If Rice Were a Man: Twelver and Ismā‘īlī Reception of Early Imāmī ḥadīths

By Samer Traboulsi
Submitted to Session P3680 (Texts and Contexts in Pre-Modern Shi'ism, 2014 Annual Meeting
Rel Stds/Theo
All Middle East;
History of Religion; Islamic Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Riwāyat al-aruzz wa-faḍluh is an unpublished anecdote attributed to Imam Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq (d. 148/765) and narrated by al-Mufaḍḍal b. ʿUmar al-Juʿfī (d. before 183/799). In addition to praising rice and listing its health benefits, the anecdote includes a ḥadīth on the creation of the light of Muḥammad and of the People of his House (nūrī wa-nūr ahl baytī) 5000 years before Adam. While being deposited in Adam’s loins, a drop from the light fell on the ground from which grew rice. The text belongs to the Mufaḍḍal-traditions of the Kufan ghulāt circles during the formative period of Imāmī Shīʿism. The anecdote survived in two divergent versions both dating to the 12th century; one in Ṭayyibī Ismā‘īlī literature from Yemen and the other in Twelver literature from Iraq. This study attempts on one hand to situate the ḥadīth on Muḥammad’s light within the cosmological doctrines of the early ghulāt circles, and on the other to examine the transmission, preservation, and development of traditions on rice and other foods in Shīʿī and Sunnī circles. We come out with a general trend of traditions interchangeably ascribed to different foods within each of the Sunnī and Shī‘ī traditions and more interestingly, that some food-related ḥadīths are floating across the boundaries of scholarly Shī‘ī and Sunnī traditions through the medium of popular culture.