Sahnun ibn Sa`id ibn Habib at-Tanukhi

(c. 160/776-7 – 240/854-5) The famous Maliki jurist of Qayrawan, author of the Mudawwana)

His kunya was Abu Sa`id. His family was was Syrian from Hims. His father Sa`id came in the army of Hims. His son Muhammad said, “I asked, ‘My father, are we descended from Tanukh?’ He said to me, ‘What need do you have of that?’ I continued at him until he told me, ‘Yes, and that will not avail anything with Allah.’”

Sahnun was his title. His name was actually `Abdu’s-Salam. One of the shaykhs of the people of hadith reported that one of the shaykhs of North Africa said, “Sahnun was named after a sharp bird because of his sharpness in questions of fiqh.”

Concerning his quest and journey

Sahnun studied knowledge in the Qayrawan with its shaykhs: Abu Kharija, Bahlul, Ali ibn Ziyad, Ibn Abi Hassan, Ibn Ghanim, Ibn Ashras, Ibn Abi Karima, his brother Habib, Mu`awiya as-Samadahi and Abu Ziyad ar-Ra`ini.

His son said, “He went out to Egypt at the beginning of 178 AH while Malik was still alive. Malik died when he was 18 or 17. He travelled to Ibn Ziyad in Tunis during the time when Ibn Bukayr travelled to Malik.”

Sahnun said, “I was with Ibn Wahb when the answers of Malik were repeated to him.” He was asked, “What stops you from listening to them?” He replied, “Lack of dirhams.”

He said another time, “May Allah revile poverty! If it had not been for it, I would have reached Malik!”

He listened to those of the Madinans who were there who died before 188, like Nafi’ who died in 186. In his journey to Egypt and the Hijaz, Sahnun listened to Ibn al-Qasim, Ibn Wahb, Ashhab, Tulayb ibn Kamil, `Abdullah ibn `Abdu’l-Hakam, Shu`ayb ibn al-Layth, Yusuf ibn ‘Amr, Sufyan ibn `Uyayna, Waki`, `Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Mahdi, Hafs ibn Ghiyath, Abu Dawud at-Tayyalisi, Yazid ibn Harun, al-Walid ibn Muslim, Ibn Nafi` as-Sa’igh, Ma`n ibn `Isa, Abu Damra, Ibn al-Majishun, Mutarrif and others.

He went to North Africa in 191. He said, “I went to Ibn al-Qasim when I was 25 and I came to North Africa when I was 30. The first to read to me was `Abdu’l-Malik Zunan.”

He mentioned that al-Bahlul ibn Rashid wrote instructing ‘Ali ibn Ziyad to let Sahnun listen. ‘Ali took the Muwatta‘ and came to him to let him listen to it in his place. He said to him, “Bahlul wrote to me to tell me that you are one of those who seek knowledge for Allah.”

Al-Furat said, “I heard Sahnun say, ‘A question was obscure for me so that I wanted to return to Madina about it so that it would become clear to me.’”

Sahnun said, “When I went on hajj, I accompanied Ibn Wahb. Ashhab was accompanied by his orphan and Ibn al-Qasim was accompanied by his son Musa. When I alighted, I questioned Ibn al-Qasim. We walked in the day and discussed questions. In the night, each went to his party in the prayer. Ibn Wahb said, ‘Don’t you think that this Maghribi should learn in the day and not study in the night?’ Ibn al-Qasim replied, ‘It is a light which Allah puts in the hearts.’”

Concerning his place in knowledge and praise of him

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Tamim said in his book, “Sahnun was reliable, preserving knowledge, a faqih. He had qualities which are rarely found in the same person. He was brilliant in fiqh, truthful in scrupulousness with sternness regarding the truth, asceticism in this world and humility in food, dress, and liberality. He did not accept anything from the rulers.”

Abu Bakr al-Maliki said, “In addition to this, he was soft-hearted, full of tears, humble, lacking in artifice. He was a man noble qualities, good manners, sound heart, who was harsh against the people of innovations. He did not fear the criticism of any critic for Allah. His imamate spread in the east and the west and the people of his age They agreed about his excellence and precedence. He had many virtues. Abu’l-`Arab at-Tamimi wrote a book devoted to them.”

Ashhab was asked, “Who comes to you from the Maghrib?” He replied, “Sahnun.” It was said, “And Asad?” He said, “Sahnun. By Allah, he has ninety-nine times more fiqh than him.”

Ibn al-Qasim encouraged him to stay with him to seek knowledge and not to go out to raid when he tried to become skilled in it. Ibn al-Qasim said to Ibn Rashid, “Tell your friend (i.e. Sahnun) to sit. Knowledge is better for him than jihad and has more reward. He should give this horse which he came with to one who is in a similar state to fulfil it for him. The like of Sahnun has not come to us from North Africa nor did I see his like after him.”

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