Al-Sakhawi: Do not follow odd statements about authoritative Imams

A brother recently brought to attention the following quote from Imam Shams ad-Deen as-Sakhawi (d. 902 AH)

ويلتحق بذلك ما وقع بين الأئمة سيما المتخالفين في المناظرات والمباحثات وأما ما أسنده الحافظ أبو الشيخ بن حبان في كتاب السنة له من الكلام في حق بعض الأئمة المقلدين وكذا الحافظ أبو احمد ابن عدي في كأمله والحافظ أبو بكر الخطيب في تأريخ بغداد وآخرون ممن قبلهم كابن أبي شيبة في مصنفه والبخاري والنسائي مما كنت أنزههم عن إيراده مع كونهم مجتهدين ومقاصدهم جميلة فينبغي تجنب اقتفائهم فيه. ولذا عذر بعض القضاة الإعلام من شيوخنا من نسب إليه التحدث ببعضه بل منعنا شيخنا حين سمعنا عليه كتاب ذم الكلام للهروي من الرواية عنه لما فيه من ذلك

 (References to) discussion among religious leaders in debates and research belong into the same category (of subjects which should be passed over in silence). There are some statements regarding the merits of certain authoritative religious leaders (aimma al-muqalladin) in the Kitab as-Sunnah of the hadith expert Abu al-Shaykh ibn Hibban which I wish he had not made. There are similar statements in the Kamil of the hadith expert Abu Ahmad Ibn ‘Adi, the History of Baghdad of the hadith expert Abu Bakr al-Khatib, and in the works of their predecessors, such as Ibn Abi Shaybah’s Musannaf, al-Bukhari and an-Nasai’. Yet, all of them were scholars of independent judgment, and their intentions were good. In this respect, one must not follow in their steps. Therefore, one of our teachers, a distinguished judge, reprimanded (a certain scholar) which was supposed to have discussed such material. When we studied al-Harawi’s Kitab Dhamm al-Kalam with Ibn Hajar, he even forbade us to transmit traditions on its authority, because it contained such material.

as-Sakhawi, Shams ad-Deen, al-I’ilan bi al-Tawbikh li-man Dhamma Ahl al-Tarikh, al-Resalah Publications, Beirut, 1986, pp.110-111; translated in Rosenthal, Franz, A History of Muslim Historiography, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1968 p. 361

It appears al-Sakhawi had none other than Imam Abu Hanifa in mind when he wrote this for indeed he was one of the Authoritative Imams and the works containing the statements as-Sakhawi disliked have odd statements about the Imam. May Allah have mercy on him.

Ahmad Shamil

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