Ibn `Abd al-Barr

Yûsuf[1] ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Muhammad Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Abû `Umar al-Namarî al-Andalusî al-Qurtubî al-Mâlikî (368-463). A major hadîth Master of the MâlikîSchool. Ibn Farhûn says he was the greatest memorizer of the Sunna in his time and Ibn al-Subkî mentions him in the fifth synchronical layer of those who followed the School of al-Ash`arî in doctrine along with Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî, Abû al-Hasan al-Qâbisî, Abû al-Qâsim ibn `Asâkir, Abû al-Hasan al-Murâdî, Abû Sa`d ibn al-Sam`ânî, Abû Tâhir al-Silafî, al-Qâdî `Iyâd, and al-Shahrastânî. He studied under Ibn al-Makwî, Ibn al-Fardî, Ahmad ibn `Abd al-Mâlik ibn Hishâm, and took hadîth from Sa`îd ibn Nasr, `Abd al-Wârith, Ahmad ibn Qâsim al-Bazzâr, Khalf ibn Sahl, Abû `Umar al-Talamankî, and many others Al-Qurtubî cites him about five hundred times in his Tafsîr. Of his book al-Tamhîd his friend Ibn Hazm said: “I do not know of anything like it with regard to the superlative understanding of hadîth, let alone better than it.”

Ibn `Abd al-Barr initially followed the School of Dâwûd al-Zâhirî and befriended Ibn Hazm. He left that school and turned to that of Imâm Mâlik, while leaning towards the Shâfi`î school. His literalist bend is evident in doctrine, and “Salafîs” are fond of quoting his apparent attribution of place, direction, and corporeality to Allâh Most High in al-Tamhîd:

The hadîth [of the descent of Allâh] provides evidence that Allâh is in () the heaven, on (`alâ) the Throne, above (fawq) seven heavens, as the Congregation (jamâ`a) said, and this is part of their proof against the Mu`tazila and the Jahmiyya’s claim that Allâh is in every place and not on the Throne.[2] … An entity cannot be conceived to exist without place in relation to us, and whatever is without place is non-existent.[3]

However, Ibn `Abd al-Barr also narrates with his chain from Mutarrif, a few pages further, that Imâm Mâlik said: “It is our Lord’s command which descends” He then admits: “It is possible that the matter be as Mâlik said, and Allâh knows best”[4]

Ibn Jahbal al-Kilâbî said:

Concerning what Abû `Umar ibn `Abd al-Barr said [in apparent attribution of place, direction, and corporeality to Allâh Most High], both the elite and the general public know the man’s position and the scholars’ disavowal of if. The Mâlikîs’ condemnation of it, from the first to the last of them, is well-known. His contravention of the Imâm of North Africa, Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî, is famous. It reached a point that the eminent people of North Africa would say: “No one in North Africa holds this position except he and Ibn Abî Zayd!” although some of the people of knowledge cited an excuse for Ibn Abî Zayd in the text of the great qâdî Abû Muhammad `Abd al-Wahhâb [ibn `Alî ibn Nasr al-Baghdâdî (d 422)] al-Baghdâdî al-Mâlikî[5] – may Allâh have mercy on him.[6]

In the same chapter of al-Tamhîd cited above, Ibn `Abd al-Barr rejects Mujâhid’s alleged tafsîr of the Exalted Station (in verse 17:79) as consisting in the seating of the Prophet, Allâh bless and greet him – with Allâh Most High on His Throne.[7]

The “Salafis” also quote Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s apparent stand against kalâm in his citation of Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd:

The people of the innovated sects in the view of Imâm Mâlik and the remainder of our companions are the people of kalâm. Every person of kalâm is from the people of the innovated sects and innovations, whether he is an Ash`arî or other than an Ash`arî, and his witness is never accepted in Islâm. Indeed, his witness is to be ostracised and he is to be punished for his innovation, and if he persists then repentance is sought from him.

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