(8) THE GREAT ASH`ARI SCHOLARS

The third generation of al-Ash`ari's students

Al-Bayhaqi, Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn `Ali ibn `Abd Allah ibn Musa, Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi al-Naysaburi al-Khusrawjirdi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari (384-458), "the jurisprudent imam, hadith master, authority in the foundations of doctrine (usuli), scrupulous and devoted ascetic, defender of the School both in its foundations and its branches, one of the mountains of Islamic knowledge." He is known in the books of the scholars of Naysabur and his direct students as "al-faqeeh Ahmad."

He took kalam from the two Ash`ari imams Ibn Furak and Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi, but he had more than a hundred shaykhs. His oldest shaykh was the imam and hadith scholar of Khurasan al-Sayyid Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Husayn ibn Dawud al-`Alawi al-Hasani al-Naysaburi al-Hasib (d. 401), who was also al-Hakim's shaykh. Al-Bayhaqi's other shaykhs in hadith include the hadith master Abu `Ali al-Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Rudhabari al-Tusi (d. 403);the hadith master al-Hakim al-Naysaburi (d. 405), whose foremost pupil he was; the Ash`ari imam in the foundations of doctrine Abu Bakr ibn Furak (d. 406); the imam, jurist, philologist, and hadith master of Khurasan Abu Tahir Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmish al-Ziyadi al-Shafi`i al-Naysaburi (d. 410); the Sufi master, Ash`ari imam, hadith master, and author of Tabaqat al-Sufiyya Muhammad ibn al-Husayn ibn Muhammad, Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Azdi al-Sulami (d. 411); Muhammad ibn Hibat Allah al-Lalika'i's teacher, Muhammad ibn al-Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn al-Fadl al-Qattan al-Baghdadi (d. 415); and the Ash`ari imam, jurist, and heresiologist Abu Mansur `Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi al-Shafi`i (d. 429).

It is noteworthy that neither al-Tirmidhi's Sunan, nor al-Nasa'i's, nor Ibn Majah's were transmitted to al-Bayhaqi, as reflected in his books where these compilations are not mentioned. Al-Dhahabi said: "His sphere in hadith is not large, but Allah blessed him in his narrations for the excellence of his method in them and his sagacity and expertise in the subject-matters and narrators."

Al-Bayhaqi lived frugally in the manner of the pious scholars. He began fasting perpetually thirty years before his death. Perpetual fast (sawm al-dahr) is the practice of several of the Companions and Salaf such as Ibn `Umar, `Uthman, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi`i, al-Nawawi, and others such as the Ash`ari scholar al-Qurashi al-Zuhri (d. 382). Ibn Hibban devoted a chapter of his Sahih to the subject, in which he said, commenting the hadith of the Prophet: "Whoever fasts all his life has neither fasted nor broken his fast":

Abu Hatim [al-Razi] said: "He means: whoever fasts all his life including the days in which one was forbidden to fast, such as the days of tashreeq and the two `Ids. By the words: 'he has neither fasted nor broken his fast' he means that he did not in fact fast all his life in order to reap reward for it. For he did not omit [the fasting of] the days in which he was forbidden to fast. That is why the Prophet said: 'Whoever fasts all his life, the Fire shall straiten him for this much,' and he counted ninety on his fingers, meaning the days of his life in which he was forbidden to fast. It does not apply to the person who fasts all his life - being strong enought to do so - without the prohibited days."

Imam al-Nawawi said on the topic:

Ibn `Umar fasted permanently, i.e. except the days of `Id and tashreeq. This perpetual fast is his way and the way of his father `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `A'isha, Abu Talha, and others of the Salaf as well as al-Shafi`i and other scholars. Their position is that perpetual fasting is not disliked (makruh).

Ibn Qudama states something similar in al-Mughni and adds that the same view is related from Ahmad and Malik, and that after the Prophet's death Abu Talha fasted permanently for forty years, among other Companions. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in al-Khayrat al-Hisan similarly relates that Abu Hanifa was never seen eating except at night.

The works of al-Bayhaqi count among the treasures of Islamic knowledge for their extreme meticulousness, utmost reliability, and general perfection in the estimation of the scholars. Among those which have been published are the following:

al-Sunan al-Kubra ("The Major Book of the Prophet's Sunnas") in about ten large volumes, concerning which al-Subki said: "No such book was ever compiled in the science of hadith with respect to classification, arrangement, and elegance."

Al-Subki relates that al-Bayhaqi considered the Prophet's references to Abu Musa al-Ash`ari's people to include Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari and his school. Al-Bayhaqi said:

The Prophet pointed to Abu Musa al-Ash`ari in relation to the verse: "Allah will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him" (5:54) saying: "They are that man's people," for the tremendous merit and noble rank attributed by this hadith to the imam Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari. For he is part of Abu Musa's people and one of his children who have received knowledge and were granted discernment, and he was singled out for strengthening the Sunna and repressing innovation by producing clear proofs and dispelling doubts. It is most likely that the Prophet named Abu Musa's people a people beloved by Allah because he knew the soundness of their religion and the strength of their belief. Theerefore, whoever leans towards them in the science of the foundations of Religion and follows their position in disowning tashbeeh while adhering to the Book and the Sunna - he is one of their number.

Al-Bayhaqi took fiqh from the imam Abu al-Fath Nasir ibn al-Husayn ibn Muhammad al-Qurashi al-`Umari al-Marwazi al-Shafi`i al-Naysaburi (d. 444). Imam al-Haramayn said: "There is no Shafi`i except he owes a huge debt to al-Shafi`i, except al-Bayhaqi, to whom al-Shafi`i owes a huge debt for his works which imposed al-Shafi`i's school and his sayings." Al-Bayhaqi is the last of those who comprehensively compiled the textual evidence of the Shafi`i school including the hadith, the positions of the Imam, and those of his immediate companions. Among al-Shafi`i's legal positions reported by al-Bayhaqi is the following in his book Fada'il al-Awqat:

The hadith whereby the Prophet forbade the fasting of all of the month of Rajab is weak. Even if it were authentic, its meaning would be that of dislike only, as al-Shafi`i said in the Old School: "I dislike that someone single out the month of Rajab among all other months in order to fast it completely in the way that he completes Ramadan." He also said: "Likewise, that someone single out a specific day among all other days." He continued: "I only disliked it so that an ignorant person will not emulate the one who fasts, thinking that it is obligatory. Otherwise, to fast it is fine and good (wa in fa`ala fa hasan)." Thus al-Shafi`i gave the reason for the reprehensibility [of fasting Rajab] then he said: "But if one fasts it, then fine and good." This is because part of what is universally known among Muslims is that the foundation of the Law said no fast is obligatory except that of Ramadan, whereby the cause for reprehensibilty is lifted.

Al-Subki comments:

On the whole, this text of al-Shafi`i cited by al-Bayhaqi provides a clear proof that to fast the month of Rajab in its entirety is fine and good, and that if the prohibition of fasting it entirely is inauthentic, then the fast remains desirable in the Law. This supports what Shaykh al-Islam al-`Izz ibn `Abd al-Salam said: "Whoever forbids the fast of Rajab, he is ignorant of the sources of legal rulings." He then expanded on the topic. . . . Nor should any proof against al-Bayhaqi be adduced from the hadith of Ibn `Abbas prohibiting the fast of Rajab in Ibn Majah's Sunan as it has been definitely established to be unsound.

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

© copyright As-Sunna Foundation of America, 1998