Name: Muhammad Bin Jareer Bin Yazeed Bin Katheer Bin Ghaalib At-Tabari (Abu Ja’far)
Born: 224 (After Hijrah) in Tabaristan (Iran)
At-Tabari was nurtured under his fathers patronage and the signs of intelligence, gumption and desire of knowledge was evident in him from a young age. His father saw a dream whereby, his son was standing before the prophet SAW with a bag of stones in his possession and he was throwing these stones before the prophet SAW. He sought an interpretation of this dream and was told “Your son (If he grows older) will be from the major counsels in the religion and will defend the sharee’ah of his Lord”.
Accordingly, his father turned his attention in developing this gift that Allah blessed his son with by focussing his son on memorising the Qur’an. He memorised the entire Qur’an at the age of 7 and was leading the people at the age of 8 whilst, starting to write down Ahadeeth at the age of 9!.
Thus, it is no surprise that the legendary Imam was known for his contribution in the field of Tafseer. Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah Rahimahullah said “….And the tafseer of Muhammad Bin Jareer At-Tabari is from the most sublime of Quranic exegeses and the most greatest in rank“.
He was of brown complexion with wide eyes. He had a slim body with a tall stature. He possessed an eloquent tongue and had black hair and a black beard which remained with him until, he passed away. There were a few hairs that had apparent signs of greying but, it never changed. (Adapted from Sheikh Salih Al-Munajjids lecture on Ibn Jareer At-Tabari).
From the most prominent of his teachers were: Muhammad Bin ‘Abdil Malik Bin Abi Ash-Shawarib, Is-haq Bin Abi Isra-eel, Ahmad Bin Munee’ Al-Baghawi, Muhammad Bin Hameed Al-Razi, Abu Hatim Al-Waleed Bin Shajaa’, Abu Kareeb Muhammad Bin Al-‘Allaa’, Ya’qoob Bin Ibrahim Ad-Dawraqi, Abu Sa’eed Al-Ashja, ‘Amar Bin ‘Ali, Muhammad Bin Bashar, Muhammad Bin Al-Muthna and many others eminating from the regions of Iraq, Ash-Sham and Egypt.
From the most prominent of his students were: Ahmad Bin Kaamil Al-Qadi, Muhammad Bin ‘Abdillah Ash-Shafi’, Mukhallad Bin Ja’far, Ahmad Bin ‘Abdillah Bin Al-Husayn Al-Jubbany, Ahmad Bin Musa Bin Al-‘Abbas At-Tameemy, ‘Abdullah Bin Ahmad Al-Farghany, ‘Abdul Wahhab Bun ‘Umar Bin Muhammad Abu Tahir Al-Baghdadi, Al-Bazzaz, Muhammad Bin Ahmad Bin ‘Umar Abu Bakr Al-Dareer Al-Rumly and others.
HIS IMPECCABLE MANNERISMS
Ibn Jareer had a very controlled tongue. He used to safeguard it from harm (via the engagement lewd/illicit speech). He disassociated himself from characteristics that were not befitting of the people of knowledge and carried on this way until, his departure from this world.
He was once debating with Dawood Bin ‘Ali Adh-Dhahiri about a particular matter. Dawood could not rebut the argument. This had distressed one of his companions who stood up and uttered harsh and foul words in the direction of Abu Ja’far. Abu Ja’far turned away and did not respond to him. Rather, he stood up and left the gathering. He then compiled a book on this issue refuting the claims (which he later destroyed after Dawoods death).
After Dawood had passed away, his son (Muhammad Bin Dawood) had started to abuse Abu Ja’far due to the incident that took place between them. When Abu Ja’far met with Muhammad Bin Dawood, he did not bring up the abuse but, rather, praised his fathers knowledge throughout. This had such a profound effect that Muhammad Bin Dawood stopped his abuse and the spreading of malicious rumours about At-Tabari.
HIS AMAZING KNOWLEDGE/COMPREHENSION/MEMORY
One particular incident that highlights the Imam’s mind-blowing knowledge and comprehension levels is the following incident which he narrates himself: -
“When I entered Egypt, there was not a single person of knowledge except, that they met with me. They tested me in knowledge to verify my comprehension. One day, a man came to me and asked me regarding a matter pertaining to prosody (the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry). I never had any knowledge regarding this and had to attend to his comprehension. So, I said to him “I cannot speak to you regarding prosody today; so, come to me tomorrow”. I sought from my friend a book on prosody by the great Khaleel Bin Ahmad which, he brought to me. I read through it during the night. I entered the night without having knowledge of prosody but, entered the morning as a prosodist. I had learnt the science (of prosody) in a single night!”
This incident highlights the gift of comprehension that Allah had bestowed upon Ibn Jareer Rahimahullah. The science of prosody takes a long time to learn yet, this phenomenal individual had mastered it in one night. This shows the determination, zeal and love for knowledge he had. May Allah have mercy upon him.
Abul ‘Ali Al-Tawmary reports: I was going to Baghdad during Ramadan with Abu Bakr Bin Mujahid to a masjid for Salat At-Teraweeh. He left his house and went passed his masjid but, did not enter. We carried on until, we arrived at the door for the masjid of Muhammad Bin Jareer. Ibn Jareer was reciting Surat Ar-Rahman and we listened to his recitation for a long period until, he departed. I said to him
“Ya Ustadh, you have left the people whilst, they are waiting for you. And I came to listen to this recitation…..” Ibn Jareer gave a very humble reply and replied “Leave this matter….”
He was known to be a man that took advantage of his time. He used to manage his time between affairs revolving around compilation (of books), teaching, sleep and ‘Ibadah. He would take a nap (Qayloolah) before Dhuhr, pray Dhuhr and begin to write until, ‘Asr. He would then depart to pray the ‘Asr prayer. After this, he would sit in the masjid to study the Qur’aan until, Maghrib. Thereafter, he would study Fiqh until, ‘Ishaa. He would then enter his house and once he had entered, he would not allow anyone to enter upon him unless, it was for a really important matter. In addition, to reciting his usual portion of the Qur’an, he would recite atleast a quarter of the Qur’an every night!.
Khateeb Al-Baghdadi: “He was one of the leaders of the scholars, precise in his words, many would return to adhere to his views due to his cognisance and excellence. He had acquired many sciences (disciplines of knowledge) of which no one of his time had a share in. He was a Haafidh of the book of Allah, knowledgeable of all its styles of recitation and had a strong insight into its profound meanings. He was one who possessed comprehension of the legislations of the Qur’aan. He was a scholar of the Sunnah and its routes i.e. that which was authentic and that which was not!. He had knowledge about the abrogated verses and that which was the abrogator. He was one who was well-informed about the statements of the Sahabah (companions), the Taabi’een and those after them…….”
Ibn Katheer: “He was one of the leaders of Islam, knowledgeable and in adherence to the book of Allah and the Sunnah of his messenger”.
Imam Adh-Dhahabi: “The sublime Imam – The exegesist Abu Ja’far. Mastermind of excellent compilations…..(He was) from the senior and reliable scholars of Islam”.
Muhammad Bin Ishaq Bin Khuzaimah: “I do not know of anyone upon the earth who is more knowledgeable than Muhammad Bin Jareer”.
The Imaam (May Allah have mercy upon him) passed away in the year 310 [After Hijrah]