He is Muhammad ibn `Isa ibn Sawrah ibn Musa ibn Ad-Dahhak At-Tirmidhi Al-Bughi As-Sulami, from the well-known Arab tribe of Sulaim ibn Mansur. He is the compiler of the well-known book of Hadith “Jami` At-Tirmidhi” which is distinguished by At-Tirmidhi’s unique approach of the classification and verification of hadiths. Imam At-Tirmidhi is one of the outstanding scholars of Hadith who spent their lives in narrating and verifying the hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him). `Amr ibn `Alak said, “When Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari died, he did not leave behind anyone in Khurasan like Abu `Isa (At-Tirmidhi), in terms of knowledge and God-fearing.”
His Birth and Early Life:
Abu `Isa was born in the beginning of 209 A.H. in Tirmidh. His grandfather was from Marw. Scholars differed whether he was born blind or not but the correct view is that he was not born so but he lost his eyesight in his old age because of his abundant study of Hadith. Ibn Kathir said, “It appears from the state of At-Tirmidhi that blindness happened to him after he travelled, heard (hadiths), wrote, argued and compiled (Hadith books).” Abu `Isa was exceptionally distinguished by his capacity of memorizing hadiths. Ibn Al-`Imad Al-Hanbali said, “He (At-Tirmidhi) excelled all his peers, and was a prodigy in memorization and proficiency.”
Imam At-Tirmidhi devoted his whole life for learning and studying Hadith. He travelled a lot and learned under the greatest scholars of Hadith, such as Imam Al-Bukhari who left a great effect upon our scholar Abu `Isa.
His Pursuit of Knowledge:
Imam At-Tirmidhi was bent on learning hadith. He travelled to numerous places and narrated hadiths from numerous persons. He travelled to Al-Hijaz, Basra, Kufah, Baghdad, Ar-Rayy and Khurasan. Al-Hafiz Al-Mizzi said, “He toured the places and heard from a great number of people from Khurasan, Iraq, Al-Hijaz and other places.” It is narrated that he took Hadith from more than 200 narrators of Hadith.
The numerous journeys of Imam At-Tirmidhi helped him get high Isnad (chain of narrators). He took hadiths from some of the teachers of both Imam Al-Bukhari and Muslim, the teachers of Imam Al-Bukhari that Muslim did not hear from, and the teachers of Imam Muslim that Imam Al-Bukhari did not hear from. Not only that, he narrated Hadith from 42 narrators that the five Imams of Hadith (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah) did not hear from. Also, he narrated hadiths along with five scholars of Hadith (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah) from 9 teachers of Hadith.
However, Hadith was not the sole knowledge that Imam At-Tirmidh acquired because he was an encyclopedic scholar. He was versed in other branches of knowledge, such as Fiqh, Islamic History, Arabic and other sciences. He was renowned for his excellent understanding and deduction of the Fiqh rulings from hadiths. The great scholar Abu Al-Hasan An-Nadawi said, “He (At-Tirmidhi) was the first to broach what is called nowadays “Comparative Fiqh” and he had a great merit that the Muslim community has to admit. His efforts saved a lot of the Islamic heritage of the schools of Fiqh from loss.”
His Teachers and Students:
Among his well-known teachers were Ibrahim ibn Isma`il ibn Yahia, Abu Is-haq At-Tabari, Ibrahim ibn Hatim Al-Harawi, Ibrahim ibn Harun Al-Balkhi, Ibrahim ibn Ya`qub Al-Jawjajani, Muhammad ibn Bashshar ibn Bindar, Muhammad ibn Al-Muthanna, Qutaybah ibn Sa`id Al-Baghlani, `Ali ibn Hajar Al-Mirwazi, Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj An-Naysaburi, Ahmad ibn Mani` Al-Baghawi, Mahmud ibn Ghaylan Al-Mirwazi, Abdullah ibn `Abdur-Rahman Ad-Darimi, Is-haq ibn Rahawih and many others.
A great deal of Hadith narrators learned at the hands of Imam At-Tirmidhi and took Hadith from him, including Abu Al-`Abbas Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al-Mahbubi Al-Mirwazi, Abu Sa`id Ash-Shashi, Abu Dharr Muhammad ibn Ibrahim At-Tirmidhi, Abu Muhammad Al-Hasan Al-Qattan, Abu Hamid Ahmad ibn `Abdullah Al-Mirwazi, Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Aamer As-Samarqandi, Ahmad ibn Yusuf An-Nasafi, Al-Hasan ibn Yusuf Al-Farabri, Ar-Rabi` ibn Hayyan Al-Bahili and many others.
- Al-Jami` Al-Mukhtasar min As-Sunan `an Rasulillah, known as “Jami` At-Tirmidhi)
- Al-`Ilal As-Sughra
- Al-`Ilal Al-Kubra
- Ash-Shama’il An-Nabawiyyah wa Al-Fada’il Al-Mustafawiyyah
- Al-Asmaa’ wa Al-Kuna
- Kitab At-Tarikh
- Abu Sa`d Al-Idrisi said, “Muhammad ibn `Isa At-Tirmidhi, the blind memorizer of hadith, is one of the leading scholars of the knowledge of Hadith. He compiled the book Al-Jami`, At-Tawarikh and Al-`Ilal in a proficient and scientific way. He was an example of the memorization of hadith.”
- As-Sama`ani said, “There is no dispute that he (At-Tirmidhi) is the Imam of his age.” Also, he said, “He was one of the leading Imams of hadith.”
- Ibn Al-Athir Al-Jazari said, “He was one of the prominent memorizing scholars of hadith. Also, he was well-informed of Fiqh.”
- Abu Al-Fida’ said, “He was a leading memorizer of hadith, and he was blind. He was one of the well-known proficient scholars of hadith.”
- Ibn Kathir said regarding At-Tirmidhi, “He was one of the Imams of this matter (Hadith) at his time.”
- Al-Hafiz Abu Al-Hajjaj Al-Mizzi said, “He (At-Tirmidhi was one of the prominent memorizing Imams (of Hadith) by whom Allah has benefitted Muslims.”
After a life replete with knowledge-seeking, travelling for narrating hadiths and teaching and explaining hadith, Imam At-Tirmidhi passed away on Monday 13th of Rajab, 279 A.H. in Bugh (a village lies in his hometown Tirmidh).
May Allah confer mercy upon him and reward him all the good for his efforts in preserving the Sunnah of the Prophet and narrating it to people!
– Mu`jam Al-Buldan by Yaqut Al-Hamawi
– Tadhkirat Al-Huffaz by Adh-Dhahabi
– Tarikh Baghdad by Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi
– Imam At-Tirmidhi by Iyad Khalid At-Tabba`
– Al-A`lam by Az-Zirikli
– Tabaqat Ash-Shafi`iyyah Al-Kubrah by At-Taj As-Subki
– Tabaqat Al-Huffaz by Jalaluddin As-Suyuti
– Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah by Ibn Kathir
Summary: The article touches on some of the sides of the life of Imam At-Tirmidhi and talks about his works, teachers, journeys and students.