Muhammad-Javaad Asghari- Haashemi, Shiveh-ye zendeguinaameh nevisi [Style guide for writing lives], Qom: Shiite Bio-Bibliographical Institute, 1392 Sh/ 1434 AH/ 2014. 203 pp. Paperback. 100,000 Rials.
By Dr. Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani
University of Qom, Iran
Biographies make a part and parcel of Shiite Islamic scholarship, especially in hadith and history; it is a yardstick, inter alia, by which the authority of a hadith-relator is assessed. Granted that biographies make the keystone of the vast field of taraajem (biographies) and rejaal (dignitaries of scholarship), the earliest works were mainly name-lists, and later on they received more developments until they have emerged as a specialty in Shiite Islamic religio-academic circles.
Despite the prevalence of great biographical reference works and encyclopedias, the field has long lacked a style guide for standardizing developing the biographies needed. The above book is a step already taken to fill this historical gap.
The book is made up of two chapters and 10 appendixes. Chapter 1 provides an overview of writing lives and starts from giving a lexical explication of the terms used in Arabic. Then it deals with the necessity for writing lives, with its background, types of biographies, and the sources that prove helpful. Chapter 2 is
concerned with an appropriate internal structure of biographies written for Shiite scholars. They are expected to consist of a pre-life, the live, and an after-life. The proposed order for any life consists of the biographee's personal life, followed by his socio-historical significance, and then an account of his academic and/or scholarly contributions. This chapter finishes by some remarks on the certain delicacies writing lives.
The appendixes render some instructions on certain faults usually found in biographies. Amongst them, the following topics are salient: common faults, locating appropriate references, a list of great Shiite dignitaries, and a reprint of two previously-published papers. A bibliography finishes the book.