Bio: `Abd Al-Qahir Al-Baghdadi | عبد القاهر البغدادي

`Abd Al-Qahir Al-Baghdadi

عبد القاهر البغدادي الشافعي
(d. 429)
radiya Allah anhu




by Dr. G.F. Haddad

`Abd al-Qahir ibn Tahir ibn Muhammad, Abu Mansur al-Naysaburi al-Tamimi al-Baghdadi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari (d. 429), al-Ustadh, the imam, jurist, scholar of principles and kalam, man of letters, poet, prosodist, grammarian, and mathematician, praised by Shaykh al-Islam Abu `Uthman al-Sabuni as “one of the imams of the principles of the Religion and foremost authorities of Islam by consensus of its most eminent and competent scholars.”

He is al-Bayhaqi’s senior and the exact contemporary of Abu Dharr al-Harawi and Abu Muhammad al-Juwayni among the third-generation Ash`ari imams. He came to Naysabur with his father and spent his entire fortune in support of the scholars of knowledge until he became able to teach in seventeen different disciplines. He was Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini’s senior student and, together with Abu Sahl al-Su`luki, they staunchly defended the position related from al-Shafi`i that “the Book cannot be abrogated by the Sunna.”1 Abu Mansur succeeded Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini as headmaster in the mosque of `Aqil, where al-Bayhaqi, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri and Nasir al-Marwazi studied under him. He narrated hadith from al-Isma`ili and Abu Ahmad ibn `Adi. Among his works:

  1. Ahkam al-Wat’ al-Tamm, also known as Iltiqa’ al-Khitanayn, a book on sexual ethics and pertaining laws in Islam, in four volumes.
  2. Bulugh al-Mada min Usul al-Huda
  3. Fada’ih al-Karramiyya
  4. Fada’ih al-Mu`tazila
  5. al-Fakhir fi al-Awa’il wa al-Awakhir
  6. al-Farq Bayn al-Firaq, his major heresiological reference-work together with the Milal. In it he states the following positions:
    • “It is obligatory to declare as unbeliever someone who says that Allah has limits.” The anthropomorphist creed is that “Allah has limits that He knows of.”
    • “Ahl al-Sunna reached consensus that Allah, the Flawless, the Exalted, is not bounded by location.” He then reports the saying of `Ali (r): “Allah created the Throne as an indication of His power, not for taking it as a place for Himself.”
    • “Know that Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a are divided in eight groups of people… the sixth group being the Sufi Ascetics (al-zuhhad al-sufiyya), who have seen things for what they are and therefore have abstained, who have known by experience and therefore have taken heed truly, who have accepted Allah’s allotment and contented themselves with what is within reach.”
  7. Ibtal al-Qawl bi al-Tawallud
  8. al-`Imad fi Mawarith al-`Ibad, on inheritance laws.
  9. al-Iman wa Usuluh
  10. al-Kalam wa al-Wa`id
  11. Manaqib al-Imam al-Shafi`i
  12. Mashariq al-Nur wa Madarik al-Surur fi al-Kalam
  13. al-Milal wa al-Nihal, a heresiological reference-work.
  14. Mi`yar al-Nazar
  15. Nafy Khalq al-Qur’an
  16. Naqd Abi `Abd Allah al-Jurjani fi Tarjih Madhhab Abi Hanifa in which he states that Imam al-Shafi`i authored a book in refutation of Brahmans in which he adduces the proofs of Prophethood.
  17. Nasikh al-Qur’an wa Mansukhuh
  18. al-Qadaya fi al-Dawr wa al-Wasaya
  19. Sharh Hadith Iftiraq Ummati `ala Ihda wa Sab`in Firqa
  20. Sharh Miftah Ibn al-Qass on Shafi`i fiqh, in which he states the following positions:
    • “The sunna of ablution (wudu’) is to say, upon rinsing one’s hands: Bismillah, wa billah, wa `ala millati Rasulillah — Allah bless and greet him –.”2
    • “The sunna of iqama is to dispatch it, but one must not move from his spot while he raises it until he reaches the words qad qamat al-salat.” The Shafi`i position is that one does not move from one’s spot until the end of the iqama once he begins it.3
    • “One makes intention for salat al-janaza to accomplish a collective obligation (fard kifaya), as in other obligations.”
    • “Some of the Shafi`is forbid the joining of prayer for non-travelers during rain.” The fatwa in the School is the contrary and they consider it permissible even in the absence of rain, when one fears that one will be unable to accomplish prayers in their proper time.
  21. al-Sifat
  22. Tafdil al-Faqir al-Sabir `ala al-Ghani al-Shakir
  23. Tafsir al-Qur’an
  24. al-Tahsil fi al-Usul
  25. al-Takmila fi al-Hisab
  26. Ta’wil Mutashabih al-Akhbar
  27. Usul al-Din, in which he cites, among those who consider the verse of istiwa’ one of the mutashabihat or Qur’anic ambiguities, Imam Malik ibn Anas, the seven jurists of Madina, and al-Asma`i. In it he states:
    • “Allah’s establishment on the Throne is an action He has created named istiwa’ and related to the Throne, just as He has created an action named ityan (coming) related to a certain people; and all this implies neither descent nor movement.”
    • “The correct position according to us is the interpretation of the Throne in this verse (20:4) to mean sovereignty (al-mulk), as if He meant that sovereignty has not been established for any but Him. This interpretation is taken from the saying of the Arabs: ‘So-and-so’s throne has toppled’ if he lost his power.” He then cites three examples from Arabic poetry illustrating this. Like Ibn Battal, he attributes the interpretation of istawa as istawla (“He conquered”) chiefly to the Mu`tazila.
    • “The book Tarikh al-Sufiyya (History of the Sufis, more commonly known as Tabaqat al-Sufiyya) by Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami comprises the biographies of nearly a thousand sheikhs of the Sufis, none of whom belonged to heretical sects and all of whom were of the Sunni community, with the exception of only three of them: Abu Hilman of Damascus, who pretended to be of the Sufis but actually believed in incarnationism (hulul); Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, whose case remains problematic, though Ibn `Ata’ Allah, Ibn Khafif, and Abu al-Qasim al-Nasir Abadi approved of him [as did the Hanbalis Ibn `Aqil, Ibn Qudama, and al-Tufi]; and al-Qannad, whom the Sufis accused of being a Mu`tazili and rejected, for the good does not accept the wicked.”

Toward the end of Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi’s life the Turkmen dissension forced him out of Naysabur to Isfarayin, where he died and was buried next to his teacher Abu Ishaq.





Main sources: Ibn `Asakir, Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari (p. 249-250); al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (13:372 #3991); Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (5:136-148 #468).

[1] This position was refuted by Ibn Furak and the majority of Shafi`is, and Ibn al-Subki discussed the dubious authenticity of its attribution to al-Shafi`i in his Sharh al-Minhaj.
[2] See al-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar, book of Tahara, chapter on the invocations that pertain to ablution (al-tasmiya `ala al-wudu’).
[3] As stated by Ibn al-Subki in al-Tabaqat al-Wusta, cited in his Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (5:143 n. 5).

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