Al-Dhahabi

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn `Uthman ibn Qaymaz ibn `Abd Allah, Shams al-Din Abu `Abd Allah al-Turkmani al-Diyarbakri al-Fariqi al-Dimashqi al-Dhahabi al-Shafi`i (673-748), the imam, Shaykh al-Islam, head of hadith masters, perspicuous critic and expert examiner of the hadith, encyclopedic historian and biographer, and foremost authority in the canonical readings of the Qur’an. Born in Damascus where his family lived from the time of his grandfather `Uthman, he sometimes identified himself as Ibn al-Dhahabi – son of the goldsmith – in reference to his father’s profession. He began his study of hadith at age eighteen, travelling from Damascus to Ba`labak, Hims, Hama, Aleppo, Tripoli, Nabulus, al-Ramla, Cairo, Iskandariyya, al-Qudus, Hijaz, and elsewhere to thirty different locations, after which he returned to Damascus where he taught and authored many works and achieved world renown. He lost his sight two years before he died, leaving three children: his eldest daughter Amat al-`Aziz and his two sons `Abd Allah and Abu Hurayra `Abd al-Rahman. The latter taught the hadith masters Ibn Nasir al-Din al-Dimashqi1 and Ibn Hajar, to whom he transmitted several works authored or narrated by his father.

Among al-Dhahabi’s most notable teachers in hadith and fiqh:

1. Ibn al-Zahiri, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah al-Halabi.

2. Al-Abarquhi, Ahmad ibn Ishaq ibn Muhammad al-Misri (d. 701), from which al-Dhahabi received the Suhrawardi Sufi path.2 He said in his last illness while he was in Mecca: “I will die in this illness because the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — promised me that I would die in Mecca.”3

3. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Daqiq al-`Id whom he identified in his youth as Abu al-Fath al-Qushayri, later as as Ibn Wahb.4 When al-Dhahabi first came before Ibn Daqiq al-`Id to study hadith the latter quizzed him: “Who is Abu Muhammad al-Hilali?” Al-Dhahabi correctly answered: “Sufyan ibn `Uyayna.”

4. Sharaf al-Din al-Dimyati, `Abd al-Mu’min ibn Khalaf, the foremost Egyptian authority on hadith in his time.

5. “Qadi al-Qudat, the Paragon of Islam, the standard-bearer of the Sunna, my shaykh” Jamal al-Din Abu al-Ma`ali Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Ansari al-Zamalkani al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i (d. 727).5 He replaced Safi al-Din al-Hindi as chief prosecutor in the Damascus trial of Ibn Taymiyya against whom he subsequently wrote a refutation on divorce, and another refutation on the Visitation to the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him.

Among the praises of hadith scholars about al-Dhahabi:

1. His student Ibn al-Subki said:

Our time was graced with four hadith masters: al-Mizzi, al-Birzali, al-Dhahabi, and my father the Shaykh and Imam [Taqi al-Din al-Subki].7 As for our shaykh Abu `Abd Allah, he is an ocean without peer, a treasure and refuge in time of difficulty, the imam of the living on record, the gold of our time in spirit and letter, the shaykh of narrator-discreditation and narrator-commendation (al-jarh wa al-ta`dil)… and the one who trained us in this science and brought us out into the scholarly throng – may Allah reward him greatly!

3. Another student of his, Salah al-Din al-Safadi, said:

I read before him many of his works and did not find in him the rigidity (jumud) of hadith scholars nor the denseness (kawdana) of transmitters. Rather, he is highly perspicuous and proficient in the sayings of the scholars and the schools of the imams of the Salaf and authorities in doctrine. What most pleased me is the care he shows, in his works, not to mention a hadith except he states whether it suffers from any weakness in its content or chain of transmission or one of its narrators. I did not see others show the same care in what they cite.8

4. The “Commander of the Believers in Hadith” (Amir al-Mu’minin fi al-Hadith), Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said of him: “He was the most prolific of the scholars of his time. People yearned to obtain his books, travelling to him for that purpose and circulating them through reading, copying, and audition.”“He is among those who have total mastery in the field of narrator-criticism.”10

5. Al-Sakhawi said: “To understand the loftiness of his rank it is enough to know that our shaykh’s [Ibn Hajar] supplication, upon drinking Zamzam water, was that Allah make him reach al-Dhahabi’s rank in the hadith sciences.”11

6. Al-Suyuti said: “Hadith scholars today depend on four figures in the field of narrator-criticism and other related fields: al-Mizzi, al-Dhahabi, al-`Iraqi, and Ibn Hajar.”12

7. Al-Shawkani said: “All his books are well-received and sought after…. Historians, from his time onwards, generally depend on him. None has gathered up as much as he in this science.”13

8. Ibn al-Subki also criticized al-Dhahabi’s anti-Ash`arism and Hanbali leanings in doctrine, calling him one of the greatest propagators of anthropomorphism.14 Elsewhere he states: “Our shaykh al-Dhahabi – may Allah have mercy on him – with all his learning and piety, displays an excessive bias against Ahl al-Sunna; it is not permitted to follow him in this opinion…. Nor is it permissible to rely on our shaykh al-Dhahabi whenever he commends a Hanbali or blames an Ash`ari.”15

8. Al-Suyuti also marked his distate for al-Dhahabi’s aspersions against early and late Sufi authorities as noted further below. Among the worst examples of al-Dhahabi’s bias against Sufis are his aspersions against Abu Yazid al-Bistami and al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’.16

Among al-Dhahabi’s works:17

1. Tarikh al-Islam, the largest biographical encyclopedia in Islam. Ibn Hajar received it from Abu Hurayra ibn al-Dhahabi.18

2. Al-`Ibar bi Akhbar Man `Abar, a condensed biographical history with emphasis on scholars.

3. Duwal al-Islam, a condensed biographical history with emphasis on political figures and events.

4. Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (“Lives of the Elite of the Nobility”), a unique encyclopedia of biographical history, shorter than Tarikh al-Islam but often containing new material. Al-Dhahabi’s method in these works is comprehensive yet concise, showing meticulous scholarship and analysis of both transmission chains and content as well as a preoccupation with doctrine on what he considered the principles of the Salaf. On the topic of travelling to visit the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — he marks his dissent with his contemporary, Ibn Taymiyya, by writing:

Al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn `Ali relates that he saw a man standing in front of the house which contains the grave of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –, invoking Allah’s blessings upon him, whereupon he said to the man: Do not do that, for Allah’s Messenger said: “Do not make (the visit to) my grave an anniversary festival (`id), nor turn your houses into graves. Invoke blessings upon me wherever you are, for your invocation reaches me.” This narration is missing the Companion-link (mursal) and what al-Hasan adduces in his fatwa is worthless as a proof, because one who stands before the blessed Chamber (hujra) in all humility and submission, invoking blessings upon his Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — – O how blessed that one is! For he has made his visitation excellent, and beautified it with humbleness and love, and he has performed more worship than the one who invoked blessings on the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — from his own land or in his prayer. The reason is that the one who performs visitation has both the reward of visiting him and that of invoking blessings upon him; while those who invoke blessings upon him from all over the world only have the reward of invoking blessings upon him; and upon whomever invokes blessings once, Allah sends ten blessings.

But the person who visits the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — and does not observe decorum in his visitation, or prostrates to the grave, or does something outside the Law, such a person has done both good and bad. He must be taught gently. Allah is forgiving and merciful. By Allah! The Muslim is not moved to distraction and lamentation and kissing the walls and weeping much, except because he is a lover of Allah and of His Prophet. His love is the standard and the distinguishing mark between the people of Paradise and the people of Hellfire. The visit to his grave is among the best of the acts by which one draws near to Allah.

As for travelling to visit the graves of Prophets and saints, even if we should concede that there is no authorization for it due to the general sense of the Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — saying: “Mounts are not saddled except to go to three mosques,” nevertheless saddling the mounts to go visit the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — is intrinsic to saddling them to go visit his mosque – which is sanctioned by the Law without contest – for there is no access to his Chamber except after entering his mosque. Therefore let his visitor begin by greeting the mosque, then turn to greet the master of the mosque. May Allah grant us this, and also to you. Amin!”19

5. Tadhkira al-Huffaz (“The Memorial of the Hadith Masters”), without peer in Islamic literature, a chronological history of the biography-layers of the hadith masters beginning with Abu Bakr al-Siddiq and ending with al-Dhahabi’s own time. Each entry contains, in addition to biographical data, a hadith transmitted to al-Dhahabi through a chain containing the entry’s subject. Ibn Hajar received it from Abu Hurayra ibn al-Dhahabi.20Al-Suyuti condensed and updated it in Tabaqat al-Huffaz, followed by others.21

6. Al-Mu`in fi Tabaqat al-Muhaddithin, a compendium of hadith scholars.

7. Tabaqat al-Qurra’ (“Biography-Layers of the Qur’anic Scholars”).

8. Tadhhib Tahdhib al-Kamal, an abridgment of al-Mizzi’s 35-volume compendium of historical biographies for hadith narrators cited in the Six Books of hadith. [The two Sahihs and the Four Sunan]

9. Al-Kashif fi Ma`rifa Man Lahu Riwaya fi al-Kutub al-Sitta, an abridgment of the Tadhhib.

10. Al-Mujarrad fi Asma’ Rijal al-Kutub al-Sitta, an abridgment of the Kashif.

11. Mizan al-I`tidal fi Naqd al-Rijal, an authoritative manual of weak narrators abridging and improving upon Ibn `Adi’s al-Kamil fi al-Du`afa’, the first work of its kind. Al-`Iraqi improved upon it in Dhayl al-Mizan, then his student Ibn Hajar in Lisan al-Mizan, then more recently al-`Awni in Dhayl Lisan al-Mizan. Al-Dhahabi’s distinctive anti-Sufi and anti-Ash`ari mark can be observed in many entries of the Mizan, notably that of the early Sufi mutakallim al-Harith al-Muhasibi in which he quotes the aspersions of the hadith master Abu Zur`a then exclaims:

And where are the likes of al-Harith al-Muhasibi! How then if Abu Zur`a saw the books of later Sufis such as the Qut al-Qulub of Abu Talib [al-Makki], and where are the likes of the Qut? How then if he saw Bahjat al-Asrar of Abu Jahdam, and Haqa’iq al-Tafsir of al-Sulami, he would jump to the ceiling! How then if he saw the books of Abu Hamid al-Tusi [Imam al-Ghazzali]….? the Ghunya of shaykh `Abd al-Qadir [al-Gilani]… the Fusus al-Hikam and Futuhat al-Makiyya [of Ibn `Arabi]?22

Imam al-Suyuti responded to al-Dhahabi’s above insinuations in the following words:

Do not let al-Dhahabi’s mumblings deceive you, for he went so far as to mumble against Imam Fakhr al-Din ibn al-Khatib [al-Razi] and against one who is greater than the Imam, namely, Abu Talib al-Makki the author of Qut al-Qulub, and against one who is greater than Abu Talib, namely, Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari, whose fame has filled the firmaments! And al-Dhahabi’s books are filled with that: al-Mizan, al-Tarikh, and Siyar al-Nubala’. Are you going to accept his words against their likes? Never, by Allah! His word is not accepted concerning them. Rather, we respect their right over us and render it to them in full.23

12. Al-Mughni fi al-Du`afa’, an abridgment of the Mizan.

13. Al-Ruwat al-Thiqat al-Mutakallim Fihim Bima La Yujibu Raddahum (“The Trustworthy Narrators Whose Reliability Was Investigated For Matters Which Do Not Justify Their Rejection”). In it he states:

I have included in my book [Mizan al-I`tidal] a great number of trustworthy narrators whom Bukhari and Muslim or others relied upon. I cited them only due to the fact that they had been cited in previous manuals of narrator-discreditation. Not that I saw any weakness in them whatsoever, but I wanted only to make a note that they had been cited. Time and again I still encounter the name of a firmly established, trustworthy narrator about whom some question was raised without consequence for his status. If we were to open wide the door of a certain type of internecine criticism, we would be bringing into it droves of Companions, Successors, and Imams of the Religion. For some of the Companions declared others disbelievers because of some interpretation on the latter’s part.24 May Allah be well-pleased with all of them and forgive them! They were not immune to sin, nor do their divergences and internecine fighting for causes which normally result in discreditation, provide a precedent in principle for us. Nor did the Khawarij’s declaration of apostasy against the Companions affect the reliability of the latter as narrators in the least. On the contrary, the pronouncements of the Khawarij and Shi`a against the Companions became a discreditation for the critics themselves.25 Consider, then, the immense wisdom of your Lord! We ask Allah to grant us safety.

Likewise, much of the criticism of contemporaries against one another must be sealed up and not reported. I shall now expand on this and say what the criterion is between the accepted and the rejected type of discreditation.

As for the Companions, their case is sealed up no matter what took place between them. Our belief and practice is that they are all utterly upright (`udul).26

As for the Successors, one can hardly find a deliberate liar among them although some of them commit mistakes and errors. Whoever has rare mistakes is nevertheless accepted as an authority. Likewise those considered mines of knowledge even if their mistakes are many, although the imams disagree whether the latter category are considered proofs….

As for those whose mistakes and singularities (ghara’ib) are abundant, their narrations do not carry probative weight. This type is hardly found among the early Successors, but more in succeeding generations.

Among the students of the Successors are found deliberate liars and those with abundant mistakes and disarray. Consequently, their narrations were discarded.27

14. Man Tukullima Fihi wa Huwa Muwaththaq aw Salih al-Hadith (“Narrators Whose Reliability Was Questioned Whereas They Are Reliable or Passable”).28

15. Dhikr Man Yu`tamad Qawluhu fi al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dil (“Those Whose Evaluations Are Relied Upon in Narrator-Criticism”).

16. Mukhtasar Sunan al-Bayhaqi.

17. Mukhtasar Kitab al-Wahm wa al-Iham li Ibn al-Qattan.

18. Al-Tajrid fi Asma’ al-Sahaba, a dictionary of the Companions.

19. Mukhtasar al-Mustadrak li al-Hakim, a critical abridgment of al-Hakim’s Mustadrak.

20. Mukhtasar Tarikh Naysabur li al-Hakim, an abridgment of al-Hakim’s biographical history of the scholars of Naysabur.

21. Al-Muntaqa Min Tarikh Khwarizm li Ibn Arslan, an epitome of the first volume of an eight-volume history of Khwarizm by a contemporary of Ibn `Asakir.

22. Mu`jam al-Shuyukh in a large version entitled al-Kabir and a smaller one entitled al-Saghir or al-Latif. These Mu`jams are a fascinating chronicle of al-Dhahabi’s shaykhs through meetings or correspondence. The Kabir contains biographies of about 1,300 of his shaykhs.29 In the entry devoted to Ahmad ibn `Abd al-Mun`im al-Qazwini, al-Dhahabi writes the following lines:

Ahmad ibn al-Mun`im related to us… [with his chain of transmission] from Ibn `Umar that the latter disliked to touch the Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — grave. I say: He disliked it because he considered it disrespect. Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked about touching the Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — grave and kissing it and he saw nothing wrong with it. His son `Abd Allah related this from him. If it is asked: “Why did the Companions not do this?” We reply: “Because they saw him with their very eyes when he was alive, enjoyed his presence directly, kissed his very hand, nearly fought each other over the remnants of his ablution water, shared his purified hair on the day of the greater Pilgrimage, and even if he spat it would virtually not fall except in someone’s hand so that he could pass it over his face. Since we have not had the tremendous fortune of sharing in this, we throw ourselves on his grave as a mark of commitment, reverence, and acceptance, even to kiss it. Do you not see what Thabit al-Bunani did when he kissed the hand of Anas ibn Malik and placed it on his face saying: “This is the hand that touched the hand of Allah’s Messenger”? Muslims are not moved to these matters except by their excessive love for the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –, as they are ordered to love Allah and the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — more than their own lives, their children, all human beings, their property, and Paradise and its maidens. There are even some believers that love Abu Bakr and `Umar more than themselves…

Do you not you see that the Companions, in the excess of their love for the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –, asked him: “Should we not prostrate to you?” and he replied no, and if he had allowed them, they would have prostrated to him as a mark of utter veneration and respect, not as a mark of worship, just as the brothers of the Prophet Yusuf prostrated to him. Similarly the prostration of the Muslim to the grave of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — is for the intention of magnification and reverence. One is not to be accused of disbelief because of it whatsoever (la yukaffaru aslan), but he is being disobedient [to the Prophet's injunction to the Companions]. Let him, therefore, be informed that this is forbidden. It is likewise in the case of one who prays towards the grave.”30

Do you not you see that the Companions, in the excess of their love for the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –, asked him: “Should we not prostrate to you?” and he replied no, and if he had allowed them, they would have prostrated to him as a mark of utter veneration and respect, not as a mark of worship, just as the brothers of the Prophet Yusuf prostrated to him. Similarly the prostration of the Muslim to the grave of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — is for the intention of magnification and reverence. One is not to be accused of disbelief because of it whatsoever (la yukaffaru aslan), but he is being disobedient [to the Prophet's injunction to the Companions]. Let him, therefore, be informed that this is forbidden. It is likewise in the case of one who prays towards the grave.”30

23. Al-Mu`jam al-Mukhtass bi Muhaddithi al-`Asr, listing only his shaykhs in hadith and containing a unique autobiographical entry:

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn `Uthman… the teacher of Qur’an and hadith scholar and author of this compendium. Born in the year 73. Abu Zakariyya ibn al-Sayrafi gave him a certification [in narration] as well as Ibn Abi al-Khayr, al-Qutb ibn `Asrun, al-Qasim al-Irbili, and a number of others. In Damascus he heard hadith from `Umar ibn al-Qawwas, in Ba`labak from al-Taj ibn `Alwan, in Cairo from al-Dimyati, in al-Qarafa from al-Abarquhi, in al-Thaghr from al-Gharrafi, in Mecca from al-Tawzari, in Aleppo from Sunqur al-Zayni, and in Nabulus from al-`Imad ibn Badran. He compiled works which are said to be beneficial. The congregation of scholars grace him with compliments but he knows himself better, being well aware of his shortcomings in knowledge and deeds. Reliance is upon Allah. There is no change nor power except with Him. If the fact that I have faith is granted, then I cry victory!31

Ibn Hajar received all three Mu`jams from Abu Hurayra ibn al-Dhahabi.32

24. Al-Amsar Dhawat al-Athar (“Cities Rich in Historical Relics”), which begins with the description of Madina al-Munawwara.

25. Mukhtasar al-Muhalla li Ibn Hazm, an abridgment of Ibn Hazm’s fiqh manual.

26. Naba’ al-Dajjal, a monograph on the hadiths and reports that mention the Anti-Christ.

27. Al-Kaba’ir (“The Enormities”), his most widely circulating book. He defines an enormity as any sin entailing either a threat of punishment in the hereafter explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an or hadith, a prescribed legal penalty (hadd), or a curse by Allah or His Messenger — Allah bless and greet him –.

28. Bayan Zaghl al-`Ilm wa al-Talab in which al-Dhahabi states: “Ibn Taymiyya was considered by his enemies to be a wicked Anti-Christ and disbeliever, while great numbers of the wise and the elite considered him an eminent, brilliant, and scholarly innovator (mubtadi` fadil muhaqqiq bari`).”33

29. An epistle entitled al-Nasiha al-Dhahabiyya written when al-Dhahabi was around fifty-five years of age and addressed to Ibn Taymiyya towards the end of his life. In this brief but scathing epistle the author distances himself from his contemporary and admonishes him without naming him, calling him “an eloquent polemicist who neither rests nor sleeps.”34A “Salafi” apologist recently cast doubt on the authenticity of al-Dhahabi’s authorship of this epistle, also claiming that, even if al-Dhahabi wrote it, then it is directed to someone other than Ibn Taymiyya.35However, both Salah al-Din al-Munajjid and Dr. Bashshar `Awwad Ma`ruf declared that there was no doubt al-Dhahabi wrote it towards the end of his life and addressed Ibn Taymiyya.36Ibn Hajar voiced no doubt as to the authenticity of this epistle as attributed to al-Dhahabi,37nor al-Sakhawi who calls it “a glorious statement of doctrine.”38 In particular the Nasiha contains the following prophetic description of Taymiyya-followers in our time:

“Oh the disappointment of him who follows you! For he is exposed to corruption in basic beliefs and to dissolution. Particularly if he is short of learning and religion, a self-indulgent idler who does well for you by fighting on your behalf with his hand and tongue, while he is actually your enemy in his being and heart. What are your followers but hidebound do-nothings of little intelligence, common liars with dull minds, silent outlanders strong in guile, or dryly righteous without understanding? If you do not believe it, just look at them and honestly assess them.”39

30. Al-Dinar Min Hadith al-Mashayikh al-Kibar, a brief compendium of narrations al-Dhahabi heard from aged shaykhs, in pursuit of shorter transmission chains.

31. Fadl Aya al-Kursi,

32. Al-Musalsal bi al-Awwaliyya, all three of which Ibn Hajar heard from Abu Hurayra ibn al-Dhahabi.40

33. Al-`Uluw li al-`Ali al-Ghaffar (“The Exaltation of the All-High and Most-Forgiving”), a book written under Ibn Taymiyya’s influence – as stated by al-Kawthari in his Maqalat – when al-Dhahabi was twenty-five and which he later disavowed as related by its copyist the hadith master Ibn Nasir al-Din al-Dimashqi (d. 842):

Its author stated – as Allah is His witness – in his own hand-writing as I read it in the margin of the original manuscript written in the year 698:

“This book contains narrations against the unreliability of which I am cautioning the reader, and the statements of a number of people who spoke in outlandish terms. Neither do I subscribe to their terms, nor do I imitate them. May Allah forgive them! Nor will I ever consider myself bound by such terms. This is my belief, and I know that Allah – “There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him” (42:11)!”41

Al-Dhahabi nevertheless commits several blunders in al-`Uluw, despite its small size, because of his evident search for evidence that supports the conception of Allah’s literal height so dear to his teacher. The most glaring of those mistakes are the inaccurate referencing of several narrations to al-Bukhari or Muslim or both when in fact they are not narrated by them. For example:

1) He cites the hadith of `Imran ibn Husayn from the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — with the wording: “Allah was on the Throne (kana Allah `ala al-`arsh), and He was before everything, and He wrote on the Tablet everything that shall ever be.” Then he says: “This is a sound hadith, al-Bukhari narrates it in several places.”42However, none of the versions al-Bukhari narrates in several places of his Sahih contains the words “Allah was on the Throne,” by which al-Dhahabi purports to support the anthropomorphist perspective of his book. Nor is this wording found in any authentic hadith in the first place, nor is it found in any book of hadith, whether authentic or forged.43

2) He cites a hadith whereby Ibn `Abbas explains the verses “the heaven that He built, He raised the height thereof and ordered it” (79:28) to mean: “He created the earth two days before the heaven, then He turned to the heaven and ordered them in two other days, then He descended to the earth (thumma nazala ila al-ard) and spread it, its spreading meaning that He brought forth from it water and pasture.” Then al-Dhahabi said: “al-Bukhari narrated it from Yusuf ibn `Adi [twice], once with part of its chain.”44However, nowhere in his Sahih does al-Bukhari mention the phrase “then He descended to the earth” upon which al-Dhahabi depends so as to include it as evidence for literal height. That phrase is only found in two very weak narrations outside al-Bukhari, one by al-Tabarani, the other by Abu al-Shaykh.45The sound narration found in al-Bukhari states that Ibn `Abbas said: “He created the earth in two days, then He created the heaven, then He turned to the heaven and ordered them in two other days, then He spread the earth, its spreading meaning that He brought forth from it water and pasture.”

3) He refers a hadith to al-Bukhari and Muslim thus: “It is narrated in the two Sahihs that the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — supplicated Allah on behalf of a group of people saying: `May the pious eat from your food, may those who fast break their fast in your house, may the angels invoke blessings upon you, and may Allah mention you among those who are with Him.’”46However, nowhere in the two Sahihs is the phrase “may Allah mention you among those who are with Him” found. It is a measure of al-Albani’s overall unreliability that he caught only one out of these three mistakes, confirming al-Dhahabi on (1) and (2) but correcting him on (3).47

Al-Dhahabi defined knowledge in Islam (al-`ilm) as “Not the profusion of narration, but a light which Allah casts into the heart. Its condition is followership (ittiba`) and the flight away from egotism (hawa) and innovation.”48

At the mention of al-Harawi al-Ansari’s Sufi manual Manazil al-Sa’irin in the Siyar al-Dhahabi exclaims:

How beautiful was the tasawwuf of the Companions and Successors! They did not probe those phantasms and whisperings of the mind but worshipped Allah, humbling themselves and relying upon Him, in great awe and fear of Him, fiercely combating His enemies, hastening to obey Him, staying away from idle speech. Allah guides whomever He wills to the straight path.49

Main Sources

Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 9:100-106 #1306; Sa`d, Safahat fi Tarjima al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi.

NOTES

1As stated by al-Sakhawi in al-Daw’ al-Lami` (8:103).

2Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ [SAN] (17:118-119 #6084, 16:300-302 #5655).

3Al-Dhahabi, al-Mu`jam al-Kabir (1:37).

4Cf. al-`Uluw (Abu al-Fath) and al-Muqiza (Ibn Wahb).

5Al-Dhahabi, al-Mu`jam al-Kabir (2:244).

6Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya (14:131-132); Ibn Hajar, al-Durar al-Kamina (4:193); Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (9:191).

7Of al-Mizzi and al-Dhahabi Ibn al-Subki also said: “Neither of them knew anything about the rational sciences (al-`aqliyyat)” i.e. kalam and debate. Cited by al-Sakhawi in al-I`lan (p. 75).

8Al-Safadi, al-Wafi bi al-Wafayat (2:163).

9Ibn Hajar, al-Durar al-Kamina (3:426-427).

10Ibn Hajar, Sharh al-Nukhba (p. 136).

11Al-Sakhawi, al-I`lan (p. 76).

12Al-Suyuti, Tabaqat al-Huffaz (p. 518).

13Al-Shawkani, al-Badr al-Tali` (p. 627).

14In Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (3:352-354, 8:88-89, 9:103). For example, an odd report brought up by Ibn Abi Ya`la, then exhibited by al-Dhahabi – despite its unreliability – depicts a fawning Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari enumerating before the Hanbali scholar Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari his refutations of the Mu`tazila and defense of Ahl al-Sunna in order to win his approval, to which the Hanbali coolly responds: “We only know what Ahmad ibn Hanbal said.” [In Tabaqat al-Hanabila (2:18) with a chain of unknown narrators.] Al-Dhahabi cites this report at the opening of his biographical notice on al-Barbahari in the Siyar directly following the extremely brief notice on Imam al-Ash`ari without questioning it in the least. [In the Siyar (11:543) without chain.] Another blatant lapse in this regard is al-Dhahabi’s mention of a report whereby Zahir ibn Ahmad, peeking into his teacher’s house through a hole, observed al-Ash`ari urinating then went in, after which he saw him proceed to pray without ablution. This report is narrated through a chain missing all but three narrators, one of them the peeping Tom and the other two arch-enemies of the Ash`ari school. [Narrated from Zahir ibn Ahmad in the Siyar (12:504) with a chain containing Yahya ibn `Ammar al-Shaybani and his student `Abd Allah al-Harawi al-Ansari. Of the first al-Dhahabi said in the Siyar (13:310 #3932): "His zeal against innovators and the Jahmiyya pushed him to trespass the way of the Salaf"; while the second was repeatedly jailed then expelled from Herat for inciting violence against students of the Ash`ari school.] Yet al-Dhahabi goes on to say: “Perhaps he forgot to make ablution,” implicitly declaring this story authentic when it is evidently unreliable. Al-Shawkani in al-Badr al-Tali` (p. 627-628) and Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda in his edition of Ibn al-Subki’s Qa`ida fi al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dil defend al-Dhahabi from these charges but neither addresses the issue of anthropomorphism. Ibn al-Subki also criticizes al-Dhahabi’s neglect of Hanafi scholars in his historical reference works such as the Siyar and Tarikh al-Islam. Al-Shawkani’s reply that al-Dhahabi concentrated on hadith scholars somewhat explains this neglect, but does not excuse the omission of the likes of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi. Abu Ghudda also disputes Ibn al-Subki’s claim that al-Dhahabi shows bias against Sufis by quoting his praise of Sufis in countless places of his works. It is evident that al-Dhahabi marks his disapproval of anything that deviates inexcusably, in his view, from the Sunna, even in the lives and words of the Sufis of the Salaf, not to mention later figures. This has led his student Ibn al-Subki, al-Suyuti, al-Lucknawi and others, to lay the charge of disrespect at his door despite their admiration, and Allah knows best.

15Ibn al-Subki, Qa`ida (p. 32-37, 59-60), Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra [TSK] (2:13-16). Cf. Al-Sakhawi, al-I`lan (p. 75).

16Al-Dhahabi, SAN (11:14-15 #2434).

17For a complete list see the biographical entries on al-Dhahabi in Ibn al-Subki’s Tabaqat, Ibn Hajar’s Durar, al-Suyuti’s Tabaqat, Ma`ruf’s al-Dhahabi, and Sa`d’s Safahat.

18Ibn Hajar, al-Mu`jam (p. 400 #1773).

19Al-Dhahabi, Siyar (Arna’ut ed. 4:484-485). Shaykh Shu`ayb Arna’ut comments: “The author meant by this excursus to refute his shaykh, Ibn Taymiyya.”

20Ibn Hajar, al-Mu`jam (p. 400 #1774).

21Tadhkira al-Huffaz. 4 vols. in 2. Ed.`Abd al-Rahman ibn Yahya al-Mu`allimi. A fifth volume, titled Dhayl Tadhkira al-Huffaz, consists in al-Husayni’s Dhayl Tadhkira al-Huffaz, Muhammad ibn Fahd al-Makki’s Lahz al-Alhaz bi Dhayl Tadhkira al-Huffaz, and al-Suyuti’s Dhayl Tabaqat al-Huffaz. Ed. Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari. Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-`Arabi and Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya, n.d. Reprint of the 1968 Hyderabad edition.22Al-Dhahabi, Mizan (1:430 #1606).

23Al-Suyuti, Qam` al-Mu`arid bi Nusra Ibn al-Farid (“The Taming of the Objector With the Vindication of Ibn al-Farid”) in his Maqamat (2:917-918) and as quoted by Imam al-Lucknawi in al-Raf` wa al-Takmil fi al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dil (p. 319-320)

24One is hard put to find an example of a Companion declaring another Companion a disbeliever.

25Of the same type of self-damning criticism in our time are the pronouncements of `Abd Allah al-Harari and his Habashi or Ahbash sect against the Companions in his book al-Dalil al-Shar`i `ala Ithbat `Isyan Man Qatalahum `Ali Min Sahabi aw Tabi`i (“The Legal Proof For Affirming the Sin of Whoever `Ali Fought Against Among the Companions and Successors”), not to mention their attacks against contemporary Sunni figures such as Dr. Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti, Dr. Muhammad ibn `Alawi al-Maliki, Shaykh Muhammad Rajab Dib, and our shaykh Mawlana al-Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi.

26This is the position of Ahl al-Sunna including the Imams of the Four Schools of Law and the two doctrinal schools, those of hadith, and those of tasawwuf. Whoever differs from the position stated by al-Dhahabi is considered to deviate from Sunni doctrine in this respect as indicated by `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz (see p. 671).

27Quoted in Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (9:111-112).

28Sa`d in Safahat (p. 22) pointed out that Dr. Awwad’s concatenation in al-Dhahabi (p. 192-193 #90) of this and the previous entry into a single work entitled Dhikr Man Tukullima Fihi wa Huwa Muwaththaq (“Narrators Whose Reliability Was Questioned Whereas They are Reliable”) was an error on his part.

29A number of entries devoted to al-Dhahabi’s Sufi shaykhs of hadith were translated in the volume on tasawwuf of Shaykh Hisham Kabbani’s “Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine.”

30Al-Dhahabi, Mujam al-Shuyukh (1:73 #58).

31Al-Mu`jam al-Mukhtass fo 30a, as cited by Sa`d in Safahat (p. 18-19).

32Ibn Hajar, al-Mu`jam (p. 194-195 #795-797).

33Cited in al-Sakhawi, al-I`lan (p. 78).

34Al-Dhahabi, al-Nasiha al-Dhahabiyya, in the margin of his Bayan Zaghl al-`Ilm wa al-Talab, ed. al-Kawthari (Damascus: Qudsi, 1928-1929); also in Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, Siratuhu wa Akhbaruhu `Inda al-Mu’arrikhin, ed. Salah al-Din al-Munajjid (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1976) p. 11-14.

35Muhammad al-Shaybani, al-Tawdih al-Jali fi al-Radd `ala al-Nasiha al-Dhahabiyya al-Manhula `ala al-Imam al-Dhahabi (al-Kuwait: Markaz al-Makhtutat wa al-Turath, 1993). This type of revisionist scholarship is reminiscent of the story-teller who was caught by Imam Ahmad saying: “Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us…” whereupon the unfazed fibber replied: “I meant another Ahmad ibn Hanbal, not you!”

36Cf. Bashshar `Awwad Ma`ruf, al-Dhahabi (p. 146). Two extant manuscripts of the Nasiha are kept, one in Cairo at the Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya (#B18823) copied by Ibn Qadi Shuhba and one in Damascus at the Zahiriyya library (#1347).

37In al-Durar al-Kamina (1:166).

38In al-I`lan wa al-Tawbikh (p. 77=54).

39See http://ds.dial.pipex.com/masud/ISLAM/misc/dhahabi.htm for a full translation of the Nasiha.

40Ibn Hajar, al-Mu`jam (p. 111 #389; p. 162 #609).

41Cited and photo-reproduced at the beginning of Shaykh Hasan `Ali al-Saqqaf’s edition of al-Dhahabi’s `Uluw (p. 3-4).

42Al-Dhahabi, al-`Uluw (239-240 #112) and Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 98 #40).

43On the hadith of `Imran ibn Husayn see our post “Allah Is Now As He Ever Was.”

44Al-Dhahabi, al-`Uluw (p. 216 #77) and Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 94 #26).

45Al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (10:245-246) with a chain containing Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hajjaj al-Misri, who Ibn `Adi said was accused of lying, as stated by al-Dhahabi himself in Mizan al-I`tidal (1:133 #538); Abu al-Shaykh, al-`Azama (3:1039) with a chain containing al-`Ala’ ibn Hilal ibn `Umar al-Bahili who is very weak as stated in Arna’ut and Ma`ruf’s al-Tahrir (3:132 #5259) and accused by some of forgery as stated by al-Dhahabi himself in al-Mizan (3:106 #5748) and in al-Tahrir.

46Al-Dhahabi, al-`Uluw (p. 335 #225) and Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 123 #84).

47 See Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 98 #40, p. 94 #26, and p. 123 #84).

48 Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (10:642).49 Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’(14:42).

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions


© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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