Ibn al-Baqillani

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

Ibn al-Bâqillânî, Muhammad ibn al-Tayyib ibn Muhammad ibn Ja`far ibn Qâsim, Shaykh al-Islâm, al-Qâdî Abû Bakr ibn al-Bâqillânî al-Basrî al-Baghdâdî al-Mâlikî al-Ash`arî (d 403), eulogized by al-Dhahabî as “the erudite Imâm, peerless Master of the mutakallimîn, and foremost of the Scholars of usûl, author of many books, the examplar of perspicuity and intelligence.” Elsewhere he exclaims: “There is not, among all the Ash`arî Scholars of kalâm, anyone better than him!” [1]

Al-Qâdî `Iyâd said: “He is known as the Sword of the Sunna (Sayf al-Sunnah) and the Spokesman of the Community (Lisân al-Umma), a mutakallim who spoke the language of the hadîth Scholars, adhering to the doctrine of Abû al-Hasan al-Ash`arî, and the apex of Mâlikî Scholars in his time. His gathering in al-Basra was huge.” Al-Khatîb narrates that Ibn al-Bâqillânî’s nightly wird – at home or abroad – consisted in twenty tarwîha or twenty pauses, each pause separating sets of two to four rak`ats. Ibn al-Bâqillânî took al-Ash`arî’s teachings from Ibn Mujâhid. He used to say: “I consider the best part of me the time when I fully understand al-Ash`arî’s discourse.” [2] He used al-Ash`arî’s method to defeat virtually every sect in his time – including the Christians – among them the Râfida, Mu`tazila, Khawârij, Jahmiyya, Karrâmiyya, Mushabbiha, and Hashwiyya. Against the latter he stated: Whoever claims that the letter s in bismillâh, which comes after the letter b, and the letter m which comes after the letter s, have no beginning, he has taken leave of everything rational, denied what is obligatorily known, and contradicted the obvious…. And how can we hope to direct through proofs someone mulish enough to deny what is necessarily known? [3] Abûal-Qâsim ibn Burhân al-Nahwî said: “Whoever hears al-Qâdî Abû Bakr debate, will never again feel pleasure at hearing another mutakallim, faqîh, or orator.” He took the MâlikîSchool from Abû Bakr al-Abharî. [4] Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî narrates that al-Dâraqutnî’s deference to Ibn al-Bâqillânî was the cause of the hadîth Master Abû Dharr al-Harawî’s adoption of the Mâlikî school of Law and the Ash`arî school of doctrine. [5]

Al-Khatîb narrated that Ibn al-Bâqillânî’s nightly devotion consisted in forty rak`ats whether at home or while travelling, after which he wrote thirty-five pages of text which, after the Fajr prayer, he would pass on to others to read out loud for proof-reading and editing. At the time the Caliph `Adud al-Dawla sent Ibn al-Bâqillânî as an envoy to the emperor of the Eastern Romans, he was asked to enter through a low door to see the emperor and realized that this was done by design so as to make him enter on his knees; whereupon he entered on his knees but with his back turned, approaching the emperor backside first. In the course of this conversation he noticed, next to the emperor, a church dignitary. He turned to him and asked: “How are your wife and children?” Hearing this, the emperor said: “Lo! Do you, the spokesman of Islâm, not know that a monk is exempt of such matters?” Ibn al-Bâqillânî replied: “You exempt a monk from such matters, but you do not exempt the Lord of the Worlds from having a mate and child?” Ibn Hajar reported from Ibn al-Bâqillânî that there is Consensus in Islâm on the fact that the order of the verses in each of the Sûras of the Qur’ân and their successive arrangement in the present order in the mushaf is so decreed by Allâh Most High, and on that basis has the Community related it from the Prophet – Allâh bless and greet him -. [6]

Of the “story of the cranes” in the Sîra, Ibn Hajar said: “Al-Qâdî `Iyâd did well when he said, ‘It is possible the Prophet – Allâh bless and greet him – was mentioning the belief of the pagans by way of derision,’ noting that at that time it was permitted to speak in the midst of prayer. To this position leaned Ibn al-Bâqillânî.” [7]

Ibn al-Bâqillânî is the paragon of the fundamental unity of Islamic schools and love for the sake of Allâh among scholars that hold different views. In his book Manâqib al-A’imma he showed that the Companions were all rewarded for their ijtihâd despite the divergences that befell between them. He was the arbitrator between the Sûfîs of the university of Qayrawân and Ibn Abî Zayd al-Mâlikî when the latter denied that Allâh could be seen in this world [8]

He was profoundly admired by the Hanbalîs of Baghdâd although he was the chief authority of the Ash`arî school in his time. When he died, the Shaykh of the Hanbalîs and Ibn al-Bâqillânî’s friend of seven years, Abû al-Fadl al-Tamîmî, came barefoot to his funeral with others of his school and ordered a herald to open the procession shouting: “This is the Aider of the Sunna and the Religion! This is the Imâm of Muslims! This is the defender of the Sharî`a! This is the one who authored 70,000 folios!” He was buried near the grave of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and his grave is a place of visitation, seeking blessings (tabarruk), and praying for rain (istisqâ).

His Works

* Fadl al-Jihâd * Hidâyat al-Mustarshidîn. * Al-Ibâna `an Ibtâl Madhhab Ahl al-Kufr wal-Dalâla (“Exposition of the Invalidity of the School of the People of Disbelief and Misguidance”).

* I`jâz al-Qur’ân. In this work, Ibn al-Bâqillânî contrasts several orations of the Prophet  – Allâh bless and greet him -, the Companions, and others with the Qur’anic style to demonstrate the inimitability of the Qur’anic style. He presents a detailed critique of the Mu`allaqa of Umru’ al-Qays and al-Bahtarî’s Lâmiyya – both considered masterpieces of literary achievement – and points out their defects and weaknesses. However, he believes inimitability does not depend on rhetoric but is merely enhanced by it.

* Al-Insâf fîmâ Yajibu I`tiqâduhu walâ Yajûzu al-Jahlu bih. In this book Ibn al-Bâqillânî demonstrates that (1) the Divine Attributes are in now way conceived as limbs (jawârih); (2) the Divine Attributes that suggest emotions such as love, anger, approval, mercy, friendship, enmity, etc. denote His will of a certain state for their object; (3) the Divine Attributes of Essence (sifât dhât) have no beginning nor does His description by the same have any beginning, while His Divine Attributes of Act (sifât af`âl) are preceded by Him (sabaqahâ): He exists before them, without beginning; (4) His Speech is an Attribute of Essence; (5) the created act of recitation is other than the uncreated Qur’ân being recited; (6) every îmân is islâm but not vice-versa; and other foundational Ash`arî tenets.

* Al-Intisâr.

* Al-Istishhâd * Al-Kuffar wal-Muta’awwilîn wa-Hukm al-Dâr.

* Manâqib al-A’imma.

* Al-Milal wal-Nihal.

* Al-Tabyîn fî Adab al-Jidâl.

* Al-Ta`dîl wal-Tajrîh.

* Tamhîd al-Awâ’il fî Talkhîs al-Dalâ’il, his most famous work, in which he expands on the doctrines discussed in the Insâf and refutes un-Islamic creeds such as Trinitarianism and Brahmanism. [9]


[1] Al-Dhahabî, Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 258 §139).

[2] Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (3:351).

[3] Cited by al-Kawtharî in his notes on Imâm al-Haramayn’s Nizâmiyya (p. 21).

[4] Muhammad ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Sâlih (287-375).

[5] Narrated from Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî’s Firaq al-Fuqahâ’ by al-Dhahabî in Tadhkirat al-Huffâz (3:1104-1105). Ibn `Asâkir narrates something similar.

[6] Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bârî (2:204, 4:32) cf. al-Qâdî `Iyâd in al-Nawawî’s Sharh Sahîh Muslim (4:56, 5:419-420) and al-Shawkânî in Nayl al-Awtâr (2:230).

[7] Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bârî (8:440).

[8] This is in line with the position related from Imâm Mâlik whereby the Creator cannot be seen by the created with eyes that are bound for extinction – that is, in the world – but only with eyes that are bound for everlastingness See our article, “The Vision of Allâh in the World and the Hereafter” http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/haddad/Beatific%20Vision.htm.

[9] Tabyîn (p. 217-225); Siyâr (13:114-116 §3724); Târîkh Baghdâd (5:379-383); al-Qâdî `Iyâd, Tartîb al-Madârik (1:242-259, 4:585-602); Ibn `Imâd, Shadharât al-Dhahab(3:168-170); al-Darqash, Abû Muhammad `Abd Allâh ibn Abî Zayd (p. 242-243).


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

© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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