Reviews

Though relatively ancient, the present bibliographical dictionary of the ‘ulama of the city of Balkh in present-day northern Afghanistan, edited in Mashhad (Eastern Iran), deserves to be mentioned in the present collection, if only for its representativeness of the present state of scholarship in local and regional history in Iran. The dictionary is preceded by an introduction on the geographical history of the city, classically based on Persian primary and secondary sources (the former consisting of chronicles and local histories, either edited or manuscript), with a short mention of some of the city’s neighbourhoods (mahallas, pp. 54-5), bazaars (pp. 55-6), etc., as well as a list of villages and rural districts registered in the documents utilised by the authors (pp. 59-60). The dictionary itself provides 1,700 articles of scholars and literati in varied disciplines of classical Islamic scholarship (Hadith, law and jurisprudence, philosophy, poetry. . .), as well as a small number of military commanders). The first volume currently at the disposal of the Central Eurasian Reader contains the articles from the letters alif to ‘ayn. It displays a large majority of articles on men of learning of the fourth to eighth centuries of the Hijra, based on a selection of tadhkiras (biographical repertories) of later periods of time. The most notable figureheads of the city’s Islamic past (like for instance Ibrahim b. Adham, p. 80-6) are dealt with rapidly, and without mention of the superabundant on them Persian and international bibliography. At to the bulk of the data, they have been transcribed without addition nor critic, nor effort of contextualisation by the compilers. Basing their selection on the occurrence of the “Balkhi” nisba in their primary sources, the authors have been dealing with a majority of scholars and literati originating from Balkh, or claiming ascent from the city, but often active in other, sometimes very remote regions of the world of Islam. From this viewpoint, the book can hardly serve as a reference work for the reconstruction of the intellectual history of the city, and for the historical sociology of its men of learning.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.D-413