Ibn Al-Mubarak (Abd Allah)

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“He was a man of jurisprudence, knowledge, worship, asceticism, and generosity. He was courageous and a poet.”
Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah (may Allah show compassion towards him)

“He was the Imām of the Muslims.”
Abū Isḥāq Al-Fazārī (may Allah show compassion towards him)

“I did not see anyone with better counsel for the community than him.”
ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān ibn Mahdī (may Allah show compassion towards him)

“There was not known in his time anyone more glorious or excellent than him nor anyone who had more virtues than he possessed.”
Al-Nasā’ī (may Allah have mercy upon him)

“There was no one [in his time] who sought after knowledge more than him.”
Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (may Allah have mercy upon him)

ABŪ ʿABD AL-RAḤMĀN ʿABD ALLĀH IBN AL-MUBĀRAK IBN WĀḌIḤ AL-ḤANẒALĪ AL-TAMĪMĪ (may Allah show compassion towards him) was a great scholar and saint of the third generation of Muslims (tābiʿ al-tābiʿīn). He is highly respected for his knowledge of jurisprudence, trustworthy narration of Prophetic traditions, service in the Muslim army, and business acumen. He was a pious worshipper, ascetic, poet, grammarian and linguist.

The ruins of the city of Marw, in present-day Turkmenistan.
Ibn Al-Mubārak was born in the city of Marw

Ibn Al-Mubārak was born in the city of Marw in present-day Turkmenistan in 118 AH(i). His father was a Turk and was originally the slave of a merchant of the Banī Ḥanẓala(ii) tribe, before marrying his master’s daughter (Ibn Al-Mubārak’s mother). As a child, he was gifted with a keen intellect and strong memory. He left Marw in 141 AH at the age of twenty-three years to seek further Islamic knowledge. His desire to hear and record authentic Prophetic traditions led him to Yemen, Egypt, Syria, the Ḥijāz, Baṣra, and Kūfa. He took and wrote down knowledge from four thousand scholars, and narrated from a thousand of them, young and old. His teachers included ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān Al-Awzāʿī (in Syria), Abū Ḥanīfa (at Kūfa), Ḥammād ibn Salamah, Ḥammād ibn Zayd, Hishām ibn ʿUrwa, Ibn Jurayj, ʿĪsā ibn Yūnus, Ismāʿīl ibn ʿAyāsh, Mālik ibn Anas (at Madīnah), Sufyān Al-Thawrī, and Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah, amongst many others (may Allah show compassion towards them all). He also wrote down anything of benefit he heard from the general masses and even from people of other religions. He wrote many books and used them to narrate from so that he did not pass on any errors, and he became famed for the amount of knowledge he had gathered.

Ibn Al-Mubārak became one of the greatest and trustworthy scholars of Prophetic traditions of his generation and was given the titles of ‘scholar of the east and west’ and ‘leader of the faithful in Prophetic traditions’ (amīr ul mu’minīn fī al-ḥadīth) due to his keen knowledge of the narrators of Prophetic traditions and strict acceptance criteria of Prophetic traditions (e.g. he would not accept Prophetic traditions if the narrator – i.e. a Companion - between the Successor and the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم - may Allah bless him and grant him peace - is omitted in the chain of narrators). He was also recognised as being amongst the great Jurists of his era. He was a very successful merchant, and he spent his wealth on seeking knowledge, spending on the poor and needy, sponsoring his students and companions in making the Hajj pilgrimage, and settling peoples’ debts.

Those who narrated from Ibn Al-Mubārak include ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān ibn Mahdī, Abū Dāwūd, Al-Fuḍayl ibn ʿĪyāḍ, Abū Bakr and ʿUthmān ibn Abī Shayba, Yaḥyā ibn Ādam, Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh, many of his teachers, and countless more scholars (may Allah show compassion towards them all). Unfortunately, most his books have not reached our time but those that have include Kitāb Al-Jiḥād (a collection of Prophetic traditions and sayings of the early Muslims on war) and Kitāb Al-Zuhd wal Raqā’iq (a book on asceticism).

Map of the Muslim Caliphate in 750 CE.
Tarsus was at the Western border of the Muslim Caiphate during the lifetime of Ibn Al-Mubārak

Ibn Al-Mubārak was also well known for partaking in battles. He manned garrisons at the borders of the Muslim empire with the Romans in Tarsus (in modern day Turkey), Al-Maṣṣīṣah, and elsewhere. He was known for his lengthy prayers, prolonged stays in the mosques, frequent recitation of the Qur’an, hatred of showing-off, concern for the purity of his wealth and charity, and humbleness of his heart. His constant enjoining of good and forbidding of evil to friends and rulers led to him being known as ‘advisor of the nation’ (nāṣiḥ al ummah). He passed away in 181 AH in the city of Hīt in present-day Iraq. He was sixty-three years old and in a state of poverty, having just returned from battle. He had supplicated to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) for a life of the rich and a death of the poor.

His Sayings

“I studied etiquette for thirty years and knowledge for twenty years.”

“The ascetic is the one who is not happy when he gets this world and is not sad if he lacks it.”

“The beginning of knowledge is the intention, then listening, then understanding, then action, then preservation, and then spreading it.”

“If you people wish to backbite, then backbite your own parents so that your reward does not go out to a stranger, but rather to them!”

“When one of you learns enough of the Qur'an in order to pray, then let him occupy himself in seeking knowledge for that is the tool through which the meaning of the Qur'an is known.”

“The chain of transmission is a necessary part of religion; were it not for the chain anybody could say whatever they wanted.”(iii)

Related Biographies:
Abu Hanifa
Sufyan Al-Thawri