The Confluence and Construction of Traditions: Al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072) and the Intersection of Qur’ānic Exegesis, Theology, and Sufism

Thesis Type:

PhD dissertation


This dissertation investigates the life and works of Abū al-Qāsim `Abd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072). While the majority of western studies of al-Qushayrī have concentrated almost exclusively on his Sufi legacy and the Risāla, his treatise on Sufism, the present study makes a more holistic account of his life, taking into consideration his wider scholastic interests and the socio-political landscape of Nishapur, the city in which he lived. The various narratives of his life, as variously reported in the historical records, are brought together in order to more fully expose the horizon of his historical moment. Special attention is paid to the urban factionalism and eventual persecution that wracked Nishapur, as both of these historical phenomena directly affected al-Qushayrī.

The central focus, however, is on his scholastic identity and the related traditions with which he engaged. While significant mention is made of his contribution to hadith and Shāfi`ism, the central focus of this study is on the confluence of three especially influential traditions: Sufism, Ash`arī theology, and Qur'ānic exegesis. Al-Qushayrī's social network of teachers is delineated for each of these traditions, with shared linkages carefully mapped across the course of his life. His view of pedagogy and perpetuation is investigated as well. For his work in Ash`arism and scriptural commentary, his textual legacy and his role in continuing each tradition is also given.

As to textual analysis, while the Risāla receives ample consideration, greater attention is paid to his other major work, the Latā' if al-ishārāt ("Subtleties of the Signs"), a commentary of the Qur'ān written at the same time. The commentary is studied and characterized and its textual genealogy is traced against relevant sources. Finally, cases from the Latā' if al-ishārāt are presented where the intersection of these various scholastic traditions are most evident.

This multivalent approach brings forward the nuanced and interwoven texture of al-Qushayrī's life, in specific, and demonstrates the constructed nature of tradition, in general.

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