Category Archives: Books

Advice for Beginning Students of Hadith

During the Eid break, we had the pleasure of hosting my wife’s uncle Abu Ahmad – a PhD in ‘ulum al-hadith and dean of a university in Riyadh. We only get to see him a couple of times a year but each time is fruitful with wise advice on attaining success in the life and the next.

One discussion we had was on how newly-practicing Muslims can gain a firm grounding in the basics of hadith. He said that he thinks Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id’s sharh on al-Arba’un al-Nawawiyyah is an excellent abridged commentary for beginners to become familiar with the Sunnah. We discussed the authorship of this well-known commentary, with the contenders being Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id (the traditional view), Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (according to Riyadh al-‘Isa and ‘Abd al-Qadir Taha), and Imam al-Nawawi himself. Either way, each one is a great imam of hadith and the work is outstanding.

On the subject of ‘ulum and mustalah al-hadith, he really likes Taysir Mustalah al-Hadith by Mahmud al-Tahan due to its simplicity and organization of material for assisting beginners.

Abu Ahmad emphasized that, ultimately, students at an intermediate level must strive to understand Abdullah al-Juday’s two-volume aptly-titled Tahrir ‘Ulum al-Hadith. He said that no other contemporary book has been written like it. It summarizes the entire field whilst making original contributions with piercing insight. It is a book from which even scholars benefit. He said that shaykh Abdullah is a mujtahid in the field and highlighted his mastery of usul al-fiqh as well.

He added the caveat that, whilst scholars may disagree in furu’ (even in ‘aqa’id – tafwidh an example), they are united on the usul. This touches upon the controversy that surrounds some of Shaykh Abdullah’s published research, which has attracted (somewhat excessive in my view) criticism from some quarters due to its originality in overturning long-held views with reasoning and evidence.


Posted by on September 15, 2016 in Books, Hadith/Sunnah


The Book of Hajj (from The Hadrami Primer)

Hajj is almost upon us, and it is advisable to review the fiqh of Hajj every year before it starts. What follows is a translation and commentary from al-Muqaddimah al-Hadramiyyah by A. S. Gorin, from a manuscript that will be published in future in sha Allah. The importance of the text has been explained elsewhere in previous posts. In short, it is one of the most important teaching primers of the post-Shaykhayn period of the Shafi’i school, and has attracted a number of important commentaries and glosses. It is still studied accross the Indian Ocean basin and further beyond in Syria and Kurdistan.


H: Ibn Hajar’s commentary from al-Manhaj al-Qawim

T: al-Tarmasi’s gloss on Ibn Hajar’s commentary

B: Ba’Ishn’s commentary from Bushra al-Karim

A: The translator’s commentary

The Book of Hajj and ‘Umrah

They (A: i.e. Hajj and ‘Umrah) are both obligatory. The preconditions for their obligation are:

  1. Islam;
  2. freedom;
  3. legal responsibility;
  4. and ability.

(A: Ability) has five sub conditions:

  1. Availability of provisions and containers; enough for going and returning;
  2. Availability of a vehicle (A: including riding animals and mounts) for one who has two stages between him and Makkah; or a carriage for one who cannot sit on a mount, and for a woman with a partner. A vehicle is not a condition for the one who has less than two stages between him and Makkah whilst able to walk. It is a condition that the aforementioned is in excess of one’s debt, provision for those one must provide for till returning, housing and a servant if needed.
  3. The route is safe.
  4. Presence of food and water in expected places, wherefrom one can purchase with a reasonable price according to place and time. [A: This includes] the feed for one’s riding animal at every stage. Hajj is not obligatory on the woman, unless her husband goes with her, or an unmarriageable kin or trustworthy women.
  5. Ability to remain mounted on the vehicle without great difficulty. Hajj is not obligatory on a blind man unless he finds a guide.

Whoever cannot perform Hajj himself, it is obligatory on him to find one to deputise for him, if he has enough money and finds one who will obey him; except if the distance between him and Makkah is less than the distance for shortening prayer, in which case it is binding on him to perform, in person.

On the Timing of Hajj and Umrah

One may enter the state of pilgrim sanctity for Umrah at any time. [A: However, for] Hajj [A: entering pilgrim sanctity must be done] in its [A: set] months. These are: Shawwal, Dhu al-Qa’dah and the first ten [A:days] of Dhu al-Hijjah. If one enters the pilgrim sanctity for Hajj outside these times, it is considered Umrah. Whoever is in Makkah enters the state of pilgrim sanctity for Hajj from it; and for Umrah from the closest area of al-Hil (A: at Masjid al-Tan’im, known as Masjid A’isha locally).

A non-Makkan must enter the state pilgrim sanctity for Hajj and Umrah from the designated sites. These are:

For (A: people coming from) Tihamah of Yemen: Yalamlam;

for (A: people coming from) Najd: Qarn;

for the people of Iraq: Dhatu ‘Irq;

for the people of Syria, Egypt and North Africa: al-Juhfah (A: near Rabigh);

and for the people of al-Madinah: Dhu al-Hulayfah.

One who passes by the designated sites, intending the rites, then later enters a state of pilgrim sanctity must sacrifice if he does not return to the set site before starting any of the rites. Entering the state of pilgrim sanctity at the designated site is better than from one’s town (H: as this follows the Sunnah).

On the Integrals of Hajj and Umrah

There are five integrals for Hajj:

  1. entering a state of pilgrim sanctity;
  2. standing at Arafah;
  3. circumambulation around the Ka’ba;
  4. traversing between al-Safa and al-Marwa;
  5. shaving one’s hair;

There are four integrals for Umrah:

  1. entering a state of pilgrim sanctity;
  2. circumambulation around the Ka’ba;
  3. traversing between al-Safa and al-Marwa;
  4. shaving one’s hair;

On Pilgrim Sanctity

Pilgrim sanctity is the intention for doing Hajj or Umrah or both. It is considered an absolute state of pilgrim sanctity, which one may change as one wishes (H: to Hajj, Umrah, or both). It is recommended to utter the intention, saying: “I intend Hajj, or Umrah, and I enter a state of pilgrim sanctity for it for Allah, the Exalted.” If one performs Hajj or Umrah on behalf of another, one says: “I intend Hajj or Umrah on behalf of so-and-so, and I enter a state of pilgrim sanctity for it Allah, the Exalted.”

It is recommended to chant the talbiyah with the intention, and to proliferate it, raising one’s voice if male, except on the first instance where one chants quietly.

The talbiyah’s form is: “Ever at Your service, O Allah, ever at Your service. Ever at Your service, You have no partner, ever at Your service. Indeed, All praise, blessings and dominion are Yours. You have no partner.”

One repeats it thrice, and then sends salutations on the Prophet, followed by asking Allah for His pleasure and Paradise, seeking refuge from the Fire. Then, one supplicates for whatsoever one likes. If one in a state of pilgrim sanctity, or another, sees something which delights or displeases one, one says [H: sorrowfully], “Ever at Your service, indeed the (real) life is the life of the Hereafter.”

On Recommended Acts Connected to the Rites

It is recommended to perform a ritual bath for entering a state of pilgrim sanctity, entering Makka, standing at Arafah and Muzdalifah, and stoning on the Appointed Days.

It is recommended to perfume one’s body for pilgrim sanctity, but not one’s clothing, and to wear a mantle and wraparound which are new, or [H: if unavailable] washed, and sandals.

It is recommended to perform two units of prayer, after which one enters into a state of pilgrim sanctity, facing the qiblah at the beginning of one’s commencement.

It is recommended to enter Makkah before the standing [H: at ‘Ararah], and to enter from the north, during the day, walking bare-foot. It is recommended to perform the arrival circumambulation if one is performing Hajj, or Joining, and enters Makkah before the Standing.

On Obligations and Recommended Acts in Circumambulation

The eight obligations of circumambulation are:

  1. Covering one’s nakedness;
  2. purity from ritual impurity;
  3. purity from physical impurity;
  4. keeping the Ka’ba to one’s left;
  5. beginning at the Black Stone;
  6. aligning with it [H: i.e. some of the Black Stone] with all of one’s body;
  7. performing circumambulation even times;
  8. and to be inside the Mosque and outside the Ka’ba, buttress and Hijr.

The recommended acts are:

  1. walking;
  2. greeting the Stone, kissing it and placing one’s forehead on it;
  3. greeting the Yemeni Corner;
  4. reciting the appropriate invocations (however it is not recommended for women to greet and kiss [A: the Black Stone] except in private);
  5. jogging for men in the first three cycles of circumambulation, only if this is followed by walking;
  6. bearing one’s right shoulder [H: only for males];
  7. proximity to the Ka’ba;
  8. performing the cycles in succession;
  9. and performing two units of prayer after it;

On Travering between al-Safa and al-Marwa

The four obligations of traversing are:

  1. beginning the first with al-Safa;
  2. beginning the second with al-Marwah;
  3. walking between them seven times;
  4. and that it is performed after the integral of circumambulation or arrival.

Its recommended acts are:

  1. rising a full height on al-Safa and al-Marwah [H: for males];
  2. reciting the relevant invocations;
  3. supplicating thrice after each time;
  4. and walking at the beginning and end, but running in the middle, the place to do so being well-known [A: signified by green lights].

On Standing at Arafah

The obligation of standing is to be present on the plain of Arafah for a moment, after the zenith on the Day of Arafah; even if passing through or sleeping, on the condition that one is sane. The time [A: to do so] remains till dawn.

Its recommended acts are:

  1. combining the night with the day;
  2. reciting tahlil, takbir, talbiyah, tasbih, Qur’an, salutations upon the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and to cry profusely with these;
  3. facing the Qiblah;
  4. ritual purity;
  5. veiling;
  6. coming out in the Sun;
  7. approaching the rocks for men;
  8. approaching the margins for women;
  9. combining between the two daytime prayers for the traveller;
  10. and delaying al-Maghrib to al-Isha for the traveller to combine them at Muzdalifah.

On Shaving the head

The minimal shaving is to remove three hairs. It is recommended to delay it after stoning the Aqabah pillar, and to begin with the right side of the head, facing the Qiblah, encompassing the whole head for men, and shortening for women.

On the Obligations of Hajj

The six obligations of Hajj are:

  1. staying overnight at Muzdalifah, being there for an hour after the second half of the night (not being obligatory on one who has a valid legal excuse);
  2. stoning the Aqabah Pillar seven times;
  3. stoning the Three Pillars on the Appointed Days, each one seven times,
  4. staying overnight in Mina during the three nights [A: of the Appointed Days], or the first two nights if one wants to exit during the first exit on the second day;
  5. being in a state of pilgrim sanctity from the designated sites;
  6. and performing the farewell circumambulation.

On Staying Overnight and Stoning

It is recommended to stay at the Sacred Grove roofless mosque in Muzdalifah, and to take the pebbles for stoning at Aqabah from there. One stops chanting the talbiyah at the beginning of stoning the Aqabah pillar. It is recommended to say takbir with every [H: throwing of a] pebble.

The time for shaving, stoning the Aqabah pillar, and going-forth circumambulation enters after midnight on the night of sacrifice, and the stoning extends to the end of the Appointed Days. The shaving and circumambulation remain absolutely.

It is recommended to initiate the going-forth circumambulation after stoning the Aqabah pillar. One enters Makkah, performs a circumambulation, and walks between al-Safa and al-Marwa if not performed before, and returns to Mina to stay overnight for the nights of the Appointed Days. One stones the three pillars every day of the Appointed Days after the zenith – each one with seven pebbles.

It is a condition of throwing the seven pebbles that they are thrown one at a time [B: so if one throws the seven together all at once it is only considered one throwing].

[A: it is also a condition that] the stoning is done in sequence on each of the Appointed Days [H: starting with the First Pillar near Masjid al-Khayf, followed by the Medial Pillar, and then the Aqabah Pillar – any other sequence is not considered stoning].

[A: it is also a condition] that [H: the stoning] is done between midday and sunset [H: during the Appointed Days, though this view [A: that it is a condition rather than the best time] is weak [T: following Ibn al-Muqri’s view in Rawd al-Talib. Shaykh al-Islam commented on this in Asna al-Mutalib that this follows al-Isnawi’s view and the consideration of al-Rafi’i in al-Sharh al-Saghir. However, the correct view is that [A: stoning after sunset] is permissible as al-Ghazali stated in al-Wajiz, following a statement of al-Shafi’i and supported by Ibn al-Sabbagh in al-Shamil, Ibn al-Salah, and al-Nawawi in al-Manasik. However, it is impermissible to stone before midday].

[A: it is also a condition] that the stoning is done with stones [H: even if a precious stone, ironstone, crystal, onyx, gold, or silver.]

[A: it is also a condition] that the stoning is done by throwing [H: as it is not sufficient to place to stones on the pillars.]

[A: it is also a condition] that the stoning be done with one’s hands [H: not with, for example, a bow, one’s feet, a slingshot, or with one’s mouth.]

[H: Among] the recommended acts [T: of stoning the pillars] is that it be done with stones the size of beans.

Whoever leaves stoning the Aqabah Pillar or some of the Appointed Days, can rectify it in the remaining performance.

Whoever wants to exit Mina on the second day of the Appointed Days, then it is permissible [H: with no blame, as Allah says, ‘whoever hastens [his departure] on the second day, there is no sin upon him.’ [2:203]].

On Release from Hajj

There are two releases from Hajj. The first occurs with any two of the following three:

  1. stoning at Aqabah;
  2. shaving [H: by removing at least three hairs];
  3. and the going-forth circumambulation.

The second release is achieved with the third [A: i.e. the going-forth circumambulation].

With the first [H: release], all the prohibited acts become permissible except marriage [H: i.e. intercourse], its contract, and foreplay with desire.

With the second release, the remainder [H: are permitted [T: i.e intercourse, foreplay, and marriage contract]].

On the Ways of Performing the Rites

The two rituals [B: i.e. Hajj and Umrah] can be performed [A: together] in [T: only three ways]:

The best is ifrad, if one can do Umrah in the [A: same] year of Hajj, and that is performing Hajj followed by Umrah [H: because the narrations about it are greater].

Then, tamattu’, which is performing Umrah followed by Hajj.

Then, qiran, which is entering a state of pilgrim sanctity simultaneously for both, or [T: entering a state of pilgrim sanctity for] Umrah [H: alone, even if before the Hajj months] then entering a state of pilgrim sanctity for Hajj before the [H: legislated] circumambulation.

One performing tamattu’ must [A: sacrifice] blood with four preconditions:

  1. that one is not from the people of the Sanctuary, and no further from the Sanctuary than the distance permitted for shortening prayer;
  2. entering a state of pilgrim sanctity for Umrah in the months of Hajj;
  3. performed in one year;
  4. and that one does not return to a designated site.

One performing qiran must [A: sacrifice] blood with two preconditions:

  1. that one is not from the people of the Sanctuary;
  2. and that one does not return to a designated site, after entering Makka.

On The Bloods

The [A: sacrificial] blood for [A: committing any of the following]:

  1. tamattu’;
  2. qiran;
  3. not entering a state of pilgrim sanctity from a designated site;
  4. not stoning;
  5. and not staying overnight stay in Muzdalifah and Mina

is a shāh [A: a yearling sheep or a two-year-old goat].

If one is unable [H: to sacrifice, such as not finding an animal which fits the description], one fasts ten days – three during Hajj and seven when one returns to one’s homeland.

On Prohibitions in Pilgrim Sanctity

The following six categories are prohibited during a state of pilgrim sanctity:

  1. It is prohibited for a man to cover his head, or a part of it, and to wear a sewn garment on his body or limb; and for a woman it is prohibited to veil her face or to wear gloves.
  2. Perfuming one’s body or clothes.
  3. Oiling the hair of one’s head or beard.
  4. Removing one’s hair or nails.

If one wears [T: in pilgrim sanctity what one is prohibited to wear, as in the first category], or perfumes [T: as in the second category], or oils one’s hair [T: as in the third category], or touches [A: anyone] with desire, or masturbates [H: with one’s own hand or another’s] and ejaculates, deliberately, knowing and out of choice; then one is obliged [H: to sacrifice blood, in contrast to one who does these forgetfully or in ignorance].

If one removes three or more nails in succession [T: as in the fourth category]; or three or more hairs in succession, even if forgetfully, then one is obliged [A: to slaughter] a sacrificial animal [A: which are discussed below], or feed six paupers, each one with half a sa’, or fast three days.

For every hair or nail [A: removed, one must give a pauper] one mudd, or fast one day. For every two hairs or two nails [A: removed, one must give] two mudds or [A: Fast] two days.

  1. Intercourse: If one has intercourse, deliberately, knowing and out of choice before the first release for Hajj or before finishing Umrah; one’s rites are void and it becomes obligatory to complete and make them up immediately, as well as sacrificing a camel [A: discussed below]. If unable, [A: one must sacrifice] a cow; if unable, seven shāhs [A: yearling sheep or two-year-old goats]; if unable, [A: one must feed the paupers of the Sanctuary with] food of the same value as a camel; if unable, one must fast the number of mudds [A: i.e. one must fast a day for each mudd of food that the value of a camel buys].
  2. Hunting an edible [A: for Muslims] wild [H: beast], or that which is [A: cross] bred from it and another. This is also prohibited inside the Sanctuary on the permissible. It is [A: also] prohibited to cut the moist plants of the Sanctuary and to uproot them, except for cymbopogon [A; lemongrass], thorn plants [H: even if not in one’s path], animal feed, medicine [H: such as colocynth], and crops [H: such as wheat and barley]. It is forbidden to uproot dry grass, but not to cut it.

If one destroys wild game which has its counterpart from cattle, then [A: one must sacrifice] its counterpart [H: in appearance, not in value]. If it does not have a counterpart, one must [A: sacrifice] its value. [A: The value of] an ostrich is a camel; [A: the value of] wild cattle and zebras is a cow; [A: the value of] deer is a shāh [A: a yearling sheep or a two-year-old goat]; [A: the value of] a pigeon is a shāh [A: a yearling sheep or a two-year-old goat].

One has the choice in [A: animals which have a] counterpart between slaughtering its counterpart in the Sanctuary and giving it in charity [H: to the Sanctuary’s paupers]; or giving in charity food of the same value of that counterpart; or fasting the number of mudds [A: one fasts a day for each mudd of food the counterpart buys].

With regards to animals which have no counterpart, like locusts, one has the choice between giving in charity food of the same value of that animal, and fasting the number of mudds [A: one fasts a day for each mudd of food that it buys].

[A: One is obliged] in [A: destroying] a large tree [A: to sacrifice] a yearling cow, and [A: one is obliged] in [A: destroying] a small tree, [H: according to custom, which is] like a seventh [H: approximately] of the large tree, [A: to sacrifice] a shāh [A: a yearling sheep or a two-year-old goat].

One has the choice between slaughtering, giving its value in food, or fasting the number of mudds [A: one fasts a day for each mudd of food that it buys].

[A: One is obliged] in [A: destroying] a very small tree to give its value in food as charity or to fast the number of mudds [A: one fasts a day for each mudd of food that it buys].

On Preventions of Hajj

It is permissible for: parents to prevent their non-Makkan child from entering into a state of pilgrim sanctity for a voluntary Hajj or Umrah, but not for an obligatory [A: Hajj or Umrah]; a husband to prevent his wife from an obligatory and recommended [A: Hajj or Umrah]; and a master to prevent his slave from the obligatory or recommended [A: Hajj or Umrah]. If they [H: i.e. a child, wife, or slave] enter a state of pilgrim sanctity without their [H: i.e. parents, husbands, or masters] permission, they must exit from it.

One who is prevented, or unable to complete, Hajj or Umrah, is released by slaughtering that which suffices as a sacrificial animal, then shaving [A: by cutting at least three hairs], whilst combining of the intention of exiting the state of pilgrim sanctity with these [A: two] acts [H: i.e. sacrificing and shaving]. Whoever is unable to slaughter, feeds [A: paupers] with [A: food equivalent to] the value of a shāh [A: a yearling sheep or a two-year-old goat]. If one is unable, one fasts the number of mudds [A: one fasts a day for each mudd of food that a shāh buys]. A slave is released only with the intention and shaving, and is not obliged to make-up [A: the Hajj or Umrah].

It is permissible to make a condition of release from pilgrim sanctity if one’s provisions become exhausted, or for illness, or another reason.

One who misses standing at Arafah is released by circumambulation, traversing, and shaving. [A: In addition, one must] must make it up, and sacrifice blood like the blood of one doing tamattu’ [A: i.e. a shah, which is yearling sheep or a two-year-old goat]. One slaughters this in the make-up Hajj.

Every obligatory blood must be slaughtered in the Sanctuary, except the blood resulting from impediments. The best place in Hajj is Mina, and the best place in Umrah is on al-Marwah, at any time one wishes, and given to paupers.

On Sacrificial Animals

It [T: i.e. sacrificing [A: during Hajj]] is emphatically recommended. It does not become obligatory except through an oath, or by saying, ‘This is a sacrificial animal,’ or ‘I have made this a sacrificial animal.’

None will suffice except camels, cows, and sheep or goats. The best is a camel, then a cow, then a sheep, then a goat, then a part of a camel. Seven shāhs [A: yearling sheep or two-year-old goats] are better than one camel. The best [H: in terms of colour] is white, then yellow, then tawny, then black-and-white, then black, and then red.

The condition for a camel is that it is five complete years; for a cow or goat that it is two complete years; and for a sheep that it is one complete year.

The animal should not be scabrous, even if a little; with an extreme limp; malnourished; crazy; blind or one-eyed; ill in any way which corrupts the meat; nor must any of its ear be cut off, even if minimal; nor its tongue; nor its udder; nor its rear; nor the outer side of its haunch; nor should all its teeth have gone.

One should intend the sacrifice at the time of slaughtering or before it.

The time for slaughtering begins after sunrise on the Day of Sacrifice, plus the lapse of a time period equal to two units of prayer and two light sermons. This [A: slaughtering period] extends till the end of the Appointed Days.

It is obligatory to give part of its raw meat as charity [H: if it is a voluntary sacrifice]. It is impermissible to sell any of it. An animal sacrificed as an oath must be completely given away in charity. It is detested [H: that one intending sacrifice] removes any of its hair or any other part [H: such as nails and the rest of its body] in the ten days of Dhu al-Hijjah until one sacrifices.

On Cutting a New-born’s Hair and Sacrificing on His Behalf

Sacrificing upon shaving a new-born’s hair is [H: emphatically] recommended like the sacrifice of Hajj. Its timing is from birth until attaining puberty. Thereafter, one may perform it for one’s self.

It is best performed on the seventh day [H: from birth, including the birth day]. If one does not slaughter on it, then [A: sacrifice] on the fourteenth day. If not, then the twenty-first day.

The most complete [A: sacrifice] is two shāhs [A: yearling sheep or two-year-old goats] for a male. One should not break it’s [A: i.e. the sacrificial animal] bones [H: where possible], and should give it away in charity cooked, with sweets. Sending it [H: to the paupers instead of calling them to it] is more complete.

It is recommended to shave the new-born’s head after the slaughtering; and to give in charity it’s weight [H: i.e. the hair of the head] in gold, then in silver; and to rub the infant’s gums with dates or something sweet. It is detested to wipe blood on his [H: i.e. the new-born] head, but there is nothing wrong with saffron.

On Prohibitions Relating to Hair and Similar Matters

It is prohibited to:

  1. dye one’s grey hairs black;
  2. put extensions into one’s hair;
  3. make gaps between one’s teeth;
  4. get a tattoo;
  5. and for a man to have henna without need.




Posted by on September 4, 2016 in Books, Fiqh


Ma’alim al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah

Recently, I’ve been reading the three volume Ma’alim al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 2015) by Salih al-Shami, whom I have mentioned elsewhere. It is proving to be a very useful reference and I am seriously considering teaching from it in future. I would like to bring more attention to this work, beginning with this post.

For those familiar with shaykh Salih, it is the fruit of his life’s work in compiling various zawa’id works which collect hadiths of certain books not available in certain other books. I have previously praised his al-Wafi, which complies all the hadiths of al-Bukhari and Muslim whilst removing the repetitions. Among his other zawa’id books are:

  • al-Jami’ bayn al-Sahihayn (compiling the contents of al-Bukhari and Muslim, currently being taught publicly in our city)
  • Zawa’id al-Sunan ‘ala al-Sahihayn (the hadiths of Abu Dawud, a-Tirmidhi, al-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah not available in al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • Zawa’id al-Muwatta wa al-Musnad (compiling hadiths from Malik and Ahmad not available in the six collections mentioned above)
  • Zawa’id al-Sunan al-Kubra (compiling the hadiths of al-Bayhaqi’s magnificent masterpiece that are unavailable in the above eight collections)
  • Zawa’id Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban, and al-Mustadrak (compiling the hadiths in these collections not available in the nine collections mentioned above)
  • Zawa’id al-Ahadith al-Mukhtara (compiling the hadiths of al-Maqdisi unavailable in the above twelve collections)

So these six compilations (totalling twenty-two volumes) gather the hadith texts of fourteen of the major collections of hadith. You really would struggle to find a hadith not contained therein. Shaykh Salih has now summarised the above fourteen collections and his own six compilations (with some modifications of his own) into a single three-volume reference, the subject of this post.

Shaykh Salih himself counts the totally of the hadiths (including repetitions) in the fourteen major compilations to be 114,194 in number! He removed the repetitions in his six compilations to bring the number of individual hadiths down to 28,430. These in turn have now been refined and summarised down to 3,921 hadiths in his latest compilation, focusing on the sahih and hasan (in his view) from the above. He mentions that he only includes weak hadiths if they clarify the meaning of a sahih or hasan hadith or if they pertain to virtues and good deeds. He says these amount to no more than 33, and none of them are very weak. He relies on the following editions for his compilation, as well as their editors’ hadith verifications:

  • Al-Albani for the four sunan
  • Husayn Salim Asad al-Darani for al-Darimi
  • Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut for Musnad Ahmad and Ibn Hibban
  • Abd al-Qadir al-Arna’ut for al-Muwatta (from Jami’ al-Usul)
  • Muhammad Mustafa al-A’zami for Ibn Khuzaymah
  • al-Dhahbi for al-Mustadrak (incomplete approach)
  • al-Bayhaqi for himself (incomplete approach)
  • ‘Abd al-Malik for al-Maqdisi

My criticism with this is that each editor has his own methodology and this approach can and does lead to inconsistencies. Not only that, few of these editions are truly critical editions and some hadiths are missing from them. If only he had better reference material and the ability to grade himself! Nevertheless, shaykh Salih is to be commended for such a wonderful effort and knowing his own limitations. His arrangement of the hadiths into various chapters is good and you can usually find a certain familiar hadith where you might expect to find it, with some exceptions. This leads to my main criticism – there is no index! I hope future editions include indices of atraf, narrators, etc. otherwise I fear I might have to compile them myself!

Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying the book and can envisage great possibilities using it in my teaching, with a focus on understanding the content of the hadith, leaving chains and methodology for later levels. I could easily see this in a curriculum before students commence with al-Sahihayn, and Sunan, and the other reference works. I’m still engaging with this work, but do encourage others to acquire copies for their own use too.


Posted by on April 8, 2016 in Books, Hadith/Sunnah


How to Study Tafsir

Sadly, Quranic studies in general, and tafsir in particular, are often the weakest parts of the curricula of Islamic schools, institutes and universities. What follows is a suggestion on how to study this noble science.

As with all disciplines in Islamic studies, they are interrelated as part of a holistic curriculum. Thus, to truly benefit from tafsir, one must also study related sciences, especially lugha, nahw, sarf, balaghah, usul al-fiqh, and sirah. So, as one completes the elementary stage, one should have also completed elementary study in these fields too. This is very important so as to not leave any gaps in one’s understanding.


The objective at this stage is to study completely an abridged and easy tafsir that gives one a general understanding of the Quran. This is a vital stage as it introduces the science of tafsir to the beginner. It must be emphasised that the book one chooses must be studied cover to cover, without getting preoccupied with the troublesome aspects (variant readings, conflicting interpretations, linguistics, etc.) of each ayah.

Tafsir al-Muyasir, al-Muntakhab fi Tafsir al-Quran al-Karim, and the recently published al-Mukhtasar fi al-Tafsir by Markaz al-Tafsir all give the general meaning of each ayah, without explaining each and every word. At first glance, this might seem to be a deficiency, as one would expect to have each word explained, but these works serve as excellent starting points in getting the gist of an ayah before further and deeper investigations. A student should be able to explain the general meaning of each ayah. A committee of scholars worked for years on each of these and one engaged with tafsir can really appreciate the efforts, as they present the most accurate interpretation of each ayah summarised in contemporary Arabic.

To compensate for the lack of vocabulary explanation in the aforementioned books, one should also add a work that defines the ambiguous words (gharib al-Quran) such as Kalimat al-Quran: Tafsir wa Bayan by Hasanayn Muhammad Makhluf. A similar work is al-Siraj fi Gharib al-Quran by al-Khudayr. Both of these contemporary works are easily arranged by ayah sequence. A more classical work is the excellent Tafsir Gharib al-Quran by Makki al-Qaysi, sometimes printed with the title al-‘Umdah. A simple classical work arranged like a dictionary is Tuhfat al-Arib by the famous grammarian and exegete Abu Hayyan.

One might ask, what about Tafsir al-Jalalayn by al-Mahalli (d.864) and al-Suyuti (d.911)? Whilst a short abridgement, it is not suitable for beginners because it has many difficult passages covering technical linguistic issues and variant readings (qira’at) that need further commentary and explanation. It assumes a certain level of learning on behalf of the reader. This is clear to anyone who has studied it. Yet, if any tafsīr is included in a curriculum, it is usually this one. The truth is that it more suitable for a higher level review for scholars and teachers, to be read alongside its hawashi, such as those by al-Jamal (which is excellent) and al-Sawi (abridged from the former). Its fame, in part, owes to being including in the Azhar curriculum over the centuries, where in previous times the students were much more grounded in linguistics and variant readings than they are today. If one, however, has been trained and has good grounding in linguistics and variant readings then it is an excellent choice.

A much more suitable pre-modern work (by a contemporary of al-Suyuti) for the elementary level is Jami’ al-Bayan by Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Iyji al-Shafi’i (d.905), which is a very clear and concise summary of the great works. As he states in his introduction, he wrote his tafsir as he felt there was a need for something like it, as aspirations had lowered and abilities weakened in his time for the study of the classics. He heavily relies on Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Tafsir al-Baghawi for validating narrations, and depends only on hadiths found in the canonical Six Books of Hadith. His stated main sources, in addition to the aforementioned, are al-Wasit by al-Wahidi, Tafsir al-Nasafi, al-Kashaf by al-Zamakhshari with the following three glosses: Hashiyat al-Tibi (highly regarded by al-Suyuti and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani), Hashiyat al-Kashf by Siraj al-Din ‘Umar al-Thani, and Hashiyat al-Taftazani. The final work upon which he relies is Tafsir al-Baydawi. He uses expressions to indicate authorities, such as saying ‘or’ (aw) between statements to indicate the Salaf (i.e. the Companions and Followers), and saying ‘it is said’ (qila) for the views of the later exegetes. It is an excellent tafsir for beginners as it prepares one well for future study.

Other easy classical commentaries suitable for the beginner include Tafsir Ibn Abi Zamanin al-Andalusi (d.399), by the famous early Maliki master, which is abridged from Tafsir Yahya b. Sallam (d.200).

A popular contemporary work among my teachers and peers is Aysar al-Tafasir by Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri, which was written after the president of the Islamic University of Medina specifically asked him to write a tafsir that resembles Tafsir al-Jalalayn, but with a Salafi agenda, which could replace the former in institutions of religious education. It is based on Tafsir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Tafsir al-Maraghi, and al-Saʿdi’s Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman.

However, I personally much prefer Safwat al-Tafasir by al-Sabuni. It is quite similar to al-Iyji’s tafsir in that it is based on the classical commentaries. It focuses on introducing each surah, explaining vocabulary (al-lughah), highlighting subtleties (latifah), benefits (fawa’id), places verses in context in relation to others (al-munasabah), causes of revelation (asbab al-nuzul), and rhetorical devices (al-balaghah). I would venture as far as to say that it is the best introductory tafsir written by a living scholar. Some of the criticisms against it by contemporaries in Arabia are exaggerated and do not affect its overall value.

It is important at this stage to be consistent. One should plan well and designate a set amount to study each week, sticking to it till one completes the task. A manageable amount is to read half a juz a week, or the tafsir of about a page from the Mushaf al-Madinah a day. In this manner, one will have completed the basic tafsir of the Quran in approximately one year.


The objective at this stage is to familiarise oneself with multiple aspects of tafsir, especially concerning the explanation of words and the various narrations regarding each ayah, without striving to find which is preponderant (tarjih) nor being too concerned when different statements are attributed the same authorities, such as Ibn ‘Abbas

This level is the beginning of specialization. One moves beyond having a general picture about each ayah that presents only one meaning and moves towards exegetical methodology (usul al-tafsir) and the various statements of the exegetes (aqwal al-mufassirin).

It is important that one understands exegetical methodology, the causes of different opinions, the categories of interpretation, the rules of interpretation, the rules of giving preponderance (tarjih), knowing the nomenclature of the exegetes, knowing the variant readings (qira’at), causes of revelation (asbab al-nuzul), abrogation (al-nasikh wa al-mansukh), etc.

Thus, one should read works that address such issues, taking care to memorise to various views of the early exegetes.

Zad al-Masir by Ibn al-Jawzi is an intermediate tafsir that concisely presents the various opinions without selecting the preponderant view. It was designed as an intermediate tafsir to give basic tools to student before going into depths. It is both comprehensive and concise. One may use it to build upon al-Iyji’s work by determining who said what about each ayah.

Tafsir Ibn Juzayy is another excellent intermediate work, which may compliment reading Zad al-Masir. It is notable for its focus on definitions and the branches of learning that lead out from the Quran.

Gharib al-Quran by Ibn Qutaybah is a highly influential work that is quoted by many of the classical works such as those by al-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, and al-Razi. It is relatively brief and is the best place to begin when looking for the meaning of some of the more ambiguous words. Due to its conciseness, I prefer it to similar, but more expansive, works such as Majaz al-Quran by Abu ‘Ubaydah and Ma’ani al-Quran by al-Farra’.

One might ask, for the intermediate level, what about Tafsir al-Baydawi? Whilst this is a very popular commentary that is still studied (in part not in whole) in some institutes, it is not suitable even for intermediate students. It is a difficult book as is clear to anyone who has studied it. It cannot be fully understood without further commentary and thus attracted more than 2,000 marginal glosses (hawashi), the most famous by al-Tibi, as scholars grappled to understand and engage with certain passages. Why such a large number, you might ask? It was later adopted and promoted in the curriculum of the Ottoman Empire by Shaykh al-Islam Abu al-Su’ud and ratified by Sultan Sulayman. Its standing grew to such an extent that certain teaching positions were only given to someone who had written a gloss on it. This partly explains why it has attracted a huge amount of glosses in manuscript. It is, by far, the most popular tafsir among scholars of the later pre-modern period (‘asr al-muta’akhirun). It is a Sunni refinement of Tafsir al-Zamakhshari, removing the Mu’tazali arguments, whilst retaining its linguistic discussions, which are somewhat perplexing to most students, and even many teachers, today due to the paucity of contemporary understanding of Arabic linguistics. Again, as with Tafsir al-Jalalayn, this is a book for experts to review, not for curriculum study in my view.


At this stage one starts to address to issue of preponderance (tarjih) with the aim that the student should know which view is most correct about what is said about each ayah, as well as the strongest non-preponderant views, as these have the possibility of also being correct. One should research issues in the major references and practically apply the methodologies, focusing on the specialised features which distinguish each exegete, be that language, fiqh, variant readings, etc.

The best references for seeking the preponderant views in vocabulary and narration are: (1) al-Tabari, (2) Ibn ‘Atiyyah, (3) Ibn ‘Ashur, (4) Abu Hayyan, (5) al-Razi, and (6) al-Raghib.

Tafsir al-Tabari – all knowledge of tafsir has its foundation in this book, as it shows one how to deal with: reconciling the variant opinions of the commentators, interplay with other ayat, deduce rulings, etc. in order to establish the correct meaning. It is so well known and widespread that I doubt I need to elucidate its virtues.

Tafsir Ibn ‘Atiyyah  pays great attention to establishing the preponderant view (tarjih) from the sayings of the Salaf (the first three generations), and it helps to train the student in the method of tarjih for other narrations not addressed by Ibn ‘Atiyyah. It was highly regarded by Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Taymiyyah due to its extensive and meticulous research, summarising the formative tradition with the most accurate narrations, and was influential on later exegetes such as al-Qurtubi, Abu Hayyan, Ibn Kathir, and al-Shawkani.

Ibn ‘Atiyyah sources include the premier books of his time in tafsir, qira’at, fiqh, and lugha with the aim of tafsir the pinnacle of Islamic studies. He is unique for his time in that he included nothing of the Isra’iliyat common in tafsir books.

When Ibn Atiyyah quotes from earlier scholars, he looks very critically at what they say, making sure that what he quotes is correct and accurate. In this way, he was able to purge any interpretation that sought to give Qur’anic words or statements anything other than their immediate meanings. He rejects all suggestions that Qur’anic statements may have hidden meanings that could be known only to an elite group of people. To him, the Qur’an is God’s book addressed to all mankind in a direct and straightforward manner. This does not allow any room for hidden meaning.

Ibn Atiyyah explains his methodology by stating: ‘I proceed in this commentary according to the word order of every verse, explaining its rulings, grammatical positions, linguistic functions, meanings and the pronunciation of different methods of recitation.’ It is excellently arranged and follows a logical progression with an emphasis on linguistics.

When he speaks of the legal implication of verses and sentences, Ibn Atiyyah does not confine himself to the Maliki madhab, nor does he always support the views of the madhab. He analyzes the evidence supporting each view and gives preponderance to views that have solid evidence.

Tafsir Ibn ‘Ashur, al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwih (The Verification and Enlightenment), is in my view by far the greatest tafsir of the last century. I believe that if any modern tafsir work is still read in centuries ahead, it will be this one. Yet, it has largely been overlooked, having been overshadowed by modernist works by the likes of Rida and Qutb. However, unlike many 20th century exegetes, Ibn ‘Ashur was firmly grounded in the classical tradition, hailing from a scholarly aristocratic family of judges. The distinguishing feature of his tafsīr is his identification of the ta’lil, or rationale as well as underlining the maqasid, or objectives. He also highlights rhetorical devices and reconciling different views. It gives one a solid foundation in tafsir.

It was published between 1956 and 1970 and was the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship of the highest order.

He is critical of most tafasir in that they are dependent on previous works, basically gather what are dispersed among the abridged and extensive tafasir. My own readings support this observation too. There are certain works that are so original and pioneering that they influenced many subsequent works to the extent that one finds entire passages copied. Al-Zamakhshari’s tafsir is a prime example. Most post-Zamakhshari linguistic tafasir cannot avoid engaging with it.

Ibn ‘Ashur goes on to state the most important exegetes in his view:

  • al-Zamakhshari
  • Ibn ʿAtiyyah
  • al-Razi
  • al-Baydawi, which he says is a summary of al-Zamakhshariand al-Razi in a wonderful achievement
  • al-Alusi
  • The glosses on al-Zamakhshari by al-Tibi, al-Qazwini, al-Qutb, and al-Taftazani
  • The gloss on al-Baydawiby al-Khafaji
  • Abu al-Suʿud
  • al-Qurtụbi
  • Ibn ʿArafah
  • al-Tabari

What is most intriguing for me is that al-Zamakhshari, a noted Mu’tazali, is listed first before the others, as Ibn ‘Ashur’s exegesis of 42:51 could draw criticism of I’tizal, even though it is presented as an Ash’ari view.

Ibn ‘Ashur himself emphasizes that tafsir is the art of expounding meaning and what can be deduced from it thereof. It is firmly grounded in the classical tradition, as can be deduced by his list of important tafāsīr, in focusing on linguistic analysis and Ibn ‘Ashur’s mastery of Arabic allows him to make penetrating insights in his exegesis.

Ibn ‘Ashur listed the following eight objectives (maqasid) for his tafsir:

  1. Reforming Islamic education
  2. Explaining correct beliefs
  3. Defining Quranic law
  4. Clarifying the policy of the Islamic community
  5. Analyzing the history of ancient punished community
  6. Demonstrating sound Quranic methods of proof and deduction
  7. Moral development
  8. Demonstrating the miraculous nature of the Quran

Tafsir Abu Hayyan – is the apex of classical grammatical and linguistic tafsir and is the first point of reference in this regard. 

Tafsir al-Razi – excellent at solving problems and is one of the main references scholars keep coming back to, alongside al-Tabari and Ibn ‘Ashur. Ibn Taymiyyah once infamously stated that ‘in it is everything except tafsir!’ Many later scholars criticised this statement, as Tafsir al-Razi is extremely popular, for good reason. Rather, as some retorted, ‘in it is everything plus tafsir,’ indicating its encyclopaedic scope.

al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Quran by al-Raghib al-Asfahani is the main reference for defining Quranic vocabulary. The definitions here take precedence over those found in other works.


The objective of this stage is to read the major references and give preponderance based on the skills acquired in the previous stage.

How does one identify the major works? I personally check the listings of major scholars. The main references are Muhammad al-Zarqani (Z), Muhammad Husayn al-Dhahabi (DH), al-Fadl b. ‘Ashur (IA), Nur al-Din ‘Itr (I), Mustafa al-Bugha/Muhyi al-Din Mistu (B), Abdullah al-Juday’ (J), Ibrahim Rufaydah (R), Manna’ al-Qattan (Q), Musa’id al-Tayyar (T), and Muhammad al-Sabuni (S).

Ibn Ashur probably has the most specialized knowledge and is well-versed in the tradition, al-Dhahabi and al-Sabuni probably have the best overview, Rufaydah has good judgment in grammar, and Juday’ and al-Tayyar are probably the most insightful. I have highlighted in bold those that are listed by seven or more authorities, and adjusted the script to facilitate proper pronunciation.

Muqātil (d. 150; the earliest preserved tafsīr) none listed but still important nevertheless

Yaḥyā ibn Sallām (d. 200) IA

al-Farrāʾ (d. 207) R

Abū ʿUbaydah (d. 209) R

al-Zajjāj (d. 311) R, Z

al-Ṭabarī (d. 311) (ma’thūr) IA, DH, R, Z, Q, J, B, I, T, S

Abū Mansụ̄r al-Māturīdī (d. 333) – the first major theological tafsīr IA

al-Naḥḥās (d. 338) R, J (I’rab) Z (nasikh mansukh)

al-Jasas (d. 370) ahkam J, S

al-Samarqandī (d. 375) ma’thur  DH, Z, Q, S

al-Thaʿlabī (d. 427) ma’thur IA, DH, S

Makki al-Qaysi (d. 437) J

al-Wāḥidī (d. 468) R, Z (basit), Z (asbab)

ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī (d. 471) a major linguistic tafsīr IA

Ilkiyā al-Harāsi (d. 504) J, S

al-Baghawī (d. 516) ma’thur DH, Z, J, S

al-Zamakhsharī (d. 538) a major linguistic tafsīr (with al-Jurjānī) IA, R, Q, B, I, S

Ibn ʿAṭiyyah (d. 542) – ma’thur masterpiece in tarjīḥ IA, DH, R, Q, J, T, S

Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 597) J, T

Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 604) IA, DH, R, Z, Q, B, S

al-Qurtụbī (d. 671) R, Z, Q, J, B, S

al-Nasafī (d. 710) ra’y DH, R, Z, Q, I, S

al-Khāzin (d.725) DH, Z, Q, I, S

al-Naysābūrī (d. 728) – ra’y lists the qira’āt, DH, Z, S

Ibn Juzayy (d. 741) T

Abū Ḥayyān al-Gharnāṭī (d. 745) – the apex of grammatical tafsīr , DH, R, Z, Q, J, T, S

Ibn Kathīr (d. 774) – distinguished in ḥadīth DH, Z, J, B, I, T, S

al-Bayḍāwī (d. 791) IA, DH, R, Z, Q, J, I, S

Ibn ʿArafah (d. 803) IA

al-Thaʿālibī (d. 875) DH, R, I, S

al-Suyūṭī (d. 911)  al-Durr al-manthūr (and Tafsīr al-Jalālayn) DH, Z, Q, J, S

al-Khaṭīb al-Sharbīnī (d. 977) – ra’y gives tarjīḥ DH, R, Z, S

Abū al-Suʿūd (d. 982) IA, DH, R, Z, Q, I, S

al-Siyālkūtī (d. 1066) – best hashiya on al-Bayḍāwī, though incomplete IA

al-Khafājī (d. 1069) one of the best hawashi on al-Bayḍāwī IA, R

al-Shawkānī, (d.1250) both ma’thūr and ra’y R, J

al-Ālūsī (d. 1270) IA, DH, R, Z, Q, I, S

Ibn ‘Āshūr (d. 1393) the tafsīr of our age J, T


Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Books, Qur'an, Uncategorized


Major Arabic Sources for the Study of History and Biography

History is seen by many social scientists as the king of the branches of learning due to the number of sciences upon which it draws. The following are the major references for studying Islamic history and biography. It is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of each work, as well as objectivity. Generally, each work is best suited to describing contemporary events and personalities going back a century or so.

150. Ibn Ishaq of al-Madinah and later Baghdad (major source for Ibn Hisham)

207. al-Waqidi of al-Madinah: al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi and Futuh al-Sham (covering the Prophetic battles and the early Islamic conquests, though his hadiths are almost universally rejected)

213. Ibn Hisham of Basra and later Egypt (the main source for Sirah – refined from Sirat Ibn Ishaq, whereby he removes much of the Isra’iliyat and adds some details in language and lineage. It thus gained the pleasure of the majority of scholars as no author after Ibn Hisham is free from depending on him. The truth is that the general picture one gains approaches pretty much what is related in the sound narrations, as stated by Shaykh Akram al-‘Umari)

230. Ibn Sa’d of Baghdad, the scribe of al-Waqidi: al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (highly regarded biographies of the Companions and early generations. The first two volumes are specifically about the Sirah. Ibn Sa’d is trustworthy in investigating much of what he narrates, as stated by Khatib al-Baghdadi and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, except that he narrates from weak narrators such as al-Waqidi, from whom he relates so much that Ibn al-Nadim accused him of plagiarism. His three strongest sources are ‘Affan b. Muslim, ‘Abd Allah b. Musa, and Fadl b. Dakin, all of whom are from the trustworthy hadith scholars. )

240. Khalifah b. Khayat: Tarikh (He was a trustworthy narrator and one of the shaykhs of al-Bukhari in his Sahih)

248. al-Ya’qubi of Khurasan and later North Africa – pre-Islamic and early Islamic history

257. Ibn Abd al-Hakam of Cairo: Futuh Misr wa al-Maghrib wa al-Andalus (on the Islamic conquests of North Africa and Spain)

279. al-Baladhuri of Baghdad: Futuh al-Buldan and Ansab al-Ashraf (major reference on the early Islamic conquests, considered weak by Ibn Hajar in Lisan al-Mizan)

279. Ibn Abi Khaythama: Akhbar al-Makkiyin (a reliable source according to al-Dhahabi, published only in part)

283. al-Dinarawi of Persia: al-Akhbar wa al-Tiwal (up to his own time)

310. al-Tabari of Baghdad: Tarikh al-Umum wa al-Muluk (covers the first three centuries of Islamic history – he usually does not criticise narrators but does include chains for readers to research and investigate)

310. Ibn Fadlan of Baghdad: al-Rihla (important description of the Germanic and Slavic peoples during his diplomatic mission in East Europe)

346. al-Mas’udi of Baghdad: Muruj al-Dhahab (covers universal pre-Islamic history up to the late Abbasid Caliphate)

363. al-Qadi al-Nu’man: Iftitah al-Daw’ah (official history of the rise of the Fatimids)

367. Ibn al-Qutiyyah: Tarikh Iftitah al-Andalus (one of the earliest sources on the Islamic conquest of Spain)

430. Abu Nu’aym of Asfahan: Hilyat al-Awliya (biographies of saintly figures up to his time)

463. al-Khatib al-Baghdadi: Tarikh Baghdad (covers the major figures to have visited Baghdad up to his time)

463. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr: al-Durur fi Ikhtisar al-Maghazi wa al-Siyar ()

468. Ibn Hayyan: al-Muqtabis fi Tarikh al-Andalus (a major history of al-Andalus up to the fall of the Umayyads, which he laments)

560. al-Baydhaq: al-Muqtabis (on the rise of the Almohads)

571. Ibn ‘Asakir: Tarikh Dimashq (covers the major figures to have visited Damascus up to his time)

584. Ibn Munqidh: al-I’tibar (vital source of the Crusades)

630. Ibn al-Athir of Mosul: al-Kamil fi Tarikh (one of the major sources for the Crusades and Mongol Invasions, considered one of the great and trustworthy historians)

632. Ibn Shaddad: al-Nawadir al-Sultaniyyah (the most important contemporary biography of Salah al-Din and the Second Crusade)

681. Ibn Khallikan of Mosul, Damascus, and Cairo: Wafiyat al-A’yun (biographies of major figures up to 600)

712. Ibn ‘Idhari: Bayan al-Mahgrib (valuable of the Almoravids (al-Murabitun) and Almohads (al-Muwahidun))

734. Ibn Sayyid al-Nas: ‘Uyun al-Athar (a trustworthy hadith scholar according to al-Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir, and a disciple of Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id, his book is one of the classic hadith-based sirah works)

748. al-Dhahabi of Damascus: Tarikh al-Islam, Siyar A’lam al-Nubula (biographies and history up to the 8th C, including a highly regarded sirah in the beginning of the first book)

751. Ibn al-Qayyim: Zad al-Ma’ad (one of the classics of shama’il and fiqh al-sirah)

774. Ibn Kathir of Damascus: al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah (highly regarded history and biography on the methodology of hadith scholars up to 8th C)

779. Ibn Battutah: al-Rihla (description of the medieval Old World)

808. Ibn Khaldun of North Africa: al-Tarikh (universal historiography, excellent for 7th-8th C)

832. Taqi al-Din al-Fasi: al-‘Iqd al-Thamin (the great histoty of Makkah)

841. Burhan al-Din al-Halabi: al-Sirat al-Halabiyyah (very popular work but includes Isra’iliyat and deleted chains, though explains difficult words and adds valuable observations and notes)

845. al-Maqrizi of Cairo: al-Mawa’iz wa al-I’tibar (masterpiece), al-Itti’az (main reference for Fatimids), al-Suluk li Ma’rifat Duwal al-Muluk (on the Ayyubids and Mamluks)

852. Ibn Hajar of Cairo: al-Durar al-Kaminah (8th C)

902. al-Sakhawi of Cairo: al-Law’ al-Lami’ (9th C)

923. al-Qastallani of Cairo: al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah (one of the major shama’il works, with a massive commentary by al-Zurqani [d.1122])

942. Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Salihi al-Dimashqi al-Shami: Subul al-Huda wa al-Rushad (possibly the largest sirah ever written, compiled from more than 300 sources)

1089. Ibn al-‘Imad: Shadharat al-Dhahab (up to 1000)

1111. al-Muhibbi: Khulasat al-Athar (11th C)

1250. al-Shawkani: al-Badr al-Tali’ (from 7th C, picking up from al-Dhahabi)


Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Books, History


How to Study the Hanbali Madhab


What follows is a curriculum for training in the Hanbali madhab based on my own experience and consultation with scholars in Arabia. Whilst there are a number of books to choose from, the following provides the best overview of the madhab, in my view.

Dalil al-Talib by Mar’i b. Yusuf (d.1033)

This text is still taught in mosques in Saudi Arabia, and students refer to Manar al-Sabil for evidences alongside Irwa’ al-Ghalil for takhrij by al-Albani. It is very clear and has quite a bit of detail not found in other books of a similar size. There is an easy audio commentary available online by Muhammad Ba-Jabir. This should be one’s starting place.

Zad al-Mustaqni’ by al-Hijjawi (d.968)

This splendid text is still widely taught here in Saudi Arabia and is based on al-Muqni’ by Ibn Qudamah. There is an easy audio commentary available online by Muhammad Ba-Jabir. Zad al-Mustaqni’ should be studied with al-Rawdh al-Murbi’ by Imam Mansur al-Bahuti (d.1051) whilst referring to the relatively recent (but excellent) hashiyat Ibn al-Qasim. Ibn ‘Uthaymin also has a brief hashiyah on it too. Recent commentaries have been written based on recorded audio classes conducted in Saudi Arabia by Ibn ‘Uthaymin and Muhammad Mukhtar al-Shanqiti, which are excellent, but do not reach the level of learning of al-Bahuti – the undisputed Imam of the Hanbalis of his time and a shaykh at al-Azhar in its golden age.

Sharh Muntaha al-Iradat by al-Bahuti (d.1051)

This is most likely the last book covered by students cover to cover with a teacher in private classes. It is a clear commentary on Ibn al-Najjar’s Muntaha al-Iradat, which clarifies the mu’tamad in the madhab, and has an ample amount of what a student needs. Traditionally, it was a reference for fatawa and one still finds it referenced in contemporary rulings.

al-Mughni by Ibn Qudama (d.620)

Al-Mughni is not really covered with a teacher anymore and is more of a personal reference. I have listed it as the last book here to cover for the standing that it has and the great benefit that studying it brings. Al-Mughni is Ibn Qudamah’s commentary on Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi, which is itself based upon the work of al-Khallal, the most active second generation Hanbali. Al-Khallal collected Imam Ahmad’s responses to legal questions from his immediate students in one book. This was then abridged by al-Khiraqi and commented upon by Ibn Qudamah in the suitably named al-Mughni (the Enricher). It was the final book in a curriculum designed by Ibn Qudamah to take one from beginner to master jurist, and has proved to be very popular among scholars of other madhabs, particularly the Shafi’is, of whom Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, al-Dhahabi, and al-Nawawi among others, held in in high regard. This book is not the final word in the madhab, but it does train one in fiqh in a way that other books do not.


There are a number of reference works which any Hanbali should have, however the following are perhaps the most essential.

Kashf al-Qina’ by al-Bahuti (d.1051) is the go to place for finding the mu’tamad position in the madhab.

al-Furu’ wa al-Tashih by Ibn Muflih (d.763) is a refreshing and influential approach to determining the soundest views.

al-Adab al-Shari’ah also by Ibn al-Muflih is an excellent book on contextualising fiqh

al-Insaf fi Ma’rifat al-Rajih min al-Ikhtilaf by al-Mardawi (d.885) is the encyclopedia of internal Hanbali differences, with the strongest view being highlighted.


Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Books, Fiqh


How to Study the Hanafi Madhab

What follows are my own suggestions for studying the furu’ of the Hanafi school, based on my own experiences and consulting with scholars. These works are studied after mastering the basics of ‘ibada through works such as Nur al-Idah by al-Shurunbulali (d.994) with its commentary, Maraqi al-Falah, by the same author.

Mukhtasar al-Quduri by al-Quduri (d.428)

This blessed text is usually the first one studied that covers the full spectrum of fiqh. In al-Sham, it is almost always studied alongside its commentary, al-Lubab, by Abd-al-Ghani al-Maydani, a student of Ibn Abidin. The benefit of this commentary is that it is late (post-Ibn ‘Abidin) and thus incorporates much of the refinement and tarjih of the later period. It is also very clear and easy to read, even without a teacher. 

al-Mukhtar by al-Mawsuli (d.683)

This text is invariably studied with its commentary, al-Ikhtiyar li Ta’lil al-Mukhtar, by the same author. The commentary was the high school text for Hanafis at al-Azhar schools during the 20th Century. It mentions the differences between Abu Hanifah and his three major disciples Abu Yusuf, Muhammad al-Shaybani, and al-Zufar, as well as Imam al-Shafi’i. It also mentions the reasoning and evidence behind the chosen position. Some consider it to be somewhat of an abridgement of al-Hidayah.

Multaqa al-Abhur by Ibrahim al-Halabi (d.956)

This very useful text combines the masa’il (legal issues) of the four most reliable texts according to the later scholars: Mukhtasar al-Quduri, al-Mukhtar by al-Mawsuli, Kanz al-Daqa’iq by al-Nasafi (d.710), and al-Wiqayah by Burhan al-Shari’ah (d.673). As such, it suffices instead of separately studying the later two, even with their respected commentaries. It also uses very clear language and points to the relied-upon position, and thus is usually studied without commentary, though teachers and students may want to refer to the commentaries of al-Haskafi and Shaykh Zada. Multaqa al-Abhur was extrememly popular in Ottoman times and is the most numerous fiqh text (of all the schools) in manuscript.

al-Hidayah by al-Marghinani (d.593)

This is perhaps the most famous Hanafi text, and for good reason. It mentions evidences and differences with others, especially the Shafi’is. It must be studied with Fath al-Qadir, the commentary of Ibn al-Humam (d.861). One should also be careful to source-reference the hadiths with the takhrij works of Ibn Hajar and al-Zayla’i. One should also be careful with the transmissions from al-Shafi’i, as sometimes these are inaccurate. Nevertheless, both text and commentary train one in becoming a faqih in a way in which most texts are incapable.

Radd al-Muhtar by Ibn ‘Abidin (d. 1252)

Popularly known as Hashiyat Ibn ‘Abidin among Arabs and Shami in India, this gloss on al-Haskafi’s al-Durr al-Mukhtar (itself a commentary on Tanwir al-Absar) is still taught cover to cover in Syria (or at least was when I was last there in 2007). It is an encycloaedia of Hanafi fiqh, of which no Hanafi can do without.

Bada’i al-Sana’i by al-Kasani (d.587)

This is a wonderful text that is very clear, with evidences and differences, and has less quyud than many later texts. It is often referenced by non-Hanafis, who hold it in high regard.

I’la al-Sunan by Dhafar Ahmad al-Uthmani al-Thanawi

This monumental contemporary work is a commentary on just over 6,000 narrations which form the basis of Hanafi fiqh. It also includes the Hanafi approach to ‘ulum al-hadith and usul al-fiqh.


Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Books, Fiqh