Overview of Taqyīd al-ʿĪlm

Review Subject: Taqyīd al-ʿĪlm / تقييد العلم
Author: Imām al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī رحمه الله
Muḥaqqiq: Shaykh Abī ʿAbdullāh ad-Dānī az-Zahwī حفظه الله
Era: 5th Century AH
Genre: Tadwīn as-Sunnah, Ḥadīth/Athār, Ṭalab al-ʿĪlm
Pages: 280 (318 narrations)
Print: Dār al-Lu’lu’ah

Review:
Taqyīd al-ʿĪlm (تقييد العلم) by the great Muḥaddith & Faqīh, Imām al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī رحمه الله (d. 463 AH), is an extraordinary work of selected narrations regarding the act of putting knowledge into writing. It looks into it’s history, the ruling of doing so, it’s virtue & importance, how it contributes to one’s memorization, and the likes.

Looking into the title of this work, it begins with Taqyīd (تقييد), and this word holds two meanings:

  1. To write, to note, to inscribe
  2. To capture, to confine, to be chained

With these two definitions joined together, it indicates that the action of writing is as if you’ve captured the information you’ve acquired & are now confining it to a secure location, allowing no possibilty for it to escape from you, which is exactly what this work strives to illustrate.

This work goes through the action of writing in stages, and it is as follows:

فصل
STAGE 1: PROHIBTION OF WRITING

In the first chapter of this work, it brings narrations that mentions the forbiddance of writing & the distaste of doing so. It begins with the Ḥadīth narrated by Abū Saʾīd al-Khudrī رضي الله عنه in which The Prophet ﷺ said:

Do not write from me anything other than the Qurʾān. Whoever writes from me other than the Qurʾān, erase it.

Narration #1 – Also can be found in: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim #3004, Musnad Aḥmad 3/12, Sunan al-Kubrá #8008, Sunan ad-Dārimī #464, Musnad Abī Yaʿlá #1288, Ṣaḥīḥ ibn Ḥibbān #64, Fatḥ al-Bārī 1/208, Majmaʾ az-Zawāʾid 2/418, al-Mustadrak ʿalá aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥayn 1/126

As designated from the Ḥadīth, in the early stages of Islām it was prohibited to write other than the Qurʾān to avoid people mistaking Aḥādīth for the Qurʾān. Eventually, this ruling was lifted & Ḥadīth were being written from The Prophet ﷺ directly.

Imām al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī رحمه الله then continues to quote this Ḥadīth with it’s different chains and various reports of the Companions & Tābʿīn speaking on this matter.

فصل
STAGE 2: PERMISSIBILITY OF WRITING

After a period of time, the prohibition of writing was lifted & ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr رضي الله عنه stated that he would write everything he heard from The Prophet ﷺ intending to memorize it. al-Quraysh disagreed with ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr رضي الله عنه writing from The Prophet ﷺ, so he brought the matter to The Prophet ﷺ and he said:

Write, for by Him in Whose hand is my soul, only the truth comes from it.

Narration #142 – Also can be found in: Musnad Aḥmad #2510, Sunan Abū Dāwūd #3646, Muṣannaf ibn Abī Shaybah #28120, Sunan ad-Dārimī #501, al-Mustadrak ʿalá aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥayn 1/105, Jāmiʿ Bayān al-ʿĪlm wa al-Faḍlihi #389, al-Jāmiʿ li-Akhlāq ar-Rāwī #1119, Ṣaḥīḥ ibn Khuzaymah #2280, Sharḥ Maʿānī al-Athār 4/319, al-Muʾjam al-Kabīr #14264, al-Muʾjam al-Awsaṭ #1553, al-Madkhal ilá ʿĪlm as-Sunan #751, Tārīkh Madīnah Dimashq 33/167, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl 31/38 | Ṣaḥīḥ Isnād to Imām al-Ḥākim an-Nishāpurī, Shaykh Aḥmad Shākir, Shaykh Ḥusayn ad-Dārānī, Shaykh Zubayr ʿAlī Za’ī, Shaykh Abī ʿAbdullāh ad-Dānī az-Zahwī, Shaykh Aḥmad ibn Ibrāhīm Abī al-ʿĪnayn, and others

There is also the Athar of Abū Hurayrah رضي الله عنه in which he said:

No one from amongst the Companions of The Prophet ﷺ had more Ḥadīth than me except ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr, for he would write and I didn’t write.

Narration #147 – Also can be found in: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī #113Jāmiʿ at-Tirmidhī #2668, Muṣannaf ʿAbd ar-Razzāq aanʿānī #20489Jāmiʿ Bayān al-ʿĪlm wa al-Faḍlihi #387al-Madkhal ilá ʿĪlm as-Sunan #750Fatḥ al-Bārī 1/250

فصل
STAGE 3: VIRTUE OF WRITING

Now comes the significance of writing. After the prohibition was raised from writing and the Companions started writing from The Prophet ﷺ directly, this became a custom among the seekers of knowledge and they put much importance on it, using it as a means for memorization, gathering benefits, and the likes. Concerning this, some narrations are as follows:

ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Mubārak رحمه الله said:

If it wasn’t for writing, we would not have memorized.

Narration #249

al-Khalīl ibn Aḥmad رحمه الله said:

I did not hear anything except that I wrote it, I did not write anything except that I memorized it, and I did not memorize anything except that I benefited from it.

Narration #252

Imām ash-Shāfiʿī رحمه الله said:

Know, may Allāh have mercy on you, that this knowledge escapes just as the camel does, so guard it by writing and let the pens be it’s shepherds.

Narration #250

Maʾmar رحمه الله narrated:

(ibn Shihāb) az-Zuhrī would write on the back of his shoes fearing that he would miss it.

Narration #224

فصل
STAGE 4: GETTING RID OF ONE’S WRITINGS

A side benefit that I feel is interesting to mention is the initiative of one destroying their own writings, which was a common practice among many of the early scholars fearing that their books would be tampered with after their death. An example of this is the narration of Saʾd ibn Shuʾbah, the son of the great Muḥaddith & Amīr al-Mu’minīn fī al-Ḥadīth, Shuʾbah ibn al-Ḥajjāj رحمه الله (d. 160 AH), in which he said:

My father (Shuʾbah ibn al-Ḥajjāj) said to me: “O my son, when I die, wash my books (to ruin the ink) and bury them.”

Narration #96

In another wording, Saʾd ibn Shuʾbah said:

My father advised me that when he dies, I wash his books, so I washed them.

Narration #97

Imām adh-Dhahabī رحمه الله (d. 748 AH) commented upon these narrations of Saʾd رحمه الله and said:

More than one person has done this by washing, burning, and burying out of fear that it may fall into the hands of an individual with ill-intentions who may add fabrications to it or alter it.

Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā’ 7/213

Closure:
There is no doubt that due to the writing of knowledge, many books have been preserved & were able to reach us, allowing us to benefit through them. If not for the writing of knowledge, we may not have had the opportunity to look into many of the books we look into today, and we thank Allāh ﷻ and praise Him.

May Allāh have mercy upon Imām al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī & accept this work from him.

All praise is due to Allāh, may His peace & blessings be upon our final Prophet Muḥammad, his family, his companions, & all those who follow him in guidance.

Ṣafīullāh Labīb ibn Salīm ʿAbd al-Malik
18th of Jumādá al-ʿAwwal 1444