By Ibraheem El-Caleel
I have always intended to share some history on the relationship between two great Islamic scholars who lived in the same era. They are both from Shafi’i Fiqh school. I find their story inspiring, and believe sharing it might motivate some students of knowledge to emulate the legacy they left.
These two scholars are: Shaikhul Islam Abu Ishaqal Shiraziy and Al-Imamul Hafiz Al-Khatibul Baghdadiy. Due to their expansive erudition in different fields of knowledge, both have a rich biography that can barely be covered appreciably in a article. We may only cut part of the history which fits into our topic. I will share their brief biographies individually below:
Abu Ishaqal Shiraziy: His name was Ibrahiym bn Aliyyu bn Yusuf, born in 393 AH. He was a versatile scholar who specialized in Fiqh. In fact, Al-Muwaffaqul Hanafiy nicknamed him the “Amirul Mu’mineen of the Fuqaha”. He has authored several Fiqh books of Shafi’iyyah specifically, and Usulul Fiqh generally. The famous of those books is “Al-Muhazzab fiy Fiqhil Imamish Shafi’i”. Imamul Nawawiy later on authored a commentary of this book and titled it “Al-Majmu’u: Sharhul Muhazzab”. Al-Majmu’ today is arguably the most referenced and most comprehensive compendium of the Shafi’iyyah. In fact Nawawiy himself in the muqaddimah (introduction) of the book noted that, although several scholars have authored Fiqh books, the most renowned books for training Fiqh scholars are Al-Muhazzab and Al-Wasit. Al-Wasit is a fiqh book by the intellectual Imam, Abu Hamidinil Ghazali.
All these are pointers to what a legend Al-Shiraziy was in Fiqh. He made strong footprints in Fiqh and nearly considered the most productive Faqih (jurisprudent) in the 5th Century of Islamic calendar. Although he was poor, he was still a zahid (ascetic), whose fear of Allah was evident in his actions. There was a time he entered a mosque and misplaced his 1 Dinar. Later on, he remembered and he went back to the mosque. He met 1 Dinar in the same spot he left but he became sceptical whether it was actually his1 Dinar or a 1 Dinar of someone else; since he is not the only person who could have forgotten 1 Dinar in the masjid. He left it there without picking it up. He didn’t want to consume from anything illegitimate (haram) or vague (shubha). Allahu Akbar. 1 Dinar (an equivalent of about N1,300 today).
Al-Khatibul Baghdadiy: His name was Abubakar bn Ahmad bn Ali, born in 392 AH. He was a versatile scholar with specializations in Hadith and Hadith Sciences, then General History. Imamul Dhahabi called him “the seal of the Hadith Masters”. It was said that since the death of Imamul Daraqutniy, Baghdad had not witnessed a great scholar of Hadith like Al-Khatib al-Baghdadiy. He was a man who dedicated his entire life to scholarship. He once studied the entire Sahihul Bukhariy from the female scholar Karimah Al-Marwaziyyah in just 5 days. For a second time during Hajj, he again studied the entire Sahihul Bukhariy in just 3 days from Imam Isma’il bn Ahmad Al-Naisaburiy! In Al-Dhahabi’s record, this is the fastest learning rate ever heard in history. I remember Dr Kabir Asgar in one of his Mustalahul Hadith classes suggesting that perhaps the reason why Al-Khatib learnt Sahihul Bukhariy twice from these two scholars was because he wanted to get a shorter chain of narration. Both Karimah and Isma’il were students of Al-Kushmeehaniy, who was a student of Firabriy, and Firabriy is a direct student of Imamul Bukhari. So Al-Khatib was motivated to learn Sahihul Bukhari twice from those two scholars just to have a direct short chain between him and Imamul Bukhari and perhaps an ijazah (license).
It was narrated that some Jews once brought a document to the Leader of State, claiming that it is a letter of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), where he waived jizyah (tribute) from the people of Khaibar. They said it was the handwriting of Sayyidna Aliyyu bn Abi Talib and with some companions as witnesses. The Leader didn’t deny it, but he referred them to Al-Khatib, to investigate the trueness of this letter before it can be implemented. Al-Khatib looked at the document attentively, then he said, “it is fake!”. He was asked; how did you know that it is fake? He said, they placed Mu’awiyah bn Abi Sufyan as witness, and Mu’awiyah accepted Islam in the year of Conquest (8AH), and Khaibar was liberated in the year 7AH (before Mu’awiyah accepted Islam). They also mentioned Sa’ad bn Mu’adh as a witness, while Sa’ad actually died two years before the liberation of Khaibar. People were astonished of how Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadiy exposed this fraud.
Al-Khatib was a prolific author who didn’t miss a single aspect in Hadith Sciences without authoring a whole book on it. Abubakar bn Nuqtah said, “every sincere person knows that scholars of Hadith who came after Al-Khatib are indebted to his works”.
You can read further about the biographies of these scholars from “Siyar A’alamin Nubala” of Imamul Dhahabi and “Tabaqaat Al-Shafi’iyyah” of Imam Tajuddeen Al-Subkiy.
These are some of the lessons I would like to highlight about their stories:
Despite the fact that Al-Khatib was one year older than Al-Shiraziy, he still learnt Hadith from him. Meaning Al-Khatib was a student of Imam Abu Ishaqal Shiraziy. Age should never be a reason why you discriminate against a teacher, or a scholar.
There was a time Al-Shiraziy was narrating a hadith where Bahru bn Kunaiz was part of the chain of narrators. So he turned towards his student, Al-Khatib and asked him, what can you say about this narrator? Al-Khatib said, if you would permit me, then I will explain. The teacher (Al-Shiraziy) humbly came and sat among the students, then Al-Khatib gave a detailed explanation of this narrator. His teacher (Al-Shiraziy) praised him for this, saying, “This is the Daraqutniy of our time!”. The key lesson here is: as a teacher, do not feel shy or too arrogant to learn an aspect of knowledge from one of your students. If you know your student has more knowledge than you in a specific field, there is no reason why you shouldn’t learn from him. Also, as a student, do not feel so high of yourself because you have a better edge than your teacher in a specific field of knowledge. It should never decrease the respect you have for that teacher.
Despite the fact that Abu Ishaqal Shiraziy was a poor man, he didn’t follow ‘politicians’ to bootlick them to give him material benefits, to go for Hajj. He died without making it to Hajj even though he was a great Imam of Fiqh. He managed himself with the little that Allah has blessed him with. So as a scholar or student of knowledge, do not disgrace your image by frequenting politicians and leaders to beg them for financial enablers. Poverty doesn’t reduce your worth, but bootlicking does.
As we have seen in the case of Al-Khatib, there is no harm for a scholar to make himself available to offer scholarly assistance to the government of his city, state or country. Politicians should also learn that scholars are a great resource for you to utilize in effective leadership. They help you refine raw issues for ready, instant implementation.
Humility, simplicity and respecting people does not reduce your image. It rather boosts your image. This is why as part of a hadith in Sahihu Muslim, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “وَمَا تَوَاضَعَ أَحَدٌ لِلَّهِ إِلاَّ رَفَعَهُ اللّهَ”. Meaning, “… and one who shows humility, Allah elevates him in the estimation (of the people).” These two scholars are both high-ranking, but they exude visible rays of humility. Today, more than 1,000 years after their deaths, their names are still mentioned in high regards.
May Allah grant Al-Jannatul Firdaus to the Imams Al-Khatibul Baghdadiy and Abu Ishaqal Shiraziy; and us. May Allah grant us humble hearts and zeal to learn from their depths of knowledge and good characters. Amin.
Ibrahiym A. El-Caleel