Imam Dhahabi and His Work Tadhkirat al-Huffaz

Imam Dhahabi and His Work Tadhkirat al-Huffaz

Question:

When Imam Dhahabi compiled his Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, did he only include scholars that he believed to be Thiqa and ‘Adil (reliable)? Or did he include those that he felt were fabricators, liars and/or unreliable?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The great Imam, Shaykh al-Islam, Hadith master (hafiz), expert examiner of Hadith, historian and biographer, Imam Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) is considered one of the foremost authorities in critically scrutinizing the reporters of Hadith (ilm al-asma wa ‘l-rijal). He compiled many works in this regard such as Mizan al-I’tidal fi Naqd al-Rijal (The Scale of Justice in Critically Examining the Reporters), Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (The Lives of Noble Figures), Al-Mughni fi ‘l-Du’afa (an authoritative abridged manual of weak narrators) and Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (The Memoirs of the Hadith Masters).

In his work, Mizan al-I’tidal, Imam Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) deals with a large number of reporters, both the authenticated/reliable and the criticized/unreliable, although he does mention in his introduction to the book that he will not include the biographies of the Companions (sahaba) and renowned authorities of Islam. He states:

“Similarly, I will not mention in my book [i.e. Mizan al-I’tidal] any of the followed Imams of Furu’ (Fiqh and other subsidiary matters of religion) due to their loftiness in Islam and prominence in the hearts [of people], such as Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i and Bukhari…” (See: Mizan al-I’tidal 1/3, taken from Shaykh Abdul-Fattah Abu Ghudda’s footnotes on Imam Lakhnawi’s Al-Raf’ wa ‘l-Takmil P: 122)

Thereafter, in order to cover the life accounts of these great luminaries and authorities of Islam, he compiled a separate work titled “Tadhkirat al-Huffaz” (regarding which you have enquired). He states in his introduction to this book:

“This is a memento of the names of reliable authenticated bearers of Prophetic Knowledge and those whose judgement (ijtihad) is referred to in authenticating, weakening and disapproving of [the reporters of Hadith]. And in Allah I seek refuge, and on Him I rely, and towards Him I turn.” (See: Introduction to Tadhkirat al-Huffaz)

Consequently, Imam Dhahabi then goes on to cite the great personalities of Islam including the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them). He begins his work with the accounts of the four rightly guided Caliphs – Sayyiduna Abu Bakr, Sayyiduna Umar, Sayyiduna Uthman and Sayyiduna Ali (may Allah be well pleased with them). Amongst other Companions, he mentions Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, the mother of the believers A’isha, Abu Hurayra, Abdullah ibn Abbas and Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with them). From amongst the great luminaries of this Umma, he mentions personalities such as Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab, Ibrahim al-Nakha’i, Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, Abu Hanifa, Awza’i, Malik ibn Anas, Sufyan ibn Uyayna, Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, Abu Yusuf, Shafi’i, Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi, Hakim Abu Abdillah al-Naysaburi, Khatib al-Baghdadi and others (may Allah be pleased with them).

It is clear from the above that Imam Dhahabi compiled his work Tadhkirat al-Huffaz for the specific purpose of briefly gathering the life-accounts of the great scholars of Prophetic Traditions (hadith), and those whom he considered as experts and authorities in this field, let alone them being reliable and trustworthy. The title of the work translated as “The Memoirs of the Hadith Masters” is sufficient evidence of this fact.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

Question #: 5453
Published: 07/06/2008