AL-KHATIB AL-BAGHDADI (Allah be well-pleased with him)

AL-KHATIB AL-BAGHDADI  (Allah be well-pleased with him)

Al-Mu’taman narrated that al-Khatib said:

“Whoever authors books puts his mind on a plate for display to
people.”

So when we say:

Allah Most High has a Hand, hearing, and sight, they are none other than Attributes Allah Most High has affirmed for Himself. We should not say that the meaning of ‘hand’ is power (al-qudra) nor that the meaning of ‘hearing’ and ‘sight’ is knowledge (`ilm), nor should we say that they are organs (lâ naqûlu innahâ jawârih)! Nor should we liken them to hands, hearings, and sights that are organs and implements of acts. We should say:

All that is obligatory is

[1] to affirm them because they are stated according to divine prescription (tawqîf), and

[2] to negate from them any likeness to created things according to His saying {There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him} (42:11) {and there is none like Him} (112:4).”

Narrated by al-Dhahabi with his chain from Muhammad ibn Marzuq al-Za`farani in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (13:598) and Tadhkira al-Huffaz (3:1142-1143) from al-Khatib’s epistle al-Sifat.

About hadith mastership

al-Khatib wrote:

“He does not excel in hadith science nor is able to peruse its complexities and shed light on its hidden benefits except he who has gathered its variants, collated its loose ends, brought it all together”

[Ibn al-Mubarak’s saying: “If you want to make sure your narrations are authentic, confront them with one another.” Narrated by al-Khatib in al-Jami` (p. 452 #1973), cf. al-Hakim in Ma`rifa `Ulum al-Hadith (p. 112f.). ]

“and worked assiduously to compile it under its topical subheadings, organizing its different types. This activity strengthens competence, cements memorization, purifies the heart, hones the personality, expands the tongue, greatly improves language, unveils ambiguities and clarifies them. It also earns memorability and immortality, as the poet said:

“Some die then knowledge keeps alive their memory, While ignorance joins the dead with the dead.” 

[Al-Khatib, al-Jami` li Akhlaq al-Rawi (2:422 #1914).]

Followed the [doctrinal] School of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari

`Abd al-`Aziz ibn Ahmad al-Kattani said: “Al-Khatib followed the [doctrinal] school of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari – Allah have mercy on him.” Al-Dhahabi reports this and comments:

“This is true. For al-Khatib explicitly stated, concerning the reports on the Divine Attributes, that they are passed on exactly as they were received, without interpretation.”

Ibn al-Subki comments:

“This is al-Ash`ari’s position, yes. But al-Dhahabi is the victim of his lack of knowledge of Shaykh Abu al-Hasan’s position just as others were also victims: for al-Ash`ari also has another position allowing for figurative interpretation (al-ta’wîl). Al-Dhahabi does go on to relate al-Khatib’s precise disowning of both nullification (ta`tîl) and anthropomorphism (tajsîm) of the divine Attributes:”

Abu Bakr al-Khatib said:

“As for what pertains to the divine Attributes, whatever is narrated in the books of sound reports concerning them, the position of the Salaf consists in their affirmation and letting them pass according to their external wordings while negating from them modality (kayfiyya) and likeness to things created (tashbîh). [A certain people have contradicted the Attributes and nullified what Allah Most High had affirmed; while another people have declared them real then went beyond this to some kind of likening to creation and ascription of modality. The true objective is none other than to tread a middle path between the two matters. The Religion of Allah Most High lies between the extremist and the laxist.] 

The entire bracketed passage is omitted by al-Dhahabi in his citation of al-Khatib’s text in his youthful work al-`Uluw [cf. Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 272 #332)] but it is mentioned in the mature Siyar and the Tadhkira.

Our teacher Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr comments al-Khatib’s position thus:

This is a vulnerable spot where feet tread a slippery path. Many are those who fell into likening Allah to His creatures because of it, or into something like it – our refuge is in Allah! – while believing that this was the position of the pious Salaf ( but Allah has exonerated the latter from holding it. … Imam al-Khatib passed the obstacle at which point pens lapsed and illusions flared, for he refuted the Mu`tazila and their likes who contradict the divine Attributes, and he understood the position of the Salaf as it truly is by affirming those Attributes with a kind of affirmation that commits to Allah Most High the knowledge of their reality, not an affirmation of dimensionality and modality (athbata tilka al-sifât ithbâtan yufawwidu `ilma haqîqatihâ ilâ Allâhi ta`âlâ lâ ithbâta tahdîd wa takyîf). He thereby asserted the school of the Salaf as it really was, not as some erratic people in our time understand it to be. The latter are in fact arrogant wranglers who cannot tell the difference between the Salaf’s committal of the actual knowledge of these matters to Allah Most High, their holding His Transcendence above whatever anthropomorphism the terms may suggest, and the anthropomorphism of the ignorant Karramiyya!

[‘Itr, introduction to al-Khatib’s Rihla (p. 48).]

Ibn al-Jawzi’s Assessment of Al-Khatib

Ibn al-Jawzi’s assessment of al-Khatib is ambiguous. On the one hand he praises his works with the words: “Whoever looks into his books knows his great standing.”50 At the same time he takes him to task for what he terms his fanatic denigration of Hanbalis, citing, for example, al-Khatib’s description of Imam Ahmad as “the leader of hadith scholars (sayyid al-muhaddithîn) as opposed to al-Shafi`i’s as “the diadem of jurists,”51 his weakening of Ibn Batta, and his citing al-Karabisi’s barb about Imam Ahmad over the issue of the uncreatedness of the Qur’an.52 Added to this charge is Ibn al-Jawzi’s singular claim that al-Khatib began his career as a Hanbali, then switched to the Shafi`i school,53 when both early and contemporary historians concur that he began his career as a Shafi`i and was never a Hanbali.54 He also states that al-Khatib took the material of most of his books “except that of the Tarikh from those of the hadith master al-Suri, a claim flatly rejected by al-Dhahabi.55 Perhaps Ibn al-Jawzi’s most ironic criticism is his complaint that al-Khatib included forgeries and very weak hadiths in his books,56 as their number is negligible in proportion to those found in Ibn al-Jawzi’s works.

Source of the Material of the Article: AL-KHATIB AL-BAGHDADI
(Allah be well-pleased with him)by Sh. G. F. Haddad

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