Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal

(ca. 240/854-855), of Iraq

He is Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal ibn Ghaylan ibn al-Hakam ibn Mukhtar ibn Dhuhl ibn 'Ajl ibn 'Amr ibn Wadi'a ibn Bukayr ibn Afsa ibn 'Abd al-Qays al-'Abdi whose kunya was Abu al-Fadl of Basra, although he originated from Kufa.

His father was al-Mu'adhdhal ibn Ghaylan, as ad-Daraqutni and others have it.

However, Abu'l-Hasan ad-Daraqutni mentioned two names in this subject: al-Mu'adhdhal ibn Ghaylan and Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal. He did not mention that he was his son although he was his son as we already stated.

Al-Mu'adhdhal was a sublime poet.

Ad-Daraqutni said, "Al-Mu'adhdhal ibn Ghaylan related from Fudayl ibn Marzuq. Muhammad ibn Shabib related from him."

He also said, "Al-Mu'adhdhal ibn Ghaylan al-Basri the faqih and mutakallim." Ash-Shirazi said, "He was one of the companions of 'Abd al-Malik ibn al-Majishun and Muhammad ibn Maslama. He was eloquent with scrupulousness and followed the Sunna. He had books and a book on the Hajj and the Book of the Message."


Imam Abu al-Fadl said, "He also listened to Isma'il ibn Abi Uways and Bashir ibn 'Umar as-Sanadi."

Ibn Abi Harun and others related from him. A group of the great Malikis learned fiqh with him - like Isma'il ibn Ishaq, his brother Hammad and Ya'qub ibn Shayba. His son, Muhammad ibn Ahmad and 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Ibrahim ibn 'Umar al-Basri listened to him.

Praise for him and his good qualities

Abu 'Umar as-Sadafi said that he is reliable. Abu Hatim used to praise him.

Abu Sulayman al-Khattab said, "Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal was Maliki in madhhab. He is counted among the men of asceticism and scholars of Basra. Abu Khalifa al-Fadl ibn al-Habbab al-Jamhi the Qadi used to praise Ibn al-Mu'adhdhal."

Abu Bakr an-Naqqash said, "Abu Khalifa said to me, 'Our Ahmad (i.e. ibn al-Mu'adhdhal) is better than your Ahmad (i.e. Ibn Hanbal), and Allah knows best."

Abu al-Qasim ash-Shafi'i, known as 'Ubayd said, "Ibn al-Mu'adhdhal was one of the men of knowledge, literature, good Arabic, and investigation."

Ibn Harith said, "He was a faqih in the school of Malik who possessed excellence, scrupulousness, the deen and worship."


Ad-Dinawari mentioned in Kitab al-Mujalisa: "Al-Mutawakkil [the Abbasid Caliph] sent for Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal and the other scholars and gathered them in his house. Then he went out to them and the people all stood up with the exception of Ahmad. Al-Mutawakkil said to 'Ubaydullah, 'This one does not think that we are due homage.'

"He said, 'Yes, Amir al-Mu'minin! But he has poor eyesight,' meaning to excuse him. Ahmad said, 'Amir al-Mu'minin! I do not have poor eyesight, but I have put you above the punishment of Allah. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, 'Whoever wants to be honoured by people standing should take his seat in the Fire.' Al-Mutawakkil then came and sat by his side."


Al-Hasan ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn 'Ubayd al-Basri said in his book, "One of those who wrote poetry among the fuqaha' with practices was Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal. He was one of the most fluent and eloquent of people. He was the most devout and was the most silent until that was ascribed to his great age. He had admonitions and good reports. The people of Basra listened to him for his fiqh and his religious practices. He was fearful. He was a faqih taking the position of Malik. Malik did not have anyone higher than him in Iraq nor with a higher degree nor with more insight into the schools of the people of the Hijaz than him. Isma'il ibn Ishaq took from him and he learned with him."


Al-Hasan ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman mentioned from him and al-Jarahi mentioned it also (and they added to each other) that he used to live with his brother, 'Abd as-Samad in the same house. 'Abd as-Samad had abandoned himself to drink. Ahmad went out early to the Subh prayer and was the Imam of the mosque. He passed by his brother before dawn when he was drunk and moved him and said, "Do those who plot evil actions feel secure that Allah will not cause the earth to swallow them up or that a punishment will not come upon them from where they least expect? Or that He will not seize them on their travels?" (16:45-46)

In another version, "Do the people of the towns feel secure that Our force will not come on them in the night while they are sleeping?"

'Abd as-Samad lifted his head and said, "Allah would not punish them while you were among them." (8:33)


Ahmad said, "I entered Madina and I made myself go to 'Abd al-Malik ibn al-Majishun on foot so that he would choose me and be concerned with me. When he inclined to me, he said, 'You do not have need of an intercessor. You have shoes and drink with which you can eat the pith of the trees and with which you can drink pure water.'"

Ahmad used to go to the desert and write from the bedouins.


Al-Mubarrad said, "I saw Ahmad at 'Arafat when the sun was high, and he was not seeking any shade. I said, 'What is this, Abu al-Fadl?'

"He answered:

                 'I was struck by the sun so that I will seek shelter in His shade
                     when shade dwindles away in the Rising.
                 O sorrow if you reward fails!
                     O grief if your hajj is invalid!'"

Ad-Dinawari related that he said, "When Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal went on hajj, he did not seek the shade. One of his companions met him between Makka and Madina and it was a summer day which was intensely hot. He did not have an umbrella and the sun had burned him. He said to him, 'If only you would veil yourself from the heat!'

"He replied:

                  'I was struck by the sun for Him so that I will seek his shade
                      when shade dwindles away in the Rising,
                 when the breaths of people will return to their throats, and
                      their saliva pours out, water drying up, eyes glazed.
                 You do not hope that its heat will touch you
                      while you escape the heat of midday.
                 By my life, matters are lost for their people
                      so that one who is saved will delight in coming first.'"

He said, "When a matter saddened Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal, he stood up in the night to pray and he commanded his family to do that and recited, 'Command your family to pray.' (20:132) Then he recited:

                 I complain to You of events which alarm me
                      so that continuous sorrows engage me.
                 If it had not been for Your hope and that You have made me accustomed
                      to Your beautiful handiwork, my heart would have been disturbed.
                 Who do I have but You in my hardships? If You do not preserve me,
                      then who will preserve me?"

Ibn 'Ubayd recited that he said:

                 Search for provision with the One
                     Who has no chamberlain before Him,
                 One who will be lavish in generosity with the requests,
                     One who is pleased with the entreater?
                 One whose words are implemented when He speaks,
                     without any registration or scribe.

He had a famous qasida describing a palm tree, and his brother also has a famous short poem in rajaz about it.

Al-Husari and al-Jarahi composed about him:

                 I made for the one who was gravely ill and shot at him
                   arrows from your glance which do not fail to deliver the fatal blow.
                 There are no arrows except the fair black-eyed ones
                    and no feathers except for glances.
                 They struck the core of the heart and he became ill
                   and neither lives nor dies.
                 He is downcast if he bears an army of affliction
                   by which the armies would be pained.

Qadi Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Hammad mentioned him and said, "Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal left Basra for Tarsus and spent a long time there. His son wrote to him, 'My father, your place is desolate and your brothers miss your place.' Ahmad wrote to him:

                 Does its Lord value the precious self when it does not have a price
                   among all the people?
                 By it I own this world. If I sell it for something of this world,
                   That is fraud.
                 When my self goes goes to this world which it obtains,
                   then my self has gone and the value has departed.
                 I have sold it by it apart from the One to whom it travels.
                   You are pawned in it for death.
                 Leave the pleasure of this world for a bliss which is timeless
                   in a Garden in which there is neither fear nor sorrow.
                 You spend something whose prevention you do not own, so the One with
                   overflowing favour and blessings will repay you with the best.

Qadi Waki' recited by him:

                 She said: 'Ask the one known as Yahya ibn Aktam.'
                    I said: 'Ask him for the Lord of Yahya ibn Aktam.'

Ibn al-Jarrah said in the Kitab al-Warqa, "Ibn al-Mu'adhdhal was a noble faqih who had witty poems."

Qadi Isma'il said to me (and Ahmad was his teacher), "He was scrupulous."

The rest of his reports, his virtues, his literature and his poetry

Abu Ishaq al-Husari and others said:

Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal had the greatest amount of fiqh, religious practices, literature and sweetness. His brother 'Abd as-Samad used to insult him and satirise him, so Ahmad then wrote to him: "The greatest of disliked things is what comes from the place where one hopes for love. We had hopes of you until your evil became all-encompassing and your injury universal. In you I have become like the father of a miscreant son. If he lives, he troubles him. If he dies, he disparages him. Know that you have exasperated a brother of good counsel. Peace."

He used to say to him, "You are like an extra finger. If you are left, you disfigure. If you are cut off, you give pain."

Abu 'Ali al-Qali mentioned the first words in a similar fashion.

'Abd as-Samad answered him:

                 He obeys the obligatory and the Sunna
                   while he boasts of intimacy and the Garden.
                 As if we had the Fire below it
                   and Allah had given alone the Garden.
                 When I visit him, he looks towards me
                    with a furious eye which he conceals.

Abu al-'Abbas al-Mubarrad said, "Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal had splendour, and held to the proper path, avoided faults and turning to what was in the hands of people. He showed the utmost asceticism in that. When he came to Baghdad among a group of the fuqaha' of Basra and obtained connects, that had a revenge on him and gave his brother a way to injure and he did indeed find a way.

He mentioned that in those poems which we have omitted.

Al-Husari and al-Jarahi quoted Qadi Isma'il: "'Abd as-Samad's mother was a cook. When Ahmad heard about his satire reached him, he used to say, 'I might say that I will speak on the one who was conceived between the pot and the oven and grew up between the skin and the drum.'"

Abu al-'Abbas said, "Ad-Dulabi mentioned in The Book of the Delights of the Secrets that the wife of al-Mu'adhdhil spoke to him when Qadi Yahya ibn Aktam came to Basra, 'If you go to Yahya, you should ask him (because of the harm which had struck them.)' He did not answer her. Then he uttered these two verses:

                 You charge me to abase myself for its elevation. It is easy for it if I am
                    abased so that it is honoured.
                 You say, "Ask the one who is known as Yahya ibn Aktam."
                     I said, "Ask the Lord of Yahya ibn Aktam."

Ad-Dinawardi mentioned from Muhammad ibn Musa al-Basri: "We were with Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal in Basra in the day that his son died. He said, 'We belong to Allah and to Him we return,' and then he recited:

                 We hope for the Garden in which there is no death
                    and a world which is not disturbed by affliction."

Al-Jarahi recited by him:

                 Did I not convey to Abu Duwar from me a letter of a critic
                     in which I gave peace?
                 Is part of the right of brotherhood that I fulfill your claim
                    when you do not fulfill claims?
                 The wise man made a truthful statement.
                    The first ones see him as an Imam for them.
                 When I honour you, you abase me and I am not angry at that from you,
                     then what is that?

He related by him a description of fresh dates:

                 The breast of her shirt is rent, and the tears and palms are from it.
                 It meets the places of her vessel when the cluster remains.
                 One of the wonders is that she is a virgin, rain-watered, half-ripe.

Qadi Isma'il said, "I heard these verses in their entirety to Ahmad ibn al-Mu'adhdhal. He said, "They are like this except for the first verse. I did not say it. It must be that 'Abd as-Samad said it."

The Qadi said, "Look at his care about this amount of increase in the poem."

Abu 'Ali al-Basri mentioned that al-Mu'adhdhal, the father of Ahmad, rode to Amir 'Isa ibn Ja'far. He remained waiting for him. When it seemed a long time to him, be began to pray. He came out and al-Mu'adhdhal did not stop the prayer. 'Isa called him, "Mu'adhdhal! Abu 'Amr!' while he was turned to the prayer, 'Isa became angry and left. When he finished the prayer, he joined 'Isa and recited a poem which says:

                 When the Amir spoke unseen,
                    I said, 'O luminous moon!'
                 Speech was forbidden, so I did not answer.
                      But my conscience answered your call.

His son Ahmad recited by him in the Kitab al-Waraqa:

                 I complain to Allah, not to people.
                   I see that I am not capable of correct action.
                 I see friendship in brotherhood and kinship and maternal kinship
                   and I am not among those who sqander it.

Ibn Harith mentioned from him that he hesitated about the Qur'an (i.e. saying whether or not it was created). Perhaps that was taqiyya. Perhaps it was at the moment of the inquisition or by dislike of discussion about what the Salaf did not discuss, as we mentioned from others.

Abu al-Faraj al-Isbahani said in his great book, "We absolve him of what he did not say and what he was not known for in any way."

In one of the books I found that he died near 240.

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