Abul Qasim Isma`il Al-Asbahani Shafii (d. 535 H.)
الأحد 3 / ربيع الأول / 1432 هـ - الموافق 6 / فبراير / 2011 م

Abul Qasim Isma`il Al-Asbahani

(457- 535 H.)

Prepared by: Um Abdullah al-Misawi
for : as-salaf.com

His Name: Ismail bin Muhammad bin Al-Fadhl Al-Qurashi Al-Taymi, then Al-Talhi Al-Asbahani or Al-Asfahani
His Kunya: Abu Al-Qasim.
Al-Talhi: is an attribution to (the sahabi) “Talha bin Ubaidellah” (may Allah be pleased with him), and a group of his children and grandchildren (i.e. offspring), in the past and present, are famous with this attribution. (1)
Abu Musa al-Madini said about Abul Qasim Isma`il: “And his mother is from the offspring of Talha bin Obaidellah At-Taymi, one of the ten (promised paradise), May Allah be pleased with them.” (2)

His Title: Qawwam as-Sunnah, which means: Establisher of the Sunnah.
He was also known as: al-Juzy, which means: a small bird; but he did not like to be called this.

Fiqh Madhhab: Shafi'i, Ibn Katheer said: “The imam, the Hafidh, the great scholar: Abu Al Qasim Al-Tamimi Al-Talhi Al-Asbahani Al-Juzy, who was known as: the Qawwam of Sunnah, one of Imams of the Shafi'e mathhab, and one of the great scholars of Hadith and its critics.” (3)

His birth: He was born in the 9th of Shawal, year 457 Hijri. (4)

His teachers:

In Ispahan/Isfahan (Asbahan):
- Ai'sha bint Al-Hassan Al-Warkaniya, he heard from her when he was 4 years old, but it was lost.
- Abu `Amr Abdulwahab bin Mandah.
- Abu Mansour bin Shukrawaih, and others.

In Baghdad:
- Abu Nasr Muhammad Az-Zaynabi , and he was the oldest of his shuyookh.
- Abu Al-Hasan `Asim Al-`Asimi.

In Naysaboor :
- Abu Nasr Muhammad bin Sahl Al-Sarraj
- Abu Bakir Ahmad bin Ali Al-Sheerazi, and others.

In Qazwin (Caspian) :
- Abu Mansour Al-Muqawwimi, he heard from him “Sunan Ibn Majah” in the Masjid, year 481 AH.
- Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Karji .

In Ar-Ray:
- Abu Bakr Ism`ail Al-Khateeb.
And many others. (5)

His oldest hearing was from Muhammad bin Omar Al-Tahrani (i.e. his first teacher), he was ten yours old at the time. (6)

His students :

- His grandson: Yahya bin Mahmoud Al-Thaqafi
-Abu Musa Al-Madini , he learned from him the Mathhab and the sciences of Hadith.
-Abu Sa`d As-Sam`ani.
-Abu Tahir As-Sulafi.
-Abu Al-`Ala’ Al-Hamadhani.
-Abul Qasim Ibn `Asakir .
And others. (7)

His Life and Critics' Views of Him:

He stayed near the haram in Makkah for one year, dictating, compiling works, and discussing the validating and invalidating of narrators (Al-Jarh wa Al-Ta`deel). (8)
Abu Sa`d As-Sam`ani, one of his students, said: “He was an imam in the sciences of: tafsir, hadith, and the Arabic language and literature; he was a memorizer (Hafidh), proficient, of great stature, Invaluable, and knowledgable in regards to the texts of hadith and its chains. He heard many himself, and transcribed … he dictated in the masjid of Asbahan about 3000 sittings, and a group of shaikhs and youngsters would attend it and would write it down; and during the time of my stay, I did not miss any of his dictations , and he would dictate a sitting especifically for me once a week in his home, and I would read to him two days a week … I wrote a lot from him, and also benefited from him, and he is from my father’s teachers – May Allah have mercy upon him-.” (9)
He also said : “My father said: I have not seen any one in Iraq that knows and understands the Hadith but two : Isma`il AlJuzy in Asbahan, and Al-Mu'taman bin Ahmad in Baghdad.” (10)

Abu Musa Al-Madini said in his “Mu`jam”: “Abul Qasim the Hafidh, the Imam of Imams of his time, and the teacher of the scholars of his era, and the role model of Ahlus-Sunnah in his time. Many Shaikhs told us about him during his life while he was in Makkah, Baghdad, and Asbahan … I do not know anyone who criticized his speech or actions … he would not enter upon a ruler or the ones who were in contact with them. A house from his property was left for the people of knowledge although he was lacking financially; and if one had given him the whole world he would have not felt higher in status. He held about 3500 sittings.”
Abu Musa also said: “He did several khatmat (Khatmah: reading of the whole Qur'an) with Qira’at to a group of people. As for the science of interpretation (tafsir), semantics, and syntax (of the Quran), then he has authored in it a book in Arabic and Persian. As for fiqh, his fatwas became famous in the country, and no one rejected or denied any of his fatwas in the madhhab, nor in the fundamentals of religion and Sunnah.” (11)

The Hafith Muhammad bin Abi Nasr Al-Laftuwani said in some of his “Amalee”: “Our Sheikh, the Hafith, Ismail, the Imam of the fifth century, he has lived in Isbahan for more than thirty years before the year five hundred, and around that many years after it. He taught people the arts of science … he has a prophetic name, and Kunya, and his origin is from Quraish, one of the children of Talha bin Ubaidellah. He was my teacher whom I had learned from, grew up close to him and took my first steps from his nest to the time of my graduation. He has treated me like his son … if I said that he was the Shaybani ( * ) of his time then I have only informed of the truth … may Allah reward him the best … and may Allah have mercy upon us and him.” (12)

Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Mandah Al-Hafidh said: “Ismail bin Muhammad Al-Hafidh Abul Qasim, had a good aqeedah, was upon a lovely path, had acceptable speech, talked little, and there no one like him in his time.” (13)

Ad-Daqqaq said about him in his treatise: “He had no peer, and no one was like him in his time, and he was an exemplary in righteousness and in rationality.”
Abu Tahir as-Sulafi said about him: “He was praiseworthy in his knowledge of the Arabic language, and knowledge of the narrators of hadith.”
Abu `Amer al-`Abdari said: “I have never seen anyone like Ismail, I confered with him and found him to be a memorizer of Hadith, versed in all sciences, and masterful ...”
Abul-Hussein At-Tayuri said: “No one has come to us from Khorasan who is like Ismail bin Muhammad”. (14).
Abu Mas`ud Abdul Raheem said: “We used to go with Abul-Qasim to some places, and when we woke up at night, we saw him praying.”

Abu Musa Al-Madeeni said: “I have heard him (Abul Qasim Ismail) say :
«Ibn Khuzaimah has made a mistake in the Hadith of Al-Surah (i.e. Allah creating Adam in His Image), and he is not to be defamed because of that, we just don’t accept this view from him, that is all»."
Abu Musa commented : “He was referring to the fact that rarely is there an Imam except that he falls into an error, and if he was abandoned due to that mistake, then many would be abandoned, and this should not be done”. (15)

His Works:

In Tafsir :
- "Al-Jame` " in 30 volumes.
- "Al-Eedhah fi Al-Tafseer" in 4 volumes.
- "Al-Muwadheh fi Al-Tafseer" in 3 volumes.
- "Al-Mo`tamad fi Al-Tafseer" in 10 volumes.
- "Al-Tafseer” in the Asbahanian tongue, in several volumes.

Other Books:
- I`rab Al- Quran (16)
- “Al-Hujjah Fi Bayan Al-Mahjjah” an explanation of the aqidah of Ahl Assunnah. (17)
- Al-Targheeb wa Al-Tarheeb.
- Kitab Al-Sunnah, one volume.
- "Seerat Al-Salaf " in a huge volume.
- "Dala'el Al-Nubuwah", one volume.
- "al-Maghazi", in one volume.
- Sharh Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim; it was done by his son, but his son died before completing it, so he completed it for him.
and other works (18).

His Death:

He passed away in the last third of night (As-Sahar time), on the day of Eid al-Adha in year 535 Hijri in Ispahan. (19)
His brother Abu al Mardhee prayed in his janazah (funeral), and there gathered for his Janazah a number that I have not seen like it.
His nephew, Abu Ja`far Muhammad bin al-Hasan said: Ahmad Al-Aswari who washed my uncles body (i.e. ghusl of the deceased person), and he was trustworthy, told me that when he wanted to remove the cloth from his private part in order to wash it, Isma`il grabbed it with his hand and covered with it his private part; so the washer said: Is it life after death ?! (20)

Some of His Family Members:

His father: His father Abu Jafar was pious, God-fearing, chaste, and devout. Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Mandah said: “We have not seen in our time anyone like him in religiosity, and trusteeship”. (21)

His son: Abu Abdullah Muhammad, was born around 500 Hijri. When he grew up, he become an imam in the Arabic language and the sciences, to the point that no one in his time perceeded him much in rhetoric, sharpness, and understanding. His father preferred him to himself in the language and flow of the tongue. He had many works in spite of his young age, and his father would narrate from him with ijazah. He died at a young age in Hamadhan, year 526 Hijri. (22)

Some of his statements in the matters of belief (AQEEDAH):

Concerning Allah’s Elevation:

Abul Qasim Isma`il Al-Asbahani said in his book "Al-Hujja fi bayan Al-Muhajja": «A chapter on the Throne being above the Heavens, and Allah –Azza wa Jal- being above the Throne.» (23) and he mentioned some reports concerning it.

He also said: «And He (Allah) told about the Pharaoh that he said: {"O Hâmân! Build me a tower that I may arrive at the ways; The ways of the heavens, and I may look upon the God of Mûsâ: But verily, I think him to be a liar."}, so Pharaoh understood from Musa that he affirms a God above the Heaven, and he even tried to look at Him by the means of his high tower, and he accused Musa of lying in that (i.e. There being a god above the Heaven).» (24)

Concerning Allah’s Names and Attributes:

He was asked about the attributes of Allah and he said:
«The madhhab of Malik, Ath-Thawri, Al-Awza`i, Al-Shafi`i, Hammad bin Salamah, Hammad bin Zayd, Ahmad (bin Hanbal), Yahya bin Sa`eed Al-Qattan, Abdur-Rahman Ibn Mahdi, and Ishaq bin Rahwaih; is that the attributes of Allah, which He and His Messenger described Himself with, like those of Hearing, Seeing, the Face, the Two Hands and the rest of His attributes, is that it is to be taken upon their apparent meaning that is well-known, without thinking about how it is, and without likening them to creation, or making tawil. Ibn `Uyaynah said: «As for everything that Allah described Himself with, then its recitation is its interpretation.» Then he (i.e. Abul-Qasim) said: “It means: it is upon its dhahir (apparent meaning), it is not permissible to take them metaphorically as a means of interpretation."» (25)

He also said: «If we say: hand, hearing, sight, and such, then it is due to it being Attributes that Allah affirmed for Himself; He did not say: the meaning of “yad” (lit: hand) is power, or that the meaning of “hearing” and “sight” is: knowledge and awareness. And we do not liken them (i.e. Allah’s hand, sight and hearing) with the hands , hearings, and sights (of creation); we say that what is mandatory is to affirm them, because it was reported in the texts, and it is mandatory to negate resemblance, due to Allah –The Exalted- saying: {There is nothing like Him; and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer}[42:11]; this is what the scholars of the salaf said in regards to the reports on the Attributes (of Allah): “Pass them as they came”.
if it was then said: ‘How would it be valid to believe in a matter in which its reality and description is beyond our knowledge?' Or 'How would a thing that our minds never experienced before be described?'
The answer is: our belief in what we are commanded to believe in is correct, and our knowledge encompasses the matter in what is necessary/mandatory, although we do not have sufficient knowledge of its hidden reality; Such as being commanded to believe in the angels, the revealed books, the Messengers, the Last Day, Paradise and its grace, and Hell and its punishment; though it is a fact that we do not possess knowledge of each matter in detail, but we are commanded to believe in all these matters in totality. Is it not obvious that we do not know the names of numerous Prophets and angels, and we cannot even count them or know their descriptions or their special characteristics, yet all this was never a reason to invalidate our belief in that which we are commanded to believe in concerning them. The Prophet -Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- said: ”Allah, Most High, says: ‘I have prepared for my righteous slaves what no eye has ever seen, what no ear has ever heard, and what no mind has imagined’.“ [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim] (26)

He also said: “Tashbih is the root of “shabbaha”…, one says: I resembled a thing to another, meaning: I likened it to it, and compared it by essence, attributes or actions.” (27)

( * ) Meaning Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal
(1) "Al-Ansab" by As-Sam`ani (4/40)
(2) "Tareekh Al-Islam" by al-Dhahabi (36/369); "Tathkarat Alhuffadh" by Adh-Dhahabi (4/51)
(3) “Tabaqat Al-Fuqaha Al-Shafi`een” by Ibn Katheer (2/591)
(4) Al-Ansab (2/120); Tareekh Al-Islam (36/368); "Tabaqat Al-Fuqaha' Al-Shafi`iyyah" (2/591)
(5) Al-Ansab ( 2/120); “At-Taqyeed li-Ma`rifat Ar-Ruwat wal Masanid” by Ibn Nuqta (1/ 252); Tadhkirat al-Huffadh ( 4/51); Siyar A`lam Al-Nubala' by Adh-Dhahabi ( 20/81)
(6) Siyar A`lam Al-Nubala’ (20/81)
(7) Al-Taqyeed by Ibn Nuqta (1/252); Siyar A`lam Al-Nubala ( 20/81); Tareekh Al- Islam ( 36/ 368)
(8) Tareekh Al-Islam ( 36/368) and Siyar A`lam AlNubala (20/81)
(9) Al-Ansab ( 2/ 120)
(10) Al-Taqyeed (1/252)
(11) Tareekh Al-Islam ( 36/368-371), and Tadhkirat al-Huffadh (4/51); Tabaqat Fukaha' Al-Shafi`iyah (2/592)
(12) “Al-Tadween Fi Akhbar Qazween” by Rafii ( 2/302-303)
(13) Tareekh Al-Islam (36/369); Tadhkirat al-Huffadh (4/51)
(14) Tadhkirat al-Huffadh (4/52)
(15) Tareekh Al-Islam (36/371) and Siyar A`lam AlNubala (20/86)
(16) Tareekh Al-Islam (36/371)
(17) Kashif Al-Dhunoon by Haji Khaleefah (1/631), and Al-A`lam by Az-Zarakali (1/323), and “Tarikh Irbel” in the biography of Al-Hussein Bin Khalkan; and Ibn Hajar quoted from it in "Fath al-Bari" in the beginning of the chapter on Tawheed, he said: "Abu al-Qasim at-Taymi said in the book (titled) “Al-Hujjah: ..."
(18) Tareekh Al-Islam (36/372) and Siyar A`lam AlNubala ( 20/84); Tabaqat Al-Fu`aha' Al-Shafiis (2/592); "AlResalah AlMustatrafa" by al-Kenani (p. 57)
(19) Al-Ansab (2/ 120-121), Al-Tadween Fi Akhbar Qazween (2/303).
(20) Tadhkirat al-Huffadh ( 4/51-52), Tareekh Al-Islam ( 36/369)
(21) Tareekh Al-Islam ( 36/369), Tadhkirat al-Huffadh ( 4/51).
(22) Tareekh Al-Islam ( 36/372), Tadhkirat al-Huffadh ( 4/52).
(23) “Al-Hujjah fi bayan Al-Muhajja” by Ismail Al-Asbahani ( 2/83)
(24) “Al-Hujja fi bayan Al-Muhajja” ( 2/115)
(25) “Al-Uluw lil `Alee Al-Ghaffar “Al-Dhahabi (p. 263); and “Kitab al-Arsh” by al-Dhahabi (2/359-360).
(26) Al-Hujja fi bayan Al-Muhajjah (1/288-289)
(27) al-Hujja fi bayan Al-Muhajjah (1/306)


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