His Name and Lineage:
He is Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Muslim ibn ʿUbaydullāh ibn ʿAbdullāh ibn Shihāb ibn ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Hārith ibn Zuhrah ibn Kilāb ibn Murrah ibn Kaʿb ibn Luʿay ibn Ghālib al-Qurayshī al-Zuhrī al-Madanī.
He was born in the year 50AH according to Duhaym, and according to Khalīfah ibn Khayyat he was born in the year of 51AH.
Sufyān said, “I saw al-Zuhrī with his hair flowing to his shoulders and his beard dyed in a fading red colour. It looked as though he dyed it with katam. He was bleared-eyed. I was 17 years old when he came to visit us in the year 123AH and he stayed until 124AH. Mālik was misled by al-Zuhrī’s dyed beard which made him think al-Zuhrī was a young man. Layth ibn Saʿd said, “al-Zuhrī wore a garment dyed in red.”
He narrated from Sahl ibn Saʿd, Anas ibn Mālik, Sāʾib ibn Yazīd, Abdullāh ibn Thaʿlabah ibn Suʿayr, Maḥmūd ibn Rabīʿ, Maḥmūd ibn Labīd, Shabīb Abū Jamīlah, Saʿīd ibn Musayyab and many others.
Abu Hatim stated, “The most proficient of Anas ibn Mālik’s students were al-Zuhrī, Qatādah and Thābit al-Bunanī, in that rank.”
al-Zuhrī related, “I sat with Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyab and I did not hear anything but the matters of the Hereafter. I sat with ʿUbaydullāh and I did not hear anyone with more rare narrations than him, and I found ʿUrwah as an ocean of knowledge, who could not be disrupted by vessels.”
His Search for Seeking Knowledge:
Abū Zinād said, “al-Zuhrī would write everything when he sought knowledge. I saw him with my eyes with slates which he used to write ḥadīth on.”
Abū Zinād said, “He used to carry with him wooden slates and paper on which we would write what he heard, and we used to laugh at him.”
al-Zuhrī said, “My knees touched the knees of [I studied with] Ibn Musayyab for eight years.”
al-Zuhrī said, “I moved in-between Hijāz and Shām for forty-five years and I did not find a rare ḥadīth neither did I find one who narrated to me a rare ḥadīth [which I didn’t know].”
His Manners in Seeking Knowledge:
ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar al-ʿUmari mentioned that a-Zuhrī said, “I narrated a ḥadīth to ʿAlī ibn al-Husayn and when I completed doing so he said, “May Allāh bless you. That is how it was narrated to us.”
Mālik said, “You did not used to write?” He answered, “No..” “and did you not ask anything to be repeated?” He answered, “No…”
Saʿd ibn Ibrāhīm said, “al-Zuhrī did not excel us in regards to knowledge except that he would ask anything he wanted and would not waste any effort.”
Al-Zuhrī said, “I have never asked a scholar to repeat what he said to me.”
Abū Zinād said, “We used to follow al-Zuhrī when he would visit the scholars. He used to carry with him wooden slates and paper on which we would write what he heard.”
Mālik said, “I read seventy aḥadīth to a-Zuhrī and I made an error in grammar in one of them, he said to me, “He shook his camel and angrily said, “People do not understand anymore.”
al-Zuhrī used to seek knowledge from ʿUrwah and other than him and when he would return home, he would wake one of his housemaids from sleep and tell her, “So and so narrated such and such..” She would asked, “What has that got anything to do with me!?” and he would replied, “I know it has nothing to do with you, however I just heard it and wished to revise it.”
adh-Dhahabī mentioned that al-Zuhrī disliked eating apples and used to drink honey saying that it helped his memory.
al-Zuhrī used to say, “He who wishes to memorise aḥadīth should eat dried grapes.”
Praise for al-Zuhrī
Amr ibn Dīnār said, “I have not seen anyone more precise in their narration of aḥadīth than al-Zuhrī.”
Saʿīd ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz said, “If knowledge comes to us from al-Zuhrī who is in Hijāz, we would accept it.”
Aḥmed ibn Hanbal said, “al-Zuhrī is the best of people in regards to ḥadīth and the most skilled in regards to their chain of narrations.”
Yaḥyá ibn Saʿīd said, “No one from the people of knowledge had what ibn Shihāb had.”
Ayyoub said, “I have not met anymore more knowledgeable than al-Zuhrī.”
Aṭā ibn Abī Rabāh, ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, Ayyūb al-Sakhtiyyāni, Mālik ibn Anas, Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah, Ibn Jurayj, Jaʿfar ibn Barqan, Muslim, al-Bukhārī and many others.
Yaḥyá ibn Ma’een said, “The most reliable scholars with regards to narrating ḥadīth from him were, Mālik ibn Anas, Maʾmar, Yūnus, ʿAqīl, Shuʿaib and Ibn ʿUyaynah.”
al-Awzāʿī mentioned that al-Zuhrī gave him a script and said “Narrate its content with my permission.”
Some of the people of ḥadīth did not relate knowledge from al-Zuhrī because of some things they saw him doing. Abu Jaʿfar al-Rāzī said, “I did not write any aḥadīth from al-Zuhrī because he used to dye his hair black.”
Saʿīd ibn ʿAbd ʿal-Azīz said, “We would go visit al-Zuhrī and he would host us with many types of foods.”
adh-Dhahabī said, “al-Zuhrī was modest and highly respected in the government of Banu Umayyah.”
Ibn Saʿd, Khalīfah and al-Zubair said, “Ibn Shihāb died on the 17th Ramaḍān 124AH.”