This week we return to the final biography in the chapter on women in Ibn Tulun’s work al-Ghuraf (fol. 359a). The subject of the following short biography sheds light on some intriguing aspects of such transmission. It also poses somewhat of a riddle with regard to her own role within transmission.
عايشة بنت ابي بكر بن علي بن منصور الصالحية
الحنفية الشيخة الصالحة المسندة الاصيلة ام محمد بنت سيف الدين بن الموفق بن
ابي القسم الشهيرة بابنة قوايح سمعت متاب التوبة لابن ابي الدنيا علي القسم
بن عساكر سنة احد وعشرين وسبعماية بدرب التربة داخل باب توما بدمشق ثم
اسمعته وقالت دهب[sic] امام الحرمين وطايفة من اهل الحديث الى المنع من اطلاق اسم
على الله وان كان معناه حقا كواجب الوجود ونحوه الا بتوقيف عن النبي صلى الله
عليه وسلم او عن الله انتهى والله اعلم
ʿĀʾisha bt. Abī Bakr b. ʿAlī b. Manṣūr al-Ṣāliḥiyya al-Ḥanafiyya, the shaykha, the pious, the sound traditionary, Umm Muḥammad bt. Sayf al-Dīn b. al-Muwaffaq b. Abī al-Qasm, known as Ibnat Qawāʾiḥ (daughter of sweepers?). She heard Ibn Abī al-Dunyā’s Kitāb al-tūba from al-Qasm Ibn ʿAsākir in 721 in the alley of the turba, inside Bāb Tūmā in Damascus. Then she transmitted it and she said” the imam of al-Ḥaramayn came with a group (ṭāʾifa) of hadith transmitters to prohibit her [general use of God’s name and their reasoning was sound]”. God knows best!
Here we have a woman that not only participated in the transmission of knowledge but attempted to shape it herself. We cannot overestimate the honorifics with which she is introduced: a shaykha and sound traditionary! Moreover, see seems to have gone by a name that, while my translation may be faulty, certainly was not derived from any male relative.
That is not to say that her relations are played down in the biography itself. Quite the contrary, her claim to scholarly repute rested on the author Ibn Abi Dunya (was he related to Dunya who was the subject of the first of these posts?), the teacher al-Qasm Ibn Asakir, as well as Ibn Tulun himself, who most likely included her as a native of his own home-quarter Salihiyya.
Nevertheless, this biography stands out more than the two afore-going ones. On the one hand, ʿAʾisha is speaking herself which is exceptional in its own right. On the other hand, the biography gives a rare glimpse in how women challenged the male supremacy over the interpretation of God’s words and how those challenges were received by the male establishment. Ibn Tulun’s closing statement ‘God knows best’ indicates at least a little doubt in the judgement of the traditionaries involved in rebuking ʿAʾisha.