Book Review: al-Taḥqīq al-Bāhir Sharḥ al-Ashbāḥ wa ʾl-Naẓāʾir


Book review by Mawlana Abu Asim Badrul Islam

AL-TAḤQĪQ AL-BĀHIR SHARḤ AL-ASHBĀHI WA ‘L-NAẒĀ̕IR
التحقيق الباهر شرح الأشباه والنظائر (للإمام ابن نجيم المصري – 926-970
هـ)

للإمام العلامة هبة الله التاجي (1151-1224 هـ)

المؤلف : الإمام العلامة هبة الله التاجي

المحقق : د. الشيخ أسامة محمد شيخ

الموضوع : الأشباه والنظائر في المذهب الحنفي

الناشر : دار اللباب (إسطنبول ، دمشق ، بيروت)

سنة النشر : 1443 هـ _ 2021م

رقم الطبعة : 1

عدد المجلدات : 8

Title:  Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir Sharḥ Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir

Author:  Imām ῾Allāmah Hibat Allāh al-Tāji (1151-1224 AH)

Editor:  Mawlana Dr. Osama Muhammad Sheikh

Genre:  Ḥanafi legal maxims/legal analogy/jurisprudence

Publisher:  Dār al-Lubāb (Istanbul/Beirut)

Year of publication:  1443/2021 (1st edition)

Number of volumes:  8

Imām ῾Allāmah Ibn Nujaym’s (926-970 AH) Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir is a key work that is taught and studied by scholars of the ḥanafi legal school, who specialise in the issuing of legal rulings/edicts (fatwa). It is a work that has received much praise from jurists of the school throughout the centuries (Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir, 1:31-33). Until now, there has been no good print of a commentary on this book. Extending over eight large volumes, Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir is the only complete and detailed commentary on Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir – although, about 30 other works have been written on Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir, including several marginalia, most of which are incomplete, or do not include the entire text of Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir within the commentary and explanatory notes. Written by Imām ῾Allāmah Hibat Allāh al-Tāji (1151-1224 AH), Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir is the only work on Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir that has commentated on every part of the author’s text in a detailed yet clear and simple style. The importance of this cannot be overemphasised – especially, considering the challenging and often ambiguous nature of the text.

In bringing this publication to fruition, the researcher-editor, Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh[1] spent seven years working from manuscripts of the book. He mentions in his introduction (1:60-64) that he accessed four complete manuscripts of the work, of which he used two as the principal manuscripts. He also mentions two incomplete manuscripts (1:64-65), which he also used in this critical edition.

The author of Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir, Imām ῾Allāmah Hibat Allāh al-Tāji, has consulted tens of works of the ḥanafi masters in his work. These include principal texts (mutūn), commentaries (shurūḥ), fatāwā (legal rulings/edicts) and uṣūl (jurisprudence). However, when referencing or quoting other works, he often does so through the intermediary of secondary sources (1:57). In critically editing the work, Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh has endeavoured to visit the original published source of most of these references to verify the accuracy of the quotation. This proved to be a challenging and cumbersome task, as not all the references that the author mentions have been published, while some may not even be available anywhere in any format. In addition to this, Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh also used three commentaries of Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir in manuscript form. These are ῾Umdat al-Nāẓir, Tanwῑr al-Adhhāni wa ‘l-Ḍamā̕ ir, Kashf al-Khaṭā̕ir. During the course of his critical editing, Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh discovered that the author has often been casual in quoting from earlier works, not prioritising accuracy. This has in some places altered the meaning of what the author of the original source had intended. In addition to this problem, all the manuscripts of Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir are filled with errors by the copyists. This made it more important to visit the original source of each reference quoted by the author.

Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh has very helpfully added headings in square brackets to each section that discusses a new mas῾alah or issue. This enhances the reading experience and makes it much easier to search for discussions on different issues. 

Where deemed necessary, ḥarakāt and i῾rāb have been added throughout the book. For a final thorough proofreading before going to print, the publisher, Dār al-Lubāb (Istanbul/Beirut), employed a team of in-house proofreaders/researchers. However, despite this, the book contains a lot of errors, which could have been easily avoided. Errors are generally of the following categories: typographical errors, errors in i῾rāb, omitted letters or words, and some mistakes made by Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh himself.

Another shortcoming of this edition, in my view, is that the actual matn (text) of Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir has been omitted by Dār al-Lubāb. For such a work, one would normally expect the matn to be at the top of the page, demarcated from the commentary by a line. Instead, all eight volumes of this edition contain continuous, non-stop commentary with words and parts of sentences of Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir within brackets in red ink. I believe, this was done by Dār al-Lubāb in its desire to keep the number of volumes down. Had Dār al-Lubāb added the matn at the top of the pages, the book may have been in ten volumes and its beauty and usefulness would have been much enhanced.

I have no doubt that the book will, at some point in the future, undergo a revision and we shall see a better second edition. However, given the sheer size of the book and the finances involved, only Allāh Most High knows when that may be. Until then, the serious student of ḥanafi fiqh and the scholar of fatwa find themselves with a difficult decision to make – whether to purchase this first edition of this brilliant work or risk waiting many years for a better revised second edition, or, even worse, see the book go out of print. This is further compounded by the hefty price tag (currently, £130-£150 here in the United Kingdom).

Abu Asim Badrul Islam
Northampton, ENGLAND
22 Jumāda ‘l-Ūlā 1443/27 December 2021
Special thanks to Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh.

Front cover of Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir.
All eight volumes of Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir alongside my extremely poor edition of Al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā̕ir by the infamous Dār al-Kutub al-῾Ilmiyyah (Beirut).
Sample pages of Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir. The headings in square brackets have been added by the editor, Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh.
Sample pages of Al-Taḥqῑq al-Bāhir.


[1] Mawlana Dr. Osama Sheikh completed his Dars-e-Niẓāmi (also known as Shahādat al-῾Ālimiyyah) course/master’s degree at Jāmi῾ah Fārūqiyyah, Karachi in 2007. He then completed a PhD degree at the Umm al-Qura University in Makkah Mukarramah.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: al-Taḥqīq al-Bāhir Sharḥ al-Ashbāḥ wa ʾl-Naẓāʾir

  1. Jazak Allahu khayra for the review.

    This may be an unpopular view, but I feel the 17×24 cm (~6.5×10″) and similar formats that publishers seem to insist on using is a major problem that causes all these compromises to achieve a lower volume count (along with excessive paragraphing, incomprehensible indentation, font sizes that resemble those of children’s books, etc). When compared to the large formats found in the Arab world in the past as well as in India, standard book formats simply don’t seem to work very well with lengthy matn/sharḥ texts (which often require lots of footnotes), and even less so with the matn/sharḥ/ḥāshiyah/taʿlīqāt combos we often find (or even worse, those majmūʿah works that attempt to print several shurūḥ and ḥawāshī all at once, with the matn on top to boot). In order to fit that all on the page at a comfortable size, it usually requires multiple pages to get through a single paragraph (thus compounding the problem of parsing long sentences and keeping it all in one’s short-term memory in order to understand the idea being conveyed). It also causes the reader to be unaware whether a certain passage at the end of a page is over with far more frequency than would have occurred in a larger format with a sane font size and only moderate paragraphing. For example, with the Farfūr ed. of Radd al-Muḥtār, I hate having to turn the page every time I reach the end of a page to make sure that specific ḥāshiyah doesn’t continue on the next page (which happens frequently). I say we make large volumes great again.

    Anyway, sorry for using this review as an opportunity for a rant = ) Feel free to disagree!
    Imran Ahmed

  2. I agree. The size of the recent Irshād al-Sārī, Fatḥ al-Mulhim (Dār al-Qalam edition), and al-Mudawwanah al-Jāmiʿah prints as an example, is a satisfactory compromise between the larger and bulkier prints and the more standard sized prints popular today.

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