The Emergence of Early Sufi Piety and Sunni Scholasticism
In the figure of 'Abdallah b. al-Mubarak (118–181/736–797), we find a paragon of the fields of hadith, zuhd, and jihad, as attested to by the large number of references to him in the classical Islamic texts. His superior rank as a hadith transmitter earned him the title “commander of the faithful” in hadith. He contributed to Islamic law at its early phases of development, practiced jihad, composed poetry, and participated in various theological discussions. In addition, Ibn al-Mubarak was a pioneer in writing on piety and was later regarded by many mystics as one of the earliest figures of Sufism. Ibn al-Mubarak’s position during the formative period of Islamic thought illustrates the unique evolution of zuhd, hadith, and jihad; these form a junction in the biography of Ibn al-Mubarak in a way that distinctively illuminates the second/eighth-century dynamics of nascent Sunni identity. Furthermore, Ibn al-Mubarak’s status as a fighter and pious figure of the Late Antique period reveals a great deal about the complex relationship between the early Muslim community and the religiously diverse setting which it inhabited. This critical and comprehensive monograph of 'Abdallah b. al-Mubarak situates him within the larger context of the social and religious milieu of Late Antiquity. It explores the formation of Sunni identity in the second Islamic century and demonstrates the way in which it manifested itself through networks of pious scholars who defined, preserved, and passed on what they understood to be normative Islamic practice and beliefs from one generation of Muslim intellectuals to another.