How Islamic Scholars Referenced Other Works

IN any modern academic paper, you have certain rules of citation. You have to mention the book, the author, the volume number, the page number, the print, and so forth. You have different styles and standards.

Our scholars used to have a very precise way of referencing, without mentioning print, volume number, or page number. For example, if an author wants to reference the Maliki madhhab, they will say: See Al-Hattab where Khaleel says, such and such.

The Malikis memorize Khaleel (a fiqh book) and they can easily find his statement and the statement of any of its commentators. If you give them a few words of Khaleel, then they have access to dozens of its commentators. If you give them the name of the commentator, they know exactly where to look. (Mukhtasar Khaleel is the most famous abridged text for the later Malikis.)

Some commentators of Khaleel, for example, will refer to each other with abbreviations. Ad-Dusuqi for example refers to Al-Bannani by writing بن which stands for البناني.

So, if you are reading something in Ad-Dusuqi, and he quotes or mentions something and writes at the end بن that means just go to Haashiyat Al-Bannani in that same location where they are discussing Khaleel’s statement, such and such, and you will find what’s being quoted.

So they never needed a bibliography, or works cited. They never needed print, volume number or page number. They had an amazing method, and it worked. They continue using this system until today. The same goes for all schools and all sciences. They have a very unique and accurate method of referencing. In tafsir, all you have to do is quote part of an ayah and the name of the mufassir, and that’s it.

Source: Shaikh Ahmad ibn Samih Abdelwahab

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