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al-Sarakhsi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad

The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Islamic Philosophy

Muharrem Kılıç

al-Sarakhsi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad (400–83 / 1009–90) 

Shams al-Aimma Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Abi Sahl Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi was born in Sarakhs, a place between Mashhad and Marw, around 400 / 1009 and died in Fargana (Marghinan) around 483 / 1090. He was one of the prominent Hanafite jurists of Transoxiana. There is little information about his life. Because of local political problems, he was imprisoned in Uzcand (Ozkent) for nearly fifteen years. According to the biographies, he was imprisoned because of his telling the truth before the ruler. He produced his books in prison by dictating them to his disciples.

Upon his release from prison, Sarakhsi stayed in Fargana where he remained till the end of his life. He received his education in Bukhara. He studied theology (kalam), Islamic law (fiqh) and jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). He received his education from prominent teachers of that region such as Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali al-Sughdi, Abu Hafs ‘Umar b. Mansur al-Bazzaz and Shams al-Aimma ‘Abd al-Aziz b. Ahmad al-Halwani, who was his most influential mentor in Islamic law. Sarakhsi attended his master's study circles for a long time in Bukhara. He was considered as one of the three leading scholars, along with Dabusi Pazdawi, of Hanafite school of law in the field of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). They were the referential sources of the Hanafite scholars of the following generations. He taught a number of students, among whom we can mention the names of Burhan al-din ‘Abd al-Aziz b. ‘Umar b. Maza, Mahmud b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Uzcandi, Rukn al-Din Mas‘ud b. Hasan al-Kashani, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Hasiri and ‘Uthman b. ‘Ali al-Bikandi.

Sarakhsi produced a number of books in the fields of Islamic substantive law (furu‘ al-fiqh) and jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). His Kitab al-Mabsut (The Expanded Book) was a commentary on al-Hakim al-Shahid al-Marwazi's (d. 334 / 945) Mukhtasar al-Kafi (The Abridgement of Kafi) which was a summary of Muhammad Hasan al-Shaybani's book of al-Asl (The Foundation). Al-Mabsut was a masterpiece of Hanafite legal doctrine in which he explored the doctrinal views of Hanafite school of law. It is comprised of six popular books of al-Shaybani, known as Zahir al-riwaya (the Reliable Transmission). Sarakhsi's another book in this field (furu‘ al-fiqh) was Sharh al-siyar al-kabir, (The Commentary on the Compendium of the Regulations) which was a commentary on Muhammad Hasan al-Shaybani's work of al-Siyar al-kabir (The Compendium of the Regulations). It deals with international law and the laws of war. His book of al-Nukat (The Commentarial Notes) was also a commentary on al-Shaybani's book of Ziyadat al-ziyadat (The Supplements of the Supplements). The Kitab al-Usul (Book of Islamic Legal Methodology) was a work dealing with the legal methodology or theory of Hanafite school of law. Sharh al-mukhtasar al-tahawi fi al-fiqh (The Commentary of the Abridgement of Tahawi on Fiqh) was a commentary on Tahawi's al-Muhktasar. He took down by dictation Sifat ashrat al-sa‘a wa maqamat al-qiyama (The Attributes of the Day of Judgement's Conditions and the Status of Doomsday) from his master Halwani. In this book he deals with theological subjects and eschatology. According to one of his biographers, he was a theologian, jurist and polemicist. However, most of his works are related to Islamic law (fiqh) and legal theory (usul al-fiqh).


Kitab al-Mabsut, (The Expanded Book), Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘arifa, 1993.Find this resource:

    Kitab al-usul (Book of Islamic Legal Methodology), ed. Abu al-Wafa al-Afghani, Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1954.Find this resource:

      Sharh al-siyar al-kabir (The Commentary on the Compendium of the Regulations), ed. Salahaddin Munajjid, Cairo: Jami‘at al-duwali al-‘arabiyya, 1971.Find this resource:

        Al-Nukat (The Commentarial Notes on al-Ziyadat ziyadat), ed. Abu al-Wafa al-Afghani, Beirut: ‘Alam al-kutub, 1986.Find this resource:

          Muharrem Kılıç