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Imam Muslim: The Leading Scholar of Hadith

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Imam Muslim is one of the leading scholars and memorizers of the Prophet’s narrations and reports.

He is Abu Al-Husayn Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj ibn Muslim ibn Ward ibn Kushadh Al-Qushairy An-Naysabur, the outstanding and eminent authority of Hadith. He is one the leading scholars and memorizers of the Prophet’s narrations and reports. His hadith collection is regarded as one of the two most authentic books of Hadith, alongside Sahih Al-Bukhari.

His Birth and Early Life:

Imam Muslim was born in Nishapur in 206 A.H. (821) from a noble Arab tribe called Qushair. In a family of knowledge and good conduct, for his father was a regular attendant of the circles of knowledge and upright man, and in a town replete with Islamic knowledge, Abu Al-Husayn Muslim grew up stuck on knowledge. He began his knowledge journey in his tender age, as Imam Adh-Dhahaby said, “The beginning of his Hadith learning was in 218 A.H. from Yahya ibn Yahya At-Tamimi and he offered Hajj in 220 A.H. while he was still beardless.” It means that he was then about 12 years old or less when he attended the circles of Hadith.

His Pursuit of Knowledge:

Abu Al-Husayn started by learning hadith from the scholars in his town Nishapur, then he began his long scientific journeys in a very early age. As-Siyuti said, “He travelled to Basra when he was 14 then he went to Hejaz to perform Hajj and study Hadith under the Imams of Hadith in Makkah and Medinah. Then, he travelled to Egypt, the Levant, Iraq and returned to Ar-Rayy and then Khurasan. He remained about 15 years pursuing knowledge of Hadith during which he met many sheikhs and collected more than 300000 hadith.” He travelled to these places more than once without any tiredness or wearisome. In these tours, he bent on knowledge seeking, scrutinizing the narrators of hadith and gaining the fruits of knowledge.

His Sheikhs and Students:

Imam Muslim studied under a great deal of scholars of hadith and narrated hadiths from numberless people. Among the prominent scholars from which he narrated hadiths were `Abdullah ibn Maslamah Al-Qan`aby, Yahya ibn Yahya An-Naysabury, Qutaybah ibn Sa`id, Sa`id ibn Mansur, Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Is-haq ibn Rahuwayh, Abu Khaithamah Zuhair ibn Harb, Abu Kurayb Muhammad ibn Al-`Alaa’, Abu Musa Muhammad ibn Al-Muthanna, Muhammad ibn Yahya Adh-Dhuhaly, Abu Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari, `Abdullah Ad-Darimi and others. It is related that his sheikhs were about 220 from the narrators of hadith. He accompanied Imam Al-Bukhari and was affected by his method in compiling hadiths. It is reported that he would say to Imam Al-Bukhari, “Let me kiss your legs, O master of teachers, leader of Muhaddithin (scholars of hadith) and doctor of Hadith knowledge and its deficiencies.”

An-Nawawi said, “He learned from Yahya ibn Yahya, Is-haq ibn Rahuwaih and others in Khurasan, and from Muhammad ibn Mahran Al-Jammal, Abu Ghassan and others in Ar-Rayy, from Ahmad ibn Hanbal, `Abdullah ibn Muslim Al-Qa`nabi and others in Iraq, from Sa`id ibn Mansur, Abu Mus`ab and other in Hejaz, from `Amr ibn Suwad, Harmalah ibn Yahya and others in Egypt, and from many others.

As for his students, they were plentiful. Among them were `Ali ibn Al-Hasan ibn `Isa Al-Hilali, Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab Al-Farra’, Al-Husain ibn Muhammad Al-Qabbani, Abu `Eisa At-Tirmidhi, `Abdullah ibn Yahya As-Sarkhasi Al-Qady, `Ali ibn Al-Husain Ar-Razi, Salih ibn Muhammad Jazarah, Nasr ibn Ahmed Al-Hafiz, Ibn Khuzaimah, Abu `Uwanah, `Abdur-Rahmadn ibn Abu Hatim Ar-Razi, and many others

His Books:

Imam Muslim compiled a lot of books, the most important of which are Al-Musnad As-Sahih (Sahih Muslim), At-Tamiyiz, Kitab Al-`Ilal, Kitab Al-Wuhdan, Kitab Al-Afrad, Kitab Al-Aqran, Kitab Al-Mukhadramin, Kitab Awham Al-Muhaddithin and Kitab At-Tabaqat.

Scholarly Praise:

  • Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab Al-Farra’ said, “Muslim was one of the prominent scholars and vessels of knowledge.”
  • Muhammad ibn Bashshar said, “The memorizers of hadiths are four: Abu Zur`ah, Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari, Ad-Darimi, and Muslim.”
  • Al-Husain ibn `Ali An-Naysaburi said, “There is no book under the canopy of the sky more authentic than the book of Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj in the knowledge of Hadith.”
  • Ahmed ibn Salamah said, “I saw Abu Zur`ah and Abu Hatim advancing Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj in knowing the authentic hadiths upon the sheikhs of their age.”
  • Ibn Khalkan said, “He is the compiler of the Sahih, one of the greatest memorizers and leading scholars of hadith.”
  • Ibn Al-Jawzi said, “He is a prominent scholar of Hadith and one of the vessels of knowledge.”
  • Sadi` ibn Hasan Al-Qanuji said, “Imam Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj Al-Qushairy Al-Baghdadi is one of the outstanding memorizers and knowledgeable scholars of hadith, he is the leader of Khurasan in hadith following Al-Bukhari.”

His Words:

–          He said to Imam Al-Bukhari, “Let me kiss your legs, O master of teachers, leader of Muhaddithin (scholars of hadith) and doctor of Hadith knowledge and its deficiencies.”

His Death:

He lived for 55 years and died in Rajab,  261 A.H. Regarding the cause of his death, Adh-Dhahabi mentioned on the authority of Ahmad ibn Salamah, “A gathering of knowledge and revision was held for Abu Al-Husayn Muslim bin Al-Hajjaj where a hadith that he did not know was mentioned. He went home and lit his lamp and said to those at home, “No one should enter the house (i.e. disturb me).” He was told, “We have been gifted a basket of dates.” He said, “Put it out for me,” so they served it to him. He started searching for the hadith and taking a date at a time until the morning, by which time the dates where finished and he had finally found the hadith. Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah (one of the reporters of this narration) added, “A reliable companion of ours added that this was the cause of his death.”

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Sources:

–          Siyar A`lam An-Nubala’ by Adh-Dhahabi

–          Tadhkirat Al-Huffaz by Adh-Dhahabi

–          Tarikh Baghdad by Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi

–          Al-Bidayah wa An-Nihayah by Ibn Kathir

–          Abjad Al-`Ulum by Al-Qanuji

–          Tahdhib At-Tahdhib by Ibn Hajar

–          Tabaqat Al-Huffaz by Jalaluddin As-Siyuti

See also:

Al-Bukhari: The Imam of Hadith and Sunnah

At-Tirmidhi: Imam of Hadith and Fiqh

Abu Dawud: The Faqih and Scholar of Hadith

Imam An-Nasa’i: The Great Authority of Hadith

Ibn Majah: The Great Memorizer of Hadith

Mohamed Okasha is a graduate of Al Azhar University, Faculty of Languages and Translation, Department of Islamic Studies in English. He is a former editor in the Shari`ah section at Islamonline.net. Currently, he is an editor at the EDC (E-Da`wah Committee) in Kuwait.
Contact: mro@alnajat.com.kw

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