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The Miḥna of 218 A. H./833 A. D. Revisited: An Empirical Study

John A. Nawas
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 116, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1996), pp. 698-708
DOI: 10.2307/605440
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/605440
Page Count: 11
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The Miḥna of 218 A. H./833 A. D. Revisited: An Empirical Study
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Abstract

Exhaustive biographical information from numerous chronicles has been found for twenty-eight of the forty-four men, known by name, who were interrogated on order of al-Maʾmūn in the miḥna. Comparable information was obtained for fifty-six randomly selected men used as a control group. The findings indicate that al-Maʾmūn chose to focus on the interrogees, first, on account of their greater intellectual eminence and social influence and, second, to make of them an example to all traditionists, with the aim of censoring the hadith enterprise. This interpretation supports the hypothesis which explains the miḥna as a design on the part of al-Maʾmūn to secure for the caliphal institution full control over religious matters. An alternative hypothesis which explains the miḥna as an attempt by the caliph to quell opposition is cast into further doubt, in that there was no predominance of (Arab-) Khurasanians within the ranks of the opposition, as this hypothesis states.

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