• A single kiss. A single word of praise. A single moment that caused the great Imām, ʿAlī Ibn ʿUmar ad-Dāraquṭnī (d. 385AH) to be trialled; a trial that caused something we live with today – we ask Allāh to forgive us and him.

Whilst Imām ad-Dāraquṭnī and his student, Abū Dharr al-Harawī (d. 435AH) strolled into the market they bumped into the famous scholar, theologian and logician, Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Ṭayyib al-Bāqillānī (d. 406AH), the chief of the ʿAsharīs of his time. Al-Bāqillānī was a ʿAsharī, who held a stern and harsh stance against the hypocrites, intellectuals, rejectionist, Christians and all other external enemies of Islam. He would debate and destroy the doubts of his opponents.

It has been reported that the Caliph of ʿIrāq sent al-Bāqillānī to Constantinople in 371AH, in order to debate with its learned Christians. When the Emperor of the Romans heard of the arrival of al-Bāqillānī, he ordered his craftsmen to reduce the height of the entrance so that as al-Bāqillānī entered, he would enter in a state of prostration before the Emperor of the Romans and his entourage. Al-Bāqillānī acknowledged this plan, and instead, turned his body backwards and knelt down as he entered the door, walking backwards, pointing his backside to the Emperor of the Romans and his men.

Abū Bakr  al-Bāqillānī entered and turned to the Pope and asked, ‘How is the family and kids?’ The question stumbled the gathering from their conversations. They performed the sign of the cross over their faces with their hands and condemned al-Bāqillānī’s question! The Emperor of the Romans was angered by such question and said,  ‘Don’t you know that Popes do not marry nor have children!?’ al-Bāqillānī replied, ‘Allāh is the Greatest! Popes are prohibited from marrying and bearing children and yet you ascribe to your Lord the marrying of Mary and the fathering of Jesus!?’ The anger of the Emperor only increased by this. Then the Emperor said , ‘ Isn’t what you said exactly what ʿĀʾishah did!?’ Abū Bakr said, ‘If ʿĀʾishah has been accused, then Mary has also been accused similarly. Yet both are pure, but ʿĀʾishah was married and did not have children, while Mary gave birth without marriage, who was the first to be falsely accused! May Allāh bless them both.’

The Emperor then asked, ‘Did your Prophet go to war?’ Abū Bakr said, ‘Yes’. The Emperor asked, ‘Did he fight at the forefront of the battle?’ Abū Bakr said, ‘Yes’. The Emperor asked, ‘Did he win?’ Abū Bakr said, ‘Yes’. The Emperor asked, ‘Has he ever lost?’ Abū Bakr said, ‘Yes’. The Emperor exclaimed, ‘Amazing! He was a Prophet and yet he was defeated?’ Abū Bakr responded, ‘He’s your Lord (i.e. Jesus) and yet he was crucified!?

The Emperor said to him: ‘What do you say about the splitting of the moon which you claim was a miracle of your Prophet?’ Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī said: ‘This is true according to us. The moon had split during the time of our Prophet, peace be upon him, until people had seen it. Only those present and those who happened to watch the event had witnessed it.’ The Emperor asked: ‘But how is it that not all people had seen it?’ Abū Bakr  al-Bāqillānī replied: ‘Because not all people were prepared to watch its splitting.’ The Emperor asked: ‘Is there any relationship between you and this moon? Why is it that the Romans and all other nations had not witnessed it, but you, in particular, had seen it?‘ Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī replied: ‘What about the “table” (i.e. the table which was sent down upon prophet ʿĪsá (Jesus), peace be upon him, from the heavens)? Is there any relationship between you and that “table”? You (the Christians) have seen it, but not the Jews, the Magus, the Brahmans, the Atheists, especially your neighbours, the Greeks. They all deny such a thing, yet you have seen it while other nations did not.

The Emperor then asked one of their great priests to intervene: Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī said: “They brought a man with blonde hair, and when he sat, I reported the issue to him and he said: ‘What the Muslim has said is maintained; I know of no other answer, except what he said.’ I said to him: ‘What do you say about the eclipse? Do all people on earth see it or just the people in the region where it takes place?’ The priest replied: ‘It is seen only by those who are in the region where it takes place.’ I said: ‘So what do you deny about the splitting of the moon, since it takes place in a region where only its people can witness it and those who prepare themselves to see it? As for those who are in place where they cannot see the moon, they would not be able to witness it.’ The priest said: ‘It is as you said. No one can deny what you just said; the argument is about the narrators who reported the event.’ The Emperor asked: ‘And how would one discredit the narrators?’ The priest said: ‘When signs like this one are true, they should be reported by a large crowd to a large crowd, until the necessary knowledge about it reaches us. Had this been so, we would have received the necessary knowledge about it. Therefore, since no necessary knowledge about it has reached us, it means that the information is fabricated.’ The Emperor turned to me and said: “Your answer?” I said: “What is irrevocable and unquestionable for him regarding the “table” is irrevocable and unquestionable for me regarding the splitting of the moon. It would be said to him: had the sending down of the “table” been true, it would have been reported by a large number of people; and so there would be no Jew or Christian or dualist except that he is aware of it by obligation. Since they do not necessarily know about it, it means that the information is fabricated and a lie.” The priest and the Emperor were startled, as was the whole gathering, which concluded with that fact.”

Nevertheless, he was an ʿAsharī. When ad-Dāraquṭnī saw Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī in the market, he embraced him, hugged him and he kissed his head, all whilst Abū Dharr al-Harawī, the student of ad-Dāraquṭnī, looked on, analysing the situation. After a short while whilst, carrying on, strolling further into the marketing, Abū Dharr al-Harawī turned to his teacher ad-Dāraquṭnī and enquired about the man whom he had embraced and kissed on the head, ad-Dāraquṭnī replied; “That was Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī, the man responsible for X and the man who had done X..” adh-Dhahabī (d. 732 AH) said; “Abū al-Walid al-Bājī (d. 474AH) said, Abū Dharr al-Harawī used to incline towards the creed of al-Bāqillānī. So I asked him, ‘How did you come to this?’ He said; ‘I was once walking with ad-Dāraquṭnī when we bumped into the judge, Abū Bakr (al-Bāqillānī), he embraced him and kissed his face and eyes. When we departed from him, I asked ad-Dāraquṭnī, ‘Who was that?’ he replied, ‘That was the Imām of the Muslims and the defender of the religion, he was the judge, Abū Bakr al-Tayb.’ From that time I have always returned to him.”

adh-Dhahabī further added; “In Baghdad, al-Bāqillānī used to debate and defend the Sunnah and the way of the people of ḥadīth using insight against the heads of the al-Muʿtazila, ar-Rāfidha, al-Qadīryah… He used to aid the Ḥanbalīs.. Even if there was some differences between them, it was something minor, and this is why ad-Dāraquṭnī dealt with him with respect.”

As time passed, al-Harawī returned home, with this esteem of al-Bāqillānī in his heart. He started to study the books of Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī until he was deeply affected by the creed of al-Bāqillānī. Al-Ḥasan ibn Baqī al-Māliqnī reported that it was said to Abū ad-Dharr, “You are from Harw, how did you adopt the madhab of Imām Mālik and the creed of al-ʿAsharī?” He said; ‘I visited Baghdad…’ and he mentioned something similar to what was mentioned previously, he said; ‘I followed his creed…

Later on, Abū Dharr al-Harawī moved to Makkah, and since he was known for possessing chains of Prophetic narrations, students of knowledge would flock to him, especially students of North Africa. They would attend his gatherings in order to listen and study these chains of narrations, after all the most authentic and strongest chain relating Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, the chain that Ibn Ḥajr depended upon for his Fat`ḥ al-Bārī, is the chain of al-Harawī.

Al-Harawī adopted the creed of al-Bāqillānī, and when people would come to him seeking ḥadīth, they would also learn his religious creed. He is the very reason for the spreading of the ʿAsharī creed from the east to the west. It was by way of the students of knowledge from North Africa who would study with him. Ibn ʿAsākir (d. 386AH) mentioned; “It was al-Harawī who transmitted the creed of ʿAsharī to Hijāz. Abū ad-Dharr adopted this methodology from al-Bāqillānī and entered it into Makkah. It is said he was the initiator of such creed in Makkah, and the people of North Africa adopted this creed from him when they would listen to Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī from him.” adh-Dhahabī said; “The scholars of North Africa did not indulge in rhetoric speech before this. Rather, they specialized in fiqh, ḥadīth or the Arabic language.”

Shaykh Rabīʿ al-Madkhalī said; “The narrator of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, the signpost of ḥadīth, Abū ad-Dharr was deceived by the word of praise of ad-Dāraquṭnī for al-Bāqillānī, this praise affected Abū ad-Dharr to the point that he became ensnared within the (creed of the) ʿAsharī, and from the callers of ad-ʿAsharīyah. Because of him, the ʿAsharī creed spread throughout North Africa. The People of North Africa would come to him, they would visit him, and he would instill in them the methodology of ʿAsharī, whilst prior to that they did not know of a methodology other than the Salaf. He introduced them to an evil tradition. The Prophet said, ‘Whoever calls to guidance will have the reward similar to all those who follow him without their reward diminishing in any way and whoever calls to misguidance, he will have the sins similar to all those who follow him without their sins decreasing in any way.’ [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (4/2060)] – we ask Allāh for security.”

ʿAbdullah al-Ansārī (d. 481AH) said; “I heard al-Ḥasan al-Makkī say: I heard my father say; ‘May Allah Curse Abū Dharr! For he was the first one who carried rhetoric speech to Mekkah, and the first one who spread it among the North Africans!‘” Shaykh Muḥammad Bāzmūl said, “The creed of al-ʿAsharī spread from the east to the west by way of the North African students of knowledge who sought knowledge from al-Harawī, and the causes of [al-Harawī’s deviation] was a mistake committed by ad-Dāraquṭnī. At the very least, he should of clarified and said to al-Harawī ‘I kissed his head thanking him for his efforts, however beware of his creed‘”.

And so the reason for the presence of the ʿAsharī creed in North Africa is due to the students of knowledge that studied with al-Harawī in Makkah, and the reason why al-Harawī adopted the ʿAsharī methodology was due to what he saw from his teacher, ad-Dāraquṭnī  – may Allāh forgive us and this great Imām.