Kalābādhī, al-

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KALĀBĀDHĪ, AL- (d. ah 380/5, 990/5 ce), more fully Abū Bakr Muammad ibn Isāq ibn Ibrāhīm al-Kalābādhī; was the author of a famous treatise on early Sufism. As his name indicates, he was a native of the Kalābādh district of Bukhara. Details of his biography are lacking, but he is stated to have been a pupil of the ūfī Abū al-usayn al-Fārisī and a anafī jurist with pro-Māturīdī views who studied jurisprudence (fiqh ) under Muammad ibn Fal.

Of the works attributed to al-Kalābādhī, two are extant. The Maʿānī al-akhbār, also known as Bar al-fawāʾid and by other titles, was compiled in 985 and remains as yet unpublished. It consists of a brief ethical commentary, ūfī in coloring, on 222 selected traditions of the Prophet and includes parallel passages cited in al-Kalābādhī's principal work, the Kitāb al-taʿarruf li-madhhab ahl al-taawwuf. This masterpiece has been edited several times, most reliably by A. J. Arberry (Cairo, 1933), who also translated it into English with a detailed introduction as The Doctrine of the Sufis.

The work is a principal source for the development of early Sufism (second/eighth to fourth/tenth centuries). It is divided into seventy-five chapters that fall into two parts. Beginning with a sketchy introductory survey of important early ūfīs, the first part sets out the tenets of Islam as accepted by the ūfīs; these can be traced back to the articles of faith elaborated in the creed known as Al-fiqh al-akbar II (The Greater Understanding II), which, it seems, al-Kalābādhī quotes directly. The second part discusses the ascetic endeavors, spiritual experiences, technical terms, and miraculous phenomena of the ūfīs, based on their sayings and verses.

Throughout the work it is al-Kalābādhī's stated purpose to stave off the decay of Sufism and to prove that Sufism lies within the boundaries of Islamic orthodoxy. As a primary source for the history of early Sufism, al-Kalābādhī's Taʿarruf may rank with the works of al-Sarrāj (d. 988), Abū ālib al-Makkī (d. 996), and al-Sulamī (d. 1021).

The Taʿarruf reflects the ūfī tradition that became current in Transoxiana during Samanid times. It soon achieved the status of an authoritative treatise on Sufism, and commentaries were written on it. The most important of these is the Persian Nūr al-murīdin wa-fa-zīhat al-muddaʾīn, also known as Shar-i Taʿarruf (Commentary on the Taʿarruf ), of Abū Ibrāhīm Ismāʿīl ibn Muammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Mustamlī (d. 1042), a ūfī of Bukhara. The work is the oldest surviving ūfī treatise in Persian prose and is extant in several manuscripts, one of them copied in 1081. The value of this voluminous source for the development of Sufism in Transoxiana lies in its copious comments on each ūfī statement quoted in the Taʿarruf, and in the fact that it was compiled with apparently no motive other than the instruction of ūfī disciples. From the point of view of the Persian language, the work gives testimony to dialectal forms of tenth-century Persian, with an extraordinarily frequent occurrence of Arabic words.

The commentary on the Taʿarruf ascribed to ʿAbd Allāh ibn Muammad al-Anārī (d. 1089) appears to be lost, while the usn Al-taʿarruf, an Arabic commentary on the work written by the Shāfiʿī judge ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn ʿAlī ibn Ismāʿīl al-Qūnawī (d. 1327 or 1329), is extant in manuscript. There is also an anonymous Arabic commentary that is erroneously ascribed to Yayā Suhrawardī (d. 1191), who nonetheless summed up the importance of the Taʿarruf in the watchword: "But for the Taʿarruf we should not have known of Sufism."


Anawati, Georges C., and Louis Gardet. Mystique musulmane. 3d ed. Paris, 1976.

Arberry, A. J. The Doctrine of the Sufis. Cambridge, 1935.

Lazard, Gilbert. La langue des plus anciens monuments de la prose persane. Paris, 1963. See pages 6771.

Nwyia, Paul. "Al-Kalābād̲h̲ī." In The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 4. Leiden, 1978.

Gerhard BÖwering (1987)