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Call for Papers: Compiling a Tradition: The History and Development of the Early Imāmī Hadith Corpora

Al-Mahdi Institute has announced the call for papers for their upcoming two-day conference, running from Monday, 12 February until Tuesday, 13 February 2024, titled: ‘Compiling a Tradition: The History and Development of the Early Imāmī Hadith Corpora, convened by Dr Haidar Hobbollah.

Whilst the study of the Qurʾan has rightly received increased attention in contemporary scholarship, the study of the second most important scriptural source in the Islamic tradition – the hadith corpora – has received comparatively little attention. Although an increasing number of studies on the Sunnī hadith tradition have emerged, the Imāmī Shīʿī tradition remains on the periphery. The hadith corpora of the Imāmīs include not only traditions ascribed to the Prophet Muḥammad, but also to the twelve Imams and other important figures in the Imāmī tradition. For this reason, the Imāmī hadith corpora is much larger than those of other Muslim traditions and contain a wealth of information for reconstructing early Islamic – and specifically Shīʿī – history, doctrine, and law which has still not been taken full advantage of.  

Amongst the wide range of Imāmī literature which emerged during the formative period from the first/seventh to the fifth/eleventh centuries, those works which became known as ‘the Four Books’ (al-kutub al-arbaʿa) came to be deemed the most authoritative sources of Imāmī hadith by later scholars. This raises the question, however, of what became of the other works in the Imāmī corpora which emerged during this period. Why were other compilations not afforded the same attention and status by later scholars? Were alternative works perceived to be more authoritative prior to the ‘canonisation’ of the ‘Four Books’? Several studies have shown how geography and ideology played a significant role in influencing the style and substance of certain compilations and led to the emergence of ‘schools’ of hadith, specifically in Kufa and Qom. Further work is required, however, to understand the extent of the influence of such schools on the development of the corpora more broadly. The study of the narrators featured in the Imāmī compilations remains almost untouched in contemporary scholarship. What can these narrators tell us about the development of the early Imāmī hadith corpora? And finally, as the ‘Four Books’ in the main concentrated on legal issues, what can alternative sources tell us about the history and development of Imāmism in general?  

This conference provides a platform to address these and many more issues surrounding the history and development of the early Imāmī hadith corpora from the first/seventh to the fifth/eleventh centuries, considering works such as the ‘Four Books’ and those which did not achieve the same level of popularity in the tradition. The proceedings from this conference shall be published in an edited volume with AMI Press.

This two-day conference invites proposals related to – but not exclusive of – the following topics: 

  • The historical authenticity of early Imāmī hadith works composed up to the fifth/eleventh century.  
  • The ‘schools’ of Imāmī hadith in the formative period, specifically those that emerged in Kufa and Qom. 
  • The process of the compilation of early Imāmī hadith works. 
  • The process of the collection and recording of hadith from the Prophet and the ahl al-bayt 
  • The history of the transmission of early Imāmī hadith works. 
  • The structure of early Imāmī hadith works. 
  • The exclusion of other early Imāmī hadith works from ‘canonical’ status. 
  • The narrators featured in early Imāmī hadith works.  
  • Methods for dating early Imāmī hadith works. 
  • Comparative studies of hadith works across the Imāmī tradition and between other Muslim traditions. 
  • Methodological papers on how to navigate the early Imāmī hadith corpora, including digital humanities approaches.  
  • Thematic studies of the contents of early Imāmī hadith works.  

The following list includes just some of the works which scholars are invited to consider: 

  • Books attributed to the ahl al-bayt, such as, al-Ṣaḥīfa al-sajjādiyya and Risālat al-ḥuqūq attributed to al-Imam Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn (d. 95/713), Miṣbāḥ al-sharīʿa and Tafsīr al-aḥlām attributed to al-Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (d. 148/765), al-Fiqh al-Raḍawī attributed to al-Imam ʿAlī al-Riḍā (d. 203/818), and the Tafsīr attributed to al-Imam al-Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī (d. 260/874), amongst others 
  • Works described as uṣūl  
  • Kitāb Sulaym attributed to Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilālī (d. 78/678) 
  • Kitāb al-tawḥīd of al-Mufaḍḍal b. ʿUmar al-Juʿfī (d. after 183/799) 
  • Al-ʿIlal attributed to al-Faḍl b. Shādhān (d. 260/874) 
  • Al-Maḥāsin of Aḥmad al-Barqī (d. 274/887-8 or 280/893-4) 
  • Qurb al-isnād of ʿAbdallāh b. Jaʿfar al-Ḥimyarī (d. after 293/905 or 305/917) 
  • Al-Nawādir of Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ʿĪsā al-Ashʿarī (fl. 274/887) 
  • Baṣaʾir al-darajāt of Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṣaffār al-Qummī (d. 290/902-3) 
  • Tafsīr al-Qummī of ʿAlī b. Ibrāhīm al-Qummī (fl. 307/919) 
  • Al-Hidāya al-kubrā of Abu ʿAbdallāh al-Khaṣībī (d. 358/969) 
  • Tuḥaf al-ʿuqūl of Ibn Shuʿba al-Ḥarrānī (d. 4th/10th century) 
  • The ‘Four Books’ (al-kutub al-arbaʿa) 

By submitting an abstract, applicants also commit to submitting a full academic paper of between 8,000 and 12,000 words which will form part of an edited book to be published in 2025 by AMI Press. Upon successful completion of all publication requirements, contributors will be awarded an honorarium.  

The language of the conference (and published papers) will be English. The conference will run over two days, each having 6–8 papers, and includes lunch, refreshments, and dinner. Each paper should last no more than 20 minutes. All presenters are required to stay for the full two days. 

AMI shall cover the accommodation and reasonable travel costs within the UK and EU of each presenter. Limited funds are available to support the travel costs of those located beyond the UK and EU.  Where possible, presenters are encouraged to seek funding from their respective institutions to enable AMI to support the travel costs of those further afield.  

Guidelines Submitting Abstracts 

Proposals should include the following: 

  • Tentative title and abstract (300 – 500 words). Deadline for abstract submission is Wednesday, 1 November 2023 with applicants being informed of the success of their application within two weeks. 
  • Applicant’s brief bio and CV (maximum two pages highlighting the applicant’s publications and recent professional positions). 
  • Applicant’s contact information. 
Proposals and queries should be sent by e-mail to both Dr Haidar Hobbollah, the convenor of the conference, at haidar.hobbollah@almahdi.edu, and to Adam Ramadhan at ramadhana@almahdi.edu 

Schedule for Submissions  

  • Abstracts: The deadline for abstracts is Wednesday, 1 November 2023. Abstracts should be between 300– 500 words and submitted along with a CV (maximum two pages, with a list of the applicant’s publications and recent work experience) in PDF format.  
  • Shortlisting Abstracts: Abstracts shortlisted for the conference will be notified by Wednesday, 15 November 2023 
  • Conference: Selected abstracts will be invited for a two-day workshop on Monday, 12 – Tuesday, 13 February 2024 at Al-Mahdi Institute, 60 Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6RB. The conference coordinator will arrange travel and accommodation for you.  
  • Full papers: Final papers must be submitted by Saturday, 1 June 2024. Papers should be presented in line with the house style of AMI Press and have a word count between 8,000–12,000 words maximum, excluding bibliography.  
  • Review: Authors should review the editor’s comments and recommendations and resubmit articles with appropriate changes. The outcome of the editor’s review will be communicated to authors by Tuesday, 30 July 2024.  
  • Copyediting: The copyeditor will edit your paper and standardise it to match the AMI Press house style. Your copyedited paper will be sent to you by Saturday, 31 August 2024.  
  • Final paper: Any final amendments to papers should be submitted by Monday, 30 September 2024.  
  • Publication: The edited volume is scheduled for publication in February 2025

Submissions Process (Full Papers)  

Full papers should be submitted in the form of a MS Word document attached to an email to haidar.hobbollah@almahdi.edu no later than 17:00 UK time, Saturday, 1 June 2024 

The first page of the manuscript should contain the following:  

  • The title  
  • The name(s) and institutional affiliation of the author(s)  
  • The address, telephone, and email address of the corresponding author(s)  
  • An abstract of 300 words maximum  
  • A bibliography  
  • Six keywords 

Final submissions should be 8,000–12,000 words, excluding the bibliography, and written in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. Any specific conventions adopted by AMI Press will be communicated to authors in due course.  

About Ali Teymoori

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