the scholars:

Ibn al-Baqillani
Abu `Uthman al-Sabuni
Abu Nu`aym al-Asfahani
Al-Hakim al-Naysaburi
Ibn `Abd al-Barr
Al-Harawi al-Ansari

Six Muslim Scholars
by Sh. G. F. Haddad - Rabi` al-Awwal 1424

Six Muslim Scholars:


Ibn al-Bâqillânî, Muhammad ibn al-Tayyib ibn Muhammad ibn Ja`far ibn Qâsim, Shaykh al-Islâm, al-Qâdî Abû Bakr ibn al-Bâqillânî al-Basrî al-Baghdâdî al-Mâlikî al-Ash`arî (d 403), eulogized by al-Dhahabî as "the erudite Imâm, peerless Master of the mutakallimîn, and foremost of the Scholars of usûl, author of many books, the examplar of perspicuity and intelligence." Elsewhere he exclaims: "There is not, among all the Ash`arî Scholars of kalâm, anyone better than him!"1 Al-Qâdî `Iyâd said: "He is known as the Sword of the Sunna (Sayf al-Sunna) and the Spokesman of the Community (Lisân al-Umma), a mutakallim who spoke the language of the hadîth Scholars, adhering to the doctrine of Abû al-Hasan al-Ash`arî, and the apex of Mâlikî Scholars in his time. His gathering in al-Basra was huge." Al-Khatîb narrates that Ibn al-Bâqillânî's nightly wird - at home or abroad - consisted in twenty tarwîha or twenty pauses, each pause separating sets of two to four rak`as.

Ibn al-Bâqillânî took al-Ash`arî's teachings from Ibn Mujâhid. He used to say: "I consider the best part of me the time when I fully understand al-Ash`arî's discourse."2 He used al-Ash`arî's method to defeat virtually every sect in his time - including the Christians - among them the Râfida, Mu`tazila, Khawârij, Jahmiyya, Karrâmiyya, Mushabbiha, and Hashwiyya. Against the latter he stated:

Whoever claims that the letter s in bismillâh, which comes after the letter b, and the letter m which comes after the letter s, have no beginning, he has taken leave of everything rational, denied what is obligatorily known, and contradicted the obvious.... And how can we hope to direct through proofs someone mulish enough to deny what is necessarily known?3

Abû al-Qâsim ibn Burhân al-Nahwî said: "Whoever hears al-Qâdî Abû Bakr debate, will never again feel pleasure at hearing another mutakallim, faqîh, or orator." He took the Mâlikî School from Abû Bakr al-Abharî.4 Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî narrates that al-Dâraqutnî's deference to Ibn al-Bâqillânî was the cause of the hadîth Master Abû Dharr al-Harawî's adoption of the Mâlikî school of Law and the Ash`arî school of doctrine.5

Al-Khatîb narrated that Ibn al-Bâqillânî's nightly devotion consisted in forty rak`as whether at home or while travelling, after which he wrote thirty-five pages of text which, after the fajr prayer, he would pass on to others to read outloud for proof-reading and editing.

At the time the Caliph `Adud al-Dawla sent Ibn al-Bâqillânî as an envoy to the emperor of the Eastern Romans, he was asked to enter through a low door to see the emperor and realized that this was done by design so as to make him enter on his knees; whereupon he entered on his knees but with his back turned, approaching the emperor backside first. In the course of this conversation he noticed, next to the emperor, a church dignitary. He turned to him and asked: "How are your wife and children?" Hearing this, the emperor said: "Lo! Do you, the spokesman of Islâm, not know that a monk is exempt of such matters?" Ibn al-Bâqillânî replied: "You exempt a monk from such matters, but you do not exempt the Lord of the Worlds from having a mate and child?"

Ibn Hajar reported from Ibn al-Bâqillânî that there is Consensus in Islâm on the fact that the order of the verses in each of the Sûras of the Qur'ân and their successive arrangement in the present order in the mushaf is so decreed by Allâh Most High, and on that basis has the Community related it from the Prophet ﷺ Allâh bless and greet him -.6 Of the "story of the cranes" in the Sîra, Ibn Hajar said: "Al-Qâdî `Iyâd did well when he said, 'It is possible the Prophet ﷺ Allâh bless and greet him - was mentioning the belief of the pagans by way of derision,' noting that at that time it was permitted to speak in the midst of prayer. To this position leaned Ibn al-Bâqillânî."7

Ibn al-Bâqillânî is the paragon of the fundamental unity of Islamic schools and love for the sake of Allâh among scholars that hold different views. In his book Manâqib al-A'imma he showed that the Companions were all rewarded for their ijtihâd despite the divergences that befell between them. He was the arbitrator between the Sûfîs of the university of Qayrawân and Ibn Abî Zayd al-Mâlikî when the latter denied that Allâh could be seen in this world8 He was profoundly admired by the Hanbalîs of Baghdâd although he was the chief authority of the Ash`arî school in his time. When he died, the Shaykh of the Hanbalîs and Ibn al-Bâqillânî's friend of seven years, Abû al-Fadl al-Tamîmî, came barefoot to his funeral with others of his school and ordered a herald to open the procession shouting: "This is the Aider of the Sunna and the Religion! This is the Imâm of Muslims! This is the defender of the Sharî`a! This is the one who authored 70,000 folios!" He was buried near the grave of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and his grave is a place of visitation, seeking blessings (tabarruk), and praying for rain (istisqâ').

* Fadl al-Jihâd

* Hidâyat al-Mustarshidîn.

* Al-Ibâna `an Ibtâl Madhhab Ahl al-Kufr wal-Dalâla ("Exposition of the Invalidity of the School of the People of Disbelief and Misguidance").

* I`jâz al-Qur'ân. In this work, Ibn al-Bâqillânî contrasts several orations of the Prophet ﷺ Allâh bless and greet him -, the Companions, and others with the Qur'anic style to demonstrate the inimitability of the Qur'anic style. He presents a detailed critique of the Mu`allaqa of Umru' al-Qays and al-Bahtarî's Lâmiyya - both considered masterpieces of literary achievement - and points out their defects and weaknesses. However, he believes inimitability does not depend on rhetoric but is merely enhanced by it.

* Al-Insâf fîmâ Yajibu I`tiqâduhu walâ Yajûzu al-Jahlu bih. In this book Ibn al-Bâqillânî demonstrates that
(1) the Divine Attributes are in now way conceived as limbs (jawârih);
(2) the Divine Attributes that suggest emotions such as love, anger, approval, mercy, friendship, enmity, etc. denote His will of a certain state for their object;
(3) the Divine Attributes of Essence (sifât dhât) have no beginning nor does His description by the same have any beginning, while His Divine Attributes of Act (sifât af`âl) are preceded by Him (sabaqahâ): He exists before them, without beginning;
(4) His Speech is an Attribute of Essence;
(5) the created act of recitation is other than the uncreated Qur'ân being recited;
(6) every îmân is islâm but not vice-versa; and other foundational Ash`arî tenets.

* Al-Intisâr.

* Al-Istishhâd

* Al-Kuffar wal-Muta'awwilîn wa-Hukm al-Dâr.

* Manâqib al-A'imma.

* Al-Milal wal-Nihal.

* Al-Tabyîn fî Adab al-Jidâl.

* Al-Ta`dîl wal-Tajrîh.

* Tamhîd al-Awâ'il fî Talkhîs al-Dalâ'il, his most famous work, in which he expands on the doctrines discussed in the Insâf and refutes unIslamic creeds such as Trinitarianism and Brahmanism.9


1 Al-Dhahabî, Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 258 §139).

2 Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (3:351).

3 Cited by al-Kawtharî in his notes on Imâm al-Haramayn's Nizâmiyya (p. 21).

4 Muhammad ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Sâlih (287-375).

5 Narrated from Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî's Firaq al-Fuqahâ' by al-Dhahabî in Tadhkirat al-Huffâz (3:1104-1105). Ibn `Asâkir narrates something similar.

6 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bârî (2:204, 4:32) cf. al-Qâdî `Iyâd in al-Nawawî's Sharh Sahîh Muslim (4:56, 5:419-420) and al-Shawkânî in Nayl al-Awtâr (2:230).

7 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bârî (8:440).

8 This is in line with the position related from Imâm Mâlik whereby the Creator cannot be seen by the created with eyes that are bound for extinction - that is, in the world - but only with eyes that are bound for everlastingness See our article, "The Vision of Allâh in the World and the Hereafter" http://www.sunnahorg/aqida/haddad/Beatific%20Vision.htm.

9 Tabyîn (p. 217-225); Siyar (13:114-116 §3724); Târîkh Baghdâd (5:379-383); al-Qâdî `Iyâd, Tartîb al-Madârik (1:242-259, 4:585-602); Ibn `Imâd, Shadharât al-Dhahab (3:168-170); al-Darqash, Abû Muhammad `Abd Allâh ibn Abî Zayd (p. 242-243).


by GF Haddad - Rabi` al-Awwal 1424

Al-Sâbûnî, Ismâ`îl ibn `Abd al-Rahmân ibn Ahmad ibn Ismâ`îl ibn Ibrâhîm ibn `Amir, Abû `Uthmân al-Sâbûnî al-Shâfi`î (d 449), Shaykh al-Islâm, the foremost pious jurist, hadîth Scholar, preacher, commentator of Qur'ân, "the true Imâm of the Muslims and the real Shaykh of Islâm" (al-Bayhaqî), "Sword of the Sunna, Repeller of bid`a" (`Abd al-Ghâfir al-Fârisî), and "Scourge of the deviants" (Abû Ishâq al-Isfarâyînî), of awesome fame in the regions of Khurâsân and among the signatories of the Ash`arî statement written by Imâm al-Qushayrî at the time of the anti-Ash`arî fitna there. Ibn al-Subkî said that when the anthropomorphists of Herât saw his fame, they began to name Abû Ismâ`îl `Abd Allâh al-Ansârî, the author of the anti-Ash`arî book Dhamm al-Kalâm, with the same title of "Shaykh al-Islâm."

He was the student of the Ash`arî Imâm Abû Muhammad al-Juwaynî the father of Imâm al-Haramayn. Al-Sâbûnî said: "If Shaykh Abû Muhammad had been born among the Israelites, they would have transmitted his immense merits to us and he would have made their pride."

Al-Sâbûnî held gatherings of dhikr and wa`z for seventy years and was imâm in Naysabûr for twenty. Orphaned as a boy after his father Abû Nasr was killed for his preaching, he was raised by the Ash`arî Sûfî Imâm, Abû al-Tayyib Sahl al-Su`lûkî who then attended al-Sabûnî's gatherings and praised him for his high manners, intelligence, eloquence in both Arabic and Persian, memorization, and mastery of the Qur'ân and Sunna as did the other Imâms of the time such as Abû Ishâq al-Isfarâyînî and Ibn Fûrak.

Out of respect, al-Sâbûnî would face away from al-Su`lûkî when delivering a sermon, but Abû al-Tayyib said to him: "Face me and do not look away from me!" Abû `Uthmân said: "I am ashamed to speak in your face." The Imâm said: "Observe his wisdom." Al-Bayhaqî narrated: "I swear that the Imâm Abû `Abd Allâh al-Hâkim, in spite of his great age, hadith Mastery, and scholarliness, used to get up for the Teacher [al-Sâbûnî] when he entered to see him, call him 'the peerless Ustâdh,' publicize his knowledge and merit, and repeat his words in his discourse."

Among al-Sâbûnî's sayings:

* "I never narrated a hadîth nor a non-Prophetic report in a gathering except I possessed its chain of transmission; nor did I ever enter the library except in a state of ritual purity; nor did I ever narrate hadîth, nor hold a gathering, nor teach, except in a state of ritual purity."

* "Ever since I knew that the Prophet ﷺ used to recite Sûrat al-Jumu`a and Sûrat al-Munâfiqîn in the first two rak`as of the Night prayer on Jumu`a, I never missed reciting them."

* "Allâh is much exalted beyond what both the negators (al-mu`attila ) and anthropomorphists (al-mushabbiha ) claim. I tread in the verses that mention the Attributes of the Creator awj and the authentic Prophetic narrations in that chapter... the path of the pious Predecessors and the Imâms of the Religion in accepting them and narrating them after ascertaining the soundness of their transmission chain, citing them in their external wordings, confirming them, fully assenting to them, but guarding against any belief of modality or anthropomorphism in them, avoiding what leads to rejecting them or altering them through reproved figurative interpretation (ta'wîl ) for which Allâh never gave authority, nor did the Companions, Successors, and pious Salaf say anything like it."1

Al-Sam`ânî said that supplication is answered at Ismâ`îl al-Sâbûnî's grave.2


1In Ibn al-Subkî, Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (4:288).

2Ibn al-Subkî, Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (4:271-292 §368).


by GF Haddad - Rabi` al-Awwal 1424

Abû Nu`aym, Ahmad ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Ahmad ibn Ishâq ibn Mûsâ ibn Mahrân al-Mihrânî al-Asbahânî or al-Asfahânî al-Ahwal al-Ash`arî al-Shâfi`î (336-430), the Imâm, erudite scholar, Sûfî, Shaykh al-Islâm, and major trustworthy hadîth Master. His first teachers were his grandfather the Sûfî master Muhammad ibn Yûsuf al-Bannâ' al-Asbahânî and his father, a hadîth scholar who had travelled all over the Islamic world. Under his father's direction Abû Nu`aym began his scholarly career very early, and before the age of ten possessed certificates of narration transmission from all the major shaykhs of the Islamic world in his time, obtained for him by his father.
Among them: al-Mu`ammar `Abd Allâh ibn `Umar ibn Shawdhab in Wâsit, Abû al-`Abbâs al-Asamm in Naysabûr, Khaythama ibn Sulaymân al-Atrâbulsî in Shâm, Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn Nusayr al-Khuldî and Abû Sahl ibn Zyad al-Qattân in Baghdâd, Abû Bakr ibn al-Sunni in Daynur, and others.
Subsequently he took hadîth and narrated it from and to an innumerable list of shaykhs and students.
Among his shuyûkh: al-Tabarânî, Abû al-Shaykh, al-Ajurrî, al-Hâkim, and others.
Among his students were al-Khatîb, al-Malînî, al-Dhakwânî, Abû al-Fadl Hamd ibn Ahmad al-Haddâd, his brother Abû `Alî al-Hasan, and others.

Many of Abû Nu`aym's Shaykhs did not certify any other than him in their lifetime, hence the statement of the hadîth Scholars that "Abû Nu`aym possessed chains of transmission that no one else in the world possessed in his time." Because of the two factors of having received many of these chains at a very early age and the fact that he lived almost a hundred years, Abû Nu`aym also became famous for the shortness of his chains. This is attribute is much prized among hadîth Scholars in view of the rule that the shorter a chain of transmission is, the stronger the probability that its narration is error-free. Hence, Ahmad ibn Hanbal's statement: "The pursuit of short transmission chains is a Sunna inherited from those who came before." One drawback of Abû Nu`aym's unique chains is that some of his shaykhs are unheard-of and therefore of unverifiable reliability.

Abû Nu`aym was assiduous in the pursuit of knowledge according to the manner of the ascetic scholars. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Mardûyah said of him: "He had no other sustenance than giving audition (al-tasmî` ) and writing." This quality joined with his superlative intelligence and early start to make him one of the major hadîth Masters and compilers in Islâm and the most sought-after hadîth narrator in his time. Ibn Mardûyah states that even during the time that he walked home from his mosque gatherings, a student would be reading a volume of hadîth to him on the way. Al-Khatîb said: "I did not see anyone for whom the unqualified term "the hadîth Master" (al-hâfiz ) was used except two men: Abû Nu`aym and Abû Hâzim al-`Abdawî." Hamza ibn al-`Abbâs al-`Alawî said: "The hadîth scholars used to say that the hadîth Master Abû Nu`aym remained for fourteen years without equal, no one from East to West possessing any chain of transmission shorter than his, and there was no one stronger in memorization."

Abû Nu`aym was Ash`arî in doctrine as indicated by Ibn `Asâkir's inclusion of him in the second generation-layer of al-Ash`arî's students and as stated by Ibn al-Jawzî in his great history, al-Muntazam. This is confirmed by Abû Nu`aym's doctrinal criticism of Ibn Mandah when it is known that the latter narrated anthropomorphist views and his authoring al-Radd `alâ al-Hurûfiyya al-Hulûliyya ("Refutation of the Letter-Worshippers Who Believe in Indwelling") against Ibn Mandah's belief that the pronunciation of the Qur'an is uncreated1 Because of this adherence, Abû Nu`aym was boycotted by extremist Hanbalîs in his time. Al-Dhahabî narrates the following incident from Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Jabbâr al-Fursânî:

In my childhood I attended Abû Bakr ibn Abî `Alî al-Mu`addil's gathering with my father. When the gathering ended someone said: "If anyone wants to attend Abû Nu`aym's gathering, let us go!" Abû Nu`aym followed a different doctrine from al-Mu`addil's and was boycotted by the latter's circle because of that. For there was too much hostile partisanship between Ash`arîs and Hanbalîs, leading to dissension. Hearing the man, the hadîth scholars surrounded him with their pen-knives and he was almost killed.

Al-Dhahabî then comments: "I say, these are not hadîth scholars but ignorant transgressors - may Allâh keep their harm away!"

Abû Nu`aym's extreme mutual enmity with the Hanbalî hadîth Master Ibn Mandah for the same reasons gave rise to sharp criticism from both sides. However, the rule followed by the succeding scholars in this and every case of mutual disaffection between contemporary rivals (aqrân mutanâfisûn ), is to ignore the attacks of each with regard to the other. Another problem sometimes raised with respect to Abû Nu`aym is his narration of a number of forgeries in Hilyat al-Awliyâ', but the scholars have replied that he always named his narrators, which allows one to assess the reliability of every report he cites.

Ibn al-Salâh in his manual of hadîth science named Abû Nu`aym among the seven Acholars of highest excellence in the authorship of works in Islâm.2

Abû Nu`aym authored over a hundred works Among them:

* Al-Arba`în `alâ Madhhab al-Mutahaqqiqîn min al-Sûfiyya, in print

* Dalâ'il al-Nubuwwa ("The Signs and Proofs of Prophethood"), devoted entirely to the person of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , this large work - partly in print - was expanded by al-Bayhaqî to seven volumes in a like-titled work.

* Dhikr Akhbâr Asbahân ("Memorial of the Chronicles of Ispahan"), in print

* Al-Du`afâ', in print

* Fadâ'il al-Khulafâ' al-Arba`a wa Ghayrihim, in print

* Fadîlat al-`Adilîn min al-Wulât, a collection of over forty narrations on just government and the duties of the governed towards the rulers. Al-Sakhâwî documented each narration in detail and both the work and its documentation were published.

* Hilyat al-Awliyâ' wa Tabaqât al-Asfiya' ("The Adornment of the Friends of Allâh awjand the Biography-Layers of the Pure Ones") in ten volumes, one of the earliest comprehensive encyclopedias of Sûfî personalities. The book sold in Abû Nu`aym's lifetime in Naysabûr for four hundred gold dinars and received many editions to our time. Ibn al-Jawzî attacked him for including the Companions in it, then proceeded to epitomize it in his two-volume Sifat al-Safwa, in which he studiously avoided using the words sûfî and tasawwuf. Ibn Kathîr praised the work as an illustration of the author's strength in hadîth narration. Ibn al-Subkî relates that this book was among Shaykh al-Islâm Taqî al-Dîn al-Subkî's favorite works. Abû Nu`aym stated the following in his introduction:

I have compiled a book that comprises the names, narrations, and sayings of a number of personalities among the most eminent verifying Sûfîs and their Imâms, arranged in the order of their biographical layers (Tabaqât) and including those famous for abundant worship together with their methods. It begins with the time of the Companions, their Successors, and those who came after them.

- Juz` fî Turuq Hadîth Inna Lillâhi Tis`atun wa Tis`îna Isman, in print
- Al-Mahdî.
- Ma`rifat al-Sahâba wa Fadâ'ilihim ("Knowing the Companions and Their Merits"), in print. This book was the basis of subsequent similar works by Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Ibn al-Athîr, and Ibn Hajar.
- Musnad al-Imâm Abî Hanîfa, in print
- Al-Mustakhraj `alâ al-Bukhârî ("Additional Narrations Meeting al-Bukhârî's Criterion"), in print
- Al-Mustakhraj `alâ Muslim ("Aditional Narrations Meeting Muslim's Criterion"), in print
- Riyâdat al-Abdân, in print
- Al-Shu`arâ' ("The Poets").
- Al-Sifât Al-Suyûtî mentioned it in his commentary on Sûrat al-Nâs in his book al-Iklîl fî Istinbât al-Tanzîl.
- Sifat al-Janna ("Description of Paradise"), in print
- Tabaqât al-Muhaddithîn wal-Ruwât ("Biography-Layers of the Hadîth Scholars and Narrators").
- Tasmiyatu mâ Intahâ ilaynâ min al-Ruwât `an al-Fadl ibn Dukayn `Aliyan, in print
- Tasmiyatu mâ Intahâ ilaynâ min al-Ruwât `an Sa`îd ibn Mansûr `Aliyan, in print
- Tathbît al-Imâma wa Tartîb al-Khilâfa, in print, a refutation of Shî`ism.
- Al-Tibb al-Nabawî ("Prophetic Medicine").

One of the miraculous gifts bestowed upon Abû Nu`aym was his banishment from the mosque of Ispahan by a group of people there. The same people, unhappy with the Sultan Mahmûd ibn Subktukin's appointment of a certain man as governor for them, ambushed and killed the man. Later, the Sultan, pretending to reconcile them, reunited them in the mosque from which Abû Nu`aym had been banned and massacred them to the last man. Thus Abû Nu`aym's banishment had saved his life.3


1 Cf. Abû Nu`aym, Dhikr Akhbâr Asbahân (2:306), al-Dhahabî, Siyar (Risâla ed 17:462), and Ibn Taymiyya, Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (12:209) and Dar' Ta`ârud al-`Aql wal-Naql (Ed Muhammad al-Sayyid Julaynid, Cairo: Mu'assasat al-Ahrâm, 1988) 1:268=Muwâfaqat Sarîh al-Ma`qûl (1:160) on the margins of Minhâj al-Sunna al-Nabawiyya (Bulâq: al-Matba`at al-Kubrâ al-Amîriyya, 1904).

2 Ibn al-Salâh, `Ulûm al-Hadîth (p. 348).

3 Tabyîn (p. 243); Siyar (13:293-299 §3919); Tabaqât al-Huffâz (3:1094); Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (4:18-25 §254); al-Muntazam (8:101).


by GF Haddad - Rabi` al-Awwal 1424

Al-Hâkim, Muhammad ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Muhammad ibn Hamdûyah, Abû `Abd Allâh al-Dabbî al-Tamhânî al-Naysabûrî al-Shâfi`î, also known as Ibn al-Bayyi` (321-405). The Imâm, hadîth Master, expert in hadîth criticism, and Shaykh of hadîth Masters. He took hadîth from about two thousand authorities in Khurâsân, Iraq, Transoxiana and elsewhere. Among the most prominent of the Masters who narrated hadîth from him are his own teacher al-Dâraqutnî - who declared him stronger in hadîth than Ibn Mandah, - al-Bayhaqî, al-Qushayrî, and others.
Abû Hazim said that al-Hâkim was peerless in his time in Khurâsân, the Hijâz, al-Shâm, Iraq, Rayy, Tabaristân, and Transoxiana. His fame became widespread with lightning speed in his own lifetime. Al-Dhahabî said: "I saw an incredible thing, which is that the muhaddith of al-Andalus Abû `Umar al-Talamankî copied al-Hâkim's book `Ulûm al-Hadîth ("The Sciences of Hadîth") in the year 389 from a shaykh which he named, from another narrator, from al-Hâkim."
Al-Hâkim belongs to the second generation of the Ash`arî school, having taken al-Ash`arî's doctrine at the hands of his students, among them Abû Sahl al-Su`lûkî. He took tasawwuf from al-Sulamî's grandfather and teacher Abû `Amr ibn Nujayd, Abû al-Hasan al-Bûshanjî, Abû Sa`îd Ahmad ibn Ya`qûb al-Thaqafî, Abû Nasr al-Saffâr, Abû Qâsim al-Râzî, Ja`far ibn Nusayr, Abû `Amr al-Zujâjî, Ja`far ibn Ibrâhîm al-Hadhdhâ', and Abû `Uthmân al-Maghribî.

Al-Hâkim said: "I drank water from Zamzam and asked Allâh for excellence in writing books". He authored the following works among others:

- Al-Abwâb ("The Chapters")
- Al-Amâlî ("The Dictations")
- Amâlî al-`Ashiyyât ("Night Dictations")
- Fadâ'il al-Shâfi`î ("The Immense Merits of al-Shâfi`î")
- Fawâ'id al-Nusakh ("Benefits of the Copies")
- Fawâ'id al-Khurâsâniyyîn ("Benefits of the People of Khurâsân")
- Al-Iklîl fî Dalâ'il al-Nubuwwa ("The Diadem: The Marks of Prophethood")
- Al-`Ilal ("The Defects of Hadîth")
- Mâ Tafarrada bi Ikhrâjihi Kullu Wâhidin min al-Imâmayn ("Reports Found Only in al-Bukhârî or Only in Muslim")
- Al-Madkhal ilâ `Ilm al-Sahîh ("Introduction to the Science of Sound Reports")
- Ma`rifat Anwâ` `Ulûm al-Hadîth ("Knowledge of the Different Types of the Hadîth Sciences")
- Al-Mustadrak `alâ al-Sahîhayn ("Supplement for What is Missing From al-Bukhârî and Muslim")
- Muzakkâ al-Akhbâr ("Verified Reports")
- Al-Sahîhân ("The Two Books of sahîh Hadîths")
- Al-Talkhîs ("The Summary")
- Tarâjim al-Musnad `alâ Shart al-Sahîhayn ("The Reports of Ahmad's Musnad That Match the Criteria of the Two Books of Sahîh")
- Tarâjim al-Shuyûkh ("Biographies of the Shaykhs")
- Târîkh `Ulamâ' Ahl Naysabûr ("History of the Scholars of Naysabûr"), etc.

It is narrated that a man of letters named Abû al-Fadl al-Hamadhânî came to Naysabûr where he acquired a following and was named Badî` al-Zamân ("Wonder of the Age"), whereupon he became self-infatuated.
If he heard someone recite a hundred verses of poetry but once, he was able to recite them back from memory, starting from the end and back to the beginning. One day he criticized someone for saying: "So-and-so the memorizer of hadîth," exclaiming: "Memorizing hadîth! Is it worthy of mention?" When he heard of this, al-Hâkim sent him a book of hadîth and challenged him to memorize it in a week. Al-Hamadhânî returned the book to him and said: "Who can memorize this? 'Muhammad son of So-and-So and Ja`far son of So-and-So reported from So-and-So' - It is filled with all sorts of different names and terms!" Al-Hâkim said: "Therefore know yourself, and understand that to memorize such as this is beyond your sphere."

Al-Hâkim's Mustadrak was criticized by the hadîth scholars due to the number of mistakes and inaccuracies found in it. Al-Sakhâwî in al-I`lân wal-Tawbîkh and others mention that he declares many forged reports to be rigorously authentic - up to 100 according to some authorities - not to mention weak ones, instead of clinging to his own expressed precondition that only reports with chains of the rank of al-Bukhârî's and Muslim's would be retained. For example, he narrates in the Mustadrak from Ibn `Abbâs that Allâh awj revealed to the Prophet ﷺ: "I have killed seventy thousand [in punishment] for [the murder of] Yahyâ ibn Zakariyya and I will kill seventy thousand times seventy thousand [in punishment] for [the murder of] your daughter's son al-Husayn." Al-Hâkim said this report has a sound chain while al-Dhahabî added: "By the criterion of Muslim" but Ibn Hibbân said this hadîth is untraceable (lâ asla lahu), al-Dhahabî himself rejected its matn as munkar in the Siyar while Ibn Kathir similarly declared it "highly anomalous" (gharîb jiddan) in al-Bidâya.1

Al-Dhahabî went to excess in regretting that al-Hâkim had compiled the Mustadrak in the first place.2 His classing al-Hâkim "among those who are lenient, like al-Tirmidhî"3 does not apply to al-Hâkim in absolute terms but only to his grading of narrations in the Mustadrak, which the Scholars pointed out he compiled in his old age, intending to revise it, a task left unfinished beyond the first volume.4 This is proven by the fact that al-Hâkim's mistakes are fewer in the first volume of the Mustadrak, as shown by al-Dhahabî's own minimal corrections there. "Outside of the Mustadrak," Shaykh Mahmûd Mamdûh said, "his positions are as strict as those of any of the meticulous Imâms of hadîth"5 In fact, al-Hâkim often criticizes al-Bukhârî and Muslim for narrating hadîths from narrators who have been questioned.6 More accurately, the criterion of soundness (sihha) for both al-Hâkim and al-Dhahabî includes the narrations others classified as merely fair (hasan).7

Al-Kattânî in al-Risâla al-Mustatrafa described the Mustadrak as consisting half of sound narrations per the criteria of al-Bukhârî and Muslim or of either one, a quarter of sound narrations that do not meet their criteria, and a quarter of unsound narrations including forgeries. Among the takhrîj commentaries on the Mustadrak are al-Dhahabî's Talkhîs al-Mustadrak, al-Suyûtî's Tawdîh al-Madrak fî Tashîh al-Mustadrak, a work by Burhân al-Dîn al-Halabî, and others such as the recent Tanbîh al-Wâhim by Ramadân `Alî Muhammad.

Another criticism is al-Hâkim's alleged Shî`îsm. Al-Dhahabî once names him "one of the oceans of knowledge although a little bit Shî`î" (`alâ tashayyu`in qalîlin fîh), another time "al-Hâkim the Shî`î," and another time "a famous Shî`î" (shî`iyyun mashhûr),8 an echo of Ibn al-Jawzî's barb: "Al-Hâkim was Shî`î-leaning (mutashayyi`) and this is a flagrant trait of his."9 Ibn al-Subkî rejects the label of Shî`î as baseless because Ibn `Asâkir includes al-Hâkim among the Ash`arîs, who consider the Shî`îs innovators. Yet this label is still branded as a blemish today at the hands of those who oppose his positions if they weaken theirs, and those who oppose him for being a follower of al-Ash`arî, or for being a Sûfî.

The first hadîth of the Prophet ﷺ upon him blessings and peace - al-Hâkim narrated in his Ma`rifat `Ulûm al-Hadîth is: "May Allâh make radiant the face of one who heard one of my sayings and then carried it to others. It may be that one carries understanding without being a person of understanding; it may be that one carries understanding to someone who possesses more understanding than he."10

On the 3rd of Safar 405 al-Hâkim went into the bath, came out after bathing, said "Ah" and died wearing but a waist-cloth before he had time to put on a shirt Al-Hasan ibn Ash`ath al-Qurashî said: "I saw al-Hâkim in my dream riding a horse in a handsome appearance and saying: 'Salvation.' I asked him: `Al-Hâkim! In what?' He replied: 'Writing hadîth.'"11


1See Ibn Hibbân, al-Majrûhîn (2:215), al-Khatîb, Târîkh Baghdâd (1:142), al-Hâkim (1990 ed 2:319, 2:648, and 3:195), Fayd al-Qadîr (1:205), Tadhkirat al-Huffâz (1:77 gharîb), Mîzân (sv. Qâsim ibn Ibrâhîm al-Hâshimî), and Siyar (Risâla ed 4:342-343).

2"It would have been better if al-Hâkim had never compiled it"! As mentioned by Dr. Bashshar `Awwad Ma`rûf in his doctoral thesis al-Dhahabî wa Manhajuhu fî Kitâbihi Târîkh al-Islâm.

3In Dhikr Man Yu`tamadu Qawluhu fîl-Jarh wal-Ta`dîl (p. 172).

4Cf. al-Sakhâwî, Fath al-Mughîth (1:36) and Mamdûh, Raf` al-Minâra (p. 153 n. 1).


6Shaykh `Abd Allâh Sirâj al-Dîn said in Sharh al-Manzûma al-Bayqûniyya (p. 47): "Al-Suyûtî said in al-Tadrîb [Egyptian ed p. 72] that Ibn al-Salâh excepted the hadîths that attracted criticism [from his statement that all that is in the two Sahîhs is definitely sahîh]. These are the hadîths which al-Dâraqutnî and others have criticized, 210 narrations as the hâfiz Ibn Hajar said, 32 shared by al-Bukhârî and Muslim, while al-Bukhârî alone has 78 and Muslim alone 100."

7For a critique of al-Dhahabî's statement about al-Tirmidhî's leniency see `Itr's masterpiece al-Imâm al-Tirmidhî.

8"Al-Dhahabî likes to fuss over whomever he suspects of tashayyu`." Al-Ghumârî, al-Mudâwî (5:424). Al-Dhahabî goes so far - in the Siyar (10:627) - as to claim that al-Hâkim leans to the Karrâmiyya!

9Ibn al-Jawzî, al-Muntazam (8:269).

10A mass-transmitted (mutawâtir) hadîth narrated from the following Companions:

 (1) Zayd ibn Thâbit by al-Tirmidhî (hasan in the printed eds), Abû Dâwûd, Ibn Mâjah, Ahmad, al-Dârimî, al-Shâfi`î in his Risâla (§1102), al-Tabarânî in al-Kabîr (§4891-4892, §4925, §4994), Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (1:175 §184), al-Râmahurmuzî in al-Muhaddith al-Fâsil (p. 64), Ibn Abî `Asim in al-Sunna (p. 45 §94), al-Khatîb in Sharaf Ashâb al-Hadîth (p. 24) and al-Faqîh wa al-Mutafaqqih (2:71), al-Tahâwî in Sharh Mushkil al-Athâr (2:232=4:282 §1600), and Ibn Hibbân (1:270 §67, 2:454 §680), all with sound chains as stated by al-Arna'ût and others;

 (2) Jubayr ibn Mut`im by Ibn Mâjah, Ahmad, al-Dârimî, al-Tabarânî in al-Kabîr (§1541-1544), Abû Ya`lâ in his Musnad (1:347 §7413), al-Hâkim (1:87= 1990 ed 1:162), al-Qudâ`î in Musnad al-Shihâb (§1421), al-Tahâwî in Sharh Mushkil al-Athâr (2:232= 4:282 §1601), al-Khatîb in Sharaf Ashâb al-Hadîth (p. 18), and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (1:184-187 §195-197), all with weak chains because of Muhammad ibn Ishâq who is a concealer in his narrative chains (mudallis), cf. al-Haythamî (1:139);

 (3) Anas by Ibn Mâjah, Ahmad, al-Tabarânî in al-Awsat, and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (1:187-189 §198-199) with weak chains - as stated by al-Haythamî (1:138-139) - the collected force of which raise the hadîth to the grade of fair;

 (4) Abû Sa`îd al-Khudrî by al-Bazzâr with a chain of trustworthy narrators except for Sa`îd ibn Bâzigh who may be unknown as stated by al-Haythamî (1:137);

 (5) Abû al-Dardâ' by al-Dârimî and al-Tabarânî in al-Kabîr with a very weak chain because of `Abd al-Rahmân ibn Zayd ("ibn Zubayd al-Yâmî" in al-Dârimî) as stated by al-Haythamî (1:137);

 (6) `Umayr ibn Qatâda al-Laythî by al-Tabarânî in al-Kabîr with a chain containing one narrator whose state is unsure as mentioned by al-Haythamî (1:138);

 (7) al-Nu`mân ibn Bashîr by al-Tabarânî in al-Kabîr with a very weak chain because of `Isâ al-Khabbât and by al-Hâkim (1:88=1990 ed 1:164) with a sound chain as confirmed by al-Dhahabî and as indicated by al-Haythamî (1:138);

 (8) Jâbir and  (9) Sa`d ibn Abî Waqqâs by al-Tabarânî in al-Awsat with weak chains as stated by al-Haythamî (1:138-139);

 (10) Ibn Mas`ûd by al-Tirmidhî with two chains (hasan sahîh), Ibn Mâjah, Ahmad, Abû Ya`lâ in his Musnad (§5126, §5296), al-Shâfi`î in his (1:14), al-Baghawî in Sharh al-Sunna (1:233-234), al-Khatîb in al-Kifâya (p. 29, p. 173) and Sharaf Ashâb al-Hadîth (p. 18-19, p. 26), al-Bayhaqî in Ma`rifat al-Sunan (1:15-16, 1:43) and Dalâ'il al-Nubuwwa (6:540), Abû Nu`aym in Târîkh Asbahân (2:90) and al-Hilya (7:331) where he graded it sahîh, al-Hâkim in Ma`rifat `Ulûm al-Hadîth (p. 322), Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (1:178-182 §188-191), Ibn Hibbân (1:268 §66, 1271-272 §68-69) with three fair chains according to al-Arna'ût, one of them with the wording "Allâh have mercy on someone who hears a hadîth from me then conveys it..."

Al-Kattânî in Nazm al-Mutanâthir adds the following Companion-narrators of this hadîth:

 (11) Bashîr ibn al-Nu`mân;
 (12) Mu`âdh ibn Jabal;
 (13) Abû Qirfâsa;
 (14) Rabî`a ibn `Uthmân al-Taymî;
 (15) Ibn `Umar;
 (16) Zayd ibn Khâlid al-Juhanî;
 (17) `A'isha; (18) Abû Hurayra; and
 (19) Shayba ibn `Uthmân.

Al-Tirmidhî's version does not mention the last sentence while al-Shâfi`î's adds "and guard them from delusion." This is the first narration in al- Ajurrî's book al-Sharî`a. On the variant wordings of this important hadîth also see `Abd al-Fattâh Abû Ghudda's al-Rasûl al-Mu`allim (p. 55-56).

11Tabyîn (p. 226-229); Mîzân (3:608 §7804, 3:551 §7544); Siyar (13:97-106 §3714); Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (4:155-171 §329).


by GF Haddad - Rabi` al-Awwal 1424

Yûsuf1 ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Muhammad Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Abû `Umar al-Namarî al-Andalusî al-Qurtubî al-Mâlikî (368-463). A major hadîth Master of the Mâlikî School. Ibn Farhûn says he was the greatest memorizer of the Sunna in his time and Ibn al-Subkî mentions him in the fifth synchronical layer of those who followed the School of al-Ash`arî in doctrine along with Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî, Abû al-Hasan al-Qâbisî, Abû al-Qâsim ibn `Asâkir, Abû al-Hasan al-Murâdî, Abû Sa`d ibn al-Sam`ânî, Abû Tâhir al-Silafî, al-Qâdî `Iyâd, and al-Shahrastânî. He studied under Ibn al-Makwî, Ibn al-Fardî, Ahmad ibn `Abd al-Mâlik ibn Hishâm, and took hadîth from Sa`îd ibn Nasr, `Abd al-Wârith, Ahmad ibn Qâsim al-Bazzâr, Khalf ibn Sahl, Abû `Umar al-Talamankî, and many others Al-Qurtubî cites him about five hundred times in his Tafsîr. Of his book al-Tamhîd his friend Ibn Hazm said: "I do not know of anything like it with regard to the superlative understanding of hadîth, let alone better than it."

Ibn `Abd al-Barr initially followed the School of Dâwûd al-Zâhirî and befriended Ibn Hazm. He left that school and turned to that of Imâm Mâlik, while leaning towards the Shâfi`î school. His literalist bend is evident in doctrine, and "Salafîs" are fond of quoting his apparent attribution of place, direction, and corporeality to Allâh Most High in al-Tamhîd:

The hadîth [of the descent of Allâh] provides evidence that Allâh is in () the heaven, on (`alâ) the Throne, above (fawq) seven heavens, as the Congregation (jamâ`a) said, and this is part of their proof against the Mu`tazila and the Jahmiyya's claim that Allâh is in every place and not on the Throne.2 ... An entity cannot be conceived to exist without place in relation to us, and whatever is without place is non-existent. 3

However, Ibn `Abd al-Barr also narrates with his chain from Mutarrif, a few pages further, that Imâm Mâlik said: "It is our Lord's command which descends" He then admits: "It is possible that the matter be as Mâlik said, and Allâh knows best"4

Ibn Jahbal al-Kilâbî said:

Concerning what Abû `Umar ibn `Abd al-Barr said [in apparent attribution of place, direction, and corporeality to Allâh Most High], both the elite and the general public know the man's position and the scholars' disavowal of if. The Mâlikîs' condemnation of it, from the first to the last of them, is well-known. His contravention of the Imâm of North Africa, Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî, is famous. It reached a point that the eminent people of North Africa would say: "No one in North Africa holds this position except he and Ibn Abî Zayd!" although some of the people of knowledge cited an excuse for Ibn Abî Zayd in the text of the great qâdî Abû Muhammad `Abd al-Wahhâb [ibn `Alî ibn Nasr al-Baghdâdî (d 422)] al-Baghdâdî al-Mâlikî5 - may Allâh have mercy on him. 6

In the same chapter of al-Tamhîd cited above, Ibn `Abd al-Barr rejects Mujâhid's alleged tafsîr of the Exalted Station (in verse 17:79) as consisting in the seating of the Prophet ﷺ Allâh bless and greet him - with Allâh Most High on His Throne.7

The "Salafis" also quote Ibn `Abd al-Barr's apparent stand against kalâm in his citation of Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd: "The people of the innovated sects in the view of Imâm Mâlik and the remainder of our companions are the people of kalâm. Every person of kalâm is from the people of the innovated sects and innovations, whether he is an Ash`arî or other than an Ash`arî, and his witness is never accepted in Islâm. Indeed, his witness is to be ostracised and he is to be punished for his innovation, and if he persists then repentance is sought from him."

This is Abû `Abd Allâh Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Khuwayz Mindâd al-Basrî who narrated hadîth, but did not become known as a Muhaddith, much less a Hâfiz but was one of the Jurists and Usûliyyûn of the Mâlikîs. He died in 390 and thus is not a companion of Imâm Mâlik but came 200 years and seven biographical layers later. His claim of what Imâm Mâlik supposedly said is thoroughly unreliable until he is confirmed independently, even if he produced his chain to Mâlik's supposed statement (a fortiori if he does not even have a chain as in this case). Hence, Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd's reports from Mâlik "contain anomalies" and he "contradicts the Madhhab in both Fiqh and Usûl nor do the [Mâlikî] experts rely on his positions" according to al-Qâdî `Iyâd (d 544).8 `Iyâd also said: "He was not insightful in his positions nor strong in fiqh. Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî said of him: I never heard him mentioned once by the Ulema of Iraq." `Iyâd also exposes him as an extremist in his anti-kalâm stance: "He alienated the Mutakallimîn of Ahl al-Sunna [i.e. the Ash`arîs] and ruled that all of them were among the people of vain lusts (ahwâ') concerning whom Mâlik said his famous statement on [avoiding] their marriage, [rejecting] their witness and leadership, and alienating them."9

Imâm Mâlik certainly did not mean the Ash`arîs but the Mu`tazilîs and their sub-sects by consensus in the statement in question, as is made clear, among others, by Ibn `Abd al-Barr himself in his report from the same Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd on the previous page!10

It is known that Imâm Mâlik never retained any Mu`tazilîs, Qadarîs, or Khawârij in his Muwatta' as narrators while al-Bukhârî, Muslim and their students such as Imâm al-Tirmidhî did narrate from Qadarîs and Jahmîs.11 Thus the misguided view Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd expressed in including the Ash`arîs among the people of innovation was rejected by his own School and is not considered in the least valid by the major Mâlikî Huffâz and Fuqahâ' such as Qâdî `Iyâd, al-Mâzarî, Abû Bakr ibn al-`Arabî, Abûl-Walîd al-Bâjî, al-Qurtubî, and others - all thorough Ash`arîs.

Among Ibn `Abd al-Barr's books:

- Al-Ajwiba al-Mû`iba ("The Comprehensive Answers");
- Al-`Aql wal-`Uqalâ' ("Reason and the People of Wisdom");
- Ash`âr Abî al-`Atâhiya ("The Poems of Abû al-`Atahiya12");
- Al-Bayân fî Tilâwat al-Qur'ân ("The Exposition Concerning the Recitation of the Qur'ân");
- Al-Farâ'id ("The Laws of Inheritance");
- Al-Iktifâ' fî Qirâ'at Nâfi`in wa Abî `Amrin ("The Contentment in Nâfi` and Abû `Amr's Reading");
- Al-Inbâh `an Qabâ'il al-Ruwâh ("Drawing Attention to the Nomenclature of the Narrators' Tribes");
- Al-Insâf fî Asmâ' Allâh ("The Book of Fidelity: On the Names of Allâh");
- Al-Intiqâ' fî Fadâ'il al-Thalâthat al-A'immat al-Fuqahâ' Mâlik wal-Shâfi`î wa Abî Hanîfa ("The Hand-Picked Excellent Merits of the Three Great Jurisprudent Imâms: Mâlik, Shâfi`î, and Abû Hanîfa"). Shaykh `Abd al-Fattâh Abû Ghudda said the order in the title reflects the precedence of Madîna over Makka and that of Makka over al-Kûfa.
- Al-Istidhkâr li Madhhab `Ulamâ' al-Amsâr fîmâ Tadammanahu al-Muwatta' min Ma`ânî al-Ra'î wal-Athâr ("The Memorization of the Doctrine of the Scholars of the World Concerning the Juridical Opinions and the Narrations Found in Mâlik's Muwatta'");
- Al-Istî`âb fî Asmâ' al-Ashâb ("The Comprehensive Compilation of the Names of the Prophet's Companions");
- Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilmi wa-Fadlihi wamâ Yanbaghî fî Riwâyatihi wa Hamlih ("Compendium Exposing the Nature of Knowledge and Its Immense Merit, and What is Required in the Process of Narrating it and Conveying it");
- Al-Kâfî fî Madhhab Mâlik ("The Sufficiency in Mâlik's School of Jurisprudence");
- Al-Kunâ ("The Patronyms");
- Al-Maghâzî ("The Battles");
- Al-Qasd wal-Umam fî Nasab al-`Arab wal-`Ajam ("The Endeavors and the Nations: Genealogies of the Arabs and Non-Arabs");
- Al-Shawâhid fî Ithbât Khabar al-Wâhid ("The Supporting Evidence for Maintaining Lone-Narrator Reports [as a source for legal rulings]");
- Al-Tamhîd limâ fîl-Muwatta' min al-Ma`ânî wal-Asânîd ("The Facilitation to the Meanings and Chains of Transmission Found in Mâlik's Muwatta'");
- Al-Taqassî fî Ikhtisâr al-Muwatta' ("The Detailed Study in the Abridgment of the Muwatta'");

Main sources: Siyar 13:524 §4158; Shajarat al-Nûr p. 119 §337; Ibn Farhûn, al-Dîbâj p. 440-442 §626; Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ 3:372.


1 Ibn Farhûn in al-Dîbâj (p. 442) mentions that Yûsuf has six pronunciations in Arabic: yûsuf, yûsaf, yuwisif, yuwisuf, yuwisaf, and yu'sif.

2 Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (7:129). See above, section entitled Ibn `Abd al-Barr's Controversy (p. 466f.) as well as Shaykh Nuh Keller's article, "Is it permissible for a Muslim to believe that `Allâh is in the sky' in a literal sense?" at and the discussion on istiwâ' in our article, "Istiwâ' is a Divine Act" cf.

3 Al-Tamhîd (7:135).

4 Al-Tamhîd (7:143).

5 Perhaps a reference to his commentary on Ibn Abî Zayd's Risâla (Dîbâj p. 262).

6 In Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (9:78). See our forthcoming publication of Imâm Ibn Jahbal al-Kilâbî's Refutation of Ibn Taymiyya.

7 Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (7:157-158).

8 In Tartîb al-Madârik (Moroccan ed 7:77-78).

9 Ibn Farhûn (d 799) cites all of the above in al-Dîbâj al-Mudhahhab (§491).

10 Cf. Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm wa-Fadlih (1994 Saudi ed 2:942-943 §1800).

11 See on this the relevant chapter in al-Suyûtî's Tadrîb al-Râwî.

12 Ismâ`îl ibn Qâsim ibn Suwayd (d 213).


by GF Haddad - Rabi` al-Awwal 1424

`Abd Allâh ibn Muhammad ibn `Alî Abû Ismâ`îl al-Harawî al-Ansârî al-Hanbalî (396-481), a major Sûfî shaykh, hadîth Master, Qur'ânic commentator, and philologist of the Hanbalî school eulogized by al-Dhahabî as "a genuine advocate of the transmitted sources" (atharî quhh). He used to distribute his wealth once a year to students and townspeople and was fearless in speaking the truth to princes. He is one of those known as "Shaykh al-Islâm" but Ibn al-Subkî said: "He does not deserve that title but was given out of fanaticism, in imitation of Abû `Uthmân [al-Sâbûnî]."1

A fanatical censor of innovations, he was an arch-enemy of Ash`arîs in his time, against whom he wrote Dhamm al-Kalâm ("The Blame of Dialectic Theology"), admired by al-Dhahabî but banned by Ibn Hajar - who forbade his students to read it - as a model of bad writing.2 Because of this enmity he was expelled from Balkh repeatedly and jailed together with his students. Asked before Nizâm al-Mulk's court why he cursed Abû al-Hasan al-Ash`arî, he replied:

I do not know Abû al-Hasan, but I curse whoever does not firmly hold that Allâh is in the heaven, or that the Qur'ân is in the mushaf, and says that the Prophet ﷺ Allah bless and greet him - today is no longer a prophet!

To hold that Allâh is located in, above, or below the heaven is anthropomorphism; to hold that the mushaf is pre-eternal is indwelling (hulûl); finally, al-Ash`arî and his School never held that the Prophet ﷺ Allah bless and greet him - today is no longer a Prophet, but the reverse.3

Another work al-Harawî compiled in refutation of Ash`arîs is al-Fârûq fîl-Sifât - also known as al-Fârûq fîl-Farq bayn al-Muthbita wal-Mu`attila - in which he states: "Allâh is in the seventh heaven (fî al-samâ' al-sâbi`a) over the Throne (`alâ al-`arsh) Himself (bi nafsihi)" and "in () as well as over (`alâ) the seventh heaven."4

A third work compiled against Ash`arîs, al-Arba`în fîl-Tawhîd is replete, like the Fârûq, with blatant anthropomorphism and hadîth forgeries. Perhaps the most extreme illustration of anthropomorphism ever authored by a purportedly Sunni authority, it contains about forty chapters, among them:

"Exposition on the Fact that Allâh Most High is Something (shay')"; "Exposition of the Fact that Allâh Most High is a Person (shakhs)"; "Affirmation of the Fact that Allâh Most High has a Limit (hadd)"; "Affirmation of the Fact that Allâh Most High has Sides or Directions (jihât)"; "Affirmation of the Fact that Allâh Most High has an Image (sûra)";
"Affirmation of His Handwriting (khatt)";
"Affirmation of the Fact that Allâh Most High has Fingers (asâbi`)"; and - in conclusion -
"The Prohibition of Delving Too Deep into the Divine Attributes"!5

Upon the encouragement of a female relative, Bîbî Nâzânîn, al-Harawî al-Ansârî met then became the student of the unlettered Naqshbandî Shaykh, Khwâjâ Abû al-Hasan al-Kharqânî (d 425).6

He authored several treatises detailing the principles and methods of the Sûfî path. Among them:

Manâzil al-Sâ'irîn ilâ al-Haqq al-Mubîn, frowned upon by Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Dhahabî, Ibn Rajab, and characterized by their teacher Ibn Taymiyya as "falling into the doctrine of incarnationism (hulûl)"7 and "ending up in literal merging with the Divine (haqîqat al-ittihâd),"8 of which Ibn al-Qayyim wrote an expurged version -cum-critical commentary entitled Madârij al-Sâlikîn.

Tabaqât al-Sûfiyya ("Synchronical Layers of the Sûfî Masters"), the expanded version of an earlier work by the - Ash`arî - Shaykh Abû `Abd al-Rahmân al-Sulamî (d 411) bearing the same title.

`Ilal al-Maqâmât ("The Pitfalls of Spiritual Stations"), his testament, describing the characteristics of spiritual states for the student and the teacher in the Sûfî path; Ibn Taymiyya in his Minhâj al-Sunna again said that al-Harawî filled it with notions of indwelling and union-with-the-Divine.9

Sâd Maydân (in Persian, "The Hundred Fields"), a commentary on the meanings of love in the verse: {If you love Allâh, follow me, and Allâh will love you} (3:31). This book collects al-Harawî's lectures in the years 447-448 at the Great Mosque of Herat (in present-day Afghanistan) in which he presents his most eloquent exposition of the necessity of following the Sûfî path. He is also said to have devoted three hundred and sixty sittings to the commentary of the verse {Lo! those unto whom kindness has gone forth before from Us, they will be far removed from thence [Hellfire]} (21:101).

Kashf al-Asrâr wa `Uddat al-Abrâr (in Persian, "The Unveiling of the Secrets and the Harness of the Righteous"), in ten volumes by al-Maybûdî, it contains al-Harawî's Qur'ânic commentary.

Al-Harawî al-Ansârî is documented by al-Dhahabî in his Târîkh al-Islâm and Siyar A`lâm al-Nubalâ', Ibn Rajab in his Dhayl Tabaqât al-Hanâbila,10 and Jâmî in his book in Persian Manâqib-i Shaykh al-Islâm Ansârî11 among others.

Main source: Siyar 14:38-48 §4333.


1Ibn al-Subkî, Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (4:272-273).

2As mentioned by Ibn Hajar's student al-Sakhâwî in the introduction to al-Jawâhir wal-Durar.

3See on these notions Shaykh Nuh Keller's article, "Is It Permissible for a Muslim to Believe that Allâh Is in the Sky in a Literal Sense?" at and Ibn `Abd al-Salâm's al-Mulha in general, especially the section entitled "Proofs Against Those Who Claim the mushaf is Pre-Eternal". On the attribution to Ash`arîs of the heretical notion that "the Prophet ﷺ upon him peace - today is no longer a prophet," see our notice on Ibn Fûrâk at

4As quoted by al-Dhahabî in Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 278 §339 and p. 151 §150).

5More alarming yet is the characterization of the above as "Salafî doctrine" (al-`aqîda al-salafiyya) by al-Harawî's admirer `Abd Allâh ibn Muhammad al-Ansârî in his recent 5-volume edition of Dhamm al-Kalâm (1:83, 1:86).

6The Naqshbandî chain of masters at the time of al-Kharqânî is as follows: Abû Yazîd al-Bistâmî > Abû al-Hasan al-Kharqânî > Abû `Alî al-Farmadî (al-Ghazzâlî's teacher) > Abû Yûsuf al-Hamadânî > Abû al-`Abbâs al-Khidr > `Abd al-Khâliq al-Ghujdawânî.

7In his Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (5:126, 5:230, 14:11, cf. 5:485, 8:317).

8In his Minhâj al-Sunna (1986 ed 5:342).

9As quoted in al-Ghumârî's al-Burhân (p. 52).

10Ibn Rajab, Dhayl Tabaqât al-Hanâbila (1:64-85).

11Edited by A.J. Arberry, "Jami's Biography of Ansârî" in The Islamic Quarterly (July-December 1963) p. 57-82.

Hajj Gibril
GF Haddad
[3 May 2003]

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