Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi

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Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi
Born24 Jumadi' al-Thani, 392 A.H/May 10, 1002 C.E
Died7 Zulhijja, 463 A.H/ September 5, 1071 C.E
Main interest(s)Hadith studies, Fiqh
OccupationIslamic scholar, Muhaddith
Senior posting

Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn Thabit ibn Ahmad ibn Mahdi al-Shafi`i, commonly known as al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (Arabic: الخطيب البغدادي‎) or "the lecturer from Baghdad" (10 May 1002 – 5 September 1071; 392 AH-463 AH), was a Sunni Muslim scholar and historian.


Early life[edit]

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi was born on 24 Jumadi' al-Thani, 392 A.H/May 10, 1002, in Hanikiya, a village south of Baghdad. He was the son of a preacher and he began studying at an early age with his father and other shaykhs. Over time he studied other sciences but his primary interest was hadith. At the age of 20 his father died and he went to Basra to search for hadith. In 1024 he set out on a second journey to Nishapur and he collected more hadith in Rey and Isfahan. It is unclear how long he traveled but his own accounts have him back in Baghdad by 1028. While he was an authority on hadith it was his preaching that led to his fame that would help him later in life. One biographer, Al-Dhahabi, said that contemporary teachers and preachers of tradition would usually submit what they had collected to Al-Baghdadi before they used them in their lectures or sermons.[3]


al-Baghdadi was a member of the Hanbali school of Fiqh (jurisprudence religious law) but moved across to Shafi'i Based on his theological opinions.[3] This change may have happened after a trip to Nahrawan in 1038 but it is not clear. His change in opinion upset Imam Hanbal's followers and, as a result, there was some ongoing hostility between them and al-Baghdadi. Despite this hostility, al-Baghdadi had the protection of Caliph Al-Qa'im and, under that protection, he gave lectures on hadith in the Mansur Mosque.[3]


In 1059, a rebellion led by the Turkish general, Basasiri, was successful and he overthrew Caliph Al-Qa'im for control of Baghdad. This loss of protection led to al-Baghdadi going to Damascus. He spent eight years lecturing in the Umayyad Mosque until he was the subject of a major controversy. Biographers Yaqut, Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, al-Dhahabi, as-Safadi, and Ibn Taghribirdi all contend that the controversy involved al-Baghdadi's relationship with a youth.[4] Sibt ibn al-Jawzi contends that the youth in question had travelled with al-Baghdadi from Baghdad. Yaqut goes on to explain that the controversy reached the ears of the ruler of Damascus who, in turn, ordered his security chief to kill al-Baghdadi. The police chief, who was a Sunni, advised al-Baghdadi to gain the protection of Shari ibn Abi al-Hasan al-'Alawi, because the security chief recognised that al-Baghdadi was an important person and killing him would lead to a retaliation against the Shi'i.[3][4] al-Baghdadi was advised that he was in danger and fled to Sur, Lebanon.[4] He stayed there for about a year before he returned to Baghdad where he died in September 1071. He was buried next to Bishr al-Hafi.[3]

Controversy over al-Baghdadi's works[edit]

Another major controversy associated with al-Baghdadi is the validity of his works. Biographers Yaqut, Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Kathir, and Ibn Taghribirdi believe that al-Baghdadi only finished the work of an author named as-Suri.[4] While Yaqut contends that al-Baghdadi took the work from as-Suri's sister and claimed them as his own, Ibn Kathir believes that the works in question were borrowed from as-Suri's wife but he does not give an opinion as to the authenticity of them.[4] He has also been accused of being dishonest in relation to the hadiths by Abu'l-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi.

al-Baghdadi's works[edit]

Ibn Hajar declared his works influential in the field of the Science of hadith and Hadith terminology saying, "Scarce is the discipline from the disciplines of the science of hadith on which he has not written a book." He then quoted Abu Bakr ibn Nuqtah, a Hanbali scholar, as saying, “Every objective person knows that the scholars of hadiths coming after al-Khatib are indebted to his works.”[5]

This is a short list of some of al-Baghdadi's works. Some accounts have him authoring over 80 titles.[3]

  • Ta'rikh Baghdad: The History of Baghdad
  • al-Kifaya fi ma'rifat usul 'ilm al-riwaya: an early work dealing with Hadith terminology, which Ibn Hajar praised as influential in the field
  • al-Djami' li-akhlak al-rawi wa-adab al-sami
  • Takyid al-'ilm: Questions whether putting traditions into writing is forbidden
  • Sharaf ashab al-hadith: Centers around the significance of traditionalists
  • al-Sabik wa 'l-lahik: dealing with hadith narrators of a particular type
  • al-Mu'tanif fi takmilat al-Mu'talif wa 'l-mukhtalif: Correct spelling and pronunciation of names
  • al-Muttafik wa 'l-muftarik
  • Talkhis al-mutashabih fi 'l-rasm wa-himayat ma ashkala minhu min nawadir al-tashif wa 'l-wahm
  • al-Asma' al-mubhama fi 'l-anba' al-muhkama: identifying unnamed individuals mentioned in hadith
  • al-Rihla fi talab al-hadith
  • Iktida' al-'ilm al-'amal


  1. ^ a b Lewis, B.; Menage, V.L.; Pellat, Ch.; Schacht, J. (1997) [1st. pub. 1978]. Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition). Volume IV (Iran-Kha). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 1111. ISBN 9004078193.
  2. ^ Brown, Jonathan A.C. (2013). The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon (Islamic History and Civilization). Brill. p. 187. ISBN 9004158391.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. Sellheim, R. Brill online. 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e Controversy and Its Effects in the Biographical Tradition of Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi. Douglas, Fedwa Malti. Studia Islamica 46. 1977.
  5. ^ Nuzhah Al-Nathr, by Ibn Hajar, pg. 45–51, published with al-Nukat of Ali ibn Hasan, Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, Dammam, Saudi Arabia.