During the month of Ramadan, we worship Allah Ta’ala by abstaining from acts that are usually Halal. i.e. Food, drink and permissible relations with one’s spouse. The following is a glimpse into the life of a Scholar who emulated Ramadan his entire life.

Imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (رحمه الله) was born in the year 224 A.H. in Tabaristan and he passed away in the year 310 A.H. in Baghdad.

Early Study 

He memorized the Quran at the age of 7 and began gathering Hadiths at the age of 9! His travels in search of Knowledge began – after managing to persuade his father into allowing him to do so – at the mere age of 12!

His student: Imam Abu Bakr Amhmad ibn Kamil (رحمه الله) relates from him that he said : ” I memorised the Quran when I was 7 years old, I led the people in Salah when I was 8 and I began writing Ahadith at the age of 9.

Note:  For a minor to lead elders in Salah is permissible according to some Madhaahib. According to the Hanafis it is not permitted.

My father once saw in a dream that I was in front of Rasulullah ( sallalahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with a bag filled with stones and I was throwing the stones away.

An Interpreter told him that If I grew up I would assist and protect the Din of Allah. Hence my father became a great assistant to me in my studies although I was young at that time.”

His Sojourn

He travelled through the Islamic world in search of Knowledge and went to various towns and villages of Khurasan, ‘Iraq, Syria and Egypt. He later on settled in Baghdad and remained there till his death.

Poverty in the Path of Knowledge

While on sojourn he encountered a lot of poverty and financial difficulty. He once had to sell the sleeves of his shirt to buy food because the money that was being sent by his father was delayed. He also experienced extreme poverty while he was in Egypt in the year 256.

He himself says: “We were studying under Imam Muhammad ibn Humaid Al-Razi (رحمه الله) in the town of Ray. During the day we used to go to Imam Ahmad ibn Hammad Al-Dulabi (رحمه الله) who used to live in a village away from Ray.

After his lesson we would run like mad-men to catch the lesson of Imam Muhammad ibn Humaid Al-Razi (رحمه الله)”

It is said that Imam Ibn Jarir wrote more than 100 000 Hadiths!! from Imam Muhammad ibn Humaid Al-Razi (رحمه الله)

His Astounding Memory

He also went to Kufah wherein he met several Muhaddithun. From amongst them was Imam Abu Kuraib Muhammad ibnul ‘Ala Al-Hamdani (رحمه الله) who had a very stern temperament.

He says: “Once when I went to the house of Imam Abu Kuraib with the As-habul Hadith (students of Hadith), he peeped through a hole and saw the As-habul Hadith crowded at his door so he asked: “which of you have memorised all that he has written from me thus far?”

They began to look at each other in amazement. They then turned to me and asked if I knew all those Hadiths by heart? I replied: yes. So they said to him: This person has memorised it. Upon his enquiry, I said: you narrated this (Hadith) to us on this day and that (Hadith) on the other day and so on…

Then Imam Abu Kuraib realized the potential of Imam Tabari and asked him to come in. Thus the other colleagues would get a chance to listen to the lesson because of him!

Master of every Field

Imam Ibn Jarir (رحمه الله)  was a master in every field.

He was like a Qari who knew nothing else but Quran, and a Muhaddith who knew nothing else but hadith, and so on…

He was also one who would mix with people. He would attend any invite or walimah that he was invited to. He would also join his companions and go to the fields to have a meal, but when he use to be in his home nobody would disturb him except under dire circumstances due to him being occupied with compiling his knowledge.

His Books

Abul-Qasim ibn ‘Aqil Al-Warraq (رحمه الله) says: ” Imam Ibn Jarir (رحمه الله) once said to his students: “are you’ll ready to write down my lesson on the Tafsir (commentary) of the entire Holy Quran?” They enquired as to how lengthy it would be. He replied: “30 000 pages”! They said : “This would take along time and could not be completed in one lifetime. So he made it concise and kept it to 3000 pages. It took him 7 years to finish it from the year 283 up to 290.

He then said to them: “Are you’ll ready for a book on the history of the world, from Adam (‘alayhis salam) till this day?” They asked as to how lengthy this one would be, and he gave a reply similar to what he said regarding his Tafsir. They then also replied in the same manner. He then said : Inna Lillah!! Courage has been destroyed!

Imam Abu Hamid Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al-Isfarayini (رحمه الله) said:

If someone had to travel all the way to China just to acquire the tafsir of Imam Ibn Jarir (رحمه الله) it would be very much worth the trip!”

Imam Abu Bakr ibn Khuzaimah (رحمه الله) said : ” I have read his Tafsir from beginning to end and I do not know anyone on the face of this earth who is more learned than him.

Tafsir Ibn Jarir Al- Tabari (known as Jaami’ ul Bayaan) has been published in 14 volumes and his Tarikh (History book) is published in 13 volumes.

Imam al-Simsimi (رحمه الله) says: Imam Ibn Jarir (رحمه الله) used to write 40 pages every day for 40 years!!

Some of his students had counted the amount of days he lived for from the time he became baligh (mature) till the day he passed away, and they divided it by the number of pages that he wrote which effectively meant that he would have written 14 pages a day; every day!!!

Remember that one needs to first acquire knowledge for a long time then he could be able to compile his own works….so what about those days?…

No Worldly Inclination

Imam Tabari (rahimahullah) was one who shunned the worldly affairs and had nothing to do with it.

He is reported to have said :

” ما حللت إزاري على حلال ولا حرام قط “

Which means that he did not get married all his life.

In other words: He had devoted his entire life for the “assistance and protection of the Din of Allah”

 (as seen by his father in the dream…)

He abstained from Haram and Halal relationships with the opposite gender his entire life! Like we are required to do for one month only during Ramadan…!

This great Imam (رحمه الله) who was also a mujtahid passed away in Baghdad in the year 310 A.H.

May Allah Ta’ala fill his grave with nur and may he grant us the ability to take maximum benefit from this great Mujtahid’s books. Ameen.

 Extracted from the book:
صفحات من صبر العلماء على شدائد العلم والتحصيل
“Incidents of the sacrifices of the ‘Ulama in their quest for knowledge”
By Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah (rahimahullah) 


Among the lessons to be learnt from the life of this illustrious Imam are:

  • The height of his courage that he was prepared to write a book that would take an entire lifetime to compile.
  • His value for time which thereby enabled him to compile so much of knowledge.
  • He treasured knowledge so much, that he refused to get married for the fear that it may be at the expense of his dedication to ‘ilm. 

There were several ‘Ulama in the past (and some in the present too)  who had abandoned marriage for the sake of preserving knowledge. Shaikh ‘Abdul Fattah (rahimahullah) has gathered some of them in a book entitled: “Al-‘Ulamaaul –‘Uzzab”.