Al-Qadi al-Nu'man

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Al-Qadi al-Nu'man
Personal Information
Full NameAbu Hanifa al-Nu'man b. Muhammad al-Tamimi
TeknonymAbu Hanifa
Well-Known AsAl-Qadi al-Nu'man
Religious AffiliationIslma'iliya
BirthBetween 283/896-7 and 290/902-3
DeathThe last day of Jumada II 363 (March 27, 974)
Scholarly Information
WorksDa'a'im al-Islam, Sharh al-akhbar, and al-Majalis wa l-musayarat
Socio-Political Activities
Qadi al-Qudat

Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān b. Muḥammad (Arabic: ابوحنیفه النعمان بن محمد), known as al-Qāḍī al-Nu'mān (القاضي النعمان) (b. 283/896-7 d. 363/974) was the most prominent Isma'ili jurist. He occupied important occupations in the Fatimid government, such as the head of judges. Al-Qadi joined the Fatimids since their first call, and served four Fatimid caliphs.

Al-Qadi al-Nu'man wrote many works which show his expertise in theology and Imamiyya fiqh. They include Da'a'im al-Islam, Asas al-ta'wil, and al-Majalis wa l-musayarat.

Some Imamiyya scholars such as al-'Allama al-Majlisi took him to be a Twelver Shiite, but historical evidence and his works show that al-Qadi al-Nu'man was an Isma'ili Shiite.

Birth and lineage

His full name is Abu Hanifa al-Nu'man b. Muhammad al-Tamimi. His lineage shows that he has an Arabic origin. No evidence can be found for his kunya, that is Abu Hanifa, in his works, and Isma'ili leaders only called him with his first name, Nu'man. That he was mostly known with his first name, rather than his kunya, might have been in order to avoid confusion with Abu Hanifa, the leader of Hanafi school of fiqh.

His father, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad, lived a long life and died in Rajab 351/August 962 at the age of 104. Abu Hanifa said prayer on his corpse, and he was buried in Bab Silm (a gate of Kairouan).

His date of birth is not known. But it can be speculated to be between 283/896 and 290/903. He was born and grew up in Kairouan. Not much is known about his family. Some writers speculate that his father was a caller to the Isma'ili sect.

Al-Qadi al-Nu'man was contemporary with four Fatimid caliphs (al-Mahdi, al-Qa'im, al-Mansur, and al-Mu'izz) and served them. He died on the last day of Jumada II 363 (March 27, 974 CE).


Al-Qadi al-Nu'man wrote many works showing his expertise in theology and jurisprudence. In his introduction to al-Qadi's Da'a'im al-Islam, Asif Faydi takes him to be endowed with a great deal of knowledge, a great researcher, and a prolific author. Citing the book, Akhbar qudat al-Misr, Ibn Khallakan takes him to be virtuous, a researcher of the Qur'an and a scholar of its exegesis, and a master of fiqh and disagreements among jurists. He was a keen and fair writer with a great style of writing.

Socio-political Activities

Al-Qadi al-Nu'man was in charge of supervising judges in the Fatimid system. He joined the Fatimids since their first call, and served four Fatimid caliphs. al-Qadi al-Nu'man's written works reinforced the foundations of the Fatimid government. According to what he cited in his book, al-Majalis wa l-musayarat, we know the following about him:

  • From 313/925-6 to 322/933-4, he was in charge of delivering news to 'Ubayd Allah and al-Qa'im.
  • From 322/933-4 to 334/945-6 during the period of the second Fatimid caliph, al-Qa'im, he continued the service of delivering news to the caliph, and transcribed books for Isma'il, the son of al-Qa'im.
  • From 334/945-6 to 341/952-3, when Isma'il became the third caliph, calling himself Abu Tahir al-Mansur bi-Allah, al-Nu'man was promoted to a judge. He writes: "I was the first to be appointed as a judge and became famous and was honored".
  • From 334/945-6 to 337/948-9, al-Mansur appointed him as the judge of Tripoli.
  • In 341/952-3 during the period of al-Mu'izz, the fourth Fatimid caliph, al-Nu'man was honored more than ever, since al-Nu'man was already close to al-Mu'izz. He writes: "Whatever I wanted to let al-Mansur know, I first told al-Mu'izz. If he agreed, I did, and whatever he disagreed with, I let it go". His obedience of al-Mu'izz paved the path for the promotion of al-Nu'man in the Fatimid government. He became a prominent think-tank of Isma'iliyya. Al-Qadi seized the opportunity and published many of his books in this period.
  • In 362/972-3, al-Mu'izz moved to Egypt. Al-Nu'man went to Egypt with him, and with his consultations, al-Mu'izz reinforced the Islamic and Shiite foundations of the Fatimid government, and founded the city, Cairo.

Disagreement concerning His Sect

The well-known view about al-Qadi al-Nu'man's sect is that he was first a Maliki, and then converted to Isma'iliyya. However, there are different views about what his sect was.

Before the Fatimid Caliphate

  • Maliki: according to Ibn Khallakan and others like al-'Allama al-Majlisi and Farhad Daftari, maintain that in this period, he was a Maliki.
  • Isma'ili: according to some Isma'ili authors, he was an Isma'ili from the very beginning.
  • Hanafi: Ibn Taghri Birdi made an ill-founded argument for the claim that al-Qadi al-Nu'man was a Hanafi in this period.

After the Fatimid Caliphate

  • Isma'ili: according to all Isma'ili works, al-Qadi al-Nu'man was a prominent Isma'ili scholar. Moreover, some prominent Twelve-Imami Shiite scholars, such as Ibn Shahrashub and Muqaddas Ardabili, and many Sunni scholars, such as al-Dhahabi and al-'Asqalani hold the same view.


One outstanding feature of al-Qadi al-Nu'man's character was his interest in writing. He was a prolific Fatimid author. 'Arif Tamir named 36 works for him. His most important works are

  • Da'a'im al-Islam
  • Iftitah al-da'wa
  • al-Majalis wa l-musayirat
  • Sharh al-akhbar fi fada'il al-a'immat al-athar
  • al-Idah.
  • Mukhtasar al-idah
  • al-Yanbu'
  • al-Iqtisar
  • al-Ittifaq wa l-iftiraq
  • al-Muqtasar
  • al-'Aqida al-muntakhaba
  • Mukhtasar al-athar
  • Yawm wa layla
  • al-Tahara
  • Kayfiyat al-salawat
  • Minhaj al-fara'id
  • Nahj al-sabil ila ma'rifat al-ta'wil
  • Asas al-ta'wil
  • Ta'wil da'a'im al-Islam
  • Hudud al-ma'rifa
  • al-Tawhid wa l-imama
  • Ithbat al-haqa'iq
  • Kitab fi l-imama
  • al-Qasida al-mukhtara
  • al-Ta'aqud wa l-intiqad
  • al-Du'a'
  • al-Himma fi adab ittiba' al-a'imma
  • al-Huliyy wa l-shabab
  • Qasida dhat al-minan
  • Qasida dhat al-mihan
  • Manaqib Bani Hashim
  • Mafatih al-ni'ma
  • Ta'wil al-ru'ya
  • Taqwim al-ahkam
  • Sirat al-a'imma