Monday, April 27, 2009

Ibn 'Abidin al-Shami

Imām Ibn Aābidīn ash-Shāmī (ra)

[Note: This is a biographical note about Ibn `Abidin, the author of the canonical collection of fatwas of the Hanafi madhhab. His name, when attached to a Hanafi fatwa is basically an endorsement of the veracity of that fatwa according to the Hanafis. Obviously, his position within the madhhab for all those who came after him is great. I would like to call attention to the relatively late period in which he came, and the fact that we have 'ulama in later times who are of a high caliber and that there is always much in the way of service to the sciences of the deen to be taken by Allah from the people of knowledge, should He give them the tawfiq. May Allah keep us attached to them and not deprive us of their barakat in this world or the hereafter... humza

Taken from]

Imām Ibn Aābidīn ash-Shāmī (ra)

1198-1252 AH / 1783-1836 AD

Sayyid Muhammad Amin ibn Sayyid Úmar ibn Sayyid Ábd al-Áziz ibn Sayyid Ahmed ibn Sayyid Ábd ar-Rahim ibn Sayyid Najmuddin ibn Sayyid Muhammad Salahuddin widely known as ‘Ibn Áabidin’ is praised in these words: the prominent, praiseworthy and noble scholar; an ocean of knowledge; the master scholar [jahbadh]; the great jurist [faqih]; the genius; the finest among the later scholars and the last of the research scholars; one with an exalted ancestry [hasib, nasib]; the erudite Imam; the litterateur.


The Imam was born - Rahimahullah - in Damascus (Syria), in a family of scholars and high ancestry in the year 1198 AH. His lineage reaches Sayyid Sharif Zayn al-Áabidin (ra) and from him to Sayyidah Fatimah (R), the daughter of the Master of all creation, Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim. Ibn Áabidin’s father Sayyid Úmar and his mother were both famed for their righteousness and taqwa [being fearful of Allah]. May Allah have mercy on them.

Growing up

He grew up in his father’s care in the Qanawat area. He memorized the Qur’an at a very young age. He was a frequent visitor at his father’s shop where he learnt the skills of the trade [to enable him earn an honest livelihood]. Sometimes, he would recite the Qur’an in the shop.

On one such occasion, a passerby objected to his recitation in a public place, since people neither listen to the Qur’an nor pay heed to what is being recited. He also pointed out a few minor mistakes in his recitation. Immediately, he set out seeking good reciters to correct his mistakes.

Seeking Knowledge

He was referred to the master reciter of his time, [Shaykh al-Qurra’a, `Allamah] Muhammad Saýid ibn Ibrahim al-Hamawi (d.1236 AH). He perfected his tajwid under him and memorized Sha_ibiyyah, Maydaniyyah and Jazariyyah. He also learnt Shafi' fiqh from him and memorized Az-Zabd. He learnt Arabic grammar and morphology [nahw, sarf] before finally completing his studies and obtaining a general degree of authorization from him [ijazatun áammah].

Allah (SWT) had destined him to meet the greatest scholar of his age, Shaykh Shakir al-Áqqad, famously known as Ibn al-Miqdam Saád. Under him, he read books of Qur’anic exegesis, juristic principles, inheritance, tasawwuf, mathematics [tafsir, hadith, usul, farayiI, tasawwuf, hisab] and the rational sciences.

Áqqad was instrumental in changing his madh’hab to that of Imam al-Aážam [Ibn Áabidin was a Shafi' earlier]. He read major books of Hanafi fiqh under him like Multaqa al-Abhur, Kanz ad-Daqayiq and its exegesis Bahr ar-Rayiq, Dirayah and Hidayah.

He began reading Durr al-Mukhtar under well-known scholars, the most famous among whom was Shaykh Saýid al-Halabi. Ibn Áabidin’s meeting with Shaykh Shakir was a giant stride in his career as a scholar and a pilgrim upon the spiritual path. No wonder then, he remained in his company for seven years, after which Shaykh Shakir would present him to his own teachers and recommend them to grant him authorizations. His chain of transmissions [sanad] became more elevated and shorter than earlier ones. He also became a member [murid] of the Qadiri order to which he kept forever. [Tariqah of Ghawth al-Aážam Shaykh Ábd al-Qadir Jilani (ra) ]

After the death of Shaykh Shakir (ra), he continued studying under his deputy, Shaykh Saýid al-Halabi. Al-Halabi was the most learned man in Shaykh Shakir’s circle and was also the foremost Hanafi scholar of his time. He loved Ibn Áabidin so much that he did not start his lessons until Ibn Áabidin was present. The lessons of Durr al-Mukhtar were held next to the Umawi mosque after morning prayers.

Heir of the Prophet (S)

Ibn Áabidin was very handsome and charismatic; he was tall and had a good physique. He was mild mannered, kind and always cheerful; yet, he was dignified and poised. He had a certain awe about him that commanded respect. His speech was full of wisdom and foresight.

An Indian shaykh once said to his teacher Al Áqqad, when he left Ibn Áabidin behind waiting at the door: "Bring along the young man, for I see the light of Prophethood shine between his eyes."

Degrees of Authorization

He received degrees of authorization from major scholars of his time, from his shaykhs, and their shaykhs. This was on account of his shaykh Áqqad, who introduced him to his own shaykhs and grand-shaykhs when he noticed the extraordinary intelligence, sincerity and talent of the young man. Given below are the degrees of the authorization he obtained:

* A general degree of authorization from the famous shaykh, Muhammad al-Kazburi al- Kabir, the muhaddith of his time who passed away in 1221 AH. He signed the certificate of authorization in the year, 1210 AH when Ibn Áabidin was only a little over twelve years old.

* Another general degree from the great scholar and famous muhaddith shaykh, Ahmed al-Áttar who passed away in 1218 AH. He granted him this ijazah in 1216 when he was about eighteen years old.

* Another general degree of authorization from the great scholar, Al-Amir al-Kabir (d.1232 AH), which he had it sent to him in 1228 AH.

* An ijazah to narrate from the reciters of Damascus, through his first teacher Muhammad Saýid al-Hamawi (d.1236 AH) which includes many prominent scholars of that time.

* And the degree from his own shaykh, Muhammad Shakir al-Áqqad, famously known as Ibn Miqdam Saád.

The Scholar

Ibn Áabidin began writing when he was barely seventeen. Among his earliest writings were annotations on books that he read from his shaykh, Áqqad, especially on Bahr ar-Rayiq and Durr al-Mukhtar.

He worked very hard and kept a steady progress until eventually, he become the foremost authority on Hanafi fiqh in his time. In the times of Shaykh Husayn al-Muradi, he was made the chief mufti of Damascus. He received questions through mail from all over the world on various matters to which he replied, sometimes in a very detailed manner.

The Hashiyah or the Marginalia on Durr al-Mukhtar is his magnum opus in which he compiled the preferred rulings [of Hanafi fiqh], thereby making it an authority in the Hanafi madhhab. Durr al-Mukhtar is a concise work; thus, many matters have been omitted to keep it concise. Sometimes, descriptions are cryptic for anyone but a trained eye and an experienced master. Ibn Áabidin saw the need for its exegesis, and inclusion of many matters omitted therein.

Incidentally, earlier authors who attempted such a comprehensive work, passed away before they could complete their work. Usually these books did not progress beyond the section on ijarah [hiring, renting] like Fat’h al-Qadir [of Kamal ibn Humam] for example. Therefore, Ibn Áabidin started his marginalia from the part on ijarah saying, "If death takes me sooner, this should serve as the completion of the unfinished earlier ones. But if I live long enough, I shall return to make it a whole, complete work."

He began writing the Marginalia under the auspices of his shaykh, Saýid al-Halabi after he finished reading Durr al-Mukhtar the first time and from the notes he had made for the same. Thereafter, he read it once more with the annotations of Ibrahim al-Halabi. In the meantime he would show his drafts to the shaykh who would be pleased and say: "The time has come for this huge collection to be finally ordered and the giant task to be completed." As mentioned earlier, he started from the part on ijarah and went on till the end. He then started it from the beginning and finished at ijarah. Once it was completed, he began ordering the manuscript, but death didn’t spare him time to complete the fair copy of his manuscript. His son Álauddin later completed the fair copy and appended his own notes spanning two separate volumes, and named it Qurrat al-Úyun al-Akhyar bi Takmalati Radd al-Muhtar.

Setting of a Star…

A pious life spent in earning the pleasure of his parents, and duteous to Allah; a life spent in amassing knowledge and good deeds extinguished on Wednesday, the 21st of Rabi' ath-Thani, 1252 AH. He was only 54 when he died. His funeral prayer was led by his own teacher Saýid al-Halabi who broke down, weeping and clutching his own beard said: "I was treasuring you, for what comes after my old age." Prayers were held in the Sinaniyyah mosque and he was buried – in accordance with his will – near the grave of Shaykh Álauddin al-Haskafi, the author of Durr al-Mukhtar and next to the great muhaddith Salih al-Jaynini in Damascus. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him the most extensive of paradises.

A Note on Radd al-Mukĥtār

Abbreviations used in this work: when he marks it as ta, he means the Hashiyah of Államah at-Tahtawi on Durr al-Mukhtar; ha means the Hashiyah of Államah al-Halabi, who wrote the marginalia of Durr al-Mukhtar in two volumes.

In all his works, including his Marginalia he shows utmost respect to earlier scholars and refers to them with due deference. However, sometimes when he quotes Tahtawi or Halabi he adds: ‘Ponder’ or, ‘Needs ascertaining’ or ‘Pending further examination’ - he means that though he quotes them, he may not accept their opinion. He thus hints at his disagreement respectfully instead of an explicit statement.

by Abu Hasan
Based on the biographical note in Arabic by Shaykh Ábd al-Jalil Áta of Damascus printed as the preface of Radd al-Mukhtar, the Dar Ihya at-Turath edition. [Square parenthesis indicate translator’s comments]

1 comment:

Abū `Abdul-Raḥmān said...

We need more like him! May Allah elevate his rank, magnify his reward and continue to benefit us through his work and the work of fellow inheritors of our liegelord (salla llahu `alayhi wa-sallam).