KALĀBĀDHĪ, AL- (d. ah 380/5, 990/5 ce), more fully Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq 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 Ṣūfī Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Fārisī and a Ḥanafī jurist with pro-Māturīdī views who studied jurisprudence (fiqh ) under Muḥammad ibn Faḍl.
Of the works attributed to al-Kalābādhī, two are extant. The Maʿānī al-akhbār, also known as Baḥr al-fawāʾid and by other titles, was compiled in 985 and remains as yet unpublished. It consists of a brief ethical commentary, Ṣūfī 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-taṣawwuf. 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 Ṣūfīs, the first part sets out the tenets of Islam as accepted by the Ṣūfīs; 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 Ṣūfīs, 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 Ṭālib al-Makkī (d. 996), and al-Sulamī (d. 1021).
The Taʿarruf reflects the Ṣūfī 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 Sharḥ-i Taʿarruf (Commentary on the Taʿarruf ), of Abū Ibrāhīm Ismāʿīl ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Mustamlī (d. 1042), a Ṣūfī of Bukhara. The work is the oldest surviving Ṣūfī 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 Ṣūfī statement quoted in the Taʿarruf, and in the fact that it was compiled with apparently no motive other than the instruction of Ṣūfī 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 Muḥammad al-Anṣārī (d. 1089) appears to be lost, while the Ḥusn 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 Yaḥyā 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 67–71.
Nwyia, Paul. "Al-Kalābād̲h̲ī." In The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 4. Leiden, 1978.
Gerhard BÖwering (1987)