Ibn `Abd al-Barr

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

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.

This is Abû `Abd Allâh Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Khuwayz Mindâd al-Basrî who narrated hadîth, but did not become known as a Muhaddith, much less a Hâfiz but was one of the Jurists and Usûliyyûn of the Mâlikîs. He died in 390 and thus is not a companion of Imâm Mâlik but came 200 years and seven biographical layers later. His claim of what Imâm Mâlik supposedly said is thoroughly unreliable until he is confirmed independently, even if he produced his chain to Mâlik’s supposed statement (a fortiori if he does not even have a chain as in this case). Hence, Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd’s reports from Mâlik “contain anomalies” and he “contradicts the Madhhab in both Fiqh and Usûl nor do the [Mâlikî] experts rely on his positions” according to al-Qâdî `Iyâd (d 544).[8] `Iyâd also said: “He [al-Mindâd] was not insightful in his positions nor strong in fiqh. Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî said of him: I never heard him mentioned once by the `Ulama of Iraq.” `Iyâd also exposes him as an extremist in his anti-kalâm stance: “He alienated the Mutakallimîn of Ahl al-Sunna [i.e. the Ash`arîs] and ruled that all of them were among the people of vain lusts (ahwâ) concerning whom Mâlik said his famous statement on [avoiding] their marriage, [rejecting] their witness and leadership, and alienating them.”[9]

Imâm Mâlik certainly did not mean the Ash`arîs but the Mu`tazilîs and their sub-sects by consensus in the statement in question, as is made clear, among others, by Ibn `Abd al-Barr himself in his report from the same Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd on the previous page![10]

It is known that Imâm Mâlik never retained any Mu`tazilîs, Qadarîs, or Khawârij in his Muwatta as narrators while al-Bukhârî, Muslim and their students such as Imâm al-Tirmidhî did narrate from Qadarîs and Jahmîs.[11] Thus the misguided view Ibn Khuwayz Mindâd expressed in including the Ash`arîs among the people of innovation was rejected by his own School and is not considered in the least valid by the major Mâlikî Huffâz and Fuqahâ’ such as Qâdî `Iyâd, al-Mâzarî, Abû Bakr ibn al-`Arabî, Abûl-Walîd al-Bâjî, al-Qurtubî, and others – all thorough Ash`arîs.

Among Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s books:

* Al-Ajwiba al-Mû`iba (“The Comprehensive Answers”);

* Al-`Aql wal-`Uqalâ’ (“Reason and the People of Wisdom”);

* Ash`âr Abî al-`Atâhiya (“The Poems of Abû al-`Atahiya[12]“);

* Al-Bayân fî Tilâwat al-Qur’ân (“The Exposition Concerning the Recitation of the Qur’ân”);

* Al-Farâ’id (“The Laws of Inheritance”);

* Al-Iktifâ’ fî Qirâ’at Nâfi`in wa Abî `Amrin (“The Contentment in Nâfi` and Abû `Amr’s Reading”);

* Al-Inbâh `an Qabâ’il al-Ruwâh (“Drawing Attention to the Nomenclature of the Narrators’ Tribes”);

* Al-Insâf fî Asmâ’ Allâh (“The Book of Fidelity: On the Names of Allâh”);

* Al-Intiqâ’ fî Fadâ’il al-Thalâthat al-A’immat al-Fuqahâ’ Mâlik wal-Shâfi`î wa Abî Hanîfa (“The Hand-Picked Excellent Merits of the Three Great Jurisprudent Imâms: Mâlik, Shâfi`î, and Abû Hanîfa”). Shaykh `Abd al-Fattâh Abû Ghudda said the order in the title reflects the precedence of Madîna over Makka and that of Makka over al-Kûfa.

* Al-Istidhkâr li Madhhab `Ulamâ’ al-Amsâr fîmâ Tadammanahu al-Muwatta’ min Ma`ânî al-Ra’î wal-Athâr (“The Memorization of the Doctrine of the Scholars of the World Concerning the Juridical Opinions and the Narrations Found in Mâlik’s Muwatta'”);

* Al-Istî`âb fî Asmâ’ al-Ashâb (“The Comprehensive Compilation of the Names of the Prophet’s Companions”);

* Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilmi wa-Fadlihi wamâ Yanbaghî fî Riwâyatihi wa Hamlih (“Compendium Exposing the Nature of Knowledge and Its Immense Merit, and What is Required in the Process of Narrating it and Conveying it”);

* Al-Kâfî fî Madhhab Mâlik (“The Sufficiency in Mâlik’s School of Jurisprudence”);

* Al-Kunâ (“The Patronyms”);

* Al-Maghâzî (“The Battles”);

* Al-Qasd wal-Umam fî Nasab al-`Arab wal-`Ajam (“The Endeavors and the Nations: Genealogies of the Arabs and Non-Arabs”);

* Al-Shawâhid fî Ithbât Khabar al-Wâhid (“The Supporting Evidence for Maintaining Lone-Narrator Reports [as a source for legal rulings]”);

* Al-Tamhîd limâ fîl-Muwatta’ min al-Ma`ânî wal-Asânîd (“The Facilitation to the Meanings and Chains of Transmission Found in Mâlik’s Muwatta“);

* Al-Taqassî fî Ikhtisâr al-Muwatta’ (“The Detailed Study in the Abridgment of the Muwatta'”);


Main sources: Siyar 13:524 §4158; Shajarat al-Nûr p. 119 §337; Ibn Farhûn, al-Dîbâj p. 440-442 §626; Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ 3:372.

[1] Ibn Farhûn in al-Dîbâj (p. 442) mentions that Yûsuf has six pronunciations in Arabic: yûsuf, yûsaf, yuwisif, yuwisuf, yuwisaf, and yu’sif.

[2] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (7:129). See above, section entitled Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s Controversy (p. 466f.) as well as Shaykh Nuh Keller’s article, “Is it permissible for a Muslim to believe that `Allâh is in the sky’ in a literal sense?” at and the discussion on istiwâ in our article, “Istiwâ is a Divine Act” cf. http://sunnah.org/wp/aqida/istiwa_divine_act.htm.

[3] Al-Tamhîd (7:135).

[4] Al-Tamhîd (7:143).

[5] Perhaps a reference to his commentary on Ibn Abî Zayd’s Risâla (Dîbâj p. 262).

[6] 6 In Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (9:78). See our forthcoming publication of Imâm Ibn Jahbal al-Kilâbî’s Refutation of Ibn Taymiyya.

[7] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (7:157-158).

[8] In Tartîb al-Madârik (Moroccan ed 7:77-78).

[9]  Ibn Farhûn (d 799) cites all of the above in al-Dîbâj al-Mudhahhab (§491).

[10] Cf. Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm wa-Fadlih (1994 Saudi ed 2:942-943 §1800).

[11] See on this the relevant chapter in al-Suyûtî’s Tadrîb al-Râwî.

[12] 12 Ismâ`îl ibn Qâsim ibn Suwayd (d 213).

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