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Imam Abu Dawud RA (202 – 275H)
Name, Genealogy and Lineage
Imam Abu Dawud Sulaiman Ibn Ash’ath Ibn Ishaq Ibn Bashir Ibn Shaddad Ibn ‘Umar Ibn ‘Imran Al-Azdi Sajastani.
Year and Place of Birth
Imam Abu Dawud was born in Sajistan, a famous city in Khurasan in the year 202 A.H. He belonged to the arab tribe, Azd. Even though he was born in Sajistan he spent the greater part of his life at Basrah which was the seat of Islamic learning in his time.
He was blessed with an exceptional mind. Imam Abu Dawud had to read a book only once to commit its entire contents to memory. He was well versed in the criticism of hadith and an expert in distinguishing the sound hadith from the weak and defective ones. Only four persons are reported to have earned their names for the criticism of hadith. They are: Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Abu Dawud and Imam Nasa’i.. He had so much command over hadith, he was considered by many as Imam Al-Muhaddithin of his time.
Besides his expertise in Hadith he was also a great jurist. He had keen insight in Fiqh and Ijtihad.. He devoted most of his time for worship, devotion and remembrance of Allah. He always kept away from men of rank, the company of sultans and courtiers. It is stated that Imam Abu Dawud used to wear one of his sleeves wide and the other correctly sized. When he was asked for the reason of this oddity he replied, “To store notes on hadith. I consider widening the other sleeve unnecessarily as an extravagance”. It is not clear to which school of thought he belonged. Some scholars say he was a Hanbali jurist, others regarded him as a Shafi’i jurist. However his works are admired by all four schools of thought.
The Caliph Abu Ahmad Talhah (Al-Muwaffaq Al-‘Abbaasi) asked three things of him: the first was that he should move to Basrah and settle there, so that seekers of knowledge could come to him, thus bringing more people to settle there. The second was that he should teach Al-Sunan to his children. The third was that he should give exclusive classes to his children, for the children of the Caliph should not sit with the common people. Abu Dawood said to him: As for the first, yes; as for the second, yes; as for the third, no way, because all people are equal when it comes to knowledge. So the sons of Al-Muwaffaq Al-‘Abbaasi used to attend his lessons, and they would sit with a screen between them and the people. He remained in Basrah until He passed away in 275 AH. May Allaah have mercy on him.
Imam Abu Dawud heard hadith from 300 persons who were his teachers. Some were: Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ishaq Ibn Rahawaiy, Abu Thaur, Yahya Ibn Ma’in. For one to grasp his elevated status, he narrated hadith to the teachers of Imam Ahmad. Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal also narrated one Hadith from him. Among the students of Imam Abu Dawud are great personalities like:
Ibn Arabi, Abu ‘Isa Al-Tirmidhi and Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman An Nasa’i.
They were transmitters of his famous work Sunan Abu Dawud. Imam Muslim was also one of his pupils. Imam Abu Dawud’s works are:
Kitab Al Radd Ala’ Ahl al Qadar, Kitab Al Masa’il, Musnad Malik, Kitab Al Marasil, Sunan Abu Dawud.
Sunan Abu Dawud
His most famous of all his works is Sunan Abu Dawud. It contains 4800 traditions which were taken out from a collection of 500,000 hadith. It forms part of the syllabus in most of the Madressas today. He completed its compilation at Bagdad in 241 A.H. He presented the completed compilation to his beloved teacher Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who was greatly pleased at this collection.
Sunan Abu Dawud is an important collection of Hadith: Most of the scholars have assigned it to third position among the six authentic books of Hadith. It is only after the compilation of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
A few statements from scholars of hadith concerning Sunan Abu Dawud:
Sunan Abu Dawud is an excellent book. No such parallel work has been produced so far in religious sciences. It has gained popularity amongst the people. It has a decisive position among various classes of scholars and jurists. All have benefited equally from it. The people of Iraq, Egypt, Morocco and most of the countries depended upon it.
Imam Abu Dawud himself has stated:
From this book of mine four (4) Hadith are sufficient for an intelligent and insightful person. They are:
• Deeds are to be judged only by intentions.
• Part of a man’s good observance of Islam is that he leaves alone that which does not concern him.
• None of you can be a believer unless you love for your brother that which you love for yourself.
• The permitted (Halaal) is clear, and the forbidden (Haraam) is clear, between these two are doubtful matters. Whosoever abstains from these doubtful matters has saved his religion.
Imam Abu Dawud passed away on Friday 16th Shawwal 275 A.H. at the age of 72.