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Ab lib al-Makk

(1,749 words)
Ab lib Muammad b. Al b. Aiyya al-rith al-Ajam al-Makk (d. 386/996) was an ascetic, a
f, a preacher, and author of the Qt al-qulb f mumalat al-mabb wa-waf arq al-murd il
maqm al-tawd (Nourishment of the hearts in relations with the beloved and a description of the
path of the aspirant to the station of divine unicity), an encyclopaedic manual of f piety that
influenced a number of notable fs of subsequent generations. Born into a family hailing from the
province of al-Jibl (ancient Media), al-Makk grew up in Mecca, where he attached himself to Ab
Sad al-Arb (d. 341/952), a f of Basran origin and himself a student of the great f theoretician
and exponent of sober fism, al-Junayd (d. 298/910) of Baghdad. In addition to al-Arb, al-Makk
cites bid al-Sha Muaffar b. Sahl and Ab Al al-Kirmn as his masters in Mecca (al-Makk, Die
Nahrung, 34.127, 47.17), but little is known about either. He also heard adth from Abdallh b. Jafar
b. Fris al-Ifahn (d. 346/957) and, possibly later, in Baghdad, he heard the a (The sound) of
the famous traditionist al-Bukhr (d. 256/870), as transmitted by Ab Zayd al-Marwaz (d. 371/982), a
traditionist of the Shfi school. At some point al-Makk left for Iraq, settling in the city of Basra for a
time before eventually making his way to Baghdad, where he died in Jumd II 386/June 996, finding
his final resting place in the city's cemetery for followers of the Mlik school.
The exact dates of al-Makk's movements are unknown, although an autobiographical passage in the
Qt al-qulb finds him still in Mecca in 330/9412 (al-Makk, Die Nahrung, 31.175). A report cited by
the historian al-Khab al-Baghdd (d. 463/1071) on the testimony of the Baghdadi preacher Ibn alAllf (d. 442/1050) states that al-Makk arrived in Basra after the death of the f, theologian, and
preacher Amad b. Muammad b. Slimwho died between 350/961 and 360/971, or, according to
Ibn al-Athr, in 356/967and that he then represented himself as a follower of Ibn Slim's teachings
(al-Khab al-Baghdd, 3:89). This report, however, is contradicted by al-Makk's own claim that he in
fact saw Ibn Slim in person during his lifetime (al-Makk, Die Nahrung, 34.7, 36.19). Many of alMakk's biographerssee, for example, al-Dhahab, al-Ibar, 3:34; al-Yfi, 2:430; al-Asqaln,
5:300make a point of mentioning his close association with the Slimiyya, a mystical theological
school associated with Muammad b. Slim (d. 297/909) and his son, the aforementioned Amad b.
Muammad b. Slim, both former disciples of the noted Basran mystic Sahl al-Tustar (d. 283/896) and
pre-eminent heirs to his teachings (Bwering, 8999). Indeed, extensive references in the Qt al-qulb
evince al-Makk's indebtedness to the Tustar-Slimiyya tradition (al-Makk, Die Nahrung, index: 71,
2079,), and since no works of Muammad b. Slim or Amad b. Muammad b. Slim survive, this is
at present the only reliable source for their teachings. However, the exact nature of the connection is
unclear and requires further study (see Gramlich intro., al-Makk, Die Nahrung, 1:156).
Perhaps inspired by the practices of the Slimiyya, al-Makk gained a reputation for asceticism, for a
time consuming nothing but wild herbs, until his skin took on a green tinge (Ibn Khallikn, 4:303).

Upon his arrival in Baghdad, he set himself up as a preacher, although he quickly drew the ire of his
audience, one statement in particular eliciting sharp condemnation: There is nothing more harmful to
creatures than the creator (laysa al l-makhlqn aarr min al-khliq; al-afad, 4:116). The
significance of this report is unclear but is likely rooted in the early anathematisation of the Slimiyya.
He subsequently renounced public preaching and retired into seclusion.
Little is known about al-Makk's later years, although he is reported to have frequented the circles of
certain Baghdadi traditionists and fs, including Al b. Amad al-Mi (d. 364/9745), who also
transmitted adth to the great Shfi scholar and f biographer Ab Nuaym al-Ifahn (d.
430/1038), and Ab Bakr al-Mufd al-Jarjar (d. 378/988), a traditionist who is said to have associated
with al-Junayd as a boy (al-Anr, abaqt al-fiyya, ed. Muammad Sarvar Mawl (Tehran
1362sh/1983), 508; Jm, 201, 349). It is also reported that al-Makk fathered a son, Umar b.
Muammad b. Al (d. 445/1053), and that he transmitted adth to the Baghdadi traditionist and author
Abd al-Azz al-Azaj (d. 444/1052).
Al-Makk's fame derives primarily from his Qt al-qulb, a sizable treatise divided into forty-eight
chapters of varying length, structured in such a way as to constitute a systematic compendium of f
piety and practice that, in the style of a manual of jurisprudence, covers acts of worship, the nature of
the human psycho-spiritual constitution and its disciplining, theological issues, the stations and states
of the f path, and various practical and social matters, with every case presented in such a way so as
to elucidate the subtle inner meanings of each action or topic under discussion. Abstruse in parts, as a
whole the text is infused with a guarded conservatism, the author apologetically rejecting what he sees
as innovation, speculative fancy, and mystical excess in favour of the Qurn, adth, and especially the
exempla of the f paragons of the past. Although later criticised by the prominent anbal scholar of
Baghdad Ibn al-Jawz (d. 597/1200) for relying upon weak traditions (Ibn al-Jawz, 7:189), al-Makk
takes pains to inform his readers that he chose to follow the practice of Amad b. anbal (d. 241/855),
the eponym of the anbals, in preferring a weak adth over the use of reasoning based on ray
(personal opinion) and qiy -(analogy) (al-Makk, Die Nahrung, 31.23342).
Apparently unknown to the f authorities of the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries, the earliest
reference to the Qt al-qulb outside the prosopography is by the outstanding theologian, jurist,
original thinker, mystic, and religious reformer Ab mid al-Ghazl (d. 505/1111), who mentions it
among the works to which he turned for information on fism (al-Munqidh min al-all, ed. Abd alalm Mamd (Cairo 1964), 59); indeed, al-Ghazl's Iy ulm al-dn (The revivification of the
religious sciences) displays a significant reliance upon al-Makk's text (see K. Nakamura, Makk and
Ghazl on mystical practices, Orient 20 (1984), 8391). Much the same can be said for the influential
f master of Baghdad Umar al-Suhraward (d. 632/1234), who not only considered al-Makk an
authority on fism, but often quotes and paraphrases the Qt al-qulb in his own f handbook, the
Awrif al-marif (Benefits of intimate knowledge). It is telling that copies of the Qt al-qulb
found a place alongside the Awrif in the khnqh (hospice) libraries of al-Suhraward's disciples
and their successors in Iraq and Syria (Ibn al-Mustawf, Tarkh Irbil, ed. Sm b. al-Sayyid al-aqqr
(Baghdad 1980), 1:2589; al-afad, 4:116). The Qt al-qulb likewise gained popularity among

members of the early Shdhiliyya f brotherhood in Egypt and North Africa (Ibn Aallh, Laif
al-minan, ed. Abd al-alm Mamd (Cairo 1974), 1920, 17980), with Ibn Abbd al-Rund (d.
792/1390) finding it to be a particularly profound work (al-Rasil al-ughr, ed. Paul Nwyia (Beirut
1974), index), as did the great Persian f settled in Konya, Jall al-Dn Rm (d. 672/1273), over a
century earlier (Mathnaw-yi manaw, ed. Reynold A. Nicholson (Tehran 1371Sh/1957), 1172 (bk. 6,
l.2653)). A number of early extracts and commentaries on the text are also extant (GAS 1:667).
In addition to the Qt al-qulb, al-Makk is reported to have authored other works, although they are all
either spurious or have not survived. Al-Makk's Ilm al-qulb (Science of the hearts; ed. Abd alQdir Amad A, Cairo 1384/1964) is a treatise about a quarter the length of the Qt al-qulb,
whose focus and content is decidedly more esoteric and recondite, devoted mainly to explicating f
concepts and technical terminology. Gramlich has argued, on the basis of a number of internal features
not the least of which is the fact that al-Makk is quoted in the third person in a number of places
that it was composed by a follower (see Gramlich intro., al-Makk, Die Nahrung, 1:20; but cf. A's
comments in al-Makk, Ilm al-qulb, 2914). Although attributed to al-Makk by Carl Brockelmann
because of a reference in an epistle of the aforementioned al-Rund (GAL 1:217), al-Makk's al-Bayn
al-shf (The decisive explanation) is not, it transpires, a discrete work, but rather simply a
bibliographical error resulting from a grammatically confusing reference (al-Rund, 19).
Al-Makk also produced a collection of forty adth, compiled from among those transmitted to him by
al-Ifahnwho granted him an ijza (authorisation to transmit adth)and al-Marwaz. Although
this collection is not extant, it is documented by al-Dhahab (d. 748/1348 or 753/13523), who reports
seeing a copy of the text in the author's handwriting (al-Dhahab, Siyar, 16:537; al-Dhahab, Tarkh,
19:128). Also lost is the Kitb mansik al-ajj (Book of the rites of the pilgrimage), a work
mentioned by al-Makk in the Qt al-qulb (al-Makk, Die Nahrung, 34.92), and perhaps the source for
Umar al-Suhraward's ilyat al-nsik f l-mansik (Ornament of the devotee in the rites of the
pilgrimage; Istanbul, Sleymaniye Library, MS Ayasofya 11363, fols. 98b121b).
Erik S. Ohlander

al-Makk, Qt al-qulb, 4 vols., Cairo 1351/1932
trans. and ed. Richard Gramlich, Die Nahrung der Herzen. Ab lib al-Makks Qt al-qulb, 4 vols.,
Stuttgart 1992
al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh Baghdd (Cairo 1931), 3:89 n.1079
al-Samn, al-Ansb, ed. Riy Murd and Mu al-fi (Beirut 1984), 11:4634 (s.v. al-Makk)
Ibn al-Jawz, al-Muntaam (Hyderabad 1941), 7:18990 n.303
Ibn Khallikn, Wafayt al-ayn, ed. Isn Abbs (Beirut 1977), 4:3034 n.630
al-Dhahab, al-Ibar f khabar man ghabar, ed. Fud Sayyid (Kuwait 1961), 3:334, s.v. anno 386

al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, ed. Shuayb al-Arn and usayn al-Asad (Beirut 1982),
16:5367 n.393
al-Dhahab, Tarkh al-Islm, ed. Umar Tadmur (Beirut, 1988-), 19:1278, s.v. anno 386
al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt (Wiesbaden 1959), 4:116, n.1609
al-Yfi, Mirt al-jann (Hyderabad 133740/191921), 2:430, s.v. anno 386
al-Asqaln, Lisn al-mzn (Hyderabad 1329/1911), 5:300 n.1014
Jm, Nafat al-uns, ed. M. bid (Tehran 1373/199452), 122, n.125
GAL 1:217
GALS 1:35960
GAS 1:6667
al-Zirikl, al-Alm, Beirut 1979, 6:274
Gerhard Bwering, The mystical vision of existence in classical Islam (Berlin 1980), 258, index
W. Mohd Azam, Ab Tlib al-Makk. A traditional f, Hamdard Islamicus 22.3 (1999), 719
Alexander Knysh, Islamic mysticism. A short history (Leiden 2000), 1212, index.
Cite this page

Ohlander, Erik S.. "Ab lib al-Makk." Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Kate Fleet,
Gudrun Krmer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online, 2016. Reference. Emory
University. 10 April 2016