Ibn Shaddad: Profound Knowledge and Great Piety
Adil Salahi, Arab News
Yusuf ibn Rafi'i ibn Tamim, better known as Bahauddin ibn Shaddad, was one who showed scholarly promise very early in his life. He had many illustrious students including Salahuddin, or Saladin, the great ruler and commander who liberated Jerusalem and ended the occupation of Palestine by the Crusaders. Ibn Shaddad was indeed the first judge in Jerusalem after its liberation.
Ibn Shaddad was born in Musel, in the northern parts of present day Iraq, in 539 A. H., corresponding to 1145 A.D. Bahauddin, his first name, is a title that means, “the light of the faith”, in the tradition which gave similar titles to famous scholars. Shaddad was his grandfather on his mother’s side, and to this grandfather he was attached.
He showed scholarly promise very early in his childhood, learning the Qur’an by heart at a young age. Sometime later, a scholar known as Yahya ibn Saadoon of Cordoba arrived in Musel and Ibn Shaddad studied under him, learning the Qur’an in the seven most famous methods of recitation until he became a master of this discipline. Indeed he continued to read under him for 11 years, learning from him practically everything he knew about the Qur’an, its recitation and understanding, as well as the Hadith, its reporting, explanation, commentaries, etc. Ibn Shaddad made an index of everything that he learned from Ibn Saadoon in two notebooks. This index includes the two Sahih collections of Hadith by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. He also studied under him language and literature.
Ibn Shaddad also studied under a number of highly reputable scholars, learning much of the Hadith, the Fiqh of the Shafie school of thought and other branches of Islamic studies. All his teachers certified him as having mastered what he learned from them. When he later traveled to Baghdad, he was appointed as a junior teacher in the Nazammiyah School, which was one of the most famous in the Muslim world. He was 27 at the time and he retained his post for four years before going back to his hometown, Musel, where he was appointed a teacher in the school established by Justice Muhammad ibn Ash-Shahrzoori.
Many of his students became scholars of high repute. Among the more famous of them was Ibn Khillikan, the author of a voluminous work of biographies of people of eminence. Indeed Ibn Khillikan was one of the many who traveled to Aleppo to study under Ibn Shaddad. However, the most famous of his students was not a scholar. He was none other than Salahuddin, or Saladin.
His first meeting with Salahuddin was when Izzuddin Atabak, the ruler of Musel sent a delegation headed by Ibn Shaddad to Salahuddin requesting his help. Salahuddin received the delegation well and afforded them great respect. In 385, Ibn Shaddad went to Makkah for pilgrimage. On his way back, he intended to visit Jerusalem after its liberation. However, he decided to go to Damascus first. At that point in time Salahuddin was besieging Kawkab Castle, not far from Damascus, and he learned of Ibn Shaddad’s arrival. He sent for him and the scholar went to meet him. Salahuddin received him very warmly and extended great hospitality to him, and requested him to teach him some Hadiths. Ibn Shaddad taught him a volume of Al-Bukhari’s Sahih devoted to supplication and glorification of God.
When it was time for Ibn Shaddad to travel on to Jerusalem, he bid farewell to Salahuddin, but one of the latter’s assistants conveyed to him Salahuddin’s request that he should come back to Damascus when he had finished his purpose in Jerusalem. He did, and requested Salahuddin’s permission to travel on to Musel, but Salahuddin refused. He insisted that he should stay with him. He subsequently appointed him justice of Jerusalem. He was indeed the first judge in Jerusalem after its liberation. He remained in close association with Salahuddin, seeing him daily, until the latter’s death. He also assigned to him the task of looking after the school he established in Jerusalem carrying his name, Al-Salahiyah. He later played an important role in working out reconciliation between Salahuddin’s brothers and sons. All of them treated him with much respect. He also occupied several posts, such as justice of Aleppo and commissioner of its endowments.
Many scholars have spoken highly of Ibn Shaddad and his standing among scholars. Ibn As-Subki says of him: “He was an imam in his own right, a man of great virtue and profound knowledge of matters of faith and the world. He was also a man of much piety and little interest in worldly matters. His word was highly respected by all.” Ibn Al-Jazri, the author of a reference work in which he included biographical notes on all scholars of Qur’anic recitation, describes Ibn Shaddad as “an imam of broad scholarship.” Umar ibn Al-Hajib found him a “reliable scholar of profound knowledge, great piety and much voluntary worship. Indeed he was very much similar in character and influence to Justice Abu Yussuf, the second most important scholar of the Hanafi school of thought. People were unanimous in praising him.”
Ibn Shaddad did not write many books. We have a record of eight books by him, one of them a sort of a biography of Salahuddin. He also wrote a book for Salahuddin, highlighting the importance of jihad in Islam. However, one of his more important books is Dalail Al-Ahkam, or Evidence for Verdicts. It is devoted to the study of Hadith as evidence supporting the rulings concerning any matter in life. It has been recently published in two large volumes.
Ibn Shaddad did not have any children, and he had no relatives. But he was wealthy. Therefore, he built in Aleppo two schools, one of them dedicated to the study of Hadith.
Ibn Shaddad lived until he was 93. He suffered a great deal from the illness that finally forced him to remain at home all the time. He was unable to endure any sort of weather except the very hot. He, therefore, was unable to attend Friday prayer except in the middle of the summer. He finally died in Aleppo on Safar 14, 632 A.H. May God bless his soul