History – A Short Biography of Imam Muslim رحمه الله

It is reported that Imam Muslim collected around 300,000 Ahadith while traveling the Muslim world for 15 years. After a thorough assessment and critical scrutiny among all his collections, Imam Muslim only accepted 7,500 Ahadith (with repetitions) for his book comprising 57 volumes. This book is considered to be one of the most authentic collections of the Prophetic Traditions and along with Sahih al-Bukhari, forms the “Sahihain,” i.e. the “Two Sahihs”.

Whenever Muslims talk about famous Muḥaddithun (Scholars of Prophetic Traditions) of Islam two names always instantaneously pop up into the mind and one of them is Imam Muslim.

His full name is Abul Hussain Muslim Ibn Al-Hajjaj ibn Muslim ibn Ward. He also had a title called Asakir Al Deen i.e. Defender of the Religion. His ancestors were from a pure Arab tribe namely Qushair who migrated to Nishapur at Khorasan (present-day Iran). Imam Muslim was born in Nishapur 206 Hijri (817 AD). At that time Al Mamun bin Harun-ur-Rashid was the (7th Abbasid) Caliph of the Muslim world.

Imam Muslim was born and raised within the ambiance of Islamic scholarship. His father was a scholar of Hadith and Imam Muslim acquired the preliminary lessons about the Quran, Hadith, and other branches of Islamic rulings from home. He also memorized the entire Quran at an early age.

The veneration of Imam Muslim’s father towards the Prophet’s traditions had a deep impact on his mind and ignited tremendous zeal and admiration towards this subject. Imam Muslim was blessed with a sharp intellect and before reaching the age of 15, he completed his study on the Prophetic Traditions under the leading local scholars in his hometown.

At around 220 Hijri when Imam Muslim was 14 years of age, he went to Makkah for Hajj. After completing Hajj Imam Muslim decided to stay in Makkah for some time to study Ahadith from all the major Scholars of that time. Imam Muslim also travelled to Madina, Baghdad, Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, Egypt, Syria, Harat, Rayy, Damascus, and many other cities to learn more about the literature of Hadith from the giant and senior scholars of his time. It is reported that Imam Muslim spent around fifteen years travelling around the Muslim world for acquiring knowledge.

Imam Muslim had a lot of teachers and around 220 of them were the narrators of Hadith. Imam Muslim was fortunate to learn Ahadith at the feet of a scholar who was the giant of the giants in the field of Ahadith alive at that time i.e. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (died on 241 Hijri). He also studied under Yahyia ibn Yahyia (died on 214 Hijra), Ishaq ibn Rahwayh (died on 238 Hijri), and Qutaibah ibn Said (died on 240 Hijri) who were all distinguished scholars of their generation.

Besides all of them, the main teacher of Imam Muslim was none other than Imam Bukhari himself. It is true that Imam Bukhari was only a few years older than Imam Muslim but he was far in Islamic knowledge and he was greatly revered by Imam Muslim. Imam Muslim once kissed the head of Imam Bukhari and said “let me kiss your feet, O Master of the Teachers, Leader of Muḥaddithun and Doctor of Hadith”.

In order to ascertain the relationship between these two Imams, I would like to mention a story in brief. Imam Muslim was initially a student of Imam Muhammad ibn Yahiya Az-Zuhali, who was the most prominent scholar of Bukhara until Imam Imam Bukhari returned and settled in Bukhara. Once Imam a Bukhari started to teach in his own classes, the number of students with Imam Zuhali started to decrease and his most precious student Imam Muslim also became a regular student of Imam Bukhari. This may have caused something into the heart of Imam Zuhali and an intellectual rivalry started to brew.

At that time a controversy regarding Khalq-E-Quran (whether the Quran is created or not) was widespread among the Muslims. A man asked Imam Bukhari an ambiguous question like “When I recite the Quran, is my recitation is created or not?” Imam Bukhari replied, “When you recite the Quran, your voice is created.” This answer reached to Imam Zuhali who then started to spread the idea that Imam Bukhari is preaching that the Quran is created.

Az-Zuhali also asked his students to avoid attending classes with Imam Bukhari. Despite the instruction, Imam Muslim continued to attend the classes of Imam Bukhari – which then caused Imam Zuhali to call Imam Muslim a disloyal student. Imam Muslim was so upset with Imam Zuhali, that he returned his notes of Ahadith collected from Imam Zuhali. Imam Muslim did not mention a single Hadith from Imam Zuhli in his book Sahih Muslim.

 

As a teacher, Imam Muslim was very popular. It is reported that hundreds of students used to attend his lectures. Most notable among them are (i) Imam Mohammad ibn Isa At Tirmidi [died on 279 Hijri], (ii) Abu Hatim Mohammad Ibn Idris Ar Razi [died on 277 Hijri], (iii) Imam Abu Abdir Rahman An Nasai [died on 303 Hijri], (iv) Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzaymah [died on 311 Hijri].

Imam Muslim was a master of every branch of the science of Hadith. He authored books on Ahadith, Asma Ar Rijal (Biography of Hadith narrators), Usool ul Hadith (Methodology of the interpretation of Hadith), and a Biography of the Children of the Companions (Young Companions). It is reported that Imam Muslim has written around 28 books – but all of them are not available to this day. The most famous work of Imam Muslim is his book Al Jami Al Sahih which is popularly known as ‘Sahih Muslim’.

It is reported that Imam Muslim collected around 300,000 Ahadith while traveling the Muslim world for 15 years. After a thorough assessment and critical scrutiny among all his collections, Imam Muslim only accepted 7,500 Ahadith (with repetitions) for his book comprising 57 volumes. This book is considered to be one of the most authentic collections of the Prophetic Traditions and along with Sahih al-Bukhari, forms the “Sahihain,” i.e. the “Two Sahihs”.

Imam Muslim put a valuable and illuminating introduction for his book (containing conditions, methodology, classification of Ahadith, and commentary on narrators) whereas such introduction was not available in Sahih Bukhari. The benefit this Ummah has reaped out of this outstanding work is unparallel. Many prominent scholars of later generations have written commentaries and treatises on this Sahih and the most incredible one was written by famous Imam Abu Zakariyya Yaḥya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi [died on 676 Hijri].

Imam Muslim spent most of his time learning, compiling, and teaching Ahadith and while working, he used to get so engrossed that nothing could distract his attention from this task.

It is reported that while teaching Ahadith, someone from the audience mentioned an authentic Hadith about which Imam Muslim was not aware of. Imam Muslim got perplexed and he then returned to his home and decided to look into all his collections of Hadiths. He ordered his family members that no one should disturb him.

During this time, his family informed him that someone has gifted a basket of dates that Imam Muslim kept in his study room. While Imam Muslim started to look into his collections to find that Hadith, he continued to eat the dates one after another. Imam Muslim was looking for the Hadith for the whole night and he finished the entire basket of dates. In the morning, Imam Muslim was discovered dead with his face lying over his manuscripts of Ahadith. It was 25 Rajab, 261 Hijri and Imam Muslim was 55 years of age.

He was buried in the suburbs of Nishapur.