ABŪ MOṬĪʿ AL-BALḴĪ, AL-ḤAKAM B. ʿABDALLĀH B. SALAMA B. ʿABD-AL-RAḤMĀN, faqīh, judge, and traditionist, disciple of Abū Ḥanīfa, died 183/799 in Balḵ. Abū Moṭīʿ was a judge for sixteen years in his native Balḵ. He traveled to Baghdad several times and perhaps elsewhere, at least to Medina, Mecca, and Kūfa; for among the names of persons from whom he is said to have heard Traditions are those of three men who were to become eponyms of schools of Islamic law, Mālek b. Anas of Medina, Abū Ḥanīfa of Kūfa, and also Sofyān al-Ṯawrī of Kūfa (founder of a school of law, followed by Kufans and perhaps Iraqis in general, which endured several centuries). Abū Moṭīʿ was a man of unusual vigor and wide influence. His deep learning, perspicacious opinions, piety, and dignity drew to him many students and collectors of Hadith.
It appears that, as a disciple of Abū Ḥanīfa, Abū Moṭīʿ played a significant role in transmitting some of his teachings and opinions. Contemporary scholarship leans to the conclusion that, except for a letter Abū Ḥanīfa wrote to ʿOṯmān al-Baṭṭī, all the works attributed to Abū Ḥanīfa which do indeed contain his views were written by his followers. Abū Moṭīʿ probably transmitted a Feqh al-akbar, a discussion of theological views attributed to Abū Ḥanīfa which survives with a commentary wrongly attributed to Mātorīdī (printed as no. 1 in Maǰmūʿ a šorūḥ al-Feqh al-akbar, Hyderabad, 1321/1903). A Feqh al-absaṭ also exists, nearly identical in general content, stated to be the responses of Abū Ḥanīfa to questions on theology put to him by Abū Moṭīʿ.
The political and religious strife of his times are echoed in some negative opinions of his soundness as a relator of Traditions. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, for one, is alleged to have said that Abū Moṭīʿ was a weak transmitter, because he used to say that paradise and hell were both created and would one day pass away, and he was therefore a Jahmī. He almost certainly did not hold such a heretical view, for the views of his group are explicitly opposed in the Feqh al-absaṭ. These hostile opinions, related by Ḵaṭīb Baḡdādī and Ḏahabī, represent the viewpoint of the Ahl al-Hadith. (A similar canard was told about Abū Ḥanīfa; see J. Schacht, “Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān,” EI 2 I, pp. 123-24.) Others labeled Abū Moṭīʿ as one of the chief of the Morǰeʾa. This may have been close to the truth, since Abū Ḥanīfa was one of them (see ibid., p. 123, for comment on the Feqh al-absaṭ). As a judge and faqīh, Abū Moṭīʿ is described as baṣīr be’l-raʾy (Taʾrīḵ Baḡdād VIII, p. 223), apparently referring to his skill in reasoning and exercising qīās (analogy).
See also Qorašī, al-Jawāher al-możīya fī ṭabaqāt al-ḥanafīya II, Hyderabad, 1332/1914, p. 266.
Ḏahabī, Mīzān al-eʿtedāl I, Cairo, 1382/1963, pp. 574-75, no. 2181.
Sezgin, GAS I, p. 414.
(L. A. Giffen)
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 19, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 344-345
L. A. Giffen, “Abu Moti Al-Balki,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, p. 344-345; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-moti-al-balki-al-hakam-b (accessed on 30 January 2014).