Annals of Muslim History

A Muhaddith Imām that Erred


Of the most brilliant Imāms of Hadīth in our history is the Faqīh Imām, the Leader of the Basran Schools of Hadīth, the Pearl of its Imāms, Ismā’īl Ibn Ibrāhīm Ibn Muqsim Abū Bashr Al-Asdī Al-Basrī, whose origin is Kūfah, and popularly known as Ibn ‘Ulayyah – rahimahullāh.

‘Ulayyah was his mother, a famous woman who was known for her wealth and love of spending on the Path of Allāh. Adh-Dhahabī mentioned that Ibn ‘Ulayyah detested that he be attributed to his mother and called Ibn ‘Ulayyah. He preferred to be called Ibn ‘Ibrāhīm though the Ulamā of Hadīth did not oblige him that because of his popularity with that name.

He was born 110 years after the Hijrah, the year that Al-Hasan Al-Basrī – rahimahullāh – passed away, and excelled in the Sciences of Hadīth and Fiqh.

Among his teachers from whom he related Hadīth are Abū Bakr Muhammad Ibn Al-Munkadir At-Taymī, ‘Atā Ibn As-Sā’ib, Ibn Jurayj, Handhalata As-Sadūsī, Khālid Al-Hidhā, Mansūr Ibn ‘Abdurrahmān Al-Ashall, Abū Rayhānata As-Sa’adī, Yahyah Ibn Yazīd, and many others.

Of those that learnt and narrated from him are Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who spent 10 years in his company, ‘Alī Al-Madīnī, ‘Abdurrahmān Ibn Mahdī, Yahyah Ibn Ma’īn and many others.

He was known for his piety, purity, strength of memory and thoroughness in Hadīth.

Abū Dāwud As-Sijistānī – rahimahullāh – once said: _”All of the Muhaddithīn had made mistakes (while narrating) except for ‘Ismā’īl Ibn ‘Ulayyah and Bishr Ibn Mufaddal.”_

Shu’uba his Shaykh once said: _”Ismā’īl Ibn ‘Ulayyah is the Master of the Muhaddithīn”_

Yazīd Ibn Hārūn said:
_”I entered Basra and found that there was nobody there that was better than Ibn ‘Ulayyah in Hadīth”_

He was indeed an Imām by all standards, and by consensus.

Imām Adh-Dhahabī mentioned in the _’Siyar’_ that once he mentioned some words that implied the creation of the Qur’ān and though he recanted from that position openly, his reputation dented and many did not accept his words after then, they attributed him to the sect that believes the Qur’ān was created.

But he also had one error, one that smeared his reputation. It was mentioned that he was made a Judge (Qādī) for the Oppressive Khalīfah that was the Muslim Leader at that time.

It is mentioned that in this regard, the Faqīh Imām ‘Abdullāh Ibn Al-Mubārak wrote to him the lines:

يا جاعل العلم له بازيا * يصطاد أموال المساكين

احتلت للدنيا ولذاتها * بحيلة تذهب بالدين

فصرت مجنونا بها بعدما * كنت دواء للمجانين

أين رواياتك فيما مضى * عن ابن عون وابن سيرين

ودرسك العلم بآثاره * في ترك أبو السلاطين

تقول أكرهت فماذا كذا * زل حمار العلم في الطين

لا تبع الدين بالدنيا كما * يفعل ضلال الرهابين

_”O He who made of Knowledge a tool; with which you hunt the wealth of the Poor_

_You plotted slightly for this Dunya and its Pleasures; with a slyness that erodes away the Dīn_

_Then you were crazy about it afterwards; you used to be the Antidote for the crazed ones_

_Where are your narrations that have preceded?; From Ibn ‘Awn and Ibn Sīrīn_

_And your lectures of Ilm accompanied by their Narrations; that asked to avoid the Sultans’ Stations?_

_You say you were forced, its not that at all; the Donkey of Knowledge has slipped in the mud_

_Do not sell the Dīn for Dunya exchange; the Way misguided Scholars always do”_

Though the Ulamā after him respected him and recorded his Ahādith, the errors he made never left him. Adh-Dhahabi – rahimahullāh – in the Siyar even lamented the extreme censorship that some Muhaddithīn levied against Ibn ‘Ulayyah – rahimahullāh.


O People! That shows us the severity with which the Salaf took matters like that.

What would be said of some Ulamā in this era of ours?

Bārakallāhu fīkum
Jazākumullāhu Khayran


Islamnode is a platform for the dissemination of sound Knowledge of Islam and an orientation of Muslims of the Sciences of the Din in accordance with the Pristine Knowledge taught by the Rasul – Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam – to the Companions – Ridwanullah ‘Alayhim – and understood by them, their Students and those who followed them of the earliest generations. We follow the Sunnah of the Rasul – Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam – and promote the Works of the Ulama of Sunnah from the first generation to date. Our goal is to propagate the Sciences of Islam, to disseminate the sound understanding of the Salaf and to enable the sound education of Muslims in this era.

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