Much ado about Imam Al Barbahari!
Some have made concerted efforts to tarnish his name (e.g Hajji) and others have tried to demonize his book using various methods e.g calling it the “Talmud” of the “Madkhalis”. Some (like Hajji) have even become so desperate that they quote from Anti-“Wahhabi” websites with reckless abandon.
All of this is done to discredit a well known scholar who spent his life defending the Sunnah. A scholar who is praised by Imam Ibn Katheer in Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah, Imam Ibn Jawzi and Imam Adh Dhahabi in Siyar ‘Alaam An Nubala.
But then again what do these scholars/ Muslim historians know in front of the formidable Bro. Hajji!
And although scholars such as Ibn Abi Ya’la, Imam Adh Dhahabi, Shaikh Ul Islam Ibn Taymeeyah, Ibn Muflih etc. ascribed this book to Imam Al Barbahari why take their speech seriously when the formidable Bro. Hajji has spoken on youtube!!
Although it is a travesty that Bro. Hajji is taken seriously by some when he really shouldn’t be taken seriously. I will still write this short post to clarify this issue.
The reasons why so many are opposed to Sharh Us Sunnah are two:
- It’s strong speech against the Khawarij, and the manner in which it clarifies the Khariji methodology.
- It’s strong speech regarding those who associate with the people of innovation. Meaning that they are constantly seen entering with them, leaving with them and keeping their company.
Hence we find such a robust effort among those who oppose the pristine Salafi Methodology in demonizing the book and its author as the deviance of many of these personalities on social media would be uncovered and they would be seen for who they truly are.
It is quite interesting that the book and its author have been unfairly targeted when what should have been targeted was the misunderstanding of the book which resulted in its reckless misapplication in the issues of boycotting and Tabdee’ (calling an individual an innovator) by SPUBS.
However, the book should not be dismissed as it contains general guidelines regarding the methodology of Ahlus Sunnah. Furthermore, the likes of Shaikh Salih Al Fawzan and Shaikh Ahmad An Najmi have both written explanations of the book as it is primary source material regarding the beliefs of the early Muslims.
There is no need for me to write anything in defense of Imam Al Barbahari as the appraisals of Imam Adh Dhahabi and Imam Ibn Katheer should be considered far more weighty than the disparagement of Hajji. And although I don’t have the need to prove the ascription of Sharhus Sunnah to Imam Al Barbahari after distinguished Imams of the Sunnah have done such, I will still take this as a teaching moment to educate the readers regarding the science of textual criticism.
Now in looking at a text, a few things must come to mind:
- Title of the text.
- Author (Date of Birth, Death, Biography)
- Type of paper and ink used (which helps to determine age of the text)
- What ideological inclination the author has.
- The contents of the text.
- What were the socio-political/ cultural conditions of the time.
After looking at these factors one can determine as to whether or not a text, diary, letter etc. can be ascribed to a particular author. The first 5 I mentioned is from a historical method called textual analysis. What is an added help to is to whom well known, trustworthy authors ascribe the text to. Hence, the fact that so many well known mountains of knowledge ascribed Sharh Us Sunnah to Imam Al Barbahari and quoted from it shows that it can indeed be ascribed to Imam Al Barbahari.
Secondly, the difference between the manuscript of Ghulam Khaleel and that of Imam Abu Ya’la is that Abu Ya’la’s script has a small part of the beginning missing and the Manuscript of Ghulam Khaleel has some points from the end missing. Hence, it is indeed amazing that although both sources have parts missing it is preferred that Sharh Us Sunnah be ascribed to Ghulam Khaleel although the vast majority of scholars ascribe it to Imam Al Barbahari as was done by Imam Abu Ya’la.
Thirdly, it is highly possible that Imam Abu Ya’la and others who have ascribed the book to Imam Al Barbahari came into contact with manuscripts that ascribed the book to him. However, their sources may have disappeared or are maybe hard to find. A principle that must be realized is that the non-availability of a previous text doesn’t prove it never existed. One simply has to read the biography of past scholars to see that some of their books are مفقود or lost.
May Allah ta’ala give us beneficial knowledge coupled with righteous actions. May Allah make ourselves and others humble to realize that if we don’t know we either stay quiet or ask a scholar.