The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

To reveal an apocalypse

I am currently sifting through a vast slurry of apocalyptic ahadith, mainly current in the early Abbasid period. These hadiths often coalesce around a person.

Jesus is important of course, but usually he drops down to Earth alongside more mysterious figures. Some of the latter are (also) defined by God’s chrism: “Mahdi”, “Mansur”; others, by their heritage: “Qahtani”, “Sufyani”, “he of the Prophet’s household”. The titles often descend in clouds upon singular figures: thus, the Qahtani Mansur, and the Mahdi from Ali’s shia. And sometimes, the hero of one party is the villain of the next – particularly notable of the Sufyani.

I think that whenever an apocalypse is tracked to a given transmitter, all we can say is that this transmitter published it to serve his own cause in his own time. There may or may not be an older tradition behind that.

As one example, take the tradition of the hero from “between rukn and maqam”. Something like seven decades of scholarship have pinned this upon Abd Allah bin al-Zubayr. But not all scholars are fully certain (the two Cooks, Michael and David, have voiced this skepticism); there seems to be a re-application of this trope to Muhammad Nafs al-Afaya al-Hasani (rebelled 762 AD). In this case, I have confidence that it was originally Zubayrite; on account that no less a muhaddith as Ibn Abi Shaybah bundled these rukn-maqam traditions together in a Zubayrite-era section. But we are not always so fortunate.

posted by Zimri on 17:55 | link | 0 comments

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