Al-Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Barbahari

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al-Ḥasan ibn ʻAlī al-Barbahārī
Baghdad, Iraq
Died941 CE
EraMedieval era
RegionIraq scholar
Main interest(s)Aqidah
Senior posting

Al-Ḥasan ibn ʻAlī al-Barbahārī was a Muslim theologian from Iraq. He was a scholar and jurist who played an important role in the Sunni struggle against the S̲h̲īʿa missionaries and successfully opposed the progress of Mu'tazilism in the Abbasid Caliphate during the 10th–11th (4th–5th AH) centuries.[2] His books are peppered with stinging remarks that place the Shias, Qadaris, Mu'tazilis and Ash'aris in an extremely negative light. He was responsible for a number of invasive pogroms and instances of sectarian violence in 10th-century Baghdad.[3][4] Princeton University scholar of Islamic history Michael Cook has described al-Barbahari as a manifest demagogue.[5]


Al-Barbahari was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and learned from the students of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Although al-Barbahari was an adherent of the Hanbalite school of jurisprudence, his contributions to the field were negligible.[6] In addition, al-Barbahari took Ibn Hanbal's views to the extreme and innovated some new ideas into the Hanbali school.[3] For example, he asserted that on the Day of Resurrection, God would place the Prophet Muhammad beside him on the throne – a doctrine that had not been mentioned by Ibn Hanbal.[3]

Al-Barbahari had several widely known students, including the famed scholar Ibn Battah. His status as an authority within the Hanbali school was not universal, however, and al-Barbahari and his students were often in conflict with Abu Bakr al-Khallal, generally considered to be the sole preserver and codifier of the school.[6] While al-Barbahari contributed little to jurisprudence, he was well known as a polemicist. His book Sharh as-Sunnah was written to educate the largely unsophisticated Hanbalites in methods to identify heretics, and advocated a fear-based system of religious worship.[7] Theologian Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari's seminal work Ibanah was essentially a critique of the Hanbalite dogmatists in general and al-Barbahari in particular.[8]

Al-Barbahari was notable among early Hanbalites as a defender of the practice of Taqlid, or accepting the statements of clerics without proof.[9]


Al-Barbahari was the leader of a number of violent, invasive pogroms during the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad due to sectarian views. His audience was strong in the Hanbalite quarter of the city.[10] He was very influential among the urban lower classes, and exploited popular grievances to foment what often turned into mob violence against religious minorities and supposed sinners.[4][11] Under the influence of al-Barbahari and popular pressure of his followers, the Caliphs Al-Muqtadir and Al-Qahir enforced Hanbalism as the state creed, executing al-Barbahari's enemies and even burying renowned Muslim historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, considered a heretic by al-Barbahari as well as most Hanbalites at the time, in secret due to fears of mob violence were a funeral to be held at the public graveyard.[11]

The efforts of al-Barbahari and the Baghdad Hanbalites were put to an end in 935 by the new Caliph Ar-Radi. Al-Barbahari had ordered mobs to break into any homes suspected of containing wine or musical instruments and organized groups of men to interrogate couples in public streets to ensure conservative conduct in public.[11] The mobs looted shops, not all necessarily selling illegal contraband, and physically attacked female entertainers.[12] Ar-Radi ended the favored status of the Hanbalites, condemning them publicly for promoting anthropotheism, assault, persecution of Shia Muslims and veneration of the grave of Ahmad ibn Hanbal while simultaneously prohibiting the veneration of graves of Ali and his descendants.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gibb, H.A.R.; Kramers, J.H.; Levi-Provencal, E.; Schacht, J. (1986) [1st. pub. 1960]. Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition). Volume I (A–B). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 1040. ISBN 9004081143.
  2. ^ "al-Barbahārī". Brill Reference. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Khatab, Sayed (2011-01-01). Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism: The Theological and Ideological Basis of Al-Qa'ida's Political Tactics. Oxford University Press. p. 47. ISBN 9789774164996.
  4. ^ a b Ira M. Lapidus, Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History, p. 192. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780521514415
  5. ^ Michael Cook, Forbidding Wrong in Islam: An Introduction, p. 103. Volume 3 of Themes in Islamic History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 9780521536028
  6. ^ a b Christopher Melchert, The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law: 9th–10th Centuries C.E., p. 150. Issue 4 of Studies in Islamic Law and Society, V. 4. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1997. ISBN 9789004109520
  7. ^ Joseph Norment Bell, Love Theory in Later Ḥanbalite Islam, p. 49. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1979. ISBN 9780791496237
  8. ^ Richard M. Frank, Early Islamic Theology: The Mu'tazilites and al-Ash'ari, Texts and studies on the development and history of kalām, vol. 2, p. 172. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2007. ISBN 9780860789789
  9. ^ A Medieval Critique of Anthropomorphism: Ibn Al-Jawzī's Kitāb Akhbār Aṣ-Ṣifāt, p. 98. Ed. Merlin L. Swartz. Volume 46 of Islamic philosophy and theology: Texts and studies. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2002. ISBN 9789004123762
  10. ^ Gerhard Böwering, The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of the Sufi Sahl At-Tustari, Parts 283–896, p. 89. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1979. ISBN 9783110837056
  11. ^ a b c Joel L. Kraemer, Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: The Cultural Revival During the Buyid Age, p. 61. Volume 7 of Studies in Islamic culture and history. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1992. ISBN 9789004097360
  12. ^ Christopher Melchert, Studies in Islamic Law and Society, vol. 4, p. 151. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1997.
  13. ^ Joel L. Kraemer, p. 62.