chapter  4
S. ada-qa and the social imaginary
Pages 38

This chapter offers a more nuanced reading of al-Tawh. ı-dı-’s concept of s.ada-qa, moving away from the previous consideration of al-Tawh. ı-dı-as an adı-b (man of letters) with a penchant for philosophy, to a reading of s.ada-qa as his own brand of intellectual inquiry that is based on the realisation of all available knowledge. It treats s.ada-qa as a social act or ‘cultural product’ which al-Tawh. ı-dı-

proposes in order to instruct his recipients and to evoke a set of practices with a specific function to promote a different moral order.2 He uses rhetorical techniques – such as his description of the friendship between the philosopher al-Sijista-nı-and the judge Ibn Sayya-r – which, as discussed earlier, may be seen as a way to instruct his audience and also to obtain patronage. Such rhetorical language could be argued to show an intention to communicate information, establish authority for his utterance, arouse the emotions of his audience, introduce boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, and participate in shaping social and political practices. Thus philosophical constructions, rhetoric and claims to social power are deeply intertwined.3 This proposition contributes to my understanding of al-Tawh. ı-dı-’s attempt to introduce s.ada-qa as an element of his social imaginary – his attitudes within intellectual and cultural settings that resolve political and social tensions and as a necessary means of the good life. The meaning of the concept of s.ada-qa in al-Tawh. ı-dı-’s epistle on al-S. ada-qa wa al-S. adı-q will be discussed closely and within the context of his other relevant works. The social concerns and intellectual themes discussed in al-Imta-‘, in particular, can help give an understanding of al-S. ada-qa wa al-S. adı-q, especially regarding the themes of choosing and receiving the counsel of a reliable and loyal retinue. Despite the occasional reference made by scholars to the importance of

al-S. ada-qa wa al-S. adı-q, few have paid sufficient attention to what al-Tawh. ı-dı-

himself has to say about the epistle by way of introduction: how he defines the realm within which s.ada-qa – here expressed as ulfa (intimacy) – operates, and how he envisions its function there. In his introduction, al-Tawh. ı-dı-refers to his epistle on s.ada-qa as “a complete

letter from which benefit could be derived in this life and the next”.4 He opens his letter with the following moving prayer:

Oh God, lift us up for we have stumbled, cover us for we are exposed, sustain us with the intimacy (ulfa) by which hearts are set right (tas.lah. ) and chests are purified, so that we may coexist in this world, agreed about what is goodness, preferring piety, adhering to the rules of religion, taking hold of virtue, disdaining involvement in anything which infringes on concord, readied for the next world which all must face, from the sudden appearance of which there is no escape. You grant to whomever you want whatever you want.5