Ascertaining Popularity through Manuscript Numbers

13 Dec

A book’s importance and acceptance can be ascertained partly by the number of extant manuscripts (such as those listed in al-Fahris al-Shamil) and number of commentaries and glosses (listed in Jami’ al-Shuruh wa al-Hawashi) it has. Such data paints an interesting picture. One clear indication is the clear popularity of Hanafi works, especially those promoted by the Ottomans.

What follows is an ongoing project (updated as of December 2014) to list the numbers of manuscripts and commentaries of the major works of the Islamic Canon.

The Major Tafasir in Chronological Order (number of known manuscripts in brackets)

  1. Ibn Abbas (95)
  2. al-Tustari (7)
  3. al-Tabari (106)
  4. Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (174)
  5. al-Tha’labi (125)[1]
  6. al-Wahidi (Asbab 67; al-Basit 24 [unpublished]; al-Wajiz 97 [Dar al-Qalam]; al-Wasit 118 [DKI])[2]
  7. al-Baghawi (571)
  8. al-Nasafi (111)
  9. al-Zamakshari (886) with Hashiyah al-Tibi (Futuh al-Ghayb)[3]
  10. Ibn Atiyyah (109)
  11. Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir (55)
  12. al-Razi (452) – based on al-Basit by al-Wahidi
  13. al-Qurtubi (268)[4]
  14. al-Baydawi[5] (1391+ almost 2,000 hawashi) – based on al-Zamakshari, al-Razi, and al-Raghib
  15. al-Nasafi (147)
  16. Ibn Juzayy (34)
  17. al-Khazin (326)
  18. Abu Hayyan (133) – the apex of grammatical tafsir, extensively engages with al-Kashaf
  19. al-Samim al-Halabi – al-Durr al-Masun (119)[6]; Umdat al-Hufaz (22)[7]
  20. Ibn Kathir (67)
  21. al-Mahalli/al-Suyuti –  al-Jalalayn (627) – based on al-Wajiz by al-Wahidi
  22. al-Tha’alabi (35)
  23. al-Suyuti – al-Durr al-Manthur[8] (267)
  24. al-Khatib al-Shirbini al-Siraj al-Munir (111)
  25. Abu al-Su’ud (454)
  26. al-Shawkani (8)
  27. al-Alusi (18)

Ahkam al-Quran

  1. al-Shafi’i, Ahkam al-Quran (3)
  2. al-Jassas – Ahkam al-Quran (50)
  3. al-Bayhaqi – Ahkam al-Quran (3)
  4. Ilkiya al-Harasi al-Shafi’i al-Baghdadi[9] – Ahkam al-Quran (1)
  5. Ibn al-Arabi – Ahkam al-Quran (20)
  6. al-Suyuti – al-Iklil fi Istinbat al-Tanzil (37)

Ulum al-Quran

  1. al-Zarkashi – al-Burhan (11)
  2. al-Suyuti – al-Itqan (220)

[1] Al-Tha’labi was the pioneer of theology in tafsir, whose ideas were taken up in al-Wahidi’s al-Basit (which itself was the basis for al-Razi). It perfected and popularized the encyclopedic approach of al-Tabari.

[2] al-Wahidi was the pioneer of philological tafsir and al-Ghazali advises in the Ihya to study both al-Wajiz and al-Wasit for tafsir

[3] Included in the Imperial Ottoman curriculum of Sulayman and Abu al-Su’ud

[4] Included in the Imperial Ottoman curriculum of Sulayman and Abu al-Su’ud

[5] Included in the Imperial Ottoman curriculum of Sulayman and Abu al-Su’ud

[6] A student of Abu Hayyan who based his tafsir on his teacher’s work with i’rab and engagement with al-Kashaf

[7] A lexical work covering the vocabulary of the Quran

[8] Included in the Imperial Ottoman curriculum of Sulayman and Abu al-Su’ud

[9] An associate of al-Ghazali who later became head of the Nizamiyyah in Baghdad

Top Fiqh Texts (number in bold indicates number of known manuscripts; brackets for al-Fahris al-Shamil details)

  1. Multaqa al-Abhur by Ibrahim al-Halabi [d.956] (10:273) 634
  2. al-Hidayah by al-Marghinani (11:367) 610
  3. Sharh al-Wiqaya (5:661) 592
  4. Mukhtasar al-Quduri [d.428] (9:305) 566
  5. Kanz al-Daqa’iq by al-Nasafi [d.710] (8:400) 457
  6. al-Bahr al-Ra’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq by Ibn Nujaym (2:10) 362
  7. Mukhtasar Khalil (9:223) 348
  8. Sharh al-Zarqani ‘ala Khalil (3:406) 346
  9. Tabayin al-Haqa’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq by al-Zayla’i (2:242) 342
  10. Fath al-Wahhab 325
  11. al-Durr al-Mukhtar by al-Haskafi (4:27) 323
  12. al-Iqna by al-Khatib al-Shirbini 321
  13. al-Bayan wa al-Taklil ‘ala al-Khalil (5:412) 313
  14. al-Wiqayah by Burhan al-Shari’ah [d.673] (11:562) 305
  15. al-‘Inaya fi Sharh al-Hidayah (6:300) 296
  16. al-Qawl al-Mukhtar (i.e. Fath al-Qarib) (8:178) 272
  17. Tuhfat al-Tullab (2:388) 257
  18. Fath al-Qadir Sharh al-Hidayah by Ibn al-Humam (7:291) 244
  19. Rumz al-Haqa’iq Sharh Kanz (243)
  20. Ibn Abi Zayd – al-Risalah (4:329) 238
  21. Kifayat al-Talib al-Rabbani (8:246) 217
  22. Minhaj al-Talibin 202
  23. al-Mukhtar by al-Mawsili [d.683] 199

Most popular Shafi’i Works

  • Fath al-Wahhab 325
  • al-Iqna by al-Khatib al-Shirbini 321
  • al-Qawl al-Mukhtar (i.e. Fath al-Qarib) (8:178) 272
  • Tuhfat al-Tullab (2:388) 257
  • Minhaj al-Talibin 202
  • Tuhfah al-Muhtaj 178 plus 16 hawashi
  • Nihayah al-Muhtaj 165 plus 5 hawashi
  • Rawdat al-Talibin 146
  • Fath al-Aziz (7:268) 126

Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi

  • al-Tanbih (2:804) 31
  • al-Muhadhab (10:696) 22


  • al-Mustasfa (9:611) 33
  • al-Wasit (11:540) 33
  • al-Wajiz (11:518) 26
  • al-Basit (2:121) 17


  • Fath al-Aziz (7:268) 126
  • al-Muharrar (9:149) 88


  • Rawdat al-Talibin 146
  • al-Majmu 35
  • al-Tahrir (al-Tanbih) 15
  • al-Manasik 11
  • Tashih al-Tanbih 3
  • al-Tahqiq 3

Minhaj al-Talibin 202

  • Tuhfah al-Muhtaj 178 plus 16 hawashi
  • Nihayah al-Muhtaj 165 plus 5 hawashi
  • Kanz al-Raghibin (8:424) 114 plus 12 hawashi
  • Mughni al-Muhtaj 24

Zakariyah al-Ansari

  • Fath al-Wahhab Sharh Manhaj al-Tullab (3:1942) 325 with 22 hawashi
  • Tuhfat al-Tullab Sharh Tahrir Tanqih al-Lubab (2:388) 257 plus 5 hawashi (al-Sharqawi)
  • Asna al-Mutalib 86 plus 1 hashiya
  • Manhaj al-Tullab 72 plus 4 hawashi
  • al-Ghurar al-Bahiyah (6:421) 39 plus 2 hashiyatayn
  • Tahrir Tanqiq al-Lubab (2:313) 17

Abi Shuja

  • al-Iqna 321 plus 15 hawashi
  • al-Qawl al-Mukhtar (Fath al-Qarib) 272 plus 17 hawashi
  • Ghayat al-Ikhtisar 91 (6:353)
  • Hashiyat al-Barmawi (Fath al-Qarib) 83
  • Kifayat al-Akhyar 53 plus 1 hashiya
  • Hashiyat al-Qalyubi (Fath al-Qarib) 52
  • Hashiyat al-Bujayrami (al-Iqana) 20

Works of the Muta’akhirin (post al-Nawawi/al-Rafa’i)

  • Hashiyat al-Sharqawi ‘ala Tuhfat al-Tullab (3:356) 75
  • al-Minhaj al-Qawim 61 plus 8 hawashi
  • Ibn al-Wardi – al-Buhjah Nazm al-Hawi al-Saghir (2:159) 36
  • Ibn al-Muqri – al-Irshad 34
  • Umdat al-Salik 30 plus 7 shuruh (Jami’ al-Shuruh 2:1235) plus 1 new sharh
  • al-Qazwini – al-Hawi al-Saghir (3:724) 27
  • al-Ramli – Fath al-Rahman 21
  • al-Ramli – Ghayat al-Bayan fi Sharh Zubad (6:366) 20
  • Ibn Hajar – al-Iy’ab Sharh al-‘Ubab 16
  • Ibn al-Muqri – al-Rawd al-Talib 15
  • Fath al-Mu’in 11 plus 3 hawashi
  • Ibn Hajar – Fath al-Jawad 11
  • Ibn Hajar – al-Imdad 7
  • Ba Fadl – al-Muqaddimah al-Hadramiyah 7
  • al-Mawahib al-Samad 6
  • a-Risalat al-Jami’ah 2


  • Nur al-Idah 116
  • Maraqi al-Falah (9:427) 88
  • al-Mukhtar 199
  • Majma’ al-Anhur by Zada (9:74) 108 on Multaqa al-Abhur


  • Murshid al-Mu’in 66
  • Aqrab al-Masalik (1:621) 22
  • Sharh al-Saghir (5:220) 110


  • al-Mughni 53
  • Dalil al-Talib 14

Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Books, History


11 responses to “Ascertaining Popularity through Manuscript Numbers

  1. m7ia

    December 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    This is excellent, jazakum Allahu khayra! Insha Allah I will bookmark it and check back for updates often.

    • Al-Asiri

      December 14, 2014 at 4:23 am

      Wa iyyak. Coupled with a knowledge of the history of publishing in the Arab world, one gets a very insightful picture. For instance, Ibn Kathir’s tafsir is generally considered to be the most popular. However, the relatively small number of manuscripts compared to others shows that this was not always the case. In fact, it was only its publication and propogation in the 20th Century that gave it its present status. Al-Baydawi’s tafsir was far and away the most popular tafsir throughout the pre-modern period. The sheer number of manuscript copies and hawashi attests to this fact.

  2. Taalib al Ilm

    December 31, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Asalamualaikum Shaikh/Ustaadh.

    Subhanallah i have browsed extensively through your website and found some extremely beneficial articles and memorised/included into my notes much of the Ilm you have generously shared Alhumdulillah.

    I like to record knowledge into my notes with the references as was suggested by Ibn al Mulaqqin and Al Maqarri in the latters Nafh al Tibb so can i ask Shaikh, can you kindly please provide a broad reference for this point that was mentioned in the article:

    “A book’s importance and acceptance can be ascertained partly by the number of extant manuscripts (such as those listed in al-Fahris al-Shamil) and number of commentaries and glosses (listed in Jami’ al-Shuruh wa al-Hawashi) it has.”

    Like so many other beneficial points scattered throughout your website, i want to memorise this with the reference insha Allah.

    Jazakallahukhairan Shaikh, very much appreciated.


    • Al-Asiri

      December 31, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. Alhamdu lillah that you are benefiting from the posts on the site. The quote about ascertaining importance through the numbers of extant manuscript and recoded commentaries and marginal notes is my own observation. I carefully chose the modal verb ‘can’ as it is a thesis, though, for me at least, is implicitly self-evident. Nevertheless, the notion was first introduced to me on page 50 of shaykh Muhammad Sha’ban’s edition of Minhaj al-Talibin, after listing all the works, numbering more than a hundred, based on al-Nawawi’s Minhaj al-Talibin. After listing them all, he mentions that this is an indication of the worth of Minhaj as so many scholars interacted with it in one way or another. From this observation, I am perusing a study of the number of manuscript copies as well as commentaries and marginal glosses using the two well-known Arabic sources mentioned. This is thus far revealing a very interesting picture of pre-modern, pre-printing press, Islamic studies. I hope to couple this with a study of 20th Century print publications and classical curricula, such as Abi Su’ud’s Ottoman curriculum. For example, the tafsirs of al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir became more popular than ever before during the 20th Century after they were published and promoted as such. Prior to that, they were not that well-known. Another example would be Imam al-Shatibi’s al-Muwafaqat. It’s a great book. However, it was relatively obscure till it was published and promoted by Muhammad Abdu in Egypt a century ago. There are many such cases of works that are well-known and popular today which were not so before, and likewise which were extremely popular in the past but which are relatively obscure now. I hope to expand on this more in my own studies and research in future insha’Allah.

  3. Muhammad Hamza

    July 23, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Assalamu Alaikum Akhi, Jazakallahu Khayran for all the effort you have put in to speak about methods of study, editions of books and so on. The main reason I prefer to check your blog about an issue or seek advice for study ia your fair and balanced approach. Majority of content is either pro-salafi or pro-ashari/madhabi, but I feel like you sit in the middle, especially when it comes to reviewing books. Keep up the good work!

    One request I would like to make is that if you can put forth more info on studying the Hanafi Madhab, it’s usool, books, editions, etc. Due to the lack of Hanafi material online, especially in comparison to other madhabs.

    One question I have is that I noticed that the amount of manuscripts of the Hanafis seem to blow the others out of the water, why then are Hanafi books the most poorly edited, not to mention that. Large amount are still in manuscripts only? And is there any effort you know being made to improve this such as by Sh Saiid Bakdash and others?

    • Al-Asiri

      July 23, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Wa alaykum salam wa jazakum. One should try as much as possible to be fair and objective. Much benefit is to be gleaned from the rich heritage of Islamic civilisation.

      The Hanafi madhab has a massive presence in the manuscripts, particularly in the latter period. The Ottomans were crucial in this. However, just as printing presses were editing manuscripts for publication, the Ottomans ran into difficulties which eventually led to the dissolution of the Empire. Thus, their sponsorship of publications came to an abrupt end. Despite this, some Ottoman editions remain the best, including in hadith (both Bukhari and Muslim for example).

      Shaykh Bakdash of Madinah is on a campaign ma sha Allah to edit the crucial Hanafi fiqh works. He is from the school of Abu Ghuddah/Awwamah which emphasises quality of editing.

      Some publishing houses in Turkey are also working on publishing more from the heritage in sha Allah.

      One publishing house with surprisingly good editions of Hanafi works is Dar al-Hadith. Whenever I have compared editions they usually come out on top in terms of dabt of the matn.

      In sha Allah more posts are to come. It’s been a very busy year with much travel and so on.

  4. Waleed

    October 30, 2016 at 3:37 am

    What is the difference between the respective books of ahkaam al quran bt Bayhaqi and Shafi’i(Allah have mercy on both). I thought that The latter’s was no longer extant and Bayhaqi did jam’ of his istinbatat in a book. Is Imam Shafi’i’s ahkaam present in makhtut? Is bayhaqi’s jam’ meant or are you talking about a separate book he wrote?

    • Al-Asiri

      November 1, 2016 at 10:52 am

      Wa ‘alaykum salam. It is listed as under the authorship of al-Shafi’i and is available in at least three separate manuscripts. I haven’t seen it myself and it hasn’t been edited or published yet as far as I’m aware. It may be that al-Bayhaqi couldn’t get hold of it or it may be wrongly listed as authored by al-Shafi’i, but the librarians believe it to be al-Shafi’i’s work. . I do not know right now.

      • Al-Abd

        November 4, 2016 at 9:50 pm

        Assalam. An intro to manuscript study would be really beneficial if you ever get the chance. Many a times Its mentioned as part of a larger discussion but due to lack of exposure to the field, I fail to benefit. JazakallahuKhayra

      • Al-Asiri

        November 6, 2016 at 5:48 am

        Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

        It is a very important field, especially for editors. It is difficult and requires a lot of skill and experience as well as institutional support (university or publishing house) in order to get access. It is not really open for the general public or most students of knowledge, as it is quite esoteric. There is nothing quite like reading a work written in the autograph of its author. You get a feel for their personality through their hand. For example, Ibn Taymiyyah’s handwriting is considered to be among the most difficult to read. It’s extremely challenging. You get the feeling that his thoughts were faster than his hand could record. There’s an urgency and tension about it.

        Thank you for the suggestion of writing an introductory article. There are a few projects that I’m currently working on but I’ll try to produce something in future in sha Allah.

  5. Al-Abd

    November 6, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    MashaAllah..The above in itself is quite revealing. Please add this to your projects list as a Madkhal to this field will fill a big hole.


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