17 Şubat 2015 Salı

The First Book on the Historical Methodology

While dealing with daily affairs, we need to know the right way to figure out them. Likewise, we are required to do the same in the  scientific problems. Otherwise, our life would not be in order, and  scientific knowledge would not be coherent. The importance of methodology (usul – singular: asl) has been highly emphasized in Islamic scientific tradition. There is a saying in Arabic expressing this reality: “La vusula illa bi al-usul – success cannot be achieved without methodology”. Islamic scholars have written various books on the methodology regarding the field on which they specialized. There are other books in which the methodology was explained in their introduction, sometimes briefly, sometimes in great detail. For instance, Kitab al-Ibar written by Ibn Haldun might have the most detailed methodology in an introduction.

To my best knowledge, the first book dedicated to the methodology of history is al-Mukhtasar fi  Ilm al-Tarikh  (A Brief Compendium on Historiography), written by Muhyiddin Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kafiyaji (d. 1474), a Hanafi chief mufti in the Mamluk era. Kasim Sulul not only translated this work into Turkish [Kafiyeci'de Tarih Usulu, Isltanbul, 2003], but did research on it. I will translate some parts from this book.

al-Kafiyaji received an education under Molla Fanari (d. 1431) and other well-known Ottoman scholars. p.18

al-Kafiyaji, who settled in Cairo, was involved in scientific talks with Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 1449) and other scholars. Scholars, such as Suyuti, benefited from his knowledge.  p. 19

While mentioning his own life, Suyuti (d. 1505) wrote: “I continued to follow al-Kafiyaji's public lectures, and took his courses on various sciences, especially on tafsir, usul, arabic, and maani, from him. I also benefited much from al-Kafiyaji by means of hearing subtle points, which I have not ever heard, from him”.  p. 20

al-Mukhtasar fi  Ilm al-Tarikh, which al-Kafiyaji completed on Thuesday, Rajab 8, 867, is known to be the first  book on the methodology of history. p. 25

What makes al-Kafiyaji important is that he tried to produce a methodology of history in a universal sense. Contents of the books are as follows:

First Section

The literal and technical meanings of history and time
The concepts of sun. moon, month, day and hour
The origin of history
The making of hijri calendar and other calendars
Definition of history and its subject
Necessity of the methodology of history
 Qualifications a historian should have

Second Section

The concept of history and its relation between other sciences
The purpose of a historian
History of humanity
Five methods in the historiography and their application
Necessity of history and its benefit

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