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Uzbekistan: a land multifarious geniuses. ABU-L-MUIN AN-NASAFI (Part 7)

“Bahr al-kalam”

Reading the pages of precious books on descriptive and encyclo­paedic sciences, we often come across the titles and honourable pennames dealing with the names of our villages, towns and cities such as al-Bukhari, at-Termizi, al-Khoresmi, as-Samarqandi, an-Nasafi, ash-Shashi (at-Tashkandi), al-Fergani, etc. I wonder if any country in the world has ever educated and produced such a number of world-famous scholars and geniuses as our country did. Especially, the 9th-12th centuries of the Middle Ages were so fruitful in this matter that science, education and culture reached their highest level of development. We can rightfully be proud of those representatives of science and education who made a world-scale contribution. Thanks to the independence gained by our country, we received lots of possibilities to study and investigate their scientific heritage, spread their positive and effective ideas among the public and promote the pride and interest of the youth in the history of our motherland.

The year of 1998 witnessed the worldwide celebrations of anniversaries of our two great geniuses — the 1225th anniversary of Imam al-Bukhari and the 1200th anniversary of Ahmad al-Fergani. In accord with the programs of celebrations, many organizational and educational measures were taken in different corners of our land. With the purpose of finding and collecting the manuscripts left by our great ancestors and establishing scientific collaborations with the leading experts studying the legacy of our ancestors, a group of specialists in these fields were sent to scientific expeditions to Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. During the three-week expedition, the members of the group could find and collect samples of around hundred manuscripts, published materials and microfilms of the precious writings of Imam al-Bukhari and Ahmad Fergani. At the same time, we tried to collect historical and scientific materials dealing with the lives and creative activities of our great ancestor scientists and scholars who were born in our land. In this matter, our talk to a scholar from Syria Doctor Valiyuddin Muhammad Salih al-harfur was very fruitful. Doctor Valiyuddin Muhammad Salih al-Farfur was studying the lives and scientific careers of the scholars coming from Maveraunnahr in the Middle Ages. During our talk, he mentioned that he had recently published the critical text of the hook written by a well-known expert in the science of kalam Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi under the title of “Bahr-1-kalam” (The Sea of the Science of Kalam) and presented the members of the scientific expedition with the copy of that book.

Up to our conversation with Doctor Valiyuddin Muhammad Salih al-Farfur, we had not had any suitable information about that scientific legacy of our great ancestor Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi on the science of kalam that is an important component part of the Islamic philosophy. Therefore, relying on the information presented by Doc­tor Valiyuddin Muhammad Salih al-Farfur, we found it necessary to provide some information about the scientific heritage of Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi and his book “Bahr-ul-kalam”.

The science of kalam included several branches in its development and each branch had its own peculiarities, i.e. approaches to the prob­lem under discussion. The most widely spread branches of this teaching were “al-Ash’ariya school” of the science of kalam and “al-Maturidiya school” of this teaching. Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi was the scholar who absorbed the ideas expressed in the teachings of Abu-l-Hasan al-Ash’ari, the founder of “al-Ash’ariya school” and Abu-1-Mansur al-Maturidi, the founder of “al-Maturidia school”, and he was devoted to both of the schools and was greatly influenced by the teachings of Imam Ghazzali. It should also be mentioned that such well-known figures in the science of kalam as al-Iyji (died in 1355), Sa’duddin at-Taftazani (died in 1390) and some other famous scholars reached their highest level in their scientific careers and became acknowledged experts in the science of kalam under the immediate influence of Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi.

The following list may be provided as the scientific prodiu i produced by Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi:

  1. Al-u’mda fi usul al-fiqh;
  2. Bahr al-kalam fi ilm al-kalam;
  3. Tabsirat al-adillati fi ilm al-kalam;
  4. At-Tamhiyd li-qavaid at-Tawhid fi ilm al-kalam;
  5. Al-alim va-l-mutaallim;
  6. Izah al mahajati li-kavn al-aql hujjatan;
  7. Sharh al-Jami al-kabir li-sh-Shaybani fi furu’;
  8. Manohij al-aimmati f-l-furu’;
  9. Mu’taqidat.

“Bahr al-kalam”, written in Arabic and consisting of 52 pages, i preserved in Tashkent, in the scientific library of the Institute ol Oriental Studies named after Abu Rayhan Beruni.

“Bahr al-kalam” by Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi plays an important role in the Islamic science. The first part of Chapter VI of this book consists of four paragraphs, the first of which is devoted to tin problem of “Imamat” (All that concerns the act of being Imam). The two Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (saas) provided in this part of the book are of great importance for the Muslims.

The first one says: “Iqtadu bi-l-laziyna min ba’diy Abu Bakr va Umar” (meaning “After me you should follow Abu Bakr and Umar”). This Hadith is mentioned in the works of such famous scholars as Imam at-Termizi, Imam ibn Moja, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and some other estimated figures of the Islamic world. Despite this strict instruction given by Prophet Muhammad (saas), there was a two-day discussion about who would be the next caliph after Prophet Muhammad (saas).

The second Hadith says: “After me the cali phate will exist for thirty years and then there will be emirates,kingdoms,etc.” It should be stressed that this second Hadith was so truthful that we can see its results even in our days. This term (thirty years) elapsed during the reign of “chariyars”.1 This Hadith is a good response to those who wishto re-establish the caliphate. This book, “Bahr al-kalam”,is one of the main theoretical sources of the teachings of “Maturidiya school of the science of kalam” founded by ash-Sheikh Abu Mansur al-Maturidi. Especially, today when different separated religious parties are appearing day by day, the importance of this book is very high.

Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi’s book “Bahr al-kalam” was created under the great influence of such original sources as:

  1. “At-Tawhid” by Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi;
  2. “Al-Lam’a” by Imam Abu-l-Hasan al-Ash’ari;
  3. “Maqalat al-Islamiyyin” by Imam Abu-l-Hasan al-Ash’ari;
  4. “Al-Irshad” by Imam al-Haramain and Imam Abu al-Maali
    Abdulmalik al-Juvayni.

“Bahr al-kalam fi ilm al-kalam” is the crown of the scientific legacy of Abu-l-Muin an-Nasafi. It is the most precious original source in the field of the science of kalam which is a component part of the Islamic philosophy. Translation of this book and its investigation is one of the urgent problems standing before our specialists. There air some versions of manuscripts and publications of the book which .1 prove its importance for the science of Islam. One of the versions nl its manuscripts copied in 1167 is preserved in the library of Jum’a al-Majid Cultural and Heritage Centre in Dubai under the code of 766. The second one is preserved in the department of manuscripts of the az-Zahiriya library in Damascus under the code of 4970. The third one is kept in Baghdad, in the library “Maktabat al-avqafda” under the code of 4365 and the fourth one is preserved in “Dar ul-kutub” library in Cairo under the code of 113. Another version of this manuscript copied in 950 A.H. is kept in the “Maktabat al-baladiyya” library of Alexandria (Egypt).

Ubaydulla Uvatov
Professor, Doctor of History

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