Which figures among the generation succeeding the companions occupy a
more prominent place in hadith?
Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib
The foremost in Tradition, jurisprudence and the Qur’anic interpretation
among the blessed generation succeeding the Companions was Sa‘id ibn al-Mussayyib.
He was born fifteen years after the Hijra during the Caliphate of ‘Umar and
had the opportunity to meet most of the Companions including, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman
Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib was a genius in meditation, reflection and memory.
He was also famous for his piety, righteousness and profound devotion to
God. Everyone accepted him, during his lifetime, as the greatest figure in
the field of Tradition.
Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib began, as did Hasan al-Basri in Basra, to give
opinions and deliver verdicts on legal matters at the early age of around
twenty. The Companions admired him greatly. On one occasion, ‘Abdullah ibn
‘Umar remarked: ‘If God’s Messenger had seen that young man, he would have
been very pleased with him.’199
He was extremely careful in performing his daily prayers in congregation
in the mosque. ‘I have always said the opening takbir (Allahu akbar) of the
daily prayers just following the imam (leader of the prayer) for fifty
years’, he used to say.2005 He never neglected even a single commandment of
the Sunna. Once, he was ill and doctors advised him to stay in the valley of
‘Aqiq for one month. However, he objected: ‘Then, how can I come to the
mosque for the prayers of night and dawn?’ He was not content to perform the
prescribed prayers anywhere except in the Prophet’s Mosque.201
He did not take the oath of allegiance to the Caliph Walid. Although
Hisham, the governor of Madina, had him beaten every day until the stick was
broken, he did not yield. When his friends, such as Masruq and Tawus,
advised him to give an oral consent to Walid’s caliphate in order to be
saved from being beaten, he used to answer: ‘People follow us in acting. If
we consent, how will we be able to explain this to them?’202
Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib married the daughter of Abu Hurayra in order to be
nearer to him and to learn better the Traditions that he narrated. The
Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik appealed to him marry his daughter (born of his
marriage to Abu Hurayra’s daughter) to his son, Hisham. Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib
refused and, in the face of increasing pressures and threats, he offered her
to Ibn Abi Wada’, who stayed in the madrasa, the school-building.203
Imam Shafi‘i took as unquestionably authentic the Traditions that Sa‘id
ibn al-Mussayyib narrated without mentioning the Companion from whom he
received them. This means that, in the view of Imam Shafi‘i, Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib
was of the same rank as the Companions in knowledge and narration of the
Prophetic Traditions. Among those who received Traditions from Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib,
Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah, Qatada, Muhammad al-Baqir, a great grandson of Ali’s,
Zuhri and Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Ansari, are worthy of special mention.
199. M, ‘Ajjaj al-Khatib, al-Sunna Qabl al-Tadwin, 485.
200. Abu Nu‘aym, Hilya, 1.163.
201. Ibid., 2.172.
202. I. Sa‘d, Tabaqat, 5.126.
203. Ibid., 5.138; Dhahabi, Siyaru A’lam al-Nubala’, 4.234.
Alqama ibn Qays al-Nakha’i
Basra was honored, during the time of the blessed generation succeeding
the Companions, by, in particular, Hasan al-Basri, the Yemen by Tawus ibn
Qaysan, Madina by Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib, and Kufa by Alqama ibn Qays al-Nakha’i.
Kufa was first enlightened by ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud during the Caliphate
of ‘Umar, and then directly by ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph, who transferred the
center of the Caliphate there. This gave Alqama a splendid opportunity to
meet many Companions to learn the life and Traditions of God’s Messenger at
Alqama is the founder of the School of Kufa in Islamic religious
sciences. Those who saw him remembered ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud. Alqama followed
in the footsteps of Ibn Mas‘ud in praying and conduct, in practising Islam
as a whole. ‘Amr ibn Shurahbil, who was among the great scholars who
narrated Traditions from Alqama, frequently suggested to those near him:
‘Come and let us go to the one who resembles Ibn Mas‘ud the most in conduct
and attitudes.’204 Ibn Mas‘ud represented God’s Messenger wholly. As the
Messenger desired to listen to Ibn Mas’ud’s recitation of the Qur’an, so
also Ibn Mas’ud liked to listen to Alqama.205
Imam Abu Hanifa, who is generally accepted as the greatest of Muslim
jurists, one also famous for his piety and austerity, admired Alqama so much
that he used to comment: ‘Alqama is probably more profound in [knowledge] of
Tradition and jurisprudence than some Companions.’
One day, a man came to Alqama and insulted him very greatly; the
illustrious scholar showed no indignation and, after the man had finished
his impudence, recited, in reply, the verse:
Those who hurt believing men and believing women, without their having
earned it, have laid upon themselves calumny and manifest sin. (al-Ahzab,
The man retorted: ‘Are you a believer?’ Alqama answered humbly: ‘I hope
Alqama struggled with falsehood in his time and did not obey the
wrongdoing administrators among the Umayyads. As he himself received
Traditions from hundreds of Companions, many leading figures among his own
and succeeding generations also narrated from him. Alqama brought up the
most illustrious scholars of the Kufan School such as Aswad ibn Yazid al-Nakha’i,
Ibrahim al-Nakha’i and Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, and made Kufa into a
propitious ethos for the upbringing of Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa and many
204. I. Sa’d, 6.86; Abu Nu‘aym, 2.98.
205. I. Sa‘d, 6.90–1.
206. I. Sa‘d, 6.86; Abu Nu‘aym, 2.100.
‘Urwa ibn Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwam
‘Urwa was born the son of Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, one of those ten for whom
Paradise was promised while alive, and the son of the Prophet’s paternal
aunt, Safiyya, and his mother was Asma’, the daughter of Abu Bakr, and who
spent much of her life with ‘A’isha, Mother of Believers.
‘Urwa can be regarded as a student of ‘A’isha, his aunt. He was also
taught by Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib, who was seven or eight years older than
‘Urwa was one of the seven greatest jurists of his time. Most of the
Traditions narrated by ‘A’isha were transmitted by him to succeeding
generations. He also received Traditions from ‘Ali, ‘Umar, Ibn ‘Abbas, Abu
Ayyub al-Ansari and many other Companions. From ‘Urwa, many illustrious
figures of succeeding generations, like Qatada ibn Di‘ama, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri,
Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Ansari and Zayd ibn Aslam, narrated.
‘Urwa, like his contemporaries, was extremely pious. One of his feet
became gangrenous and while it was being amputated with a saw, he made no
complaints at all and only the verse, We have encountered weariness from
this journey of ours (al-Kahf, 18.62), came out of his mouth. When one of
his four sons died some time later, ‘Urwa stretched his arms before the
Ka‘ba and glorified God, saying: ‘O God! You gave me four limbs, two arms
and two legs, and four sons. You have taken one from both groups and left to
me the remaining three. Many thousands of thanks be to You!’207
‘Urwa was certainly included in the meaning of the verse, God is
well-pleased with them, and they are well-pleased with Him (al-Bayyina,
207. Abu Nu‘aym, 2.179.
Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn Shihab al-Zuhri
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri is the one from whom one fourth of the Prophetic
Traditions were narrated among the first generation following the
Companions. His father, Muslim, had struggled against the Umayyads,
particularly against Hajjaj. That is why the Umayyad government usually kept
him under surveillance – he did not, as alleged, support the Umayyads.
Like the others who were honoured by God as the most reliable narrators
of the Prophetic Traditions, Ibn Shibab al-Zuhri had an extraordinarily keen
memory. He memorized the Qur’an before he was seven in only eight days, and
he was eighteen years old when he began to do ijtihad, that is, to deliver
verdicts on Islamic religious or legal matters, on the basis of principles
laid down in the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and
blessings. There was nothing he would forget after he had learned it: ‘I
have betrayed nothing which God put in my heart as a trust’, he used to
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri got his first education from Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib,
who taught him for eight years. He was also taught by ‘Ubayd Allah ibn
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Utba, who was one of the seven leading jurists of the time.
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri dedicated himself wholly to Hadith. He says: ‘I have
shuttled between Hijaz and Damascus for forty years for the sake of Hadith.’209
Some accuse Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri of having flattered the Umayyads. This is
merely a lie contradicted by historical facts. It is true that he tutored
the sons of Caliph Hisham. However, this is not a fault and does not mean
that he supported the Umayyads. He should, by contrast, be praised since he
tried to guide the future rulers of the Muslim community to truth.
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri was the son of Muslim ibn Shihab, who supported
‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr who fought against the Umayyads for many years. In his
first meeting with Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri , the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik reminded
him of this fact. But Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri never feared to speak the truth to
the Umayyad rulers. Some of the Umayyads alleged that it is ‘Ali who is
referred to in as for him among them who took upon himself the greater part
of it, a mighty chastisement awaits him, coming after Those who came with
slander are a band of you; do not reckon it evil for you; rather it is good
for you. Every man of them shall have the sin that he has earned charged to
him (al-Nur, 24.11), which was revealed on the occasion of the slander
against ‘A’isha, Mother of Believers. This was, of course, a great calumny
against ‘Ali. Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri openly stated in the Umayyad court that
the sentence in question refers to ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, the head
of the hypocritical band in Madina. When the Caliph frowned at him, Ibn
Shihab al-Zuhri retorted: ‘May you be left without a father! I swear by God
that if a herald were to announce from heaven that God allows lying, I would
not lie at all!’210
Although Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri defended ‘Ali in the court of the Umayyads
against the Caliph, he was first accused of fabricating Traditions in favour
of the Umayyads by Ya‘qubi, a Shi‘ite historian, as was Abu Hurayra by
another Shi‘ite called Abu Ja‘far al-Iskafi. According to the false account
of Ya‘qubi, the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik had Masjid al-Aqsa’ in Quds repaired in
order to encourage the Muslims to circumambulate it instead of the Ka‘ba,
and asked Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri to fabricate a Tradition to that effect. Ibn
Shihab al-Zuhri was supposed to have fabricated: It is not worth travelling
[for prayer] except to the three mosques: Masjid al-Haram, Masjid al-Aqsa’
and my Masjid here.
I argued in favor of the authenticity of this hadith earlier in this
book. In fact, Ya‘qubi laid himself open to ridicule through such an
unreasonable account. No history book whether belonging to the Christians or
Jews or the Muslims, has ever recorded that Masjid al-Aqsa’ has been
circumambulated as the Ka‘ba is. Second, the Qur’an itself extols Masjid al-Aqsa’
and the Muslims revere it. Therefore, it does not need a fabrication for it
to be revered by the Muslims. Third, not only the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik, but
also the Caliph ‘Umar, Nur al-Din al-Zangi and Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi had it
repaired. Fourth, it is impossible that Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri met ‘Abd
al-Malik during his reign and fabricated a hadith for him against whom his
own father (in the company of ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr) was fighting. Besides,
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri was not famous as a Traditionist during the same period,
and it was during the Caliphate, and upon the order of, the Caliph ‘Umar ibn
‘Abd al-‘Aziz that he started the formal compilation of the Traditions.
Fifth, ‘Abd al-Malik was not the sort of man to have attempted such an
absurd fraud. Before his Caliphate, he was very pious and an authority in
Tradition; he was well acquainted with the scholars among his generation.
Although he did not succeed, while Caliph, in retaining former reputation
among scholars for piety, he cannot have lowered himself so far to make an
attempt to fabricate a hadith.
Despite its absurdity, Goldziher, an Orientalist who tried during his
whole life to undermine the second source of Islam –the Sunna – took this
account of Ya‘qubi as an opportunity to defame Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, who was
the first formal compiler of the Traditions and narrated a quarter of them.
Modern so-called researchers in the Muslim world, such as Ahmad Amin, ‘Ali
Hasan ‘Abd al-Qadir and Abu Rayya, who are, in fact, spokesmen of the
Orientalists, have repeated the same. While the science of Hadith,
unparalleled in history, is founded on the most secure and sound pillars and
whose real sources are there for anyone unprejudiced to study, Goldziher and
his followers have based themselves on folkloric and poetical books such as
‘Iqd al-Farid and al-Aghani (Songs) and books on animals like Kitab al-Hayawan,
all of which have nothing to do with Hadith and do not have any kind of
Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri is one of the greatest authorities on Hadith. The
leading critics of Hadith such as Ibn al-Madini, Ibn Hibban, Abu Khatim,
Hafiz al-Dhahabi and Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani are all agreed upon his
indisputable authority. He received Traditions from many Companions and
numerous scholars among the first and second generations after the
Companions narrated from him.
Among the blessed generation succeeding the Companions are many others
worthy of mention, like Aswad ibn Yazid al-Nakha’i, Nafi‘, the teacher of
Imam Malik, the founder of the Maliki School of Law, and Tawus ibn Qaysan,
who did not sleep for forty years between the night and dawn prayers.
However, the scope of this book does not allow me to go into further
208. Abu Nu‘aym, 3.364; Dhahabi, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, 1.109.
209. Ibn Kathir, 9.375.
210. M. ‘Ajjaj al-Khatib, 509–10.