By Siti Fadhila bt. Roslan     

Al-Zuhri was among the most famous Muslim scholars in the 3rd century hijri.  His contributions in various fields such as collecting the hadiths and writing the accounts of the Prophet SAW’s life and the war events (also known as sira/seerah and maghazi) was widely used by later scholars.

Al-Zuhri’s full name was Muhammad bin Muslim b. ‘Ubaidullah b. ‘Abdullah b. Shihab b. ‘Abdullah b. al-Harith b. Zuhrah.[1] But another account stated that his name was Abu Bakar Muhammad bin Muslim bin Syihab Az-Zuhri.[2]  His nickname was al-Zuhri, which was given to him by  other muhaddithun due to his ability to memorize and to collect the hadith.  Besides being called as al-Zuhri, his other name was Abu Bakr al-Madani due to his contribution in the historical school of Madinah (Hijaz).

Al-Zuhri was born in Ailah, a village located between Hijaz and Syam.[3]  There were many arguments regarding the exact date of his birth. The first opinion was from Dahim and Ahmad bin Salih, they believe that Az-Zuhri was born in 50 AH, while Khalifah bin Khiyath said that he was born in 51 AH.[4]  Other sources indicated that he was born in 56 AH[5] or in 58 AH at the end of the leadership of Muawiyah.[6]

Al-Zuhri was a rich man in his village and was remembered to be a very generous person. He has a high position in the Umayyad Daulah.[7]  He left his hometown and traveled to Damascus.  He lived for eight years with Sa’id bin Al-Musayyib in a village on the outskirts in  Syria named Sya’bad seeking knowledge about Islam and also due to his love toward the hadiths of Prophet SAW.[8]  Sa’id bin Al-Musayyib was also an expert in the field of hadith and was quite famous among the generation of tabi’in.  Al-Zuhri was familiar with prominent figures such as Abdullah bin Tha’laba al-Adawi, Urwah ibn Zubayr, ‘Ubaydullah ibn’ Abdullah bin ‘Utba, Abu Bakr i’ Abdul-Rahman bin al-Harith, Khārij bin Zayd bin Thabit and ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Yazid bin Jariya.

Allah S.W.T rewarded al-Zuhri with the high intelligence and impressive ability in memorization, which enabled him to achieve a high position in the field of hadith.  He was a tabi’in, a muhaddithun (Hadith expert), and an Islamic jurist (faqih).  He was the first to record a hadith on the orders of the Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz.[9]  Al-Zuhri had recorded many hadiths he heard and he also compiled all hadiths in the collection, which proven his deliberation.  His deliberation was being admired by many scholars and this was proven by one of his students Al-Laits bin Sa’ad, as he said: “I have never seen anyone who is more robust (stronger) from al-Zuhri, when he speaks to encourage, nobody better than him, when he talks about al-Quran and al-Sunnah his talks is so detail.”

“I have never seen anyone who is more robust (stronger) from al-Zuhri, when he speaks to encourage, nobody better than him when he talks about al-Quran and al-Sunnah his talks so detailed.”[10]  Al-Zuhri was known as a very strict in the transmitter chain of hadith (sanad/isnad) by following his teacher, Urwah b. al-Zubayr’s style in collecting hadith, where his teacher took material from the most trustworthy transmitters (rawi) and he will state clearly if he was not sure about the trustworthiness of the rawi.

Al-Zuhri had not only contributed in collecting the hadith but he was also expert in the sira/seerah and maghazi writing.  Al-Zuhri’s studies dealt with the life of the Prophet SAW, which began with the certain events preceding the rise of Islam, some of them concerning the Prophet’s early life. Then he continued on to his life in Makkah and later in Medina.  Al-Zuhri also narrated Islamic history until the passage of the political power to the Umayyads.  Al-Zuhri used the term ‘sira’ as well as ‘maghazi’, but the term does not appear as a title for his work.  Al-Zuhri’s maghazi was found primarily in the works of Ibn Ishaq, al-Waqidi, al-Tabari, al-Baladhuri, and Ibn Sayyid al-Nas.  it is known that Al-Zuhri’s maghazi was transmitted by one of his students, Yunus ibn Yazid, under the title of ‘Mashahid’.  Al-Tabari summarized the role of al-Zuhri as a historian by saying that:

“Al-Zuhri was foremost in knowledge of the maghazi of the Prophet and akhbar about Quraysh and Ansar, a great transmitter of narratives about the Prophet and his companions.”[11]  Al-Zuhri himself was very fond of poetry, only a little amount of it is mentioned in his maghazi, and his citation of poetry provides no indication of the style of ayyam tales.[12]

Through his love for hadith and history, he directly participated in the historical school of Hijaz (Madinah) which he got his nickname as Abu Bakr al-Madani.  He collaborated with his own teacher Urwah al-Zubayr, who was the son of Asma bint Abu Bakr and Zubayr b. al-Awwam, he depended on Urwah and studied with him.  In his maghazi, he adopted the collective isnad style in searching narrations which were reliable, smooth, and uninterrupted with the other fake narrations.  He also used al-Quran as references for the stories of other Prophets.  He did not use the Israilliyat accounts and qisas. He used mainly the Sanad and did not believe in the usage of folklore.[13]

As a conclusion, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri was the first to record the hadiths and also the first author of the sira/seerah and maghazi works.  However his works did not survive and the evidence of his works can only be found in other Muslim scholars’ writings, who were his students such as Ibn Ishaq, al-Waqidi, al-Tabari, al-Baladhuri, Ibn Sayyid al-Nas, and Yunus ibn Yazid.  In his era, the writing of hadith and maghazi was more concerned about the chain of transmitters (sanad/isnad) and al-Quranic stories as he did not consider the narrations of old folklore, Israilliyat and qisas as reliable. He also loved poetry and used it in his works.  His works constitute the fundamental core for later Muslim scholars in writing seerah and maghazi works.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abd al-Aziz Duri. “The Rise of History Writing among the Arabs”. UK: Princeton Press University, 1983, 99-100.

Ahsanul Huda. “Muhammad bin Muslim az-Zuhri”. Retrieved Nov 9, 2016.

https://ahsanhuda.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/muhammad-bin-muslim-az-zuhri/

Elmira Akhmetova. “Slide Presentation: Muslim Historiography Part 2”. Retrieved Oct 11, 2016.

https://italeem.iium.edu.my/

Fatimah Syarha. “Muhammad bin Syihab Az-Zuhri Pencinta Hadis”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016.

http://www.fatimahsyarha.com/2012/11/muhammad-bin-syihab-az-zuhri-pencinta.html

Kisah Muslim. “Imam az-Zuhri, Ahli Hadith Yang Penuh Semangat”. Retrieved Nov 12, 2016.

https://kisahmuslim.com/2431-imam-az-zuhri-ahli-hadits-yang-penuh-semangat.html

Muhamad Nurdin Fathurrohman. “Muhammad bin Muslim bin Ubaidillah bin Abdullah – Tabi’in yang Miliki Hafalan Kuat dalam Hadits”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016.

https://biografi-tokoh-ternama.blogspot.my/2014/09/muhammad-bin-muslim-bin-ubaidillah-bin-Abdullah-Tabiin-yang-Miliki-Hafalan-Kuat-dalam-Hadits.html

Muslim Scholars. “al-Zuhri”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016.

http://muslimscholars.info/manage.php?submit=scholar&ID=11013

Wikipedia. “Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri”. Retrieved Nov 6, 2016.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Shihab_al-Zuhri

NOTES:

[1] Muslim Scholars. “al-Zuhri”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016. http://muslimscholars.info/manage.php?submit=scholar&ID=11013

[2] Muhamad Nurdin Fathurrohman. “Muhammad bin Muslim bin Ubaidillah bin Abdullah – Tabi’in yang Miliki Hafalan Kuat dalam Hadits”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016.  https://biografi-tokoh-ternama.blogspot.my/2014/09/muhammad-bin-muslim-bin-ubaidillah-bin-Abdullah-Tabiin-yang-Miliki-Hafalan-Kuat-dalam-Hadits.html

[3] Ahsanul Huda. “Muhammad bin Muslim az-Zuhri”. Retrieved Nov 9, 2016. https://ahsanhuda.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/muhammad-bin-muslim-az-zuhri/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Wikipedia. “Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri”. Retrieved Nov 6, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Shihab_al-Zuhri

[6] Muhamad Nurdin Fathurrohman. “Muhammad bin Muslim bin Ubaidillah bin Abdullah – Tabi’in yang Miliki Hafalan Kuat dalam Hadits”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016.  https://biografi-tokoh-ternama.blogspot.my/2014/09/muhammad-bin-muslim-bin-ubaidillah-bin-Abdullah-Tabiin-yang-Miliki-Hafalan-Kuat-dalam-Hadits.html

[7] Kisah Muslim. “Imam az-Zuhri, Ahli Hadith Yang Penuh Semangat”. Retrieved Nov 12, 2016. https://kisahmuslim.com/2431-imam-az-zuhri-ahli-hadits-yang-penuh-semangat.html

[8] Fatimah Syarha. “Muhammad bin Syihab Az-Zuhri Pencinta Hadis”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016. http://www.fatimahsyarha.com/2012/11/muhammad-bin-syihab-az-zuhri-pencinta.html

[9] Kisah Muslim. “Imam az-Zuhri, Ahli Hadith Yang Penuh Semangat”. Retrieved Nov 12, 2016. https://kisahmuslim.com/2431-imam-az-zuhri-ahli-hadits-yang-penuh-semangat.html

[10] Fatimah Syarha. “Muhammad bin Syihab Az-Zuhri Pencinta Hadis”. Retrieved Nov 7, 2016. http://www.fatimahsyarha.com/2012/11/muhammad-bin-syihab-az-zuhri-pencinta.html

[11] Abd al-Aziz Duri. “The Rise of History Writing among the Arabs”. (UK: Princeton, 1983), 99-100.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Elmira Akhmetova. “Slide Presentation: Muslim Historiography Part 2”. Retrieved Oct 11, 2016. italeem.iium.edu.my/

Writer is a final year student at the department of History and Civilization, International Islamic University Malaysia

 

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