The Great Ash`ari Scholars (5)
Ibn Asakir - translated by Dr. Gabriel F. Haddad
Al-Hakim, Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Hamduyah, Abu `Abd Allah al-Dabbi al-Tamhani al-Naysaburi al-Shafi`i, also known as Ibn al-Bayyi` (d. 405). The imam, hadith master, expert in hadith criticism, and shaykh of hadith masters. He took hadith from about two thousand authorities in Khurasan, Iraq, Transoxiana and elsewhere. Among the most prominent of the masters who narrated hadith from him are his own shaykh al-Daraqutni - who declared him stronger in hadith than Ibn Mandah, - al-Bayhaqi, al-Qushayri, and others. Abu Hazim said that al-Hakim was peerless in his time in Khurasan, the Hijaz, al-Sham, Iraq, Rayy, Tabaristan, and Transoxiana. His fame became widespread with lightning speed in his own lifetime. Al-Dhahabi said: "I saw an incredible thing, which is that the muhaddith of al-Andalus Abu `Umar al-Talamanki copied al-Hakim's book "`Ulum al-Hadith" ("The Sciences of Hadith") in the year 389 from a shaykh which he named, from another narrator, from al-Hakim." Al-Hakim belongs to the second generation of the Ash`ari school, having taken al-Ash`ari's doctrine at the hands of his students, among them Abu Sahl al-Su`luki. He took tasawwuf from Abu `Amr ibn Nujayd, Abu al-Hasan al-Bushanji, Abu Sa`id Ahmad ibn Ya`qub al-Thaqafi, Abu Nasr al-Saffar, Abu Qasim al-Razi, Ja`far ibn Nusayr, Abu `Amr al-Zujaji, Ja`far ibn Ibrahim al-Hadhdha', and Abu `Uthman al-Maghribi.
Al-Hakim said: "I drank water from Zamzam and asked Allah for excellence in writing books." He authored: "al-Sahihan" ("The Two Books of Saheeh Hadiths"), "al-`Ilal" ("The Defects of A Hadith"), "al-Amali" ("The Dictations"), "Fawa'id al-Nusakh" ("Benefits of the Copies"), "Fawa'id al-Khurasaniyyin" ("Benefits of the People of Khurasan"), "Amali al-`Ashiyyat" ("Night Dictations"), "al-Talkhis" ("The Summary"), "al-Abwab" ("The Chapters"), "Tarajim al-Shuyukh" ("Biographies of the Shaykhs"), "Ma`rifa Anwa` `Ulum al-Hadith" ("Knowledge of the Different Types of the Hadith Sciences"), "Tarikh `Ulama' Ahl Naysabur" ("History of the Scholars of Naysabur"), "Muzakki al-Akhbar" ("Purified Reports"), "al-Madkhal ila `Ilm al-Sahih" ("Introduction to the Science of Sound Reports"), "al-Iklil fi Dala'il al-Nubuwwa" ("The Diadem: The Signs of Prophethood"), "al-Mustadrak `ala al-Sahihayn" ("Supplement for What is Missing From Bukhari and Muslim"), "Ma Tafarrada bi Ikhrajihi Kull Wahidin min al-Imamayn" ("Reports Found Only in Bukhari or Only in Muslim"), "Fada'il al-Shafi`i" ("The Immense Merits of al-Shafi`i"), "Tarajim al-Musnad `ala Shart al-Sahihayn" ("The Reports of Ahmad's Musnad Which Match the Criteria of the Two Books of Sahih"), etc.
It is narrated that a man of letters named Abu al-Fadl al-Hamadhani came to Naysabur where he acquired a following and was named Badee` al-Zaman ("Wonder of the Age"), whereupon he became self-infatuated. If he heard someone recite a hundred verses of poetry but once, he was able to recite them back from memory, starting from the end and back to the beginning. One day he criticized someone for saying: "So-and-so the memorizer of hadith." He said: "Memorizing hadith! Is it worthy of mention?" When he heard of this, al-Hakim sent him a book of hadith and challenged him to memorize it in a week. Al-Hamadhani returned the book to him and said: "Who can memorize this? 'Muhammad son of So-and-So and Ja`far son of So-and-So reported from So-and-So' - It is filled with all sorts of different names and terms!" Al-Hakim said: "Therefore know yourself, and understand that to memorize such as this is beyond your sphere."
Al-Hakim's "Mustadrak" was criticized by the hadith scholars due to the number of mistakes and inaccuracies found in it. Al-Sakhawi in "al-Tawbikh" and others mention that he declares many forged reports to be rigorously authentic, not to mention weak ones, instead of clinging to his own expressed precondition that only reports with chains of the rank of Bukhari's and Muslim's would be retained. Al-Dhahabi went to excess in regretting that al-Hakim had compiled the "Mustadrak" in the first place. However, the hadith expert Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr of Damascus pointed out that al-Hakim compiled it in his old age, intending to revise it, which he did not do beyond the first volume. This is proved by the fact that al-Hakim's mistakes are imperceptible in the first volume of the "Mustadrak," as confirmed by al-Dhahabi's own minimal corrections.
Another latent criticism is al-Hakim's alleged Shi`ism. Al-Dhahabi in one place names him "one of the oceans of knowledge although a little bit Shi`i" (`ala tashayyu`in qaleelin feeh), in another "al-Hakim the Shi`i," and in another "a famous Shi`i" (shee`iyyun mashhur). Al-Subki rejects the label of Shi`i as baseless since, among other proofs, Ibn `Asakir includes al-Hakim among the Ash`aris, who consider the Shi`is innovators. Yet this label is still branded as a blemish today at the hands of those who oppose his positions if they weaken theirs, and those who oppose him for being a follower of al-Ash`ari, or for being a Sufi. As for what al-Dhahabi said about al-Hakim, we must place it in the same category as what he said about the "Mustadrak."
The first hadith of the Prophet (saw) al-Hakim narrated in his "Ma`rifa `Ulum al-Hadith" is: "May Allah make radiant the face of one who heard one of my sayings and then carried it to others. It may be that one carries understanding without being a person of understanding; it may be that one carries understanding to someone who possesses more understanding than he."
On the 3rd of Safar 405, al-Hakim went into the bath, came out after bathing, said "Ah" and died wearing but a waistcloth before he had time to put on a shirt. Al-Hasan ibn Ash`ath al-Qurashi said: "I saw al-Hakim in my dream riding a horse in a handsome appearance and saying: 'Salvation.' I asked him: 'O al-Hakim! In what?' He replied: 'In writing hadith.'"
Al-Darani, `Ali ibn Dawud, Abu al-Hasan al-Muqri' al-Dimashqi (d. 402). When the imam of the Great Damascus Mosque died, the people of Damascus came in throngs to Daraya to ask for `Ali ibn Dawud to be their imam but were faced by the people of Daraya in arms. The latter said: "We shall never let you take our imam!" But they were persuaded by Muhammad ibn Abi Nasr's argument: "Are you not pleased that it be said in every country that the people of Damascus came in need of the imam of the people of Daraya?" Then `Ali ibn Dawud said: "Can one such as myself be suitable for the Great Mosque of Damascus, when my father was a Christian then converted, and I have no Muslim ancestor?" Then he rode to Damascus on his mule. He accepted no compensation for his imamate nor his teaching, and he would make his own bread from wheat which he brought from his village and had ground with his own hand. He was confronted by some Hashwiyya in Damascus, whereupon he wrote al-Baqillani in Baghdad for assistance, and the latter sent him his student al-Husayn ibn Hatim al-Adhri. After this, the people of Damascus would never leave `Ali ibn Dawud's gatherings except with the words "One, One!" on their lips.
Al-Baqillani, Muhammad ibn al-Tayyib ibn Muhammad ibn Ja`far, Shaykh al-Islam, al-Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Baqillani al-Basri al-Baghdadi al-Maliki al-Ash`ari (d. 403), eulogized by al-Dhahabi as "the erudite imam, peerless of the mutakallimeen, and foremost of the scholars of usul, author of many books, the exemplar of perspicuity and intelligence." Al-Qadi `Iyad said: "He is known as the ‘Sword of the Sunna (Sayf al-Sunna)’ and the ‘Spokesman of the Community (Lisan al-Umma),’ a mutakallim who spoke the language of the hadith scholars, adhering to the doctrine of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari, and the apex of Maliki scholars in his time. His gathering in al-Basra was huge."
Al-Baqillani took al-Ash`ari's teachings from Ibn Mujahid. He used to say: "I consider the best part of me the time when I fully understand al-Ash`ari's discourse." He used al-Ash`ari's method to challenge and refute the Rafida, Mu`tazila, Khawarij, Jahmiyya, Karramiyya, Mushabbiha, and Hashwiyya. Abu al-Qasim ibn Burhan al-Nahawi said: "Whoever hears al-Qadi Abu Bakr debate, will never again feel pleasure at hearing another mutakallim, faqeeh, or orator." He took the Maliki school from Abu Bakr al-Abhari.
Al-Khatib narrated that al-Baqillani's nightly devotion consisted in forty rak`a whether at home or while travelling, after which he wrote thirty-five pages of text which, after the fajr prayer, he would pass on to others to read outloud for proofreading and editing.
At the time the Caliph `Adud al-Dawla sent al-Baqillani as an envoy to the Emperor of the Eastern Romans, he was asked to enter through a low door to see the Emperor and realized that this was done by design so as to make him enter on his knees; whereupon he entered on his knees but with his back turned, and approached the Emperor backside-first. In the course of this visit, he asked a Church dignitary: "How are your wife and children?" Hearing this, the emperor said: "Lo! Do you, the spokesman of Islam, not know that a monk exempts himself of such things?" Al-Baqillani replied: "You exempt a monk from such things, but you do not exempt the Lord of the Worlds from having a mate and child?"
Al-Baqillani is the paragon of the fundamental unity of Islamic schools and love for the sake of Allah among scholars that hold different views. He was the arbitrator between the Sufis of the University of Qayrawan and Ibn Abi Zayd al-Maliki when the latter denied that Allah could be seen in this world. He was profoundly admired by the Hanbalis of Baghdad although he was the chief authority of the Ash`ari school in his time. When he died the shaykh of Hanbalis and his close friend of seven years, Abu al-Fadl al-Tamimi, came barefoot to his funeral with others of his school, and ordered a herald to open the procession shouting: "This is the Aider of the Sunna and the Religion! This is the Imam of Muslims! This is the defender of the Shari`a! This is the one who authored 70,000 folios!" He was buried near the grave of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and his grave is a place of visitation, seeking blessings (tabarruk), and praying for rain (istisqa').