Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Sufism (Part Two)

Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda

(Translator’s foreword: Below is the second part (read part one) of the fifth 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 a series of excerpts from the writings of Imam Hafiz Abu al-Faraj ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Shihab Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali that demonstrate the positive manner by which the shaykh regarded Sufism and the Sufis. All of the excerpts in this section are from Hafiz Ibn Rajab’s Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah.)

11) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah[1] (part 2, p. 304):

 ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi al-Jamma‘ili (in terms of origin) al-Salihi,[2] the jurist, the ascetic, the orator, the chief justice, the shaykh al-Islam, the light of the faith (shams al-din), Abu Muhammad, Abu al-Faraj ibn Shaykh Abu ‘Umar…

 He was revered by the elite and lay masses; he commanded great awe among kings and others; he was a man of many virtues and good qualities, and was firm in piety and abstinence from that which is unlawful. The hadith scholar Isma‘il ibn al-Khabbaz has compiled his biography and information about him in one hundred and fifty chapters and done well. Whenever he has praised him in relation to fiqh or asceticism or humility he has supported that which he has cited with long and strong chains of narrations…

 Al-Dhahabi writes in his index of his shaykhs in the biography of shams al-din: “The shaykh of the Hanbalis, rather the shaykh al-Islam, the jurist of the Levant, the model of worship and the unique individual of his age. He on whose praise and tribute tongues are united. He narrated [hadith] for around over sixty years and Abu al-Fath ibn al-Hajib wrote from him…”

 Al-Dhahabi wrote: “Shaykh Muhy al-Din—i.e. al-Nawawi—said: ‘He was the greatest of my shaykhs…’ I say: Shaykh Muhy al-Din has narrated from him in the book Al-Rukhsah fi al-Qiyam and written: ‘The shaykh, the imam, the ‘alim, he whose imamat, excellence and greatness was agreed upon, the faqih, Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman, the son of the shaykh, the imam, the ‘alim, he who acted on knowledge, the ascetic, Abu ‘Umar al-Maqdisi—may Allah be pleased with him.’”

 Al-Dhahabi wrote: “Shaykh Zayn al-Din Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Da’im has also narrated from him, and he was greater than him and of greater sanad than he.” He has also mentioned him in his Tarikh [al-Islam] al-Kabir and lengthened his biography and mentioned his virtues, worship, litanies (awrad), kindness, his widespread benefit and that he performed the Hajj thrice. On the final occasion he saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a dream asking for him and so he performed the Hajj that year. He attended a number of conquests. He was of tender heart, one who would cry easily, noble in spirit, one who would constantly remain in the dhikr of Allah and spend the night standing, one who safeguarded the prayer offered after the rising of the sun (duha) and would read between the two night prayers (Maghrib and ‘Isha) whatever he could. He would give away the gifts he would receive from kings etc. He was humble in front of the masses and would hold himself up in front of kings. His gathering was full of jurists, the hadith scholars and the people of religion. Allah placed his love in the hearts of the creation; there was none in his age who would offer salah more beautifully than he and nor with such perfect humility (khushu‘). He would supplicate a lot and would do so earnestly, especially at those places where it is hoped prayers are answered and after reciting the verses of Al-Hirs[3] in the jami‘ masjid after the ‘Isha prayer. He was meticulous in looking after the concerns of people. He would not learn of an ill person but would visit, nor would anyone from the mountain pass away but he would follow [the bier]…”

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Al-Birzali writes in his [book] Tarikh: “The shaykh was the shaykh of his time, the blessing of the age. He took charge of the judiciary, the delivering of sermons, the leadership position (mashikha) and lecturing for a lengthy period…”

 Al-Yunini[4] has written in his history: “He was the shaykh al-Islam in knowledge, asceticism, piety, abstinence from that which is unlawful and trustworthiness. He was of great worth and immense qualities… he was unique in his era in the number of excellent qualities and alone in praiseworthy traits. There was none on his par in terms of his manners, spiritual exercises and that on which he was. Many people benefitted from him. He was on the way of the pious predecessors in the majority of his ways.

 “Many people studied under the shaykh, may Allah have mercy on him. Among those who took knowledge from him was Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and Shaykh Majd al-Din Isma‘il ibn Muhammad al-Harrani who used to say: ‘I have not seen with my eyes the like of him…’”

 Al-Dhahabi said: “And I saw[5] the demise of Shaykh Shams al-Din ibn Abu ‘Umar in a letter from our shaykh, Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyyah. Among that which he wrote was this: ‘Our shaykh, the imam, the master of the people of Islam in his era, the qutub of the realm of mankind (falak al-anam) in his age, he who was unique absolutely and absolutely, unequalled in excellence in that period truly and truly, a possessor of an array of excellent traits, free and clear from all shortcomings and faults, and one who gathered the attributes of knowledge and forbearance, virtuous deeds and noble lineage, intelligence and erudition, external looks and internal excellent manners. He was of pure manners and praiseworthy actions while keeping the heart and disposition free from rancour, gentleness, softness, pious intentions and pure thoughts so much that if an obstinate person were to seek a fault then this would be difficult for him…’ He continued: ‘Eyes completely wept over him, and his loss affected all groups and denominations. Which tear was it that did not flow? Which limb was it that was not severed? Which excellent trait was it that has not been lost? Oh! He was of such matters, how great were they? He was of such a time, how valuable was it? His [demise] is a calamity, how terrible it is it?’ He has mentioned him a lot…”

12) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 329):

Ibrahim ibn ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Fadl al-Wasitiy al-Salihi, the jurist, the ascetic, the worshipper, the shaykh al-Islam, the blessing of the Levant, the qutub of the age, Taqi al-Din, Abu Ishaq…

 Al-Dhahabi said: “I have read regarding him in the writings of ‘Allamah Kamal al-Din ibn al-Zamalkani: ‘He was of great ranking, made an impression on hearts, was sublime and held fast to worship night and day. He would do that which would render others incapable. He would go to great lengths to forbid the wrong and would sell himself in that…’”

 Al-Birzali said: “He was unique in his lofty chain of narration (isnad) and vast number of narrations and forms of worship. His like has not been born.”

 13) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 351):

 ‘Ali ibn Mas‘ud ibn Nafis ibn ‘Abdullah al-Musili, then al-Halabi, the Sufi, the hadith scholar, the hafiz of hadith, the ascetic, Abu al-Hasan, he who was resident in Damascus… he focused totally on hadith and his recitation [of the Quran] was mufassarah[6] and beautiful. He extracted principles (usul of fiqh) and would go hungry and buy books. He was chaste and would suffice on pieces of bread as a result of which he became ill-tempered along with being god fearing and pious. He was a jurist according to the madhhab of [Imam] Ahmad from which he would cite. He gave his books and manuscripts away as an endowment. Al-Dhahabi and a group of individuals narrated and heard hadith from him.

 He died in Safar in 704 AH at the small hospital in Damascus. He was taken to the foot of Mount Qasioun and was buried there in front of the zawiyah of Ibn Qawwam. Shaykh Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and a group of individuals followed his funeral, may Allah Most High have mercy on him.

 14) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 353):

Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn Abu al-Qasim al-Baghdadi, the reciter of the Quran (al-muqri), the hadith scholar, the Sufi, the writer, Rashid al-Din, Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Abu al-Qasim… he focused on hadith and heard the major books and various chapters. He wrote by hand various chapters, plates and many lengthy books. His writing was extremely beautiful and he compiled for himself a group of weak suba‘iyyat[7] from Khirash and others. He was an ‘alim and pious, and from among the best of the people of Baghdad and their noteworthy people. He was a man of gentleness, ease and excellent manners, and from among the people of ranking and equity. He took charge of the Ribat al-Ajwaniyyah on the Darb Zakhi road in Baghdad and also the Dar al-Hadith al-Mustansiriyyah. He wore the mantle of Tasawwuf from the al-Suhrawardis. He narrated much. A large group of people from Baghdad and [other] visitors [to the city] heard [hadith] from him. Lofty chains of narration (isnad) were his and we heard from a group of his companions in Baghdad and Damascus…

 15) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 382):

 ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Halim ibn ‘Abd al-Salam ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Abu al-Qasim ibn al-Khadir ibn Muhammad ibn Taymiyyah al-Harrani, then al-Dimashqi, the jurist, the imam, the ascetic, the worshipper, the exemplar, he who was skilled in various branches of learning, Sharf al-Din, Abu Muhammad, the brother of Shaykh Taqi al-Din… He was a man of truth and sincerity, someone who would suffice on a little; he was of noble temperament, brave and bold, a mujahid, ascetic (zahid), a worshipper and god fearing. He would leave his house at night and return at night. He would never sit at a fixed place that people may head there to meet him. Rather, he would lodge in abandoned mosques outside the town where he would withdraw for prayer and dhikr. He was one who would remain in worship, devotion, meditation and the fear of Allah Most High a lot. He was a man of miracles and kashf.

 Among that which is renowned regarding him is that he would give a lot of sadaqah and, in spite of his poverty and lack of means, give preference to others in giving away gold and silver while at home and when travelling. [Once] his companion in his caravan searched his saddlebag and found nothing. He then saw him giving away huge amounts of gold. This is something famous and well known regarding him. He performed Hajj a number of times…

 Al-Dhahabi has mentioned him in Al-Mu‘jam al-Mukhtas: “He knew a lot of the defects (‘ilal) in hadiths and their narrators. He was an eloquent writer and was a scholar of Arabic…”

 He has also mentioned him in his Mu‘jam al-Shuyukh: “He was an imam, erudite, a jurist, a knower of the madhhab, its principles (usul) and the principles of religiosity. He also knew the finer points of Arabic, the laws of inheritance, maths and astronomy… his colloquies were excellent; he was humble, a person of great worship and goodness, a possessor of great truth, sincerity, focus and knowledge of Allah (‘irfan); he would totally separate himself from people and would suffice with simple clothes.”

 He—may Allah Most High have mercy on him—passed away on Wednesday, 14 Jumada al-Ula, 727 ah, in Damascus. He was prayed over in the afternoon at the jami‘ [masjid]. He was carried to the gate of the citadel and was prayed over there again once more. His brother, Shaykh Taqi al-Din and Zayn al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman—who were imprisoned in the citadel—prayed over him along with a group of people who were with them inside the citadel. The takbir reached them. Weeping intensified at that moment; it was a time to be seen. He was prayed over a third and a fourth time and was carried on heads and fingers to the Maqabir al-Sufiyyah (The Sufi Cemetery) and buried there.  A great number of people attended his funeral; he was immensely praised and mourned—may Allah have mercy on him.

 16) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 349):

Ibrahim ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Karim al-Raqqi,[8] the ascetic, the scholar (‘alim), the exemplar, the man of Allah (rabbani), Abu Ishaq…

 Al-Dhahabi said: “He was an imam, an ascetic, a knower of Allah, an exemplar and the master of the people of his era. He wrote many books on exhortation (wa‘z), the path to Allah Most High, hadith and sermons. He also has an excellent poem. He is a man worthy that one travels distances to meet him. In his words there was consensus (ijma‘). He would at times attend gatherings of sama‘ and enter into wajd. He had a close connection with Sulayman al-Kallab—he was a man who would mix with dogs and would not pray. He was wrong in this but was an expert in many sciences. Our Shaykh Kamal al-Din—i.e. ibn al-Zamalkani—has written regarding him in detail and written his biography well.

 17) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 338):

‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Abu al-Qasim ibn ‘Uthman ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Babasri, the jurist, the excellent writer, the Sufi, ‘Izz al-Din, Abu Muhammad, he who is resident in Damascus… Al-Dhahabi said: “He lived in Damascus and resided at the khanqah. He was a jurist, a scholar and pious.” He wrote in his book on history: “He was a scholar of fiqh, expert in literature and poetry and the battles of the Arabs prior to Islam (ayyam al-nas). His eyesight became weak and he sought from the group that they listen from him that he may acquire the blessings (barakah) of hadith.”

 18) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 282):

‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Sa‘d ibn Waddah al-Sharabani, then al-Baghdadi, the jurist, the hadith scholar, the ascetic, the writer, Kamal al-Din, Abu al-Hasan ibn Abu Bakr… He heard hadith from the shaykh, the knower of Allah (‘arif) ‘Ali ibn Idris al-Ya‘qubi and from him donned the khirqah. He benefitted from him and heard hadith in Irbil and other places…

He was one of those who narrated a lot; he heard a lot from the major books and other smaller ones, this was through his own reading and the reading of others. He undertook takhrij [of hadith] and authored a number of books…

The shaykh narrated a lot and a group of people narrated from him. Ibn Husayn al-Fakhri and Hafiz al-Dimyati in his Mu‘jam have narrated from him…

 Our Shaykh Safi al-Din said: “His funeral was one of the famous funerals. A vast number of innumerable people gathered for it. The markets were shut that day. His coffin was tied with ropes and people carried him on their hands. He was prayed over at the place where clay pots are kept [in Baghdad]. He was buried close to the grave of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, at his feet.

 19) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 284):

‘Ali ibn ‘Uthman ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn al-Wujuhi al-Baghdadi, the reciter [of the Quran], the Sufi, the ascetic, Shams al-Din Abu al-Hasan. He was one of the notable people of Baghdad in his era.

He was born in Dhu al-Hijjah, 582 ah, and read hadith in the presence of al-Fakhr al-Musili, the companion of Ibn Sa‘dun al-Qurtubi. He heard hadith from Ibn Ruzabah, al-Suhrawardi and others. He was an expert of the Quran, confirmed as an accurate transmitter [of hadith], devout, good and pious…

More than one person has informed me from Zahir ibn al-Kazruni that he said that Shaykh Rashid al-Din ibn Abu al-Qasim narrated to me that ‘Adl Muhibb al-Din Musaddiq narrated to him: “I saw Ibn al-Wujuhi after his demise. I asked him: ‘What did Allah do with you?’ He replied: ‘They (the two angels in the grave) came to me, sat me up and questioned me. I said, is this being said to the likes of Ibn al-Wujuhi? They then laid me to rest and left.’” May Allah have mercy on him.

20) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 280):

Yusuf ibn ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn al-Baqqal al-Baghdadi al-Sufi, ‘Afif al-Din, Abu al-Hajjaj, the shaykh of the ribat of al-Marzubaniyyah. He was pious, a scholar, god fearing and an ascetic. He has many books on suluk, including Suluk al-Khawas… He gave ijazah to our Shaykh ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd al-Samad al-Baghdadi…

21) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 277):

Abu al-Qasim ibn Yusuf ibn Abu al-Qasim ibn ‘Abd al-Salam al-Umawi al-Hawwari, the Sufi, the ascetic, he who was famous—the one at the zawiyah in Hawwara.[9] He was good, pious, and had many followers, companions and murids in many of the villages of Hawran[10] in Jubail[11] and al-Thabniyyah. He would not attend a [gathering of] sama‘ where there would be a drum.

22) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 263):

Among those who were killed that year in Baghdad from our pious companions was the shaykh, the ascetic, the worshipper, Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Sulayman ibn Abu al-‘Izz al-Khabbaz (the Bread Maker). He was an ascetic, pious, of great worth, an exemplar and had many followers and murids. He had a zawiyah in Baghdad, and was of many spiritual states (hal) and miracles.

Al-Dhahabi said: “Our Shaykh al-Dubahi would describe and praise him. He had also heard from Shaykh ‘Ali ibn Abu Bakr ibn Idris al-Ba‘qubi the ascetic and narrated from him.” Al-Dimyati heard from him and narrated from him in his Mu‘jam. He also said: “He was martyred during the Tatar onslaught in the month of Muharram, 656 ah.” It was said that he was left on a dunghill at the door of his zawiyah for three days until dogs ate from his flesh. He had also informed regarding this in his life—may Allah be pleased with him. Mustansir Billah would visit him; he would send Shaykh Muhammad al-Rikab home and he would bring bread with which Al-Mustansir Billah would seek cure…

23) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 262):

Yahya ibn Yusuf ibn Yahya ibn Mansur ibn al-Mu‘ammar ibn ‘Abd al-Salam al-Ansari al-Sarsari al-Zariraniy, he who was strong spirited, the jurist, the expert in literature, the lexicologist, the poet, the ascetic, Jamal al-Din Abu Zakariyya, the poet of the age and the author of the diwan in praise of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) which received widespread acceptance among people. He was the Hassan [ibn Thabit] of his age. He was born in the year 588 ah and recited the Quran according to the various narrations under the companions of Ibn ‘Asakir al-Bata’ihi. He heard hadith from Shaykh ‘Ali ibn Idris al-Ba‘qubi, the ascetic, the companion of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir, remained with him, carried out suluk with him, and donned the khirqah from him. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Mughith al-Harbi and others granted him ijazah. He memorised fiqh and language well. It is said that he memorised the entire Sihah al-Jawhari

He was pious, an exemplar, someone who strove immensely hard, one who recited the Quran a lot, chaste, patient, content with little, and a lover of the way of the fuqara and associating with them. He would attend [gatherings of] sama‘ with them and would give permission for that. He was firm on the Sunnah and would turn away from those who opposed it. His poems are full of principles of the Sunnah, praise of those who adhere to it and censure for those who oppose it. He also has a very long ode that rhymes in [the Arabic letter] lam in praise of Imam Ahmad and his companions… He once saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in his dream and he gave him the glad tidings of death on the Sunnah. He composed a famous and long poem regarding this. And it happened so.

24) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 151):

Muhammad ibn al-Khadir ibn Muhammad ibn al-Khadir ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Taymiyyah al-Harrani, the jurist, the exegete (mufassir), the orator (khatib), the lecturer (wa‘iz), Fakhr al-Din Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Abu al-Qasim, the shaykh of Harran and its orator.

He was born at the end of Sha‘ban in the year 542 ah in Harran and read the Quran under his father when he was ten years old. His father was an ascetic and was considered among the abdal. He became preoccupied with knowledge at a young age…

Shaykh Fakhr al-Din was a pious man; many miracles and extraordinary matters (khawariq) have been mentioned regarding him. He was in charge of delivering sermons and leading prayers (imamat) at the jami‘ [masjid] of Harran and teaching at the Madrasah al-Nuriyyah there. He also built a madrasah in Harran.

Al-Nasih ibn al-Hanbali said: “The leadership of Harran was with him. He was responsible for the Friday sermon, leading prayers at the jami‘ and teaching at the Madrasah al-Nuriyyah. He was the city’s orator, and was accepted by its lay masses and was of standing among its kings. Among his pursuits was tafsir and delivering lectures in an obvious and pious way.

 25) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p.5):

‘Abd al-Ghani ibn ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Ali ibn Surur ibn Rafi‘ ibn Hasan ibn Ja‘far al-Jamma‘ili al-Maqdisi, the hafiz, the ascetic, Abu Muhammad. He was given the title Taqi al-Din, he was the hafiz [of hadith] of that age and its hadith scholar (muhaddith)…

He then travelled to Baghdad in the year 561 ah along with Shaykh al-Muwaffaq. They remained in Baghdad for four years. Al-Muwaffaq’s inclination was to fiqh and Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani’s inclination was to hadith. They stayed with Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir[12] who would give them due consideration and was good to them. They both studied some hadith and fiqh under him. Shaykh al-Muwaffaq narrated that they both remained with him for around forty days and that he then died. They would read to him each day two lessons in fiqh. He (Shaykh al-Muwaffaq) would read from [Mukhtasar] al-Khiraqi from memory and Hafiz would read from the book Al-Hidayah…

Hafiz Diya al-Din has gathered the excellence of the Hafiz and his biography in two volumes. He has mentioned in there that the jurist, Makki ibn ‘Umar ibn Ni‘mah al-Misri has also collated his virtues. Hafiz al-Diya said: “Our shaykh, the Hafiz, was such that one would hardly question him regarding a hadith, but he would mention and explain it. He would mention its veracity and weakness. He would not be asked regarding an individual except he would say: ‘He is such a person, son of such a person, and then his title.’ He would then mention his lineage.”

I say that Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi was the commander of the faithful (amir al-muminin) in hadith…

He (Hafiz al-Diya) said: “He—may Allah have mercy on him—used to read hadith on Fridays after the prayer at the jami‘ [masjid] of Damascus and also on Thursday nights at the jami‘. A vast number of people used to gather. He used to read and cry and make the people cry also. Such was the case that whoever attended his gathering once would never miss again because of how much his heart would feel pleasant and the delight he would feel. He would supplicate (du‘a) a lot thereafter…

Al-Diya said: “I heard the imam, the ascetic, Ibrahim ibn Mahmud ibn Jawhar al-Ba‘li say he heard ‘Imad—the brother of the Hafiz—say: ‘I have not seen anyone more careful with his time than Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani.’”

Al-Diya said: “Our shaykh, the Hafiz—may Allah have mercy on him—would never unnecessary waste any of his time. He would offer the Fajr prayer and teach the people the Quran and I would at times read some hadith. We memorised from him the large quantities of hadiths that we received. He would then stand, perform wudu and offer three hundred rak‘ah reciting the [Surah] al-Fatiha and the al-Mu‘awwidhatayn[13] until before the time of Zuhr. He would then sleep a little until the time of Zuhr. He would preoccupy himself with either listening to hadith or transcribing texts until Maghrib. If he was fasting then he would break fast after Maghrib and if he was not then he would pray salah from Maghrib until ‘Isha. Once he had prayed the ‘Isha prayer, he would sleep until the middle of the night or after. He would then awaken as if a person had awoken him, perform wudu and pray salah for a while. He would then perform wudu and pray likewise. He would then perform wudu and pray close to Fajr… he would then sleep a little until Fajr and this was his habit…”

… Al-Diya said: “Allah had placed awe for him in the hearts of people…” He (Abu Muhammad Fada’il ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Suru al-Maqdisi) also said: “I know none from the Ahl al-Sunnah who saw Hafiz except he would love him a great deal and praise him immensely.”

I heard Abu al-Thana Mahmud ibn Salamah al-Harrani in Isfahan say: “In Isfahan, people stood in rows looking at Hafiz.” I also heard him say: “If Hafiz was to take up residence in Isfahan for a time and intended to rule it, then he would do so, i.e. due to their love for him and eagerness for him. When he finally reached Egypt then we were there. When he would leave for the jami‘ [masjid] on Friday then we would be unable to walk along with him due to the large number of people who would gain blessing (tabarruk) from him and gather around him.”

… I heard Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Ibrahim al-Maqdisi say: “I asked Hafiz that miracles are narrated from these shaykhs that are not narrated from the ‘ulama. What is the reason behind this? He replied: ‘The preoccupation of the ‘ulama with knowledge is [equal to] many miracles.’ Or he said: ‘Do you wish for the ‘ulama a miracle greater than their preoccupation with knowledge?’ The Hafiz carried out many miracles.”

Al-Diya said: “I heard Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ali al-‘Iraqi who said that Abu Muhammad ibn Abu ‘Abdullah al-Dimyati narrated to me that: ‘I hired a ship and then saw it was faulty and became upset. I mentioned this to the Hafiz who wrote me a letter and said: “Leave it inside. When you finish your journey and have left it, then take the letter and do not leave it inside.” I went along and hung it in the ship and went off in our journey. Once we had alighted from it and had disembarked our fabric and there was nothing left inside, I remembered the letter and so I took it. At that moment, water entered the ship and it sunk.’”

… I heard Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar al-Muqri say: “My family had a pair of clothes that belonged to the Hafiz which they had stored [to place in the shroud] at death and a blanket that belonged to his mother. All the clothes that were in our house were stolen and my family searched for the clothes [belonging to Hafiz] and the blanket and did not find them. They became sorrowful at this. After some time, they found them in a chest. They had searched for them before and had not found them.”

Al-Diya said: “A group and I were listening [to hadith] in the presence of the Hafiz at the place of prayer in our mountain in the height of summer. He said: ‘Let us leave this heat and head for the masjid.’ We intended to stand and perhaps some of us had stood up, when all of a sudden there was a cloud that had covered the sun. He then said: ‘Sit.’ I saw some of our companions looking at one another and quietly saying among each other that this is a miracle. They said: ‘A cloud couldn’t be seen in the sky.’” Al-Diya has mentioned many of these types of stories. He also said: “I heard the Hafiz say: ‘I saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a dream walking and I was treading behind him, except there was someone between me and him.’”

… [Al-Diya] said: “I heard Hafiz Abu Musa, the son of the Hafiz, say: ‘I was with my father and he was mentioning the virtues of Sufyan al-Thawri when I said to myself, surely my father is like him. He turned to me and said: “Where are we compared to them.”’

“I also heard Abu Musa speaking about a man from Dimyat[14] who said: ‘I was with the Hafiz one day and said to myself: I wish if the Hafiz would give me some clothes that have touched his body so that I may be shrouded (kafn) in them. When I prepared to stand, he said: “Do not leave.” When the group had left, he took off the clothes that had touched his body and gave them to me. The clothes stayed with us and anyone who was ill or his head hurt, they would leave them on him and he would be cured with the permission of Allah Most High.’

“I also heard Abu al-Rida Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Ibrahim al-Maqdisi say: ‘It occurred to me that I ask the Hafiz something regarding the Companions of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). I went to him and found a group of people by him and became shy to ask and sat. He then mentioned that which I wanted to ask and clarified it.’

 “I heard Abu ‘Ali Faris ibn ‘Uthman ibn ‘Abdullah al-Dimashqi mention regarding a person who narrated from another who said: ‘We left as a group heading for the mountain and sat by a river. One of us said: “We wish if the Hafiz would come and he had with him a volume from which he could read us some hadiths.” Another said: “If he came along with a sweet dish.” We did not wait long when the Hafiz came. One of us said: “Have you brought anything with you from which you could read to us?” He then took out a book from his sleeve and said: “I have brought a book and a sweet dish.”’

“I heard Hafiz Abu Musa say: ‘My mother said to me: “One day we presented your father with the food prepared by such a person—a person who she named—and the Hafiz did not like to eat his food. He took a morsel, raised it to his mouth and then looked at it and said this is from such a person, take it away. He did not eat anything from it.”’”

Al-Diya said: “I asked my maternal aunt, Rabi‘ah bint Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudama –the Hafiz’s wife—regarding this story and she narrated it to me.”

Al-Diya said: “I heard Abu Musa say: ‘My father advised me at the time of his death: “Do not waste this knowledge (hadith) for which we have toiled hard.” I asked: Will you not will anything? He said: “No one owes me ought and I owe no one.” I said: Advise me something. He said: “My son, I advise you to fear Allah (taqwa) and to firmly obey Him.” A group of people then came to visit him and made salam with him. He responded and they began speaking. He then opened his eyes and said: “What is this talk? Make dhikr of Allah Most High. Say La ilaha illallah.” They said this and then stood up. He then began doing the dhikr of Allah and moving his lips with his dhikr and indicating with his eyes. Then entered a man, made salam and said: “Do you not know me, oh my master?” He responded saying: “Why not?” I then stood to fetch him a book from the mosque. When I returned his soul had departed. That was Monday, 23 Rabi‘ al-Awwal, 600 AH. That night his body remained in the masjid and many people from among the imams and rulers whose numbers only Allah Most High could enumerate gathered the next day. We buried him on the Wednesday at Al-Qarafah[15] opposite the grave of Shaykh Abu ‘Amr ibn Marzuq at the place that his attendant, ‘Abd al-Mun‘im, mentioned that he used to visit and where he would cry till the pebbles became wet. He would say: “My heart finds rest in this place.” May Allah have mercy on him, may He be pleased with him and may He join him with our Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).

… Al-Diya said: “I heard Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Mahmud al-Ba‘li say: ‘A group of traders came to Shaykh ‘Imad and I was with him. They spoke about the light (nur) that they saw on the grave of Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani each night or each Friday night.’”

… He (al-Diya) said: “I heard Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hasan ibn ‘Abdullah al-Kurdi in Harran say: ‘I saw the Hafiz in a dream and said to him: Oh my master, have you not died? He replied that surely Allah Most High allowed me to continue my portion of salah.’”

… al-Diya has mentioned many of his other dreams during his life and thereafter, may Allah be pleased with him. Many people heard hadith from Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani and he narrated hadith in the majority of lands that he entered like Baghdad, Damascus, Egypt, Dimyat and Isfahan. He narrated hadith in Alexanderia in the year 570 AH. Many people narrated hadith from him, including…

He was asked regarding the person who has experienced an increase in his spiritual states (hal) and then sees a deficiency. He replied: “As to this issue, it is required of the answerer to be from among the people of spiritual states (hal) and people of dealings (mu‘amlah); I tell Allah of my weakness and laxity regarding this matter and its like from the matters of good.[16] I say—and accordance is with Allah—surely he who Allah grants goodness in actions (‘amal), an enlightened (nur) heart and praiseworthy spiritual states (hal) in one’s limbs and body, then let him praise Allah for that, and strive to completely fetter it [from escaping], praise Allah for it and to be on guard that it disappears due to slipping or stumbling. He who has lost it, then let him try greatly in recovering it and take refuge in repentance, solitude and sorrow at what he has lost, imploring his Lord and showing eagerness to Him that the state returns to him. If it returns, then it does, otherwise he will—insha Allah—receive its reward and virtue.”

He was asked once more regarding this and answered: “As to losing that which we experience in sweetness and pleasure, then this is not proof of non-acceptance [of the action]. The beginner experiences that which the expert does not, since the soul, at times, becomes weary and tired due to the stretching of time and abundance of worship. It has been narrated from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) that he would forbid from too much worship and immoderation in that, and command moderation in fear of weariness. It has also been narrated that when the people of the Yemen came to al-Madinah, they began crying and so Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘Like this were we until hearts became hard.’”

26) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 63):

Mahmud ibn ‘Uthman ibn Makarim al-Na‘al al-Baghdadi al-Azaji, the jurist, the orator, the ascetic, Abu al-Thana—it is said he was called Abu al-Shukr and given the title Nasir al-Din.

He was born in the year 523 AH in Baghdad. He read the Quran and heard hadith from Abu al-Fath ibn al-Batti and narrated hadith. He memorised Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi and read [it] in the presence of Abu al-Fath ibn al-Manni. He remained in the company of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir[17] and learned adab from him. He used to study fiqh and tafsir and sit in his ribat to give advice (wa‘z). His ribat was the place of gathering for the fuqara[18] and people of religion and the Hanbali jurists who would travel to Abu al-Fath ibn al-Manni to study fiqh in depth under him. They would reside there so much that the occupation with knowledge inside it was greater than what took place in the other madrasahs.

The ribat was decaying from the outside but inhabited by the jurists and pious. Shaykh Muwaffaq al-Din al-Maqdisi, Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani, his brother Shaykh ‘Imad, Hafiz ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Ruhawi and others from among the major travellers in the quest for knowledge lived there…[19]

Abu Shamah said: “He was a person who underwent many spiritual exercises (riyadat) and spiritual struggles (mujahadah). He travelled in the lands of the Levant and elsewhere and would give preference to his companions. A vast number of people benefitted from him. He was awe inspiring, gentle, wise, a leader, friendly and smiling. He would fast for long periods and complete the Quran each day and night. He would only eat [from the money earned from] the yarn which he himself had spun.

He died on Wednesday 10 Safar, 609 AH, at the age of over eighty years. He was buried that night at his ribat—may Allah Most High have mercy on him. It was also said that he died on the night of the ninth.

27) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 77):

Muhammad ibn Ma‘ali ibn Ghanima al-Baghdadi al-Ma’muni al-Muqri, the jurist, the ascetic, Abu Bakr ibn al-Hallawi. He was given the title ‘imad al-din… he heard from Abu al-Fath ibn al-Karrukhi, Abu al-Fadl ibn Nasir, Abu Bakr ibn al-Zaghuni, Sa‘id ibn al-Banna and others. He studied fiqh under Abu al-Fath ibn al-Manni and he was one of the jurists from among his students. He was an expert in the madhhab and the pinnacle of its knowledge reached him along with being abstinent and god fearing and remaining in seclusion away from people.

Ibn al-Qati‘i said: “He was a pious man with a standing in abstinence. He would remain in his masjid at Al-Ma’muniyyah turning to that which would benefit him from the affairs of his hereafter. He would remain in seclusion and solitude.” Ibn al-Qadisi has also praised him a great deal and said: “He was an expert on the madhhab and in issuing fatwas. He would always remain in his corner in the masjid and would hardly mix with anyone save those people of religion who would visit him. He never came to the door of anyone from the people of the world and did not accept a gift from anyone. He was one of the abdal through whom Allah protects the world and those on it.”

28) Hafiz Ibn Rajab mentions in Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part 2, p. 93):

Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Ali ibn Surur al-Maqdisi al-Dimashqi, the jurist, the ascetic, the abstinent [in matters of religion], the worshipper, the shaykh, ‘Imad al-Din, Abu Ishaq, Abu Isma‘il, the brother of Hafiz ‘Abd al-Ghani who was mentioned earlier…

 Shaykh Muwaffaq al-Din said regarding ‘Imad when he was asked regarding him: “He was from among the best of our companions, the greatest in benefitting, the most abstinent [in matters of religion], and the most patient in learning the Quran and fiqh. He was a caller to the Sunnah and teaching knowledge and the faith. He would remain close to the poor and weak, feeding them and spending on them himself. Out of all people, he was the humblest, the one to consider his self the lowliest and the one to fear Allah Most High the most. I do not know whether I saw anyone who feared [Allah] more than he. He would supplicate and beseech Allah Most High a lot. He would lengthen the ruku‘ and sujud in Salah, and intend to follow the Salah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). He would not obey anyone who rebuked him for that. Many miracles of his have been narrated.”

… al-Diya said: “Perhaps it was that none would sit by him except gain a benefit in knowledge and asceticism, or knowledge regarding his manners (akhlaq) or litanies (awrad) etc. He would rebuke his self (nafs) a lot and consider it low, saying: ‘What does it make me do? What am I?’ He was of great humility.”

… al-Diya said: “His kindness to his companions and acquaintances was such that each of them would feel that there is none like him…”

Al-Diya said: “He advised me when I was travelling: ‘Read the Quran a lot and do not leave it, for it shall make easy for you that which you seek according to the measure that you read.’ I saw this and experienced this a lot. When I used to read the Quran a lot, then listening to hadith and writing it became very easy, and when I did not, then it would not be easy.”

 … Al-Diya said: “He would fast one day and not on the other.” He also said: “He would make plenty of dua‘ during the day and night.” He said: “When he used to supplicate, it was as if the heart is witnessing the acceptance of the supplication due to the great fervour and sincerity. When he began supplicating then he would hardly end it. If his family and neighbours gathered then he would supplicate in their presence and they would feel pleased by it. Such [words of] supplications would come to him which I have never heard from anyone else. At times, some of those present would cry when he supplicated. He would mention his searching of times and places when supplications are accepted. He would make a habit of supplicating on Wednesdays between the Zuhr and ‘Asar prayers by the graves of the martyrs at the Bab al-Saghir. He would say: ‘I have not seen the like of this dua‘ (or more hasty in being answered than it). Oh Allah, Oh Allah. You are Allah. Why not, I swear by Allah, you are Allah. There is no deity save you. Allah, Allah, Allah. I swear by Allah, there is no deity save Allah.”

… He (Hafiz al-Diya) has also mentioned a number of his miracles and words regarding thoughts (khatir) and things from the unseen. He mentioned some of them: “I was walking behind Shaykh ‘Imad in the large market when we heard the noise of a tanbur.[20] When we reached its player, the shaykh said: ‘Law hawl wa la quwwata illa billah al-‘aliyyi al-‘azim,’ and shook his sleeve. I then saw the man fall and his tanbur broke. The man was asked: ‘What happened to you?’ He replied: ‘I don’t know.’”

Al-Diya said: “I heard Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Muhsin ibn ‘Abd al-Karim say: ‘I was behind Shaykh ‘Imad and it occurred to me that people do not know about each other except for what is obvious and no one knows the secrets of people. All of a sudden the shaykh turned to me and said that one of the pious said and I think it was Fudayl [who said it]: “Do not do anything evil or wicked, for the hearts of the pious will detest you.”’

“I also heard ‘Ali ibn Abu Bakr ibn Idris al-Tahhan say: ‘I had an ill son and so I said to myself I shall supplicate with the dua‘ of Muqatil ibn Sulayman a hundred times and so I did. Then I came to him. He turned to me and those present and said: “A supplication without action (‘amal) is of no benefit,” or something to that effect.’”

Al-Diya said: “The shaykh’s wife narrated: ‘Before his death, he would greatly say: “The matter has drawn near, there is only a little left.”’”

Hafiz al-Diya has mentioned in the book Al-Hikayat al-Muqtabisah min Karamat Mashayikh al-Ard al-Muqaddasa an entire chapter regarding his miracles, which I have read in his own writing. He writes: “I heard the shaykh, he whose supplications would go answered, Abu Ahmad Nasr ibn Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Mirdawi say: ‘Shaykh ‘Imad came to us and I wanted to ask him regarding some things but was shy. He began and mentioned all that I wished to ask him.’”

He (al-Diya) said: “Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar narrated to me: ‘I used to come to him a lot and I wanted to say something, but he would be beat me to it and mention it. When he used to see that I had begun talking then he would remain silent. However, he did not show that he wanted that.’”

Al-Diya said: “I used to find hardness in my heart and I wanted to complain to him regarding that. He began a conversation with me one night and mentioned the hardness of the heart. He said: ‘How can a heart be soft, when the actions are not with sincere intention?’ He said many things which I sensed in myself and felt elated by his speech…”

(Al-Diya said) “I heard Imam Abu al-Fida Isma‘il ibn ‘Umar ibn Abu Bakr say: ‘One day I took from a man some volumes of books of mine that were with him along with some ijazah. Among all of that which I took was an ijazah that I did not have. I then came to the shaykh and he looked at the volumes.  He then raised the ijazah that had become mixed and said: “Who gave you this?” He then separated it. I then realised this was a miracle from him. He then mentioned the amazing way in which the Quran and knowledge would be made easy for he who studied under him.’

“I also heard Zarifah ibn Ibrahim say: ‘Ahmad ibn Salim said to me: “I know in the mountain five of the pious,” or he said walis. Among them he mentioned Imam Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd al-Wahid.’” This Ahmad ibn Salim Mardawi was a scholar who acted on knowledge; he was a man of many miracles which have been mentioned in this book.

He (Al-Diya) said: “‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar narrated to me that his wife, ‘A’ishah bint Khalaf ibn Rajih, narrated to him that she saw in a dream someone saying: ‘Tell ‘Imad to pray for you, for he is from among the seven on whose account the earth remains.’”

Abu al-Muzaffar, Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, has also mentioned him in his book of history and praised him a great deal. He said: “He did not make a movement, take a step or say anything, except for [the pleasure of] Allah Most High. He would worship with sincerity…”

… He [al-Diya] said: “I saw He Most High in a dream and Shaykh ‘Imad was on his right. His face was like the full moon and on him were clothes the like I have not seen.” He said: “I heard the jurist, the imam, ‘Abd al-Hamid ibn Muhammad ibn Madi al-Maqdisi say: ‘I smelt an excellent fragrance twice from the grave of Shaykh ‘Imad—may Allah Most High have mercy on him.’” He narrated a lot and many of the hafizs [of hadith] and imams such as al-Diya and al-Mundhiri narrated from him. Ibn Khalil and ibn al-Bukhari also narrated from him…

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
Imam al-Dhahabi and Sufism
Hafiz Ibn Kathir and Sufism
Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Sufism (Part One)

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  1. To ensure an accurate translation, I have compared quotations from Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz’s book with two versions of Hafiz Ibn Rajab’s Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah—one of which was published by Maktabah al-Obeikan in 1425 ah along with the footnotes (tahqiq) of Shaykh ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Sulayman al-‘Uthaymin. Where texts vary, I have given preference to the al-‘Uthaymin version (translator). []
  2. This is apparently attributed to the town of Al-Salihiyya, which was once located outside Damascus but, as the city expanded, gradually became a Damascene quarter. Al-Salihiyya was founded in the mid 14th century in the Ayyubid period by Muslim refugees from the Palestinian village of Jama‘il that came under Crusader rule. Al-Salihiyya, located at the foot of Mount Qasioun, was noted for its inhabitants’ piety, masjids, madrasahs and zawiyahs (translator). []
  3. The Ayat al-Hirs are thirty three verses from the Quran also known in the Indian Sub-Continent as the Manzil (translator). []
  4. Qutub al-Din Abu al-Fath Musa ibn Muhammad ibn Abu al-Husayn Ahmad al-Yunini al-Ba‘labakki (640ah-726ah). Al-Yunini was a Levantine historian during the Mamluk period and author of a number of books: Mukhtasar Mir’at al-Zaman, Dhayl Mir’at al-Zaman and Manaqib al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (translator). []
  5. It is poignant to note that Al-Dhahabi has used the word “see” to emphasise the vivid manner in which Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah captured the actual passing of the shaykh in his letter (translator). []
  6. In a hadith narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasa’I, Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) is asked regarding the recitation and the prayer of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Having described his prayer, Umm Salamah said his recitation was “a recitation made clear (mufassarah) letter by letter” (translator). []
  7. Suba‘iyyat or Seveners are types of hadiths in which there are seven narrators between the last narrator and the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) (translator). []
  8. Al-Raqqi is attributed to the city of al-Raqqah, a city in northern Syria on the north bank of the Euphrates (translator). []
  9. Hawwara is located in the Irbid region of modern day Jordan (translator). []
  10. Hawran is an area located in south-western Syria, extending into the north-western corner of Jordan. The volcanic earth of Hawran makes it one of Syria’s most fertile regions (translator). []
  11. Jubail is the Arabic name of a Mediterranean city in Lebanon. It was known as Byblos under the Greek and Gebal under the Phonecians. It was also known as Gibelet during the Crusades (translator). []
  12. He is the imam rabbani and perpetual qutub Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, the great imam of the Sufis and he to whom all the Sufi tariqs return back to (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz). []
  13. The Al-Mu‘awwidhatayn is an Arabic term referring to the last two surahs of the Quran: Surah al-Falaq and Surah al-Nas (translator). []
  14. Dimyat, also known as Damietta, is a port located at the Damietta River, a distributary of the Nile, some kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea (translator). []
  15. This is one of Cairo’s famous cemeteries located at the foot of Mount al-Muqattam. It is the cemetery of famous saints and ‘ulama, including Imam al-Shafi‘ (translator). []
  16. Note his humility (may Allah have mercy on him) and how he tells Allah of his weakness and laxity in matters of Tasawwuf in spite of his lofty rank and high standing in the science of hadith and its auxiliary disciplines. Take note of this (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz). []
  17. He is the imam rabbani and perpetual qutub Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, the great imam of the Sufis and he to whom all the Sufi tariqs return back to (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz). []
  18. We often find the Sufis referring themselves in Arabic as faqirs (pl. fuqara), which literally means ‘the poor’, but in the context of Sufism means the Sufis (translator). []
  19. Note that these notable individuals and pinnacles of knowledge were reared in the bosom of Tasawwuf in the ribat of the Sufi masters (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz). []
  20. The tanbur is a long-necked lute with origins in Persia (translator). []