He is Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. al-Mundhir Abu Bakr al-Nisaburi. This is all that is known of his name and lineage. It is known that he was born in Nisabur which is in present day Iran, but the exact date is unknown. Al-Zirkali attempted to date his birth and placed it in the year 242 A.H. while al-Dhahabi approximated it to be around the death of Ahmad, the year 241 A.H. Beyond this not much is known about his upbringing. It seems that he probably studied under the many various scholars of Nisabur from an early age and it is most probable that he traveled to other lands to seek knowledge as other scholars did, however, the actual places he traveled to are unknown. All that is known is that he eventually resided in Makkah and became the Shaykh of the Haram. He later died there around the year 318 A.H.
He had many teachers and students and had attained a great level of scholarship. He reached the highest level of ijtihad according to many of the other scholars and was therefore no longer bound to any particular School of Thought. Despite this fact, he is almost unanimously ascribed to the Shafi School, in which he initially started. This fact was
mentioned by al-Dhahabi, al-Suyuti, al-Nawawi, and al-Shirazi.
Al-Dhahabi said regarding him,
“The Haafidh, the 'allaamah, the faqih, the unique scholar, the Shaykh of the Haram, and the one who authored books the likes of which have never been written.”
An-Nawawi said regarding him,
“The famous imaam and one of the Islamic leaders. Everyone is agreed that he was an imaam, virtuous, and very knowledgeable, both in the fields of Hadith and fiqh.” He also said, “He was at the top level of knowledge when it comes to which Hadith were authentic and which were weak.”
“The imam, Abu Bakr al-Nisaburi, the one who resided in Makkah and one of the great scholars of this Nation. He was an imaam, a mujtahid, a Haafidh, and extremely pious.”
Ibn Hajar said,
“The Haafidh, the Aallamah, the one who wrote many works. He was upright and truthful from what I know.”
Ibn Khalkaan said,
“He was a faqih and an absolute scholar.”
Many others have praised him as well.
He was also quite knowledgeable of the differing opinions amongst the various scholars; having knowledge of who held which opinion and their supporting evidences. Despite the fact that he wrote on topics such as tafsir, adhkaar, the life of al-Shafi, and the virtues of the wealthy and the poor, his most famous books are on fiqh and the differing opinions of the scholars regarding this science.
Possibly the largest of these was a book entitled al-Mabsut, however it is no longer in existence. He abridged this book and wrote a magnificent compilation which he entitled al-Awsat, however, only a few volumes of this book have been found and even fewer have been printed. He also abridged this book into a smaller work titled al-Ishraaf. This book is widely acclaimed as the best book of its kind as he briefly mentions within it all of the different opinions regarding each topic and occasionally mentions which opinion he chose as the most correct. He later wrote al-Iqnaa, which most probably is also an abridgment of al-Awsat as it maintains the chains of the Hadiths used while al-Ishraaf omits them, making it is less likely that al-Iqnaa is an abridgment of al-Ishraaf.
He also authored a book about the evidence of qiyaas (analogical reasoning) which, obviously, deals with usool al-fiqh. (See the Introduction of al-Iqnaa by Abdullah Muhammad al-Jaburi.)
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