Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani

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Abu Nu`aym al-Isfahani
Died23 October 1038[1]
Main interest(s)Hadith studies, Fiqh
Muslim leader

Abu Nu`aym al-Isfahani (أبـو نـعـيـم الأصـفـهـانـي; full name Ahmad ibn `Abd Allāh ibn Ahmad ibn Ishāq ibn Mūsā ibn Mahrān al-Mihrānī al-Asbahānī (or al-Asfahānī) al-Ahwal al-Ash`arī al-Shāfi`ī, died 1038 CE / AH 430) was a medieval Persian[3][4] Shafi'i scholar and a transmitter of hadith.[5]

Born in Buwayhid era Isfahan, he travelled widely, visiting Nishapur, Basra, Kufa, Baghdad, Mecca and Andalusia. He is the presumed author of Hilyat al-awliya' , one of the most important sources for the early development of Sufism. He was regarded as one of the best hadith authorities by his contemporary Khatib al-Baghdadi, and by Dhahabi and Taqi al-Din al-Subki.[1]

Due to Abu Nu'aym criticisms of Hanbalite literalism in respect to anthropomorphic expressions in the Quran and Hadith, the Hanbalite Ibn Manda was reported to have been involved in a vicious dispute with him.[6] He denounced Abu Nu’aym's creed as unorthodox and banished him from the Jami' mosque of Isfahan, that was dominated by Ibn Manda's Hanbali faction.[6] Abu Nu'aym is unlikely to have been well trained in Ash'ari kalam himself however, but he did approve of it, calling it, "the kalam in accordance with the doctrine of the ahl al-sunnah".[6]


Abû Nu`aym authored over a hundred works, among them:

  • The Hilyat al-awliya' is a substantial work in ten volumes, comprising a total of 650 biographies, amounting to about 4,000 pages in the printed edition. The work includes many biographies of early Islam. Most biographies of individuals that are directly involved with the development of Sufi mysticism are found in the tenth volume.
  • Al-Arba`în `alâ Madhhab al-Mutahaqqiqîn min al-Sûfiyya, in print
  • Dalâ'il al-Nubuwwa ("The Signs and Proofs of Prophethood"), devoted entirely to the person of the Prophet Muhammad, this large work - partly in print - was expanded by al-Bayhaqî to seven volumes in a like-titled work.
  • Dhikr Akhbâr Asbahân ("Memorial of the Chronicles of Ispahan"), in print
  • Al-Du`afâ', in print
  • Fadâ'il al-Khulafâ' al-Arba`a wa Ghayrihim, in print
  • Fadîlat al-`Adilîn min al-Wulât, a collection of over forty narrations on just government and the duties of the governed towards the rulers. Al-Sakhâwî documented each narration in detail and both the work and its documentation were published.
  • Juz` fî Turuq Hadîth Inna Lillâhi Tis`atun wa Tis`îna Isman, in print
  • Al-Mahdî.
  • Ma`rifat al-Sahâba wa Fadâ'ilihim ("Knowing the Companions and Their Merits"), in print. This book was the basis of subsequent similar works by Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Ibn al-Athîr, and Ibn Hajar.
  • Musnad al-Imâm Abî Hanîfa, in print
  • Al-Mustakhraj `alâ al-Bukhârî ("Additional Narrations Meeting al-Bukhârî's Criterion"), in print
  • Al-Mustakhraj `alâ Muslim ("Additional Narrations Meeting Muslim's Criterion"), in print
  • Riyâdat al-Abdân, in print
  • Al-Shu`arâ' ("The Poets").
  • Al-Sifât. Al-Suyûtî mentioned it in his commentary on Sûrat al-Nâs in his book al-Iklîl fî Istinbât al-Tanzîl.
  • Sifat al-Janna ("Description of Paradise"), in print
  • Tabaqât al-Muhaddithîn wal-Ruwât ("Biography-Layers of the Hadîth Scholars and Narrators").
  • Tasmiyatu mâ Intahâ ilaynâ min al-Ruwât `an al-Fadl ibn Dukayn `Aliyan, in print
  • Tasmiyatu mâ Intahâ ilaynâ min al-Ruwât `an Sa`îd ibn Mansûr `Aliyan, in print
  • Tathbît al-Imâma wa Tartîb al-Khilâfa, in print, a refutation of Shî`ism.
  • Al-Tibb al-Nabawî ("Prophetic Medicine").


  1. ^ a b c d e Gibb, H.A.R.; Kramers, J.H.; Levi-Provencal, E.; Schacht, J. (1986) [1st. pub. 1960]. Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition). Volume I (A-B). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 142. ISBN 9004081143.
  2. ^ Lewis, B.; Menage, V.L.; Pellat, Ch.; Schacht, J. (1986) [1st. pub. 1971]. Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition). Volume III (H-Iram). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 751. ISBN 9004081186.
  3. ^ Frye, ed. by R.N. (1975). The Cambridge history of Iran (Repr. ed.). London: Cambridge U.P. p. 461. ISBN 978-0-521-20093-6. The authors of most of these works, which have been the mainstay of Sufi literature to this day within the khanaqahs, were Persians, such men as Kalabadhi, Sarraj, Makki, Sulami and Abu Nu'aim.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Meri, Josef W. (January 2006). Medieval Islamic Civilization, Volume 1 An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 401. ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7. Al-Isfahani Abu Nu‘aym Ahmad b. ‘Abdallah, was born in Isfahan in around AH 336/948 CE. Although he wrote exclusively in Arabic, he was of Persian origin.
  5. ^ The Encyclopædia of Islam: A Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography and Biography of the Muhammadan Peoples. Holland: EJ Brill. 1913. p. 102.
  6. ^ a b c W. Madelung, "Abū No'aym Al-Esfahāni," Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, pp. 354–355; available online at [1]
  • Norman Calder, Jawid Ahmad Mojaddedi, Andrew Rippin, Classical Islam: a sourcebook of religious literature, Routledge, 2003, ISBN 978-0-415-24032-1, p. 237.