Biography of Imam Barbahari – by Amir Al-Athari

His Name, Kunyah and Lineage:

He is the Imaam, the Mujaahid, the Shaikh of the scholars of Baghdad and greatest of them in his time: Abu Muhammad Al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Khalf Al-Barbahari – this title being an affiliation to “Barbahār” which is a type of medicine imported from The lands of Hind (India _ Pakistan)], so perhaps he used to work in the field of medicines or sell it. He was from the major Hanbali scholars taking knowledge from those who studied under Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal رحمه الله تعالى , such as Ahmad bin Muhammad bin al-Hajāj bin ‛Abdul-‛Azīz Abu Bakr al-Marruzi رحمه الله تعالى and others. He acquired the ‛aqīdah, fiqh and other knowledge from the great scholars.

His Birthplace and Early Life:

He was born and brought up in Baghdad. This is apparent from his fame amongst its general public, not to mention its scholars. Furthermore, Al-Barbahari sat with the companions of the Imaam of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal رحمه الله تعالى. He studied under them and most of them came from Baghdad as will be explained. This shows that he grew up in an environment of knowledge and adherence to the Sunnah. This clearly had a great influence on his personality.

His Teachers and His Seeking after Knowledge:

Al-Barbahari was pre-eminent in seeking after knowledge and expanded great efforts to attain it. He acquired knowledge from:

1. Ahmad bin Muhammad bin al-Hajāj bin ‛Abdul-‛Azīz Abu Bakr al-Marroozee. Ibn Abī Ya‛lā stated: “His mother was a Maruziyyah and his father was Khawāzimi (in lineage). He was foremost from the students of Ahmad bin Hanbal in piety and virtue. Our Imām was friendly with him, delighting in his companionship – he took charge of his scabbards when he died and he washed him for the funeral. He narrated from Ahmad plentifully.” Al-Maruzi died in the year 275H. Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah (1/56), Siyar A‛lām an-Nubalā’ (13/173). [3] Refer to his biography in Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah of Ibn Abī Ya‛lā (2/18), Siyar A‛lām an-Nubalā’ (15/90).

2. Sahl Ibn ‘Abdullaah Ibn Younus Shushtari ( At_Toostari) , Abu Muhammad: The Imaam, worshipper and one known for abstemiousness from this world. Many wise sayings are reported from him and many remarkable happenings. He died in the month of Muharram in the year 283H, at the age of about eighty.

His Knowledge and the Scholars’ Praise for Him:

Imaam Al-Barbahari رحمه الله تعالى, was a formidable and imposing Imaam who spoke out with the truth and called to the Sunnah and to the following of narrations. He also had renown and the respect of the ruler. In his gatherings, various circles for the study of Hadith, the narrations and Fiqh were held. These were attended by many of the scholars of Hadith and Fiqh.

The scholar, Abu ‘Abdillaah said: “If you see a person of Baghdad loving Abul-Hasan Ibn Bashar and Abu Muhammad Al-Barbahari, then know that he is a person of the Sunnah.”

His high status is shown by what his student, Ibn Battah, رحمه الله, said: “I heard him – meaning Al-Barbahari – saying when the people were prevented from Hajj: ‘O People! If anyone needs assistance to the level of a hundred thousand Dinars and a hundred thousand Dinars and a hundred thousand Dinars – five times – then I will assist him.’” Ibn Battah said: “If he wanted it the people would have given it to him.”

As regards the scholars praise for him, then a great deal has been reported:

Qazi Ibn Abi Ya’laa رحمه الله said: “Shaikh of the Community in his time and the foremost of them in censuring the people of innovation and in opposing them with his hand and tongue. And he had renown with the rulers and prominence amongst those of knowledge. And he was one of the wise scholars, great and precise memorizers of the texts and one of the reliable believers”

Adh-Dhahabi رحمه‌الله said in Al-‘Ibar: “…the exemplary scholar, Shaikh of the Hanbalis in ‘Iraq in speech, action and sticking to what is lawful. He had great renown and total respect.”

Ibn Al-Jawzi al_Hanbali said: “…He gathered knowledge and had abstention from this world (zuhd) and was strong against the people of innovation.”

Ibn Kathir said: “The abstemious, man of knowledge, the Hanbali scholar, the admonisher – and he was strict against the people of innovation and sin. He had great standing and was respected by the elite and by the common people.”

His Position with Regard to the People of Innovation:

Imaam Al-Barbahari, رحمه‌الله, was very stern against the people of innovations and deviant sects, opposing them with his tongue and his hand, all the while following the way of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah with regards to the treatment of the people of innovation and deviation. His desire was that this Religion remain pure and be kept free from all that the people of innovation and deviance sought to attach to it, whether the beliefs of the Jahmiyyah, the Mu’tazilah, the ‘Ash’aris, the Soofis or the Rawafidh.

He makes clear the methods employed by the people of deviant sects to give sanction to their innovations, and he warns us against falling into their ways and methods. He lays out for us the broad and clear outlines describing the people of deviant sects and innovations. It is as if you are looking straight at them.

His audience was strong Among the native Arabs of the city. He was very influential among the urban lower classes, and Arabs .He was leading masses of Sunnis in actions to stop the sale of wine and visits to the “tombs of certain religious figures”, destroy musical instruments, combat Shiism and Mu’tazilism.Under the influence of al-Barbahari and popular pressure of the public of Baghdad, the Caliphs Al-Muqtadir Abbasi and Al-Qahir Abbasi enforced Salafi (Atharii) as the state creed, exiling and imprisoning al-Barbahari’s enemies .

His Students:

A large number of students learned from this Imaam and benefited from him, since he was an example in both word and deed. And from these students are:

1. The exemplary Imaam and Scholar, Abu ‘Abdillaah Ibn ‘Ubaydullah Ibn Muhammad Al-‘Ukbari, well known as Ibn Battah, who died in Muharam of the year 387H.

2. The exemplary Imam, well known for his wise sayings, Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Isma’il Al-Baghdadi, Abul-Husayn Ibn Sam’un, the admonisher, famous for his deeds and condition. He died in the middle of Dhul-Qa’adah in the year 387H.

3. Ahmad Ibn Kaamil Ibn Khalf Ibn Shajarah, Abu Bakr, the narrator of this book from its author

4. Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Uthmaan, Abu Bakr, about whom Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi (rahimahullaah) said: “It reached me that he used to lead the life of an ascetic and was upon good except that he reported some things that were weak and without basis.”

A Glimpse of His Words and Poetry:

Abu ‘Abdillaah Ibn Battah (rahimahullaah) said: “I heard Abu Muhammad Al-Barbahaaree say: ‘Sitting in order to advise sincerely is to open the door of benefit and sitting in order to debate is to close the doors of benefit.’” And he said: “The people are in constant delusion.”

From his poetry is:

“Whoever satisfies himself with what suffices him –
Begins rich and continues in following the correct way:
How fine an attribute Allaah has made being satisfied with what suffices –
How many a humble person it has raised high
The soul of the youth feels constricted if it is poor
But if he is patiently dependent upon his Lord he would indeed be given ease and sufficiency.”

His Trial and Death:

Imaam Al-Barbahari, rahimahullaah, had renown and a position of great respect with the common people and the elite and also had status in the eyes of the ruler. However, his enemies from the people of the deviant sects and innovations did not cease in their efforts to incite the ruler against him and to cause anger in his heart against him. This was to the point that in the year 321H, the Khaleefah, Al-Qaahir ordered his minister Ibn Muqlah to arrest Al-Barbahari and his students. Al-Barbahari hid, however a group of his major students were captured and taken to Basrah. Allaah, the most High, punished Ibn Muqlah for this action by causing Al-Qaahir Billaah to become angry with him, so Ibn Muqlah fled and was removed from his post and his house was burned. Then Al-Qaahir Billaah was himself imprisoned on the sixth of Jumaadal-Aakhirah, 322H. He was stripped of his position and blinded in both eyes. Then Allaah, the Most High, granted that Al-Barbahari return to his place of honor.

When Abu ‘Abdillaah Ibn ‘Arafah, well known as Niftawaih died, his funeral was attended by many prominent people and scholars and the congregation was lead by Al-Barbahari and that occurred in Safar of the year 323H. It was in this year also that Al-Barbahari’s standing grew and his words carried greater weight and his students became apparent and spread out amongst the people, censuring the innovators. It reached the point that once when Al-Barbahari was on the western side of the city and sneezed, his students replied to him and (were so many that) the caliph heard the noise they made in his apartment, so he asked about what had happened. So when he was informed he became afraid.

The innovators still did not cease trying to cause the heart of the caliph Ar-Razi to turn against Al-Barbahari. This was to the point that Ar-Razi gave the order to Badr Al-Harasi, his chief of police, that he should ride out in public in Baghdad with the proclamation that no two students of Al-Barbahari were allowed to meet together. Again he hid himself having previously settled in the west of the city, he now secretly moved to the east. He died in this state in the year 329H.

Ibn Abi Ya’laa said: Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Muqri narrated to me, saying: My grandfather and also my grandmother related to me that:

“Abu Muhammad Al-Barbahari was hidden by the sister of Tuzoun in the resafa(eastern side of the town) in the alleyway of the public bathhouse…he was there for about a month then his blood ceased flowing. When Al-Barbahari died, still in hiding, the sister of Tuzoun said to her servant: ‘Find someone to wash him.’ So someone came to wash him and the door was kept locked so that no one would know. He alone stood to pray for him, but when the woman who owned the house looked, she found that it was full of men wearing white and green clothing. After he had ended the Funeral Prayer, she did not see anyone at all, so she called to her servant and said: ‘You have destroyed me along with my brother!’ So he said: ‘Did you not see what I saw?’ ‘Yes’, she replied. He said: ‘Here are the keys to the door and it is still locked.’ So she said: ‘Bury him in my house and when I die bury me near him…’”

May Allaah have mercy on Imaam Al-Barbahari and grant him a great reward. He was an Imaam in truth, an example, knowing Allaah, and a follower of the Sunnah, and an unsheathed sword against the people of innovation and deviation.


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