“Truly, hadith pleases the virile among men,
while the effeminate among them hate it.”
Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Thabit ibn Ahmad ibn Mahdi al-Shafi‘i (392-463), with Abu al-Ma‘ali Ibn al-Juwayni and Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri the third most important figure in the fourth generation-layer of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari’s school, praised by al-Dhahabi as “the most peerless imam, erudite scholar and mufti, meticulous hadith master, scholar of his time in hadith, prolific author, and seal of the hadith masters.” Al-Qinnawji said: “He was a jurist whose preference went to hadith and history.” His father – a memorizer of Qur’an and the main preacher (khatîb) in Darzijan Southwest of Baghdad – sat him at the age of eleven in the class of Ibn Razquyah al-Bazzar (d. 412), after which he travelled first to Baghdad then Naysabur around 415, back to Baghdad, then Asbahan for two years, Ray, Hamadhan, Dinawar, back to Baghdad, then al-Sham and Mecca for pilgrimage, then Baghdad or his nearby native Darzijan until 451, then Damascus until 459, then Tyre (Sûr) until 462, then Baghdad again where he died.
Al-Khatib wrote abundantly on the science of hadith and became the undisputed hadith authority in his time according to his student, the Hanbali hadith master Ibn ‘Aqil. He heard countless hadith masters, among them Abu Bakr al-Barqani (who also narrated from him), Abu Nu‘aym al-Asbahani, al-‘Abdawi, and the pious centenarian virgin scholar Karima bint Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Marwaziyya (d. 463) – one of al-Kushmihani’s students – from whom al-Khatib took al-Bukhari’s Sahih in five days during his pilgrimage trip at age fifty-two. He took Shafi‘i fiqh from Abu al-Hasan ibn al-Mahamili and the qadi Abu al-Tayyib al-Tabari, whom he frequented for several years. Among his famous students: al-Nasr al-Maqdisi, Ibn Makula, al-Humaydi, Abu Mansur al-Shaybani – who transmitted his Tarikh – and the Hanbali Abu Ya‘la.
Ibn Makula and al-Mu’taman al-Saji said that the people of Baghdad never saw anyone such as al-Khatib after al-Daraqutni. Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Suri ranked al-Khatib far above Abu Nasr al-Sijzi. Abu ‘Ali al-Baradani said: “It is probable al-Khatib never met his equal.” Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini said: “Al-Khatib is the Daraqutni of our time.” Ibn Makula said:
He was one of the foremost scholars whom we witnessed in his science, precision, memorization, and accuracy in the hadith of the Messenger of Allah e . He was an expert in its minute defects, its chains of transmission, its narrators and transmitters, the sound and the rare, the unique and the denounced, the defective and the discarded. The people of Baghdad never had someone comparable to Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn ‘Umar al-Daraqutni after the latter, except al-Khatib.
Sa‘id al-Mu’addib asked al-Khatib: “Are you the hadith master Abu Bakr?” He replied: “I am Ahmad ibn ‘Ali; hadith mastership ended with al-Daraqutni.”
About hadith mastership al-Khatib wrote:
He does not excel in hadith science nor is able to peruse its complexities and shed light on its hidden benefits except he who has gathered its variants, collated its loose ends, brought it all together, and worked assiduously to compile it under its topical subheadings, organizing its different types. This activity strengthens competence, cements memorization, purifies the heart, hones the personality, expands the tongue, greatly improves language, unveils ambiguities and clarifies them. It also earns memorability and immortality, as the poet said:
Some die then knowledge keeps alive their memory,
While ignorance joins the dead with the dead.
‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Ahmad al-Kattani said: “Al-Khatib followed the [doctrinal] school of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari – Allah have mercy on him.” Al-Dhahabi reports this and comments: “This is true. For al-Khatib explicitly stated, concerning the reports on the Divine Attributes, that they are passed on exactly as they were received, without interpretation.” Ibn al-Subki comments: “This is al-Ash‘ari’s position, yes. But al-Dhahabi is the victim of his lack of knowledge of Shaykh Abu al-Hasan’s position just as others were also victims: for al-Ash‘ari also has another position allowing for figurative interpretation (al-ta’wîl).” Al-Dhahabi does go on to relate al-Khatib’s precise disowning of both nullification (ta‘tîl) and anthropomorphism (tajsîm) of the divine Attributes:
Abu Bakr al-Khatib said: “As for what pertains to the divine Attributes, whatever is narrated in the books of sound reports concerning them, the position of the Salaf consists in their affirmation and letting them pass according to their external wordings while negating from them modality(kayfiyya) and likeness to things created (tashbîh). <A certain people have contradicted the Attributes and nullified what Allah I had affirmed; while another people have declared them real then went beyond this to some kind of likening to creation and ascription of modality. The true objective is none other than to tread a middle path between the two matters. The Religion of Allah I lies between the extremist and the laxist.> The principle to be followed in this matter is that the discourse on the Attributes is a branch of the discourse on the Essence. The path to follow in the former is the same extreme caution as in the latter. When it is understood that the affirmation of the Lord of the Worlds [in His Essence] is only an affirmation of existence and not of modality, it will be similarly understood that the affirmation of His Attributes is only an affirmation of their existence, not an affirmation of definition (tahdîd) nor an ascription of modality. So when we say: Allah I has a Hand, hearing, and sight, they are none other than Attributes Allah I has affirmed for Himself. We should not say that the meaning of ‘hand’ is power (al-qudra) nor that the meaning of ‘hearing’ and ‘sight’ is knowledge (‘ilm), nor should we say that they are organs (lâ naqûlu innahâ jawârih)! Nor should we liken them to hands, hearings, and sights that are organs and implements of acts. We should say: All that is obligatory is  to affirm them because they are stated according to divine prescription (tawqîf), and  to negate from them any likeness to created things according to His saying (There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him) (42:11) ( and there is none like Him) (112:4).”
Our teacher Dr. Nur al-Din ‘Itr comments al-Khatib’s position thus:
This is a vulnerable spot where feet tread a slippery path. Many are those who fell into likening Allah to His creatures because of it, or into something like it – our refuge is in Allah! – while believing that this was the position of the pious Salaf y but Allah has exonerated the latter from holding it. … Imam al-Khatib passed the obstacle at which point pens lapsed and illusions flared, for he refuted the Mu‘tazila and their likes who contradict the divine Attributes, and he understood the position of the Salaf as it truly is by affirming those Attributes with a kind of affirmation that commits to Allah I the knowledge of their reality, not an affirmation of dimensionality and modality (athbata tilka al-sifât ithbâtan yufawwidu ‘ilma haqîqatihâ ilâ Allâhi ta‘âlâ lâ ithbâta tahdîd wa takyîf). He thereby asserted the school of the Salaf as it really was, not as some erratic people in our time understand it to be. The latter are in fact arrogant wranglers who cannot tell the difference between the Salaf’s committal of the actual knowledge of these matters to Allah, their holding His Transcendence above whatever anthropomorphism the terms may suggest, and the anthropomorphism of the ignorant Karramiyya!
Abu al-Faraj al-Isfarayini said: “Al-Khatib was with us in Hajj, and he used to conclude an integral recitation of Qur’an outloud every day. People would gather around him as he was mounted, saying: ‘Narrate hadith to us,’ and he would narrate to them.” ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-Shihi said: “I was al-Khatib’s travelling companion from Damascus to Baghdad, and he used to recite the entire Qur’an once every day and night.”
Ibn al-Abanusi reported that al-Khatib used to read while walking. This is a common habit among hadith masters. Al-Khatib himself narrated that ‘Ubayd ibn Ya‘ish said: “For thirty years I never ate at night with my own hand. My sister would spoonfeed me while I wrote hadith.”
Al-Khatib wrote in his Tarikh Baghdad in the entry devoted to Isma‘il ibn Ahmad al-Naysaburi al-Darir: “He went to pilgrimage and narrated hadith, and what a wonderful shaykh he was! When he went to Hajj he took with him a load of books, intending to reside in Mecca or Madina for a while. Among them was al-Bukhari’s Sahih which he had heard from al-Kushmihani. I read it before him entirely in three sittings. The third session lasted from the beginning of the day until night, and it ended with the rising of dawn.” Al-Dhahabi comments: “This was – by Allah! – the kind of reading faster than which no-one ever heard.”
Abu al-Qasim ibn al-Muslima, al-Qa’im bi Amrillah’s vizier – nicknamed Ra’is al-ru’asa’ – and a hadith scholar, patronized al-Khatib with a small fortune which enabled the latter to devote himself to teaching and writing. He passed an edict that no teacher nor preacher in Baghdad narrate a hadith without authenticating it with al-Khatib first. He once asked the latter to verify a document which some Jews produced claiming that it was the Prophet’s e exemption of the tax on non-Muslims (jizya) for the Jews of Khaybar written, they said, in the hand of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib t . Al-Khatib looked at the document then declared it a forgery on the grounds that it was witnessed by Mu‘awiya – who entered Islam in the year of the conquest of Mecca, whereas Khaybar was conquered in the year 7 – and Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh who died during the battle of Banu Qurayza two years before Khaybar.
Al-Khatib came to settle in Damascus, fleeing Baghdad in Safar 451 in fear for his life during the Fatimi-leaning Turk Arslan al-Basasiri’s (d. Dhu al-Hijja 451) attempted coup against al-Qa’im bi Amrillah (422-467) and the Abbasid caliphate, although Damascus itself was under Fatimi rule. He then fled Damascus again in 459 to go to Tyre until 462, whence he returned to Baghdad, visiting Syrian Tripoli, Aleppo, and all the main cities on his way. Ibn Nasir narrated: “When al-Khatib read hadith in the mosque of Damascus, his voice could be heard from one end of the mosque to the other and he spoke in pure Arabic.” He is also noted for his accurate and elegant handwriting.
Al-Mu’taman narrated that al-Khatib said: “Whoever authors books puts his mind on a plate for display to people.” He fled from Damascus to Tyre because of enmity from the Rafidi governor of Damascus and accusations that he was a Nasibi or enemy of Ahl al-Bayt on grounds of narrating Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s book on the merits of the Companions and Ibn Rizquyah’s book on the merits of al-‘Abbas. “At that time the call to prayer in Damascus included the phrasehayya ‘alâ khayri al-‘amal.”
Abu Mansur ‘Ali ibn ‘Ali al-Amin narrated that when al-Khatib returned from al-Sham he was wealthy in garments and gold but without heir. So he wrote to al-Qa’im bi Amrillah: “My property will go back to the public treasury (bayt al-mâl), so give me permission to distribute it among those I choose.” He then distributed it – two hundred dinars – to the scholars of hadith.
Ibn Tahir said: “I asked [the Sufi hadith master] Hibat Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Warith al-Shirazi: ‘Was al-Khatib like his books in memorization?’ He said: ‘No, if we asked him of something he might take days to answer us and if we pressed him he would get angry. He was abrupt and his memorization was not on a par with his books.’” This assessment is belied by the scholars’ comparison of al-Khatib to al-Daraqutni and by the example of his extemporaneous response cited below. Furthermore, al-Dhahabi relates from al-Sam‘ani that Hibat Allah (d. 486) entered Baghdad in 457 when al-Khatib was away, and the latter did not return until 462, one year before his death.
Al-Khatib frequented Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini’s classes for three years at a time when Abu Ishaq was the unchallenged headmaster of the Shafi‘i school in his time. One day he mentioned the narrator Bahr ibn Kaniz al-Saqqa’ then turned to al-Khatib and asked: “What do you say concerning him [i.e. his reliability]?” Al-Khatib replied: “If you give me permission then I shall mention his state.” Al-Isfarayini then sat back like a student before his master, while al-Khatib gave a lengthy and detailed account of the narrator’s grading on the spot. Abu Ishaq was one of those who carried al-Khatib’s bier to his grave.
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Malik al-Hamadhani said in his Tarikh: “The science died at the time of al-Khatib’s death.”
Ibn ‘Asakir narrated: “When al-Khatib first drank Zamzam water he asked Allah I for three petitions [according to the Prophetic narration “Zamzam water makes good whatever [need in the world and the hereafter] it is drunk for”]: to be able to narrate the history of Baghdad in that city, to dictate hadith in the mosque of al-Mansur [in Baghdad], and to be buried near Bishr al-Hafi. He obtained all three.”
Abu al-Barakat Isma‘il ibn Abi Sa‘d al-Sufi said:
Shaykh Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Turaythithi, known as Ibn Zahra’ al-Sufi, was in our ribât and had prepared for himself a grave next to Bishr al-Hafi’s grave. He used to go there once a week to sleep in it, reciting the entire Qur’an at that time. When Abu Bakr al-Khatib died after stipulating that he be buried next to Bishr al-Hafi, the scholars of hadith came to Ibn Zahra’ asking permission to bury him in Ibn Zahra’s grave and cede his place to him. He refused, saying: “How can I allow a spot I have prepared for myself to be taken away from me?” They came to my father [Abu Sa‘d al-Sufi] who invited Ibn Zahra’ and told him: “I do not say to you to give them your grave, but I ask you: if Bishr al-Hafi were alive and you were at his side, then al-Khatib came and sat farther away, would it be fit for you to sit higher than him?” He replied: “No, I would make him sit in my place.” He said: “It is the same in this situation.” Ibn Zahra’s heart was happy with this and he gave his permission.
Al-Khatib was an ascetic, industrious scholar given to worship, a trustworthy hadith master withdrawn from the courts of princes, generous, grave and earnest in his manners, and both tireless and meticulous in his work. He wrote 10,000 pages totalling 104 books, many of them remaining to our time authoritative manuals in hadith science noted for their insight and wide compass. Ibn Hajar said in his introduction to Sharh Nukhba al-Fikar: “There is hardly a single discipline among the sciences of hadith in which al-Khatib did not author a monograph.” Then he cited the hadith master Ibn Nuqta’s praise: “Whoever gives credit where credit is due knows that hadith scholars, after al-Khatib, all depend on his books.” Among them:
Al-Amali (“The Dictations”) of which three volumes exist in the Zahiriyya collection.
Al-Asma’ al-Mubhama(“Anonymous Mentions”), identifying those mentioned anonymously in hadiths or hadith chains.
Al-Bukhala’ (“The Misers”) in three volumes.
Al-Faqih wa al-Mutafaqqih (“The Jurist and the Student of the Law”).
Al-Fasl li al-Wasl al-Mudraj fi al-Naql (“The Decisive Statement On Attributions Inserted Into Transmission”).
Al-Fawa’id al-Muntakhaba (“The Select Benefits”).
Iqtida’ al-‘Ilm al-‘Amal (“Knowledge Necessitates Deeds”),
a collection of narrations on this topic, which he prefaced with the words:
O student of knowledge, I exhort you to purify your intention in pursuing knowledge and to strive to make your soul act according to knowledge’s dictates. For the science is a tree of which deeds are the fruit, and he is not counted learned, who does not put his learning into practice…. And did those of the Salaf of the past reach whatever high levels they reached, other than by purified beliefs, righteous deeds, and renouncing most of the refinements of the world? And did the wise people of the past attain greater felicity except through hard work and diligence, contentment with little, and spending of their superfluity to meet the need of the needy and destitute? Surely, he who gathers books of knowledge is no different than he who gathers gold and silver. Surely, the devourer of books is no different from the greedy miser. Surely, the bibliophile enamoured with books is no different from the hoarder of gold and silver. Therefore, just as wealth does not benefit except through its spending, likewise do the sciences not benefit except those who put them into practice and observes their requirements.
Al-Jahr bi Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim (“Pronouncing the basmala Outloud”), listing – as al-Daraqutni did in his Sunan – the proof-texts of the Shafi‘i school on this practice. Ibn al-Jawzi in al-Sahm al-Musib stated that all of the hadiths adduced by al-Khatib in al-Jahr – as is the case with al-Daraqutni’s proofs for the basmala in his Sunan – are either weak or very weak. Al-Dhahabi also wrote a critique of al-Khatib’s book, as did the Hanbali Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Hadi.
Al-Jami‘ li Akhlaq al-Rawi wa Adab al-Sami‘ (“The Compendium on the Ethics of the Hadith Narrator and the Manners of the Auditor”) in two volumes, the continuation of Sharaf Ashab al-Hadith. It contains the following chapters:
1: Intention in the Pursuit of Hadith
2: The Characteristics That Must Distinguish the Narrator and Auditor of Hadith (3 sections)
3: “High” (= short) Chains of Transmissions (4 sections)
4: Choosing One’s Shuyûkh Once Their Attributes Are Known (9 sections)
5: The Etiquette of Study (4 sections)
6: The Etiquette of Asking Permission to Enter the House of the Hadith Master (7 sections)
7: The Etiquette of Entering the House of the Hadith Master (9 sections)
8: The Veneration and Honoring of the Hadith Master (6 sections)In the section entitled “Kissing the Hand of the Hadith Scholar, His Head, and His Right [Shoulder]” al-Khatib narrates the following three hadiths among others:
a) From ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar: “I was in one of the Messenger of Allah military detachments, and we came up to him until we kissed his hand.”
b) From Usama ibn Sharik: “We rose up approaching the Prophet, and kissed his hand.”
c) From ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Ka‘b al-Ansari or ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Razin: “We came and greeted Salama ibn Akwa‘. He brought out his hands and said: ‘I pledged loyalty with these two hands to the Messenger of Allah e .’ He brought out a hand as big as a camel’s paw. We rose up approaching him, and kissed it.”
9: The Etiquette of Hadith Audition
10: The Etiquette of Interrogating the Hadith Master (5 sections)
11: How to Memorize What Comes From the Hadith Master (2 sections)
12: The Encouragement to Lend the Books of Audition and the Blame of Those Who Go the Way of Avarice and Refusal (2 sections)
13: The Recording of Hadiths in Books and the Etiquette Pertaining Thereunto
14: Beautifying One’s Calligraphy (8 sections)
15: The Obligation to Check Against the [Hadith Master’s] Book For Verification and the Elimination of Doubt and Misgivings
16: Reading To the Hadith Master and Its Etiquette (7 sections)
17: Mention of the Morals and Ethics of the Narrator and What Manners He Must Use With His Disciples and Companions (4 sections)
18: It is Offensive to Narrate to Those That Do Not Seek It And It is A Waste to Give It to Other Than Those Who Are Qualified (8 sections)
19: The Hadith Master’s Giving of High Respect to the Students of Knowledge and His Keeping the Best Opinion of Them and A Mild Disposition (8 sections)
20: The Hadith Master Must Exempt Himself From Accepting Remuneration For Narrating (3 sections)
21: His Caring For His Appearance and Looking to His Adornment Before Narrating Hadith (28 sections:)
2. Paring Nails
3. Clipping the Moustache
4. Grooming the Hair
5. Wearing Clean Clothes
6. Avoiding Foods That Cause Bad Breath
7. Dyeing One’s White Hair [with Henna], Contrary to Jews and Christians
8. It is Fine to Use Saffron or Memecylon (wars) To That Effect
9. The Dislike of Dying One’s Hair Black
10. The Preferred Garments For the Hadith Master
11. His Shirt
12. The outer headcover (qalansuwa) and turban (‘imâma)
13. The unstitched head-shawl (taylasân)
14. Wearing a Ring
15. Combing His Beard
16. Incensing and Perfuming Himself
17. Looking At Himself In the Mirror
18. Wearing Sandals
19. His Composure in Walking
20. His Initiating Salâm With Whomever He Meets Among the Muslims
21. Entering His Gathering of People
22. The Desirability of His Sitting Square-Legged and In A Humble Manner
23. Using Gentle Speech and Keeping Composure In Discourse
24. Avoiding Jesting With the People In the Gathering
25. The Desirability of Being Gentle In His Rebukes Without Acrimony Nor Breach
26. The States In Which Narrating Is Offensive
27. Those Who Disliked Narrating Other Than In A State of Purity
28. Those In A State of Impurity Who, Wishing to Narrate, Perform Dry Ablution (tayammum)
34: The Hadith Master’s Care To Share His Company Equally Among His Companions (5 sections)
35: His Care to Be Absolutely Truthful in His Speech Regardless of His Concerns and Situation (9 sections, of which the third, seventh, and eighth examine the question of narrating hadith according to meaning rather than precise wording
36: The Ruling Concerning Whoever Narrated a Hadith From Memory Then Was Contradicted In It (4 sections)
37: Dictating Hadith And Dictation Sessions (7 sections)
38: Employing A Repeater (mustamlî) (33 sections)
39: Competition Over The Hadith Among Its Students And Mutual Secretiveness So As To Withhold Its Benefit
40: The Obligation of Mutual Faithful Counsel and Benefit With Regard to Narrations
41: Picking and Choosing Hadith By Those Who Are Unable To Write All Its Chains Comprehensively (6 sections)
42: Concerning the Writing of Hadith In Detail and In Its Totality And the Need For This Endeavor In the Compilation of Books Related To Its Various Sciences (15 sections)
43: Travelling In Pursuit of A Hadith To Far-Off Countries So As To Meet the Hadith Masters There And Obtain Short Chains of Transmission (13 sections)
44: The Memorization of Hadith and the Penetration of Insight Concerning It (12 sections:)
1. Emphasis on the Memorization of Hadith
2. Those Who Described Themselves as Memorizers
3. Hadith Learning is Not By Mere Instruction For It Is None Other Than a Type of Knowledge Allah I Creates in the Heart
4. The Means That Facilitate Hadith Memorization
5. A Supplication For the Memorization of Qur’an, Hadith, and the Various Disciplines
6. Types of Preferred Foods and Those Recommended Against For the Improvement of Memory
7. The Requisite Schedule of Night Study of Hadith For the Student
8. Repeating What is Memorized To Master It By Heart:
Al-Zubayr ibn Bakkar said: “My father came in and saw me reading silently in a notebook, reading it back to myself. He said to me: ‘Your only aid in your type of narration is whatever your sight conveys to your heart. If you want narration then look at it and read it outloud also. For then, your aid comes from both what your sight conveys to your heart and what your hearing conveys to your heart.’” Dr. M. ‘Ajaj al-Khatib commented on this narration: “These are fine and true words, for this is what the authorities in education and psychology say: the more senses participate in the absorption of a subject or its learning, the faster and easier its memorization.”
‘Ilqima said: “Repeat the hadith at length and it will never be erased from memory.”
One time a pail of water was placed before Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri. When he placed his hand in it, he happened to remember a hadith. He did not remove his hand from the water until fajr rose and until he had completely mastered the hadith.
Sufyan al-Thawri said: “Make the hadith your own discourse to yourself and the very thought of your hearts, and you will then memorize it.”
Ja‘far al-Maraghi said: “I went into a cemetary in Tustar, and I heard someone shouting: ‘And al-A‘mash, from Abu Salih, from Abu Hurayra; and al-A‘mash, from Abu Salih, from Abu Hurayra,’ for a long time. I began to look for the source of this voice until I saw Ibn Zuhayr, studying al-A‘mash’s narrations alone, from memory.”
9. Rehearsing Hadith With All Types of People
10. Rehearsing Hadith With Disciples And Friends
11. Rehearsing Hadith With Spouses And Companions
12. Rehearsing Hadith With Older People
Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri said: “Review (tadhâkarû) hadith with each other, for one hadith brings out another.”
‘Ilqima said: “Rehearse the hadith to one another, for its life is its remembrance.”
Ibrahim al-Nakha‘i said: “Whoever is pleased with memorizing hadith let him narrate it to others, even to those who have no inkling for it. When he does this, the hadith will be like a book in his breast.”
Al-Zuhri used to read back the hadiths he had memorized to his slave-girl and the beduins in his land.
Ibn ‘Abbas would say to Sa‘id ibn Jubayr: “O Sa‘id! Narrate.” Sa‘id replied: “I, narrate in your presence?” Ibn ‘Abbas replied: “If you make a mistake I will let you know.”
‘Ali ibn al-Madini said: “Six men would almost take leave of their minds upon hadith repetition: Yahya [ibn Ma‘in], ‘Abd al-Rahman [ibn Mahdi], Waki‘ [ibn al-Jarrah], [Sufyan] Ibn ‘Uyayna, Abu Dawud, and ‘Abd al-Razzaq – due to their ardent love of it. One night, Waki‘ and ‘Abd al-Rahman rehearsed hadith together in ths Holy Sanctuary and did not stop until the caller to prayer raised the adhân of fajr.”
‘Ali ibn al-Hasan ibn Shaqiq said: “I was with ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak in the mosque on a cold winter night and we rose to leave. When we reached the door he reminded me of a hadith and I reminded him of another. We did not stop reminding each other until the caller to prayer came and raised the morning adhân.”
45: The Exposition and Definition of the Immense Merit of Compiling And Authoring Books (15 sections)
Abu Zur‘a was asked about the [final] number of those [Companions] who narrated hadith from the Prophet. He replied: “Who can compute it? Those who witnessed with the Prophet e the Farewell Pilgrimage were 40,000 and those who witnessed the campaign of Tabuk with him were 70,000.” In another narration someone asked him: “O Abu Zur‘a! Is it not said that the hadith of the Prophet e is 4,000 narrations [in all]?” He replied: “And who said that – may Allah untooth him! – ? This is what heretics say (hâdhâ qawlu al-zanâdiqa). Who can circumscribe the totality of the hadith of the Messenger of Allah e ? When he died there were 114,000 sahâbawho narrated and had heard from him.
46: Ceasing Narration In Old Age Lest Memory Is Affected And the Mind Becomes Confused:
Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khallad said: “If the hadith scholar lives a long life, I find it preferable that he stop transmitting narrations at the age of eighty, for it is the period of senility. Making glorification, asking forgiveness, and reciting Qur’an is all more appropriate for eighty-year-olds. But if his mind is crystal-clear and he has perspicuity, knowing the narrations in his possession and in full mastery of them, and he purports to narrate for the obtainment of reward, then I hope all the best for him.”
Al-Khayl (“Equestrianism”). Al-Khatib relates from his father that their origin was of a Beduin Arab tribe specializing in raising horses in al-Jasasa, bordering the Euphrates.
Al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm al-Riwaya (“The Sufficiency in the Science of Hadith Narration”) in about 170 chapters in which al-Khatib “exhaustively listed the codes of hadith narration, expounding its principles and universal rules as well as the schools of the experts wherever their opinions differed; it remains, in our time, the greatest book on the subject.”
Manaqib Ahmad ibn Hanbal (“The Immense Merits of Imam Ahmad”).
Manaqib al-Shafi‘i (“The Immense Merits of Imam al-Shafi‘i”).
Al-Mudih li al-Jam‘ wa al-Tafriq (“The Clarifier of Collation and Dispersion”), listing the different names under which the same person may be identified in transmission chains.
Musnad Abi Bakr al-Siddiq ‘ala Shart al-Sahihayn (“Narrations Related by Abu Bakr According to the Criterion of al-Bukhari and Muslim”).
Al-Muttafaq wa al-Muftaraq (“Similar-Looking Narrators’ Names”).
Nasiha Ahl al-Hadith (“The Faithful Counsel of the Masters of Hadith”)
Poetry, in which he declaimed:
If your quest is for true direction
In the twin matter of your world and the hereafter,
Then dissent with your own soul in its lusts;
Truly lust is the meeting of all corruption.
Al-Qunut wa al-Athar al-Marwiyya Fih (“The qunût and Its Proof-Texts”) according to the Shafi‘i school.
Al-Rihla fi Talab al-Hadith (“Travel in Pursuit of A Hadith”), published by Dr. Nur al-Din ‘Itr who termed it “a vast demonstration and signal proof establishing the rank reached by our great scholars in their high energies, lofty pursuits, noble goals and means… by which we hope to sound the wake-up call for our cultivated youth and students of knowledge, that they may tread the path of their first masters, the immortal ulema of their Community.”
Riwaya al-Sahaba ‘an al-Tabi‘i (“Narration of the Companions From a Tabi‘i”), listing examples of this occasional case.
Al-Sabiq wa al-Lahiq (“The Precursor and the Subsequent in Chronology”) in ten volumes.
Salat al-Tasbih wa al-Ikhtilaf Fiha (“The Prayer of Glorification and the Difference of Opinion Concerning Its Status”), an authoritative presentation of its proof-texts that goes together with Ibn Nasir al-Din al-Dimashqi’s al-Tarjih li Hadith Salat al-Tasbih, al-Mundhiri’s documentation in the first volume ofal-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, and Ibn al-Salah’s discussion in his Fatawa. Sharaf Ashab al-Hadith (“The Eminence of the Masters of Hadith”) in which he narrated Abu Dawud’s saying: “Were it not for this band of people we would not be studying Islam.” The narrations al-Khatib gathered in this precious book list the attributes used by the Imams of hadith for the scholars of the Prophetic narrations:
“Those Who Command Good and Forbid Evil” [Ibrahim ibn Musa]
“The Substitute-Saints” [Sufyan al-Thawri, Yazid ibn Harun, Ahmad ibn Hanbal]
“The Pillars of the Shari‘a” [al-Khatib]
“The Nearest of People to the Prophet e ” [because of the hadith: “Truly the nearest of people to me on the Day of Resurrection are those who invoked the most blessings upon me”].
“The Owners of Transmission Chains [to the Prophet e ]” [Yazid ibn Zuray‘]
“The Owners of Frayed Garments and Inkwells” [Caliph al-Ma’mun]
“The Best of All Scholars” [al-Khatib]
“The Best of All People” [al-Awza‘i]
“The Best of Those Who Spoke About Knowledge” [Ahmad]
“The Trustees of Allah Over His Religion” [Abu Hatim al-Razi]
“The Messenger’s Trustees” [al-Khatib]
“The People of Belief” [because of the hadith: “Do you know who of those who possess belief is the best in belief?” They said the angels. He replied: “This is true, and it is right that they should be so, but nothing stands in their way because of the position in which Allah I has placed them. I mean others.” They said: “The Prophets whom Allah honored with Prophetship and Messengership.” He replied in the same way. They said the martyrs. He replied: “This is true, and it is right that they should be so, but nothing stands in their way because of the honor Allah bestowed upon them with martyrdom. I mean others.” They asked: “Who then, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Generations yet in the loins of men who shall come after me; they shall believe in me without seeing me and confirm me without seeing me. They shall see the suspended leaves [of the Law] and put them into practice.”
“The People of Truth” [al-Khatib]
“The People of Righteousness” [‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz]
“The Vessels of Knowledge” [al-Khatib]
“The People Most Meritorious of Salvation in the Hereafter” [because of the hadith: “Truly the safest among you against the disasters of the Day of Resurrection on that day are those of you who invoked the most blessings on me in the world”].
“The Friends of Allah” [al-Khalil ibn Ahmad]
“The Massive Throng” [al-Khatib]
“The Guardians of the Earth” [Sufyan al-Thawri]
“The Guardians of the Religion” [al-A‘mash]
“The Implanters of the Religion” [Ibn al-Mubarak]
“The Party of Allah” [al-Khatib]
“The Preservers of the Pillars of the Law” [al-Khatib]
“The Preservers of the Prophet’s Sunna” [al-Khuraybi]
“The Custodians of the Faith” [Kahmas]
“The Protectors of the Faith” [al-Khatib]
“The Repellers of False Imputations to the Prophet” [Ibn Ma‘in]
“The Carriers of Knoweldge” [al-Khuraybi]
“The Storehouses of the Religion” [al-Khatib]
“The Successors of the Messenger e ” [al-Khatib]
“The Elect Among Tribes” [Hafs ibn Ghyath]
“The Elect Among People” [Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyash]
“The Elect Among Worshippers” [Abu Muzahim al-Khaqani]
“The Virile Among Men” [al-Zuhri]
“The Trustees Who Preserve the Reports of the Messengers” [Abu Hatim al-Razi]
“The Strangers” [‘Abdan]
“The Knights of this Religion” [Yazid ibn Zuray‘]
“The Caretakers of the Matter of Shari‘a” [al-Khatib]
“The Strivers In the Preservation of the Faith” [al-Khatib]
“Mankind” (al-nâs) [Ahmad ibn Hanbal]
“Those Who Belong to No Tribe” [‘Abdan]
“The Intermediaries Between the Prophet e and His Community” [al-Khatib]
“Muhammad’s Inheritors” [Ibn Mas‘ud]
“The Inheritors of the Prophets” [al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad]
“The Beneficiaries of the Messenger of Allah” [Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, according to the hadith of the Prophet: “There shall come after me a people <from the East/from the regions of the world> who shall ask you about me. When they come to you, treat them kindly and narrate to them <, make them memorize the hadith and make room for them in gatherings>”].
Al-Tabyin li Asma’ al-Mudallisin (“The Exposition of the Names of Those Who Concealed Their Sources”).
Taqyid al-‘Ilm (“The Fettering of Knowledge”), an important book gathering all the proofs that large-scale writing of hadith began in the time of the Prophet e , together with particular caveats against it.
Al-Tatfil wa Hikayat al-Tufayliyyin (“Sponging and Spongers”).
Tali Talkhis al-Mutashabih, an addendum to Talkhis al-Mutashabih.
Talkhis al-Mutashabih fi al-Rasm (“Summary of the Similarities in Spelling”), on hadith narrators commonly confused with one another due to the similar spelling of their names.
Tarikh Baghdad (“History of Baghdad”), his most important work. Ostensibly a history of Baghdad, it is more specifically a reference work in narrator-authentication (‘ilm al-rijâl) and a valuable compendium of 4,385 hadiths narrated with their full chains, over half of them (2,253) not found in the two books of Sahih and the four Sunan. In this respect al-Khatib’s rank as an independent narrator is comparable to that of al-Bayhaqi (d. 458), Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (d. 463), and Ibn ‘Asakir (d. 571).
Concerning al-Khatib’s authentication method in Tarikh Baghdad, al-Sam‘ani narrated that he said: “Whenever in the Tarikh I mention a man concerning whom opinions vary in commendation and discreditation, then the preferred position concerning him is placed at the conclusion of his biographical notice.”
Makki ibn ‘Abd al-Salam al-Maqdisi said: “I was sleeping in the house of Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Za‘farani when I saw in a dream, shortly before dawn, as if we had gathered in al-Khatib’s house to read the Tarikh as usual. To his right was the jurist, Shaykh Nasr al-Maqdisi, and to the latter’s right was a man I did not know. So I asked who he was and was told: ‘This is the Messenger of Allah e who came to hear the Tarikh.’ I thought to myself: ‘This is a huge honor for Shaykh Abu Bakr, that the Prophet e himself should attend his gathering.’ I also thought: ‘This is also a refutation of those who blemished the Tarikhsaying that it contains undue criticism of certain people.’”
It remains true that the Tarikh contains undue criticism of Imam Abu Hanifa t in the form of an assemblage of glaringly weak and forged reports from known liars, although it also contains authentic reports to the Imam’s praise. Among the scholars who refuted the negative reports were the king al-Malik al-Mu‘azzam ‘Isa al-Ayyubi, the Hanafis Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi in the two-volume al-Intisar li Imam A’imma al-Amsar and al-Kawthari in Ta’nib al-Khatib ‘ala Ma Saqahu fi Tarjimati Abi Hanifata Min al-Akadhib and its follow-up al-Tarhib bi Naqd al-Ta’nib; the Maliki Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr with al-Intiqa’; the Shafi‘is al-Suyuti and al-Haytami respectively with Tabyid al-Sahifa and al-Khayrat al-Hisan, and the Hanbali Ibn al-Jawzi with al-Sahm al-Musib fi al-Radd ‘ala al-Khatib. Al-Dhahabi said: “Would that al-Khatib had not set upon the great figures nor narrated anything against them.” However, a case has been made to exonerate al-Khatib from having included these reports in his Tarikh, and some scholars, such as Dr. ‘Itr and Dr. Mahmud al-Tahhan, consider them later interpolations.
Ibn al-Jawzi’s assessment of al-Khatib is ambiguous. On the one hand he praises his works with the words: “Whoever looks into his books knows his great standing.” At the same time he takes him to task for what he terms his fanatic denigration of Hanbalis, citing, for example, al-Khatib’s description of Imam Ahmad as “the leader of hadith scholars” (sayyid al-muhaddithîn) as opposed to al-Shafi‘i’s as “the diadem of jurists,” his weakening of Ibn Batta, and his citing al-Karabisi’s barb about Imam Ahmad over the issue of the uncreatedness of the Qur’an. Added to this charge is Ibn al-Jawzi’s singular claim that al-Khatib began his career as a Hanbali, then switched to the Shafi‘i school, when both early and contemporary historians concur that he began his career as a Shafi‘i and was never a Hanbali. He also states that al-Khatib took the material of most of his books “except that of the Tarikh” from those of the hadith master al-Suri, a claim flatly rejected by al-Dhahabi. Perhaps Ibn al-Jawzi’s most ironic criticism is his complaint that al-Khatib included forgeries and very weak hadiths in his books, as their number is negligible in proportion to those found in Ibn al-Jawzi’s works.
Abu al-Fadl ibn Khayrun said: “A righteous person told me that when al-Khatib died he saw him in his sleep and asked him: ‘How are you?’ Al-Khatib replied: ‘I am in [breath of life, and plenty, and a Garden of delight] (56:89)’.” ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Jadda said: “I saw in my sleep, after al-Khatib’s death, a person standing next to me whom I tried to ask about al-Khatib. Before I could say anything he said to me: ‘Go to the middle of Paradise where the pious meet one another.’” Muhammad ibn Marzuq al-Za‘farani narrated from the pious jurist Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Basri: “I saw al-Khatib in my sleep wearing beautiful white clothes and a white turban, looking joyful and smiling. I do not remember whether I asked him first: ‘What did Allah do with you?’ or whether he spoke to me first but he said: Allah has forgiven me – or: granted me mercy. And whoever comes to Him – in my heart I thought: meaning, with tawhîd – He grants him mercy or forgives him. Therefore, be happy!’ This took place a few days after his death.”
Main sources: Ibn ‘Asakir, Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari (Saqqa ed. p. 263-266); al-Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala’ (Dar al-Fikr ed. 13:590-603 #4210) andTadhkira al-Huffaz (3:1135-1145); Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi‘iyya al-Kubra (Hajr ed. 4:29-39 #259); ‘Itr, introduction to al-Khatib’s al-Rihla (p. 37-59); and Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntazam (8:265-270).