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.  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 the foremost contender for that accolade; his polymathic oeuvre leaves one hard-pressed to pinpoint his forte,  from the intricacies of philosophy to the minutiae of Arabic grammar, not to mention his undisputed command of theology, Hadīth, and Islamic law. 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 »
Assessing the Status of Imām Abū Hanīfah According to the Methodology of the Hadīth Scholars
By Shaykh Shākir Fayyād
With comments by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah
[Translator’s Preface: the following is a summary by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah of a book which analyzes the allegation of weak memory leveled against Imām Abū Hanīfah. In this study, the author uses the methodology of the Hadīth scholars themselves, some of whom are reported to have made the above claim against the Imām. This article was translated from Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh’s footnotes on Mabādī ‘Ilm al-Hadīth wa Usūluhū of Mawlānā Shabbīr Ahmad al-‘Uthmānī (pp.237-240) – Muntasir Zaman]
More than twenty years ago, I came across an important and lengthy treatise entitled “Abū Hanīfah bayn al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dīl” by Ustādh Shākir Dhīb Fayyād from Jordan who at the time was a student at King Abdulazīz University. This treatise was a Master’s dissertation in the aforementioned university under the supervision of Shaykh Muhammad al-Sādiq ‘Arjūn (Allah have mercy upon him) in the year 1396 AH.
The author writes in the introduction: Read the rest of this entry »
The profound influence ones environment has in shaping his personality, worldview, and knowledge is a universally accepted fact. It is as the age-old proverb goes, “Tell me the company you keep, and I will tell you who you are.” As such, to appreciate the early Muslim scholars of ‘Irāq, in particular those of Kūfah, it is of paramount importance to understand the academic status of their hometown and those who helped shape it. The following is an excerpt from the book Fiqh Ahl al-‘Irāq which explains the stages the city of Kūfah went through until it developed into an unparalleled city of knowledge, from its inception when ‘Umar dispatched ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd (Allāh be pleased with them) until the era of Imām Abū Hanīfah.
The author commences by highlighting the lofty rank and vast knowledge of Kūfah’s first mentor, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd (Allāh be pleased with him). Thereafter, he speaks about the shift of the khilāfah in the era of ‘Alī (Allah be pleased with him) from Madīnah to Kūfah which increased the amount of Companions and scholars who travelled and took residence there. From among the Companions, one-thousand five hundred took residence in Kūfah, apart from those who spent time and taught there. Further, he enumerates the names of prominent students of ‘Alī and Ibn Mas‘ūd, such as Qādī Shurayh, Abīdah al-Salmānī, and ‘Alqamah who were leading authorities of their time. He then discusses the status of Ibrāhīm al-Nakha’ī and his student Hammād ibn Abī Sulaymān, who was the teacher of Imām Abū Hanīfah. By this, he establishes the chain of knowledge from the Companions until Imām Abū Hanīfah. He concludes with a few incidents on the excellence of Kūfah in the sciences of Hadīth, Fiqh, Arabic, and Qirā’ah.
An idiomatic translation was adopted and subtitles were added in many places to make the article more reader friendly. The footnotes of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah and Mawlānā Yūsuf Banūrī were selectively added and notified; for the sake of brevity, these were often abridged. An attempt was made by the translator to reference all the quotations and necessary passages. These references alongside other footnotes from the translator were placed in square brackets.
Muntasir Zaman Read the rest of this entry »
The Forty-Scholar Council of Imām Abū Hanīfah
By Muntasir Zaman
Among the various specialties of the Hanafī school of thought, one outstanding specialty is the rigorous manner in which it was developed. Imām Abū Hanīfah had a group of prominent scholars with whom he would consult. Often they would only come to a conclusion on a particular issue after debating it for three days.
As such, one can understand the truthfulness of what Imām Wakī‘ ibn al-Jarrāh stated when a person in his gathering claimed that Imām Abū Hanīfah erred. He said:
How can Abū Hanīfah err when with him are the likes of Abū Yūsuf and Zufar in their logic; and the likes of Yahyā ibn Abī Zā’idah, Hafs ibn Ghiyāth, Hibbān, and Mindal in their memorization of hadīth; and the like of al-Qāsim ibn Ma‘n in his knowledge of language and Arabic; and Dāwūd al-Tā’ī and Fudayl ibn ‘Iyād in their asceticism and their scrupulousness? The one whose companions are such, he does not come close to erring, because if he erred they would correct him.
Moreover, there was a council of forty scholars from his companions who documented the legal issues. The following is a report that mentions this council, followed by its grading.
It is reported in Fadā’il Abī Hanīfah of Ibn Abī al-‘Awām:
The following is a brief, yet comprehensive, explanation of the rank of Imām Abū Hanīfah in the science of Hadīth. As was mentioned earlier, this is an excerpt from the previous section of our abridged translation of Athar al-Hadīth al-Sharīf fī Ikhtilāf al-A’immah al-Fuqahā’.
In this excerpt, the author commences by differentiating between the amount of hadiths a scholar knew and the amount he imparted; the latter does not reflect the exact amount of the former. Just as the knowledge of Abū Bakr (Allāh be pleased with him) cannot be gauged at by the amount of hadīths he narrated, likewise, Imām Abū Hanīfah cannot be labelled as one who knew very few hadiths simply because he narrated a limited amount hadiths.
One can understand the amount of hadiths Imām Abū Hanīfah knew by the fact that he is accepted by scholars as a mujtahid, and one of the prerequisites to reach the ranks of ijtihād is to know thousands of hadiths as mentioned by Imām Ahmad and Imām Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn. Accordingly, Imām Abū Hanīfah was aware of that amount of hadiths if not more.
Thereafter, the author discusses the academic status of Kūfah by citing the influence of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd and his students upon its inhabitants, such that ‘Alī mentions he has filled it with knowledge and understanding. He then follows this by proving the encompassing knowledge Imām Abū Hanīfah acquired from the scholars of Kūfah. He further explains that his knowledge was not confined to what he learnt from his townsmen; rather, he was well versed with the knowledge of Makkah, Madīnah, and other Islāmic cities, by virtue of his frequent travels to the holy cities during Hajj and his stay there for several years.
In conclusion, the author briefly mentions several scholars who in recent times have penned works regarding the status of Imām Abū Hanīfah in the science of Hadīth, among whom is the erudite scholar of Hadīth, ‘Allāmah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmānī.
It should be remembered this is only an abridged translation. Therefore, several sections have been omitted and others were summarized. To make the article more-reader friendly, an idiomatic translation was adopted in many places. Those who are interested in more detail are advised to read the original work.
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The following is an excerpt from our abridged translation of the masterpiece, Athar al-Hadīth al-Sharīf fī Ikhtilāf al-A’immah al-Fuqahā’, by the Syrian Hadīth scholar, the teacher of our teachers, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah. There were numerous requests for an abridged translation of the work for the benefit of non-Arabic readers, as the original work is relatively lengthy. The abridged translation has now been completed. We will post sections of it in installments and finally publish the complete abridgement in a separate post.
The excerpt before you is a clarification of two common misunderstandings. The first is the notion that the mere authenticity of a narration is sufficient to practice upon it. The second is the notion that there is no need to follow the Imams of madhhabs because Allah has only commanded us to to follow the Messenger of Allāh and not so and so. The author adequately addresses both notions substantiating his answer with numerous statements from luminaries of Islām. He also explains the harms of adopting such an approach and its devastating implications on the blessed Sunnah.
To make the article more reader-friendly, an idiomatic translation was adopted in several places.
Sha‘bān, 25, 1435