Abu Bakr al-Siddiq
`Atiq ibn Abi Quhafa, Shaykh al-Islam, `Abd Allah
ibn `Uthman ibn `Amir al-Qurashi al-Taymi (d. 13), the Prophet's intimate
friend after Allah, exclusive companion at the Prophet's Basin (hawd)
and in the Cave, greatest supporter, closest confidant, first spiritual
inheritor, first of the men who believed in him and the only one who did so
unhesitatingly, first of his four Rightly-Guided successors, first of the ten
promised Paradise, and first of the Prophet's Community to enter Paradise.
Alone among the Companions, Abu Bakr repeatedly led the
Community in prayer in the lifetime of the Prophet. The latter used to call
him by his patronyms of Abu Bakr and Ibn Abi Quhafa, and he named him with the
attributes "The Most Truthful" (al-Siddîq) and "Allah's
Freedman From the Fire" (`Atîq Allâh min al-nâr). When the
Quraysh confronted the Prophet after the Night Journey, they turned to Abu
Bakr and said: "Do you believe what he said, that he went last night to
the Hallowed House and came back before morning?" He replied: "If he
said it, then I believe him, yes, and I do believe him regarding what is
farther than that. I believe the news of heaven he brings, whether in the
space of a morning or in that of an evening journey." Because of this Abu
Bakr was named al-Siddîq: the Very Truthful, the One Who Never Lies.
Among the Companions who narrated from him: Anas, `A'isha,
Jabir, Abu Hurayra, the four `Abd Allahs (Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Umar,
Ibn `Amr), `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, `Umar, `Uthman, and `Ali. The latter is
one of the narrators of the Prophet's hadith cited by Abu Bakr: "We
[Prophets] do not leave anything as inheritance. What we leave behind is
`Umar said: "Abu Bakr's faith outweighs the faith of
the entire Umma." This is confirmed by the following hadith: The
Prophet asked: "Did any of you see anything in his dream?" A man
said to the Prophet: "O Messenger of Allah, I saw in my dream as if a
balance came down from the heaven in which you were weighed against Abu Bakr
and outweighed him, then Abu Bakr was weighed against `Umar and outweighed
him, then `Umar was weighed against `Uthman and outweighed him, then the
balance was raised up." This displeased the Prophet who said: "Successorship
of prophethood (khilâfa nubuwwa)! Then Allah shall give kingship to
whomever He will." `Umar also said: "The best of this Community
after its Prophet is Abu Bakr." `Ali named him and `Umar the Shaykh
al-Islam of the Community and said: "The best of this Community after
its Prophet are Abu Bakr and `Umar," "The most courageous of people
is Abu Bakr," and "The greatest in reward among people for the
volumes of the Qur'an is Abu Bakr, for he was the first of those who
gathered the Qur'an between two covers." He was also the first to name
Abu Bakr's high rank is indicated, among other signs, by
the fact that to deny his Companionship to the Prophet entails disbelief (kufr),
unlike the denial of the Companionship of `Umar, `Uthman, and `Ali to the
Prophet. This is due to the mention of this companionship in the verse: "The
second of two when the two were in the cave, and he said unto his companion:
Grieve not" (9:40) which refers, by Consensus, to the Prophet and
Abu Bakr. Allah further praised him above the rest by saying: "Those
who spent and fought before the victory are not upon a level (with the rest of
The Prophet confirmed his high rank in many of his sayings,
"Allah gave one of His servants a choice between
this world and what He has with Him, and that servant chose what Allah has
with Him." Abu Bakr wept profusely and we wondered why he wept, since
the Prophet had told of a servant that was given a choice. The Prophet
himself was that servant, as Abu Bakr later told us. The Prophet
continued: "Among those most dedicated to me in his companionship and
property is Abu Bakr. If I were to take an intimate friend other than my
Lord, I would take Abu Bakr. But what binds us is the brotherhood of Islam
and its love. Let no door [of the Prophet's mosque] remain open except
"I am excused, before each of my friends, of any
intimate friendship with anyone. But if I were to take an intimate friend,
I would take Ibn Abi Quhafa as my intimate friend. Verily, your Companion
is the intimate friend of Allah!"
"You [Abu Bakr] are my companion at the Basin and
my companion in the Cave."
"Call Abu Bakr and his son so that I will put
something down in writing, for I fear lest someone ambitious forward a
claim, and Allah and the believers refuse anyone other than Abu Bakr."
`Amr ibn al-`As asked: "O Messenger of Allah, who
is the most beloved of all men to you?" He replied: "Abu Bakr."
"It is impermissible for a people among whom is
Abu Bakr, to be led by other than him."
"Take for your leaders those who come after me:
Abu Bakr and `Umar."
"O`Ali! Abu Bakr and `Umar are the leaders of the
mature inhabitants of Paradise and its youth among the first and the last,
except for Prophets and Messengers."
"The sun never rose nor set over anyone better
than Abu Bakr."
"The Prophet used to hold nightly conversations
with Abu Bakr in the latter's house, discussing the affairs of Muslims,
and I [`Umar] was present with them."
`Umar was angered by Abu Bakr one day and left him in
anger. Abu Bakr followed after him, asking his forgiveness, but `Umar
refused and shut his door in his face. Abu Bakr then went to the Prophet
and took hold of his garment until his knee showed. The Prophet said:
"Your companion has been arguing!" Abu Bakr greeted him and
said: "There was a dispute between me and `Umar, then I felt remorse
and asked him to forgive me but he would not, so I came to you." The
Prophet said, repeating three times: "Allah forgives you, O Abu Bakr!
Allah forgives you, O Abu Bakr! Allah forgives you, O Abu Bakr!" Then
`Umar felt remorse and went asking for Abu Bakr at his house without
finding him. He came to the Prophet and greeted him, but the Prophet's
face changed with displeasure. Seeing this, Abu Bakr sat up on his knees
in fear before the Prophet, saying twice: "O Messenger of Allah! I am
the one who trangressed. O Messenger of Allah! I am the one who
transgressed." The Prophet said to the people: "Allah sent me to
you and you all said: ‘You are lying!' But Abu Bakr said: ‘He said
the truth.' Abu Bakr gave me solace with his person and property. Will
you leave my companion alone once and for all? Will you leave my companion
alone once and for all?!" After this Abu Bakr was never harmed again.
"Jibril came to me, took me by the hand, and
showed me the gate through which my Community shall enter Paradise."
Abu Bakr said: "Would that I were with you to see it!" The
Prophet said: "Did you not know? You will be the first of all my
Community to enter it."
Al-Suyuti relates through Ibn Sa`d's report from `A'isha
her description of Abu Bakr: "He was a man with fair skin, thin,
emaciated, with a sparse beard, a slightly hunched frame, sunken eyes and
protruding forehead, and the bases of his fingers were hairless." He was
the foremost genealogist of the Quraysh and the best of them at interpreting
dreams after the Prophet according to Ibn Sirin. `A'isha related that both
he and `Uthman had relinquished drinking wine even in the Time of Ignorance.
His caliphate lasted two years and three months in which he opened up the
lands of Syria and Iraq for the Muslims, suppressed apostasy among the Arab
tribes, fought the pseudo-Prophets al-Aswad al-`Ansi, Tulayha al-Asadi who
recanted and declared his prophethood in Najd, and Musaylima the Liar who was
killed in the devastating battle of al-Yamama.
Imam al-Nawawi pointed out that Abu Bakr's genealogical
tree alone regroups four successive generations of Companions of the Prophet:
his father Abu Quhafa, himself, his daughter Asma', and her son `Abd Allah,
in addition to Abu Bakr's son `Abd al-Rahman and his grandson Abu `Atiq.
Nawawi states that only one hundred and forty-two hadiths of the Prophet are
narrated from Abu Bakr. He comments: "The reason for this scarcity,
despite the seniority of his companionship to the Prophet, is that his death
pre-dated the dissemination of hadiths and the endeavor of the Followers to
hear, gather, and preserve them." Among Abu Bakr's sayings:
"Whoever fights his ego for Allah's sake, Allah will protect Him
against what He hates."
Main sources: Al-Nawawi, Tahdhib
al-Asma' wa al-Lughat 2:181-182; Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya'
1:62-72 #1; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 1-2:467-508 #2.
`Umar ibn al-Khattab
ibn Nufayl ibn `Abd al-`Uzza ibn Rayyah, Shaykh al-Islam,
Amir al-Mu'minin, Abu Hafs al-Qurashi al-`Adawi al-Faruq (d. 23).
Among the Companions who narrated from him: `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Abu
Hurayra, and especially his son Ibn `Umar upon whose narrations Malik relied
in his Muwatta'. He was described as fair-skinned with some
reddishness, tall with a large build, fast-paced, and a skilled fighter and
horseman. He embraced Islam after having fought it, in the year 6 of the
Prophethood, at age twenty-seven. This was the result of the Prophet's
explicit supplication: "O Allah! Strengthen Islam with `Umar ibn al-Khattab."
In his time Islam entered Egypt, Syria, Sijistan, Persia, and other regions.
He died a martyr, stabbed in the back while at prayer by a Sabean or
Zoroastrian slave, at sixty-six years of age.
`Umar al-Faruq was second only to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq in
closeness to and approval from the Prophet. The latter said: "I have two
ministers from the inhabitants of the heaven and two ministers from the
inhabitants of the earth. The former are Jibril and Mika'il, and the latter
are Abu Bakr and `Umar." He said of the latter: "These two are [my]
hearing and eyesight" and instructed the Companions: "Follow those
that come after me: Abu Bakr and `Umar."
`Umar was given the gift of true inspiration which is the
characteristic of Allah's Friends named kashf or
"unveiling." The Prophet said: "In the nations long before you
were people who were spoken to [by the angels] although they were not
prophets. If there is anyone of them in my Community, truly it is `Umar ibn
al-Khattab." This narration is elucidated by the
two narrations whereby "Allah has engraved truth on the tongue of `Umar
and his heart" and "If there were a Prophet after me verily it would
be `Umar." Al-Tirmidhi said that according to Ibn `Uyayna "spoken
to" (muhaddathûn) means "made to understand" (mufahhamûn),
while in his narration Muslim added: "Ibn Wahb explained ‘spoken to'
as ‘inspired' (mulham)." This is the majority's opinion
according to Ibn Hajar who said: "‘Spoken to' means ‘by the angels'."
Al-Nawawi and Ibn Hajar said respectively in Sharh Sahih Muslim and Fath
The scholars have differed concerning "spoken
to." Ibn Wahb said it meant "inspired" (mulham). It was
said also: "Those who are right, and when they give an opinion it is as
if they were spoken to, and then they give their opinion. It was said also:
"The angels speak to them..." Bukhari said: "Truth comes from
their tongues." This hadith contains a confirmation of the miracles of
the saints (karâmât al-awliya).
The one among [Muslims] who is "spoken to," if
his existence is ascertained, what befalls him is not used as basis for a
legal judgment, rather he is obliged to evaluate it with the Qur'an, and if
it conforms to it or to the Sunna, he acts upon it, otherwise he leaves it.
A claim was raised that since the hadith states "If
there is anyone in my Umma, it is `Umar," it must follow that at most the
number of such inspired people is at most one, namely `Umar. Ibn Hajar replied
to this with the reminder that it is wrong to think that other Communities had
many but this Community only one. Thus what is meant by the hadith is the
perfection of the quality of ilhâm û inspiration û in `Umar, not its
lack in other Muslims, and Allah knows best.
`Umar also had the unique distinction of having his views
confirmed by the revelation in the Holy Qur'an: He said three things which
were confirmed by subsequent revelations:
I concurred with my Lord in three matters: I said to the
Prophet: "O Messenger of Allah! Why do we not pray behind Ibrahim's
Station?" Whereupon was revealed the verse: ".
. . Take as your place of worship the place where Ibrahim stood (to pray). .
." (2:125); I said: "O Messenger of Allah! You should order
your wives to cover because both the chaste and the wicked go in to see
them," whereupon was revealed the verse: "...
And when you ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them
from behind a curtain. . ." (33:53) Then the Prophet's wives
banded together in their jealousy over him, so I said to them: "It
may happen that his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him instead wives
better than you, [submissive (to Allah), believing, pious, penitent,
inclined to fasting, widows and maids]." (67:5) Whereupon was
revealed that verse.
He was unique in his power of separating truth from
falsehood and the Prophet conferred on him the title of al-Fârûq,
saying: "In truth, the devil certainly parts ways with (layafruqu min)
`Umar." He memorized Sura al-Baqara in twelve years, and when he had
learned it completely he slaughtered a camel. Imam Malik stated that on his
suggestion the words "I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of
Allah" were added to the adhân, and likewise the words
"Prayer is better than Sleep" to the adhân for the dawn
prayer. However, the more correct report is that it is Bilal who first
inserted the latter formula in the call to the dawn prayer and the Prophet
`Umar ibn al-Khattab was the first Muslim ruler to
establish a Public Treasury; the first Muslim ruler to levy a customs duty
named `ushr; the first Muslim ruler to organize a census; the first
Muslim ruler to strike coins; the first Muslim ruler to organize a system of
canals for irrigation; and the first Muslim ruler to formally organize
provinces, cities, and districts. He established the system of guest-houses
and rest-houses on major routes to and from major cities. He established
schools throughout the land and allocated liberal salaries for teachers. He
was the first to prohibit mut`a or temporary marriage, according to the
Prophet's earlier prohibition. He was the first to place the law of
inheritance on a firm basis. He was the first to establish trusts, and the
first ruler in history to separate the judiciary from the executive.
He took pains to provide effective and speedy justice for
the people. He set up an effective system of judicial administration under
which justice was administered according to the principles of Islam. Qadis or
judges were appointed at all administrative levels for the administration of
justice and were chosen for their integrity and learning in Islamic law. High
salaries were paid to them and they were appointed from the among the wealthy
and those of high social standing so as not to be influenced by the social
position of any litigants. The qadis were not allowed to engage in trade.
From time to time, `Umar used to issue firmans or edicts
laying down the principles for the administration of justice. One of his
Glory to Allah! Verily Justice is an important obligation
to Allah and to man. You have been charged with this responsibility.
Discharge this responsibility so that you may win the approbation of Allah
and the good will of the people. Treat the people equally in your presence,
and in your decisions, so that the weak despair not of justice, and the
high-placed harbor no hope of favoritism. The onus of proof lies on the
plaintiff, while the party who denies must do so on oath. Compromise is
permissible, provided that it does not turn the unlawful into something
lawful, and the lawful into something unlawful. Let nothing prevent you from
changing your previous decision if after consideration you feel that the
previous decision was incorrect. When you are in doubt about a question and
find nothing concerning it in the Qur'an or the Sunna of the Prophet,
ponder the question over and over again. Ponder over the precedents and
analogous cases, and then decide by analogy. A term should be fixed for the
person who wants to produce witnesses. If he proves his case, discharge for
him his right. Otherwise the suit should be dismissed. All Muslims are
trustworthy, except those who have been punished with flogging, those who
have borne false witness, or those of doubtful integrity.
One day Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, the governor of Basra at the
time, wrote to `Umar complaining that the ordinances, instructions, and
letters from the Caliph were undated and therefore gave rise to problems
linked to the sequence of their implementation. Because of this and other
similar problems of undatedness, `Umar convened an assembly of scholars and
advisors to consider the question of calendar reforms. The deliberations of
this assembly resulted in the combined opinion that Muslims should have a
calendar of their own. The point that was next considered was from when should
the new Muslim calendar era begin. Some suggested that the era should begin
from the birth of the Prophet while others suggested that it should begin from
the time of his death. `Ali suggested that the era should begin from the date
the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Madina, and this was agreed upon. The next
question considered was the month from which the new era should start. Some
suggested that it should start from the month of Rabi` al-Awwal, some from
Rajab, others from Ramadan, others from Dhu al-Hijja. `Uthman suggested that
the new era should start from the month of Muharram because that was the first
month in the Arabic calendar of that time. This was agreed upon. Since the
Migration had taken place in the month of Rabi` al-Awwal, two months and eight
days after the first of Muharram that year, the date was pushed back by two
months and eight days, and the new Hijri calendar began with the first
day of Muharram in the year of the Migration rather than from the actual date
of the Migration.
`Umar was the first Muslim ruler to levy `ushr, the
Customs or Import Duty. It was levied on the goods of the traders of other
countries who chose to trade in the Muslim dominions, at up to 10% of the
goods imported and on a reciprocal basis. `Ushr was levied in a way to
avoid hardships, and only on merchandise meant for sale, not goods imported
for consumption or for personal use. Goods valued at two hundred dirhams or
less were not subject to `ushr. Instructions were issued to the
officials that no personal luggage was to be searched, and `ushr was
applied only to goods that were declared as being for the purpose of trade.
The rate varied for Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim dominions. If
the former imported goods for the purpose of trade, they paid a lower rate of `ushr:
2+ % , that is, the same rate as for zakât. Hence, this was regarded
as part of the zakât and not as a separate tax. Dhimmis or
non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim dominions who imported goods for the purpose
of trade paid a `ushr of 5%. In order to avoid double taxation, it was
established that if the `ushr had been paid once on imported goods, and
then these goods were subsequently taken abroad and then brought back into the
Muslim dominions within the same year, no additional `ushr was to be
levied on such re-imported goods.
Some among `Umar's innovations mentioned in Abu Hilal
al-`Askari's Kitab al-Awa'il ("Book of Firsts") and
Establishment of Bayt al-mâl or public
Establishment of courts of justice and appointment of
The determination of the Hijra calendar which continues
to this day.
Assumption of the title of Amîr al-Mu'minîn.
Organization of the War Department.
Putting army reserves on the payroll.
Establishment of the Land Revenue Department.
Survey and assessment of lands.
Building of Canals.
Founding of the cities of Kufa, Basra, al-Jazira,
Fustat, and Musal.
Division of conquered countries into provinces.
Imposition of customs duties.
Taxation of the produce of the sea and appointment of
officials for its collection.
Permission to traders of foreign lands to trade in the
Organization of jails.
Use of the whip.
Making rounds at night to inquire into the condition of
Organization of the Police Department.
Establishment of military barracks at strategic points.
Distinction of pedigree and non-pedigree horses.
Employment of secret reports and emissaries.
Rest-houses on the way from Mecca to Madina for the
comfort of travellers.
Provision for the care and bringing up of foundlings.
Organization of guest-houses in different cities.
The ruling that Arabs, whether Muslims or non-Muslims,
could not be made slaves.
Stipends for the poor among the Jews and the
Establishment of schools.
Stipends for school teachers and public lecturers.
Persuading Abu Bakr to collect the Qur'an and
execution of the work under his own care.
Formulation of the principle of qiyâs or
More exact division of inheritance.
Insertion of the formula "Prayer is better that
sleep" in the call to the dawn prayer. However, as stated before, the
more correct report is that it is Bilal who first inserted the formula in
the call to the dawn prayer and the Prophet retained it.
Ordaining the holding of tarawih prayers in
Three divorces pronounced at one session declared
Provision of the punishment for drunkenness with eighty
Levy of zakât on horses of merchandise
Levy of zakât on the Christians of Bani Taghlab
in lieu of jizya
Method of rnaking trusts
Consensus of opinion on four takbîrs in funeral
Organization of sermons in mosques
Giving salaries to imams and mu'adhdhins.
Provision of light in mosques at night
Provision of punishment for writing satires and
Probibition of the mention of women's names in lyric
poems although the custom was very ancient in Arabia.
`Abd Allah ibn `Isa ibn Abi Layla related: "There were
two dark lines in `Umar's face marked by tears." Al-Hasan al-Basri and
Hisham ibn al-Hasan narrated that `Umar sometimes lost consciousness after
reciting a verse from the Qur'an, whereupon he would be taken ill and
visited for days. Among `Umar's sayings:
"O Allah! Grant me to die a martyr, and make my
death be in your Prophet's country."
"Take account of yourselves before your are
brought to account."
Anas said: "I heard `Umar say as he was alone
behind a wall: ‘By Allah! You shall certainly fear Allah, O son of al-Khattab,
or He will punish you!"
Jabir said that he heard `Umar ibn al-Khattab say on
the pulpit when he married Umm Kulthum, the daughter of `Ali and Fatima:
"Do not disparage me [for marrying a young girl], for I heard the
Prophet say: ‘On the Judgment Day every means will be cut off and every
lineage severed except my lineage.'" He desired to place himself in
the Prophet's lineage through this marriage due to the precedence of Ahl
al-Bayt in the Prophet's intercession. Umm Kulthum bore him two
children, Zayd and Ruqayya.
From `Amir ibn Rabi`a: "I saw `Umar pick up a
straw from the ground and say: ‘Would that I were this straw! Would that
I were nothing! Would that my mother never bore me!'"
From `Ubayd Allah ibn `Umar ibn Hafs: `Umar was see
carrying a slaughtered animal on his back. He was asked why, and he
replied: "I was infatuated with myself and wanted to humble
myself." Al-Hasan narrated: "`Umar gave a sermon when he was
Caliph wearing a waist-wrap patched in twelve places."
As `Umar's head lay in Ibn `Umar's lap after his
stabbing he said to him: "Lay my cheek on the ground." Then he
said: "Woe to me, my mother's woe to me if my Lord does not grant
me mercy!" The next morning al-Miswar woke him for the dawn prayer. `Umar
rose saying: "Yes, and there is no part in Islam for whoever leaves
prayer." He prayed bleeding from his wounds.
From Malik al-Dar: The people suffered a drought in `Umar's
khilafa, whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet and said:
"O Messenger of Allah! Ask for rain for your Community, for verily
they have but perished." After this the Prophet appeared to him in a
dream and told him: "Go to `Umar and give him my greeting, then tell
him that they will be watered. Tell him: Be clever!" The man went and
told `Umar. The latter said: "My Lord! I spare no effort except in
what escapes my power."
From Mujahid: "We found that the goodness of our
lives was patience."
From `Urwa ibn al-Zubayr: "Know that greed is
poverty and despair sufficiency. When a man despairs of something, he does
From al-Sha`bi: "By Allah! My heart has softened
for Allah's sake until it became softer than butter, and it has hardened
for Allah's sake until it became harder than stone."
From `Awn ibn `Abd Allah ibn `Utba: "Sit with the
Oft-Repentent (al-tawwâbîn), for they are the softest-hearted of
From Aslam, `Umar's freedman: "Be the vessels of
the Book and the well-springs of the Science, and ask Allah for your
sustenance day by day."
From Abu `Uthman al-Nahdi: "Winter is the treasure
From Dawud ibn `Ali: "If a sheep dies on the shore
of the Euphrates I fear lest Allah ask me to account for it on the Day of
From Yahya ibn Abi Kathir: "If it were announced
from the heaven: ‘O people! You are all entering Paradise except one,'
I would fear to be he; and if it were announced: ‘O people! You are all
entering the Fire except one,' I would hope to be he."
From al-Aswad ibn Hilal al-Muharibi: When `Umar was
made Caliph he stood on the pulpit and said: "O people! I am going to
invoke Allah, therefore say âmîn. O Allah! I am coarse, so make
me soft, and I am stingy, so make me generous, and I am weak, so make me
From `Abd Allah ibn `Umar: "[After `Umar's
death] I saw a palace in my sleep, and was told it belonged to `Umar ibn
al-Khattab. Then I saw him come out of it, wearing a cover as if he had
just bathed. I said: ‘How did you fare?' He said: ‘Well, although I
would have fallen from my place if I had not found a forgiving Lord.'
Then he asked: ‘How long since I have left you?' I said: ‘Twelve
years.' He said: ‘I only just finished rendering account.'"
`Umar was the closed door between the Prophet's Community
and the onset of dissension. His death is one of the earliest signs of the Hour.
One day he asked Hudhayfa about the "dissension that shall surge like the
waves of the sea" according to the Prophet's own terms. Hudhayfa
answered: "You need not worry about it, for between you and it there is a
gate closed shut." `Umar said: "Will the gate be opened or
broken?" Hudhayfa said: "Broken!" `Umar replied: "That is
more appropriate than that it be let open." The narrator [Abu Wa'il]
said: "We feared to ask Hudhayfa who was that gate, so we sent Masruq to
ask him and he said: That gate was `Umar."
Main sources: Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya' 1:73-92;
al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 1/2:509-565 #3; Shibli Nu`mani,
`Umar The Great 2:336-338.
`Uthman ibn `Affan
ibn Abi al-`As ibn Umayya ibn `Abd Shams, Abu `Amr, Abu `Abd
Allah, Abu Layla al-Qurashi al-Umawi (d. 35), the Prophet's Friend, Amîr
al-Mu'minîn, the third of the four Rightly-Guided Successors of the
Prophet and third of the Ten promised Paradise. He is named Dhu al-Nûrayn
or "Possessing Two Lights," a reference to his marriage with two
daughters of the Prophet, Ruqayya then Umm Kulthum. He is among those who
emigrated twice: once to Abyssinia, and again to Madina. He gathered together
the Qur'an which he had read in its entirety before the Prophet. During his
tenure as Caliph, Armenia, Caucasia, Khurasan, Kirman, Sijistan, Cyprus, and
much of North Africa were added to the dominions of Islam. He related 146
hadiths from the Prophet. Among the Companions who narrated from him in the
Nine Books are Anas, Abu Hurayra, Jundub, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, `Abd Allah
ibn `Abbas, `Abd Allah ibn `Umar. A host of prominent Followers narrated from
him, among them al-Zuhri, Ibn al-Musayyib, al-Dahhak, and `Alqama.
`Uthman was extremely wealthy and generous. When he heard
the Prophet say: "Whoever equips the army of al-`Usra, Paradise is for
him," he brought the Prophet a thousand gold dinars which he poured into
his lap. The Prophet picked them up with his hand and said repeatedly:
"Nothing shall harm `Uthman after what he did today." It is also
narrated that equipped the army of al-`Usra with seven hundred ounces of gold,
or seven hundred and fifty camels and fifty horses.
The Prophet said: "The most compassionate of my
Community towards my Community is Abu Bakr; the staunchest in Allah's
Religion is `Umar; and the most truthful in his modesty is `Uthman." The
pebbles were heard by Abu Dharr glorifying Allah in the hands of the Prophet,
Abu Bakr, `Umar, and `Uthman. The Prophet particularly praised `Uthman for his
modesty and said: "Shall I not feel bashful before a man when even the
angels feel bashful before him?"
He was humble and was seen at the time of his caliphate
sleeping alone in the mosque, wrapped in a blanket with no one around him, and
riding on a mule with his son Na'il behind him.
It is related through several sound chains that `Uthman
recited the Qur'an in a single rak`a. Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi
said: "Four are the Imams that recited the entire Qur'an in a single rak`a:
`Uthman ibn `Affan, Tamim al-Dari, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, and Abu Hanifa." Ibn
al-Mubarak also narrated that `Uthman used to fast all year round. `Ali ibn
Abi Talib said: "`Uthman was one of those who were ‘mindful
of their duty and [did] good works, and again [were] mindful of [their] duty,
and [believed], and once again [were] mindful of their duty, and did right.
Allah loves those who do good.' (5:93)" Ibn `Umar said that `Uthman
was meant by the verse "Is he who pays adoration in
the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, bewaring of the Hereafter
and hoping for the mercy of his Lord. . ." (39:9).
Anas narrated: When Hudhayfa campaigned with the people of
Iraq and al-Sham in Armenia, the Muslims contended with regard to the Qur'an
in a reprehensible manner. Hudhayfa came to `Uthman and told him: "O
Commander of the Believers, rescue this Community before they differ in the
Qur'an the way Christians and Jews differed in the Books." `Uthman was
alarmed at this and sent word to Hafsa the Mother of the Believers: "Send
me all the volumes in which the Qur'an has been written down." When she
did, `Uthman ordered Zayd ibn Thabit, Sa`id ibn al-`As, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr,
and `Abd Al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham to copy them into volumes. He
said: "If you all differ with Zayd concerning the Arabic, then write it
in the dialect of Quraysh, for truly the Qur'an was only revealed in their
dialect." There is Consensus around the integral contents of `Uthman's
volume. This means that one who denies or questions it
in whole or in part has left Islam.
`Uthman was neither tall nor short, extremely handsome,
brunet, large-jointed, wide-shouldered, with a large
beard which he dyed yellow and long hair which reached to his shoulders, and
gold-braced teeth. `Abd Allah ibn Hazm said: "I saw `Uthman, and I never
saw man nor woman handsomer of face than him."
The plot to kill `Uthman marked the onset of Dissension (fitna)
in the Community. Together with deadly division, the great sign of this
Dissension was the beginning of falsehood. The timing of the spread of
falsehood was foretold by the Prophet in the hadith: "I entrust to you
the well-being of my Companions, and that of those that come after them. Then
falsehood will spread." To counter this, the sciences of hadith and
hadith criticism were innovated within the half-century which followed `Uthman's
death in order to sift true Prophetic and Companion-reports from false ones.
This was done by verifying the authenticity of transmission chains (isnâds)
embodied in the honesty and competence of transmitters, and by examining the
conditions and contents of transmission in their minutest historical,
linguistic, and doctrinal details. Ibn Sirin (d. 110) said: "We used to
accept as true what we heard, then lies spread and we began to say: Name your
transmitters." Confirming this is al-Hasan al-Basri's (d. 110) reaction
to someone who requested his isnâd: "O man! I neither lie nor was
ever called a liar!" Later scholars such as Ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181)
declared: "Isnâd is an integral part of the Religion, otherwise
anyone can say anything."
The principle of authentication was founded by the Prophet
himself and used by the Companions. This is proved by the Prophet's
questioning of the man who said he had seen the new moon of Ramadan: "Do
you bear witness that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is the
Messenger of Allah?" When he replied in the affirmative, the Prophet
accepted his news. Similarly, Ibn `Abbas said: "If a trustworthy source
tells us of a fatwa by `Ali, we do not seek any further concerning
it." This shows that they already distinguished between true and dubious
sources. Furthermore, all the Companions are considered trustworthy sources
according to Allah's saying: "You are the best
community that has been raised up for mankind" (3:110) and several
other verses and hadiths to that effect. This evidence was listed by al-Khatib
in al-Kifaya and Ibn Hajar in al-Isaba.
The Prophet spoke of `Uthman's forthcoming martyrdom on
"Give him [`Uthman] the tidings of Paradise after
a trial that shall befall him."
"A dissension shall surge like so many bull's
horns. At that time, he [indicating a man wearing a veil] and whoever is
with him are on the side of right." Ka`b ibn Murra al-Bahzi then ran
to the man, lifted his veil, and turned him towards the Prophet saying:
"Him, O Messenger of Allah?" The Prophet said yes. It was `Uthman
`Uthman said: "The Prophet took a covenant from me
[not to fight at the time of my martyrdom] and I shall fulfill it."
"O `Uthman! It may be that Allah shall vest you
with a shirt. If they demand that you remove it, do not remove it."
Ibn `Umar said: "As `Uthman was delivering a sermon,
Jahjah al-Ghafari walked up to him, snatched his stick, and broke it on his
knee. A shard of wood entered his thigh and it got gangrened and was
amputated. Then he died within the year. Al-Qadi `Iyad relates in his book al-Shifa',
chapter entitled "Esteem for the things and places connected with the
Prophet," that this staff had belonged to the Prophet.
`Abd Allah ibn Salam said to the Egyptians at the time they
were besieging the Commander of the Believers `Uthman ibn `Affan: "Never
did Allah's sword not remain sheathed from harming you since the Prophet
came to it until this very day." Yazid ibn Abi Habib said: "I have
heard that most of those that rode to kill `Uthman were later seized by
demonic possession." Al-Dhahabi mentioned that `Ali had pronounced a
curse on `Uthman's killers. One of the reasons for the climate of hatred
stirred up against the Caliph was the grievance of some parties from Egypt and
Iraq that `Uthman was favoring his relatives among the Banu Umayya with public
offices and demanded that he remove them.
Ibn al-Musayyib related that a group of seven hundred
Egyptians came to complain to `Uthman about their governor Ibn Abi Sarh's
tyranny, so `Uthman said: "Chose someone to govern you." They chose
Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, so `Uthman wrote credentials for him and they returned.
On their way back, at three days' distace from Madina, a black slave caught
up with them with the news that he carried orders from `Uthman to the governor
of Egypt. They searched him and found a message from `Uthman to Ibn Abi Sarh
ordering the death of Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and some of his friends. They
returned to Madina and besieged `Uthman. The latter acknowledged that the
camel, the slave, and the seal on the letter belonged to him, but he swore
that he had never written nor ordered the letter to be written. It was
discovered that the letter had been hand-written by Marwan ibn al-Hakam. `Uthman
was besieged for twenty-two days during which he refused both to give up
Marwan and to resign. He was killed on the last day of Dhu al-Hijja, on the
day of Jum`a, by several men who had crept into his house.
Ibn `Umar related from `Uthman that the previous night the
latter had seen the Prophet in his dream telling him: "Be strong! Verily
you shall break your fast with us tomorrow night." When his assailants
came in they found him reading the Qur'an. `Uthman was first stabbed in the
head with an arrow-head, then a man placed the point of his sword against his
belly, whereupon his wife Na'ila tried to prevent him with her hand, losing
several fingers. Then `Uthman and Na'ila's servant were killed as the
latter fought back. She ran out of the house screaming for help and the
killers dispersed. It is narrated that `Uthman was killed as he was reading
the verse "And Allah will suffice you for defense
against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower." (2:137) Several
reports state that at the time of `Uthman's siege and death Zayd ibn Thabit
had marshalled three hundred Ansâr in his defense together with Abu
Hurayra, Ibn `Umar, al-Hasan, al-Husayn, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, but `Uthman
forbade all of them to fight.
Among `Uthman's sayings:
"If I were between Paradise and the Fire, unsure
where I will be sent, I would choose to be turned into ash before finding
out where I was bound."
"I swear by Allah that I never committed
fornication in the Time of Ignorance nor in Islam. Islam only increased me
His servant Hani' narrated: "Whenever `Uthman
stood before a grave he wept until his beard was wet. He was asked: ‘You
have seen battle and death without a tear, and you cry for this?' He
said: ‘The grave is the first abode of the hereafter. Whoever is saved
from it, what follows is easier; whoever is not saved from it, what
follows is harder. The Prophet said: "I have not seen anything more
frightful than the punishment in the grave."'" `Uthman also
related from the Prophet that whenever the latter finished burying
someone, he would stand by the grave and say: "All of you, ask Allah
to forgive your brother and make him steadfast, for he is now being
The Prophet said: "More men will enter Paradise
through the intercession of a certain man than there are people in the tribes
of Rabi`a and Mudar." The elders considered that this was `Uthman ibn `Affan.
Main sources: Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya'
1:92-100 #3; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 1/2:
`Ali ibn Abi Talib
`Abd Manaf ibn `Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn `Abd Manaf,
Abu al-Hasan al-Qurashi al-Hashimi (d. 40), Amîr al-Mu'minîn, the
first male believer in Islam, the Prophet's standard-bearer in battle, the
Door of the City of Knowledge, the most judicious of the Companions, and the
"Possessor of a wise heart and enquiring tongue." The Prophet
nicknamed him Abu Turâb or Father of Dust. His mother was Fatima bint
Asad, whom the Prophet called his own mother and at whose grave he made a
remarkable intercession. He accepted Islam when he was eight, or nine, or
fourteen, depending on the narrations, but it is established from Ibn `Abbas
that he was the first male Muslim after the Prophet, Khadija being the first
Muslim. He was killed at age fifty-eight. From him narrated Abu Bakr, `Umar,
his sons al-Hasan and al-Husayn, Ibn `Abbas, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, and
`Ali was a skilled and fearless fighter, and the Prophet
gave him his standard to carry on the day of Badr and in subsequent battles.
At the same time he was the repository of Prophetic wisdom among the
Companions. The latter, when asked about difficult legal rulings, deferred to
others the responsibility of answering, while `Ali, alone among them, used to
say: "Ask me." `Umar said: "I seek refuge in Allah from a
problem which Abu al-Hasan cannot solve." Similarly `A'isha said:
"He is the most knowledgeable about the Sunna among those who
remain," and Ibn `Abbas: "If a trustworthy source tells us of a fatwa
by `Ali, we do not seek any further concerning it." Sulayman al-Ahmusi
narrated from his father that `Ali said: "By Allah! No verse was ever
revealed except I knew the reason for which it was revealed and in what place
and concerning whom. Verily my Lord has bestowed upon me a wise heart and a
speaking tongue." At the same time `Ali humbly declared: "What cools
my liver most, if I am asked something I know not, is to say: ‘Allah knows
Imam Ahmad said: "There is no Companion concerning
whom are reported as many merits as `Ali ibn Abi Talib." Following are
some of the hadiths to that effect.
On the eve of the campaign of Khaybar, the Prophet
said: "I shall give the standard to a man who loves Allah and His
Messenger, and whom Allah loves and also His Messenger." `Umar said:
"I never liked to be entrusted leadership before that day." The
next day the Prophet summoned `Ali and gave him the flag.
Salama ibn `Amr narrated that the day of Khaybar, the
Prophet summoned `Ali who came led by the hand, as he was suffering from
inflammation of the eyes. The Prophet then blew on his eyes and gave him
the flag. Another version states that Ibn Abi Layla told his father to ask
`Ali why he wore summer clothes in winter and winter clothes in summer.
`Ali said: "The day of Khaybar the Prophet summoned me when my eyes
were sore. I said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I have ophtalmia.' He
blew on my eyes and said: ‘O Allah! remove from him hot and cold.' I
never felt hot nor cold after that day."
The Prophet left `Ali behind in the campaign of Tabuk.
The latter said: "O Messenger of Allah! Are you leaving me behind
with the women and children?" The Prophet replied: "Are you not
happy to stand next to me like Harun next to Musa, save that there is no
Prophet after me?"
The Prophet said: "I am the city of knowledge and
`Ali is its gate." Another version states: "I am the house of
wisdom and `Ali is its gate."
When Allah revealed the verse: "Come!
We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and
ourselves and yourselves, then we will pray humbly and invoke the curse of
Allah upon those who lie" (3:61), the Prophet summoned `Ali,
Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn, and said: "O Allah! These are my
The Prophet said: "Anyone whose protecting friend (mawla)
I am, `Ali is his protecting friend." `Umar said:
"Congratulations, O `Ali! You have become the protecting friend of
every single believer."
The Prophet said: "`Ali is part of me and I am
part of `Ali! No-one conveys something on my behalf except I or he."
The context of this hadith was the conveyance of Sura Bara'a to
the Quraysh and the rescinding of the Prophet's pact with them. The
scholars have explained that the Prophet's phrase "X is part of me
and I am part of X" is a hyperbole signifying oneness of path and
agreement in obeying Allah. The Prophet said that phrase also about the
following: the Companion Julaybib who was found dead after a battle next
to seven enemies killed by him; the Ash`aris; and the Banu Najya.
Some people complained to the Prophet about `Ali,
whereupon he stood and said: "Do not accuse `Ali of anything! By
Allah, he is truly a little rough (la'ukhayshan) in Allah's
When the Prophet sent `Ali to Yemen the latter said:
"O Messenger of Allah, you are sending me to people who are older
than me so that I judge between them!" The Prophet said: "Go,
for verily Allah shall empower your tongue and guide your heart."
`Ali said: "After that I never felt doubt as to what judgment I
should pass between two parties."
The Prophet said: "The most compassionate of my
Community towards my Community is Abu Bakr; the staunchest in Allah's
Religion is `Umar; the most truthful in his modesty is `Uthman, and the
best in judgment is `Ali." `Umar said: "`Ali is the best in
judgment among us, and Ubayy is the most proficient at the Qur'anic
readings." Ibn Mas`ud similarly said: "We used to say that the
best in judgment among the people of Madina was `Ali." It is a
measure of al-Hasan al-Basri's greatness that `Ali once followed his
recommendation in a judicial case.
`Amr ibn Sha's al-Aslami complained about `Ali upon
returning from Yemen where he had accompanied him. News of it reached the
Prophet who said: "O `Amr! By Allah, you have done me harm." `Amr
said: "I seek refuge in Allah from harming you, O Messenger of
Allah!" He said: "But you did. Whoever harms `Ali harms
me." The Prophet also used the terms "Whoever harms X has harmed
me" about his uncle al-`Abbas.
Umm Salama said to Abu `Abd Allah al-Jadali: "Is
Allah's Messenger being insulted among you?! [in Kufa]" He said:
"Allah forbid!" She said: "I heard Allah's Messenger say:
‘Whoso insults `Ali, insults me.'"
`Ali said: "In truth the Prophet has made a
covenant with me saying: ‘None loves you except a believer, and none
hates you except a hypocrite." Abu Sa`id al-Khudri subsequently said:
"In truth we recognized the hypocrites by their hatred for
`Ali." Jabir said: "We did not know the hypocrites of this
Community except by their hatred for `Ali."
The innovations of those who bore excessive love and
admiration for `Ali appeared in his own lifetime and he himself fought them in
word and deed. To those that claimed that the Prophet had appointed him as
successor after him he said: "In truth, Allah's Messenger did not
appoint any successor" and: "The Prophet was taken from us, then Abu
Bakr was made the successor, so he did as the Prophet had done and according
to his path until Allah took him from us; then `Umar was made the successor,
so he did as the Prophet had done and according to his path until Allah took
him from us." To those that claimed that he deserved the Caliphate better
than Abu Bakr and `Umar he said: "The best of this Community after its
Prophet are Abu Bakr and `Umar." To those that either hated him or overly
loved him `Ali said: "Two types of people shall perish concerning me: a
hater who forges lies about me, and a lover who over-praises me." To
those that claimed that he or his family possessed other than the Qur'an
which all Muslims had he said: "Whoever claims that we have something
which we read other than the Qur'an has lied." Finally, when a group of
people came to him saying: "You are He, you are our Lord! (anta Hû
anta Rabbuna)" he had them executed and then ordered the bodies
When `Ali was given allegiance as Caliph he moved from
Madina to Kufa in Iraq and made it his capital. His tenure lasted five years
(35-40) marred by three great dissensions which tore apart the fabric of the
Muslim Community: the battle of the Camel (year 36) against the party of `A'isha
the Mother of the Believers, the battle of Siffin (year 37) aganst the party
of Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, and the campaign against the Khawârij in
the following two years, until he was assassinated by one of them in Kufa as
he came out for the dawn prayer. The pretext for the meeting of the armies on
the day of the Camel and the day of Siffin was the demand for `Uthman's
killers on the part of `A'isha and Mu`awiya, but the winds of war were
fanned by sowers of discord from inside all three camps until events escaped
the control of the Companions. It is related that `Ali often expressed
astonishment at the dissension and opposition that surrounded him. The Prophet
had predicted these events, notably the battle of the Camel with the words:
"One of you women shall come out riding a long-haired camel, and the dogs
of Haw'ab [between Mecca and Basra] will bark at her. Many shall be killed
to her right and her left, and she shall escape after near death." At any
rate, Ahl al-Sunna adopted as theirs the position taken by one of the Salaf
who said: "Those from whose blood Allah has kept our swords pure, we
shall not soil our tongues with their slander." The most reliable book
written on the divergences of the Companions is Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi's (d.
543) al-`Awasim min al-Qawasim fi Tahqiq Mawaqif al-Sahaba Ba`da Wafati al-Nabi
Sallallahu `Alayhi wa Sallam.
Another innovation fought by `Ali was that of the Khawârij
or "Seceders," also known as Hurûriyya after the village of
Hurur, near Kufa, where they set up military quarters. They were originally a
group of up to twenty thousand pious worshippers and memorizers of the Qur'an
(`ubbâd wa qurrâ') who were part of `Ali's army but walked out on
him after he accepted arbitration in the crises with Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyan
and `A'isha the Mother of the Believers. Their strict position was on the
basis of the verse "The decision rests with Allah
only" (6:57, 12:40, 12:67). `Ali said: "A word of truth by
which falsehood is sought!" He sent them the expert interpreter of the
Qur'an among the Companions, Ibn `Abbas, who recited to them the verses "The
judge is to be two men among you known for justice" (5:95) and "Appoint
an arbiter from his folk and an arbiter from her folk" (4:35) then
said: "Allah has thereby entrusted arbitration to men, although if He had
wished to decide He would have decided. And is the sanctity of the Community
of Muhammad not greater than that of a man and a woman?" Hearing this,
four thousand of the Khawârij came back with him while the rest either
left the field or persisted in their enmity and were killed in the battles of
Nahrawan (year 38) and al-Nukhayla (year 39).
The Prophet had predicted that `Ali would fight the Khawârij
with the words: "In truth there will be, among you, one who shall fight
over the interpretation of the Qur'an just as I fought over its
revelation." Abu Bakr and `Umar asked: "Am I he?" The Prophet
said: "No, it is the one who is mending the shoes." He had given his
shoes to `Ali to mend. The Prophet also predicted `Ali's martyrdom with the
words: "This shall be dyed red from this" and he pointed to `Ali's
beard and head respectively.
The Khawârij are the first doctrinal innovators in
Islam. They considered all sinners apostates, as well as all those who opposed
them. By this takfîr, they justified to themselves the killing and
spoliation of Muslims including women and children. Muslims who joined them
were forced to first declare themseves disbelievers then enter Islam again.
They distinguished themselves by shaving their heads out of austerity, a
practice which they innovated and which the Prophet had foretold. Yet the Khawârij
deemed themselves scrupulously pious and the only true Muslims on earth. When
`Ali's murderer, `Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam al-Muradi, was dismembered and
blinded he remained impassive and recited the Sura "Recite!
In the Name of Thy Lord" (96:1) in its entirety, but when they
moved to pull out his tongue he resisted; asked for the reason he said:
"I hate to spend a single moment on earth not mentioning Allah." He
was then executed and burnt. His forehead bore the trace of frequent
The Khawârij pre-dated the Rawâfid in their
vilification of Abu Bakr and `Umar. `Ali declared it licit to fight them
because they had killed the Companion Khabbab ibn al-Arathth and his wife for
praising the four Caliphs. The Prophet had predicted their appearance in many
hadiths. Among them:
`Ali sent the Prophet a treasure which the latter
proceeded to distribute. The Quraysh became angry and said: "He is
giving to the nobility of Najd and leaving us out!" The Prophet said:
"I am only trying to win their hearts over to us." Then a man came
with sunken eyes, protruding cheeks, big forehead, profuse beard, and shaven
head. He said: "Fear Allah, O Muhammad!" The Prophet replied:
"And who shall obey Allah if I disobey him? Does Allah trust me with
the people of the earth, so that you should not trust me?" One of the
Companions û Khalid ibn Walid û asked permission to kill the man but the
Prophet did not give it. He said: "Out of that man's seed shall come
a people who will recite the Qur'an but it will not go past their throats.
They will pass through religion the way an arrow passes through its quarry.
They shall kill the Muslims and leave the idolaters alone. If I live to see
them, verily I shall kill them the way the tribe of `Ad was killed."
Ibn Taymiyya cited this hadith as proof that the Khawârij shaved
"The Khawârij are the dogs of
`Ali was described as having white hair which he parted in
the middle, a very large white beard, and large, heavy eyes. He was heavyset
and his height was medium to short. He was blunt in his renunciation of the
world even in his own dress. When Ibn al-Nabbah came to him with the news that
the treasury-house was filled with gold and silver `Ali summoned the people of
Kufa and distributed everything to them with the words: "O Yellow, O
White! Go fool other than me." Then he ordered the treasury-house swept,
and he prayed two rak`a in it. Jurmuz said: "I saw `Ali coming out
of his palace wearing a waist-cloth that reached to the middle of his shank
and an outer garment tucked up at the sleeves, walking in the marketplace
while hitting a small drum (dirra) and enjoining upon people
Godwariness and honesty in transactions. He would say: ‘Observe good measure
and do not bloat up the meat.'" When one of the Khawârij
criticized him for what he was wearing, he said: "What do you want with
my clothing? This is farther from arrogance and more suitable for me as I am
imitated by Muslims."
Al-Hasan ibn `Ali narrated that the morning of his murder
`Ali said: "Last night I woke up my family [to pray] because it was the
night before Jum`a and the morning of Badr û the seventeenth of
Ramadan û then I dozed off and the Prophet came before me. I said: ‘O
Messenger of Allah! What crookedness and contention have I found coming from
your Community!' He said: ‘Supplicate against them.' I said: ‘O Allah!
Substitute them with something that will be better for me, and substitute me
with something that will be worse for them.'" Then `Ali went out to
pray preceded by the mu'adhdhin Ibn al-Nabbah and followed by al-Hasan.
`Ali came out of the gateway calling the people to prayer and was faced by two
men armed with swords. Ibn Muljam struck him on the head with a poisoned sword
and was caught, while the other hit the arch of the gate and fled. `Ali said:
"Feed the prisoner and give him water, if I live I shall decide about
him, and if I die, kill him as I was killed without further enmity. ‘Lo!
Allah loves not aggressors' (2:190, 5:87, 7:55)."
It was decided to make `Ali's grave a secret lest the Khawârij
dig it up. After his son al-Hasan prayed the funeral prayer over him, he was
buried at the Caliphal palace in Kufa, then all traces of his grave were
effaced. It is also narrated that al-Hasan conveyed the body in a coffin to
Madina and that on the way the camel that carried the coffin got lost by night
and was found by members of the Tayyi' tribe who buried the body and
slaughtered the camel.
Among `Ali's sayings narrated by Abu Nu`aym with his
From al-Husayn ibn `Ali: "The most sincere of
people in their actions and the most knowledgeable of Allah are those who
are strongest in their love and awe for the sanctity of the people of lâ
From `Abd Khayr: "Goodness does not consist in
having much property and children, but in doing many good deeds,
increasing your gentle character, and adorning yourself before people with
the worship of your Lord. Then, if you do well, glorify Allah; if you do
ill, ask forgiveness of Him. There is no good in the world except for two
types of people: someone who sins and then follows up with repentence, and
someone who races to do good deeds. What is done in Godwariness is never
little, and how can something be little if accepted by Allah?"
From Abu al-Zaghl: "Remember five instructions
from me in following which you shall sooner exhaust your camels than run
out of their benefit: let no servant hope for anything except from his
Lord; let him not fear anything except his own sin; let no ignorant person
feel ashamed to ask about what he knows not; let no knowledgeable person,
if asked about what he knows not, feel ashamed to say Allah knows best;
and patience is in relation to belief like the head to the body, one has
no belief if he has no patience."
From Muhajir ibn `Umayr: "What I fear most is the
hankering after idle desires and long hopes. The former blocks one from
the truth and the latter causes forgetfulness of the hereafter. In truth
the world has gone its way out, in truth the hereafter has come journeying
to us û and each of the two has its own sons. Therefore be a son of the
hereafter and do not be a son of the world! Today there are deeds without
accounts, and tomorrow, accounts without deeds."
From Abu Araka: "I have seen a remnant of the
Companions of Allah's Messenger. I see no-one that resembles them. By
Allah! They used to rise in the morning disheveled, dust-covered, pale,
with something between their eyes like goat's knees, as they had spent
the night chanting Allah's Book, turning from their feet to their
foreheads. If Allah was mentioned they swayed the way trees sway on a
windy day, then their eyes poured out tears until û by Allah! û they
soaked their clothes. By Allah! It is as if folks today sleep in
From al-Hasan ibn `Ali: "Blessed is the servant
that cries constantly to Allah, who has known people while they have not
known him, and Allah has marked him with His contentment. These are the
true beacons of guidance. Allah repels from them every wrongful dissension
and shall enter them into His own mercy. They are not the wasteful
tale-bearers nor the ill-mannered self-displayers."
From `Asim ibn Damura: "The true, the real faqîh
is he who does not push people to despair from Allah's mercy, nor lulls
them into a false sense of safety from His Punishment, nor gives them
licenses to disobey Allah, nor leaves the Qur'an for something else.
There is no good in worship devoid of knowledge, nor in knowledge devoid
of understanding, nor in inattentive recitation." This is comparable
to al-Hasan al-Basri's own definition: "Have you ever seen a faqîh?
The faqîh is he who has renounced the world, longs for the
hereafter, possesses insight in his Religion, and worships his Lord
From `Amr ibn Murra: "Be wellsprings of the
Science and beacons in the night, wearing old clothes but possessing new
hearts for which you shall be known in the heaven and remembered on the
"This world lasts for an hour: Spend it in
"Thus does Knowledge die: when those who possess
it die. By Allah, I do swear it! The earth will never be empty of one who
establishes the proofs of Allah so that His proofs ans signs never cease.
They are the fewest in number, but the greatest in rank before Allah.
Through them Allah preserves His proofs until they bequeath it to those
like them (before passing on) and plant it firmly in their hearts. By them
knowledge has taken by assault the reality of things, so that they found
easy what those given to comfort found hard, and found intimacy in what
the ignorant found desolate. They accompanied the world with bodies whose
spirits were attached to the highest regard. Ah, ah! How one yearns to see
Imam al-Nawawi narrated a remarkable patrolinear chain for
a hadith going back to `Ali: "Among the best of the narrations of the
type ‘sons from fathers' is that of al-Khatib with a chain going back to `Abd
al-Wahhab ibn `Abd al-`Aziz ibn al-Harith ibn Asad ibn al-Layth ibn Sulayman
ibn al-Aswad ibn Sufyan ibn Yazid ibn Akina al-Tamimi who said: I heard my
father (Yazid) say: I heard my father (Sufyan) say: I heard my father (al-Aswad)
say: I heard my father (Sulayman) say: I heard my father (al-Layth) say: I
heard my father (Asad) say: I heard my father (al-Harith) say: I heard my
father (`Abd al-`Aziz) say: I heard my father (`Abd al-Wahhab) say: I heard
`Ali ibn Abi Talib say: ‘The compassionate (al-hannân) is he who
comes to the one who shunned him. The granter of favor (al-mannân) is
he who extends the favor before he is asked for it."
Main sources: Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya'
1:100-128 #4; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 1/2:615-660
Al-Nu`man ibn Thabit
al-Taymi, al-Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 150), called "The
Imam" by Abu Dawud, and "The Imam, one of those who have reached the
sky" by Ibn Hajar, he is known in the Islamic world as "The Greatest
Imam" (al-imâm al-a`zam) and his school has the largest number of
followers among the four schools of Ahl al-Sunna. He is the first of
the four mujtahid imams and the only Successor (tâbi`i) among
them, having seen the Companions Anas ibn Malik, `Abd Allah ibn Abi Awfa, Sahl
ibn Sa`d al-Sa`idi, Abu al-Tufayl, and `Amir ibn Wathila.
Abu Hanifa is the first in Islam to organize the writing of
fiqh under sub-headings embracing the whole of the Law, beginning with
purity (tahara) followed by prayer (sala), an order which was
retained by all subsequent scholars such as Malik, Shafi`i, Abu Dawud,
Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and others. All these and their followers are
indebted to him and give him a share of their reward because he was the first
to open that road for them, according to the hadith of the Prophet: "He
who starts something good in Islam has its reward and the reward of those who
practice it until the Day of Judgement, without lessening in the least the
reward of those who practice it. The one who starts something bad in Islam
will incur its punishment and the punishment of all those who practice it
until the Day of Judgement without lessening their punishment in the
least." Al-Shafi`i referred to this when he said: "People are all
the children of Abu Hanifa in fiqh, of Ibn Ishaq in history, of Malik
in hadith, and of Muqatil in tafsîr."
Al-Khatib narrated from Abu Hanifa's student Abu Nu`aym
that the latter said: "Muslims should make du`a to Allah on behalf
of Abu Hanifa in their prayers, because the Sunan and the fiqh
were preserved for them through him. Al-Dhahabi wrote one volume on the life
of each of the other three great Imams and said: "The account of Abu
Hanifa's life requires two volumes." His son Hammad said as he washed
his father's body for burial: "May Allah have mercy on you! You have
exhausted whoever tries to catch up with you."
Abu Hanifa was scrupulously pious and refused Ibn Hubayra's
offer of a judgeship even when the latter had him whipped. Like al-Bukhari and
al-Shafi`i, he used to make 60 complete recitations (khatma) of Qur'an
every Ramadan: one in the day, one in the night, besides his teaching and
other duties. Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi said: "Four are the Imams
that recited the entire Qur'an in a single rak`a: `Uthman ibn `Affan,
Tamim al-Dari, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, and Abu Hanifa." Ibn al-Mubarak said:
"Abu Hanifa for a long time would pray all five prayers with a single
Al-Suyuti relates in Tabyid al-Sahifa that a certain
visitor came to observe Abu Hanifa and saw him all day long in the mosque,
teaching relentlessly, answering every question from both the scholars and the
common people, not stopping except to pray, then standing at home in prayer
when people were asleep, hardly ever eating or sleeping, and yet the most
handsome and gracious of people, always alert and never tired, day after day
for a long time, so that in the end the visitor said: "I became convinced
that this was not an ordinary matter, but wilâya (Friendship with
Al-Shafi`i said: "Knowledge revolves around three men:
Malik, al-Layth, and Ibn `Uyayna." Al-Dhahabi commented: "Rather, it
revolves also around al-Awza`i, al-Thawri, Ma`mar, Abu Hanifa, Shu`ba, and the
two Hammads [ibn Zayd and ibn Salama]."
Sufyan al-Thawri praised Abu Hanifa when he said: "We
were in front of Abu Hanifa like small birds in front of the falcon," and
Sufyan stood up for him when Abu Hanifa visited him after his brother's
death, and he said: "This man holds a high rank in knowledge, and if I
did not stand up for his science I would stand up for his age, and if not for
his age then for his Godwariness (wara`), and if not for his
Godwariness then for his jurisprudence (fiqh)." Ibn al-Mubarak
praised Abu Hanifa and called him a sign of Allah. Both Ibn al-Mubarak and
Sufyan al-Thawri said: "Abu Hanifa was in his time the most knowledgeable
of all people on earth." Ibn Hajar also related that Ibn al-Mubarak said:
"If Allah had not rescued me with Abu Hanifa and Sufyan [al-Thawri] I
would have been like the rest of the common people." Dhahabi relates it
as: "I would have been an innovator."
An example of Abu Hanifa's perspicuity in inferring legal
rulings from source-texts is his reading of the following hadith:
The Prophet said: "Your life in comparison to the
lifetime of past nations is like the period between the time of the
mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr) and sunset. Your example and the
example of the Jews and Christians is that of a man who employed laborers
and said to them: ‘Who will work for me until mid-day for one qirât
(a unit of measure, part of a dinar) each?' The Jews worked until mid-day
for one qirât each. Then the man said: ‘Who will work for me from
mid-day until the ‘asr prayer for one qirât each?' The
Christians worked from mid-day until the ‘asr prayer for one qirât
each. Then the man said: ‘Who will work for me from the `asr prayer
until the maghrib prayer for two qirât each?' And that, in
truth, is all of you. In truth, you have double the wages. The Jews and the
Christians became angry and said: ‘We did more labor but took less wages.'
But Allah said: ‘Have I wronged you in any of your rights?' They replied
no. Then He said: ‘This is My Blessing which I give to whom I wish.'"
It was deduced from the phrase "We did more
labor" that the time of mid-day to `asr must always be longer than
that between `asr and maghrib. This is confirmed by authentic
The Prophet hastened to pray zuhr and delayed
The Prophet said: "May Allah have mercy on someone
who prays four rak`as before `asr.
`Ali delayed praying `asr until shortly before
the sun changed, and he reprimanded the mu'adhdhin who was
hurrying him with the words: "He is trying to teach us the
Ibrahim al-Nakha`i said: "Those that came before
you used to hasten more than you to pray zuhr and delay more than
you in praying `asr." Al-Tahanawi said: "Those that came
before you" are the Companions.
Ibn Mas`ud delayed praying `asr.
Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, and his two companions
Muhammad ibn a-Hasan and Abu Yusuf therefore considered it better to lengthen
the time between zuhr and `asr by delaying the latter prayer as
long as the sun did not begin to redden, while the majority of the authorities
considered that praying `asr early is better, on the basis of other
sound evidence to that effect.
Like every Friend of Allah, Abu Hanifa had his enemies. `Abdan
said that he heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: "If you hear them mention Abu
Hanifa derogatively then they are mentioning me derogatively. In truth I fear
for them Allah's displeasure." Authentically related from Bishr al-Hafi
is the statement: "No-one criticizes Abu Hanifa except an envier or an
ignoramus." Hamid ibn Adam al-Marwazi said: I heard Ibn al-Mubarak say:
"I never saw anyone more fearful of Allah than Abu Hanifa, even on trial
under the whip and through money and property." Abu Mu`awiya al-Darir
said: "Love of Abu Hanifa is part of the Sunna."
Main sources: al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad 13:324-356;
al-Dhahabi, Manaqib Abi Hanifa 22-36 and Tabaqat al-Huffaz
1:168; Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 10:450; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya
wa al-Nihaya 10:114; al-Suyuti, Tabyid al-Sahifa p. 94-95; al-Haytami,
Malik ibn Anas
ibn Malik ibn `Amr, al-Imam, Abu `Abd Allah al-Humyari al-Asbahi
al-Madani (93-179), the Shaykh of Islam, Proof of the Community, Imam of the
Abode of Emigration, and Knowledgeable Scholar of Madina predicted by the
Prophet. The second of the four major mujtahid imams, whose school
filled North Africa, al-Andalus, much of Egypt, and some of al-Sham, Yemen,
Sudan, Iraq, and Khurasan. He is the author of al-Muwatta' ("The
Approved"), formed of the sound narrations of the Prophet from the people
of the Hijaz together with the sayings of the Companions, the Followers, and
those after them. It was hailed by al-Shafi`i as the soundest book on earth
after the Qur'an, nearest book on earth to the Qur'an, most correct book
on earth after the Qur'an, and most beneficial book on earth after the Qur'an
according to four separate narrations. Malik said: "I showed my book to
seventy jurists of Madina, and every single one of them approved me for it (kulluhum
wâta'ani `alayh), so I named it ‘The Approved'." Imam
al-Bukhari said that the soundest of all chains of transmission was "Malik,
from Nafi`, from Ibn `Umar." The scholars of hadith call it the Golden
Chain, and there are eighty narrations with this chain in the Muwatta'.
Among those Malik narrated from in the Muwatta':
Ayyub al-Sakhtyani, Ja`far ibn Muhammad (al-Sadiq), Zayd ibn Aslam, `Ata'
al-Khurasani, al-Zuhri, Ibn al-Munkadir, `Alqama, Nafi` the freedman of Ibn `Umar,
and others. Among those who narrated from Malik: al-Zuhri, Ibn Jurayj, Abu
Hanifa, al-Awza`i, Sufyan al-Thawri, Shu`ba, Ibn al-Mubarak, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan,
`Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi, Waki`, Yahya al-Qattan, al-Shafi`i, Ibn Wahb, Abu
Dawud al-Tayalisi, `Abd al-Razzaq, and many others.
The Prophet said: "Very soon will people beat the
flanks of camels in search of knowledge, and they shall find no-one more
knowledgeable than the knowledgeable scholar of Madina." Al-Tirmidhi, al-Qadi
`Iyad, Dhahabi and others relate from Sufyan ibn `Uyayna, `Abd al-Razzaq, Ibn
Mahdi, Ibn Ma`in, Dhu'ayb ibn `Imama, Ibn al-Madini, and others that they
considered that scholar to be Malik ibn Anas. It is also related from Ibn `Uyayna
that he later considered it to be `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-`Aziz al-`Umari. Al-Dhahabi
said of the latter: "He possessed knowledge and good fiqh, spoke
the truth fearlessly, ordered good, and remained aloof from society. He used
to press Malik in private to renounce the world and seclude himself."
Abu Mus`ab said: "Malik did not pray in congregation
[in the Prophet's mosque] for twenty-five years. He was asked: ‘What is
preventing you?' He said: ‘Lest I see something reprehensible and be
obligated to change it.'" Another narration from Abu Mus`ab states:
"After Malik left the [Prophet's] mosque he used to pray in his house
with a congregation that followed him, and he prayed the Jum`a prayer
alone in his house." Ibn Sa`d narrates from Muhammad ibn `Umar: "Malik
used to come to the Mosque and pray the prayers and the Jum`a, as well
as the funeral prayers. He used to visit the sick and sit in the Mosque where
his companions would came and saw him. Then he quit sitting there, instead he
would pray and leave, and he quit attending the funeral prayers. Then he quit
everything, neither attending the prayers nor the Jum`a in the mosque.
Nor would he visit anyone who was sick or other than that. The people bore
with it, for they were extremely fond of him and respected him too much. This
lasted until he died. If asked about it, he said: ‘Not everyone can mention
Ibn `Abd al-Barr said that Malik was the first who compiled
a book formed exclusively of sound narrations. Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi said:
"The Muwatta' is the first foundation and the core, while al-Bukhari's
book is the second foundation in this respect. Upon these two all the rest
have built, such as Muslim and al-Tirmidhi." Shah Wali Allah said
something similar and added that it is the principal authority of all four
Schools of Law, which stand in relation to it like the commentary stands in
relation to the main text. Malik composed it in the course of forty years,
having started with ten thousand narrations until he reduced them to their
present number of under 2,000.
Al-Suyuti said: "There is no mursal narration
in the Muwatta' except it has one or several strengthening proofs (`âdid
aw `awâdid)." Ibn `Abd al-Barr composed a book in which he listed
all the narrations of the Muwatta' that are either mursal, or munqati`,
or mu`dal, and he provided complete sound chains for all of them except
"In truth I do not forget, but I am made to forget
so that I shall start a Sunna." This is the second hadith in the book
"The Prophet was shown the lifespans of people
before his time, or whatever Allah willed of it, and seemed alarmed that
the lifespans of his Community were too brief to reach the amount of deeds
reached by previous communities who lived long. Whereupon Allah gave him
the Most Precious Night (layla al-qadr), which is better than a
thousand months." This is the fifteenth hadith in the book of I`tikaf.
Mu`adh ibn Jabal said: "The last instruction I
received from Allah's Messenger when I put my foot in the stirrup was:
‘Beautify your manners for the people, O Mu`adh ibn Jabal!'" This
is the first hadith of the book of Husn al-Khuluq.
"If clouds appear towards the sea then go
northwards, that is the mark of heavyish rain." This is the fifth
hadith of the book of Istisqa'.
Among the hadith masters, al-`Iraqi and his student Ibn
Hajar agreed with Ibn `Abd al-Barr that the above four hadiths have no chain,
but others follow a different view: Shaykh Muhammad al-Shinqiti mentioned in
his Dalil al-Salik ila Muwatta' al-Imam Malik (p. 14) that Shaykh
Salih al-Fulani al-`Umari al-Madani said: "Ibn al-Salah provided complete
chains for the four hadiths in question in an independent epistle which I have
in my possession, written in his own hand." Shaykh Ahmad Shakir said:
"But al-Shinqiti did not mention what these chains were, and so the
scholars cannot judge on the question."
Al-Zurqani counted as sixty-nine the number of those who
narrated the Muwatta' directly from Malik, geographically spread as
- Seventeen in Madina, among them Abu Mus`ab Ahmad ibn
Abi Bakr al-Zuhri, whose version has received a recent edition;
- Two in Mecca, among them al-Shafi`i;
- Ten in Egypt, among them `Abd Allah ibn Wahb, `Abd
Allah ibn Yusuf al-Tinnisi al-Dimashqi, whose narration al-Bukhari chose,
and Dhu al-Nun al-Misri;
- Twenty-seven in Iraq, among them `Abd al-Rahman ibn
Mahdi, whose narration Ahmad ibn Hanbal chose, Yahya ibn Yahya al-Tamimi
al-Hanzali al-Naysaburi, whose narration Muslim chose, and Abu Hanifa's
student Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, whose version has been
published but greatly differs from the others and also contains other than
what is narrated from Malik, so that it became known as Muwatta'
- Thirteen in al-Andalus, among them the jurist Yahya
ibn Yahya al-Laythi "the Sage of al-Andalus" û thus nicknamed
by Malik himself û whose version is the most commonly used today and is
the version meant by the term "Malik's Muwatta'." He
is mainly responsible for the spread of the Maliki School in al-Andalus.
- Two from al-Qayrawan;
- Two from Tunis;
- Seven from al-Sham.
Imam Malik is the connection of the entire Islamic
Community to the knowledge of the Sunna as it was preserved by the scholars of
the Prophet's city, al-Madina. This reference-point of his school of
jurisprudence is observed time and again in the Muwatta' with the
phrase: "And this is what I have found (or seen) the people of knowledge
practicing." He was keenly aware of his mission as both the transmitter
and the elucidator of the Sunna. This is characteristic of his students'
praise of him, beginning with al-Shafi`i's famous sayings: "No-one
constitutes as great a favor to me in Allah's Religion as Malik" and
"When the scholars of knowledge are mentioned, Malik is the guiding
star." `Abd Allah ibn Wahb said: "Every memorizer of hadith that
does not have an Imam in fiqh is misguided (dâll), and if Allah
had not rescued us with Malik and al-Layth (ibn Sa`d), I would have been
misguided." Abu Mus`ab recounts the following story:
I went in to see Malik ibn Anas. He said to me:
"Look under my place of prayer or prayer-mat and see what is
there." I looked and found a certain writing. He said: "Read
it." It contained the account of a dream which one of his brothers had
seen and which concerned him. Malik recited it [from memory]: "I saw
the Prophet in my sleep. He was in his mosque and the people were gathered
around him, and he said: ‘I have hidden for you under my pulpit (minbar)
something good – or: knowledge – and I have ordered Malik to distribute
it to the people.'" Then Malik wept, so I got up and left him.
The caliph Abu Ja`far al-Mansur had forbidden Malik to
narrate the hadith: "The divorce of the coerced does not take
effect" (laysa `ala mustakrahin / li mukrahin talâq). Then a spy
came to Malik and asked him about the issue, whereupon Malik narrated the
hadith in front of everyone. He was seized and lashed until his shoulder was
dislocated and he passed out. When he came to, he said: "He [al-Mansur]
is absolved of my lashing." When asked why he had absolved him, Malik
replied: "I feared to meet the Prophet after being the cause for the
perdition of one of his relatives." Ibrahim ibn Hammad said he saw Malik
being carried up and walking away, carrying one of his hands with the other.
Then they shaved his face and he was mounted on a camel and paraded. He was
ordered to deprecate himself aloud, whereupon he said: "Whoever knows me,
knows me; whoever does not know me, my name is Malik ibn Anas, and I say: The
divorce of the coerced is null and void!" When news of this reached
Ja`far ibn Sulayman (d. 175) the governor of Madina and cousin of al-Mansur,
he said: "Bring him down, let him go."
Imam Malik held the hadith of the Prophet in such reverence
that he never narrated anything nor gave a fatwa unless in a state of
ritual purity. Isma`il ibn Abi Uways said: "I asked my uncle û Malik û
about something. He bade me sit, made ablution, sat on the couch, and said: la
hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. He did not give a fatwa except he
said it first." Al-Haytham said: "I heard Malik being asked forty
eight questions, to thirty-two of which he replied: ‘I do not know.'"
Abu Mus`ab reported that Malik said: "I did not give fatwas before
seventy scholars first witnessed to my competence to do it."
Malik's ethics, together with the states of awe and
emotion which were observed on him by his entourage, were no doubt partly
inherited from great shaykhs of his such as Ja`far al-Sadiq, Ibn Hurmuz, and
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri. He visited his shaykh Ibn Hurmuz (d. 148) every day from
morning to night for a period of about eight years and recounts: "I would
come to Ibn Hurmuz, whereupon he would order the servant to close the door and
let down the curtain, then he would start speaking of the beginning of this Umma,
and tears would stream down his beard." The Maliki shaykh Ibn Qunfudh al-Qusantini
(d. 810) wrote:
It was the practice of the Pious Predecessors and the
Imams of the past that whenever the Prophet was mentioned in their presence
they were overwhelmed by reverence, humbleness, stillness, and dignity.
Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn `Ali ibn Abi Talib would turn
pale whenever he heard the Prophet mentioned. Imam Malik would not mention a
hadith except in a state of ritual purity. `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Qasim ibn
Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr al-Siddiq would turn red and stammer whenever he heard
the Prophet mentioned. As for `Amir ibn `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr ibn al-`Awamm
al-Asadi (one of the early Sufis), he would weep until his eyes had no tears
left in them. When any hadiths were mentioned in their presence they would
lower their voices. Malik said: "The Prophet's sacredness (hurma)
is in death is as his sacredness was in life."
Qutayba said: "When we went to see Malik, he would
come out to us adorned, wearing kuhl on his eyes, perfumed, wearing his
best clothes, sit at the head of the circle, call for palm-leaf fans, and give
each one of us a fan." Muhammad ibn `Umar: "Malik's circle was a
circle of dignity and courtesy. He was a man of majestic countenance and
noblity. There was no part for self-display, vain talk, or loud speech in his
circle. His reader would read for all, and no-one looked into his own book,
nor asked questions, out of awe before Malik and out of respect for him."
When the caliph al-Mahdi sent his sons Harun and Musa to
learn from Malik, the latter would not read to them but told them: "The
people of Madina read before the scholar just like children read to the
teacher, and if they make a mistake, he corrects them." Similarly when
Harun al-Rashid with his own two sons requested Malik to read for them, he
replied: "I have stopped reading for anybody a long time ago." When
Harun requested the people to leave so that he could read freely before Malik,
the latter also refused and said: "If the common people are forbidden to
attend because of the particulars, the latter will not profit." It is
known that Malik's way in the transmission of hadith, like Ibn al-Musayyib,
`Urwa, al-Qasim, Salim, Nafi`, al-Zuhri, and others, was `ard
("reading by the student") and not samâ` ("audition
from the shaykh"), although the student states by convention, in both
cases: "So-and-so narrated to us."
The caliph Harun al-Rashid said to Malik after hearing his
answers to certain questions he put to him: "You are, by Allah! the
wisest of people and the most knowledgeable of people." Malik replied:
"No, by Allah! O Leader of the Believers." He said: "Yes! But
you keep it hidden. By Allah! If I live, I shall put your sayings in writing
like the mushafs are put down in writing, and I shall disseminate them
to the ends of the world." But Malik refused.
When one of the caliphs manifested his intention to replace
the Prophet's wooden pulpit with a pulpit of silver and jewels Malik said:
"I do not consider good the hindrance of the people from access to the
Prophet's relics." (lâ ara an yuhrama al-nâsu athara rasulillah.)
Among Malik's sayings:
From Ibn Wahb: "Knowledge Allah places wherever He
wills. It does not consist in narrating a lot."
From Ibn Wahb: "The saying has reached methat none
renounces the world and guards himself except he will speak wisdom."
From Ibn Wahb: "Knowledge diminishes and does not
increase. Knowledge has diminished incessantly after the Prophets and the
From `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-Hakam: "The Companions
differed in the Branches (al-furû`) and split into factions (tafarraqû),
and each one of them was correct in himself."
From Ja`far ibn `Abd Allah: "We were with Malik
when a man came and asked him: ‘O Abu `Abd Allah! "The
Merciful is established over the Throne" (20:5): how is He
established?' Nothing affected Malik as much as that man's question.
He looked at the ground and started prodding it with a twig he held in his
hand until he was completely soaked in sweat. Then he lifted his head and
said: ‘The "how" of it is inconceivable; the
"establishment" part of it is not unknown; belief in it is
obligatory; asking about it is an innovation; and I believe that you are a
man of innovation.' Then he gave an order and the man was led out."
From Ibn Wahb: "We were with Malik when a man
asked him: ‘O Abu `Abd Allah! "The Merciful
is established over the Throne" (20:5): how is His
establishment?' Malik lowered his head and began to sweat profusely.
Then he lifted up his head and said: ‘"The
Merciful is established over the Throne" just as He described
Himself. One cannot ask "how." "How" does not apply to
Him. And you are an evil man, a man of innovation. Take him out!' The
man was led out."
From Yahya ibn Yahya al-Tamimi and Malik's shaykh
Rabi`a ibn Abi `Abd al-Rahman: "We were with Malik when a man came
and asked him: ‘O Abu `Abd Allah! "The
Merciful is established over the Throne" (20:5): how is He
established?' Malik lowered his head and remained thus until he was
completely soaked in sweat. Then he said: ‘The establishment is not
unknown; the "how" is inconceivable; belief in it is obligatory;
asking about it is an innovation; and I do not think that you are anything
but an innovator.' Then he ordered that the man be led out."
From Ma`n: "Disputation (al-jidâl) in the
Religion fosters self-display, does away with the light of the heart and
hardens it, and bequeaths aimless wandering."
From Ma`n and others: "There are four types of
narrators one does not take from: An outright scoffer, even if he is the
greatest narrator; an innovator who invites people to his innovation;
someone who lies about people, even if I do not charge him with mendacity
in hadith; and a righteous, honorable worshipper if he does not memorize
what he narrates." Malik's last clause refers to the two conditions
sine qua non of the trustworthy narrator, who must possess not only
moral uprightness (`adâla) but also accuracy in transmission (dabt).
The clause elucidates the paradox current among hadith scholars whereby
"No-one lies more than the righteous." The reason for this is
that the righteous do not doubt the Muslim's attribution of a saying to
his Prophet, and so they accept it without suspicion, whereas al-Shafi`i
said: "If Malik had the slightest doubt about a hadith, he discarded
the entire hadith." Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr said: "The manner of the
righteous who narrate everything indiscriminately stems from purity of
heart and good opinion, and the scholars have said about such narrators:
‘Lies run off their tongue without their intending it.'" There is
a fundamental difference between the latter and those who deliberately
forge lies or narrate forgeries passed for hadith, and who are condemned
by the Prophet's saying: "Whoever lies about me willfully, let him
take now his seat in the Fire!"
From Ibn al-Qasim: "Malik used to say: ‘Belief
increases.' He would stop short of saying that it decreases."
From Ibn Abi al-Zubayr: "I saw `Ata' ibn Abi
Rabah enter the [Prophet's] Mosque, then take hold of the pommel of the
Pulpit, after which he faced the Qibla [to pray]."
In the Muwatta': "Shaving the moustache
is an innovation." It is elsewhere related that Malik himself was
tall, heavyset, imposing of stature, very fair, with white hair and beard
but bald, with a huge beard and blue eyes; he "detested and
condemned" shaving of the moustache, and he always wore beautiful
clothes, especially white.
Narrated by Ibn Abi Zayd: "The turban was worn
from the beginning of Islam and it did not cease to be worn until our
time. I did not see anyone among the People of Excellence except they wore
the turban, such as Yahya ibn Sa`id, Rabi`a, and Ibn Hurmuz. I would see
in Rabi`a's circle more than thirty men wearing turbans and I was one of
them; Rabi`a did not put it down until the Pleiades rose and he used to
say: ‘I swear that I find it increases intelligence.' Jibril was seen
in the image of (the Companion) Dihya (ibn Khalifa) al-Kalbi wearing a
turban with its extremity hanging between his shoulder-blades."
Ashhab said: "When Malik wore the turban he passed it under his chin
and let its extremity hang behind his back, and he wore musk and other
Main sources: Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya'
6:345-392 #386; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 7:382-437 #1180;
M. Fouad `Abd al-Baqi, Introduction to Malik's Muwatta'.
Muhammad ibn Idris
ibn al-`Abbas, al-Imam al-Shafi`i, Abu `Abd Allah al-Shafi`i
al-Hijazi al-Qurashi al-Hashimi al-Muttalibi (d. 204), the offspring of the
House of the Prophet, the peerless one of the great mujtahid imams and
jurisprudent par excellence, the scrupulously pious ascetic and Friend
of Allah, he laid down the foundations of fiqh in his Risala,
which he said he revised and re-read four hundred times, then said: "Only
Allah's Book is perfect and free from error."
He is the cousin of the Prophet û Allah's blessings and
peace upon him û descending from al-Muttalib who is the brother of Hashim, `Abd
al-Muttalib's father. Someone praised the Banu Hashim in front of the
Prophet, whereby he interlaced the fingers of his two hands and said: "We
and they are but one and the same thing." Al-Nawawi listed three peculiar
merits of al-Shafi`i: his sharing the Prophet's lineage at the level of
their common ancestor `Abd Manaf; his birth in the Holy Land of Palestine and
upbringing in Mecca; and his education at the hands of superlative scholars
together with his own superlative intelligence and knowledge of the Arabic
language. To this Ibn Hajar added two more: the hadith of the Prophet, "O
Allah! Guide Quraysh, for the science of the scholar that comes from them will
encompass the earth. O Allah! You have let the first of them taste bitterness,
so let the latter of them taste reward." Another hadith of the Prophet
says: "Truly, Allah shall send forth for this Community, at the onset of
every hundred years, someone who will renew their Religion for them." The
scholars agreed, among them Abu Qilaba (d. 276) and Imam Ahmad, that the first
narration signified al-Shafi`i, and the second signified `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz
and then al-Shafi`i.
He was born in Ghazza or `Asqalan in 150, the year of Abu
Hanifa's death, and moved to Mecca at the age of two, following his father's
death, where he grew up. He was early a skillful archer, then he took to
learning language and poetry until he gave himself to fiqh, beginning
with hadith. He memorized the Qur'an at age seven, then Malik's Muwatta'
at age ten, at which time his teacher would deputize him to teach in his
absence. At age thirteen he went to see Malik, who was impressed by his memory
Malik ibn Anas and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani were
among his most prominent teachers and he took position against both of them in
fiqh. Al-Shafi`i said: "From Muhammad ibn al-Hasan I wrote a
camel-load." Al-Hakim narrated from `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-Hakam:
"Al-Shafi`i never ceased to speak according to Malik's position and he
would say: ‘We do not differ from him other than in the way of his
companions,' until some young men spoke unbecomingly at length behind his
back, whereupon al-Shafi`i resolved to put his differences with Malik in
writing. Otherwise, his whole life he would say, whenever asked something: ‘This
is what the Teacher said' û hâdha qawl al-ustadh û meaning Malik."
Like Abu Hanifa and al-Bukhari, he recited the entire Qur'an
each day at prayer, and twice a day in the month of Ramadan.
Al-Muzani said: "I never saw one more handsome of face
than al-Shafi`i. If he grasped his beard it would not exceed his fist."
Ibn Rahuyah described him in Mecca as wearing bright white clothes with an
intensely black beard. Al-Za`farani said that when he was in Baghdad in the
year 195 he dyed his beard with henna.
Abu `Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Sallam said: "If the
intelligence of an entire nation was brought together he would have
encompassed it." Similarly, al-Muzani said: "I have been looking
into al-Shafi`i's Risala for fifty years, and I do not recall a
single time I looked at it without learning some new benefit."
Al-Sakhawi in the introduction to his al-Jawahir wa al-Durar
and others narrate that someone criticized Ahmad ibn Hanbal for attending the fiqh
sessions of al-Shafi`i and leaving the hadith sessions of Sufyan ibn `Uyayna.
Ahmad replied: "Keep quiet! If you miss a hadith with a shorter chain you
can find it elsewhere with a longer chain and it will not harm you. But if you
do not have the reasoning of this man [al-Shafi`i], I fear you will never be
able to find it elsewhere." Ahmad is also related by his students Abu
Talib and Humayd ibn Zanjuyah to say: "I never saw anyone adhere more to
hadith than al-Shafi`i. No-one preceded him in writing down the hadith in a
book." The meaning of this is that al-Shafi`i possessed the understanding
of hadith after which Ahmad sought, as evidenced by the latter's statement:
"How rare is fiqh among the scholars of hadith!" This is a
reference to the hadith: "It may be one carries understanding (fiqh)
without being a person of understanding (faqîh)." Sufyan himself
would defer to al-Shafi`i in matters of tafsîr and fatwa. Yunus
ibn Abi Ya`la said: "Whenever al-Shafi`i went into tafsîr, it was
as if he had witnessed the revelation." Ahmad ibn Hanbal also said:
"Not one of the scholars of hadith touched an inkwell nor a pen except he
owed a huge debt to al-Shafi`i."
Al-Shafi`i was known for his peculiar strength in Arabic
language, poetry, and philology. Bayhaqi narrated:
[From Ibn Hisham:] I was al-Shafi`i's sitting-companion
for a long time, and I never heard him use except a word which, carefully
considered, one would not find (in its context) a better word in the entire
Arabic language. . . . Al-Shafi`i's discourse, in relation to language, is
a proof in itself.
[From al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Za`farani:] A group of
bedouins used to frequent al-Shafi`i's gathering with us and sit in a
corner. One day I asked their leader: "You are not interested in
scholarship; why do you keep coming to sit with us?" They said:
"We come to hear al-Shafi`i's language."
Al-Shafi`i trod the path of the Salaf in avoiding
any interpretation of the verses and narrations pertaining to the divine
attributes. He practiced "relegation of the meaning" (tafwîd al-mi`na)
to a higher source, as established in his saying: "I leave the meaning of
the verses of the Attributes to Allah, and I leave the meaning of the hadiths
of the attributes to Allah's Messenger." At the same time, rare
instances of interpretation are recorded from him. Thus al-Bayhaqi relates
that al-Muzani reported from al-Shafi`i the following commentary on the verse:
"To Allah belong the East and the West, and
wheresoever you turn, there is Allah's face (wajh)"
(2:115): "It means – and Allah knows best – thither is the bearing (wajh)
towards which Allah has directed you." Al-Hakkari (d. 486) related in his
book `Aqida al-Shafi`i that the latter said: "We affirm those
attributes, and we negate from them likeness between them and creation (al-tashbîh),
just as He negated it from Himself when He said: ‘There
is nothing whatsoever like unto Him' (42:11)."
Al-Shafi`i's hatred of dialectic theology (kalâm)
was based on his extreme caution against errors which bear heavy consequences
as they induce one into false beliefs. Among his sayings concerning this:
"It is better for a scholar of knowledge to give a fatwa after
which he is said to be wrong than to theologize and then be said to be a
heretic (zindîq). I hate nothing more than theology and
theologians." Dhahabi comments: "This indicates that Abu `Abd Allah's
position concerning error in the principles of the Religion (al-usûl)
is that it is not the same as error in the course of scholarly exertion in the
branches." The reason is that in belief and doctrine neither ijtihâd
nor divergences are permitted. In this respect al-Shafi`i said: "It
cannot be asked ‘Why?' concerning the principles, nor ‘How?'" Yet
al-Shafi`i did not completely close the door to the use of kalâm in
defense of the Sunna, as shown below and in the notice on Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
Yunus ibn Abi Ya`la narrated that al-Shafi`i defined the
"principles" as: "The Qur'an, the Sunna, analogy (al-qiyâs),
and consensus (al-ijmâ`)"; he defined the latter to mean:
"The adherence of the Congregation (jamâ`a) of the Muslims to the
conclusions of a given ruling pertaining to what is permitted and what is
forbidden after the passing of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon
Al-Shafi`i did not close the door on the right use of kalâm
as is clear from Ibn Abi Hatim's narration from al-Rabi` of his words:
"If I wished, I could produce a book against each one of those who
deviated, but dialectic theology is none of my business, and I would not like
to be attributed any part in it." Similar to it is his advice to his
student al-Muzani: "Take proofs from creation about the Creator, and do
not burden yourself with the knowledge of what your mind did not reach."
Ibn Abi Hatim himself spoke similarly when he was told of Ibn Khuzayma's
unsuccessful attempt at kalâm: "It is preferable not to meddle
with what we did not learn." Note that al-Shafi`i also spoke of his wish
not to have a single letter out of all his works attributed to him, regardless
Al-Shafi`i's attitude towards tasawwuf was as
strict as with kalâm, and he both praised it and denigrated its abuse
at the hands of its corrupters. In criticism of the latter he said:
"No-one becomes a Sufi in the morning except he ends up a dolt by
noon" while on the other hand he declared in his Diwan: "Be
at the same time a faqîh and a Sufi." In Mecca al-Shafi`i was the
student of Fudayl ibn `Iyad. Imam al-Nawawi in his Bustan al-`Arifin fi al-Zuhd
wa al-Tasawwuf ("The Garden of the Gnostics in Asceticism and Tasawwuf")
narrated from al-Shafi`i the saying: "Only the sincere one (al-mukhlis)
can recognize self-display (al-riyâ')." Al-Nawawi comments:
"This means that it is impossible to know the reality of self-display and
see its hidden shades except for one who resolutely seeks (arâda)
sincerity. Such a one strives for a long time, searching, meditating,
examining at length within himself until he knows, or knows something of what
self-display is. This does not happen for everyone. Indeed, this happens only
with special ones (al-khawâss). But for a given individual to claim
that he knows what self-diplay is, this is real ignorance on his part."
Al-Shafi`i deferred primacy in the foundations of fiqh
to Imam Abu Hanifa with his famous statement: "People are all the
children of Abu Hanifa in fiqh." Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentioned in
the thirty-fifth chapter of his book on Imam Abu Hanifa entitled al-Khayrat
al-Hisan: "When Imam al-Shafi`i was in Baghdad, he would visit the
grave of Imam Abu Hanifa, greet him, and then ask Allah for the fulfillment of
his need through his means."
Two schools of legal thought or madhahib are
actually attributed to al-Shafi`i, englobing his writings and legal opinions (fatâwa).
These two schools are known in the terminology of jurists as "The
Old" (al-qadîm) and "The New" (al-jadîd),
corresponding respectively to his stays in Iraq and Egypt. The most prominent
transmitters of the New among al-Shafi`i's students are al-Buwayti, al-Muzani,
al-Rabi` al-Muradi, and al-Bulqini, in Kitab al-Umm ("The
Motherbook"). The most prominent transmitters of the Old are Ahmad ibn
Hanbal, al-Karabisi, al-Za`farani, and Abu Thawr, in Kitab al-Hujja
("Book of the Proof"). What is presently known as the Shafi`i
position refers to the New except in approximately twenty-two questions, in
which Shafi`i scholars and muftis have retained the positions of the Old.
Al-Subki related that the Shafi`i scholars considered al-Rabi`s
narration from al-Shafi`i sounder from the viewpoint of transmission, while
they considered al-Muzani's sounder from the viewpoint of fiqh,
although both were established hadith masters. Al-Shafi`i said to al-Rabi`:
"How I love you!" and another time: "O Rabi`! If I could feed
you the Science I would feed it to you." Al-Qaffal al-Shashi in his Fatawa
relates that al-Rabi` was slow in his understanding, and that al-Shafi`i once
repeated an explanation forty times for him in a gathering, yet he did not
understand it then got up and left in embarrassment. Later, al-Shafi`i called
him in private and resumed explaining it to him until he understood. This
shows the accuracy of Ibn Rahuyah's statement: "I consider the best
part of me the time when I fully understand al-Shafi`i's discourse."
Al-Shafi`i took the verse "Or if
you have touched women" (4:43) literally, and considered that
contact between the sexes, even accidental, nullified ablution. This is also
the position of Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Umar, al-Sha`bi, al-Nakha`i, al-Zuhri, and
al-Awza`i, which is confirmed by Ibn `Umar's report: "Whoever kisses or
touches his wife with his hand must renew his wudû'." It is
authentic and related in numerous places including Malik's Muwatta'.
Al-Shafi`i said: "Something similar has reached us from Ibn Mas`ud."
They all read the above verse literally, without interpreting
"touch" to mean "sexual intercourse" as do the Hanafis, or
"touch with pleasure" as do the Malikis.
A major contribution of al-Shafi`i in the foundations of
the Law was his division of innovation (al-bid`a) into good and bad on
the basis of `Umar's words about the tarâwih or congregational
supererogatory night prayers in the month of Ramadan: "What a fine
innovation this is!" Harmala narrated that al-Shafi`i concluded:
"Therefore, whatever innovation conforms to the Sunna is approved (mahmûd),
and whatever opposes it is abominable (madhmûm)." Agreement
formed in the Four Schools around his division, as illustrated by the
endorsement of some major later authorities in each school. Among the Hanafis:
Ibn `Abidin, al-Turkumani, and al-Tahanawi; among the Malikis: al-Turtushi,
Ibn al-Hajj, and al-Shatibi; consensus among the Shafi`is; and reluctant
acceptance among later Hanbalis, who altered al-Shafi`i's terminology to
read "lexical innovation" (bid`a lughawiyya) and "legal
innovation" (bid`a shar`iyya), respectively û although
inaccurately û matching Shafi`i's "approved" and
Among al-Shafi`i's other notable positions: Al-Muzani
said: "I never saw any of the scholars make something obligatory on
behalf of the Prophet as much as al-Shafi`i in his books, and this was due to
his high remembrance of the Prophet. He said in the Old School: ‘Supplication
ends with the invocation of blessings on the Prophet, and its end is but by
means of it.'" Al-Karabisi said: "I heard al-Shafi`i say that he
disliked for someone to say ‘the Messenger' (al-Rasûl), but that
he should say ‘Allah's Messenger' (Rasûl Allah) out of
veneration (ta`zîm) for him."
Among al-Shafi`i's other sayings:
"The study of hadith is better than supererogatory
prayer, and the pursuit of knowledge is better than supererogatory
prayer." Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Kitab al-`Ilm listed the many
hadiths of the Prophet on the superior merit of knowledge. However, al-Shafi`i
by this saying meant the essence and purpose of knowledge, not knowledge
for its own sake which leads to Satanic pride. The latter is widely
available while true knowledge is the knowledge that leads to godwariness (taqwa).
This is confirmed by al-Shafi`i's saying: "Knowledge is what
benefits. Knowledge is not what one has memorized." This is a
corrective for those content to define knowledge as "the knowledge of
the proof" (ma`rifa al-dalîl). "He
gives wisdom to whomever He will, and whoever receives wisdom receives
immense good." (2:269)
"You [the scholars of hadith] are the pharmacists
but we [the jurists] are the physicians." This was explained by `Ali
al-Qari in his book Mu`taqad Abi Hanifa al-Imam (p. 42): "The
early scholars said: The hadith scholar without knowledge of fiqh
is like a seller of drugs who is no physician: he has them but he does not
know what to do with them; and the fiqh scholar without knowledge
of hadith is like a physician without drugs: he knows what constitutes a
remedy, but does not dispose of it."
"Malik was asked about kalâm and [the
Science of] Oneness (tawhîd) and he said: ‘It is inconceivable
that the Prophet should teach his Community hygiene and not teach them
about Oneness! And Oneness is exactly what the Prophet said: ‘I was
ordered to fight people until they say ‘There is no God but Allah.'
So, whatever makes blood and property untouchable û that is the reality
of Oneness (haqîqa al-tawhîd).'" This is a proof from the Salaf
against those who, in later times, innovated sub-divisions for tawhîd
or legislated that their own understanding of Allah's Attributes was a
precondition for the declaration of Oneness. Al-Halimi said: "In this
hadith there is explicit proof that that declaration (lâ ilâha
illallâh) suffices to extirpate oneself from all the different kinds
of disbelief in Allah Almighty."
"Satiation weighs down the body, hardens the
heart, does away with sagacity, brings on sleep, and weakens one from
worship." This is similar to the definition of tasawwuf as
"hunger" (al-jû`) given by some of the early masters,
who acquired hunger as a permanent attribute and were called "hungerers"
(jû`iyyûn). A notable example is al-Qasim ibn `Uthman al-`Abdi
al-Dimashqi al-Ju`i (d. 248), whom al-Dhahabi describes as "the Imam,
the exemplar, the wali, the muhaddith, the shaykh of the
Sufis and the friend of Ahmad ibn al-Hawari."
"I never swore by Allah û neither truthfully nor
deceptively." This is similar to the saying of the Sufi master Sahl
ibn `Abd Allah al-Tustari narrated by al-Dhahabi: "Among the manners
of the truthful saints (al-siddîqîn) is that they never swear by
Allah, nor commit backbiting, nor does backbiting take place around them,
nor do they eat to satiation, if they promise they are true to their word,
and they never speak in jest."
Al-Buwayti asked: "Should I pray behind the Rafidi?"
Al-Shafi`i said: "Do not pray behind the Rafidi, nor behind
the Qadari, nor behind the Murji'." Al-Buwayti said:
"Define them for us." He replied: "Whoever says ‘Belief
consists only in speech' is a Murji', and whoever says ‘Abu
Bakr and `Umar are not Imams' is a Rafidi, and whoever attributes
destiny to himself is a Qadari."
Abu Hatim narrated from Harmala that al-Shafi`i said:
"The Caliphs (al-khulafâ') are five: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman,
`Ali, and `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz." In his Diwan he named them
"leaders of their people, by whose guidance one obtains guidance,"
and declaimed of the Family of the Prophet:
The Family of the Prophet are my intermediary to him! (wasîlatî)
Through them I hope to be given my record with the right
O Family of Allah's Messenger! To love you is an obligation
Which Allah ordained and revealed in the Qur'an.
It is enough proof of your immense glory that
Whoever invokes not blessings upon you, his prayer is
Ibn Hajar said that the first to write a biography of al-Shafi`i
was Dawud al-Zahiri (d. 275). Al-Nawawi in Tahdhib al-Asma' wa al-Lughat
(1:44) mentioned that the best biography of al-Shafi`i was al-Bayhaqi's for
its sound chains of transmission. Ibn Hajar summarized it and added to it al-Shafi`i's
Musnad in his Tawali al-Ta'sis fi Ma`ali Ibn Idris.
In the introduction of his compendium of Shafi`i fiqh
entitled al-Majmu` al-Nawawi mentions that al-Shafi`i used a walking
stick for which he was asked: "Why do you carry a stick when you are
neither old nor ailing?" He replied: "To remember I am only a
traveller in this world."
Main sources: al-Shafi`i, Diwan; Abu Nu`aym, Hilya
al-Awliya' 9:71-172 #442; al-Nawawi, Tahdhib al-Asma' wa al-Lughat
1:44-67 #2; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 8:377-423 #1539, 10:79,
10:649; al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 2:133-134; Ibn Hajar, Tawali
al-Ta'sis p. 3-157.
Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal,
Abu `Abd Allah al-Dhuhli al-Shaybani al-Marwazi al-Baghdadi
(d. 241). Al-Dhahabi says of him: "The true Shaykh of Islam and leader of
the Muslims in his time, the hadith master and proof of the Religion. He took
hadith from Hushaym, Ibrahim ibn Sa`d, Sufyan ibn `Uyayna, `Abbad ibn `Abbad,
Yahya ibn Abi Za'ida, and their layer. From him narrated al-Bukhari [two
hadiths in the Sahih], Muslim , Abu Dawud , Abu Zur`a, Mutayyan,
`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad, Abu al-Qasim al-Baghawi, and a huge array of scholars. His
father was a soldier û one of those who called to Islam û and he died
young." Al-Dhahabi continues:
`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad said: "I heard Abu Zur`a [al-Razi]
say: ‘Your father had memorized a million hadiths, which I rehearsed with
him according to topic.'"
Hanbal said: "I heard Abu `Abd Allah say: ‘I
memorized everything which I heard from Hushaym when he was alive.'"
Ibrahim al-Harbi said: "I held Ahmad as one for whom
Allah had gathered up the combined knowledge of the first and the
Harmala said: "I heard al-Shafi`i say: ‘I left
Baghdad and did not leave behind me anyone more virtuous (afdal),
more learned (a`lam), more knowledgeable (afqah) than Ahmad
`Ali ibn al-Madini said: "Truly, Allah reinforced
this Religion with Abu Bakr al-Siddiq the day of the Great Apostasy (al-Ridda),
and He reinforced it with Ahmad ibn Hanbal the day of the Inquisition (al-Mihna)."
Abu `Ubayd said: "The Science at its peak is in the
custody of four men, of whom Ahmad ibn Hanbal is the most
Ibn Ma`in said, as related by `Abbas [al-Duri]:
"They meant for me to be like Ahmad, but û by Allah! û I shall never
in my life compare to him."
Muhammad ibn Hammad al-Taharani said: "I heard Abu
Thawr say: ‘Ahmad is more learned û or knowledgeable û than al-Thawri.'"
Al-Dhahabi concludes: "Al-Bayhaqi wrote Abu `Abd Allah's
biography (sîra) in one volume, so did Ibn al-Jawzi, and also Shaykh
al-Islam [`Abd Allah al-Harawi] al-Ansari in a brief volume. He passed on to
Allah's good pleasure on the day of Jum`a, the twelfth of Rabi` al-Awwal
in the year 241, at the age of seventy-seven. I have two of his short-chained
narrations (`awâlîh), and a licence (ijâza) for the entire Musnad."
Al-Dhahabi's chapter on Imam Ahmad in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' counts
no less than 113 pages.
One of the misunderstandings prevalent among the "Salafis"
who misrepresent Imam Ahmad's school today is his position regarding kalâm
or dialectic theology. It is known that he was uncompromisingly opposed to kalâm
as a method, even if used as a means to defend the truth, preferring to stick to
the plain narration of textual proofs and abandoning all recourse to dialectical
or rational ones. Ibn al-Jawzi relates his saying: "Do not sit with the
people of kalâm, even if they defend the Sunna." This attitude is
at the root of his disavowal of al-Muhasibi. It also explains the disaffection
of later Hanbalis towards Imam al-Ash`ari and his school, despite his subsequent
standing as the Imam of Sunni Muslims par excellence. The reasons for
this rift are now obsolete although the rift has amplified beyond all
recognizable shape, as it is evident, in retrospect, that opposition to Ash`aris,
for various reasons, came out of a major misunderstanding of their actual
contributions within the Community, whether as individuals or as a whole.
There are several general reasons why the Hanbali-mutakallim
rift should be considered artificial and obsolete. First, kalâm in its
original form was an innovation in Islam (bid`a) against which there was
unanimous opposition among Ahl al-Sunna. The first to use kalâm
were true innovators opposed to the Sunna, and in the language of the early
scholars kalâm was synonymous with the doctrines of the Qadariyya,
Murji'a, Jahmiyya, Jabriyya, Rawâfid, and Mu`tazila
and their multifarious sub-sects. This is shown by the examples Ibn Qutayba
gives of kalâm and mutakallimûn in his book Mukhtalif
al-Hadith, none of which belongs to Ahl al-Sunna. Similarly the
adherents of kalâm brought up in the speech of al-Hasan al-Basri, Ibn
al-Mubarak, Ibn Rahuyah, Imam al-Shafi`i and the rest of the pre-Hanbali
scholars of hadith are the innovators of the above-mentioned sects, not those
who later opposed them using the same methods of reasoning. The latter cannot be
put in the same category. Therefore the early blames of kalâm cannot be
applied to them in the same breath with the innovators.
Second, there is difference of opinion among the Salaf
on the possible use of kalâm to defend the Sunna, notwithstanding Imam
Ahmad's position quoted above. One reason why they disallowed it is wara`:
because of extreme scrupulousness against learning and practicing a discipline
initiated by the enemies of the Sunna. Thus they considered kalâm
reprehensible but not forbidden, as is clear from their statements. For example,
Ibn Abi Hatim narrated that al-Shafi`i said: "If I wanted to publish books
refuting every single opponent [of the Sunna] I could easily do so, but kalâm
is not for me, and I dislike that anything of it be attributed to me." This
shows that al-Shafi`i left the door open for others to enter a field which he
abstained from entering out of strict Godwariness.
Third, kalâm is a difficult, delicate science which
demands a mind above the norm. The imams forbade it as a sadd al-dharî`a
or pre-empting measure. They rightly foresaw that unless one possessed an
adequate capacity to practice it, one was courting disaster. This was the case
with Ahmad's student Abu Talib, and other early Hanbalis who misinterpreted
Ahmad's doctrinal positions as Bukhari himself stated. Bukhari, Ahmad, and
others of the Salaf thus experienced first hand that one who played with kalâm
could easily lapse into heresy, innovation, or disbelief. This was made
abundantly clear in Imam Malik's answer to the man who asked how Allah
established Himself over the Throne: "The establishment is known, the ‘how'
is inconceivable, and to ask about it is an innovation!" Malik's answer
is the essence of kalâm at the same time as it warns against the misuse
of kalâm, as observed by the late Dr. Abu al-Wafa' al-Taftazani. Malik's
reasoning is echoed by al-Shafi`i's advice to his student al-Muzani:
"Take proofs from creation in order to know about the Creator, and do not
burden yourself with the knowledge of what your mind did not reach."
Similarly, Ibn Khuzayma and Ibn Abi Hatim admitted their technical ignorance of
the science of kalâm, at the same time acknowledging its possible good
use by qualified experts. As for Ibn Qutayba, he regretted his kalâm
days and preferred to steer completely clear of it.
In conclusion, any careful reader of Islamic intellectual
history can see that if the Ash`ari scholars of kalâm had not engaged
and defeated the various theological and philosophical sects on their own
terrain, the silence of Ahl al-Sunna might well have sealed their defeat
at the hands of their opponents. This was indicated by Taj al-Din al-Subki who
spoke of the obligatoriness of kalâm in certain specific circumstances,
as opposed to its superfluousness in other times. "The use of kalâm
in case of necessity is a legal obligation (wajib), and to keep silence
about kalâm in case other than necessity is a sunna."
The biographical notice on Imam Ahmad in the Reliance of
the Traveller reads: "Out of piety, Imam Ahmad never gave a formal
legal opinion (fatwa) while Shafi`i was in Iraq, and when he later
formulated his school of jurisprudence, he mainly drew on explicit texts from
the [Qur'an], hadith, and scholarly consensus, with relatively little
expansion from analogical reasoning (qiyâs). He was probably the most
learned in the sciences of hadith of the four great Imams of Sacred Law, and his
students included many of the foremost scholars of hadith. Abu Dawud said of
him: ‘Ahmad's gatherings were gatherings of the afterlife: nothing of this
world was mentioned. Never once did I hear him mention this-worldly things.'
... He never once missed praying in the night, and used to recite the entire
[Qur'an] daily. He said, ‘I saw the Lord of Power in my sleep, and said,
"O Lord, what is the best act through which those near to You draw
nearer?" and He answered, "Through [reciting] (sic) My word, O
Ahmad." I asked, "With understanding, or without?" and He
answered, "With understanding and without."'. . . Ahmad was
imprisoned and tortured for twenty-eight months under the Abbasid caliph al-Mu`tasim
in an effort to force him to publicly espouse the [Mu`tazila] position
that the Holy [Qur'an] was created, but the Imam bore up unflinchingly under
the persecution and refused to renounce the belief of Ahl al-Sunna that
the [Qur'an] is the uncreated word of Allah, after which Allah delivered and
vindicated him. When Ahmad died in 241/855, he was accompanied to his resting
place by a funeral procession of eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand
women, marking the departure of the last of the four great mujtahid Imams
Ibn al-Jawzi narrates from Bilal al-Khawass that the latter
met al-Khidr and asked him: "What do you say of al-Shafi`i?" He said:
"One of the Pillar-Saints (Awtâd)." "Ahmad ibn Hanbal?"
"He is a Siddîq."
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