The False Attribution of Sharh al-Sunna to the Hanbali Outlaw Al-Barbahari

Among the false attributions being promoted in our time is the book entitled _Sharh al-Sunna_, chainlessly attributed by Ibn Abi Ya`la (d. 526) in his Tabaqat al-Hanabila to the Hanbali outlaw and anthropomorphist Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari (253-329), which in reality reaches us through a unique sixth-century Zahiriyya manuscript with an unambiguous, explicit chain back to the ultra-Hanbali Sufi forger Ghulam al-Khalil (d. 275) as his own work – and thus catalogued by Fuat Sezgin in his _Tarikh al-Turath al-`Arabi_ – without any mention of al-Barbahari whatsoever.

This is acknowledged in all its numerous, mutually censorious prints from 1408H to 1426H (three editions by Muhammad ibn Sa`id al-Qahtani, then three editions by Khalid al-Raddadi, then another edition by `Abd al-Rahman al-Jumayzi), each criticizing the previous although they all find excuses why authorship should be attributed to al-Barbahari – mostly on the basis of Ibn Abi Ya`la’s unsourced claim and his imitators the later Hanbalis al-`Ulaymi, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn `Abd al-Hadi, Ibn Muflih, Ibn `Imad and al-Dhahabi.

One editor even claims that “al-Barbahari‘s biographers all mention he wrote a _Sharh al-Sunna_ while none of Ghulam al-Khalil does.” In fact, Qawwam al-Sunna al-Taymi (d. 535) in _al-Hujja fi Bayan al- Mahajja wa-Sharh `Aqidat Ahl al-Sunna_ (2:473-475) explicitly cites the latter in his list of “those shaykhs of the Salaf and the Khalaf upon whom is the reliance on the chapters of religious doctrine, who are our leaders in practicing the Sunna and who have publicized their belief… and I shall mention a group of our Imams among the Salaf who have composed books in those meanings… among them, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ghalib, known as Ghulam al-Khalil the companion of Ahmad ibn Hanbal” – and he omits any mention of al-Barbahari despite the length of his list.

Note: The Hanbali Abu `Abd Allah Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ghalib al- Bahili nicknamed Ghulam al-Khalil was al-La’laka’i’s teacher and a major Baghdad Sufi who reputedly ate only beans. When he died, the souks of Baghdad closed down, his bier was carried to al-Basra where he was buried and the Hanbalis built a dome over his grave; but he fabricated hadiths of his own admission, forging no less than four hundred of them according to Abu Dawud who called him “Baghdad’s dajjal” and refused to pray over him as mentioned in the books of the Du`afa.

WAllahu ta`ala a`lam.

GF Haddad

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