Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani
|Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani|
|Full Name||Ahmad b. 'Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Ishaq b. Musa b. Mihran|
|Religious Affiliation||Sunni Muslim|
|Place of Birth||Isfahan|
|Professors||Al-Daraqutni, Al-Hakim Nishapuri, Abu Bakr al-Ajurri|
|Students||Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Abu l-Qasim Hudhali Sahib al-Kamil, Abu Ali Haddad|
|Notable roles||He played a significant role in the creation of Shiite tendencies among people of hadiths|
|Works||Hilyat al-awliya' , al-Imama wa l-radd 'ala l-rafida, Arba'un haditha fi al-Mahdi (a)|
Abu Nu'aym was one of the scholars who played a significant role in the creation of Shiite and Alavism tendencies among people of hadiths. In spite of explicit comments by some Imami authors such as Ibn Shahrashub, Ali b. Tawus, and his brother Ahmad b. Tawus to the effect that Abu Nu'aym was Sunni, some more recent Imami sources claim that he was a Shi'a who dissimulated as Sunni.
A number of prominent Sunni scholars have strongly criticized some hadiths cited by Abu Nu'aym, which shows that hadiths cited and transmitted by Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani could be deployed by Shi'as to counter the some Sunni claims. Such criticisms might partly justify the claim by some Shiite authors that Abu Nu'aym was a Shi'a.
However, Abu Nu'aym wrote a book under al-Imama wa l-radd 'ala al-rafida (Imamate and the rejection of Rafida), which provides strong evidence that he was not a Shi'a. He wrote the book to criticize the Imami view of Imamate. He cites hadiths to show, on the basis of Sunni beliefs, that the Three Caliphs were superior to Imam Ali (a) with regard to the caliphate.
Most biographers believe that Abu Nu'aym was born in 336/947, but some others hold that he was born in 334/946. His lineage goes back to Mahran, an emancipated slave of Abd Allah b. Mu'awiya b. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far al-Tayyar, who converted to Islam at the instruction of 'Abd Allah. Abu Nu'aym's ancestors were usually well-known scholars and pious people in Isfahan.
His mother's ancestor was the well-known ascetic, Muhammad b. Yusuf, who was widely thought to be "mustajab al-da'wa" (a person whose prayers are answered and brought into reality by God) and had many advocates his father, 'Abd Allah, and his brothers, Abu Mas'ud Muhammad and Abu Ahmad 'Abd al-Razzaq, were knowledgeable of Islamic sciences.
Abu Nu'aym was a student of many scholars of his time, such as the following:
- 1- Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Ishaq (his father)
- 2- Abd Allah b. Ja'far b. Fars
- 3- Ja'far Khuldi
- 4- Abu l-Abbas Asam
- 5- Al-Daraqutni
- 6- Al-Hakim Nishapuri
- 7- Abu Bakr al-Ajurri
- 8- Abu Bakr b. Khulad al-Nasibi
- 9- Ibrahim b. Abu al-'Aza'im
- 10- Muhammad b. Hubaysh
- 11- Abu Bakr Qati'i
- 12- Muhammad b. Ahmad Mu'addil
- 13- Muhammad b. Ahmad Inmati
- 14- Muhammad b. Ishaq al-Ahwazi
- 15- Ibn Sawwaf
Abu Nu'aym had many students, including:
- Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi
- Abu l-Qasim Hudhali Sahib al-Kamil
- Abu Ali Haddad
Belief and Denomination
There are references in certain sources to Abu Nu'aym's jurisprudential school and intellectual tendencies as well as his relationships with Shi'as. Since Abu Nu'aym was criticized by different groups of people, there have been various speculations about his espoused Islamic denomination. Sabki takes him to be Shafi'i, and ibn al-'Asakir has referred to him as an Ash'ari on the ground of the strong opposition of Hanbalis to him.
One way to learn more about his beliefs is to study some of his works, such as the following:
- Arba'un hadith ala madhhab ahl al-sunna wa al-jama'a
- Tathbit al-ru'ya yawm al-qiyama
- Hadith al-nuzul
- Al-Rad ala al-lafziya wa al-hululiya
- Al-Mustakhrij ala kitab al-tawhid li ibn khuzayma
- Ma nazala min al-qur'an fi Amir al-mu'minin (a)
- Manqabat al-mutahirin wa martabat al-tayyibin
- Arba'un haditha fi al-Mahdi (a)
- Al-Khasa'is fi al-fadl Ali (a)
- Hadith al-tayr
- Dikr al-Mahdi wa nu'utihi wa haqiqat makhrajihi wa thubutih
- Hilyat al-awliya'
His Hilyat al-awliya' has always been a source cited by Shi'as for the virtues of Imam 'Ali (a) and Ahl al-Bayt (a). However, in his Minhaj al-sunna, Ibn Taymiyya has strongly criticized Abu Nu'aym's hadiths, which shows that hadiths transmitted by Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani could be deployed by Shi'as against certain Sunni claims. This could partly justify the claim by some Shiite scholars that Abu Nu'aym was a Shi'a.
Possibility of His Shiism
Although some Imami authors, such as Ibn Shahrashub, 'Ali b. Tawus, and his brother Ahmad b. Tawus, made it explicit that Abu Nu'aym was Sunni, some recent Imami sources have claimed that he was a Shi'a who dissimulated as Sunni.
In the Safavid Era, the al-Majlisi Family traced their lineage back to Abu Nu'aym, contending that Abu Nu'aym was indeed a Shi'a. They found a piece of epitaph on Abu Nu'aym's grave, which implied that he was a Shi'a. However, Mirlawhi who was hostile to al-'Allama al-Majlisi destroyed Abu Nu'aym's tombstone.
Rejection of His Shiism
However, Abu Nu'aym's book, al-Imama wa l-radd 'ala l-rafida (Imamate and the rejection of the Rafida), suffices to show that he was not a Shi'a. The book is concerned with the criticism of the Imamiyya. In the book, Abu Nu'aym relies on Sunni beliefs and cites many hadiths to show that the Three Caliphs were superior to Imam Ali (a) in matters of caliphate. He criticizes Imami arguments for the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) with respect to caliphate and virtues and rejects Imami criticisms of the Three Caliphs. In the final section of the book, Abu Nu'aym writes about the virtues of 'Ali (a) and his rightfulness as the Fourth Caliph. The book is one of the oldest and available Sunni books written in the rejection of the Imamiyya.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from ابو نعیم اصفهانی in Farsi WikiShia.