Between Manuscripts and Digital Texts: Commentaries on Hadith Raʾs al-Jalut

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Sharh Hadith Raʾs al-Jalut, originally titled al-Fawaʾid al-Radawiyya, is a treatise by Saʿid al-Qummi from his incomplete Arbaʿinat (forty treatises on various subjects), which has been published separately. It constitutes al-Qummi’s commentary on ʿAli b. Musa al-Rida’s answers to questions asked by the Jewish Exilarch. While overwhelming and converting a Jewish scholar is a known topos in Muslim literature, the presence of a Jewish Exiliarch in a medieval Muslim society is not a fiction. Geniza materials testify that the office of Exiliarch continued at least until the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258 (Gafni, 1999). More elaborate versions of the interreligious debates of Imam Rida at the court of al-Maʾmun were first related by Ibn Babawayh (d. 329/991) in his Kitab al-Tawhid and ʿUyun akhbar al-Rida. These debates are well known and have been analysed by several scholars (Wassertrom, 1995; Wasserstein, 1999; Cooperson, 2004; Sahner, 2019). It is however this short enigmatic version preserved by al-Qummi that gave rise to a separate commentary tradition.


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