A biography of Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī

This post presents the biography of Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī from Muḥammad Jamīl al-Shaṭṭī’s Mukhtaṣar Ṭabaqāt al-Ḥanābila which was introduced in an earlier post. Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī has received some attention recently for his large-scale book binding project, detailed in Konrad Hirschler’s newest book A Monument to Syrian Medieval Book Culture, which is very good. This post is no book review though. Rather it asks what a biographer some 500 years later deemed important enough to be repeated about Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī.

Al-Shaṭṭī’s Mukhtaṣar stands in the tradition of biographical dictionaries, a very popular genre until today. It is slightly different in that it was first published in print (1921), not in manuscript. It also differs from the most renowned Ottoman and Mamluk dictionaries in that it employs a very wide temporal framework. Whereas those earlier works excel in providing biographical information on people from, roughly, the author’s own lifetime, the Mukhtaṣar attempts to cover the entire history of the Ḥanbalī rite.

The Mukhtaṣar is structured into three parts—called generations (ṭabaqāt)—, each of which relies on its own source which al-Shaṭṭī abridged. The first generation is based on a work by al-ʿUlaymī, the second on one by Kamāl al-Dīn al-Ghazzī, and the last one is partly based on al-Shaṭṭī’s own research and partly on a history his uncle Murād had begun writing but never published.

Within that work, Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī’s entry appears at the very beginning of the second generation, only preceded by al-ʿUlaymī, the author of the work the first generation was based on. Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī lived in Damascus during the 15th century and, even though his written oeuvre did not receive much attention in the following centuries, it has recently experienced a renaissance in terms of (often non-scholarly) editions in print and digitally. Please note that it is unclear whether the author speaking in this biography is Muḥammad Jamīl al-Shaṭṭī, the author of the Mukhtaṣar, or Kamāl al-Dīn al-Ghazzī, author of the work on which the second generation of the Mukhtaṣar is based.

The biography goes from page 74 to 77 in the Mukhtaṣar. I have abridged it slightly where I saw fit:

Yūsuf b. Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Hādī b. ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd b. ʿAbd al-Hādī b. Yūsuf b. Muḥ. b. Qudāma—his nasab goes back to a son of the caliph ʿUmar Ibn al-Khaṭṭāb—Jamāl al-Dīn Abū al-Maḥāsin, son of Qāḍī Badr al-Dīn …; [/75] known as Ibn al-Mibrad (or Mubarrid) which is his grandfather Aḥmad’s laqab.

He was “a mountain of knowledge”; his student Ibn Ṭūlūn singled out his biography in a compiled volume (mujallad ḥāfil) and entitled it “al-Hādī ilā tarjamat Yūsuf b. ʿAbd al-Hādī”. He was born on 1 Muḥarram 841 in Damascus […] and studied with a large number of shaykhs. He recited [the general works] before shaykh Taqī al-Dīn al-Jarāʿī, shaykh Taqī al-Dīn Ibn Qundus, Qāḍī ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn al-Mardāwī, and attended teachings of e.g. Qāḍī Burhān al-Dīn Ibn Mufliḥ, shaykh Burhān al-Dīn al-Zuraʿī. He heard ḥadīth e.g. from followers of Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Ibn al-ʿIrāqī, al-Jamāl Ibn al-Ḥaristānī, and Ibn Nāṣir al-Dīn, the muḥaddith of Damascus. He received an ijāza from Egypt by shaykh al-Islām Ibn Ḥajar, al-Shihāb al-Ḥijāzī, al-Burhān al-Baʿalī and others. He was an imām and a master in ḥadīth and fiqh; also he engaged in tafsīr, taṣawwuf, grammar [and its subdisciplines].

He taught and gave fatwas […]. He authored more than 400 works, most on ḥadīth and sunna, e.g. (I stopped at no. 50 but the list continues for more than a half page after this):

1) al-Tabyīn fī ṭabaqāt al-muḥaddithīn al-mutaqaddimīn wa-l-mutaʾakhkhirīn in seven volumes,
2) al-Riyāḍ al-yāniʿa fī aʿyān al-miʾa al-tāsiʿa,
3) Mughnī dhawī al-afhām ʿan al-kutub al-kathīra fī al-aḥkām, a splendid book on questions of religion according to the four madhhabs. I saw his handwriting on the first page of this:
هذا كتاب قد سما في حطره اوراقه من لفظه متعدده
جمع العلوم بلفظه فيجمعه يغنيك من عشرين الف مجلده
4) al-Durr al-taqī fī sharḥ alfāẓ al-kharqī;
5) al-Wuqūf ʿalā libs al-ṣūf,
6) Ghirās al-āthār wa-thimār al-akhbār,
7) Rāʾiq al-ḥikāyyāt wa-l-ashʿār in ten parts,
8) al-Durr al-nafīs fī aṣḥāb Muḥammad b. Idrīs,
9) al-Maṭūl fī tārīkh al-qarn al-awwal in ten volumes,
10) Sharḥ al-khulāṣa al-alfiyya,
11) al-Mūnīra fī ḥall mashkal al-sīra in two volumes; this is a precious book on Ibn Hishām’s sīra;
12) al-Fatāwā al-Aḥmadiyya,
13) al-Arbaʿīn al-mukhtāra min ḥadīth Ibn Abī ʿUmar, a beneficial part on Mukhtārāt transmitted by his father,
14) al-Riʿāya fī ikhtiṣār takhrīj aḥādīth al-hidāya,
15) al-Ṣawt al-musmiʿ  fī takhrīj aḥādīth al-muqniʿ,
16) al-Thaghr al-bāsim fī takhrīj aḥādīth mukhtaṣar Abī al-Qāsim,
17) al-Arbaʿīn al-mukhtāra min ʿawālī mashyakhat al-nuẓẓām Ibn Mufliḥ,
18) Jamʿ al-ʿadad li-radd qawl al-munkar bi-ghayr mustanad,
19) Faḍl al-samar fī tarjamat shaykh al-islām Ibn Abī ʿUmar,
20) al-ʿUlāla fī mashrūʿiyyat al-dalāla,
21) Ṣidq al-tashawwuf ilā ʿilm al-taṣawwuf,
22) al-ʿAqd al-tammām fī-man zawwajahu al-nabī ʿalayhi al-ṣalāt wa-l-salām,
21) ʿAẓīm al-minna bi-nazah al-jinna,
22) al-Bulāʾ bi-ḥuṣūl al-ghulā,
23) al-Iqtiyās fī waṣiyyatihi ʿalā al-ṣalāt wa-l-salām li-bn ʿAbbās,
24) Adab al-ʿālim wa-l-mutaʿallim,
25) Dhamm al-taʿbīr,
26) al-Takhrīj al-ṣaghīr wa-l-taḥbīr al-kabīr,
27) Nuzhat al-ruʾaq fī sharḥ ḥāl al-al-aswāq,
28) ʿAdhq al-afkār fī dhikr al-anhār,
29) Kashf al-Lammāt fī taʿdād al-ḥammāmāt,
30) al-Iʿānāt ʿalā maʿrifat al-khānāt,
31) Thamār al-maqāṣid fī dhikr al-masājid,
32) Tahdhīb al-fass(?) bi-l-ʿilm wa-li-l-ʿilm,
33) al-Arbaʿīn al-musalsalāt min ḥadīth sayyid al-sādāt,
34) al-Arbaʿīn al-mukhtāra min ṣaḥīḥ Muslim,
35) al-Thalāthīn allatī ruwiyat min al-imām Aḥmad fī ṣaḥīḥ Muslim,
36) al-Arbaʿīn al-mukhtāra min ʿawwālī jaddihi,
37) al-Iqnāʿ fī adwiyat al-qilāʿ,
38) al-Ittiqān fī adwiyat al-litha wa-l-asnān,
39) al-Funūn min adwiyat al-ʿuyūn,
40) al-Jūl ʿalā maʿrifat adwiyat al-būl,
41) Īḍāḥ al-fiḍḍiyya bi-maʿrifat al-adwiyat al-qalbiyya,
42) Dawāʾ al-muktarib min ʿaḍḍat al-sukāb al-sakāb,
43) Hidāyat al-ikhwān fī adwiyat al-ādhān,
44) al-Ittiqān li-adwiyat al-rīqān,
45) Kamāl al-aṣfāʾ ilā maʿrifat al-amʿāʾ,
46) Hidāyat al-ashrāf li-maʿrifat mā yuqṭaʿ al-ruʿāf,
47) al-Kamāl fī adwiyat al-ṣadr wa-l-suʿāl,
48) al-ʿUhda li-adwiya al-muʿadda,
49) al-Ranq fī adwiyat al-ḥalq,
50) Irshād al-muʿtamid ilā adwiyat al-kabid
[…]

The majority of his works are booklets [ajizāʾ] and his writing is fast and not very legible […]. He endowed all his books in the ʿUmariyya madrasa, thousands of titles, and he authored a comprehensive book list in one volume. […] He de noted his life to his studies and devotion, to writing and sharing his knowledge. He died 16 Muḥarram 909, buried on the slopes of the Qāsyūn.

As in the earlier post on Ibn Mufliḥ’s biography in the Mukhtaṣar, the author’s interest in codicology stands out. He comments upon the format of the volumes, the cataloguing of the endowment, and copies several annotations into the biography. In contrast to Ibn Mufliḥ, however, Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī does not show much talent in calligraphy in the majority of his manuscripts.

The biography is a little bit longer than 3 pages, and half of these are occupied by the list of his works. It seems that al-Shaṭṭī ordered Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī’s writings by theme at least in some sections. Thus, the first two entries are on biographical dictionaries, in the thirties range we find a certain cluster of post-canonical ḥadīth works (arbaʿīnat and thalathīnāt), and in the forties range there is a large cluster on (Prophetic) medicine.

As al-Shaṭṭī was writing in the midst of what Ahmed El Shamsy has recently called a “book drain”, i.e. the large scale extraction of manuscripts from—particularly Syria and Damascus—and their transfer to, among others, Western European and North American collectors and institutional libraries, one has to wonder whence he received his information on both Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī’s own works and those manuscripts he rebound. Did he access the books and booklets in the Ẓāhiriyya Library or did he copy his information from earlier biographical dictionaries or a little bit of both?

This brings us back full circle to the question posed earlier: Is it really Muḥammad Jamīl al-Shaṭṭī who is speaking here? Or is it rather Kamāl al-Dīn al-Ghazzī during whose lifetime the Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī corpus would still be mostly intact in the ʿUmariyya? How much editorial intervention on al-Shaṭṭī’s part is happening here? As I have not read al-Ghazzī’s work, I cannot answer these questions.

All I can say is that al-Shaṭṭī’s inclusion of Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī shows that he was still considered an important link in at least the local Ḥanbalī tradition in the 20th century. Despite his trying handwriting and his eclectic writing activity (or, perhaps, because of it?), this figure had received biographies between the 16th and 20th centuries, and with each iteration, he was pulled back into the public consciousness.

And rightly so, if for other reasons than his own writings. As Konrad Hirschler convincingly shows, Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī’s role as an “antiquarian” of medieval Syrian manuscripts has led to the survival of large numbers of Paratexts relating to the transmission of knowledge. In order to learn more about this, you’ll have to read Hirschler’s book.

Cite this article as: Torsten Wollina, "A biography of Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī", in Damascus Anecdotes, December 6, 2020, https://thecamel.hypotheses.org/1915.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.