Imam al-Dhahabi and Sufism

Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda

Translator’s foreword: Below is the third chapter of the incomplete yet ongoing translation of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz’s Mawqif A’immat al-Harakat al-Salafiyyah min al-Tasawwuf wa al-Sufiyyah. In this chapter, the author, a student and khalifah of Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalawi, produces several excerpts from the writings of Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi that show the positive manner by which the shaykh regarded Sufism and the Sufis. The majority of excerpts in this section are from Imam al-Dhahabi’s Tadhkirat al-Huffaz.

Imam Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentions in Dhayl Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p.301) in the biographies of some jurists:

“‘Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr ibn Abu al-Badr Muhammad al-Harbi al-Baghdadi, the faqih, the faqir, the ascetic (zahid), the exemplar and the remainder of the shaykhs of Iraq. He was also known by the name Katilah …

“He was an exemplary person, an ascetic, a person of worship and one of many spiritual states (hal) and miracles. The people of government and others would extol and revere him; he had many followers and companions. He remained in the company of Shaykh Ahmad al-Muhandiz and other pious men. Abu ‘Abdullah ibn al-Dubahi, the ascetic, has narrated from him.”

Al-Dhahabi said: “Ibn Al-Dubahi narrated to us regarding the shaykh that in spite of his rank he would at times trill and sing to himself. He would do this with skill, elegance and cheeriness. Ibn Al-Dubahi said he heard the shaykh say, ‘I was on a rooftop in Baghdad on the Day of ‘Arafah lying on my back. I then felt I was standing in ‘Arafah with the people for a short while. Then I felt I was in my original state in Baghdad lying down. When the pilgrims returned a man approached me saying out aloud: “Oh my master, I have sworn I saw you at ‘Arafah this year, let my wife be divorced if that so not be.” A group of people replied: “You must be imagining. The shaykh didn’t perform the Hajj this year.”’ Al-Dubahi said that the shaykh said: “I told him, go your way and you have not issued a talaq.”

We shall now mention several quotes from Hafiz al-Dhahabi’s great book, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, in which he mentions the conditions of the Sufi shaykhs from among the hafizs and experts of hadith, and in which there is also much mention about issues of Tasawwuf. We have sufficed with only this much without referring to the other books of Hafiz al-Dhahabi to ensure brevity.

1. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 2, p.761):

 

Al-Hiri — The hafiz, the ascetic, the exemplar (qudwah), the one whose supplications would be answered, Abu Ja‘far Ahmad ibn Hamdan ibn ‘Ali ibn Sinan al-Nisaburi … His son Abu ‘Amr has narrated regarding him that in old age he travelled to Mosul to meet Abu Ya‘la to listen to the hadith of Muhammad ibn ‘Ubbad narrated from Ibn ‘Uyaynah. Abu Ja‘far also travelled to Jurjan[1] to visit ‘Imran ibn Musa ibn Maja’shi‘ to listen to the hadith regarding the changing of the qiblah. Abu ‘Amr said: “My father would spend the nights awake.”

His children were all ascetics and the son of his daughter, Shaykh Abu Bishr al-Halwani, was a unique individual of his era and the shaykh of the Haram in Makkah; he died in 386AH. Abu Ja‘far died a few days before Ibn Khuzaymah in 311AH.

Al-Sulami said, “Abu Ja‘far remained in the company of Abu Hafs al-Nisaburi and al-Shah ibn Shuja‘, and Junayd[2] would write to him. Abu ‘Uthman would say: ‘Whosoever wishes to look at those who fear Allah then let him look at Abu Ja‘far (may Allah mercy them).’”

2. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.852):

 

Ibn al-A‘rabi — The imam, the hafiz, the ascetic, the shaykh of the Haram in Makkah Abu Sa‘id Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ziyad ibn Bishr ibn Durham al-Basri al-Sufi, the author of many books … He was reliable and meticulous [in narrating hadith], an a‘rif, a man of devotion (rabbani), and a person of great worth and good reputation.

Al-Sulami said: “I heard Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Khashshab who heard Ibn al-A‘rabi say: ‘Knowledge in essence lies in the acknowledgement of ignorance, Tasawwuf in essence lies in the abandoning of that which is superfluous, asceticism (zuhd) in essence is the taking of only that which one cannot live without, the nature of dealing with others in essence is the usage of one thing at a time, rida (the state of satisfaction) in essence lies in not raising objections, and well being (‘afiyah) in essence lies in the abandoning of affectatious behaviour (takalluf) without any affectation.’”

Among his books there is Tabaqat al-Nussak. He remained in the company of Junayd and Abu Ahmad al-Qulansi and compiled a large book about the history of Basra. He wrote regarding al-Thawri, “He died and people were saying such a thing about him that for them to have remained silent would have been better because it was a thing in which they were speculating and guessing. If this was the situation of those people, then what must the people that came after them be like.”

He also said: “They speak regarding union with Allah (jam‘); the manner of union according to each one is different to the other. This is also the case with annihilation (fana). They agree on nomenclature and differ regarding the meaning; this is because what falls under the name cannot be limited because they are experiences. Likewise, the science of ma‘rifah is something that cannot be encompassed, it has no ending, nor is there a limit to its existence and taste (dhawq).”

Ibn al-A‘rabi continued, “When you hear a man asking about union and annihilation or he is one that answers questions regarding these two concepts, then know that he is idle and not one of those who possesses them. Those who possess them do not ask regarding them because they know they cannot be attained through descriptions.”

Ibn al-A‘rabi was born in 240AH and died in Dhu al-Qa‘dah 340AH. May Allah mercy him.

3. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.901):

Muhammad ibn Dawud ibn Sulayman — The hafiz, the ascetic, the hujjah (authority), the shaykh of the Sufis, Abu Bakr al-Nisaburi. He heard hadith from Muhammad ibn ‘Amr Qashmard, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Bushanji, Ibn al-Durays, al-Nasai and their like in Khurasan, the Hijaz, the Levant, Egypt and Mosul. He wrote various chapters, stayed in the company of many shaykhs and dictated [hadith] for a lengthy time. Al-Hakim, Ibn Mundah, Ibn Jami‘, Abu Zakariyya al-Muzakki and others narrated from him. He was counted among the friends (walis) of Allah. Al-Daraqutni said he was reliable (thiqah) and erudite (fadil).

It is narrated from him that he said: “I ate, in the days of famine, one piece of bread for forty days in Basra. When I felt hungry I would recite Surah Yasin with the intention of filling my stomach.”

Al-Khalili said: “He was renowned for his memory. His memory and knowledge is apparent in the useful commentaries that he dictated.” He died in 342AH. May Allah Most High mercy him.

4. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.961):

 

Ghundar — As to the third Ghundar,[3] he was a Sufi, a hadith expert (muhaddith) and a person who would travel a lot. He met Junayd and the people of his ranking, wrote hadith and lived in Egypt. His full name was Shaykh Abu al-Tayyib Muhammad ibn Ja‘far ibn Duran al-Baghdadi Ghundar. He narrated hadith from Abu Khalifah al-Jumhi, Ibrahim ibn ‘Abdullah al-Makhzumi and Abu Ya‘la al-Musuli. Al-Daraqutni, Abu Hafs al-Kattani and a group of others narrated from him. He died in 357AH.

5. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 1, p.245):

 

Fudayl ibn ‘Ayad[4] — The imam, the exemplar, Shaykh al-Islam Abu ‘Ali at-Tamimi al-Yarbu‘i al-Marwazi, the shaykh of the Haram in Makkah… He lived in Makkah and was a devout, high-ranking and humble imam; he was reliable (thiqah) and of high standing…

Ibn al-Mubarak said, “There is none left on the face of the earth greater than Fudayl…” Ibn Sa‘d said, “He was born in Khurasan, heard [hadith] in Kufa, and then devoted himself to worship and took up residence in Makkah. He was reliable, noble, erudite, a man of worship and of many hadiths…”

Harun al-Rashid said, “From among the ‘ulama I have never seen anyone more awe-inspiring than Malik and none more god fearing than Fudayl.” Sharik said, “There has always been for every people a person who can be considered to be the authority in religion (hujjah) of that time. Fudayl ibn ‘Ayad was surely the authority for the people of his time.”

Ibrahim ibn al-Ash‘ath said, “I saw Ibn ‘Uyaynah twice kissing the hand of Fudayl ibn ‘Ayad.”

6. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 2, p.640):

Ibn Abu ‘Asim — The great hafiz and imam, Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn ‘Amr al-Nabil Abu ‘Asim al-Shaybani, the ascetic and qadi of Isfahan. He heard [hadith] from his maternal grandfather Abu Salamah Al-Tabudhki, Abu al-Walid Hadiyyah ibn Khalid, Hisham ibn ‘Ammar, Azraq ibn ‘Ali and many others.

He travelled far and wide and wrote some beneficial books … It was said that he lost all his books in the Zanj revolt and recalled fifty thousand hadiths from memory.

Ibn al-A‘rabi mentions in Tabaqat al-Nussak: “As to Ibn Abu ‘Asim, I heard someone mention that he had memorised a thousand fiqh issues from Shaqiq al-Balkhi.[5] He was from among the hafizs of hadith. His madhhab involved acting on the literal meaning (zahir) and abandoning analogy (qiyas).”

7. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1016):

 

Al-Tusi — Hafiz Abu al-Fadl Nasr ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad Ya‘qub al-‘Attar. He was the son of Abu Nasr al-Tusi … Al-Hakim said: “He is one of the pillars of hadith in Khurasan. He was known for his religiosity, asceticism, generosity and enthusiasm for the Ahl al-Sunnah. His first journey was to Marw[6] to Layth ibn Muhammad. There was none like him the day he died in Tabaran.[7] He was an imam in the knowledge of the Sufis and their stories and met many of their shaykhs. The day he died, he left none like him in Khurasan in being ahead and in meeting [so many shaykhs].”

I say: He remained in the company of Shibli[8] and died in Muharram 383AH.

8. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1070):

 

Al-Malini — The hafiz, the ‘alim, the ascetic, Abu Sa‘d Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Hafs al-Ansari al-Hirawi al-Malini al-Sufi. He is also known as the Peacock of the Poor (ta’us al-fuqara)… He gathered and got hold of a huge amount [of hadiths] from the masanids.[9] He was reliable and precise. He was a man of hadith and from among the great Sufis.

He is the author of Arba‘in al-Sufiyyah. Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani, Timam al-Razi, Abu Hazim al-‘Abdawi, Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi, Abu Bakr al-Khatib … and many others narrated from him.

Hamza al-Sahmi said, “Al-Malini entered Jurjan in 364AH and travelled widely to Isfahan, Transoxiana (ma wara al-nahr), Egypt and the Hijaz.” He then said he died in 409AH. However, he has erred. Rather, he died in 412AH. Ibn al-Salah has mentioned him in Tabaqat al-Shafi‘iyyah.

9. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1088):

‘Atiyyah ibn Sa‘id — The hafiz, Shaykh al-Islam Abu Muhammad al-Andalusi al-Maghribi al-Qafsi al-Sufi…

Al-Khatib said, “He came to Baghdad and narrated from Zahir al-Sarakhsi and ‘Ali ibn Hussain al-Udhuni. Abu al-Fadhl ibn al-Mahdi narrated to me from him and said, ‘He was an ascetic. He would never lie down and would sleep by drawing his knees up and folding his arms around them.’”

He studied sahih hadiths in Transoxiana from Isma‘il ibn Hajib, the student of al-Farbari and narrated them in Makkah. He heard [hadith] in Al-Andalus from Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Baji, and in al-Qayrawan[10] from ‘Abdullah ibn Khayran and others like them. In this (the science of hadith) he did much and excelled.

Al-Humaydi said, “He remained in Nisapur for some time. He was a Sufi who would remain in a state of tawakkul and giving preference to the needs of others. The companions of al-Sulami would refer back to him.”

‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Bundar al-Shirazi said, “I remained with him for a while in Baghdad. He was at a high level in terms of preferring others and generosity. He sufficed on wearing a sarong (futah) and a heavily patched garment. He gathered many books that he carried on many Bactrian camels. I remained with him and we headed towards al-Yasiriyyah.[11] He only had with him his shawl, his small leather water bag and his heavily patched garment. I was surprised at his state. When we reached the place, we began mingling with friends; we met a Khurasani shaykh who had an entourage around him. He said to us, “Come sit with us.” He had food laid for us and we ate and left. This remained our condition, everyday we would chance on someone who would give us food and drink until we reached Makkah and we carried nothing. He narrated Sahih al-Bukhari in Makkah and would comment on the narrators and their condition; those who were present would be astonished. He died in Makkah in 408AH or some time then.”

Al-Humaydi said, “He wrote a book on the permissibility of Sama‘ and many North Africans would avoid him on account of it. He wrote the chains of narration for the hadith about the helmet (al-Mighfar)[12] in several volumes. Abu Ghalib ibn Bishran narrated to us from ‘Atiyyah from al-Qasim ibn ‘Alqamah from Bahaz who mentioned this hadith.” He received widespread popularity in Nisapur and lived there for a time.

10. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1092):

Abu Nu‘aym — The great hafiz, hadith expert of the time Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Ishaq ibn Musa ibn Mehran al-Mehrani al-Asbahani al-Sufi al-Ahwal. He was the maternal grandson of the ascetic Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Banna. He was born in 336AH…

He was unique in the world in terms of the ijazahs (permission to transmit) that he possessed in the same way he was unique in that he had heard [hadiths] from so many people. A huge number of hafizs travelled to his door due to his knowledge, memory and lofty chains of transmission (isnad)…

Al-Khatib said, “I have not seen anyone who could be given the title hafiz save Abu Nu‘aym and Abu Hazim al-‘Abdawi.”

‘Ali ibn Fadl al-Hafiz said, “Our Shaykh al-Silafi[13] gathered details about Abu Nu‘aym and named around eighty individuals who he narrated from.” He added, “The like of his book Hilyat al-Awliya (Descriptions of the Saints) has not been written. We heard it, except a little portion, in the presence of Abu al-Muzaffar al-Qashani who narrated it from him.”

Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Mardawayh said, “In his era, Abu Nu‘aym was a person towards whom people would travel. There was no one, in the remotest parts of the globe, with a stronger memory and stronger chains of narration than he. The hafizs of the world would gather by him, and each day it would be the turn of one of them to read what he desired until close to Zuhr. When he would stand to return to his home, they would at times recite a portion to him on the way and he would not become annoyed. For him there was no nourishment except to listen and write.”

Hamza ibn al-‘Abbas al-‘Alawi said that the people of hadith would say, “For fourteen years Abu Nu‘aym remained without an equal. There was none loftier in isnad and stronger in memory than he in the east and the west.” They would also say, “When Abu Nu‘aym had written the book Hilyat al-Awliya he took it in his life to Nisapur where people bought it for four hundred dinars.”

Imam Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami has narrated, in spite of his prowess, in his book Tabaqat al-Sufiyyah (The Sufi Rankings), “‘Abd al-Wahib ibn Ahmad al-Hashmi has narrated to us from Abu Nu‘aym Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah from Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Jaysh in Baghdad. He then mentioned the hadith…”

Abu Nu‘aym has written many famous books such as Ma‘rifat al-Sahabah, Dalail al-Nubuwwah in two volumes, al-Mustakhraj ‘ala al-Bukhari, al-Mustakhraj ‘ala Muslim, Tarikh Isfahan, Sifat al-Jannah, Kitab al-Tibb, Fadail al-Sahabah, al-Mu‘taqad and some other small books…

Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Mandah has criticised Abu Nu‘aym due to difficulties of madhhab like many others. It is inappropriate to pay attention to that on account of what took place between the two. Abu Nu‘aym died at the age of 94 on 20 Muharram 430AH. He, al-Burqani, Abu Dhar and al-Suri are in the ninth ranking (tabaqah) from the forty rankings of Ibn al-Mufaddal.

11. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1162):

Al-Muadhdhin — Abu Salih ibn ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Ali ibn Ahmad al-Nisaburi, the hafiz and hadith expert (muhaddith) of his era in Khurasan. He heard [hadith from] Abu Na‘im ‘Abd al-Malik ibn al-Hasan al-Isfara’ini, Abu al-Hasan al-‘Alawi, Abu Ya‘la al-Mahlabi, Abu Tahir ibn Mahmash, Hakim Abu ‘Abdullah and ‘Abdullah ibn Yusuf al-Sahmi in Jurjan; Abu al-Qasim ibn Bashran in Baghdad; al-Musaddad al-Amluki in Damascus; Abu Nu‘aym al-Hafiz in Isfahan; Hasan ibn al-Ash‘ath in Manbij;[14] and Abu Dhar al-Hirawi in Makkah. He stayed in the company of Ustadh Abu ‘Ali al-Daqqaq and Ahmad ibn Nasr al-Talqani and wrote a manuscript on the history of Marw…

‘Abd al-Ghafir ibn Isma‘il said in his Tarikh [al-Nisabur], “Abu Salih al-Muadhdhin. He was trustworthy, reliable, a hadith expert, a Sufi, and unique in his way and in gathering [of hadiths] and commenting [on them]. We have seen none like him in remembering the Qur’an and collecting hadiths. He heard much and collected many chapters and [heard from many] shaykhs. He delivered the adhan for many years seeking reward in the world to come. He used to encourage me to learn hadiths and I have only been able to gather this history though his manuscripts and books, which have been referred to…”

Zahid al-Shahami said, “Abu Salih narrated a thousand hadiths from a thousand shaykhs of his.” Khatib said, “Abu Salih has written from me and I have written from him and he is reliable.”

Abu Sa‘d al-Sam‘ani said, “He was a Sufi, a hafiz, precise, and unique in his time in collecting and commenting [on hadiths]. He delivered the adhan for some time seeking reward in the hereafter, would deliver sermons at night and was appointed the shaykh of al-Madrasah al-Bayhaqiyyah.[15] In his hands was the endowment (waqf) of books and chapters on hadith, the preservation of which he would continually maintain. He would take sadaqah from businessmen and senior people and distribute to the needy.”

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Muzakki said, “No one is able to lie in hadith here while Abu Salih is alive.” Abu al-Muzhaffar Mansur ibn al-Sam‘ani said, “When you enter upon Abu Salih, then enter with reverence for he is the star of the age and a unique man of his time.”

Abu Sa‘d al-Sam‘ani said, “Some saintly men saw Abu Salih in their dream the night he died and the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had taken him by his hand and said, ‘May Allah reward you well on my behalf. How well you have stood firm for me and how well have you propagated my Sunnah.’”

‘Abd al-Ghafir said, “He died on the seventh of Ramadan in 470AH.”

12. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1170):

Al-Kattani — the imam, the hadith expert, he who benefited Damascus and its hadith experts Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Tamimi al-Dimashqi al-Sufi. He heard much, collected and retained. He annulled that which cannot be described due to its large quantity…

Ibn Makula said, “He wrote from me and I wrote from him. He narrated a lot and was meticulous.” Khatib has written in Fawa’id al-Nasab, “He was reliable and trustworthy. Ibn al-Akfani has described him as being truthful, steadfast, blameless in madhhab and a person who continually recited the Qur’an. He narrated to me that he heard from his shaykh Abu al-Qasim ‘Ubayd Allah al-Azhari in Baghdad. I entered upon him at the time of his death and he said, ‘I make you all witness that I have given permission (ijazah) to all who are presently born in Islam.’ A group, including Mahfuzh ibn Sa‘ri al-Tughlabi, has narrated from him through this ijazah.”

13. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1183):

Shaykh al-Islam — the hafiz, the imam, the ascetic, Abu Isma‘il ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Ja‘far ibn Mansur ibn Mut al-Ansari al-Hirawi was from the progeny of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him) …

Abu al-Nadr al-Fami said, “Abu Isma‘il was the unique individual of the age, the most precious jewel in a necklace of individuals with qualities that are commended, and the figure of attention in many different traits of virtue and merits that included aiding the religion and the Sunnah without any compromise and consideration for any sultan and vizier. He had to, on account of this, endure at all times the designs of envious individuals who often strove to get at his soul and were at times intent on destroying him. Allah saved him from their wickedness and made their schemes the strongest means in raising his rank.”

A large amount of people studied under him, and for a long period of time he explained the Qur’an and its many virtues. I have seen the Ahl al-Ittihad[16] venerating his words in Manazil al-Sa’irin and claiming that he is in agreement with them, has tasted their wajd (ecstasy) and has indicated towards their corrupt Tasawwuf. How can that be when he is from among the inviters to the Sunnah and that group who were the remnants of the salaf? There is no doubt that there are some things in Manazil al-Sa’irin from the station of obliteration (mahw) and annihilation (fana). His meaning of fana is a sense of oblivion from seeing anything apart from He and not the absence of Him on the outside.

In sum, this book is of a different type and not on the pattern that the Sufis from among the Followers (Tabi‘in) applauded and which the devout hadith experts treaded. Allah guides who He wishes to the straight path …

Al-Silafi said, “I asked al-Mu’taman regarding Abu Isma‘il al-Ansari, he said, ‘He was, from among the great ‘ulama, a wonder in delivering orations and Tasawwuf. He heard in Baghdad from Abu Muhammad al-Khallal and others. He would narrate in his gatherings hadiths along with the chains of transmission and would forbid from narrating from him. He was proficient in classical Arabic, a hafiz of hadith

‘Abd al-Ghafir ibn Isma‘il said, “He knew Arabic, hadith, history and genealogy very well. He was a perfect imam in tafsir, of excellent conduct in Tasawwuf, and someone who would not preoccupy in earning and would suffice with that which would please the murids and followers from his gathering in a year once or twice at the head of the gathering. He would gain thousands of dinars and many sets of clothes and jewellery, which he would take and distribute to butchers and bakers. He would spend from that and not take anything from sultans and the people of state. He would hardly refer to them and not bother with them. He remained respected, accepted more than the king and remained obeyed for around sixty years without any rivalry. When he would attend a gathering he would wear splendid clothes, mount an expensive beast and say, ‘I only do this to give esteem to the religion and in spite of its enemies so they may see my esteem and adornment and desire Islam.’ When he would return home, he would return to patched clothing and sit with the Sufis in the khanqah;[17] he would eat with them and would not set himself apart in any way. It was from him that the people of Herat took the performance of the fajr at its beginning time and the oft naming of their children with ‘abd adjoined to one of the names of Allah Most High.”

Abu Sa‘d al-Sam‘ani said, “He was someone who revealed the Sunnah, calling towards it and encouraging it. He would suffice with that amount that would please the murids. He would not take anything that was earned through oppressive means and he would not exceed the limit unjustly. He would not exceed the limit in considering general the apparent meaning (zahir) from the Book and the Sunnah. He would believe in that which is authentic without explaining what the allegory (tashbih) entails. He said, ‘He who has not seen my gathering and my delivering of advice and then criticises me, then I have no bother with him.’

Abu al-Nadr al-Fami said, “Abu Isma‘il died in Dhu al-Hajjah 481AH at the age of over 84 years.”

14. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1183):

Al-Yunini — the shaykh, the faqih, the hafiz, the imam, the exemplar Taqi al-Din Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abu al-Hasan Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Isa ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Ba‘labakki al-Hanbali. He was born in the year 572 in Younine.[18] He donned the mantle (khirqah) from Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Bata’ihi, the companion of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir.[19] He remained in the company of Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Yunini and learned fiqh from Shaykh al-Muwaffaq[20] and excelled in the al-khatt al-mansub style of calligraphy. He heard from Abu Tahir al-Khashu‘i, Abu al-Tamam al-Qalansi, Hanbal al-Rasafi, Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani, Abu al-Yaman al-Kindi and others …

His father was a marble-cutter in Baalbek[21] and then in Damascus. He died and the faqih grew up as an orphan in Kishk with his mother who handed him over to an arrow-maker. He then memorised the Qur’an and excelled in calligraphy. He then memorised al-Humaydi’s Al-Jam‘ bayn al-Sahihayn in its entirety. Hafiz ‘Umar ibn al-Hajib has mentioned him, and exerted himself in describing him, went to great lengths, and wrote in an extraordinary fashion and intelligibly, “He remained preoccupied with fiqh and hadith until he became an imam and a hafiz … his like in perfection, proficiency and gathering the two sciences of Shari‘ah and Haqiqah was not seen in his era. He was of excellent character and appearance, someone who was of benefit to people and a rejecter of affectation. Among that which he had memorised was al-Humaydi’s Al-Jam‘ bayn al-Sahihayn. He told me that he had memorised the complete Sahih Muslim and repeated it over four months. He would repeat the majority of Musnad Ahmad from memory and would memorise over seventy hadiths in one sitting.”

His son Qutub al-Din said, “He memorised al-Humaydi’s Al-Jam‘ bayn al-Sahihayn, and memorised Sahih Muslim in four months. He memorised Surah al-An‘am in a day and three odes from Maqamat al-Hariri in a portion of a day. Al-Ashraf[22] used to respect him and venerate him, and likewise his brother al-Salih.[23] Towards the latter part of his life he came to Damascus and al-Nasir Yusuf[24] came to see him at Zawiyah Faranthiyyah[25] and allowed himself to be guided by him.”

The shaykh and the faqih was a person of great worth and is remembered for many miracles and [attaining] spiritual states (ahwal). The people of Baalbek would listen to him reciting upon those shaykhs who would visit them such as al-Qazwini, al-Baha al-Maqdisi and Ibn Rawahah al-Humawi. I have mentioned details about him and his companions in Tarikh al-Islam.

He died on 19 Ramadan in 658AH.

15. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 4, p.1356):

Al-Shirazi — the imam, the hafiz, the abundant traveller Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf ibn Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Sufi, he who benefited Baghdad, the shaykh of the Sufis at the Ribat al-Arjuwaniyyah[26] and author of Al-Arba‘in al-Baladiyyah … He wrote Al-Arba‘in in an excellent manner and was distinguished for his memory. He undertook some far journeys and was honest and reliable. Abu al-Mawahib, the hafiz, has written from him. Ibn al-Dubaythi said he was reliable. He was eloquent and sharp in response. He gained nearness to the state and he went as a messenger on behalf of the khalifah to other lands; his rank raised and his wealth increased. He narrated a small portion, which we have permission to narrate.

He died in Ramadan 585AH middle-aged at the beginning of old age.

16. Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (part 3, p.1183):

And it is here that the Kitab al-Tadhkirah brings us. There may be among those whom we have not included, due to neglect or forgetfulness, some who are — in knowledge and memory — of the calibre of those who have been mentioned. I had compiled a biographical dictionary focusing on those of my shaykhs and colleagues who sought this (the science of hadith). I even included those who have contributed the least work and wrote about them.

Al-Dhahabi then mentions only his shaykhs from among these individuals. We shall mention only three of the author’s shaykhs here because of their connection to the subject matter. Al-Dhahabi (may Allah mercy him) writes:

2 – I remained close (lazimtu) to the shaykh, the imam, the hadith expert, he who benefited the group Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Mas‘ud ibn Nafis al-Musali.[27] I heard from him a large amount. He was devout, good, a Sufi (mutasawwif) and someone who abstained from what is unlawful. He read that which cannot be described due to it being so much. He acquired many original manuscripts; he would remain hungry and purchase them. He heard in Egypt and the Levant and lived for seventy years. He died in 704AH. Half a volume that he heard from Abu al-Qasim ibn Rawahah came to light.

3 – I heard from he who benefited students, the hadith expert, the imam, he who was precise, the lexicographer, Safi al-Din Mahmud ibn Abu Bakr al-Armawi, then al-Qurafi al-Sufi. He read much upon the shaykhs. He was eloquent and erudite. He wrote a lot and focused on this matter (hadith). He excelled in Arabic and authored [books]. He narrated to us from Najib al-Harani and Kamal ibn ‘Abd. He died [at the age of] over seventy in 723AH. May Allah Most High mercy him.

24 – I heard from the imam, the unique and perfect hadith expert Fakhr al-Islam Sadr al-Din Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn al-Mu’ayyid ibn Hamweyh al-Khurasani al-Jawini, the shaykh of the Sufis. He came to us seeking hadith and related to us from two of the companions of al-Mu’ayyid al-Tusi. He was extremely careful in narrating and collecting volumes; he was of beautiful voice in recitation, handsome, awe inspiring, devout and pious. Ghazan al-Malik[28] accepted Islam at his hand.

He died in 722AH at the age of 78 years. May Allah Most High mercy him.

We have sufficed here by only quoting what Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi has mentioned in his excellent book Tadhkirat al-Huffaz so that it may be known that the senior hafizs of the noble hadiths also included many shaykhs of Tasawwuf. Whatever the situation may be, these individuals had shaykhs and students, and criticising them would lead to criticising their shaykhs and students from among the hafizs of hadiths and masters of the Prophet’s Sunnah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

I have also noted that the likes of Hafiz al-Dhahabi also had a number of shaykhs from the Sufis. In fact, he has not mentioned regarding any of them that he “remained in his company” (lazimahu) but also said that the person was “devout, good, a Sufi (mutasawwif) and upright.”

Likewise, it can be noted how he mentions the Sufi shaykhs: “These are only some examples which we have presented here. The majority of his books are full of the likes of that which we have mentioned.” You can see his pen flowing in mentioning their outstanding virtues and remarkable miracles, and in extolling admiration and praise for them.

You can also notice from his words and literary style that he is a man who has deep love and affection for the Community. His example is that of the majority of the ‘ulama of Islam in regards to this.

This is also what you will notice with regards to Imam ‘Imad al-Din Ibn Kathir,[29] may Allah — through his favour and grace — mercy them all, be pleased with them, benefit us and the Muslims with their knowledge, and enlighten all our hearts with the nur of iman and ma‘rifah, for indeed He Most High is kind and generous.

Previous sections:

Sufism and the Imams of the Salafi Movement: Introduction
Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Sufism
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part One
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part Two

_____________________________

  1. Jurjan is situated east of the Caspian Sea in modern-day Iran (translator). []
  2. These three are from the imams of Tasawwuf and the Sufi shaykhs (may Allah mercy them). []
  3. The first and second Ghundar were mentioned before. []
  4. The great imam who is considered to be among the leaders of the great Sufi shaykhs; he was among the teachers of Imam al-Bukhari and others. []
  5. He is the shaykh of many shaykhs and from among the leaders of the great Sufi shaykhs (may Allah mercy them). []
  6. Marw or Marw al-Shahidjan (also presently known as Merv) was a city on the north-eastern fringes of Persia. In medieval Islamic times, it was in the province of Khurasan. The city, now in ruins, falls within Turkmenistan and is a UNESCO World Heritage site (translator). []
  7. The town of Tabaran along with the neighbouring town of Nuqan made up Tus, a city of Khurasan that is located close to Mashhad in Iran today. Tus was a bustling and prestigious city until its ruin at the hands of the Mongols in 1220CE (translator). []
  8. The great Sufi imam (may Allah mercy him). []
  9. Masanid are those hadiths that have been compiled according to their complete chains (translator). []
  10. Al-Qayrawan is also known as Kairouan and is situated in Tunisia. It was founded around 670CE and was an important centre of Islamic learning (translator). []
  11. Al-Yasiriyyah was said to be a large village around six kilometres from Baghdad (translator). []
  12. The hadith al-mighfar (or hadith regarding the helmet) is the one describing the Conquest of Makkah when the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) entered Makkah wearing a helmet with a black turban tied around it (translator). []
  13. He is Hafiz Abu Tahir al-Silafi who wrote a biography of Hafiz Abu Nu‘aym (translator). []
  14. Manbij is an ancient city in what is northern Syria today (translator). []
  15. Al-Madrasah al-Bayhaqiyyah was in Nisapur, Khurasan. Imam al-Ghazzali also studied there (translator). []
  16. The Ahl al-Ittihad (or People of Union) was a group of heretical Sufis who believed in the doctrine of ittihad (or union with Allah) (translator). []
  17. A khanqah is a building designed specifically for Sufi gatherings. It is a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation. The word is from Persian and is synonymous with the Arabic words zawiyah or ribat (translator). []
  18. Younine is a village in the Baalbek region of modern day Lebanon (translator). []
  19. He is the devout imam and qutub Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani to whom all of the Qadri silsilahs return to. []
  20. Shaykh al-Muwaffaq was none other than Imam Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, the reputed scholar of the Hanbali madhhab and author of al-Mughni, a popular treatise in Hanbali fiqh. He was born in Palestine in 541AH and died in Damascus (translator). []
  21. Baalbek is also a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon (translator). []
  22. Al-Ashraf Musa Abu al-Fath al-Muzaffar al-Din (d. 1237CE) was a ruler of the Ayyubid dynasty (translator). []
  23. Imad al-Din al-Malik as-Salih Isma‘il ibn Sayf al-Din Ahmad was the Ayyubid ruler based in Damascus in 1237CE and then in 1239-45CE. He succeeded his brother al-Ashraf (translator). []
  24. Al-Malik al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf (d.1260CE) was the last of the Ayyubid rulers and a great grandson of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (translator). []
  25. Zawiyah Faranthiyyah, built in 621AH at the foot of Mount Qassioun, is attributed to Shaykh ‘Ali al-Faranthi (translator). []
  26. A ribat, in this context, is a building designed specifically for Sufi gatherings. It is a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation. It is synonymous with the words zawiyah and khanqah (translator). []
  27. This is the only shaykh from the shaykhs of Hafiz al-Dhahabi regarding whom he has mentioned that he remained close to him (lazimahu). As to the rest of the shaykhs, he mentions that he only heard from them. []
  28. Mahmud Ghazan (1271CE–1304CE) was the seventh ruler of the Mongol Empire‘s Ilkhanate division in modern-day Iran from 1295CE to 1304CE. He was the son of Arghun and Quthluq Khatun, continuing a line of rulers who were direct descendants of Gehengis Khan. He converted to Islam in 1295CE (translator). []
  29. The next chapter is dedicated to Imam Ibn Kathir (translator). []

1 Comment

Comments are closed.