers that what was licit for the Umayyads was licit for the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. Finally, in a few, he states that property the Umayyads held legally was not licit for the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. None of these responses provides a clear answer about the status of Umayyad property. The first suggests that, if the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] claimed that the Umayyads usurped the property of others, they could not claim that same property for themselves. The second requires the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] to acknowledge the legality of Umayyad property boldings before claiming t he defeated regime's property for themselves, despite the ideological difficulties such an acknowledgement might entail. The final response, directly contradicting the first, requires the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] to establish that property had been illegally held by the Umayyads in order to confiscate it. Presumable, the rights of those from whom the property had been userped would have to be considered as well, possibly denying the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] any claim to Umayyad property. By introducing the distinctions between legally and illegally held property, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]] avoided explicitly rejecting [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] claims without recognizing them either. Instead, the onus for determining the status of property seized from the Umayyads is returned to the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. Without clarifying the legality of property held by the Umayyads, the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] could not claim it for themselves or otherwise dispose of it.

After hearing al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's responses to these questions, [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] allows him to depart unscathed. According to one account, he even orders that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i be granted a 200-dinar stipend upon his return to Beirut. (13) Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's responses to [Abdallah's.sup.[subset]] questions were carefully calculated and often evasive. Despite the imminent threat of death, represented by the presence of armed men or the kafirkubat, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i did not concede to [Abdallah.sup.[subset]]. He did not even agree that the blood of the Umayyads, whom [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] had presumably just killed, was licit. Instead, he relied on hadith reports and logical arguments to avoid explicitly admitting the defiant answers implicit in his responses. The elusiveness of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's answers and his refusal to defy the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] governor directly placed [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] in an awkward position. Rather than en tering into a possibly futile debate with the scholar, [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] simply released him.

In the accounts of his meeting with the caliph al-Mansur, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i is similarly evasive. Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] and Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym report at length on al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's audience with al-Mansur. Ibn Abi Hatim includes a shorter version of the encounter. Al-Dhahabi describes an exchange of letters between al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and al-Mansur instead. (14) The discussion that follows here focuses on the longer reports in Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] and Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym. Each version is derived from a series of reports related by al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's student, Muhammad b. [Musa.sup.[subset]]b al-Qarqasani, in which al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i himself recounts the events. (15) The encounter appears to have taken place in Syria, either during al-Mansur's pilgrimage in 140/757 or during his return to Iraq from the Hijaz after he became caliph in 136/754.

Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's meeting with al-Mansur, like his exchange with [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] b. [Ali.sup.[subset]], begins with a threat to al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's life. When he enters the caliph's presence, he greets al-Mansur and congratulates him on his accession to the caliphate. He then goes on to admonish the new caliph, warning him that anyone who rejects the truth (al-haqq) rejects God, who is the ultimate truth. Al-Mansur's vizier, Abu Fadl al-[Rabi.sup[subset]] objects to this insult and reaches for his sword, only to be stopped by al-Mansur, who reminds him that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i has not been summoned for punishment. (16)

After this initial confrontation, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i transmits four hadith reports to al-Mansur, each on the authority of Makhul al-Shami. In the first, which al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i uses as a clever response to al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]]'s threat, Muhammad characterizes scoldings from God as blessings for believers. The remaining three decry the consequences of tyranny. The first warns that leaders who deceive their followers will not be allowed into heaven. After reciting this hadith, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i adds his own admonition to al-Mansur, cautioning him to treat his people with justice. The last two reports describe incidents in which the angel Gabriel chastised Muhammad for his behavior. In one, Gabriel appears before Muhammad after the latter has wielded a branch to ward off heretics; he scolds the prophet for dividing his community and frightening them. In the final report, Gabriel chides Muhammad for mistreating one of his followers and reminds him that he was not sent to be a tyrant or a king. After reciting this hadith, Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i specifically warns al-Mansur to avoid worldly desires and to seek his reward in heaven. By using the prophet's words rather than his own, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i can criticize the caliph and warn him against unacceptable behavior without confronting him directly. The choice of reports in which Gabriel scolded Muhammad for his behavior made it particularly difficult for the caliph to object. After all, if the prophet himself could be criticized for his actions as the leader of the community, how could the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] caliph place himself above criticism?

Next, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i recites a number of [Qur.sup.[contains]]anic verses, along with exegesis on them from al-Mansur's grandfather, Ibn al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]]. He begins with sura 18:49, which warns that nothing will be left unaccounted for on judgment day. After reciting the verse, he adds Ibn al-[Abbas'.sup.[subset]] rather cryptic explanation that every smile and laugh will be included in the accounting on judgment day. He then recites sura 38:26 in which God tells David that he has made him his khalifa and that he must judge between men with justice rather than follow his own desires. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i adds Ibn al-[Abbas's.sup.[subset]] exegesis on this verse as well. Ibn al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]] had explained this verse more directly, asserting that the caliph must not judge between men if he has any affection for one party and that a caliph who fails to judge equitably will lose his position. He adds that the caliph must guide the weakest of his flock with particular care. This exegesis is particularly significant since Ibn al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]], the caliph's grandfather, acknowledges that, despite his designation from God, David would lose his caliphate if he acted unjustly. Since even David could be removed for malfeasance, surely al-Mansur could be deposed if he were unjust, regardless of [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] claims to designation.

After reciting these [Qur.sup.[contains]]anic verses and Ibn al-[Abbas's.sup.[subset]] exegesis, al-[Awza.sup.[contains]]i relates stories of personal encounters between Ibn al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]] and the prophet. On the first occasion described, Muhammad responds to Ibn al-[Abbas's.sup.[subset]] desire to become governor of Mecca by cautioning him that government positions (imara) are unimportant. In a second encounter, Muhammad warns him not to seek self-enrichment at the cost of the community. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i then offers a variety of more mundane advice about governing, much of it in the form of reports about [Umar.sup.[subset]] b. al-Khattab. He concludes by advising al-Mansur to focus on honoring God, and then rises to leave. Al-Mansur thanks him, offers him a stipend (which he refuses), and allows al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i to return to Beirut.

Stories of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's encounter with al-Mansur demonstrate several strategies for criticizing the caliph without suffering adverse consequences. As in his meeting with [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i uses hadith reports to insulate himself from the caliph's potential wrath. The appeal to the exegesis of Ibn al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]] and references to his encounters with the prophet provide another clever way to criticize the caliph. By relying on Ibn al-[Abbas's.sup.[subset]] explanations of the [Qur.sup.[contains]]an, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i can assert interpretations that the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] caliph might find objectionable while at the same making it difficult for al-Mansur to protest, since the interpretations are those of his own ancestor. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i utilizes Muhammad's treatment of Ibn al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]] to remind the caliph that the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] family has never been immune to criticism. He even emphasized Ibn al-[Abbas's.sup.[subset]] relationship to the caliph, often referring to him as the caliph's "grandfather" (jidduka) rather than by name. Al-Mansur wisely chooses to forego any attempt to refute the combined authority of the prophet, his own ancestor, and the clever Syrian scholar.

It is difficult to determine whether accounts of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's encounters with the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] are authentic representations of his relationship with the new regime. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's prominence in the Umayyad court and the ferocity with which the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] attacked Umayyad supporters makes it likely that he would be interrogated. His responses to his interrogators are consistent with his predestinarian views and his loyalty to the Umayyads. The methods he employs are similar to those found in other reports of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's debates over religious matters, though his encounter with al-Mansur includes more hadith material than is typical in al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's discourse. The unusual quantity of hadith reports suggests that these stories emerged later, when hadith had become an essential element of any theological or legal argument. However, given the short history of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's madhhab, they could not have been created too much later.

The stories al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's followers spread about his meetings with [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] authorities clearly contain hagiographic embellishments. Each includes the recurring motif of the hero standing his ground against his villainous opponent, despite the imminent threat of death. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i survives by outsmarting his opponent through clever argumentation and manipulation of hadith, demonstrating his superiority. These accounts are more than mere legends of the scholar's exploits, however. They also allowed al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's followers to rationalize his survival of the revolution by demonstrating how he gained the respect of the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] without abandoning his principles. The only alternative was for his followers to concede that their teacher might have preserved himself by sacrificing his integrity.

The stories are also part of the ongoing dialogue between competing madhhabs and cannot be understood entirely in isolation from stories of other scholars' collisions with the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] regime. The occurrence of the term "mihna" in one report makes it tempting to see the al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i stories as responses to Ahmad b. Hanbal's ordeal at the hands of al-[Mu.sup.[subset]]tasim. However, several factors suggest that Ibn Hanbal was not the opponent al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's followers targeted. By the time Ahmad b. Hanbal faced his interrogation, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's school was no longer the vibrant madhhab it had been during Umayyad times and had few followers, mostly in Syria. (17) Biographies of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i generally do not even mention Ibn Hanbal, much less assert al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's superiority to him. There are also significant differences in the content of their interrogations that suggest that the accounts of the two "mihnas" were not formulated as literary responses to each other. In particular, the nature of the questions put to the two scholars differs tremendously. In al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's case, the questions had immediate political significance, focusing on [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] legitimacy and Umayyad property. Ibn Hanbal faced more abstract questions whose political implications were less transparent. The caliph's participation in the interrogations also differs. In the al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i stories, the caliph (or in [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] b. [Ali's.sup.[subset]] case, the potential caliph) asks the questions and his underlings are mere bystanders, available to apply physical coercion if necessary. In Ibn Hanbal's case, the caliph merely witnesses interrogations by lower officials. Finally, the scholars' responses do not suggest a dialogue between their followers. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i always defies his interlocutor, usually employing clever tactics to protect himself. Ibn Hanbal does not rely on this kind of argumentation. Indeed, in some accounts he simply remains silent. (18) The differences between accounts of the two mihnas and the fact that there is no other indication of competitive dialogue between the two madhhabs suggests that the al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i stories are part of a different dialogue.


The narrative of Sufyan al-Thawri's response to the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution is much different from that of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's ordeal. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i confronted the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] and survived their interrogations, also evading appointment as a qadi. Sufyan al-Thawri fled the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] and spent the rest of his life hiding from them, usually in Mecca or Yemen, where he supported himself as a merchant. (19) He was ultimately forced to leave Mecca and spent his final days in Basra in seclusion. His perpetual flight clearly troubled his followers and provided fodder for their opponents. Some accounts of his life after the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution are quite unflattering, while others reveal his followers' sometimes awkward attempts to make his flight noble.

Several sources offer details of his underground life in Mecca and his evasion of the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. Sufyan's student [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Razzaq al-[San.sup.[subset]]ani described al-Mansur's attempts to confront Sufyan during his pilgrimage in 158/775. Before he reached Mecca, al-Mansur sent two lumber merchants ahead to search for Sufyan. They found him with his head in the lap of his student al-Fadil b. [Ayad.sup.[subset]] and his feet in the lap of Sufyan b. [Uyayna.sup.[subset]], another of his students. After greeting Sufyan, the merchants warned him of the caliph's intentions. Sufyan then slipped behind the curtains (al-astar) and assured them that he would be safe there if the caliph came. The report ends here, but the narrator adds that al-Mansur died before he reached Mecca, hence sparing Sufyan, who was silent when he heard of the caliph's death. (20)

In another report, al-Mahdi wrote to Muhammad b. Ibrahim, the governor of Mecca, requesting that Sufyan be delivered to him. The governor warned Sufyan and told him to come forth if he wanted to be found or else go into hiding for a time. Sufyan opted to hide. The men the governor subsequently sent to search for Sufyan could not find him because neither his kinsmen nor the [[blank].sup.[contains]][ulama.sup.[contains]] would reveal his hiding place. (21) By warning Sufyan, the governor could foil al-Mahdi's attempt to find him without disobeying his command to search for Sufyan.

While officials and emissaries from the caliph could not find Sufyan, his friends and followers experienced no such difficulties. His student Abu Shihab [Abd.sup.[subset]] Rabbih b. [Nafi.sup.[subset]] brought a package of foodstuffs to Mecca from Sufyan's sister. Initially, Abu Shihab could not find Sufyan. However, after making inquiries, he learned that Sufyan had secreted himself at the [Ka.sup.[subset]]ba. When Abu Shihab found Sufyan lying at the back of the [Ka.sup.[contains]]ba, Sufyan did not acknowledge him, despite their long acquaintance. He then told Sufyan that he had brought a package from his sister. Sufyan demanded the package and immediately ripped it open. The shaykh's peculiar conduct offended Abu Shihab, who felt compelled to scold his teacher for being so rude. Sufyan responded by telling Abu Shihab that he should not criticize him, for it had been three days since he last ate. (22)

A number of sources describe Sufyan's activities in Basra, where, to avoid confronting the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]], he spent his final days cloistered in the homes of several students. (23) Ibn Khallikan reports that Sufyan secretly worked as a gardener in Basra. When visitors asked whether the dates of Basin were sweeter than those of Kufa, he revealed that he had not sampled the Basran dates, despite the fact that he tended them. (24) Several sources report that when Sufyan died in 161/778, his Students held a secret, nocturnal funeral to avoid [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] detection. (25) His humble burial in an unmarked grave was a stark contrast to al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's funeral in Beirut in 157/774, which tens of thousands attended. (26)

The timorous image of Sufyan presented in such reports must have distributed his students. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i faced his opponents and survived his mihna without compromising himself, but Sufyan spent his life cowering in corners, avoiding interrogation. Competition between madhhabs demanded that his students reframe his actions in a more respectable light. They utilized a variety of strategies to mitigate the damage done by these reports. Some accounts emphasize that even [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] loyalists were sympathetic to Sufyan's plight. For instance, al-Mansur's lumber merchant emissaries opted to protect Sufyan despite their charge from the caliph. Even the governor, Muhammad b. Ibrahim evaded al-Mahdi's orders by abetting Sufyan's concealment. Yahya b. [Sa.sup.[subset]]id al-Qattan, one of Sufyan's most respected students, used a different tactic to defend his shaykh. He implicitly undermined the report of sufyan's pathetic condition at Mecca by challenging the intellectual capacities of Abu S hahib. (27) It is particularly significant that al-Qattan, Sufyan's loyal student, was the only authority who doubted Abu Shihab's competence.

Other reports subtly rebuke al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i. For instance, Sufyan's students circulated stories emphasizing the virtue of avoiding government service and condemning the corruption of money. One quotes Sufyan describing the scholar as the physician of religion and the dirham as its disease. (28) Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i is the obvious target of this maxim, since he was the only significant rival of Sufyan to accept stipends from either regime. In another anecdote Sufyan admonished people not to begin studying hadith before they were twenty years old. (29) This statement also appears to be aimed at al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, who began studying hadith at a much younger age. (30) Another tactic was to ascribe statements praising Sufyan to his rival. For instance, the Yemeni scholar [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Razzaq b. Hammam related that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i praised Sufyan as the best advocate for the [Qur.sup.[contains]]an and Sunna. (31)

Sufyan's followers also emphasized his asceticism, transforming his simple lifestyle from necessity to virtue. The degree of Sufyan's commitment to an ascetic lifestyle was debated in the medieval sources, and remains a source of disagreement in modern assessments as well. (32) For instance, Sufyan's ravenous hunger and consequent rudeness to Abu Shahab are not what one would expect from a committed ascetic. Similarly, reports of Sufyan's appetite and comments about his girth (discussed below) suggest that he was not averse to consumption. (33) Conversely, stories of his refusal to sample the dates at Basra and of his aversion to wealth imply that he chose austerity. Combined with his unwillingness to accommodate the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] regime, these reports suggest a disdain for worldly comforts and possessions that ascetics could emulate. These contrasting images of Sufyan reveal the complications his followers faced in their efforts to justify and even idealize his flight from the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]].

The virtue of perpetual flight clearly had limited polemical usefulness. Eventually, stories about Sufyan's relationship with the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] needed to include confrontations with his foes. After all, if al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i survived such encounters unscathed, why could Sufyan not confound his interlocutors in similar fashion if he was indeed the superior shaykh? His flight provided an easy avenue of attack for his opponents. For instance, Ibn Abi [Dhi.sup.[contains]]b told Sufyan the story of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's meeting with al-Mansur specifically to annoy him. Al-Firyabi reports that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i himself related his encounter to Sufyan when they met in Mecca. (34) Rationalizing flight was simply not sufficient in the context of competition between Sufyan and al-Mahdi.

It is unclear whether Sufyan actually did attempt to reconcile with the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] late in his life. Several sources indicate that he intended such a rapprochement and even exchanged letters with al-Mahdi, but was unable to effect a meeting before his death. (35) Some even describe meetings between Sufyan and al-Mahdi, which modern scholars have correctly dismissed as legendary. (36) Only in the context of competition between followers of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i can the significance of these legends be realized.

There are two distinct narratives of meetings between Sufyan and al-Mahdi. Several reports describe an encounter between Sufyan and al-Mahdi during the hajj, probably in 159/776, with some versions specifying that the meeting took place at Mina. (37) In this narrative, when Sufyan is brought before al-Mahdi, he contrasts al-Mahdi's pilgrimage to that of [Umar.sup.[subset]] b. al-Khattab. Details vary, but Sufyan always criticizes al-Mahdi's extravagance, reminding him how little [Umar.sup.[subset]] spent on his pilgrimage. In one report, Sufyan points out that [Umar.sup.[subset]] spent a mere sixteen dinars while al-Mahdi expended entire treasuries (buyut al-amwal). (38) The encounter ends with Sufyan urging al-Mahdi to change his ways and then departing. In some versions, Sufyan's insolence angers al-Mahdi, but in none of them does he punish Sufyan. One report does, however, imply that the meeting precipitated Sufyan's flight to Basra. (39) Reports of the hajj meeting are not eyewitness accoun ts. Instead, Sufyan recounts the events to his students, including al-Firyabi, who reported al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's encounter with [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] b. [Ali.sup.[subset]] in a similar fashion.

The second narrative does not specify when or where the meeting occurred, but it appears to have taken place shortly after al-Mahdi became caliph in 158/775. Two variants with different isnads survive. The first is reported by al- [Qa.sup.[subset]][qa.sup.[subset]] b. Hakim, a minor traditionist who was purportedly an eyewitness to the meeting. (40) The second is transmitted by Sufyan's student, [[blank].sup.[subset]][Ata.sup.[contains]] b. Muslim. (41) The details of the two versions differ in significant ways, but they are obviously related. In both, Sufyan is brought before al-Mahdi, who asks him to serve the regime in some capacity. In al-[Qa.sup.[subset]][qa.sup.[subset]]'s version, al-Mahdi requests that he serve as qadi over Kufa. In [[blank].sup.[subset]][Ata.sup.[contains]] b. Muslim's version al-Mahi wanted him to recite his hadith to a scribe, who would record the session for the caliph's use. (One of al-Firyabi's hajj reports also indicates that the caliph wanted to commit Sufyan's hadith to writing. (4 2)) In both versions, Sufyan refuses to comply and goes into hiding. [[blank].sup.[subset]][Ata.sup.[contains]] specifies that this incident led to his exile in Basra.

These two reports are clearly related to each other. [[blank].sup.[subset]][Ata.sup.[contains]] b. Muslim's report reveals their connections. In this account [[blank].sup.[subset]][Ata.sup.[contains]]'s student, [[blank].sup.[subset]Ubayd] b. Junad interrupts him, seeking confirmation that Sufyan had greeted al-Mahdi as caliph. In the other version of the story, Sufyan sparked al-Mahdi's anger by extending only a general, rather than the more reverential, greeting the caliph expected. [Ubayd's.sup.[subset]] question suggests that he had heard the story of Sufyan's refusal to acknowledge al-Mahdi as caliph.

A similar theme appears in a separate report in which Sufyan dictates a letter to Yahya b. [Sa.sup.[subset]]id al-Qattan, who interrupts him after he addresses his letter simply to Muhammad b. [Abdallah.sup.[subset]], rather than to the caliph. Al-Qattan tells Sufyan that al-Mahdi will not read the letter if he addresses it in this manner. Sufyan then tells him to write whatever he wants. (43) This report is particularly significant, for it implies that the reconciliation between Sufyan and al-Mahdi occurred because al-Qattan edited Sufyan's correspondence and not because Sufyan explicitly recognized the caliph's authority. Al-Qattan's role frees Sufyan from responsibility for the implicit recognition of the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] any reconciliation with al-Mahdi would require.

Legends of Sufyan's encounters with al-Mahdi are best understood in relation to similar stories of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's encounters with [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] authorities. Sufyans confrontations lack the theological and legal detail of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's interrogations, but Sufyan does stand up to his [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] foes, bravely rebuking them for their behavior and refusing their requests and appointments. The unease Sufyan's followers felt about the cowardice implicit in their shaykh's perpetual flight pervades these legends. A surprising similarity between the al-[Qa.sup.[subset]][qa.sup.[subset]] report and stories of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's meeting with al-Mansur dispels any doubt that they were formulated with al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i in mind. At both meetings, Abu Fadl al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]] plays a key role. Given his prominence in the courts of both al-Mansur and al-Mahdi, this in itself is not at all shocking. (44) However, his actions in the two incidents are ne arly identical. In each meeting, the scholar shows insufficient deference to the caliph, prompting al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]] to reach for his sword, intent on disposing of the shaykh. The caliph then intercedes to spare the impudent scholar. In the al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i account, al-Mansur reminds al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]] that the meeting is not intended as a forum for punishment. (45) In the Sufyan story, al-Mahdi scolds al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]] for wanting to kill those brought before him. He then commands al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]] to write the order appointing Sufyan as qadi of Kufa. (46)

The central issues in the debate over the relative merits of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i come to the fore in these legendary encounters. The cowardice implicit in Sufyan's flight is mitigated by his bravery in confronting the caliph directly and holding his ground, like al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i had in reports of his encounters with [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] rulers. Since reports of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's interrogation portray him greeting al-Mansur without hesitation as amir al-[mu.sup.[contains]]minin, the possibility that Sufyan declined to do so, or at least equivocated, was enticing to his followers. Evidence of his refusal to pay homage to the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] caliph could be used to assert his superiority to the more conciliatory al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i. It could also restore dignity to his perpetual flight by implying that his adherence to principle and al-Mahdi's consequent anger required it. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i could then be portrayed as choosing the easier road, opting for comfort over conviction. The principal difference between the two scholars is reduced to Sufyan's more stubborn defiance, which necessitates his seclusion. Accounts of his confrontation with al-Mahdi even imply that his conduct was more valiant, since he made no concessions to the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]], and did not even acknowledge them as rulers.


Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i never lived in the same city, but several sources describe meetings between them, usually during the pilgrimage. Their highly embellished interactions demonstrate both the rivalry between their followers and the continuing dialogue about their respective responses to the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. In some of their meetings, the competition is more explicit and the tone is more derogatory than in the reports discussed above.

The richest of these reports describes a meeting between Sufyan, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad b. [Ali.sup.[subset]], the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] governor in Mecca, during the pilgrimage ca. 148/765-150/767. Two versions of the report appear in several different sources. Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and al-Dhahabi include the first version. The other appears in al-Fasawi's al-[Ma.sup.[subset]]rifa wa'l-[ta.sup.[contains]]rikh and is repeated by Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]]. (47)

In both, Mufaddal b. Muhalhil describes going on pilgrimage with Sufyan and meeting al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i in Mecca, where they share lodging. (48) A knock on the door announces the arrival of [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad, the governor. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Mufaddal rise to greet their visitor, but Sufyan leaves the room. The governor inquires about Sufyan, who ultimately emerges from hiding. He then requests that Sufyan recite hadith to him. In Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym's version [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad asks him specifically to write his reports of pilgrimage rituals, this suggests that the incident occurred in 150/767, when [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad was in charge of the hajj. (49) It also parallels a version of Sufyan's meeting with al-Mahdi, when the caliph asked specifically about pilgrimage rituals. (50) In al-Fasawi's report [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad asks for more general teaching. In both versions, Sufyan responds by telling [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad that he wil l offer more important advice. Sufyan then, somewhat obliquely, suggests that [Abd.sup.[subset]]Abd al-Samad leave his government post ([ta.sup.[subset]]tazil ma anta fihi). (51) [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad is predictably upset at this suggestion and departs.

These two accounts are typical in that they emphasize Sufyan's defiance of [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] authority figures and his disdain for government service. However, the details suggest a more nuanced dialogue about the relative merits of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i. Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym emphasizes al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's stature and his disagreement with Sufyan about the proper attitude toward the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. In this version, [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad treats al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i with reverence and praises his books, which the governor uses as the basis for his judgments. The exchange attests to al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's fame and also emphasizes the prominence his legal views retained under the new regime, even in the hometown of Malik b. Anas. Later in the narrative, al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i scolds Sufyan for his insolence and suggests to Mufaddal that they depart so as to avoid being hanged. (52) Here al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's obedience to the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] and his pragmatic self-preservation are again emphasized, but so is his disdain for Sufyan's defiance.

Al-Fasawi presents the encounter somewhat differently. He makes no reference to al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's books. In fact, here al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i does not even speak after briefly greeting [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad, who is concerned only with finding Sufyan. Mufaddal, rather than al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, chastises Sufyan for his antagonism toward [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad. This version does not glorify al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, like Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym's report, but does not present Sufyan in a flattering light either. When Sufyan emerges from his hiding place (he had purportedly stepped outside to relieve himself) he is wearing only his loincloth, without a robe or shirt. The narrator comments on the size of Sufyan's stomach (wa kana [a.sup.[subset]]zima l-batni) and remarks that he thrust himself into the center of the room rather rudely. Sufyan then proceeds to tell [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad to leave his position, as in the other version. This time, his own student, Mufaddal, rather than his rival, berates him for this behavior.

The reasons for the differences between the two versions are difficult to ascertain, in part because, with the exception of Mufaddal b. Muhalhil, the affiliations of those appearing in the isnads are not clear. Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym's narrative presents both Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i in a better light, emphasizing al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's prominence as a legal figure and highlighting Sufyan's steadfast objection to serving the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]]. In this version, the focus is on the substantive differences between the two shaykhs' responses to the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]], namely al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's acceptance of [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] authority (and his practical determination to avoid being hanged) and Sufyan's defiance.

Al-Fasawi's version, in contrast, reduces al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i to an opaque bystander. Sufyan's image fares no better. His crudeness overshadows the substance of his objection to government service. The governor, the narrator, and even his own student show contempt for him. The events described are essentially the same, but the account glorifies neither Sufyan nor al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i. Indeed, Mufaddal, who defied his shaykh in the name of decorum, is the only character shown in a favorable light. Perhaps this explains why Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] included al-Fasawi's report in [Abd.sup.[subset]] al-Samad's biography rather than al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's.

Stories of other meetings between the two shaykhs more clearly emphasize the superiority of one over the other. For instance, in a report ascribed to Sufyan b. [Uyayna.sup.[subset]], Sufyan al-Thawri and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i meet at the masjid al-Khayf at Mina, presumably during a pilgrimage. Al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i asks Sufyan why he did not raise his hands during his prostrations. Sufyan defends his practice with a hadith from Yazid b. Abi Ziyad, a notably weak transmitter. (53) al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i responds with a report from al-Zuhri and mocks Sufyan for preferring such a weak report to al-Zuhri's. The embarrassed Sufyan ultimately acknowledges his error. (54) The report is clearly legendary, intended to glorify al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i at Sufyan al Thawri's expense. Its obscure isnad makes its origin difficult to ascertain. Since Sufyan b. [Uyayna.sup.[subset]] is a major transmitter of al-Zuhri reports, the incident may have been intended to emphasize al-Zuhri's authority as well.

Other reports describe prominent scholars, particularly Malik b. Anas interacting with Sufyan al-Thawri and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i. Ahmad b. Hanbal reported that, after Malik met Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, he concluded that Sufyan was the superior muhaddith, but that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, unlike Sufyan, was suitable for the imama. (55) Malik's noncommittal response to the implicit request that he rank the two scholars reflects the similarity of their views and reputations. His evaluation contradicts the previous report's suggestion that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i was superior in his judgment of hadith transmitters. Shared students of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i also resisted pressure from their own pupils to rank the two scholars. For instance, al-Fazari responded to such questions by saying that he preferred al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i for general questions and Sufyan for specific questions. (56) Al-Firyabi reported stories of both scholars confronting [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] leaders. The re luctance of students such as al-Fazari and al-Firyabi, and even al-Qattan, to choose between the two shaykhs suggests that the emergence of distinct [Awza.sup.[subset]]iya and Thawriya madhhabs occurred later, consistent with the timing of the emergence of other eponymous madhhabs.

A number of obviously fictitious reports reflect the intensification of competition between madhhabs and the growing pressure to rank al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i and Sufyan. One such story describes Sufyan meeting al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i as he approached Mecca on pilgrimage and fetching a camel for al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i to ride. (57) The report suggests Sufyan's deference to the superior shaykh, whose comfort he is determined to assure. The report is provided by al-[Abbas.sup.[subset]] b. al-Walid al-Bayruti, a student of al-Firyabi who is frequently identified with the al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]iya madhhab. (58) His source is weakly identified as a son of al-Ahnaf b. Qays, a Meccan contemporary of Sufyan. Ibn Abi Hatim includes another account of Sufyan leading the camel bearing al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i through the streets of Mecca, telling others to stop and make way for the shaykh. The witness to this spectacle was [Uthman.sup.[subset]] b. [Asim.sup.[subset]], a noted Meccan contemporary of Sufyan from whom he reported hadith. [Uthman.sup.[subset]] was not closely identified with either shaykh, and the remainder of the isnad does not reveal the report's origin either. (59) However, its polemical nature and its relationship to the report of Sufyan fetching a camel for al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i are readily apparent.

Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] includes the report of Sufyan fetching a camel for al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, but adds another account of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i is entry into Mecca. [Abbad.sup.[subset]] b. Musa al-Khuttali, a student of al-Fazari reported this story in several versions. (60) In each, Malik joins Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i. Al-Khuttali witnesses three shaykhs approaching Mecca. One is riding a camel while another is leading the way and the third is guiding the camel. When asked who they are, al-Khuttali responds that al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i is riding, Sufyan is leading, and Malik is guiding the camel. (61) These reports illustrate the growing need for anecdotes to distinguish prominent shaykhs from each other. While al-Fazari and al-Firyabi could evade the question of their teachers' relative merits, the next generation of followers had to assert the superiority of their madhhab's eponym. Hence reports of the subservience of competing shaykhs became useful. Significantly, these later, obviously fictional reports, contain no references to fiqh or hadith whatsoever. Instead, the anecdotes are purely personal, obviously fictional and, arguably, devoid of substance.


Reports of al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's and Sufyan al-Thawri's responses to the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] revolution and of their interaction with each other illustrate the underlying polemics in medieval Arabic biographical sources as well as the unusual difficulties students of these particular scholars encountered. The emergence of the eponym as the standard identifier of legal traditions clearly affected the way in which followers of Sufyan al-Thawri and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i discussed the two shaykhs and their legal thinking. While their first-generation students, such as al-Firyabi and al-Fazari, could praise both of them and avoid explicitly placing one above the other, later followers had to choose between them and praise one, even at the cost of derogating the other.

The lack of substantial disagreements about fundamental issues of fiqh left later followers of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i in the difficult position of having to create distinctions between shaykhs who held essentially similar views. Ultimately, they turned to personal and political differences to separate the two scholars, allowing the creation of two distinct eponymous madhhabs whose "founders" differed regarding only minute points of law. Praise for the shaykh, exaggeration of his exploits, and insults toward his rival are inherent elements of the Arabic biographical tradition and are common in biographies of other legal scholars. The competitive aspect of hagiographical reports, however, is more apparent in biographies of Sufyan andal-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i, since they are not overshadowed by substantive methodological debates.

Recent scholarship has illustrated quite convincingly that the images of scholars, caliphs, and other notable figures in early Islamic history transformed over time to accommodate the changing needs of those who would praise or vilify them. (62) In this respect, the biographies of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i are not unique. What distinguishes them is how central the hagiographic dialogue is to the accounts. Their biographers did not transform their shaykhs' views on legal or theological matters to adapt to changing agendas. Instead, they transformed the relationship between the two scholars to satisfy the demands of the emerging eponymous nomenclature of legal discourse.

This analysis of biographies of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i raises two important concerns for the study of the Arabic biographical and historical tradition. First, the dialogue between the two sets of biographies illustrates that stories of individual scholars and their exploits cannot be understood in isolation. Hagiographic anecdotes praising particular shaykhs were formulated in an environment infused with competition between madhhabs. Only by considering which rivals the authors sought to outdo or refute with particular stories can we understand the context in which hagiographic reports were devised. Second, the evolution of Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's identities demonstrates that scholarly paradigms shaped the way in which Arabic historical sources treated their subjects, just as modern intellectual trends affect the way knowledge is now classified. The expectation that legal traditions be associated with specific "founders" of madhhabs demanded that biographers separate Sufyan and al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i to create two distinct madhhabs.

This dialogue between biographical accounts will simultaneously frustrate and assist scholars of early Islamic history, law, and theology. These accounts reveal a great deal about the relationship between followers of particular scholars and illustrate the highly competitive environment of the second/eighth and third/ninth centuries. Further comparative analysis of biographies of legal and religious scholars may reveal more about this competition and the potential richness of biographical sources for understanding the cultural milieu of early Islam.

Unfortunately, however, this competitive hagiography will frustrate those who hope to find objective historical data in the biographical sources. Not only must one consider the plausibility of particular accounts and the possibility of exaggeration or fiction in the medieval sources, one must also ask to whom a particular hagiographic anecdote may respond. The result may be a rewarding insight into the polemics of medieval sources at the cost of whatever faith one can have in their historical accuracy.

(1.) See Joseph Schacht, Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950), 6-10, 21-35; N. J. Coulson, A History of Islamic Law (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1964), 36-53; Andrew Rippin, Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Volume 1: The Formative Period (London: Routledge, 1990), 76-77; Wael Hallaq, A History of Islamic Legal Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), 16-35; Christopher Melchert, The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law, 9th-l0th Centuries CE (Leiden: Brill, 1997), xvii-xxviii.

(2.) Their hostility to Abu Hanifa is demonstrated by statements such as al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's condemnation of him as a sword in the side of the umma (Abu [Zura.sup.[subset]], [Ta.sup.[contains]]rikh Abi [Zura.sup.[subset]] al-Dimashqi [Damascus, 1981], 506). Sufyan al-Thawri's student, Fadil b. [Ayad.sup.[subset]], compared the devotion of Abu Hanifa's students to their sheikh to the excessive love the [Shi.sup.[subset]]ites held for [Ali.sup.[subset]]. Ahmad b. [Abdallah.sup.[subset]] Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, Hilyat al-[awliya.sup.[contains]] wa tabaqat al-[asfiya.sup.[contains]] (Beirut: Dar al-kitab al-[arabi.sup.[subset]], 1967), 6: 358. For a recent discussion of the hostility between Sufyan and the ashab al-[ra.sup.[contains]], see Melchert, 3-13.

(3.) For examples of their use of logical and analogical reasoning, see Abu Ishaq al-Fazari, Kitab al-siyar (Beirut: [Mu.sup.[contains]]assasat al-risala, 1987), 118-19, 121-22; for a discussion of Sufyan al-Thawri's use of qiyas, see H. P. Raddatz, "Die Stellung und Bedeutung des Sufyan at-Tauri (gest. 778): Ein Beitrag zur Geistesgeschichte des fruhen Islam" (Ph.D. diss., Bonn, 1967), 99-100; regarding al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's fiqh, see Gerhard Conrad, Die Qudat Dimasq und der Madhhab al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i; Materilien zur syrischen Rechtgeschichie (Beirut: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1994), 6-10.

(4.) Ibn Hajar al-[Asqalani.sup.[subset]], Tahdhib al-tahdhib (Hyderabad, 1907), 4:115; al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, [Ta.sup.[contains]]rikh Baghdad (Beirut, Dar al-kutub al-[arabi.sup.[subset]], 1967), 9: 164; Muhammad b. [Isma.sup.[subset]]il al-Bukhari, Kitab al-[ta.sup.[contains]]rikh al-kabir (Hyderabad, 1941), 2.2: 102.

(5.) al-Fazari, Abu Ishaq, Kitab al-siyar; regarding al-Fazari and the law of war, see Michael Bonner, Aristocratic Violence and Holy War (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1996), 113-19.

(6.) Regarding al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's relationship to the Umayyads, see Josef van Ess, Anfdnge muslimischer Theologie (Beirut: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997), 207-13; Steven Judd, "The Third Fitna: Orthodoxy, Heresy and Coercion in late Umayyad History" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1997), 153-56. Regarding Sufyan al-Thawri's association with the Umayyads, see Raddatz, "Die Stellung' 104-6; idem, "Fruhislamisches erbrecht nach dem Kitab al-[Fara.sup.[contains]]id des Sufyan at-Tauri," Die Welt des Islwns 13 (1971): 71.

(7.) Conrad, 1-8; Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, s.v. "al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i," by J. Schacht.

(8.) Schacht, 242; EI2, s.v. "Sufyan al-Thwri," by H. Raddatz; Melchert, 3-13.

(9.) For examples of his correspondence with the [Abbasids.sup.[subset]] from Beirut, see Ibn Abi Hatim al-Rzai, Taqdimat al-[ma.sup.[subset]]rifa (Hyderabad, 1952), 187-202. Regarding later followers of the [Awza.sup.[subset]]iya, see Conrad.

(10.) Regarding the slaying of the Umayyad princes at Nahr Abi Futrus, see al-Tabari, [Ta.sup.[contains]]rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk (Leiden: Brill, 1879-1901) 3: 51.

(11.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], [Ta.sup.[contains]]rikh madinat Dimashq (Beirut: Dar alfikr, 1995), 35: 210-12; Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Dhahabi, Kitab siyar [a.sup.[subset]]lam al-[nubala.sup.[contains]] (Beirut: [Mu.sup.[contains]]assasat al-risala, 1981), 7: 122-25; Ibn Abi Hatim, 211-13.

(12.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 122; Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 210. Regarding Thawr b. Yazid, see Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 11: 183-97; al-Dhahabi, 6: 344-45; Ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, kitab al-tabaqat al-kubra (Beirut: Dar sadir, 1957), 7: 467; Yusuf b. al-Zaki al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-kamal fi [asma.sup.[contains]] al-rijal (Beirut: [Mu.sup.[contains]]assasat al-risala, 1992), 4: 418-28.

(13.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 211.

(14.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 214-18; Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 6: 136-40, Ibn Abi Hatim, 214-16; al-Dhahabi, 7: 125.

(15.) The isnads of these accounts diverge at several points, producing three versions in Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] and two versions in Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym. Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym blended the two sources to produce a single narrative, while Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] inserted parenthetical parallel citations throughout the narrative to note variant readings. Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] does not appear to have been aware of one of Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym's accounts.

(16.) Regarding al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]], s.v. "al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]]b. Yunus," EI2, by A. S. Atiya; Patricia Crone, Slaves on Horses: the Evolution of the Islamic Polity (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980), 193-94.

(17.) Regarding al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's school in later times, see Conrad.

(18.) For a detailed analysis of Ibn Hanbal's mihna, see Michael Cooperson, Classical Arabic Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), 107-53.

(19.) s.v. "Sufyan al-Thawri," EI1 by M. Plessner.

(20.) Ibn Hajar, 4: 101; al-Mizzi, 11: 167; al-Bukhari, 2.2: 101; al-Khatib, 9: 159; Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 7:41; s.v. "Sufyan al-Thawri, EI1.

(21.) Ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, 6: 372; al-Dhahabi, 7: 244.

(22.) Ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, 6: 372-73; al-Dhahabi, 7: 245; Raddatz, "Die Stellung," 42-43.

(23.) Ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, 6: 373; Raddatz, "Die stellung," 45-47.

(24.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 258-59; Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-[a.sup.[subset]]yan wa-[anba.sup.[contains]] [abna.sup.[contains]] al-zaman, (Beirut: Dar al-thaqafa, 1972), 2: 388.

(25.) Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 6: 371-72, al-Khatib, 9: 171; Raddatz, "Die Stellung." 50.

(26.) Ibn Abi Hatim, 202; Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 228.

(27.) al-Mizzi, 16: 485. Regarding al-Qattan, see ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, 7: 293; Ibn Hajar, 11: 216-20; al-Mizzi, 31: 329-43.

(28.) Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 6: 361; al-Dhahabi, 7: 243.

(29.) Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 6: 361.

(30.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 110; Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 157-61.

(31.) Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 6: 358; al-Dhahabi, 7: 249.

(32.) s.v. "Sufyan al-Thawri," EI1, by Plessner; s.v. "Sufyan al-Thawri," EI2, by Raddatz.

(33.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 243, 277; al-Khatib, 9: 158.

(34.) Ibn Abi Hatim, 216; al-Dhahabi, 7: 168-69.

(35.) Ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, 6: 373; al-Dhahabi, 7: 245-46; al Khatib, 9: 159-60.

(36.) s.v. "Sufyan al-Thawri," EI1, by Plessner; s.v. "Sufyan al-Thawri," EI2, by Raddatz.

(37.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 264; Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 7: 45.

(38.) Ibn Khallikan, 2: 387-88; al-Dhahabi, 7: 263; al-Khatib, 9: 160. Some versions report different amounts spent by [Umar.sup.[subset]], ranging from ten dirhams to sixteen dinars. Some also do not specify how much al-Mahdi spent, but criticize his extravagance by pointing to [Umar's.sup.[subset]] austerity.

(39.) Ibn Khallikan, 2: 387-88; al-Khatib, 9: 160.

(40.) Regarding al-[Qa.sup.[subset]][qa.sup.[contains]], see Ibn Hajar, 8: 383; al-Mizzi, 23: 623-24.

(41.) Regarding [[blank].sup.[subset]][Ata.sup.[contains]], see Ibn Hajar, 7: 211-12; al-Mizzi, 20: 104-6.

(42.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 257.

(43.) al-Dhahabi 7: 264; Abu [Nu.sup.[contains]]aym, 7: 44.

(44.) Regarding al-[Rabi.sup.[subset]], see EI2, 8: 350.

(45.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 214; Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 6: 136.

(46.) Ibn Khallikan, 2: 390; al-[Mas.sup.[subset]]udi, 2: 308.

(47.) Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym, 7: 39; al-Khatib, 9: 158-59; al-Dhahabi, 7: 261-62; al-Fasawi, 1: 724; Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 36: 251-52.

(48.) The al-Fasawi version mistakenly identifies Mufaddal, simply as "Muhalhil," an error which Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] retains. Mufaddal b. Muhalhil was a Kufan who joined Sufyan in Yemen and was one of Sufyan's most noted pupils. He was reportedly asked to take over as leader of Sufyan's circle after his death. al-Mizzi, 28: 422-25; Ibn Hajar, 10: 275-76.

(49.) al-Tabari, 3: 359.

(50.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 257.

(51.) In Abu [Nu.sup.[subset]]aym's version: [tadu.sup.[subset]] ma anta fihi. Similar phrases appear in Sufyan's advice to al-Mahdi in several versions of their meeting.

(52.) al-Khatib's report inserts a reference to the [Abbasids'.sup.[subset]] status as Quraysh, inferring that they deserved loyalty due to their lineage. The reference is absent from other versions, in which al-[Awza.sup.[subset]]i's response is otherwise identical.

(53.) Regarding Yazid b. Abi Ziyad see Ibn [Sa.sup.[subset]]d, 6: 340; Ibn Hajar, 11:329-31; Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 65: 192-96; al-Mizzi, 32: 135-40.

(54.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 169-70; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa'lnihaya (Cairo, 1932-38), 10: 116; al-Dhahabi, 7: 112. The accounts vary slightly in arrangement, but their content is essentially identical.

(55.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 166; al-Fasawi, 1: 722, 726; al-Dhahabi, 7: 112.

(56.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 113; Ibn Abi Hatim, 203.

(57.) al-Dhahabi, 7: 112; Ibn Abi Hatim, 208; Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]], 35: 165.

(58.) Ibn [Asakir.sup.[subset]] 26: 449-53; al-Mizzi, 14: 255-58; Conrad, 544-55, also see index.

(59.) Ibn Abi Hatim includes two versions of the report. In one of them, his father heard the account from [Umar.sup.[subset]] b. [Uthman.sup.[subset]] b. [Asim.sup.[subset]]. In the other, wherein [Uthman.sup.[subset]] b. [Asim.sup.[subset]] actually witnesses events outside Mecca, [Sa.sup.[subset]]id b. [Sa.sup.[subset]]d al-Bukhari reports the event directly from [Uthman.sup.[subset]] with a less plausible isnad.

(60.) al-Mizzi, 14: 161-64.

(61.) One version reverses the roles of Sufyan and Malik.

(62.) For recent discussions of the evolution of images of historical figures in Arabic historiography, see Cooperson; Tayib al-Hibri, Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun al-Rashid and the Narrative of the [Abbasid.sup.[subset]] Caliphate (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999); Steven Judd, "Ghaylan al-Dimashqi: The Isolation of a Heretic in Islamic Historiography," IJMES 3l (1999): 161-84.
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Author:Judd, Steven C.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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