(310/922 – 386/996)
The author of ar-Risala
Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd was one of the people North Africa. Abu Zayd’s name was ‘Abdu’r-Rahman according to Ibn Makula and Qadi Ibn al-Hadhdha’. He was from the tribe of Nifza and lived in Qayrawan.
His position in knowledge
He was the Imam of the Malikis in his time and their model. He had a comprehensive grasp of the school of Malik and explained his statements. He had extensive knowledge and a prodiguous memory and transmission. His books are ample testimony of that. His writing was fluent, clarifying and defining what he said. He defended the school of Malik and established evidence in its support. He knew how to refute the people of sects. In addition to his writing, he was very righteous, scrupulousness and chastity. He obtained leadership in the deen and this world. and people from all regions travelled to visit him. His companions were noble and many people took knowledge from him. He composed a summary of the school and undertook to spread it and defend it. His books filled the lands and were well-known to most of its people.
Ash-Shirazi said, “He was known as ‘little Malik’. Abu’l-Hasan al-Qabisi mentioned him and said that he was a reliable imam in his perception and transmission. Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah al-Qattan said, ‘I did not imitate Abu Muhammad ibn Abi Zayd until I saw as-Saba’i imitated him.'”
Abu Bakr ibn at-Tayyib mentioned him in his book, and esteemed his value and merit. The same was true among other scholars in the east. Ibn Mujahid al-Baghdadi and other Baghadadi companions of him asked him for an ijaza.
Abu ‘Abdullah al-Mayruqi said “He possessed knowledge, scrupulousness, excellence and intellect. He is too famous to need to be mentioned.”
Ad-Da’udi said, “He was quick to follow the truth. He studied fiqh with the fuqaha‘ of his land and listened to its shaykhs. He relied on Abu Bakr ibn al-Lubbad and Abu’l-Fadl al-Mumsi, and also studied wtih Muhammad ibn Masrur al-‘Assal, ‘Abdullah ibn Masrur ibn al-Hajjam, al-Qattan, al-Ibyyani, Ziyad ibn Musa, Sa’dun al-Khawlani, Abu’l-‘Arab. Abu Ahmad ibn Abi Sa’id, Habib, the client of Ibn Abi Sulayman, and others. He travelled and went on hajj and listened to Ibn al-A’rabi, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn al-Mundhir, Abu ‘Ali ibn Abi Hilal, and Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Hammad the Qadi. He also listened to al-Hasan ibn Badr, Muhammad ibn al-Fath, al-Hasan ibn Nasr as-Susi, Darras ibn Isma’il, ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Gharabuli, Habib ibn Abi Habib al-Jazari and others. Ibn Sha’ban, al-Aburri and al-Marwazi asked him for an ijaza. Many people listened to him and a lot of people learned fiqh with him. His adherents in Qayrawan included Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, Abu’l-Qasim al-Baradha’i, al-Lubaydi, the sons of al-Ajdabi, Abu ‘Abdullah al-Khawwas, and Abu Muhammad al-Makki al-Muqri’.
The people of Andalusia who followed him include Abu Bakr ibn Mawhab al-Maqburi, Abu ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hadhdha’ and Abu Marwan al-Qanazi’i. The people of Ceuta include Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn al-‘Ajuz, Abu Muhammad ibn Ghalib, and Khalaf ibn Nasr. The people of the Maghrib include Abu ‘Ali ibn Amdakatu as-Sijilmasi.
He has the Kitab an-Nawadir wa’z-Ziyadat ‘ala’l-Mudawwana which is famous and has more than a hundred sections, and the famous Mukhtasar (Summary) of the Mudawwana. Instruction in fiqh in the Maghrib is founded on these two books.
He also wrote a revision of the ‘Utibiyya, The Imitation of the People of Madina, The Defence of the School of Madina, the famous Risala, the Kitab an-Tanbih on the position of the children of apostates, Waqfs for the Children of Notables, Explanation of the Times of the Prayer, Trust and Reliance on Allah, The Book of Gnosis and Certainty, Insurance of Provision, Kitab al-Manasik, a treatise on those who are moved by the recitation of the Qur’an and dhikr, a book on Turning Away the Beggar, the Protection of the Reputation of the Believer, Kitab al-Bayan on the inimitability of the Qur’an, Kitab al-Wasawis, a treatise on giving relatives some of the zakat, a treatise prohibiting argumentation, a treatise refuting the Qadariyya and rebuttal to the treatise of al-Baghdadi al-Mu’tazili, the Kitab al-Istizhar on the refutation of the conceptualists [fikriya], Removal of Uncertainty on the same topic, Book of Admonition and Counsel, Treatise on the Seeker of Knowledge, The Excellence of Praying at Night in Ramadan, Excellent Warning for the People of Truthfulness, a letter to the people of Sijilmasa on recitation of the Qur’an, and a treatise on the fundamentals of tawhid. All of his books are beneficial and extraordinary and full of knowledge.
It is mentioned that one day he went to visit Abu Sa’id, the nephew of Hisham, and found his gathering in session. Abu Sa’id said to him, “I have heard that you have written books.” “Yes,” he replied, “may Allah make you prosper!” He said, “Listen to a problem.” Abu Muhammad told him, “Mention it, may Allah make you prosper. If I am correct, you will tell me. If I am wrong, you will teach us.” Abu Sa’id was silent and did not do that again.
The rest of his reports
Abu Muhammad was one of the people of righteousness, scrupulousness and excellence. It is reported that he got up one night to do wudu‘ and poured water from the jug into the vessel and spilled it. Then he poured it again and spilled it. Then that happened a third time and he had some doubts and remarked, “You are recalcitrant towards us.” He heard someone he could not see say, “The child wet the bed over the jug and we disliked for you to do wudu‘ from it.”
When he wrote his books about the conceptualists and criticised the book of ‘Abdu’r-Rahman as-Siqilli in al-Kashf and al-Istizhar and refuted a lot of what they had transmitted regarding miracles (kharq al-‘adat) according to what was affirmed in his book, the false Sufis and a lot of the people of hadith objected to that and spread it about that he denied miracles (karamat), which he did not do. Indeed, at the beginning of his book, he articulates his aim, which is to refute a certain group of people found in in Andalusia and the east. Many well-known books have been written on that, including the books of Abu’l-Hasan ibn Jahdam al-Hamdani, Abu Bakr al-Baqillani, Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Shaqq al-Layl, Abu ‘Umar at-Talamanki and others. The most correctly guided of them in that and had the best knowledge of his aim and its worth was the Imam of his time, Qadi Abu Bakr ibn at-Tayyib al-Baqillani. He made his aim clear.
Al-Ajdabi said, “I was sitting with Abu Muhammad when Abu’l-Qasim ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Abdu’l-Mu’min the mutakallim was with him. A man asked them about al-Khidr and whether it could he said that he was still in this world in spite of all this time and would die until the Final Hour comes and whether this is refuted by the words of the Almghty, ‘We did not give any human being before you immortality.’ (21:34) They both replied to him that that was possible and permitted and al-Khidr could live until the Final Trumpet was blown. Immortality is connected to remaining as long as the Next World remains, and remaining until the Trumpet is blown is not immortality. Do you not see that Iblis – may Allah curse him – is not immortal, but he is one of those deferred until the Day of a Known Time.
It is mentioned that Abu Muhammad wrote to Abu Bakr al-Aburri:
Hearts refuse the hearts of a people
when they have no portion with them.But selves choose selves
while they have no portion with them.
That is only because of secrets
known by the All-Watchful Witness.
Abu’l-Qasim al-Lubaydi said, “‘Isa ibn Thabit al-ÔAbid met Shaykh Abu Muhammad and they wept a lot together and admonished one another. When he wanted to leave, ‘Isa said to him, ‘I want you to write my name on the carpet under you. When you see it, you can make supplication for me. Abu Muhammad wept and said to him, ‘Allah Almighty says, “All good words rise to Him and He raises up all righteous deeds.” (35:10) Let me make supplication for you, but where are the righeous deeds to elevate it?'”
Abu Muhammad ibn Abi Zayd died in 386 and was elegised by a lot of the writers of Qayrawan who composed a number of moving elegies about him.
It is mentioned that Abu Muhammad was seen in his assembly reflecting in sorrow and he was asked what the reason for that. He replied, “I dreamt that the door of my house had fallen down. Al-Kirmani says that it indicates the death of the owner of the house.” He was asked, “Is al-Kirmani considered to be like Malik in his science?” “Yes,” he replied, “In his science, he is like Malik is in his knowledge.” It was not long after that that he died, may Allah have mercy on him.