Hafiz Ibn ‘Asakir: Mujaddids of the First Five Centuries

Imām Abū Dāwūd rahimahullāh reports in his Sunan[1] with an authentic chain that Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

Verily, Allāh – Great and Glorious is He – will raise for this ummah, at the end of every century, one who will renew for it its affair.

Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī narrated with his chain to Imām Ahmad on the explanation of “renewal”: “One who will teach them the sunnahs and will negate falsehood from the [religion of] the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace).” Imām Ahmad then stated that upon contemplation, he found the renewer of the first century to be ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz and the renewer of the second century, Imām al-Shāfi‘ī. (Tārīkh Baghdād, 2:400)

Ibn ‘Asākir (499 – 571 H), the greatest Hāfiz of hadīth in his time and author of the monumental Tārīkh Dimashq, said:

“I heard Shaykh Imām Abu l-Hasan ‘Alī ibn al-Muslim ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Alī ibn al-Fath ibn ‘Alī al-Sulamī (440 – 533 H)[2] on his chair in the mosque of Damascus say, after having mentioned this hadīth of Abū ‘Alqamah [on the sending of a renewer at the end of every century]:

“‘It was ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz (63 – 101 H) at the end of the first century; Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi‘ī (150 – 204 H) at the end of the second century; [Abu l-Hasan] al-Ash‘arī (260 – 324 H) at the end of the third century; Ibn al-Bāqillānī (338 – 403 H)[3] at the end of the fourth century; and Amīr al-Mu’minīn al-Mustarshid Billāh (486 – 529 H) at the end of the fifth century.’”

Ibn ‘Asākir then said about Shaykh Abu l-Hasan al-Sulamī’s opinion regarding the renewer of the fifth century: “According to me, at the end of the fifth century, it was Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazālī al-Tūsī al-Faqīh (450 – 505 H), because he was a practising scholar, a virtuous jurist, an accomplished theoretician and an intelligent writer. His reputation in knowledge has spread in the horizons, and he outshone his contemporaries in Khurāsān, Shām and ‘Irāq.”

After mentioning that some considered Abu l-‘Abbās ibn Surayj the renewer of the third century, he said: “The view of those who stated that it was Abu l-Hasan al-Ash‘arī is more correct, because his endeavour to support the Sunnah is closer to renewal of the religion, for he is the one who undertook to refute the Mu‘tazilah and all groups of deviant heretics, and his condition in that is known, and his books in refutation of them are widespread.” (Tabyīn Kadhib al-Muftarī)[4]

Hence, the renewers who revived the true teachings of Islām and defended it from falsehood in the first five centuries, according to Hāfiz Ibn ‘Asākir, are: ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, al-Shāfi‘ī, Abu l-Hasan al-Ash‘arī, Ibn al-Bāqillānī and al-Ghazālī. May Allāh have mercy on them all.

[1] عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن الله عز وجل يبعث لهذه الأمة على رأس كل مئة سنة من يجدد لها دينها (سنن أبي داود، مؤسسة الريان، ج.٥ ص.٣٥)

[2] He was Shāfi‘ī mufti of Shām, a student of Qādī Abu l-Muzaffar al-Marwazī. Imām al-Ghazālī said of him: “I left a young man in Shām. If he lives, he will enjoy eminence.” Al-Dhahabī said: “It was as he foresaw.” He took al-Ghazālī’s teaching position after him. Hāfiz Ibn ‘Asākir said: “I heard much from him, and he was firm and trustworthy, knowledgeable of the [Shāfi‘ī] madhhab and the laws of inheritance…The people of Shām had reliance on his fatāwā, and he would frequently visit the sick and attend funerals, and he was continuous in teaching, with beautiful manners…” (Siyar Alām al-Nubalā, 20:32)

[3] His full name is Muhammad ibn al-Tayyib ibn Muhammad, Abū Bakr al-Qādī. Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī said about him at the start of his lengthy biographical notice on al-Qādī Abū Bakr: “The mutakallim on the madhhab of al-Ash‘arī from the inhabitants of Basrah. He lived in Baghdād and he heard hadīth there from Abū Bakr ibn Mālik al-Qatī‘ī, Abū Muhammad ibn Māsī and Abū Ahmad al-Husayn ibn ‘Alī al-Naysābūrī. Muhammad ibn Abi l-Fawāris transmitted his [hadīths], and al-Qādī Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Simnānī narrated to us from him. He was trustworthy (thiqah). As for the science of Kalām, he was the most knowledgeable of people regarding it. He was the best of them in thought, most excellent of them in speech, the clearest of them in exposition, and the most accurate of them in expression. He has many works in refutation of [his] opponents from the Rāfidah, Mu‘tazilah, Jahmiyyah, Khawārij and others, that are widespread.” (Tārīkh Baghdād, 3:364-5)

[4] وسمعت الشيخ الإمام أبا الحسن علي بن المسلم بن محمد بن علي بن الفتح بن علي السلمي على كرسيه بجامع دمشق يقول وذكر حديث أبي علقمة هذا فقال: كان على رأس المائة الأولى عمر بن عبد العزيز وكان على رأس المائة الثانية محمد بن إدريس الشافعي وكان على رأس المائة الثالثة الأشعري وكان على رأس المائة الرابعة ابن الباقلاني وكان على رأس المائة الخامسة أمير المؤمنين المسترشد بالله وعندي أن الذي كان على رأس الخمس مائة الإمام أبو حامد محمد بن محمد بن محمد بن محمد الغزالي الطوسي الفقيه لأنه كان عالما عاملا فقيها فاضلا أصوليا كاملا مصنفا عاقلا انتشر ذكره بالعلم في الآفاق وبرز على من عاصره بخراسان والشام والعراق وذكر غير الفقيه أبي الحسن أن أبا العباس أحمد بن عمر بن سريج الفقيه هو الذي كان على رأس الثلثمائة وأن ابا الطيب سهل بن محمد بن سليمان الصعلوكي النيسابوري هو الذي كان على رأس الأربعمائة وقول من قال إنه ابو الحسن الأشعري أصوب لأن قيامه بنصرة السنة إلى تجديد الدين أقرب فهو الذي انتدب للرد على المعتزلة وسائر أصناف المبتدعة (تبيين كذب المفتري، ص.٥٣)

Mawlana Zameelur Rahman


  1. Salam. Jazak Allah!

    Can you please, inform us about the mujaddid of the subsequent centuries till now?

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