Book Reviews

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.

Overview 

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 »

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Book Review: The Reports of Abū Mikhnaf in al-Tabarī’s History: The Era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs

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Book Review: The Reports of Abū Mikhnaf in al-Tabarī’s History: The Era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, a Critical Appraisal

Reviewed by Muntasir Zaman

[Marwiyyāt Abī Mikhnaf fī Tārīkh al-Tabarī: ‘Asr al-Khilāfah: al-Dirāsah Naqdiyyah, by Yahyā ibn Ibrāhīm al-Yahyā, Riyadh: Dār al-‘Asimah, 2011, 528 pp., $9.50 (hardback), ISBN 978-603-8057-11-7]

Introduction

The rapid expansion of Islam’s borders from a fledgling state to a massive empire is arguably one of the greatest military feats. By 30 AH/650 CE, the entire Arabian Peninsula and the area spanning from Egypt on the west to the Iranian plateau on the east were all under Muslim rule.[1] The annals of Islamic history are replete with extraordinary accomplishments by Muslims throughout this vast landscape. In the same breath, however, one comes across pages blemished with internecine conflict and political strife. Reports of this nature prima facie are clearly troubling, but this can be assuaged to a considerable extent by probing their authenticity.[2] Sieving the reliable from the unreliable is of greater importance in regards to the formative period of Islam,[3] particularly the Prophet’s life and the decades that immediately proceeded his demise, as it serves as a window to Islam in its most pristine form.[4]

One method of carrying this out is to critically examine influential historians who played a key role in shaping the dominant narrative of early Islamic history, specifically those who were the center of heated contention, such as Muhammad ibn Ishāq (d. 151 AH),[5] Sayf ibn ‘Umar al-Tamīmī (d. ca. 180 AH),[6] and Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Wāqidī (d. 207 AH).[7] To this end, Shaykh Yahyā Ibrāhīm al-Yahyā in his landmark study Marwiyyāt Abī Mikhnaf fī Tārīkh al-Tabarī sets out to examine a historian of ill repute, the Kūfan Abū Mikhnaf (d. 157 AH). The present study—based on the author’s M.A dissertation submitted to the Islamic University of Madīnah under the supervision of the renowned historian, Dr. Diyā’ al-Umarī—analyzes the historical accounts of Abū Mikhnaf in al-Tabarī’s History, with specific reference to the era of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs (r. 11-40 AH). This short review aims to summarize the author’s research, explore certain points of importance, and make brief comments in the relevant footnotes. The driving impetus for this review is to draw the attention of students and scholars to this phenomenal study; hence, a digital copy of the book is provided here. Read the rest of this entry »

Sixty Years in The Making: A Closer Look at Shaykh ‘Awwāmah’s Edition of Tadrīb al-Rāwī fī Sharh Taqrīb al-Nawāwī

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Sixty Years in The Making: A Closer Look at Shaykh ‘Awwāmah’s Edition of Tadrīb al-Rāwī fī Sharh Taqrīb al-Nawāwī

By Muntasir Zaman

When an expert assures you that he invested sixty years of experience in a given project, it should come as no surprise that such a work deserves undivided attention. That is the case with the latest edition of Imām Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī’s (d. 911 AH) magnum opus Tadrīb al-Rāwī fī Sharh Taqrīb al-Nawāwī, which was critically edited by the Syrian Hadīth scholar Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah. Shaykh ‘Awwāmah prefaces the work by saying, “I have written therein the crux of sixty years of dedication to thisislamic field.”[1] In this article, we will take a closer look at this new edition by going through a general overview of the work and by highlighting three salient aspects of it, namely, the editor’s style of writing, method of tracing sources, and personal insights.

Overview

This edition was jointly published by Dār al-Yusr and Dār al-Minhāj in five volumes. The first volume comprises of a forward by Shaykh ‘Awwāmah, a description of the manuscripts used for Tadrīb al-Rāwī (the commentary) and al-Taqrīb wa al-Taysīr (the text),[2] the thabat of Ahmad Ibn al-‘Ajamī,[3] detailed indices for the entire book,[4] and the bibliography. The remaining four volumes comprise of the text of al-Taqrīb wa al-Taysīr and its commentary Tadrīb al-Rāwī, Ibn al-‘Ajamī’s marginalia, and Shaykh ‘Awwāmah’s footnotes, and each volume has its own table of contents. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: “An Introduction to the Disciplines of the Noble Hadīth” by Mufti Abdul Mālik al-Kumillā’ī

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Book Review: “An Introduction to the Disciplines of the Noble Hadīth” 

Author: Mufti Abdul Mālik al-Kumillā’ī

By Muntasir Zamān

Being the second source of Islāmic law, the blessed hadīths of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) hold a lofty position in images (1)the hearts of Muslims. The science of hadīth is extremely vast and requires strenuous effort to familiarize oneself with even its basic concepts.

Students of dīn are generally interested in gaining some acquaintance with the various genres of hadīth literature, and to learn how to search for a hadīth in the relevant works. In earlier times, this was a talent naturally acquired in the course of a scholar’s general studies and was not in need of any separate study or specialist course. However, due to the infrequent usage of such works, the general condition nowadays is that very few are able to navigate through the hadīth literature and locate a hadīth in the relevant compilations and, perhaps more importantly, find the correct ruling of the hadīth in terms of its authenticity or inauthenticity from the experts of the science.

Many books have been written as an introduction and basic guide for beginners to learn how and where to search for hadīths, and the methods used to analyze their strength. Examples of such books are:

  • Usūl al-Takhrīj wa Dirāsat al-Asānīd by Dr. Mahmūd al-Tahhān,
  • Takhrīj al-Hadīth al-Sharīf[1] by Dr. Nā’if Biqā‘ī, and
  • Kayfa Nadrus ‘Ilm al-Takhrīj by Shaykh Hamzah al-Malibārī and Dr. al-‘Akā’ilah, among other books.

However, one of the most beneficial and comprehensive books is al-Madkhal ilā ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth al-Sharīf (An Introduction to the Disciplines of the Noble Hadīth) of Mufti Abdul Mālik.

In this short review of his book, we will briefly discuss the background and academic qualifications of the author, followed by a summary of the book. We have also provided a digital copy for the benefit of readers. It is necessary to point out that by merely reading several books of this nature, one does not become an expert hadīth scholar. Rather, he must stay in the company of the experts of the field and invest long hours burying himself in the books.

Click here for Pdf copy of al-Madkhal ila Ulum al-Hadith al-Sharif

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A Diamond Among Rocks: Nisāb Al-Ihtisāb (The Manual of Al-Ihtisāb)

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A Diamond Among Rocks: Nisāb Al-Ihtisāb  (The Manual of Al-Ihtisāb)

Among the many contributions of Islām which Muslims have rightfully boasted of through the ages has undoubtedly been its contribution inSONY DSC the line of academia. The very first revelation to the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings be upon him) bears first hand testimony to this fact. From the intricacies of language to the subtleties of the spiritual heart, Muslim scholars have left no stone unturned in their contribution to humanity in general, and to the Muslim community in particular. One subject, seldom discussed, yet has played an important role in the smooth regulation of the affairs of Muslims for centuries is al-Ihtisāb, or “enforcing public good and preventing public wrong.”

The topic of al-Ihtisāb has received much attention from scholars throughout the centuriesSome scholars have incorporated the subject of al-Ihtisāb into their more general works on Fiqh, such as Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Alī al-Māwardī [d. 450 AH] in his al-Ahkām al-Sultāniyya, and al-Qādī Abū Ya‘lā [d. 458 AH] in a book with a similar title. Other scholars have authored independent treatises and works on the subject of al-Ihtisāb, such as Ahkām al-Sūq of Yahyā ibn ’Umar al-Andalūsī [d. 289 AH], which is one of the earlier works on the topic to have reached us, Nihāyat al-Rutbah fī Talab al-Hisbah of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Shīzarī [d. 589 AH], and Ma’ālim al-Qirbah fī Ahkām al-Hisbah of Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Qurashī [d. 729 AH].

One work in particular that we wish to discuss in this brief article is Nisāb al-Ihtisāb of ‘Umar ibn Muhammad al-Sunnāmī [d. ca. 725 AH]. The manual is an indispensable masterpiece for every Hanafī scholar, in particular Hanafī Muftīs. One can gauge the value of the book by the countless material exclusively found therein. In addition, it is the first and perhaps the only available Hanafī manual written on the topic. Unfortunately, since the value of the book is often not realized, it is abandoned in a heap of unused books, thus making it a diamond among rocks.

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