Al-Dhahabi

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.

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