Imam Al-Haramayn Al-Juwayni (rahmatullah ‘alayh) said of Imam Al-Bayhaqi:
“There is no Shafi`i [faqih] except he owes a huge debt to Ash-Shafi`i, except Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi, to who al-Shafi`i owes a huge debt for his works which imposed al-Shafi`i’s school and his sayings.” 1
Commenting upon this, Adh-Dhahabi said,
“Abul Ma’ali is right!2 It is as he has stated, and if Al-Bayhaqi had wanted to establish a Madhhab for himself, he would have been able to do so, due to the vastness of his knowledge of the sciences, and his knowledge of the juridical differences!”
Imam Al-Bayhaqi (384-458 A.H.)
He is Ahmad ibn Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Abdullah ibn Musa, Abu Bakr Al-Bayhaqi An-Naysaburi Al-Khusrawjirdi, the Shafi’i in fiqh and Asha’ri in ‘Aqidah. He is called بيهقي Bayhaqi, with the “ascription” of ي (the letter ya which says ee), as he comes from a city that used to be called “Bayhaq”, Beyhaği in persian, which is probably the renamed city Sabzevar within the Razevi Khorasan Province in modern day northeastern Iran.
Ibn Khallikan introduced him saying, “The Shafi’i Jurist, a well known and great Master (Hafith) of Hadith, [there was] no one like him in his era…” The two Masters of Hadith, As-Sakhawi and Ibn As-Salah said of his Sunan Al-Kubra, “There is no work of hadith comparable to it!” It was said of him, “He is the seal of the Shafi’i Mujtahids, one of the mountains of Islamic Knowledge!”
He took the sciences of Islam from over 100 scholars. His oldest Shaykh was the Imam and Hadith scholar of Khurasan As-Sayyid Abul Hasan Muhammad ibn al Husayn ibn Dawud Al-’Alawi Al Hasani An-Naysaburi Al-Hasib (d. 401) who was also Al-Hakim’s Shaykh.
He took fiqh from Imam Abul-Fath Nasir ibn Al Husayn ibn Muhammad Al-Qurashi al-’Umari Al-Marwazi. He took Kalam from two Ash’ari Imams, أبو بكر بن فورك Ibn Furak (d. 406)3and Abu Mansur Abdul-Qahir Al-Baghdadi, the philologist, the Shafi’i jurist, and heresiologist. His most famous Shaykh was the Hafith of Hadith, أبو عبد الله الحافظ الحاكم Al-Hakim An-Naysaburi (d. 405 A.H) the author of Al-Mustadarak as well as other works of hadith. He was considered the foremost of all his students. He also took hadith from أبو علي الروذباري Hafith Abu Ali Al Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad Al-Rudhbari At-Tusi (d. 403), أبو طاهر محمد بن محمد بن محمش الزيادي Abu Tahir Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmish Az-Ziyadi Ash-Shafi’i An-Naysaburi (d. 410), the Sufi Master, Ash’ari Imam, hadith master, and author of Tabaqat As-Sufiyyah أبو عبد الرحمن السلمي Abu Abdur-Rahman Muhammad As-Sulami (d. 411), Hafith Muhammad Al-Qattan (d. 415), the Shaykh of Muhammad Al-Lalaka’i, as well as many other mountains of knowledge.
A Claim Against Imam Al-Bayhaqi Responded to
It is also an interesting point of note that Imam Al-Bayhaqi, as claimed by Adh-Dhahabi, thet he did not have transmitted to him the Sunan of Imam At-Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah or the Sunan of Imam An-Nasa’i. To this, Adh-Dhahabi added, “His sphere of hadith is not large, but Allah blessed him in his narrations for the excellence of his method in them and his sagacity and expertise in the subject-matters and narrators.”4 Shaykh Gibril Haddad states in his work “The Four Imams” commenting upon this accusation,
“This is incorrect as Al-Bayhaqi’s Sunan Al-Kubra shows extensive knowledge of the first two. His sphere in hadith is so impressivley large – about 300 sources – that one scholar exclaimed, ‘This assessment is very strange indeed, and stranger yet the fact it came from such an accomplished authority as Al-Dhahabi (وهذه المقالة غريبة جداً، والأغرب منها صدورها عن الحافظ المحقق الإِمام الذهبي)’ ”5
Dr. Najm Khalaf who is referred to above by Shaykh Gibril Haddad as “one scholar” also attributes this view to Ibn As-Subki and As-Safadi in Al-Wafi. Dr. Najm responds to this claim by showing how Imam Al-Bayhaqi actually referred to these works within his Sunan Al-Kubra. Examples of him knowing the Sunan of Imam An-Nasa’i include but are not limited to:
Imam Al-Bayhaqi said, “This is the wording of Ibn Najiyah, and in the report of An-Nasa’i…” [Sunan Al-Kubra 7:183]
And he said, “And it was conveyed to me from Abu Abdur-Rahman An-Nasa’i that he said: ‘this hadith…” [Sunan Al-Kubra]
And he said, “And it is reported by Abu Abdur-Rahman An-Nasa’i in his book “Sunan” from the hadith of Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah…” [Sunan Al-Kubra]
The most convincing proof that he actually heard the entire book of the Sunan An-Nasa’i through his masters is that he actually narrates a hadith from Imam An-Nasa’i in his Sunan with the following chain:
“Abu Abdullah Al-Hafith Narrated to us [that he said], Abu ‘Ali Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali Al-Hafith narrated to me, Abu Abdur Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu’ayb – the Jurist of Egypt… [then he narrated the rest of the hadith]”
As for the Jam’i (or known as the Sunan) of Imam At-Tirmidhi the following examples are given of his knowing them:
“Imam Al-Bayhaqi said: ‘And it is reported by Abu ‘Isa At-Tirmidhi in his book…’ ” [Sunan Al-Kubra 4/38]
“And he said: ‘It is reported by Abu ‘Isa At-Tirmidhi from … and he said regarding the hadith …” [Sunan Al-Bayhaqi 10/161]
“And he said: ‘And Abu ‘Isa At-Tirmidhi – in what was conveyed to me from him – this hadith is hasan gharib, and it is the most authentic narrative from Isra’il from Abdul-’Ala’…” [Sunan Al-Bayhaqi 10/100]
As for Sunan Ibn Majah, then it does not seem that he quoted from it within his Sunan Al-Kubra. Such does not mean that he did not receive it, but that he simply did not quote from it. These quotes decisively show that Imam Al-Bayhaqi had received by Sunan An-Nasa’i and Sunan At-Tirmidhi, and knew them well, clearly contradicting what was claimed about him by Safadi, Ibn As-Subki, and Adh-Dhahabi!
موارد الإمام البيهقي في كتابه ( السنن الكبرى ) مع دراسة نقدية لمنهجه فيها
Mawarid Al-Bayhaqi fi Kitabihi Sunan Al-Kubra written by Dr. Najm Abdur-Rahmad Khalaf in pdf format.
His Asceticism and Piety
According to the students of Imam Al-Bayhaqi, he fasted perpetually (sawm ad-dahr) for thirty years before he passed away. This act was the practice of several companions as Imam An-Nawawi stated in his Sharh Sahih Muslim,
“Ibn ‘Umar fasted permanently, i.e. except the days of ‘Id and tashriq. This perpetual fast is his way and the way of his father ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, ‘A’ishah, Abu Talha and others of the salaf as well as Imam Ash-Shafi’i and other scholars. Their position is that perpetual fasting is not makruh.”6
He was known amongst him companions as a man of piety, and one to cling to the Sunnah within his life, in other words he put into practice his knowledge.
As stated above, Imam Al-Bayhaqi was the student of Abu Bakr ibn Furak who was an Imam of the Asha’ris and one who helped solidify the school of creed, as well as the Asha’ri Abu Mansur Al-Baghdadi who was renown for his knowledge. This places Imam Al-Bayhaqi amonst the third generations of Asha’ris. As one can see by the works Imam Al-Bayhaqi wrote, such as Al-Asma’ was-Sifat and his “Risalat Al-Ashariyya”, Imam Al-Bayhaqi was an ardent Asha’ri who defended the school and supported it against its enemies.
Some of His Works7
• Al-Arba’ūn As-Sughrā (The minor collection of fourty hadīth)
• Al-Asmā’ was-Sifāt (The Divine Names and Attributes) Ibn As-Subkī said, “I do not know anything comparable to it!” Shaykh Gibril Haddad has translated excerpts from this masterpiece in a small book titled, “Allah’s Names and Attributes, Excerpts”, which can be purchased on Amazon and elsewhere.
• Bayān Khaṭa’ man Akhṭa’a ‘alā Ash-Shāfi’ī (Exposition of the Error of those who attributed error to Ash-Shāfi’ī) , which complements the Sunsn and the Ma’rifah in the presentation of the textual evidence of the Shāfi’ī school.
• Ad-Da’awāt Al-Kabīr (The Major Book of Supplications)
• Dalā’il An-Nubuwwa (The Marks of Prophethood), the foremost large book exclusively devoted to the person of the Prophet Muhammad.
• Faḍā’il Al-Awqāt (Times of Particular Merit [for worship])
• Hayāt Al-Anbiyā’ fī Qubūrihim (The life of the Prophets in their Graves). This brief masterpiece gathers many of the hadiths that pertain to the life of the Prophets in their graves and received several editions of varying quality to date. Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alawī Al-Mālikī (rahimahullah) used it among his principle sources for the section on Nubuwwāt in his Manhaj Al-Salaf fi Fahm Al-Nusūs.
• Al-‘Itiqād ‘alā Madhhab As-Salaf Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jama’ah.
• Al-Khilāfiyyāt (The Divergences [between Ash-Shafi’ī and Abu Hanīfah]). Ibn Al-Subkī said about it, “No one preceded him in writing a book of this kind, nor followed him in writing its like. It is an independent method in hadīth science which is appreciated only by experts in both fiqh and hadīth. It is precious for the text it contains!”
• Al-Mabsūṭ (The expanded [reference book]). It is on Shāfi’ī law.
• Al-Madkhal ilā As-Sunan Al-Kubrā (Introductory to the Major Book of the Sunnas)
• Manāqib Al-Imam Ahmad (The Immense Merits of Imam Ahmad)
• Manāqib Ash-Shāfi’ī (The Immense Merits of Imam Ash-Shāfi’ī). Imām An-Nawawī said that this was the most reliable work on Imām Ash-Shāfi’ī8. Ibn As-Subkī said, “Of Al-‘Itiqād, Dalā’il Al Nubuwwa, Shu’ab Al-īmān, Manāqib Ash-Shāfi’ī and Al-Da’wāt Al-Kabīr, I swear that none of them has any peer!”
• Ma’rifat As-Sunan Wal-Āthār: (The Knowledge of Sunnas and Reports). Ibn As-Subkī says no Shafi’ī jurist can do without it! It is a work listing proofs for the school by fiqh sub-headings. It is also called “As-Sunan Al-Wusṭā”. You can download the entire work here. (Note the file is approx. 90 megabytes, only in arabic)
• Al-Qirā’a warā’ Al-Imām (Reciting [Fātihah] behind the Imām), also published as “Al-Qirā’a Khalf Al-Imām”. One can download this work here. It is a small treatise in defense of the Shafi’i view that it is obligatory to recite Fatihah behind the Imam in Salah to one’s self.
• Ar-Risālah Al-Asha’riyyah (The Asha’rī letter). It was a defense of the madhhab of Abul-Hasan Al-Asha’rī in creed to the governor of Naysābūr.
• Shu’ab Al-Īmān (The Branches of Belief), fourteen volumes commenting on the hadīth “Faith has Seventy Odd Branches!” The abridged version by Imam Al-Qazwini was translated by Shaykh Abdul Hakīm Murād into English with the title “The Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith”.
• As-Sunan Al-Kubrā (The Major Book of the Prophet’s Sunna). Ibn As-Subkī said, “No such book was ever compiled in the science of hadīth with respect to classification, arrangement, and elegance.” It is approximately 10 volumes (depending on the publisher) of pure hadīthic and fiqh based knowledge. Imam Al-Bayhaqi shows his mastery of the sciences in this work by quoting nearly 200 works, either by narrating through the Imams of those works by his own chain up to the authors, or quoting from the works themselves. Download here.
Some notes about Sunan Al-Kubrā:
If Imām Al-Bayhaqī says, “Abū Abdullah, Al-Hāfiẓ, then he means Al-Hākim An-Naysabūrī.
If Imām Al-Bayhaqī says, “Abū Bakr ibn Is-ḥāq, then he is Muhammad ibn Is-ḥāq ibn Khuzaymah, the Imām.
If Imām Al-Bayhaqī says, “Abu Aḥmad, then it is Ibn ‘Adīy, Abdullah ibn ‘Adīy Al-Jurjānī.
If Imām Al-Bayhaqī says, “ ‘Alī, or ‘Alī ibn Umar, then he means Imām Ad-Dāraquṭnī.”
• Tārīkh Ḥukamā Al-Islām (The History of the Rulers of Islām)
• Az-Zuhd Al-Kabīr (The Major book of Asceticism)
Note there are more works written by him than what has been mentioned here.
Shaykh G.F. Haddād says in his conclusion to Imām Al-Bayhaqī’s biography,
“Al-Bayhāqī is the last of those who comprehensively compiled the textual evidence of the Shāfi’ī school including the hadīth, the positions of the Imām, and those of his immediate companions.”
Imam Al-Bayhaqi was an ardent defender of the Shafi’i school. One can see within his works, particularly the Khilafiyyat, his Sunan Al-Kubra, and his Ma’rifat As-Sunan Wal-Aathar, his immense knowledge of hadith and fiqh. He mastered comparative fiqh, and spent his life in dedication to preservation of the Shafi’i school. As the Imams of our school have stated, all Shafi’is are immensely indebted to Imam Al-Bayhaqi (rahmatullah ‘alayh), including Imam Ash-Shafi’i (radiya Allahu ‘anhu) himself!
The Imam died in Naysabur at the age of 74, May Allah have mercy upon him and grant him Jannah Amin!