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Imam Tirmidhi is one of the main Islamic evangelists whose contributions remain unmatched. Born during the reign of Abbassid Khalifa in 209 A.H., the imam countered the influence of the prevalent philosophical teachings in the Islamic world. Indeed, Lewis asserts that Tirmidhi was among the Muslims who were angered by the prevalent misinterpretations of Hadith by various rulers (165). The influence of philosophy had led to the weakening of the Hadith.
The rulers interpreted the teachings of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in ways that favored their laws. Many Islamic scholars came forward to defend the holy Koran and the sanctity of Hadith. Imam Tirmidhi was among the six towering scholars who defended the religion vehemently. This paper seeks to explain the characteristics, science and contributions of Tirmidhi who compiled the Hadith. His mission lasted for half a decade.
Tirmidhi and His Characteristics
Imam Tirmidhi grew up in a context of religion and acquired impressive qualities. Coupled with love for the Islamic religion, he showed dedication towards defending the holy Hadith (Ernst 172).
At the onset, Tirmidhi acquired substantial knowledge from his parents although he later travelled far to search for the great science that was a combination of reason and revelation at the time. Ernst explains that he studied the Hadith using the help of his colleagues who included Bukhari and Dawud (78). However, later narrations reveal that the two scholars were also students of Imam Tirmidhi.
His great qualities and scholarly abilities enabled him to compile the Hadith in ways that even the non-scholars could comprehend it (Lewis 198). He later presented the compilations to the scholars at Hijaz in Iraq. His ability to interpret the Hadith in a precise and concise way elicited praise from the scholars. Indeed, they articulated that all people who had his compilations in their homes were lucky. The rationale is that the compilations reflected the exact words of the Prophet Mohamed (S.A.W.).
The Imam possessed unsullied memory. In fact, contemporary Islamic scholars highlight that he never failed to remember anything he heard or saw during his evangelism. For instance, Tirmidhi was able to recite two chapters of the Hadith when he encountered Muhaddith on his way to Hajj. Amazed by his ability to remember the Hadith, Muhaddith challenged Tirmidhi to recite other parts of the teachings. He did it flawlessly.
His remarkable memory assisted him to remember the entire Hadith. Another instance that depicted the Imam as a person with a brilliant memory was during his later years of his life. Since he had lost sight, his students accompanied him to Meccah. He told them there was a tree that was a obstruction to travelers along the way. This was due to its low hanging branches (Lewis 208). When they reached the point, he asked them to look out for the tree but they did not find it.
Disappointed by his failing memory, he promised them that he would stop narrating Hadith if the locals answered that such a tree did not exist. When his partners asked the locals, they explained that the tree had become a big hindrance to the travelers that they had to cut it down (Hawting 49). To this end, it is important to highlight that impeccable memory was one of the traits of Tirmidhi.
According to Bennett, Imam Tirmidhi had scholarly characteristics that enabled him to compile Hadith (al-Jami) (186). First, the Imam omitted areas of the teachings that he felt were irrelevant to the context of the Muslims of that time. Besides, he was able to categorize various sections of Hadith as weak or authentic (Ernst 172).
This way, his students were able to understand areas within the Hadith that needed clarification and others that had suffered interpolations under the influence of the philosophical reign. Hawting pinpoints that his compilations mentioned various madhahib , which he substantiated with evidence (87).
The Imam explained areas within the Hadith that were difficult for common people to understand. Al-jami is therefore chronological in its arrangement. As such, it is very easy for every reader to search all sections of the Hadith. Contemporary Islamic scholars point out that the Imam’s compilations did not contain any false part or fabrications (Hawting 79). Hence, they salute him for his impeccable ability to interpret Hadith in an effective way and for a huge congregation.
Nigosian claims that Tirmidhi was a religious person whose fear of Allah was apparent throughout his teachings (321). He ensured that he visited Mecca for Hajj annually despite having lived in the far North.
Muslims consider the journey to Meccah to be one of the most fulfilling acts of faithfulness to Allah. Every Muslim must make the pilgrimage at least once during his or her lifetime. He preached to weak Muslims who had been influenced by secular philosophical reasoning especially during the reign of Abbassid Caliphate. Undeniably, he converted many non-conformists to follow Hadith and fear the Lord.
According to Islamic scholars, Tirmidhi was his own judge (Mujahid). He used to cry many times when he felt that his deeds contravened the teachings of Prophet Mohamed (Nigosian 333). Indeed, many Muslims believe that he lost his sight because of regular crying during his late years. This account projects the Imam as one of the most faithful and religious evangelists whose acts reflected the teachings of Allah.
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Although the Imam died at the age of seventy years in 279 A.H., he was able to influence many people across the world. He had many students including Haysam ibn Kulaib who became one of the most prolific teachers of Tirmidhi’s compilations of Hadith (Bennett 763). Even in the modern world, many Imams still refer to his works that were never short of wisdom and teachings.
As such, he was an influential and a charismatic person whose love for religion went beyond sectarian interests and subdivisions. Due to his noble character, it remains unknown whether he was a jurist or a Shaffi’i. This projects him as a person whose conviction was beyond ethnicity and discrimination.
In sum, Imam Tirmidhi was among the early scholars who compiled Hadith. Hadith reflects the teachings of Prophet Mohamed. Born in 209 A.H., the Islamic evangelist began his mission at the age of twenty years (Nigosian 343). He travelled across the Arab world teaching the Hadith.
Some of his characteristics are clear throughout his mission. First, he was a person of high intelligence with a remarkable memory. He was knowledgeable and able to explain Hadith to all people in a simplified way. In addition, he was influential and religious. As such, his compilations of Hadith have elicited praise all over the world.
Bennett, Clinton. Interpreting the Qur’an: a guide for the uninitiated. New Jersey: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010. Print.
Ernst, Carl. Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Print.
Hawting, Grease. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661–750. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.
Lewis, Bernard. Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East. London: Open Court, 2001. Print.
Nigosian, Samuel. Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Texas: Indiana University Press, 2004. Print.