'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Shayba Ibrahim ibn 'Uthman ibn Khuwasta, Abu Bakr al-'Abasi (d. 235), described by al-Dhahabi as the brother, father, and uncle of hadith masters and their most prestigious representative, "the master of hadith masters," "one of those who have reached the sky, an apex of trustworthiness," "one of the oceans of knowledge," the author of al-Musnad, al-Ahkam, al-Musannaf, and al-Tafsir, "one of the peers of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ishaq ibn Rahuyah, and 'Ali ibn al-Madini in age, place of birth, and hadith memorization." Abu Zur'a al-Razi said: "I never saw anyone with more mastery of the hadith than Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shayba." His scholarly relatives are: his brothers 'Uthman ibn Abi Shayba and al-Qasim ibn Abi Shayba; his son Ibrahim ibn Abi Bakr ibn Abi Shayba; and his nephew Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Uthman ibn Abi Shayba. All are hadith masters except al-Qasim, who is weak.
'Abd Allah ibn Abi Shayba took hadith from Sharik ibn 'Abd Allah al-Qadi at age fourteen, Ibn al-Mubarak, Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna, Hushaym ibn Bashir, Waki' ibn al-Jarrah, Yahya al-Qattan, Isma'il ibn 'Iyash, Isma'il ibn 'Ulayya, and other major authorities. From him took Bukhari and Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Abu Zur'a, Ibn Abi 'Asim, Buqayy ibn Makhlad, al-Baghandi, Abu Ya'la al-Musili, Salih Jazara, 'Abdan, Abu al-Qasim al-Baghawi, and others.
Ibn Abi Shayba showed enmity to Abu Hanifa - Allah be well-pleased with him -- as he named one of the longest chapters of his Musannaf "Book of the Refutation of Abu Hanifa" in which he proceeded to list about one hundred and twenty five "Prophetic hadiths which Abu Hanifa contradicted."1 This charge, together with Ibn Abi Shayba's refutation, are refuted in the books of Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari among others. It remains that the Musannaf is perhaps the most precious mine of information on the juridical positions of the Companions and Successors.
Ibn Abi Shayba narrates in the chapter entitled: "Touching the grave of the Prophet" with a sahih chain according to Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani and al-Qadi 'Iyad in al-Shifa' (in the chapter entitled: "Concerning the visit to the Prophet's grave -- Allah bless and greet him --, the excellence of those who visit it and how he should be greeted"):
Yazid ibn 'Abd al-Malik ibn Qusayt and al-'Utbi narrated that it was the practice of the Companions in the mosque of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- to place their hands on the pommel of the hand rail (rummana) of the pulpit (minbar) where the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- used to place his hand. There they would face the Qibla and supplicate to Allah Almighty and Exalted hoping He would answer their supplication because they were placing their hands where the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- placed his while making their supplication. Abu Mawduda said: "And I saw Yazid ibn 'Abd al-Malik do the same."2
This practice of the Companions clarifies two matters. The first is the permissibility of asking Allah for things by the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- (tawassul) after his death since by their act the Companions were truly making tawassul. Likewise it is permissible to ask Allah Almighty and Exalted for things by means of other pious Muslims. The second is the permissibility of seeking blessings (baraka) from the objects the Prophet touched -- Allah bless and greet him.
It is similarly related from the Companion Malik al-Dar3 that the people suffered a drought during the successorship of 'Umar, whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and said: "O Messenger of Allah, ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished!" after which the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- 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: You must be clever, you must be clever!" The man went and told 'Umar. The latter said: "O my Lord, I spare no effort except in what escapes my power!" Ibn Kathir cites it thus from al-Bayhaqi in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya and says: isnaduhu sahih; (i.e. its chain is authentic)4 Ibn Abi Shayba cites it in his Musannaf with a sound (sahih) chain as confirmed by Ibn Hajar who says: rawa Ibn Abi Shayba bi isnadin sahih and cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari.5 He identifies Malik al-Dar as 'Umar's treasurer (khazin 'Umar) and says that the man who visited and saw the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- in his dream is identified as the Companion Bilal ibn al-Harith, and he counts this hadith among the reasons for al-Bukhari's naming of the chapter "The people's request to their leader for rain if they suffer drought." He also mentions it in al-Isaba, where he says that Ibn Abi Khaythama cited it.6
1Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf (7:277-325).
2Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf (4:121).
3"'Umar ibn al-Khattab's freedman. He narrated from Abu Bakr and 'Umar. He was known." Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat (5:12). "He is agreed upon (as trustworthy), the Successors have approved highly of him." Abu Ya'la al-Khalil ibn 'Abd Allah al-Khalili al-Qazwini, Kitab al-Irshad fi Ma'rifat 'Ulama' al-Hadith, ed. Muhammad Sa'id ibn 'Umar Idris, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Riyad : Maktabat al-Rushd, 1989), as quoted in 'Abd Allah al-Ghumari, Irgham al-Mubtadi' al-Ghabi bi Jawaz al-Tawassul bi al-Nabi, ed. Hasan 'Ali al-Saqqaf, 2nd ed. (Amman: Dar al-Imam al-Nawawi, 1992 p. 9). "Malik ibn 'Iyad: 'Umar's freedman. He is the one named Malik al-Dar. He has seen the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and has heard narrations from Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. He has narrated from Abu Bakr and 'Umar, Mu'adh, and Abu 'Ubayda. From him narrated Abu Salih al-Saman and his (Malik's) two sons 'Awn and 'Abd Allah..." Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, chapter of Malik ibn 'Iyad.
4Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya (7:92).
5Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Book of istisqa ch. 3 (1989 ed. 2:629-630).
6Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba (6:164 #8350).