The Life and Works of the Hanafī Jurist and Hadīth Scholar Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā

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The Life and Works of the Hanafī Jurist and Hadīth Scholar Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā

By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah

Translated by Muntasir Zaman


His name is Zayn al-Dīn Abū al-‘Adl Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā al-Jamālī al-Hanafī, better known as ‘Allāmah Qāsim. He was born in Cairo in 802 AH where he lived until his demise in Rabī‘ al-Ākhir 879 AH. Growing up as an orphan, he began his studies at a tender age and would occupy himself with tailoring, but eventually focused on acquiring knowledge – after exerting himself therein, he shone and showed brilliance. He began his literary career early, authoring his first book at the age of 18 on inheritance. From a galaxy of teachers, his most prominent teacher in Hadīth was Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar and in Fiqh and legal theory Sirāj al-Dīn Qāri’ al-Hidāyah and al-Kamāl Ibn al-Humām. His student Hāfiẓ al-Sakhāwī said:

His dedication increased by frequenting the company of Ibn al-Humām. From 825 AH to Ibn al-Humām’s demise in 861 AH, he studied every book that was taught in his circle and learnt the most from him. The books he studied include the first quarter of his commentary on al-Hidāyah, part of Tawdīh of Sadr al-Sharī‘ah, and the entire al-Musāyarah (of Ibn al-Humām). […] He also studied books of Arabic literature and poetry, memorizing a significant portion thereof.[1]

Academic standing

His teachers respected him due to his academic excellence. For instance, Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar authored al-Īthār bi Ma‘rifat Rijāl al-Āthār upon his request to compile a book on the transmitters in Imām Muhammad’s Kitāb al-Āthār. He then – at the age of 33 – studied it under Ibn Hajar, who authorized and described him as, “The eminent Shaykh, the qualified and unique Hadīth scholar. He contributed [to the class] and shared his observations on several places that were noted down and further illuminated the book.”[2] Later on in another occasion, he described him as “The authority, the learned, the Hadīth scholar, the jurist, and the prolific memorizer.” Bear in mind that the one conferring these accolades is Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar, who requires no introduction. Al-Sakhāwī said: Read the rest of this entry »


On the Study of Comparative Fiqh (al-Fiqh al-Muqāran)

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On the Study of Comparative Fiqh (al-Fiqh al-Muqāran)

By Dr. Salāh Abū al-Hājj

Translated by Muntasir Zaman

[The following is an abridged translation of Dr. Salāh Abū al-Hājj’s discussion on comparative Fiqh. The author describes three methods of studying the differences of the jurists. The third method, better known as comparative Fiqh, is a modern concept that traces its origins to the 20th century Egyptian scholar Ahmad Ibrāhīm. Although the study of scholarly differences is integral to comprehension of Fiqh, the author concludes, its study should be undertaken only after developing proficiency in knowledge; a premature exposure to scholarly differences can leave a novice confused. For the purpose of brevity, only relevant parts were translated. For the entire discussion, see Abū al-Hājj, al-Madkhal al-Mufassal ilā al-Fiqh al-Hanafī, pp.435-42]

Definition and Origins

There are three distinct disciplines: (1) Fiqh al-Ikhtilāf; (2) ‘Ilm al-Khilāf; and (3) al-Fiqh al-Muqāran.

Fiqh al-Ikhtilāf is a study of the opinions of the jurists with or without an expose of their respective evidences and answers to opposing views. The primary objective here is the differences of the jurists. General Fiqh texts only tangentially mention opposing views to underpin the strength of the preferred view whereas books of Ikhtilāf are written with the purpose of presenting the differences of the jurists whether the author only mentions their opinions or supports the evidence of the preferred view of his madhhab. This discipline traces its origins to the beginning of Fiqh itself; it is part of the study of Fiqh and without it Fiqh is not firmly established. In the 2nd century, scholars compiled Hadīth collections on the reports and differences of the Companions and Successors on legal issues; the discipline further evolved during the era of the mujtahid scholars where they began citing legal issues alongside the disagreements therein.[1] Read the rest of this entry »

Guidelines on Evaluating Historical Reports

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Guidelines on Evaluating Historical Reports

By Shaykh Sharīf Hātim al-‘Awnī

Translated by Muntasir Zaman

[Translator’s preface: The following paper outlines an approach to evaluating the authenticity of historical reports. The author begins by emphasizing the merits of the Hadīth methodology, but makes sure to point out that not every science is obliged to adopt such a rigorous method. Drawing on statements from Hadīth experts like Ibn al-Mubarak and al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī, he proves that Hadīth scholars themselves were nuanced in their treatment of non-prophetic reports.

After a lengthy preamble, he presents a maxim that can be applied to such reports: every report that, directly or indirectly, forms the basis of a religious ruling will be accepted only through the rigorous methods of the Hadīth scholars used for the Sunnah; otherwise, their methods will not be applied. He then explains the theoretical application of this maxim in all areas from Sīrah to Companion statements to stories of the following generations; to illustrate its practical application, he provides two case studies.

To be sure, this paper is not a license to cite unsubstantiated stories. As the author himself explains, “Taking certain liberties when assessing transmitted information besides Hadīth is not tantamount to authenticating what is inauthentic; instead, every transmitted information is to be evaluated with a relevant scale.” Note: a paraphrased translation was adopted and subtitles were added to facilitate an easier read.]


There has been an increasing demand to refine Hadīth studies in the fields of Sīrah, history, and prosopography. These demands have been made for a diverse set of methodologies, the most pure and cautious being the methodology of the Hadīth scholars. As a result, numerous research projects and books were produced, which is a blessed endeavor and a sign of great good. These studies have corrected many academic errors and refined some of the most integral primary sources. Nonetheless, these were human endeavors and therefore prone to error. An error in a peripheral issue is a light matter that can be easily resolved, but a methodological error is dangerous and its findings are difficult to remedy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Life and Works of Hāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī, Author of Nasb al-Rāyah

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The Life and Works of Hāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī, Author of Nasb al-Rāyah

By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah

Translated by Muntasir Zaman

Name and lineage

He is the Imām, prolific Hadith memorizer, and authority, Jamāl al-Dīn Abū Muhammad ‘Abd Allāh ibn Yūsuf ibn Yūnus Ibn Muhammad al-Zayla‘ī[1] al-Hanafī, one of the leading Hadīth experts of the 8th century, which brimmed with experts of Hadīth who revived the path of the earlier scholars vis-à-vis memorization, scope, and analytics. Biographers disagree on his name and his father’s name: is it ‘Abd Allāh ibn Yūsuf or Yūsuf ibn ‘Abd Allāh? The first opinion is more preferred, and Allāh knows best.[2]


Biographers have not specified the year of his birth, and neither have I come across any information to specify it either, but it is, nonetheless, safe to provide a rough estimation. Hāfiẓ al-Suyūtī writes, “the place of his entry is in the following generation. I mentioned him earlier only because his demise was earlier.” The “following generation” referred to in the quotation is the generation of Hāfiẓ Ibn Rajab (736-795 AH), Ibn Musallam (724-792 AH), Ibn Sayyid al-Nās (729-792 AH), and others. It is therefore not farfetched to assume that Hāfiẓ al-Zayla‘ī was born in the vicinity of 720 AH. A further indication of this estimation is that Hāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī would accompany him in research while sourcing the hadīths of al-Ihyā, and they would even assist one another; al-‘Irāqī was born in 725 AH.[3]

Read the rest of this entry »

Distinctive Traits of the Islamic System of Inheritance

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Distinctive Traits of the Islamic System of Inheritance

By Mufti Taqi Uthmani

Translated by Muntasir Zaman

Islamic law has put in place a fair and wise system of inheritance. The Qur’an and Sunnah have meticulously elucidated the subject without leaving it to human reasoning, which is unable to fully grasp the profound wisdom only encompassed by Allah Most High. We, therefore, find that the Islamic laws of inheritance part ways with other religions and legal systems from many angles. These distinctive traits are encapsulated in the following principles laid down by the Shari’ah.

1. All assets of the deceased form part of the inheritance

The first principle in the Islamic system of inheritance is that all assets left by the deceased are inheritable be they of personal use, such as clothes and utensils, or items that accrue profit, such as land, merchandise, and money. According to Islamic law, inheritors are entitled to all of these items, small or large, valuable or cheap. Only three areas are excluded: finance for the burial process, debts, and the bequest, which caps at one third of the remaining wealth. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī’s al-Madkhal ilā ‘Ilm al-Sunan

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Book Review: Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī’s al-Madkhal ilā ‘Ilm al-Sunan

By Muntasir Zaman

[Al-Madkhal ilā ‘Ilm al-Sunan, by Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī, 2016, 1st ed. Muhammad ‘Awwāmah, pp.969 + 94, vol.2, $35 (hardback), ISBN 978-9933-503-59-8]

Covering nearly one-hundred topics, it is no wonder the disciplines of Hadīth are one of the few sciences that are ‘ripe’ (nadaj) and ‘roasted’ (ihtaraq), that is, they were clearly elucidated and thoroughly researched (al-Jazā’irī, Tawjīh al-Nażar, vol.2, p.903). Obviously, this accomplishment was not the doing of a few scattered scholars; it was the result of relentless effort from an unbroken chain of scholars over a millennium. In his authoritative commentary, Nuzhat al-Nażar, Hāfiż Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalānī (d. 852 AH) briefly outlines the most prominent installments to the genre of Hadīth nomenclature, starting with al-Ramahurmuzī’s (d. c. 360 AH) al-Muhaddith al-Fāsil and culminating with Abū ‘Amr Ibn al-Salāh’s (d. 643 AH) Ma‘rifat Anwā‘ ‘Ilm al-Hadīth. There is, however, a conspicuous gap as one key figure does not feature on this list: the 5th century Hadīth expert and prolific author, Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī (d. 458 AH), whose monumental work al-Madkhal ilā ‘Ilm al-Sunan serves prima facie as merely an introduction to his compendium, al-Sunan al-Kubrā, but in essence is a phenomenal work in its own right.

Al-Madkhal was first edited in 1984 by Dr. Diyā’ al-Rahmān al-A‘żamī and published by Dār al-Khulafā’, but it was based on an incomplete manuscript. In 2016, Dār al-Minhāj published the book in two volumes with annotations from Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah, who cross-examined it with two early manuscripts, one complete and the other partly incomplete. To create awareness of this valuable work, we will briefly summarize its contents, highlight certain salient passages, and examine the editorial work of Shaykh ‘Awwāmah.


For our purposes, al-Madkhal can broadly be categorized into an introduction and three parts. The introduction comprises an expose of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī’s (d. 204 AH) status as a scholar and mujtahid. Towards the end, the author dedicates several passages to explain the reason for compiling al-Sunan al-Kubrā and the modus operandi of citing hadīths therein (pp.3-45). This is followed by two chapters on the virtues of studying, and the obligation of following, the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, respectively (pp.46-74). The first part covers essential and peripheral discussions concerning Hadīth (pp.75-406). These include introductory topics, such as the authoritativeness of the Sunnah and the veracity of isolated-transmission; it further delves into the disciplines of Hadīth proper with chapters on paraphrased transmission, tadlīs, the traits of a reliable transmitter, and the use of mursal reports. The second part of al-Madkhal covers discussions on legal theory, such as consensus, ijtihad, Mafhūm al-Mukhālafah, and ostensibly conflicting hadīths (pp.407-669). The third part covers the virtues of acquiring knowledge, the rank of scholars, and the etiquettes of students (pp.670-886). Read the rest of this entry »

The Life and Thought of Imām Zāhid al-Kawtharī

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The Life and Thought of Imām Zāhid al-Kawtharī 

By Muntasir Zaman

 “What cosmic soul is imprisoned in that human body?” mused the learned Abū Zahrah (d. 1974) in utter admiration—indeed, “it is the soul of al-Kawtharī!” he proclaimed. [1] In recent memory, relatively few scholars have managed to synthesize expertise in, not merely acquaintance with, the vast majority of Islamic sciences. Shaykh Muhammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī (or Mehmet Zahit Kevsari) is arguably theletter-2 foremost contender for that accolade; his polymathic oeuvre leaves one hard-pressed to pinpoint his forte, [2] from the intricacies of philosophy[3] to the minutiae of Arabic grammar,[4] not to mention his undisputed command of theology,[5] Hadīth,[6] and Islamic law.[7] The ripple effect of his peerless intellectual contributions is strongly felt in Islamic seminaries throughout the world till this day.

A modest amount of literature is available on the life and thought of al-Kawtharī (henceforth Kawtharī), To add to the existing material, particularly for an English-speaking readership, the present article aims to delineate the most salient features of his scholarly career, provide a synopsis of his modus operandi vis-à-vis prophetic and non-prophetic reports, and examine the merits of two major points of contention. Relevant details on certain passages have been relegated to the footnotes for the purpose of brevity. Read the rest of this entry »