Biography of Imam Abu Bakr al-Isma' ili (277-371)
He is the Imam, Hafidh, Faqih and Qari', the Shaykh al-Islam: Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Isma'ili al-Jurjani, the Shafi'ite. He comes from a family of Muhaddithun. He belongs to the generation of Huffadh and Imams: al-Daraqutni, Ibn Shahin, Ibn Batta' al-'Ukbari, Abu Bakr al-Ajurri and their likes.
He begun writing Hadith when he was a young child in the year 283. The Hafidh Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili himself said, as mentioned by al-Hafidh al-Dhahabi:
"I wrote myself in the year 283, and I was then six years old"
He went travelling from Jurjan - his hometown - to Khurasan, Baghdad, Kufah, Basra, Rayy, Hamadhan, al-Anbar, Makkah and elsewhere.
The following excerpts from classical sources reveal his status as an scholar in Islam:
Abd al-Karim al-Sam'ani says in the Kitab al-Ansab - speaking about the nisba al-Isma'ili, the following:
" Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Ibrahim b. Isma'il b. al-'Abbas b. Mirdâs al-Isma'ili.. Imam of Ahl al-Jurjân, and their principle scholar in terms of Hadith and Fiqh. He travelled to 'Iraq and the Hijâz, and he authored books; he is too famous to make mention about. The same counts for his children and grandchildren. He has [individual] views in the [Shâfi'i] Madhhab, mentioned and covered. He heard in Jurjan from 'Imrân b. Musa al-Sakhtiyani, in Nasâ from al-Hasan b. Sufyan al-Shaybani, in Baghdad from Yusuf b. Ya'qub al-Qadi, in Basra from Abu Khalifah al-Fadl b. al-Hubâb al-Jumahi, in Kufah from Abu Ja'afr Muhammad b. Abdallah [b.] Sulayman al-Hadhrami, in al-Jazirah from Abu Ya'la Ahmad b. 'Ali b. al-Muthanna al-Mawsili, in al-Ahwaz from 'Abdan b. Ahmad al-'Askari and their generation. The Imams and Huffadh have transmitted from him, like Abu'l-Husayn Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Hajjâji, Abu 'Ali Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Sahl al-Masarjasi, Abu Abdallah Muhammad b. Abdallah al-Hafidh (i.e. al-Hakim al-Nisaburi) and Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Ghâlib al-Barqani among others.."
The Hafidh al-Sam'ani then quotes al-Hakim al-Nisaburi - as student of al-Isma'ili - from his Tarikh Naysabur, who said:
"al-Imam Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, one of his time, Shaykh of the Fuqahâ' and the Muhaddithin, and the most excellent of them in terms of leadership.."
He also mentions from Hamza b. Yusuf al-Sahmi, a Hafidh and author of the Tarikh Jurjan, that the Hafidh and Imam al-Daraqutni said:
"I had more than once the intention to travel to Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, but it was not provided for me"
after which al-Sam'ani mentions the praise from other great scholars.
Ibn Qadi Shuhba says in al-Tabaqat al-Shafi'iyyah:
"Ahmad b. Ibrahim b. Isma' il b. al-'Abbas, Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, the Faqih, the Hafidh. One of the great ones from the Shafi'iyyah, in terms of Fiqh, Hadith and authoring books. He travelled and heard a lot. He authored the Sahih, the Mu'jam, the Musnad 'Umar b. al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, in two volumes and made it beneficial.."
and he quoted Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi's Tabaqat al-Fuqaha, wherein the latter said:
"He brought in him together Fiqh and Hadith, and the leadership in the religion and the world"
The Imam and Hafidh al-Dhahabi said in al-Tadhkirah al-Huffadh:
"al-Isma'ili, the Imam, the Hafidh, the firm, Shaykh al-Islam Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Ibrahim b. Isma'il b. al-'Abbas al-Jurjani. A great one from the Shafi'iyyah. He was born in the year 277 and heard from Abu Khalifah, Abu Ya'la and Ibn Khuzaymah. He authored the Sahih, the Mu'jam and the Musnad of 'Umar. From him narrated al-Hakim and al-Barqani.."
The Imam and Hafidh Ibn 'Abd al-Hadi said about him:
"al-Imam, al-Hafidh al-Kabir, Ahad A'immat al-A'lam.."
Many other scholars mentioned him in their works, speaking with praise and loftiness about him. The biographer al-Safadi, author of the Wafi wa'l-Wafayat, said, "al-Imam.. al-Faqih al-Shafi'iyyah, al-Hafidh", while al-Atabaki said, "al-Hafdih.. he was an Imam, travelled the world and met Shuyukh".
He is an Imam, may Allah be pleases with him, and he left some of the most excellent works behind - which I believe are all published - such as: the Mustakhraj 'ala'l-Bukhari, al-Mu'jam al-Shuyukh and the creed known as: I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith.
The Imam and Hafidh Ibn Kathir said about him and his beliefs:
"al-Hafdih al-Kabir, the traveller.. he heard alot and narrated, verified and authored. He excelled and benefitted others, and had excellent critical mind and doctrines (wa-ahsana al-intiqad wa'l-i'tiqad)"
This mention of Ibn Kathir, rahimahullah, is a reference to his book al-I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith as I believe. The work is well-known, mentioned by not a few Huffadh and Imams. We shall discuss it - inshallah.
The Imam died in 371, as said; that is when he was 94 years old. May Allah be pleased with him, and have mercy upon his soul!
[Sources: the biographical works mentioned, as quoted online and the Introduction of the I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith, by the Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, as prepared by the editor: Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahman al-Khumayyis, may Allah reward him!]
A Refutation of the those who Belie the I'tiqad's Ascription to Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili
'The Authentic Ascription of the Kitab I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith to Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili'
Let us begin with speaking why some people would like to cast aspersion on its authenticity:
Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili is an Imam in Fiqh and Hadith. He has been praised by many, as can be seen above for example. And rightly so if one refers to his books or the references by others to one of his Fiqh or Hadith-books.
Such an Imam, may Allah be pleased with him, is very attractive. I mean: if one sees the status of such a scholar, like his knowledge, eruditeness, trustworthiness, righteousness etc. then many - later scholars from all kind of parties - would like to claim some kind of affiliation to him: either justly or unjustly.
No doubt, he is a Shafi'ite. And al-Hamdulillah he is! For Imam al-Shafi'i had one of the best Principles of Fiqh, Rules of Jurisprudence, and Guidelines to Jurisprudential Inferences. If all Shafi'ites claim him - then they have a right to do so, as long as they follow these principles laid down and advised to be followed by their Imam: Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i, rahimahullah.
As for those Shafi'ites who follow generally what Imam al-Shafi'i founded in terms of Usul al-Fiqh and its Furu', but oppose him in the Usul al-Din - such as many do today, unfortunately - then say: SubhanAllah! This is especially a problem for those who are not Shafi'ites when it comes to 'Aqidah, but lay claim to this Imam, i.e. Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili. This count for the Ash'arites in particular.
For this reason you see some contradict themselves, or oppose what is correct and authentic. Ibn 'Asakir, the Hafidh - may Allah forgive him and have mercy upon him - for example, included this Imam among the Ash'arites! How he came up with this is difficult to reveal. What he has done was to include him among the 'First Generation' of Ash'arites, that is: he considered him to have seen or learned from Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari himself.
[Let us digress a bit further: I have seen all the major biographical lemma's (tarjamat) of the Imam, and could not find any contemporary evidence or early evidence to prove that he was a student of al-Ash'ari. The only one who considered him so is Ibn 'Asakir, and whoever followed him later. I personally have read from cover to cover the Mu'jam al-Shuyukh of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, and could not found a single reference to al-Ash'ari. As for the Shuyukh he did see and learn from, then some of them are themselves teachers of al-Ash'ari: for example Abu Khalifah al-Jumahi. If Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili really had studied under him, I would guess he would mention so in his Mu'jam.]
Now, the problem is this: since he was an Ash'arite - as some believe based upon Ibn 'Asakir's Tabyin - how can he write such a book as the I'tiqad? The I'tiqad is a book from a Sunnite approach, mentioning the views of the Salaf and the Ashab al-Hadith [whom al-Isma'ili considered to be a member from]. Having this book now - while claiming him to be an Ash'arite - poses some trouble. For why did he not mention Ash'arite doctrines in it (i.e. that of the Mutakallimun)? Why did he not mention al-Ash'ari, after all he was his teacher and an leader in Kalam and Creed? The crux is: Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili was not an Ash'arite at all, but a follower of the Salaf and Ahl al-Hadith. Whoever thinks he is an Ash'arite like the later-day Ash'arites has it wrong. Very wrong.
The fabricators and mislead people have now a problem; why has an Ash'arite mentioned just doctrines of the Ashab al-Hadith - just like Abu 'Uthman al-Sabuni and others? Thus you see a person like the one named Abul Hasan hoping to bring doubt and generate trouble for the Ahl al-Sunnah - while he in fact brings only himself in trouble with the Almighty! Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, has ensured that the Sunnah will always be protected, for there shall always be a community that is rightly guided [such as the previous generations have been rightly guided, incl. Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, the Imam of the Ahl al-Hadith]. The following excerpts from the Tahqiq of al-Khumayyis - whom this same Abul Hasan condemmed with no real proof whatsoever but exposing his affiliation to al-Kawthari, Imam of the neo-Jahmiyyah of today - of the book I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith will silence this man - bi idni'llah.
The Title of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili's book is according to the editor:
I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith
The book has been edited, as said before, by Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahman al-Khumayyis, a Doctor in Usul al-Din from the Muhammad b. Sa'ud Univeristy, Riyad. The publisher is: Dar Ilaf al-Dawliyyah, from Kuwayt. It has been published in 1420/1999. For an earlier publication of the edition of al-Khumayyis, see the one published as I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith by Dar al-'Asimah, Riyadh, in 1412 or the 1416/1995 edition of Dar al-Fath. For a Sharh of this Creed, see Shaykh Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad al-Qadi, author of a important Radd on the Mufawwidah.
The editor, i.e. al-Khumayyis, called the book I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith and in another edition I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith. He says about this in the 1420 print:
"There is not mentioned on the the original manuscript (i.e. the copy on which the editor based his Tahqiq), because its disappeared [that part], the correct title.."
that is: the manuscript used by al-Khumayyis, from the Zahiriyyah of Damascus, is incomplete. The work is complete, except the first page(s), wherein of course the title should be mentioned. al-Khumayyis then continues,
"..but it has come in the last part of the book, after its end of mentioning the principles of the creed of the Ahl al-Sunnah, Ahl al-Hadith, in a unclear way, which says: 'This is the foundation of the religion and the madhhab; the beliefs of the Imams of the Ahl al-Hadith.' (hadha asl al-din wa'l-madhhab i'tiqad a'immat ahl al-hadith)"
So the title of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili's book maybe I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith, as published by publishers. al-Khumayyis's edition is published likewise once. He mentions then:
"And is has come in the Kitab al-'Uluww of al-Dhahabi such: I'tiqad al-Sunnah. I (i.e. al-Khumayyis) believe that al-Dhahabi summarized (ikhtasar) the book's title like it is customary."
The title of this book is therefor not clear, i.e. not known with certainty. The author indicated it as Asl al-Din wa'l-Madhhab and I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith. This latter title has been choosed by contemporary scholars - and it fits the description of the book.
The Shaykh al-Islam Abu 'Uthman al-Sabuni, rahimahullah, named it in his own book, the excellent 'Aqidat al-Salaf wa-Ashab al-Hadith, as a: "a book (risalah) of Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili to the people of Jilân" and elsewhere he says:
"al-Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili al-Jurjani has mentioned in his Risalah which he authored for the people of Jurjan.."
and it is this book, i.e. I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith as made clear below - Insha'Allah. And whatever the exact title, which is not so important, it seem that Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili would have appreciated the naming of: I'tiqad A'immah Ahl al-Hadith. It is as the editor said:
"This book is has not a single relied upon title. I believe that the closest name for this book is: I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith."
So far the issue about its Title.
As for the ascription of this book to the Imam Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili, than it is established with certainty - Insha'Allah ta'ala.
The editor, al-Khumayyis, mentions 3 principle arguments:
1) The uninterupted chain of transmission al the way back to its author, about which he says:
"And there is no doubt that this is the strongest proof.."
2) The mentioning by scholars of this book which are close to the author's time and other scholars, having referred to it, quoted from it. He says:
"And from those are the Imam al-Hafidh Abu 'Uthman Isma'il al-Sabuni, Ibn Qudamah, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Dhahabi and the Hafidh Ibn Rajab"
And I say: whoever goes back to these people's books, and look the quotes and references he will see that these authors mentioned no doubt about its ascription.
3) The mentioning of people who 'heard' or 'received' te book by transmission, i.e. the ones involved in its transmission as proven by the Ijazat found on the manuscript of the book.
Let us speak more about these three principle proofs.
As for the 1st.
The full Isnad of this book by Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili has been provided by the Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudamah, as reproduced elsewhere in this forum. The Isnad is mentioned by Ibn Qudamah in his important book: Damm al-Ta'wil.
Another who mentioned its Isnad is the Imam and Hafidh Shams al-din al-Dhahabi in many of his works: in al-'Uluww li-'Ali al-Ghaffar, al-Tadhkirah al-Huffadh and al-Siyar A'lam al-Nubala'. Another place were he reffered to its Isnad is his book al-Arba'in fi Sifat Rabb al-'Alamin, wherein he said:
"And this creed (al-mu'taqad) in meaning [is transmitted] with authentic Isnad on his authority."
There is just one but: and that is that al-Khumayyis quoted Shaykh al-Albani, rahimahullah, who commented up al-Dhahabi's saying with:
"The author took it out with a Isnad which contain men all whom are trustworthy and known, except Mas'ud b. Abd al-Wahid al-Hashimi, for I have not found for him a biography."
The Isnad of the book which Ibn Qudamah transmitted is the same as that of al-Dhahabi. al-Dhahabi's Isnad has one additional transmitter, and that is his teacher who is also the student of Ibn Qudamah: 'Izz al-din b. Isma'il b. al-Farra'.
The Sanad - as given elsewhere in Arabic in this forum - is:
al-Sharif Abu'l-'Abbas Mas'ud b. Abd al-Wahid b. Matar al-Hashimi > al-Hafidh Abu'l-'Ala Sâ'id b. Yasar al-Harawi > Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Jurjani > Abu'l-Qasim Hamza b. Yusuf al-Sahmi > Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Isma'ili.
As I said before: no doubt the Isnad has two reliable transmitters, but having read what the early 'Ulama said and Shaykh al-Albani's comment: all are reliable, except one who is unknown. I have searched lately the books Damm al-Ta'wil, Ithbat Sifat al-'Uluww, and al-Lum'at for finding out who this teacher of Ibn Qudamah is. I have found nothing which could shed light on his reliability. Insha'Allah I shall come back on him (and his 'jahâla'). In the mean time: this book - with this Isnad - can be ascribed to him with no fear, based upon Ibn Qudamah's habit of choosing his teachers and of the fact what al-Dhahabi said and other factors. And Allah knows best!
As for the 2nd.
Not a few have mentioned this book of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili. This is an important proof for affirming it as his work. We shall mention those scholars - as referred to earlier - in chronological order, as al-Khumayyis mentioned (may Allah reward him).
- Abu 'Uthman al-Sabuni (d.430), claimed to be an Ash'arite by Ibn 'Asakir and others. He is certainly not one like the Mutakallimun Ibn al-Baqillani, Ibn Furak and their like; let alone like one of the 'later-day' Ash'arites who reject the Sifat al-Khabariyyah, such as al-Juwayni, Ibn al-Khatib and their types. Imam al-Sabuni, rahimahullah, is the author of 'Aqidat al-Salaf wa-Ashab al-Hadith - a creed even more beatiful then that of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili - wherein he quoted the Hafidh's I'tiqad. al-Khumayyis said about this:
"As for Abu 'Uthman al-Sabuni, then he has mentioned the book and ascribed it to its author and quoted from him in two places in his book 'Aqidat al-Salaf wa-Ashab al-Hadith."
We've mentioned - above - the quotes from these two places; so refer back.
The editor, al-Khumayyis, has compared both books and came to the conclusion that al-Sabuni depended in more then these two places on the work of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili.
- Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (d.620), a fervent opponent of the Ash'arites and other innovators. There is a story wherein is said that when Ibn 'Asakir passed by and greeted him by salâm he would not return a greeting. Being asked about this, he said: "They believe in 'inner speech' (al-kalam al-nafsi); so I returned it in me!" This is of course sarcastically used. May Allah forgive them both, âmin!
We've mentioned his Sanad to this book, which he quoted partly in al-Damm al-Ta'wil (The Censure of Interpretation). We've said before that the beginning of the I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith is lost from the single independant copy, a copy which is transmitted by Ibn Qudamah himself as al-Khumayyis has shown. So the printed book I'tiqad A'immat al-Hadith has been based upon the manuscript of the work itself and the part quoted by Ibn Qudamah himself; in such a way it is complete, wa-billahi al-hamd!
- Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728), the Imam who clarified and exposed the innovations and misinterpretations of many scholars of the past. Weren't for him, we would have all become infected by the Kullabiyyah and their likes. He mentioned, as stated in Majmu' al-Fatawa, Abu 'Uthman al-Sabuni and quoted from him the part where he mentions Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili's book. In another place, in al-Fatwa al-hamawiyyah al-Kubra, he mention the book too. al-Khumayyis quotes him, saying:
"And this speech (i.e. that the Attributes should be taken upon its apparent sense) which al-Khattabi mentioned has been noted similarly from the scholars, the mention of their number would be too much, such as Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili."
- al-Dhahabi (d.748), the student of Ibn Taymiyyah and an Imam himself. As pointed out 4 references can be found of him, in 3 he mentions passages of the book. In al-'Uluww for example he said:
"'Izz al-Din b. Isma'il b. al-Farrâ' reported to us: Abu Muhammad b. Qudamah reported to us: Mas'ud b. Abd al-Wahid al-Hashimi reported to us: Sâ'id b. Sayyar al-Hafidh reported to us: 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Jurjani reported to us: Yusuf b. Hamza al-Hafidh reported to us: Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Isma'ili reported to us his book I'tiqad al-Sunnah which is hi, saying.."
And the first part which al-Dhahabi quotes in al-'Uluww - as pointed out before - from the book of al-Isma'ili does not exist in the manuscript copy, since it is incomplete. But another part he quoted is mentioned in the original manuscript., so says al-Khumayyis.
- Ibn Rajab (d.795), the Imam and Hafidh. He mentioned the book of Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili too, in the excellent book: al-Jami' al-'Ulum wa'l-Hikam. al-Khumayyis quotes Ibn Rajab, who said:
"Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili said in his Risalah to the People of Jurjan: Many people from the Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah said; Belief consist of saying and deed.." etcetera.
And this passage which Ibn Rajab quotes - as pointed out by the editor - exist in the manuscript of the book I'tiqad.
And these persons are mentioned as the 'Ulama of earlier time who quoted or referred to the book, so say the editor: Muhammad al-Khumayyis. And there maybe more, as I remember having seen al-Saffarini referring to him - wa-Allahu A'lam.
As for the 3rd.
The last principle argument for its authenticity, as enumerated by the editor of the book, is the evidence from the Ijâzat mentioned on the manuscript copy. al-Khumayyis said that the affirmed hearings (sama'ât) on this book from the scholars and the students of knowledge is taken in consideration for the proof of its reliable ascription to the Imam Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili. And he is right in this - as argued too by other scholars who mentioned the same.
The first hearing (al-samâ' al-awwal) is dated - according to the editor - in the year 574 AH. The teacher of this reading is,
Abu al-'Ala Sâ'id b. Sayyâr al-Harawi (= the teacher of the 'unknown' scholar of Ibn Qudamah)
but read by,
Abu Muhammad Abd al-Muhsin b. Tughri b. Abdallah al-Amiri al-Mustarshidi
Among the hearers is:
al-Sharif Abu'l-'Abbas Mas'ud b. Abd al-Wahid b. Matar al-Hashimi, rahimahullah, the 'unknown' scholar and teacher of Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi.
The second hearing (al-sama' al-thani) is dated in the year 617 AH. The teacher (of two) of this reading is:
Muwaffaq al-Din Abu Muhammad Abdallah b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Qudamah al-Maqdisi al-Jammâ'ili al-Hanbali, the Imam and Hafidh rahimahullah.
The reader is,
Abu'l-Faraj Abd al-Rahman b. Abd al-Mun'im.
Among the hearers are many relatives of the Imam Muwaffaq al-Din, such as his children, nephews, grandchildren etc.
The third hearing (al-sama' al-thalith) is dated 667 AH under the teachership of:
The Imam Abu Abdallah Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahim al-Maqdisi, and the hearers of this hearing are so many.. wa'l-Hamdulillah!
Abu Bakr al-Isma'ili's book I'tiqad A'immat Ahl al-Hadith is an authentic book of the Imam based on the acceptable Isnad, the affirmed authorship, the unquestionable certificates of hearing, the contents and other factors. There is nothing in it which would make one to reject it as a book of the Hafidh, nor as a creed of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah.