IBN `ABD AL-BARR

by Dr. G.F. Haddad

Yūsuf[1] ibn `Abd Allāh ibn Muhammad Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Abū `Umar al-Namarī al-Andalusī al-Qurtubī al-Mālikī (368-463). A major hadīth Master of the Mālikī School. Ibn Farhūn says he was the greatest memorizer of the Sunna in his time and Ibn al-Subkī mentions him in the fifth synchronical layer of those who followed the School of al-Ash`arī in doctrine along with Abū al-Walīd al-Bājī, Abū al-Hasan al-Qābisī, Abū al-Qāsim ibn `Asākir, Abū al-Hasan al-Murādī, Abū Sa`d ibn al-Sam`ānī, Abū Tāhir al-Silafī, al-Qādī `Iyād, and al-Shahrastānī. He studied under Ibn al-Makwī, Ibn al-Fardī, Ahmad ibn `Abd al-Mālik ibn Hishām, and took hadīth from Sa`īd ibn Nasr, `Abd al-Wārith, Ahmad ibn Qāsim al-Bazzār, Khalf ibn Sahl, Abū `Umar al-Talamankī, and many others Al-Qurtubī cites him about five hundred times in his Tafsīr. Of his book al-Tamhīd his friend Ibn Hazm said: "I do not know of anything like it with regard to the superlative understanding of hadīth, let alone better than it."

Ibn `Abd al-Barr initially followed the School of Dāwūd al-Zāhirī and befriended Ibn Hazm. He left that school and turned to that of Imām Mālik, while leaning towards the Shāfi`ī school. His literalist bend is evident in doctrine, and "Salafīs" are fond of quoting his apparent attribution of place, direction, and corporeality to Allāh Most High in al-Tamhīd:

The hadīth [of the descent of Allāh] provides evidence that Allāh is in () the heaven, on (`alā) the Throne, above (fawq) seven heavens, as the Congregation (jamā`a) said, and this is part of their proof against the Mu`tazila and the Jahmiyya's claim that Allāh is in every place and not on the Throne.[2] ... An entity cannot be conceived to exist without place in relation to us, and whatever is without place is non-existent.[3]

However, Ibn `Abd al-Barr also narrates with his chain from Mutarrif, a few pages further, that Imām Mālik said: "It is our Lord's command which descends" He then admits: "It is possible that the matter be as Mālik said, and Allāh knows best"[4]

Ibn Jahbal al-Kilābī said:

Concerning what Abū `Umar ibn `Abd al-Barr said [in apparent attribution of place, direction, and corporeality to Allāh Most High], both the elite and the general public know the man's position and the scholars' disavowal of if. The Mālikīs' condemnation of it, from the first to the last of them, is well-known. His contravention of the Imām of North Africa, Abū al-Walīd al-Bājī, is famous. It reached a point that the eminent people of North Africa would say: "No one in North Africa holds this position except he and Ibn Abī Zayd!" although some of the people of knowledge cited an excuse for Ibn Abī Zayd in the text of the great qādī Abū Muhammad `Abd al-Wahhāb [ibn `Alī ibn Nasr al-Baghdādī (d 422)] al-Baghdādī al-Mālikī[5] - may Allāh have mercy on him.[6]

In the same chapter of al-Tamhīd cited above, Ibn `Abd al-Barr rejects Mujāhid's alleged tafsīr of the Exalted Station (in verse 17:79) as consisting in the seating of the Prophet MHMDAllāh bless and greet him - with Allāh Most High on His Throne.[7]

The "Salafis" also quote Ibn `Abd al-Barr's apparent stand against kalām in his citation of Ibn Khuwayz Mindād:

The people of the innovated sects in the view of Imām Mālik and the remainder of our companions are the people of kalām. Every person of kalām is from the people of the innovated sects and innovations, whether he is an Ash`arī or other than an Ash`arī, and his witness is never accepted in Islām. Indeed, his witness is to be ostracised and he is to be punished for his innovation, and if he persists then repentance is sought from him.

This is Abū `Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Khuwayz Mindād al-Basrī who narrated hadīth, but did not become known as a Muhaddith, much less a Hāfiz but was one of the Jurists and Usūliyyūn of the Mālikīs. He died in 390 and thus is not a companion of Imām Mālik but came 200 years and seven biographical layers later. His claim of what Imām Mālik supposedly said is thoroughly unreliable until he is confirmed independently, even if he produced his chain to Mālik's supposed statement (a fortiori if he does not even have a chain as in this case). Hence, Ibn Khuwayz Mindād's reports from Mālik "contain anomalies" and he "contradicts the Madhhab in both Fiqh and Usūl nor do the [Mālikī] experts rely on his positions" according to al-Qādī `Iyād (d 544).[8] `Iyād also said: "He [al-Mindād] was not insightful in his positions nor strong in fiqh. Abū al-Walīd al-Bājī said of him: I never heard him mentioned once by the Ulema of Iraq." `Iyād also exposes him as an extremist in his anti-kalām stance: "He alienated the Mutakallimīn of Ahl al-Sunna [i.e. the Ash`arīs] and ruled that all of them were among the people of vain lusts (ahwā') concerning whom Mālik said his famous statement on [avoiding] their marriage, [rejecting] their witness and leadership, and alienating them."[9]

Imām Mālik certainly did not mean the Ash`arīs but the Mu`tazilīs and their sub-sects by consensus in the statement in question, as is made clear, among others, by Ibn `Abd al-Barr himself in his report from the same Ibn Khuwayz Mindād on the previous page![10]

It is known that Imām Mālik never retained any Mu`tazilīs, Qadarīs, or Khawārij in his Muwatta' as narrators while al-Bukhārī, Muslim and their students such as Imām al-Tirmidhī did narrate from Qadarīs and Jahmīs.[11] Thus the misguided view Ibn Khuwayz Mindād expressed in including the Ash`arīs among the people of innovation was rejected by his own School and is not considered in the least valid by the major Mālikī Huffāz and Fuqahā' such as Qādī `Iyād, al-Māzarī, Abū Bakr ibn al-`Arabī, Abūl-Walīd al-Bājī, al-Qurtubī, and others - all thorough Ash`arīs.

Among Ibn `Abd al-Barr's books:

* Al-Ajwiba al-Mū`iba ("The Comprehensive Answers");

* Al-`Aql wal-`Uqalā' ("Reason and the People of Wisdom");

* Ash`ār Abī al-`Atāhiya ("The Poems of Abū al-`Atahiya[12]");

* Al-Bayān Tilāwat al-Qur'ān ("The Exposition Concerning the Recitation of the Qur'ān");

* Al-Farā'id ("The Laws of Inheritance");

* Al-Iktifā' Qirā'at Nāfi`in wa Abī `Amrin ("The Contentment in Nāfi` and Abū `Amr's Reading");

* Al-Inbāh `an Qabā'il al-Ruwāh ("Drawing Attention to the Nomenclature of the Narrators' Tribes");

* Al-Insāf Asmā' Allāh ("The Book of Fidelity: On the Names of Allāh");

* Al-Intiqā' Fadā'il al-Thalāthat al-A'immat al-Fuqahā' Mālik wal-Shāfi`ī wa Abī Hanīfa ("The Hand-Picked Excellent Merits of the Three Great Jurisprudent Imāms: Mālik, Shāfi`ī, and Abū Hanīfa"). Shaykh `Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghudda said the order in the title reflects the precedence of Madīna over Makka and that of Makka over al-Kūfa.

* Al-Istidhkār li Madhhab `Ulamā' al-Amsār fīmā Tadammanahu al-Muwatta' min Ma`ānī al-Ra'ī wal-Athār ("The Memorization of the Doctrine of the Scholars of the World Concerning the Juridical Opinions and the Narrations Found in Mālik's Muwatta'");

* Al-Istī`āb Asmā' al-Ashāb ("The Comprehensive Compilation of the Names of the Prophet's Companions");

* Jāmi` Bayān al-`Ilmi wa-Fadlihi wamā Yanbaghī Riwāyatihi wa Hamlih ("Compendium Exposing the Nature of Knowledge and Its Immense Merit, and What is Required in the Process of Narrating it and Conveying it");

* Al-Kāfī Madhhab Mālik ("The Sufficiency in Mālik's School of Jurisprudence");

* Al-Kunā ("The Patronyms");

* Al-Maghāzī ("The Battles");

* Al-Qasd wal-Umam Nasab al-`Arab wal-`Ajam ("The Endeavors and the Nations: Genealogies of the Arabs and Non-Arabs");

* Al-Shawāhid Ithbāt Khabar al-Wāhid ("The Supporting Evidence for Maintaining Lone-Narrator Reports [as a source for legal rulings]");

* Al-Tamhīd limā fīl-Muwatta' min al-Ma`ānī wal-Asānīd ("The Facilitation to the Meanings and Chains of Transmission Found in Mālik's Muwatta'");

* Al-Taqassī Ikhtisār al-Muwatta' ("The Detailed Study in the Abridgment of the Muwatta'");

 

Main sources: Siyar 13:524 §4158; Shajarat al-Nūr p. 119 §337; Ibn Farhūn, al-Dībāj p. 440-442 §626; Tabaqāt al-Shāfi`iyya al-Kubrā 3:372.



[1] Ibn Farhūn in al-Dībāj (p. 442) mentions that Yūsuf has six pronunciations in Arabic: yūsuf, yūsaf, yuwisif, yuwisuf, yuwisaf, and yu'sif.

[2] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd (7:129). See above, section entitled Ibn `Abd al-Barr's Controversy (p. 466f.) as well as Shaykh Nuh Keller's article, "Is it permissible for a Muslim to believe that `Allāh is in the sky' in a literal sense?" at and the discussion on istiwā' in our article, "Istiwā' is a Divine Act" cf. http://sunnah.org/aqida/istiwa_divine_act.htm.

[3] Al-Tamhīd (7:135).

[4] Al-Tamhīd (7:143).

[5] Perhaps a reference to his commentary on Ibn Abī Zayd's Risāla (Dībāj p. 262).

[6] 6 In Tabaqāt al-Shāfi`iyya al-Kubrā (9:78). See our forthcoming publication of Imām Ibn Jahbal al-Kilābī's Refutation of Ibn Taymiyya.

[7] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd (7:157-158).

[8] In Tartīb al-Madārik (Moroccan ed 7:77-78).

[9]  Ibn Farhūn (d 799) cites all of the above in al-Dībāj al-Mudhahhab (§491).

[10] Cf. Jāmi` Bayān al-`Ilm wa-Fadlih (1994 Saudi ed 2:942-943 §1800).

[11] See on this the relevant chapter in al-Suyūtī's Tadrīb al-Rāwī.

[12] 12 Ismā`īl ibn Qāsim ibn Suwayd (d 213).