8 Şubat 2015 Pazar

Matn, Sharh, Hashiya, Taliqa, and Takmila in Islamic Intellectual History

Islamic civilization was built on ilm (knowledge). Since books were a medium through which ilm was transmitted to the next generation, they have taken an important place in Islamic civilization. Moreover, books have been treated as an art object due to different writing styles, ornaments on their pages and covers, and their binding  styles. This post considers different kinds of books in terms of their purpose of writing and explains what matn, sharh, hashiya, taliqa, and takmila are [1].    

Before explaining these types of books, I would like to bring up an important issue about these books. Some orientalists, such as Montgomery Watt, and their followers underestimate the value of the tradition of sharh-hashiya, and they also claim that these kinds of books do not demonstrate the originality. However, such a judgment has been made recklessly. In recent years, the works concentrating on sharh-hashiya books have nullified this judgment by showing the originality of these books [2]. Since this topic has attracted many academics, University of California, Berkeley, hosted Commentaries Conference (October 12-14, 2012) in order to discuss the tradition of sharh-hashiya in Islamic intellectual history [3]. It is estimated that the number of extant manuscripts is approximately 10 million. Unfortunately, only 10% of these manuscripts have been studied, which  shows that evaluating this tradition will take long time. Even though Turkey has the biggest manuscript collection in the world, the studies on the tradition of sharh-hashiya are just at the beginning stage [4].

Matn (Text)
These kinds of books are fundamental books for the sciences on which they are written. Students at the first level of the related science are taught through these books. Most of matn books are memorized. These books give fundamental concepts and a general overview for their subjects. They generally do not mention different opinions and do not make comparative analyses on the subject under discussion.

Sharh (Commentary)
Since matn books are brief, their sentences and content may be ambiguous and difficult to understand. The ambiguity and difficulty increase over time. For these reasons, sharhs (commentaries) are written on these books. Commentaries are either written in margins or integrated in the text. Sharhs not only explain the unknown words and ambiguous sentences, but also criticize information in the matn book.

Hashiya (Super-commentary / Gloss) and Taliqa
Hashiyas are generally written at the bottom of pages. While some issues in sharhs are explained, additional information is added. They are usually called taliqa, which consists of notes taken while reading the book. The taliqa and the hashiya often criticize information and evaluate the strengths of the arguments in the sharh and matn. Furthermore, the judgments in the sharhs are analyzed taking into account their evidence.

Takmila (Continuation)
If an author cannot complete his/her book or the context is lacking, the written text to complete this book  is called takmila.

We can consider the following example from Islamic jurisprudence: Timustashi's Tanwir al-Absar matn book was commented on by Alauddin Haskafi under the title of Durr al-Mukhtar. Ibn Abidin wrote a gloss (hashiya) on this commentary under the title of Radd al-Mukhtar. Since Ibn Abidin was dead before compiling all the drafts of his hashiya, his son, Alauddin Muhammad, wrote a takmila on his father's hashiya under the title of Qurrat al-Uyun al-Ahyar. Abdulkadir Rafii wrote a taliqa known as Taqrirat al-Rafii. Ahmad Mahdi Hidir of Damascus prepared a fihrist for Radd al-Mukhtar.


[1] Ekrem Buğra Ekinci, İslâm Hukuk Tarihi, Istanbul, 2006, p.151-152.

[2] Please refer to the following article for the evaluation of sharhs and hashiyas on the philosophical works in the Ottoman era and the previous centuries. Robert Wisnovsky, “The Nature and Scope of Arabic Philosophical Commentary in Post-Classical (CA. 1100–1900 AD) Islamic Intellectual History: Some Preliminary Observations”, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, vol. 47, pp.149-191, 2004.

[3] http://nes.berkeley.edu/MellonSawyer/conference.html

[4] Please refer to the following book (Turkish) for an introduction to the tradition of sharh-hashiya. İsmail Kara, İlim Bilmez Tarih Hatırlamaz – Şerh ve Haşiye Meselesine Dair Birkaç Not, Istanbul, 2011.

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