From ḥadīṯ to adab : the development of ʿilm narratives in Classical Arabic literature ; a case study on the Kitāb al-adab of Ibn Abī Šayba (d. 235/849) and the Kitāb al-ʿilm of Ibn Qutayba (d. 276/889)

  • Estrella Samba Campos

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis is a study on ʿilm as a literary phenomenon in the early ʿAbbāsid Arabic works on ḥadīṯ and adab. It examines the correlation between ʿilm and adab on the basis of selected foundational and pioneering Arabic primary sources from the second/eight-third/ninth centuries.

ʿIlm is the term that designates the religious understanding of the Qurʾān and ḥadīṯ. The research on ḥadīṯ has overshadowed the impact of ʿilm and its literary manifestations. There has been a significant shortcoming of studies on ʿilm as a sole concept with no published contributions on the narrative aspects of ʿilm literature to date. Moreover, there is an established division in the perception of ʿilm and adab, isolating both these literary phenomena from one another. Their correlation has been largely overlooked in scholarship.

This study aims at understanding ʿilm beyond ḥadīṯ focusing on a set of thematic subjects and narrative elements. It explores the interdependence of ʿilm and adab and suggests a novel perspective to overcome the dichotomy in their definition and interpretation that has been prevalent in research until now. The interconnection of ʿilm as expert knowledge and adab as conduct praxis and etiquette triggered religious narratives and social-cultural constructions of meanings that cross-pollinated one another. This thesis demonstrates that while ʿilm represented the authoritative notion, adab provided a broader potential, promoting literary creativity and a new epistemological significance to ʿilm.

The examination of ʿilm as a literary phenomenon, i.e. as a discourse characterised by specific narrative, thematic and structural elements, unveils the intertextual framework spanning from ḥadīṯ to adab, in which both ʿilm and adab were developed in the premodern Arabic literature and thought.
Date of Award2 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorKirill Dmitriev (Supervisor)


  • Knowledge (ʿilm)
  • Education (adab)
  • Classical Arabic literature
  • Late antiquity
  • Formative Islam
  • Early ʿAbbāsid literature
  • Ḥadīṯ
  • Ibn Abī Šayba
  • Ibn Qutayba
  • Thematic criticism
  • Premodern literatures and thought
  • Medieval epistemology
  • Medieval pedagogical narratives

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 4th September 2025

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