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Narrations on the Abdal

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As-Salaamu-Alaikum, ever since reading about the abdal (the substitutes) in one of the books by the great Shafi’i scholar from Tarim, Hadramaut, the late Imam Abdullah ibn Alawi al-Haddad, I have been curious enough to continue a great deal of research on the subject of the abdal.  But there is one question in my research that remains unanswered. In the ahadith on the abdal, why is there such a glaring discrepancy in their numbers?  For example, some ahadith say that the abdal with the heart of Nabi Ibrahim are 30, some say 40, while others say that there are only seven abdal with the heart of Nabi Ibrahim! How can you explain these glaring differences?

Country: United States


Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,

Some have dismissed the narrations which pertain to the abdal. For instance Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah in al-Manar al-Munif p. 136 stated, “And from that, all the narrations on the abdal, aqtab…are unauthentic [batil] from Allah’s Messenger (sallaAllahu alayhie wa sallam).”

Ibn al-Qayyim continues, “And the nearest of what is in them is, ‘do not revile the people of the Levant, as from amongst them are “replacements,” whenever one passes away Allah replaces his position with another man,’ Imam Ahmad related it; it is not authentic as [the isnad is] unconnected.”

In his Mawdu’at v. 3, p. 152, Ibn al-Jawzi also related some of the narrations mentioning the abdal and stated, “There is not in these narrations anything authentic.”

However, in al-Qawl al-Musaddad fi al-Dhabb ‘an Musnad al-Imam Ahmad p. 82-83, Hafiz Ibn Hajar responded to the claims, like that of Ibn al-Jawzi, made against the narrations mentioning the abdal. Regarding the narration from Shurayh in Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Hajar said, رجاله رجال الصحيح غير شريح وهو ثقة. And regarding ‘Abd al-Wahid’s رجاله رجال الصحيح غير عبد الواحد ووثقه العجلي وأبو زرعة. Then, Hafiz Suyuti is cited as authenticating the narrations. See: pages 84-85.

In Ithaf v. 7, 356, Hafiz Busayri related a narration from ‘Ali on the abdal and said, “Its narrators are thiqat.”

In his Mustadarak v. 4, p. 596, Hakim related from ‘Ali mentioning the abdal and said, “hadha hadith sahih al-isnad, wa lam yukhrijahu.”

In al-Maqasid al-Hasanah p. 48, Hafiz Sakhawi mentioned that also supporting the narrations mentioning the abdal is that the ‘ulama’, like Imams Shafi’i, Bukhari, and others, would count individuals as being from them. Discussions from the ‘ulama’ on who is considered from the abdal are scattered throughout Islamic literature. For instance:

In al-Irshad fi Ma’rifat ‘Ulama al-Hadith p. 283, Hafiz Khalili mentioned that Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi was considered from amongst the abdal.

Ibn Abi Hatim’s status is also mentioned by Hafiz Dhahabi in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz v. 3, p. 830. And in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz v. 1, p. 203, Hafiz Dhahabi related that Hammad b. Salamah was from the abdal.

In his ‘Ilal v. 6, p. 29, Daraqutni cited that Imam Ahmad said, “If there is in Baghdad anyone from the abdal, then it is Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Hani.”

In al-Tarikh al-Kabir 4/1/127, Imam Bukhari mentioned Farwat b. Mujalid as being from the abdal. This is also stated in Razi’s al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil v. 7, p. 82.

In al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil v. 3, p. 21, Ibn Abi Hatim cited from his father that Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Himsi is considered from amongst the abdal. Likewise, v. 6, p. 40, the same is said for ‘Abd al-Razzaq b. ‘Umar al-Dimashqi.

In al-Kashif v. 1, p. 236, Hafiz Dhahabi mentioned that Ishaq b. Sulayman al-Razi was considered from the abdal. In Tahdhib al-Tahdhib v. 1, p. 255, this is also related by Hafiz Ibn Hajar.

In Tahdhib al-Tahdhib v. 1, p. 416, Hafiz Ibn Hajar cited that Ayyub b. al-Najjar was from the abdal.

In Siyar v. 9, p. 307, Hafiz Dhahabi cited from Imam Shafi’i regarding Abu Zakariyya Yahya b. Sulaym al-Ta’ifi, كان رجلا فاضلا كنا نعده من الأبدال. “He was an excellent man, we consider him from the abdal.”

More statements of this nature could be discovered with more comprehensive research. These will suffice to establish that in the generations of the Salaf they would consider others to be counted from amongst the abdal.

Regarding the difference of enumerations of how many there are, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami touched upon this issue in al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyyah p. 322-24.

It does seem like amongst these pious figures there may be different levels [maratib], as is noted upon the passing away of one on a higher level, another takes his place. Thus, from the abdal, some may be on a higher station than others from amongst that group.

Ibn Hajar stated,

تنبيه قال يزيد بن هارون الأبدال هم أهل العلم أي النافع الذي هو علم الظاهر والباطن لا علم الظاهر وحده وقال الإمام أحمد رضي الله عنه هم إن لم يكونوا أصحاب الحديث فمن هم؟ ومراده بأصحاب الحديث من هو مثله ممن جمع بين علمي الظاهر والباطن وأحاط بالأحكام والحكم والمعارف كالأئمة الأربعة الشافعي ومالك وأبي حنيفة وأحمد ونظرائهم فإن هؤلاء أخيار الأبدال والنجباء والأوتاد فاحذر أن تسيء ظنك بأحد من مثل أولئك ويسول لك الشيطان ومن استولى عليه ممن لم يهتد بنور العلم أن أئمة الفقهاء والمجتهدين لم يبلغوا تلك المراتب وقد اتفقوا على أن الشافعي رضي الله عنه كان من الأوتاد وفي رواية أنه تقطب قبل موته وكذلك جاء هذا عن بعض تابعيه من الفقهاء كالإمام النووي وغيره

“Note: Yazid b. Harun said, ‘the abdal, they are the people of knowledge.’ Meaning: beneficial knowledge, it is knowledge of the outer and the inner, not the outer alone. And Imam Ahmad (Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘if they are not the Ashab al-Hadith, then who are they!?’ He intended by mentioning Ashab al-Hadith whoever is like them from those who gather between the outer and inner knowledge, has knowledge of the legal rulings, wisdoms, points of cognizance, like the four imams, al-Shafi’i, Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad, and their likes.

Verily, these ones are the best of the abdal, nujaba’, and awtad. So take heed of having any bad opinion about any of them from the likes of these, be wary that Shaytan tempts you and whoever he has possessed from those who have not been guided by the light of knowledge that [the thought be entertained] that the imams of the fuqaha and mujtahidin did not reach these levels. They have concurred that Imam Shafi’i was from the awtad; and in a report that he reached the level of qutb before he passed away. (Allah have mercy on him and be pleased with him.) Thus, this has come from some of his followers from the fuqaha, like Imam Nawawi and others.”

And Allah knows best.

Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept.


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