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Ab Zura al-Rz

(1,571 words)
Ab Zura Ubaydallh b. Abd al-Karm b. Yazd b. Farrkh (mawl of Ayysh b. Muarrif) alQurash al-Rz (b. c.200/8156 or perhaps 194/80910, d. 30 Dh l-ijja 264/2 September 878),
sometimes called Ab Zura al-Kabr, was an important adth scholar of Rayy, in northern Iran. He
was a relative of Ab tim Muammad b. Idrs al-Raz, but whether a maternal uncle, cousin, or
nephew (ibn ukhtihi) is uncertain (Dickinson, 18). He is not to be confused with Ab Zura Amad b.
usayn b. Al al-Rz al-aghr (or al-Awsa) (d. 375/9856; al-Dhahab, 17:468) or with Ab Zura
al-Rz al-Aghar Raw b. Muammad, q of Isfahan (d. 423/10312; al-Dhahab, 17:512), the
grandson of Ab Bakr b. al-Sunn (d. 364/974).
Ab Zura is considered one of the preeminent adth scholars of his generation (the fourteenth class of
scholars in the Siyar of al-Dhahab (d. 748/1348)) and, in the Sunn accounting, one of the best in
adth criticism, especially for his skill in declaring which traditions and transmitters were unreliable
and which were trustworthy (al-jar wa-l-tadl). Ab Zura also contributed to the establishment of a
traditional Sunn theology, in opposition to dialectical theology, that conformed to the views of Ibn
anbal (d. 241/855)one of his mastersand others.
After his initial education in his home town, he is said to have set off at the age of thirteen from Rayy
for Kufa, where he stayed ten months (al-Dhahab, 13:78). It was probably there, in 214/829, that he
heard the lessons of the adth scholar Ab Nuaym al-Fal b. Dukayn (d. 219/834), who opposed the
doctrine of the createdness of the Qurn (Ibn Ab tim al-Rz, Taqdima, 329). After returning to
Rayy he attended, from 214/829 to 222/837, the lessons of several masters, including Ibrhm b. Ms
al-Rz, from whom he recorded sixty or seventy thousand adths, of which eighteen thousand
concerned ablutions and prayer. In Raman 222/837 he set off for Mecca (Ibn Ab tim, Taqdima,
335; al-Mizz, 12:227). His second journey (according to his own account) in pursuit of knowledge
(alab al-ilm) took place from 227/8412 to the beginning of 232/846. He made the pilgrimage and
then stayed fifteen months in Egypt, hearing the books of al-Shfi and writing them down (on the
lengths to which Ab Zura went in acquiring the books of al-Shfi, see Lucas, 154, n. 155). He then
went to al-Shm (Syria) and al-Jazra (in Upper Mesopotamia). In 230/8445 he was in Baghdad, then
in Kufa and Basra. His third journey, of four and a half years, was again to al-Shm, Iraq, and Egypt
(Ibn Ab tim, Taqdima, 340).
According to the anaf jurist Ab Jafar al-aw (d. 321/933), the three greatest traditionists of the
time resided together in Rayy (hence their epithet al-Rziyyn): Ab Zura, Ibn Wra (d. 270/884),
and Ab tim (al-Dhahab, 13:29). Ab Zura cultivated his prodigious memory with constant
practice (al-Dhahab, 13:79, trans. Melchert, 28), individually and with other scholars, with whom he
engaged in mudhkaras, informal competitions to determine who could recite the most tradition reports
and/or the most chains of authority for a given text (Melchert, 1822); this differed from the

disputation (munara) of the rationalist jurisprudents. This practice also provided an opportunity to
learn more traditions and chains of authorities and occasionally to correct texts. An expert in
mudhkara, Ab Zura competed in Baghdad with Ibn anbal, who recited the supererogatory prayers
(nawfil) on the basis of Ab Zura's mudhkara alone. Ibn anbal is said to have declared that, while
he himself had memorised 700,000 adths, this young man (Ab Zura) had memorised 600,000
(Ibn Ab Yal, 1:199). In Egypt, Ab Zura examined eighty thousand traditions transmitted by Ibn
Wahb (d. 197/813; Ibn Ab tim, Taqdima, 335). He was an expert on the traditions of the Muwaa
of Mlik b. Anas (d. 179/796) and its supplements (ziydt, that is, traditions lacking in a given version
of the work but found in another or others. There are three, nine or fifteen versions of the Muwatta
(Gilliot, in SI 90 (2000), 1934). In a version or some versions we can find traditions which are not in
others, and which are called ziydt to this or that version, e.g., Ibn Abd al-Barr, al-Ziydt allat
taqa f l-Muwaa inda Yay b. Yay an Mlik, (Cairo 1350/1931; GAS, 1:459) (Ibn Ab tim,
Taqdima, 331), and on the responsa of al-Awz (d. 157/774) and Sufyn al-Thawr (Ibn Ab tim,
Taqdima, 331). He is said to have memorised the books of Ab anfa in forty days (al-Mizz, 12:229),
as well as ten thousand traditions on the qirt (systems of Qurnic recitation) (al-Mizz, 12:227), or
140,000 traditions on the qirt and on exegesis (al-Mizz, 12:229).
Ab Zura attacked the adth scholar Muslim b. al-ajjj (d. 261/875) for at least two reasons: (1) the
novelty of his (and others') undertaking to compile collections of only fully reliable traditions (huli
ard l-taqadduma qabla awnihi, fa-amil shayan yatasawwaqna bihi, they wanted to achieve
prominence before they had earned it, so they produced something they could market), and (2) the
inclusion in his a of adth reports from certain weak transmitters, thus clearing the way for
innovators or heretics (Tarkh Baghdd, 4:2734; al-Dhahab, 12:571; Melchert, 28; Brown, 2802).
It is said, however, that Muslim presented his Musnadperhaps the larger adth collection he
compiled before his ato Ab Zura and removed everything that the latter pointed out to him as
defective, retaining only such traditions as were declared genuine by Ab Zura (al-Dhahab, 12:568;
Lucas, 46, n. 98). Ibn Mja (d. 275/8889) presented his Sunan to Ab Zura, who asserted that they
would supersede the other collections of traditions, adding that they contained only about thirty weak
traditions (al-Dhahab, 13:278).
In theology, Ab Zura is presented as a great opponent of dialectal theology (kalm), as illustrated by
the dream of one of his worthiest colleagues, the traditionist Ibn Wra, who saw Ab Zura in a dream
and asked him, Have you refrained from dialectical theology? Ab Zura answered that the people of
kalm had called the religion into question and used kalm to harm Ab Abdallh (repeating the
name three or four times). For Ibn Wra, the kunya Ab Abdallh denoted three or four scholars
Mlik b. Anas, Sufyn al-Thawr (d. 161/778), al-Shfi (d. 204/820), and Ibn anbal (al-Khall,
Irshd, 1:2845; Ibn Ab tim, Taqdima, 346; Tarkh Baghdd, 10:336)all of whom are considered
opponents of kalm. Ab Zura was also highly critical of al-Shfi's disciple al-Muzan (d. 264/878),
who is said to have declared that the enunciation of the Qurn was created (al-Dhahab, 14:78; Ibn
Abd al-Hd, 2:4601; Melchert, 80).
Ab Zura is credited with only one book, the Kitb al-zuhd (Book of renunciation) (GAS 1:145), but

his student, the traditionist Ab Uthmn al-Bardha (d. 292/905; GAS 1:163), transmitted his views
and those of Ab tim on the qualifications of adth transmitters in a work sometimes referred to as
Ab Zura al-Rz's Kitb al-uaf (al-Hshim; Gilliot, Textes arabes, no. 157). His views are also
reported in Ibn Ab tim al-Rz's Ilal al-adth and in later works, such as the Tahdhb of al-Mizz
(d. 742/1341). A Sunn creed ascribed to him and his relative and friend Ab tim has been preserved
(al-Llak, 1:197204; trans. Abrahamov, 547), as has another attributed to him alone (Ibn Ab
Yal, 1:2012; van Ess, 2:6367).
Claude Gilliot

Ab Zura al-Rz, Kitb al-uaf (with al-Bardha) in Sad al-Hshim, Ab Zura wa-juhduhu f
l-sunna al-nabawiyya, 3 vols., Medina 1982, Cairo and Medina 19892
al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, ed. Shuayb al-Arn and usayn al-Asad (Beirut 19818),
Ibn Abd al-Hd, abaqt ulam al-adth, ed. Akram al-Bsh and Ibrhm al-Zaybaq, 4 vols.,
Beirut 1417/19972 (1406/19861)
Ibn Ab tim al-Rz, Taqdimat al-marifa li-Kitb al-jar wa-l-tadl (Hyderabad 1371/1952), 328
Ibn Ab tim al-Rz, Ilal al-adth, ed. Muibb al-Dn al-Khab, 2 vols. in 1, Cairo 1343/1925,
repr., with index vol. by Ysuf al-Marashl, Beirut 19856
Ibn Ab Yal b. al-Farr, abaqt al-anbila, ed. Muammad mid al-Fiq (Cairo 1371/1952, repr.
Beirut n.d.), 1:199203, no. 271
al-Khall, Kitb al-irshd f marifat ulam al-adth, ed. Muammad Sad b. Umar Idrs (Riyadh
1409/1989), 2:6789
al-Llak, Shar ul itiqd ahl al-sunna wa-l-jama, ed. Amad b. Sad b. amdn al-Ghmid
(Riyadh 1418/19975), 1:197204 (creed of Ab Zura and Ab tim)
al-Mizz, Tahdhb al-kaml f asm al-rijl, ed. A. A. Abd and . A. gh (Beirut 1414/1994),
12:22334, no. 4244
al-Ulaym, al-Manhaj al-amad f tarjim ab Amad, ed. Abd al-Qdir al-Arn, 6 vols. (Beirut
1997), 1:2447, no. 90.
GAS 1:145
Binyamin Abrahamov, Islamic theology. Traditionalism and rationalism, Edinburgh 1998

Jonathan A. C. Brown, The canonization of al-Bukhr and Muslim. The formation and function of the
Sunn adth Canon, Leiden 2007
Eerik Dickinson, The development of early Sunnite adth criticism. The Taqdima of Ibn Ab tim alRz, Leiden 2001
van Ess, TG, 2:6367, 4:217
Claude Gilliot, Textes arabes anciens dits en Egypte, MIDEO 20 (1991), 301504; 256 (2004), 193
Sad al-Hshim, Ab Zura al-Rz wa-juhduhu f l-sunna al-nabawiyya, 3 vols., Medina 1982,
Cairo and Medina 19892
Umar Ri Kala, Mujam al-muallifn (Damascus 195761, repr. Beirut n.d.), 6:239
Scott C. Lucas, Constructive critics, adth literature, and the articulation of Sunn Islam. The legacy
of the generation of Ibn Sad, Ibn Man, and Ibn anbal, Leiden 2004
Christopher Melchert, The formation of the Sunn schools of law. 9th10th centuries C.E., Leiden 1997
al-Zirikl, al-Alm (Beirut 19794), 4:194.
Cite this page

Gilliot, Claude. "Ab Zura al-Rz." Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun
Krmer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online, 2015. Reference. Emory
University. 27 November 2015
First appeared online: 2010