Commentary on “The Chosen One in Edicts” in Hanafi Islamic Jurisprudence


This manuscript copy is a commentary on al-Mukhtār lil-fatwá (The chosen one in edicts), one of four authoritative works in Hanafi Islamic jurisprudence. Both the original work and the commentary are by ʻAbd Allah ibn Mahmud al-Mawsili (1202 or 1203−84), also known as al-Buldahi or Ibn Mawdud. A one-page introductory note traces his teachers from Mawsil (Mosul, present-day Iraq), where he was born, to Damascus, Baghdad, and as far east as Nishabur (Neyshabur or Nishapur, present-day Iran), where one of the luminaries whose approval he sought was a female hadith scholar by the name of Zaynab al-Sha’riyya, who held the revered title of musnidah (narration-chain verifier) of Khorasan. Al-Mukhtār lil-fatwá, which al-Mawsili wrote in his youth, is a compendium in which he focused almost entirely on the edicts of Imam Abu Hanifa (699–767), the founder of the Hanafi school. Although the work covers all areas of Islamic jurisprudence, al-Mawsili did not include the “proofs”—typically drawn from the Qurʼan and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad—for the edicts he compiled. This commentary, entitled Al-Ikhtiyār fī taʻlīl al-mukhtār (The choice in explaining the chosen one), apparently came about as a result of this omission. In a reference to al-Mukhtār at the beginning of this manuscript, al-Mawsili states that “…as it was exchanged in the hands of scholars … they asked me to comment on it in a way that would explain its proofs, the questions underlying them, and what they mean.” The commentary is divided into 58 “books,” each covering a specific aspect of Islamic jurisprudence. They begin with Kitāb al-ṭahārah (Book of ritual purification); discuss a wide range of issues including peacemaking, bonds, and hunting; and end with Kitāb al-farāʼḍ (Book of inheritance shares). The manuscript is written in black ink with rubrication in naskh script, by a scribe whose name is not given, on thick cream-colored paper. The title page is decorated in blue and gold; catchwords appear on rectos. The Hanafi school of jurisprudence is the first and largest among the four madhahib (schools) of Sunni Islam. Its adherents are concentrated in a large swath of the Muslim world, stretching from the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia in the east, to Turkey and Egypt in the west. The three other schools are the Maliki, the Shafiʻi and the Hanbali.

Last updated: February 2, 2016