(3) The Great Asha`ari Scholars

Ibn Sam`un, Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Isma`il ibn `Anbas, Abu al-Husayn al-Baghdadi (300-387), "the Shaykh, the Imam, the great orator, and the shaykh of his time in Baghdad" in tasawwuf, preaching, and kalaam, mentioned by Ibn `Asakir among the direct students of al-Ash`ari, he took hadith from Ibn Abi Dawud, Muhammad ibn Makhlad al-`Attar, Ibn Abi Hudhayfa, and others. From him narrated among others `Ali ibn Talha al-Muqri', al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Khallal, Khadija bint Muhammad al-Shahjaniyya, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hammaduh al-Hanbali, and Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami who said: "He has no teacher and yet is the spokesman of our time [in tasawwuf], the approved reference in the ethics of transactions, and the master of many disciplines."

Al-Khatib said: "He was the peerless one of his time in the science of vigilance over one's thoughts. One of our shaykhs used to say, whenever he cited him: 'The magnificent shaykh who speaks wisdom said to us … '"

His companion Abu Muhammad al-Sunni narrated:

Ibn Sam`un in his beginnings used to copy manuscripts for livelihood. Then he would spend on himself and his mother. He said to her one day: "I would like to go on pilgrimage." She said: "How will you afford it?" Then she slept. After a while she woke and said: "O my son, go on pilgrimage. I have seen Allah's Messenger and he said: 'Let him go on pilgrimage, for he will find his good fortune thereby.'" Ibn Sam`un became happy and sold his books, giving her some of the proceeds, and he went out with the caravan. He said: "I was unclad. Whenever I became too hungry I would find some of the pilgrims who were eating and would stand by them until they gave me something to eat. Then I found someone with a spare coat, so I said: 'Give it to me to wear.' He gave it to me and I used it as my ritual vestment, and started my way back."

The Caliph at that time wanted to part with a female slave who had been his concubine and said: "Look for an honest man suitable to marry her." They put forward Ibn Sam`un. The Caliph approved of him and married him to her. After this, Ibn Sam`un would say in his preaching [wearing excellent clothes]: "I went out to pilgrimage," then gesture expansively and say: "and look at what I am wearing today!"

Abu Tahir ibn al-`Allaf narrates that he attended a sermon of Ibn Sam`un at which time Abu al-Fath al-Qawwas was sitting next to his chair. The latter dozed off, whereupon Ibn Sam`un fell silent for several moments. Then Abu al-Fath woke up, and Ibn Sam`un said: "Did you see Allah's Messenger in your sleep?" He said, "Yes." Ibn Sam`un said: "That is why I stopped speaking, I wished not to disturb you."

Ibn `Asakir narrated that Ibn Sam`un's way was to choose the strictest of paths.

Abu al-Najib al-Armawi said: "Whenever al-Qadi Abu Bakr al-Ash`ari and Abu Hamid came to see Ibn Sam`un they would kiss his hand."

Among his sayings:

From Abu Muhammad al-Khallal: "Ibn Sam`un asked me my name, so I said: 'Hasan' ('Excellent'). He said: 'Allah gave you the name; now ask Him to give you its meaning.'"

From Abu Bakr al-Barqani: "I said to Ibn Sam`un one day: 'You call people to renunciation (zuhd) and yet you wear the best clothes and eat the best food! How can that be?' He said: 'Whatever suits you before Allah, do it, if your state before Him is good.'"

From al-Sulami: "I heard Ibn Sam`un being asked about tasawwuf. He said: 'As for the name, it means abandonment of the world and its people. As for its reality, it means forgetfulness of the world and its people.'"

In the year 426, Ibn Sam`un's body was carried from the grave in his house and buried in the cemetary of Bab Harb. It is related that his shroud had not changed in the least.

Al-Isma`ili, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Isma`il ibn al-`Abbas, Abu Bakr al-Jurjani al-Shafi`i, known as al-Isma`ili (277-371), "The imam, hadith master, "Proof of the Religion," faqeeh, "Shaykh ul-Islam," and narrator of Bukhari's ‘Sahih.’" Al-Hakim described him as the "shaykh both of the jurists and the hadith scholars of his time by the consensus of both groups." He did not attend any gathering except they made him the only speaker. In "al-Mustakhraj `ala al-Sahih" he compiled four volumes of hadith narrations with the grade of saheeh according to al-Bukhari's criterion but with his own chains of transmission. Ibn `Asakir included him among the direct students and companions of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari.

Al-Naqqash, Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn al-`Abbas, Abu Ja`far al-Sulami al-Baghdadi al-Jawhari al-Naqqash (294-379), a trustworthy narrator of hadith, which he took from al-Baghandi, al-Baghawi, Ibn Abi Dawud, Ibn al-Muqri' and others, and from whom took Abu `Ali ibn Shadhan, Abu al-Qasim al-Azhari, `Ali al-Tannukhi, and others. He is included by al-Dhahabi and Ibn `Asakir among the direct students of al-Ash`ari in kalaam, which he then taught to Abu `Ali ibn Shadhan.

Al-Qaffal al-Shashi, Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn Isma`il, Abu Bakr al-Qaffal al-Shashi al-Shafi`i (d. 365), a companion of al-Ash`ari and like him a former Mu`tazili, he became an imam of jurisprudence and its principles, a hadith scholar, the imam of Shafi`is in Transoxiana, and the author of important works in the school according to al-Fayruzabadi. He took hadith from Ibn Khuzayma, al-Tabari, al-Baghawi, and others. From him took, among others, al-Hakim, Ibn Mandah, al-Sulami, and al-Halimi who said: "Our shaykh al-Qaffal was the most knowledgeable of the scholars of his time I have met." Among his books are "Dala'il al-Nubuwwa," "Mahasin al-Shari`a," and a commentary on al-Shafi`i's "al-Risala." Al-Dhahabi said: "Among his rare conclusions quoted in [Nawawi's] "Rawda al-Talibin" [1:401] is that the sick person is allowed to join two prayers together."

Al-Qurashi al-Zuhri, `Abd al-Wahid ibn Ahmad ibn al-Qasim, Abu Muhammad al-Naysaburi (d. 382), a descendent of `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf and one of those listed by Ibn `Asakir among the direct students of al-Ash`ari. Al-Hakim reports that he fasted all year and completed the recitation of the Qur'an every other day. He took hadith from Abu Hamid ibn Bilal and Abu Bakr al-Qattan and their contemporaries and was al-Hakim's colleague. The latter attended him at his deathbed and heard him say after much weeping: "I entrust you to Allah, for I am departing."

Al-Shuruti, Abu `Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi `Abd al-Rahman al-Jurjani al-Qattan (d. 389), a specialist of legal pre-requisites in transactions (shurut) mentioned by Ibn `Asakir among the first generation of al-Ash`ari's students, he took hadith from Abu Ya`qub al-Nahawi and his layer.

Al-Sarakhsi, Zahir ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad, Abu `Ali al-Muqri' al-Khurasani al-Shafi`i (293-389), "the imam and erudite scholar, faqeeh of Khurasan, and shaykh of the Qur'an-reciters and hadith scholars." He took hadith from masters in Khurasan, Iraq, and elsewhere, among others from al-Baghawi, then settled in Naysabur. Among those who took hadith from him: al-Hakim and Abu `Uthman al-Sabuni. Ibn `Asakir, al-Dhahabi, and al-Subki include him among al-Ash`ari's students.


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