Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) was born during the reign of the Abbasid Khalifa Mamoon al Rasheed. The Abbasid Caliphate, despite its brilliant contributions to Islaam, brought along with it many thorny problems. Greek Philosophy had a free flow into the Islamic world. This was fully sanctioned by the government until eventually it declared the Mutazila school of thought as the state religion. Anyone who opposed the Mutazila school of thought would be opposing the state. With the influence of Greek philosophy infiltrating within the people, many Muslims began attempting to reconcile between reason and revelation. As a result they deviated themselves and misled many innocent weak Muslims away from Allah and His Rasul [sallallahu alyhi wasallam]. Many scholars of Islaam had come to the fore in order to defend the Shariah. Forgeries and interpolations in Hadith by rulers who wished to fulfil their personal motives was common. In the first century Umar bin Abdul Aziz(R.A.) initiated a movement for the compilation of the Mubarak Hadeeth of Nabi [sallallahu alayhi wasallam] as there was a fear of it being lost. Eventually this gigantic task was undertaken by six towering scholars of Islaam. One of them was .. Imaam Abu Isa Muhammed ibn Isa Tirmizi (R.A.)
Having grown up in an environment of learning, together with possessing many great qualities naturally drove Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) to dedicate his life totally towards the field of Hadith. He obtained his basic knowledge at home and later travelled to far off lands in search of this great science. He studied Hadith under great personalities such as Imaam Bukhari (R.A.), Imaam Muslim (R.A.) and Imaam Abu Dawood (R.A.). In some narrations Imaam Bukhari and Imaam Muslim (R.A.) are his students as well. Once Imaam Bukhari (R.A.) mentioned to him I have benefited more from you than you have benefitted from me. Moosa ibn Alaq (R.A.) once said : When Imaam Bukhari passed away, he left no one in Khurasaan who compared with Abu Isa Tirmizi (R.A.) in Ilm, memory, piety and abstinence. According to Abdullah ibn Muhammed Al-Ansaari (R.A.), Imaam Tirmizis Al-Jami is more beneficial than the works of Bukhari and Muslim (R.A.) since their compilations can only be understood by a very deep sighted scholar whereas Al Jami can be understood by both the scholar and the lay man. Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) said that he compiled this book and presented it to the learned of Hejaaz, Iraaq and Khuraasaan and they were pleased with it. Who ever has this book in his home, it is as though he has the Prophet [sallallahu alyhi wasallam] speaking to him there.
His remarkable memory: Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) had an exceptionally remarkable memory. If he heard something once he never forgot it. Once on his way to Makkah, Imaam Tirmizi(R.A.) met a Muhadith from whom he had previously copied two chapters of hadith. Thinking that he had the notes with him he asked the Muhadith if he would allow him to read out these two chapters so that he may correct any errors. After realizing that he did not have those notes with him he took a blank piece of paper and read out the entire two parts from memory. When the Muhadith realized what he was doing he rebuked Imam Tirmizi (R.A.) saying: Have you no shame, Why are you wasting my time. Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) assured him that he had committed all the ahadith to memory. The Muhadith was not convinced, even though he recited all the Ahadith from memory. Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) requested him to recite to him some other Ahadith. The Muhaddith recited 40 ahadith which Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) repeated without making a single error, thus showing his remarkable power of committing Ahadith to memory.
Another incident has been recorded by Hakeemul Ummat (R.A.) in his Al-Misk-us-Zaki, depicting the profound memory of Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.). He writes:Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) had lost his sight towards the latter portion of his life. Once whilst on a journey, at a certain point he bowed his head. When asked as to why he did this, he replied: Is there not a tree here whose branches hang over in such a manner that it harms those who are passing by. They answered in the negative. He was quite shocked when he heard this as he distinctly remembered there being a tree and was worried as to whether his memory was failing him or not. He stopped the caravan immediately and asked his companions to enquire from the locals whether a tree had existed there or not. If it is established that no tree existed then I will stop narrating the Hadith of Nabi [sallallahu alyhi wasallam] due to my weak memory. On inquiry it was shown to them that a tree had previously existed over there but due to it being a hindrance to travelers it was removed.
Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) had a large number of students from all over the world. The most famous amongst them were Haysam ibn Kulaib (R.A.), Abul Abbaas (R.A.) and Muhammed ibn Ahmed (R.A.) Shah Abdul Aziz (R.A.) describes Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) in the following words: His memory was unique and his piety and fear of Allah Tala was of a very high caliber. He would cry so much out of the fear of Allah, that towards the end of his life he lost his sight.
According to Ibn Taimiya (R.A.) and Shah Waliullah (R.A.), Imaam Timizi (R.A.) was an independent Jurist (Mujtahid). Hazrat Moulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (R.A.) is of the opinion that he was a Shafi.
In the year 279 A.H. in a village called Bawag at the ripe age of 70 , Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) left this temporary abode for the ever lasting life of the hereafter. May Allah Taala fill his Qabar with Noor. Aameen. The enormity of his sacrifices and the extent to which he served Deen can never be fully comprehended.
Many books of hadith were compiled before Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) decided to compile His Al-Jami. Dawood Tayalisi (R.A.) and Ahmed ibn Hambal (R.A.) had compiled books consisting of both authentic and weak Ahadith. Later Imaam Bukhari (R.A.) compiled his Sahih Bukhari and omitted all weak narrations from it. His main objective was to derive masail / laws from the relevant Ahadith. Later Muslim (R.A.) compiled his book concentrating mainly on the Isnaad (different chain of narrators). Hazrat Imaam Nasais aim was to mention the discrepancies of the hadith whilst Abu Dawood (R.A.) prepared such a book which became the basis for the Fuqaha. Imaam Tirmizi (R.A.) had combined the styles of Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Nasai (R.A.) by mentioning the discrepancies regarding the narrators and also making his compilation a basis for the Jurists.
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