The First Generation of al-Ash`ari’s Students and Companions
Abu `Abd Allah al-Shafi`i, Muhammad ibn al-Qasim, Abu `Abd Allah al-Asbahani, known as al-Shafi`i (d. 381). He is included by Ibn `Asakir among the direct students of al-Ash`ari. The hadith master Abu Nu`aym mentioned that he authored many works in the foundations of religion, jurisprudence, and legal rulings.
Abu al-Hasan al-Bahili al-Basri (d. ~370), the companion of al-Ash`ari and teacher of Ibn Furak, al-Baqillani, and Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini. Always engaged in Remembrance of Allah, he taught and communicated only from behind a curtain, even with his servant. Al-Isfarayini said: “Next to my teacher al-Bahili, I was like a drop in the sea.” Al-Bahili himself said: “Next to my master al-Ash`ari, I was like a drop in the sea.” [note by: Dr. A. Godlas: Al-Safadi stated that he passed away around (fi hudud) 370 AH (Wafi bil-wafayat, vol. 12, p. 312)].
Abu al-Hasan al-Tabari, `Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Mahdi (d. ~380). He studied under al-Ash`ari in Basra and Abu al-Hasan al-Bahili, and accompanied Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini, Abu Bakr ibn Furak, and Abu Bakr al-Baqillani. His student al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Asadi said: “Our shaykh and teacher Abu al-Hasan al-Tabari was the jurist who authored books in all the sciences. He was erudite, a well of knowledge in jurisprudence, kalaam, commentaries of Qur’an, language, and Arabic history. He possessed eloquence and was brilliant at debate. He was peerless in his time.” He authored among other works: “Al-Usul wa Tafsir Asami al-Rabb” (“Principles of the Religion and the Explanation of the Divine Names”) and “Ta’wil Ahadith al-Mushkilat al-Waridat fi al-Sifat” (“The Interpretation of the Problematic Narrations That Pertain to the Attributes.”) In the latter book he said: “Allah is in the heaven above everything and established over His Throne in the sense that He is elevated high above it, and the sense of istiwa’ is elevation.”
Abu Muhammad al-Tabari, al-Qadi `Abd Allah ibn `Ali ibn `Abd Allah al-`Iraqi al-Jurjani al-Manjaniqi al-Shafi`i (d. ?), a companion of al-Ash`ari and one of the shaykhs of hadith of al-Hakim, who said of him: “I seldom saw, among the jurists (al-fuqaha’), anyone as eloquent and clear in his speech. I kept company with him in the year 359, from Naysabur to Bukhara.”
Abu Sahl al-Su`luki, Muhammad ibn Sulayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Shafi`i al-`Ijli al-Naysaburi al-Ash`ari al-Sufi of the Banu Hanifa (d. 369), the imam of Khurasan among the jurists and scholars of kalaam, tafsir, and Arabic in his time. He accompanied Abu Ishaq al-Marwazi in fiqh and al-Shibli in tasawwuf, and took hadith from Ibn Khuzayma, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn al-Anbari, and others. Al-Sulami in “Tabaqat al-Sufiyya” and al-Qushayri in “al-Risalah” related from Ibn Furak that al-Su`luki defined tasawwuf as “the turning away from objections” (“al-i`rad `an al-i`tiraad.”) Among his other famous sayings: “Whoever says to his shaykh: ‘Why?’ shall never succeed.” He spent seven years in Baghdad during which he said that he never let pass a day of jum`a except he visited al-Shibli or asked him a question. The latter visited Abu Ishaq al-Marwazi one day and saw Abu Sahl there, whereupon he said to Abu Ishaq: “That crazy one is one of your companions? No, he is one of ours!” In Baghdad he also studied with al-Ash`ari according to Ibn Furak.
Abu Zayd al-Marwazi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn `Abd Allah al-Shafi`i (301-371), praised by al-Hakim as “one of the Imams of the Muslims, of the most mastery in the madhhab, most perspicuous, and most ascetic,” and by al-Dhahabi as “the Shaykh, the Imam, the Mufti, the Guide, the Ascetic, the Shaykh of the Shafi`is and narrator of al-Bukhari’s “Sahih” from al-Firabri.” From him narrated al-Hakim, al-Sulami, al-Daraqutni, al-Barqani, al-Sabbagh, and others. He studied as a young man under al-Ash`ari in Baghdad. Al-Bazzaz said of him: “I rode with the faqeeh Abu Zayd from Naysabur to Mecca, and I do not know that the angels recorded any sin to his detriment.” Al-Khatib said: “He is the most impressive narrator of Bukhari’s ‘Sahih.’” He transmitted the latter book notably to Ibn Mujahid.
Al-Awdani, Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Nasr or Nusayr or Basir, Abu Bakr al-Awdani al-Bukhari al-Shafi`i (d. 385), the foremost imam of the Shafi`is in Transoxiana in his time and a hadith scholar, Ibn `Asakir listed him among the direct students of al-Ash`ari. He studied under Abu Mansur ibn Mihran and took hadith from Ya`qub ibn Yusuf al-`Asimi, Abu Ya`la al-Nasafi, al-Haytham al-Shashi, and others. From him narrated al-Hakim, al-Halimi, and others. Al-Hakim said: “He was among the most ascetic of jurists, the most devoted to worship, the most scrupulous, the most given to weep over his shortcomings, and the strongest in repentance and humbleness.” Among his positions in fiqh: If a person travels in disobedience of Allah and finds himself forced to eat carrion to survive, he may not eat before repenting first, even if he is starving.
© 2016 As-Sunnah Foundation of America