Imam Sayyid Murtada al-Zabidi

Al-Sayyid Murtađā al-Zabīdī (rahmatullah alayh)

Imām Muĥammad ibn Muĥammad ibn Muĥammad ibn Ábd ar-Razzāq al-Ĥusayni az-Zabīdī, Abu’l Fayđ and is widely known as Murtađā az-Zabīdi. [1145-1205 AH/ 1732-1790 CE]

He was a Ĥanafī scholar, lexicographer, linguist, a grandmaster in ĥadīth, genealogy, biographies and personal histories [ĥadith, ansāb, rijāl]. He was a prolific writer. Apart from Arabic, he was proficient in Turkish, Persian and a language of Karaj.

Originally from Wāsiţ in Iraq, he was born in Belgram in India and migrated to Zabid in Yemen; hence his title, Zabīdī. He traveled to Hijāz [Jiddah, Makkah and Madinah] and then to Egypt and was renowned in the Islamic world. Kings from Hijāz, India, Yemen, Levant [Shām], Iraq, Morocco, Turkey, Sudan and Algiers corresponded with him; people sent him presents and gifts from everywhere.

He was admired and venerated so much that some people in Western Africa believed that their Hajj was incomplete if they did not visit and honor Murtađa Zabīdī!

Al-Kattānī notes in his Fahris al-Fahāris: ‘Zabīdī was peerless in his time and age. None after Ibn al-Ĥajar al-Ásqalāni and his students can match Az-Zabīdī in terms of his encyclopaedic knowledge of traditions and its associated sciences; nor in fame or list of students.’

He passed away in Egypt during an epidemic plague in the year 1205AH / 1790CE. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him an extensive paradise and make us benefit from his knowledge.

Among his works are small booklets and encyclopedias spanning volumes. Inspite of his mastery in the sciences, he was a self-effacing man, a glimpse of which is visible from his introduction to his masterpiece, It’ĥāf – An Exegesis of Iĥyā’a.

Sharīf Murtađā Zabīdī says:

‘I sought the help of Allāh in naming this book: Presents of the Pious Leaders, an Exposition of the Secrets of the Book: ‘Revival of Religious Sciences’. Having written this book, I do not absolve myself or my book that it is without mistakes or misgivings; nor do i sell my [fare] with the condition that it has no flaw in it. Rather with a profound acknowledgement of my shortcomings, I ask Allāh táālā to erase the slips that occurred, by the pen that erred, in these lines that are lettered. And I tell the reader who looks at my compilation: do not hold back if you find something unconvincing, because everyone has their own way of thinking and a writer has his own viewpoint towards a thing.

O, the unbiased and just reader! I ask you to forgive me my mistakes and slips, for the finest of horses can stumble and falter; and the young are childish – and cannot see beyond the lapses of a learned man. Even the expert money-changer will [sometimes] be hoodwinked by counterfeiters. It is obvious that criticizing a book is easier than writing one; particularly for a lengthy book, it is easy to comment and nitpick than conceive and compose one. As it is observed from surveying ancient buildings and structures of yore – people comment on their strength and quality, those who are unable to match a stone with another! This is my answer in defence to those who voice objections to my book.’

The erudite and eloquent master Qađī Ábdu’r Raĥm Al-Bīsānī wrote to Ímād al-Aşbahānī, the scribe apologetically: ‘A thing occurred and I don’t know if I should fight with you [for that] or not, and here I tell you why: I have seen that nobody has written a book except they say on the morrow: ‘perhaps, if I change this passage it would look more elegant; or if I add something it may look more beautiful; If I change the order it looks better; and if I remove a thing it looks grander.’ This is a great admonition, on the fallibility of humans and that they are prone to error. I hope, my readers will forgive me, and they are worthy of such kindness. I count on the beautiful ones among them, and they are the magnificent ones.’

In Tāj al-Árūs, under the listing q- m – s:

al-qams [القمس]: to dive into the sea; it is read with both đamm and kasr, thereby: yaqmusu, yaqmisu [يقمس يقمس] similarly, qamisa fīhi qamsan [he dived into it]; qamūsan: to be absorbed and then rise; every thing that is immersed in water and then taken out is termed, ‘qamis’;

many related entries later:
al-qawmas [القومس]: the ocean, as reported by Ibn Darīd; it is said that [qawmas] is the great body of water [múžamu mā’a al-baĥr]: al-qāmūs. In the Ĥadīth of Ibn Ábbās rađiyAllāhu ánhumā, where he was asked about the flood and ebb of the tide [madd wa’l jazr]: ‘an angel is appointed upon the deeps of the ocean [bi qāmūsi’l baĥr] – whenever he puts his foot down it rises and when he lifts it is subsides.’

further down he writes:
al-qāmūs is the ocean [as reported by Ibn Darīd], the author – may Allāh have mercy on him – named this book of his and it was discussed in its introduction. It [al-qāmūs] also means that it is the deepest spot [in the ocean], the abyss [ab-ádu mawđiýin fīhi ghawrā].

The preface of the book in ten sections should be counted as a separate work in itself; wherein he describes the reason for compiling his extended lexicon and history of Arabic lexicography and Arabic lexicons; a linguist’s discussion of the Arabic language and its beauty; and a fairly detailed biography of the author Al-Fayrūzābādi and a review of his exceptional dictionary. And an explanation of the preface of Al-Qāmūs, which is considered as a literary masterpiece and exemplary in its eloquence.

His works:

1.Tāj al-Árūs min Jawāhari’l Qāmūs [The Crown of the Bride made from the Gems of the Ocean]: Even though qāmūs means a ‘dictionary’ in usage, its literal meaning is ‘ocean’.

Majduddīn Al-Fayrūzābādī [d.818AH/1415CE] compiled a specialist philological dictionary, Al-Qāmūs al-Muĥīţ [The Encompassing Ocean]. In this dictionary, he ordered root words alphabetically by the last letter of the word, instead of the first; somewhat like a rhyming dictionary. . Therefore qāmūs and árūs are both listed under the letter sīn, whereas tāj is listed under jīm . Some have noted, it was meant to be a reference for scholars.

Zabīdī expanded this into a multi-volume dictionary and is considered as his magnum opus. It has been published by Dār al-Fikr in 20 volumes.

2.It’ĥāf as-Sādah al-Muttaqīn [Presents from Pious Chieftains] is an exegesis of an already detailed Iĥyā’a, of Imām Al-Ghazālī. It was published in 14 volumes recently and is the second of Zabīdī’s two masterpieces.

3.Asānīd al-Kutub as-Sittah [The Authentication Chains of the Six Books]: Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasayi, Abū Dawud, Ibn Majah are the six motherbooks of Ĥadīth and termed as sittah or ‘The Six’. Zabidi collected the narrators and their chains in this book as is apparent from the title.

4.Úqūd al-Jawāhir al-Munīfah fī Adillati Madh’hab al-Imām Abū Ĥanīfah [Stringing the Blessed Pearls on the Evidences used in the Madh’hab of Abū Ĥanīfah]

5.Kashf al-Lithām an Ādāb al-Īmān wa’l Islām [Raising the Curtain on Etiquette in Faith and Islām]

6.Raf’á ash-Shakwā wa Tarwīĥ al-Qulūb fī Dhikr Mulūki Banī Ayyūb [Removing the Grievance and Comforting the Hearts in the mention of the Kings of Bani Ayyub]

7.Mújam ash-Shuyūkh [A Dictionary of Zabīdī’s Teachers]

8.Alfiyyah as-Sanad, [A Thousand Liner on Chains of Authentication] in Ĥadīth; which is a poem of more than 1500 lines and its explanation.

9.Mukhtaşar al-Áyn: An abridgement of the book Al-Áyn attributed to Khalil Ibn Aĥmed, the grammarian [d.175AH]. It is also said that it is written by Layth ibn Naşr al-Khurāsānī, his student. Al-Áyn could mean ‘a wellspring’ but it is also said that Khalīl could complete only until the letter áyn, Layth wrote the rest; hence the name. Therefore the first part is not in the same style as the rest. Ibn Rāhwiyyah said that he wrote only for the letter áyn and Layth wrote the rest.

The reason for such a disagreement is because the book contains mistakes which even the most amateur among his students would not commit, let alone the master, Khalīl. Az-Zirkily lists this book in Al-Aálām but it could be an erroneous ascription to Murtađā Zabīdī too, since Hājī Khalīfah writes under the entry Al-Áyn in Kashf az-Žunūn that Abū Bakr Muĥammad ibn Al-Ĥasan Az-Zabīdī, the linguist-lexicologist who passed away in 379AH/989CE, wrote an abridgement of the book named Al-Istidrāk álā Kitāb al-Áyn and he said in it: ‘It is not correct that it was written by Khalīl nor is there any evidence; probably, he attested it but died before it was completed..’

10.At-Takmalah wa’s Şilah wa’dh Dhayl li’l Qāmūs [Completion, Supplement and Appendix to the dictionary Al-Qāmūs] in two hefty volumes.

11.Īđāh al-Madārik bi’l Ifşaĥ áni’l Áwātik [Shedding Light on the Senses about Noble Women]; a monograph.

12.Íqd al-Jumān fī Bayāni Shuáb al-Īmān [String of Pearls: A Description of the book ‘Branches of Faith’]

13.Tuĥfatu’l Qamāýīl fī Mad’ĥi Shaykh al-Árab Ismāýīl [Present of Chieftains in Praise of the Grandfather of Arabs Sayyidunā Ismāýīl álayhi’s salām]

14.Taĥqīq al-Wasāyil li Márifati’l Makātabāt wa’r Rasāyil [An Analysis of the Means for Knowledge of Letters and Epistles]

15.Jadhwatu’l Iqtibās fī Nasabi Banī al-Ábbās [An Extracted Ember on the Genealogy of Bani Abbas]

16.Ĥikmatu’l Ishrāq ilā Kuttāb al-Āfāq [Sparkling Wisdom for Writers of the World] : A book on calligraphy.

17.Ar-Rawđ al-Miýţār fī Nasabi’s Sādati Āli Jáfar at-Ţayyār [A Fragrant Garden: On the Genealogy of the Descendants of Jáfar at-Ţayyār]

18.Muzīl an-Niqāb al-Khafā’a án Kunā Sādātinā Banī Al-Wafā’a [Removing the Concealing Veil on the Apellation of our Lords from Bani Wafa] which was probably also named as: Rafá an-Niqāb al-Khafā’a ámman Intamā ilā Wafā wa Abi’l Wafā [Raising the Hiding Veil from those who are related to Abi’l Wafā]

19.Bulghātu’l Gharīb fī Muştalaĥi Āthār al-Ĥabīb: [The Necessary Provision for the Stranger: in Understanding the Terminology of the Beloved’s Tradition şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam]

20.Tanbīh al-Áārif al-Başīr álā Asrāri’l Ĥizb al-Kabīr [A Warning to the Discerning Knower on the Secrets of the ‘The Great Collection’] on the Hizb of Imām Shādhilī.

21.Safīnatu’n Najāh Al-Muĥtawiyah álā Biđāátin Muzjāh mina’l Fawāyidi’l Muntaqāh [The Rescue Ship Carrying Rare Provisions from the ‘Distinguished Benefits’] probably a commentary on the book Al-Fawāyid al-Muntaqāh by Shaykh Abū Ábdullāh Al-Qāsim Ibn Fađl ath-Thaqafī al-Aşbahāni [d.489AH/1095CE] – a book on Ĥadīth.

22.Ghāyatu’l Ibtihāj li Muqtafī Asānīdi Muslim ibn Al-Ĥajjāj [Intense Joy for the Follower of the Chains of Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj]

23.Íqd al-La’ālī al-Mutanāthirah fi’l Aĥādīth al-Mutawātirah [A Necklace of Scattered Pearls: A Collection of Massively Transmitted Ĥadīth]

24.Nishwatu’l Irtiyāĥ fī Bayāni Ĥaqīqati’l Maysiri wa’l Aqdāĥ [Exulting in Gratification: An Exposition on the Reality of Gambling and Drinking]

25.Al-Árāyis al-Majluwwah fi Dhikri Awliyā’yi Fuwwah [Presenting the Resplendent Grooms – Chronicles of the Awliya of Fuwwah]: Fuwwah is a well-known place in Yemen.

26. It’ĥāf al-Ikhwān fī Ĥukmi’d Dukhān [Presents to Bretheren on the Ruling of Smoking]

27. Irshādu’l Ikhwān ila’l Akhlāq al-Ĥisān [Guide to Bretheren towards Lofty Character and Morals]

28. Al-Ishghāf bi’l Ĥadīth al-Musalsal bi’l Ashrāf [Fondness : about those Ĥadīth transmitted only through the Noble Progeny]

29. Iklīl al-Jawāhir al-Ghāliyah fī Riwāyati’l Aĥādīth al-Áāliyah [A Crown of Precious Gems concerning the Transmission of Lofty Traditions]

30. Tuĥfatu’l Mawdūd fī Khatmi Sunan Abū Dāwūd [Present of the Beloved in the Conclusion of Sunan Abū Dāwūd]

31. Ĥusn al-Muĥāđarah fī Ādābi’l Baĥthi wa’l Muĥāđarah [A Beautiful Sermon on the Etiquette of Debate and Discussion]

32. Badhl al-Maj’hūd fī Takhrīji Ĥadīth ‘Shayyabatnī Hūd’ [Expending Efforts in the Analysis of the Ĥadīth: ‘The Sūrah Hūd has Greyed Me’]

33. It’ĥāf al-Aşfiyā bi Silāki’l Awliyā’a [Presents of the Pure on the Chains of Awliya]

34. It’ĥāf Ahl al-Islām bimā Yatállaqu bi’l Muşţafā wa Āli Baytihi’l Kirām [Presents of Muslims Concerning Muşţafā and His Noble Household]

35. It’ĥāf Sayyidu’l Ĥayy bi Salāsili Banī Ţayy [Presents of the Living Masters on the Chains of Banu Tayy]

36. Al-Iĥtifāl bi Şawmi’s Sitti min Shawwāl [The Rejoicing in the Additional Six Fasts of Shawwal]

37. Al-Arbaúūn al-Mutakhallafah fīmā Warada fi’l Aĥādīth fī Dhikri Árafah [The Forty Inherited Ĥadīth that have been reported mentioning Arafah]

38. Isáāf al-Ashrāf [The Aid of The Progeny]

39. Isáāf ar-Rāghibīn fī Sīrati’l Muşţafā wa Āli Baytihi’t Tāhirīn [Salvation of the Aspirants on the Path of Muşţafā and his Pure Household]

40. Iýlām al-Aálām bi Manāsiki Bayti’llāhi’l Ĥarām [Declaration of the Knowledgeable on the Rituals of the Sacred House of Allāh]

41. Manāqib Aş’ĥāb al-Ĥadīth [Merits and Praise of the Scholars of Ĥadīth]

42. Al-Intişār Li Wālidi’n Nabiyyi’l Mukhtār [In Advocacy the Father of the Chosen Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam]

43. At-Tálīqah álā Musalsalāti Ibn Álīqah [A Commentary on the Chains of Ibn Aliqah]

44. At-Taftīsh fī Mánā Lafž ‘Durwīsh’ [An Investigation in the meaning of the word ‘Durwish’ or the ‘Mendicant’]

45. Tansīq Qalāyid al-Matan fī Taĥqīqi Kalāmi’sh Shādhilī Abi’l Ĥasan [Organizing the Sturdy Necklaces in the Study of the Sayings of Abū’l Ĥasan Shadhili]

46. Ĥadīqatu’s Şafā fī Wāliday al-Muşţafā şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam [The Immaculate Gardens : Concerning the Parents of Muşţafā şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam]

47. Rashfu Zulāl ar-Raĥīq fi Nasabi Hađrati’s Şiddīq rađiyAllāhu ánhu [Imbibing the Pure Nectar : concerning the Ancestry of Abū Bakr as-Siddiq rađiyAllāhu ánhu]

48. Rashqatu’l Mudām al-Makhtūm al-Bikri min Şafwati Zulāli Şibghi’l Quţub al-Bakrī [Sealed Wine from the Cleanliness of a Pure Flavored Drink of the Spiritual Pole Al-Bakri]

49. Rafú’sh Shakwā Li Áālimi’s Sirri wa’n Najwā [Raising a Complaint towards the Knower of the Open and Hidden]

50. Rafú’l Kalal áni’l Ílal [Removing the Exhaustion in the matter of Justification] assuming that ílal is not ‘disease.’

51. Zahr al-Akmām al-Munshaq án Juyūbi’l Ilhām bi Sharĥi Şayghati Ábd as-Salām [A Lone Flower from the Pockets of Inspiration in the Explanation of Ábd as-Salām’s Formula]

52. Sharĥ as-Şadr fī Sharĥ Asmāyi Ahli Badr [Expanding of the Chest concerning the names of those who participated in the expedition of Badr]

53. Al-Arūş al-Mujliyyah fī Ţuruqi Ĥadīth al-Awwaliyyah [Shining Brides concerning the Chains of the ‘First Ĥadīth’]

54. Al-Íqd ath-Thamīn fī Ţuruqi’l Ilbāsi wa’t Talqīn [ A Precious String concerning the Paths of Wearing Cloaks and Instruction]

55. Áqīlatu’l Atrāb fī Sanadi’t Ţarīqati wa’l Aĥzāb [Lords of the Same Age: Concerning the ‘Path’ and the ‘Groups’] *

56. Qalansuwatu’t Tāj [A Diadem]

55. Al-Qawl al-Mathbūt fī Taĥqīqi Lafži’t Tābūt [Veritable Statement researching the etymology of the word ‘Ark’ ]

56. Kashf al-Ghiţā án Şalāti’l Wustā [Lifting the Curtain to reveal the ‘Middle Prayer’]

57. Luqat al-La’ālī mina’l Jawhar al-Ghāli [Gleaning of Pearls from a Treasure of Priceless Gems]

58. Al-Murabbī al-Kābili fīman Rawā án Shams al-Bābilī [The Short Master concerning that which has been narrated from Shams al-Babeli]

59. Al-Mirqāt al-Áliyyah bi Sharĥi’l Ĥadīth al-Musalsal bi’l Awwaliyyah [The Lofty Steps in Explanation of the Continuously Narrated First Ĥadīth]

60. Al-Maqām al-Índiyyah fi’l Mashāhid an-Naqshbandiyyah [The Station of ‘Nearness’ near the Stations of the Naqshbandis]

61. Al-Minaĥ al-Áliyyah fi’t Ţarīqati’n Naqshbandiyyah [Lofty Presents Concerning the Naqshbandi Path]

62. Minaĥ al-Fuyūđāt al-Wafiyyah fīmā min Sūrati’r Raĥmān min Asrāri’ş Şifati’l Ilāhiyyah [Exuberant and Lavish Gifts : concerning the Secrets of the Attributes of the Lord Almighty in the Chapter Ar-Raĥmān]

63. Al-Mawāhib al-Jalīlīyyah fīmā Yatállaqu bi Ĥadīth al-Awwaliyyah [Prominent Presents : concerning the First Hadith]

64. Mawāhibu Rabb al-Bariyyah Bi’l Imlāyi’sh Shaykhūniyyah [Presents of the Lord of the Universe concerning the Dictation of Shaykhuniyyah]

65. An-Nafĥatu’l Qudsiyyah fī Wāsitati’l Biđáti’l īýd ar-Rūsiyyah [Ethereal Breeze : concerning the Innovation of the Russian Festival ]

66. An-Nawāfiĥ al-Miskiyyah ála’l Fawāyiĥ al-Kishkiyyah [Fragrance of Musk on the Perfume of Kishk]

67. Hadiyyatu’l Ikhwān fī Shajarati’d Dukhān [A Gift to the Bretheren: Concerning the Tobacco Weed]

Note: Some names have been translated by mere guessing as the translator does not have access to most of these books. These are merely taken from the lists in the sources mentioned. Because having knowledge of the subject matter equips one better in making a more accurate translation. Some translations may sound amusing or apalling; the translator apologizes for the same.

Az-Zirkily, Al-Aálām Vol.7
Hāji Khalīfah, Kashf az-Žunūn
Ismāýīl Pāshā Appendix of Kashf az-Žunūn, vol.6/pg.271 Entry under Muĥammad/Az-Zabīdī
Al-Zabīdī, It’ĥāf as-Sādah Vol.1
Al-Zabīdī, Tāj al-Árūs, Vol.1
The foreword of Badhl al-Maj’hūd published by Dār as-Şaĥābah, Tanta, Egypt; quoting from Fahris al-Fahāris of Ábd al-Ĥayy al-Kattāni, Vol.1/pg.526.

6 thoughts on “Imam Sayyid Murtada al-Zabidi

  1. Thank you for this Bilal. The German scholar Stefan Reichmuth has written an excellent book on al-Zabidi titled The World of Murtada al-Zabidi: Life, Networks and Writings. This work consists of the following chapters:
    1. From India to Cairo: Murtada al-Zabidi’s Life and Times
    2. Zabidi’s Writings
 Personal Network and Sentimental Memory: Zabidi’s Autobiographical Lexicon (Mu’jam) 

    4. The “Bridal Crown” (Taj al-‘arus) and its Vision of an Islamic Culture 

    The “Gift of the God-Fearing Sayyids” (Ithaf al-Sada al-muttaqin)

    Reichmuth also has a chapter on al-Zabidi’s role in the transmission of hadith to African scholars titled “Al-Zabidi and the Africans: Islamic Discourse and Scholarly Networks in the Late Eighteenth Century” in Scott Reese’s The Transmission of Learning in Islamic Africa.

  2. There is also Reichmuth’s, “Murtada az-Zabidi(1732-91′):Netzwerk und Lebenswerk eines indo-arabischen Gelehrten des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Islamische Bildungsnetzwerke im lokalen und transnationalen Kontext.

  3. I heard in a lecture via the receiver that Allama Sahib wrote a book on the biographies of the honourable mothers and all the honourable female ascendants of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. I tried to find this book in the list in this article.

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