The Pioneering Role of the Shi’ah in Lexicology
By: Allamah Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr
The Correct View as to the Pioneer of Arabic Lexicology
The correct view vis–à–vis the pioneer of Arabic lexicology is that the erudite master of literature (who expounded the Arabic language) Abu al–Safa al–Khalil ibn Ahmad al–Azadi al–Farahidi was the one and men of letters agree on this. Al–Azhari says in the beginning of his Tahdhib: “I have not come across any disagreement between the knowledgeable people and masters of this field as regards the fact that Kitab al–Ayn was initially compiled by Abu Abdurrahman al–Khalil ibn Ahmad, and that Ibn al–Muzaffar only completed it after he collected its material from al–Khalil. And there is no doubt that the latter has not been anticipated in this work by anybody.”
As to the fact that al–Khalil ibn Ahmad took the lead in working on Arabic lexicology, there is no difference of opinion; the bone of contention is the authorship of this book that is in circulation, namely, Kitab al–Ayn which is attributed to al–Khalil ibn Ahmad. People are divided on the matter; some believing that the book was his and others denying that. The first group is also divided on whether the whole book was al–Khalil’s work or only part of it was his compilation. In the original version of my work, I have cited diverse views on the matter along with the evidences adduced in their support. After weighing those evidences, I presented what I consider to be the truth. I have with me a complete copy of Kitab al–Ayn.
There is no disagreement about the fact that al–Khalil was a Shi'ah. The chief of the Shi’ah, Jamal al–Din ibn al–Matahhar states, in Al–Khulasah: “Al–Khalil ibn Ahmad was the best lexicologist and his work in this field is an authority. He was the originator of prosody. His position in learning is so well-known that there is no need to expatiate. He was a follower of the Imamiyyah school.”
Mawla Abdullah Effendi, observes in Riyad al–Ulama, that “al–Khalil was a very eminent personality, the most learned person in literature and a follower of the Imamiyyah school. He was the founder of the science of prosody. He lived during the time of Imam al–Sadiq and even that of Imam al–Baqir (‘a).”I have mentioned al–Khalil’s biography in the original version of this book.
Other Renowned Shi'ah Lexicologists
Other renowned Shi'ah lexicologists who are known to surpass others, include:
Ibn al–Sikkit: Abu al–Abbas Tha’lab says: “Our companions unanimously declare that, after Ibn al–A‘rabi, Ibn al–Sikkit was the most learned in lexicology.” He was killed by al–Mutawakkil because of being a Shi'ah, a fact that was known to all. Ibn al–Sikkit lived to the age of fifty–eight. His martyrdom occurred in the year 244. Other reports put the year of his death at 246 or 243. His books include Islah al–Mantiq (Reformation of Speech), about which al–Mubarrad said “Of all the books of language that have been carried over the bridge of Baghdad, none equals Islah al–Mantiq.”
His other works are Kitab al–Alfaz (Book of Expressions), Kitab al–Zibrij (Book of Embellishment), Kitab al–Amthal (Book of Proverbs), Kitab al–Maqsur wa al–Mamdud (Book of nouns ending in the shortened form of the letter alif which is written on the letter ‘ya’ (maqsur) and nouns ending in the letter ‘hamzah’ preceded by alif (mamdud), Kitab al–Ajnas (Book of Genera–which is a large book), Kitab al–Firaq (Book of Sects), Kitab al–Suruj wa al–Lijam (Book of Saddles and Harnesses), Kitab al–Wuhush (Book of Wild Animals), Kitab al–Ibil (Book of Camels), Kitab al–Nawadir (Book of Rarities), Kitab Ma'ani al–Shi'r (Book of the Meanings of Poetry (two versions: small and big), Kitab Sariqat al–Shi'r (Book of Plagiarism in Poetry), Kitab Fa'al wa Af'al (Book of the Verb Forms Fa’a’la and Af’a’la), Kitab al–Hasharat (Book of Insects), Kitab al–Aswat (Book of Sounds), Kitab al–Addad (Book of Opposites) and Kitab al–Shajr wa al–Ghabat (Book of Trees and Forests)
It is noteworthy that he wrote all these books besides what he narrated from al–Ridha’, al–Jawad and al–Hadi (‘a).
Another was Abu al–Abbas al–Mubarrad al–Azdi, the famous Basran lexicologist. It is stated in Riyad al–Ulama in the chapter on surnames “Al–Mubarrad is Muhammad ibn Yazid ibn Abd al–Akbar, the venerable master grammarian and philologist, the prominent Shi'ah whose word holds authority for both sects. He was the author of Al–Kamil and other works also. We have seen Al–Kamil in Constantinople in the library of endowments. This book treats many important topics. Al–Mubarrad died in 285 or 286 in Baghdad. The author of Al–Raudat gives a similar account about al–Mubarrad.
Some of al–Mubarrad’s narrations from the Imams of the Ahl al–Bayt which I mentioned in the original version of this book are a testimony to the fact that al–Mubarrad was a Shi'ah. He was born in 220 and died in 285 A.H. Among his books are: Kitab Ma'ani al–Qur'an (Book of the Meanings of the Qur'an), Kitab Nasab 'Adnan wa Qahtan (Book of the Genealogies of Adnan and Qahtan), Kitab al–Radd 'ala Sibawayh (Book of Refutation of Sibawayh), Kitab Shawrh Shawahid al–Kitab (Commentary on the Citations from Al–Kitab–Sibawayh’s book on grammar); Kitab Darurat al–Shi’r, a book on what permits the violation of grammatical rules in order to conform to poetic metre (darurat al–shi’r); Kitab al–'Arud (Book of Prosody) KitabMan ittafaqa lafzuh wa ikhtalaf ma'nah, a book of words with the same pronunciation but carrying different meanings) and Kitab Tabaqat al–Basriyyin (Book of the Classes of the Basrans), e.t.c.
Among them was Abu Bakr ibn Durayd al–Azdi, a master of lexicology. He held a leading position in learning for sixty years. He was born in Basra in 223 A.H. and he grew up there but when the Blacks (al–Zinj) overtook it he fled to Amman. After twelve years he returned to his country and later left for Persia where he resided with the Banu Mikal, who soon noticed Ibn Duraid’s eminence. He worked as head of the diwan, the treasury department. When the Banu Mikal were deposed, he returned to Baghdad in the year 308 where he eatablished contact with Ibn al–Furat, al–Wazir of Al–Muqtadir bi Allah. The latter received Ibn Duraid warmly and appointed him a post that earned him about fifty dinars (gold coins) monthly. He spent the rest of his life honoured and venerated till he died in the month of Sha’ban in 321 A.H., having lived for ninety–eight years.
The works of Ibn Durayd include: Kitab al–Suruj wa al–Lijam (Book of Saddles and Harnesses), Kitab al–Muqtabas (Book of Adaptations), Kitab Zuwwar al–'Arab (Book of Visitors of the Arabs), Kitab al–Silah (Book of Arms), Kitab Gharib al–Qur'an (Book of Unusual Qur’anic Terms), Kitab al–Wishah (Book of Sashes) and Kitab al–Jamharah fi al–Lughah (The Lexicon) in six parts, each of which makes up a whole volume. I remember seeing copies of the third and forth parts which have been written during the days of the author. He also has a collection of well–constructed pieces in verse form such as the poem on the maqsur and the mamdud. He has another poem ending in the maqsur consisting of words of wisdom and etiquette to the commentary of which the scholars eagerly devoted themselves.
Sheikh Rashid al–Din ibn Shahrashub al–Mazadarani counts this scholar among the poets of the Ahl al–Bayt, who strove for their cause, as recorded in Ma’alim al–Ulama. The following verses are a sample of his poetry on allegiance to the Ahl al–Bayt (‘a): “My devotion is to Prophet Muhammad, His trustee and pure Batul, and her two sons; those who deserve loyalty.
On fidelity to this blessed Household, rests my hope for salvation and felicity.
Love for their partisans is, indeed, a protection against deviating ways.
By allegiance to them do I expect, the Lord’s pleasure when all shall stand before Him.”
The authors of Riyad al–Ulama, Ma’alim al–Ulama and Amal al–Amil have all declared that Ibn Duraid was a Shi'ah, and so did al–Qadi al–Mar’ashi in his Tabaqat al–Shi’ah. I have recorded their words in the original version. Another scholar is Abu Amr al–Zahid. Al–Tannukhi says: “I have never seen a person who memorises knowledge like him. He has dictated thirty thousand sheets of paper from memory.” He was born in 261 A.H and died in 345 A.H.
His works include Kitab Manaqib Ahl al–Bayt (Book of the merits of the Ahl al–Bayt), which was summarised by Ibn Tawus who cited in Sa’d al–Sa’ud, a number of hadiths on the merits of the Ahl al–Bayt on the authority of Abu Amr al–Zahidi. Likewise, the author of Tuhfat al–Abrar, Sayyid al–Sharif al–Husayn ibn Musa’id al–Husayni, has related about the merits of the Ahl al–Bayt from the book of al–Zahid, the lexicologist and grammarian. Al–Husayni also attests to the fact that al–Zahid was a Shi'ah. Al–Zahid also wrote Kitab al–Shura (Book of counsel), as recorded in Kashf al–Zunun, Kitab al–Yawaqit (Book of ‘Rubies’), Sharh al–Fasih, Fa'it al–Fasih, Ghrib Musnad Ahmad, Marjan al–Muwashshah (Book of adorned pearls), (Explaining the the names of poets) Tafsir Asma' al–Shu'ara', Fa'it al–Jamharah; Fa'it al–Ayn, Ma ankara al–A'rab 'ala Abu 'Ubaydah (The Bedouins' criticism of Abu Ubaydah) and Al–Madkhal (The Introduction).
It is stated in Riyad al–Ulama that Abu Amr was among the Imamiyyah scholars and that he wrote Kitab al–Lubab. Ibn Tawus quotes a great deal of reports from this book and from Kitab al–Manaqib (Book of merits) as well. Some later scholars quote from him narrations on the merits of the Ahl al–Bayt. As regards his religious persuasion, there is no doubt that Abu Amr was a Shi'ah. He was a Tabari and they addressed him as the companion of (the tribe) of Taghlib or the retainer of Taghlib, but I have not ascertained this claim. There is a detailed biography of this man in Bughyat al–Wu’at.
Another scholar of language is Ahmad ibn Faris ibn Zakariya ibn Muhammad ibn Habib Abu al–Husayn, the renowned lexicologist of the Kufa school. He was the author of Al–Mujmal fi al–Lughah and Fiqh al–Lughah, a work known as Al–Sahibi because it was dedicated to al–Sahib ibn 'Abbad. His biography occurs in Al–Wafayat and Bughyat al–Wu’at. Al–Suyuti was mistaken when he said that “He was a Shafi’ite and later he became a Malikite.” In fact, he was of the Imamiyyah Shi'ah school, as declared by Sheikh Abu Ja’far al–Tusi in his Fihrist of Imamiyyah writers. The works of Abu al–Husayn have been mentioned by al–Tusi, Mirza al–Astrabadi (in his large work Manhaj al–Maqal), Allamah al–Bahrani and Sayyid Hashim al–Tubali, in Raudat al–'Arifin bi Wilayat Amir al–Muminin (a.s.). The author of Thaqib al–Manaqib has also mentioned Abu al–Husayn and it is on his authority that the story of Sheikh al–Hamadani’s meeting our master the Awaited Mahdi, the son of al–Hasan al–Askari is related. In any case, there is no doubt that Abu al–Husayn was a Shi'ah. Perhaps he was only disguising as a Shafi’ite or a Malikite. He passed away in 395 A.H.
Another prominent lexicologist was al–Sahib ibn 'Abbad the vizier of Fakhr al–Daulah. He was a most competent scholar. He is the author of Al–Muhit bi al–Lughah, a ten volume work of lexicology arranged in alphabetical order. It mostly deals with terminologies, presenting few citations. Another lexicon by Al–Sahib is Jawharat al–Jamharah. Both are in our possession. His books on literature include Al A'yad (Book of holidays), Al–Wuzara' (Book of ministers), Al–Kashf 'an Masawi' al–Mutanabbi' (Book of revealing the misdeeds of al–Mutanabbi) and some treatises on the art of writing which contain fifteen chapters. Also to his credit is a collection of poems. On theology, he wrote Kitab Asma' Allah wa Sifatih (Names and attributes of Allah the Exalted), Al–Anwar fi al–Imamah (Book of lights on the Imamate) and Kitab al Ibanah 'an al–Imam , a book giving a vivid picture of the Imam.
Ibn 'Abbad was the first prime minister to be given the title of al–Sahib.A hundred thousand Arabic and Persian poems (qasidahs) were composed to eulogize him. The poets of al–Yatimah are among those who praised him. Al–Hasan ibn Ali al–Tabarsi relates that Sahib ibn 'Abbad composed ten thousand verses in praise of the Ahl al–Bayt (‘a). This scholar was born in the month of Zu al–Qa’dah in the year 324 A.H. He learnt literature from Ibn Faris and Ibn al–'Amid. He held the post of prime minister for eighteen years and one month in the service of Mu’ayyid al–Dawlah and his brother Fakhr al–Dawlah ibn Ruknuddin ibn Buwayh. Ibn 'Abbad died on Thursday night, the 24th of Safar 385 A.H. Al–Sharif al–Radi elegized him.
Another renowned master of the Arabic language was Ibn Khalawayh al–Hamadani, a peerless scholar who was adept in all fields of literature and learning and the focus of students from all countries. He was the author of Kitab Laisa throughout which he recorded what is not found in the Arabic language, saying ‘such and such is not found in Arabic’. He went to Baghdad in the year 314 A.H in search of knowledge. He studied grammar and literature from Ibn Duraid and Abu Amr al–Zahid, among others.
Ibn Khalawayh wrote a number of books such as Kitab al–Jumal fi al–Nahw, Kitab al–Ishtiqaq on etymology, Kitab Atraghashsh fi al–Lughah (Book of ‘rain’ on language [rain signifies succour and help]), Kitab al–Qira'at (Book on Recitations), a commentary on the Al–Maqsurah of Ibn Duraid, Kitab al–Maqsur wa al–Mamdud, Kitab al–Alghaz (Book of Mysteries), Kitab al–Muzakkar wa al–Mu'annath (Book of Masculine and Feminine) and Kitab al–Al (Book about the Household of the Prophet) in which he mentioned the leadership (Imamah) of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) and the eleven Imams from his descendants, as reported by al–Najashi. In Mir’at al–Jinan, al–Yafi’i says: Also to his credit is a fine book which carries the title Kitab al–Al (Book of the Household). In the beginning of it, he elaborates on the meanings of the word al–al (household) and then he introduces an account of the twelve Imams from the family of Muhammad (‘a), including their dates of birth and death and their fathers and mothers.”
Ibn Khillikan writes: “The reason why he mentioned them is that he counted the Banu Hashim among the group of al–al, i.e. Al (family) of Muhammad.” Ibn Khillikan did not recognise Ibn Khalawayh as a Shi'ah, perhaps because he confused him with another person because the agnomen ‘Ibn Khalawayh’ was born by a number of people.
In this regard, the author of Riyad al–Ulama observes: “The name Ibn Khalawayh is shared by a number of people among whom was Sheikh Abu Abdullah al–Hasan, a Shafi’ite Sunni who narrates from al–Shafi'i by two intermediaries and was the author of Kitab al–Tariqah. Another was Abu Abdillah al–Hasan ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh al–Hamadani, the Imamiyyah Shi’ah grammarian who lived in Aleppo and was contemporary with al–Sahib ibn 'Abbad and his peers. Sometimes this surname refers to Sheikh Abu al–Hasan, Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Mahjur al–Farisi who was an Imamiyyah Shi'ah.”
Scholars like Abu al–Abbas al–Najashi, Sheikh al–Tusi and Allamah ibn al–Mutahhar al–Hilli (in Al–Khulasah) have declared that the Ibn Khalawayh under discussion was an Imamiyyah Shi'ah.