Short Biography of Imam Abu Dawood
Abu Dawud’s full name is Sulaiman Bin Asyas Bin Ishaq Al-Azdy Al-Sijistaniy, known today as ‘Sistan’, the compiler of the well-known collection of Hadith book entitled “Sunan Abu Dawud” which comes in degree and fame after Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Abu Dawud was one of the most knowledgeable scholars of the Hadith of the Prophet (S.A.W.), its fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), deficiencies, texts and chains of narrators throughout the Islamic history.
The scholars of his time recognized his high scientific status, as indicated by some narrations. It is reported that Sahl ibn Abdullah At-Tastury came to Abu Dawud and said:
“O Abu Dawud, I want something from you.”
Abu Dawud said:
“What is it?”
“On a condition that you say that you will fulfill it, if possible.”
Abu Dawud replied in the affirmative. Sahl said:
“Get out your tongue with which you narrated the Hadiths of the Prophet (S.A.W.) so that I kiss it.”
Abu Dawud accept that and Sahl kissed his tongue.
Abu Dawud’s Birth and Early Life:
Abu Dawud was born in Sijistan (present day, it is known as Sistan and located in Iran) in 202 AH (817 or 818 CE) in the outset of the golden scientific century which witnessed the rise of Imams of Hadith, such Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Yahya ibn Main, Ahmad bin Hanbal, At-Tirmidhi and many others. He grew up fond of knowledge, especially Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), aided by his unique talent of memorization that helped him commit a great deal of Hadiths to memory. Thus, at a very early age, Abu Dawud collected lots of Hadiths in a short time.
Abu Dawud’s Pursuit of Knowledge:
Just as all Hadith students, Abu Dawud toured the Islamic regions and cities pursuing Hadith wherever it was. In 220 AH (835 CE), Abu Dawud traveled to Baghdad when he was only 18, and two years later, he moved to the Levant (historical region of Syria). These early journeys helped him get high chains of transmitters, even higher than those of Imam Muslim at sometimes. He moved to many different places narrating and collecting the Hadiths of the Prophet (S.A.W.). Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi said:
“He (Abu Dawud) narrated Hadith from the people of Iraq, Khurasan, the Levant, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.”
Abu Dawud’s Sheikhs:
Ibn Hajar has reported that the Sheikhs (teachers) of Abu Dawud in his book “As-Sunan” and other books were about 300 persons. Among his renowned teachers were:
1- Ahmad bin Hanbal
2- Yahya ibn Main
3- Uthman ibn Abu Shaybah
4- Ishaq ibn Rahawayh
5- Sulayman ibn Harb
6- Abu Al-Walid At-Tayalisi
7- Qutaybah ibn Saad
8- Said ibn Mansur
9- Abu Jafar An-Nufaili
10- Zuhayr ibn Harb
11- Abu Ismail Al-Bukhari
And many others.
Notably, Abu Dawud accompanied Imam Ahmad for a long time and loved him so much. He was so fascinated with Imam Ahmad to the extent that he would mimic him in his appearance and speech. This companionship with Imam Ahmad helped him acquire the knowledge of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in addition to Hadith. Abu Dawud compiled a book on the questions and replies of Imam Ahmad entitled “Masail Ahmad”. He presented his book As-Sunan to Imam Ahmad who praised it.
Abu Dawud’s Students:
As for his students, the list is endless. Among them were:
1- Abu Eisa At-Tirmidhi
2- Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai
3- Abu Bakr Al-Khallal
4- Ismail ibn Muhammad As-Saffar
5- Abu Bakr ibn Dawud Al-Asfahani
6- Abu Uwanah Al-Asfarayini
7- Muhammad ibn Nasr Al-Mirwazi
8- Abu Bakr Yahya As-Suli.
And many others.
Those who narrated his book ‘As-Sunan’ from him are nine narrators, including:
1- Abu At-Tayyib Al-Ashnani
2- Abu Eisa Ar-Ramly
3- Abu Ali Al- Lului
4- Abu Bakr ibn Dasah At-Tammar
5- Abu Said ibn Ziyad Al-Arabi
6- Abu Al-Hasan ibn Al-Abd Al-Ansari
7- Abu Usamah Ar-Ruami
8- Abu Salim Al-Haludi.
It is reported that Imam Ahmad narrated one Hadith from him, something that Abu Dawud would boast of.
Abu Dawud’s Writings:
In addition to his most renowned book ‘As-Sunan’ (As-Sunan Abu Dawud), Imam Abu Dawud wrote a lot of books such as:
2- Masail Al-Imam Ahmad
3- An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh
and many others.
Abu Dawud’s Death:
Abu Dawud (may Allah confer His Mercy upon him) died, at the age of 73, on Friday 15 Shawwal in 275 AH (889 CE) in Basrah, located in Iraq, and was buried alongside of the grave of Sufyan Ath-Thawri.
Scholars’ Praise of Abu Dawud:
Abu Bakr Al-Khallal said:
“Abu Dawud Sulayman Al-Ashath, the superior scholar of his time, was a man that nobody excelled in recognizing the verification of (Shariah) sciences and in his awareness of their questions. He was an outstanding devout person.”
Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Yasin Al-Harawi said:
“Sulayman ibn Al-Ashath Abu Dawud was one of the memorizers of the actions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his Hadith, its deficiencies and chain of narrations. He was at the peak of virtuousness, abstinence, righteousness and devoutness."
Musa ibn Harun Al-Hafiz said:
“Abu Dawud was created in this life for Hadith, and in the hereafter for Paradise. I have not seen someone better than him.”
Abu Hatim ibn Hayyan said:
“He (Abu Dawud) was one of the leading persons of this world in matters of Fiqh, knowledge, memorization, asceticism, devoutness and proficiency. He compiled and defended the Sunan [Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.)].”
“There is no disagreement about that Abu Dawud is the leader of the scholars of Hadith during his time.”
“He was a head in hadith and Fiqh. He was distinguished with dignity, esteem, uprightness and devoutness so that he resembled Ahmed ibn Hanbal.”
Abu Dawud’s Words:
“The hidden craving is the love of leadership.”
“Whoever satisfies with simple cloth and food has spared his body.”
“I collected in my book As-Sunan 4,800 Hadiths but it is enough for the religion of a person only four Hadiths from among them: “Deeds are judged by intentions,” “A sign of man’sgood observance of Islam (his piety) is to keep away from that which does not concern him,” “A believer will not attain true faith unless he accepts for his brother that which he accepts for himself,” and “The lawful is clear and the unlawful is clear, and between that are matters that are doubtful (not clear)..”
Book: Biographies of the Imams of Hadith by E-Da’wah Committee