Short Biography of Imam An-Nasai
His full name is Abu Abd-ur-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shuayb ibn Ali ibn Sinan ibn Bahr Al-Khurasani An-Nasai, attributed to his homeland Nasa (present-day located in Turkmenistan). He was a great memorizer and critic of Hadith and one of the key figures in Muslim scholarship. He was renowned for his utmost extensive awareness of the defects of Hadith and the conditions of the narrators. He is the author of the famous book of Hadith “Sunan An-Nasa’i” or “As-Sunan As-Sughra” as he named it.
An-Nasai’s Birth and Early Life:
An-Nasai was born in Nasa, a town in Khorasan (in present-day Nisa, Turkmenistan), in 214 AH (829 CE). He started learning knowledge at a very early age. He began his scientific journeys when he was 15 years old when he travelled to the great scholar of Hadith Qutaybah ibn Said in Baghlan. Qutaybah narrated Hadiths from Imam Malik, Al-Layth ibn Saad and other narrators of this class. Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai remained with Qutaybah for 14 months studying Hadith at his hands. Imam An-Nasai was fond of seeking knowledge especially the narration of Hadiths, for which he has devoted his whole life. Thus, he became a leading scholar and superior Hadith authority of his time.
Features of An-Nasai’s Character:
Abu Abd-ur-Rahman was a dedicated worshipper. Abu Al-Husain Muhammad ibn Muzfir said:
“I heard from our Sheikhs (teachers) in Egypt their acknowledgement of his (Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai) advancement and leadership in knowledge. They also stressed his diligence in worship at all times and his persistence in offering Hajj and partaking in Jihad.”
- He used to fast (Sawm) one day and break the other, a habitual worship of the Prophet Dawud (David, peace be upon him).
- He was a courageous fighter. He used to go for Jihad and showed excessive boldness and sacrifice for Muslims.
- He was good-faced and bright-colored. He had 4 wives and 2 maid slaves. It was narrated that he would share his time between his wives and maid slaves equally.
- He would prefer to wear the Nubian garments and eat cocks that were bought, fattened and castrated for him.
As mentioned before above, Imam An-Nasai had four wives but the historians only mention one son whose name is Abdul Kareem, one of the narrators of the Sunan of his father.
An-Nasai’s Pursuit of Knowledge:
Imam An-Nasai remained with his Sheikh Qutaybah for more than one year, then he travelled to many places including Khorasan, Al-Hijaz, Egypt, Iraq and the Ash-Sham (the Levant). After these long journeys, he settled in Egypt where students of Hadith came to him from everywhere narrating Hadiths from him and learning at his hands. He was a trustworthy, well-established scrutinizer of Hadith and its narrators and was fully aware of the juristic rulings and explanation of the Hadiths.
Imam Al-Hakim said:
“The sayings of Imam An-Nasai regarding the Fiqh (Jurisprudence) of Hadiths are many, and one is astonished about the perfection of his words.”
An-Nasai’s Teachers (Sheikhs):
Among his prominent teachers (Sheikhs) were:
1 - Qutaybah ibn Said
2 - Ishaq ibn Ibrahim
3 - Ishaq ibn Rahuwayih
4 - Abu Bakr Bindar
5 - Hisham ibn Ammar
6 - Muhammad ibn An-Nadr
7 - Suwaid ibn Nasr
8 - Ziyad ibn Ayyub
9 - Sawwar ibn Abdullah Al-Anbari
10 - Utbah ibn Abdullah Al-Marwazi
11 - Muhammad ibn Muthanna
And many others.
Among notable students who took Hadiths from him were:
1 - Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Salamah Al-Azdi
2 - Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al-Hashimi (known as Ibn As-Sunni)
3 - Sulaiman ibn Matir Al-Lakhmi At-Tabarani
4 - Abu Jafar At-Tahawi
5 - Abu Uthman An-Naysaburi
6 - Hamzah ibn Muhammad Al-Kinani
7 - Abu Jafar Ahmad ibn Ismail An-Nahhas An-Nahawi
And many others.
Imam An-Nasai has compiled many books of Hadith, the most renowned of which is his book As-Sunan Al-Sughra known as Sunan An-Nasai or Al-Mujtaba which is a briefing of his book of Hadith As-Sunan Al-Kubra. Also, he compiled other books including:
1 - Fadail Al-Quran
2 - At-Tabaqat
3 - Fadail As-Sahabah
4 - Amal Al-Yawm wa Al-Laylah
5 - Rasail fi Ulum Al-Hadith
6 - Ad-Duafa wal-Matrukin
And many others.
Abu Abdullah Al-Hafiz said:
“I heard Ali ibn Umar saying, ‘Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai was the most knowledgeable among the Sheikhs (teachers) of Egypt in terms of Fiqh, and authenticity and narrators of Hadiths, during his time. Being the best among them, they felt envy towards him. Thus, he moved to Ar-Ramlah (a town in Palestine) where he was asked about Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan. He did not reply in a good thing, and thus people beat him badly. He asked to be moved to Makkah, in spite of his illness, where he passed away.”
Abu Abdullah also said:
“In addition to his multiple merits, he was given martyrdom at the end of his life.”
However, there are other opinions that he died in Palestine. According to some other sources, he was died in Makkah and buried between Safa and Marwa.
He passed away on Monday 13 Safar 303 AH (915 CE) at the age of approx. 88 and Allah knows best.
Scholars’ Praise of An-Nasai:
Imam An-Nasai received a great commendation from many of the prominent scholars of Hadith which testifies to his encyclopedic memorization, mastery and awareness of deficiencies and narrators of Hadiths.
Imam Adh-Dhahabi said:
“There was no one on the onset of the 300 AH year more perfect in memorization than An-Nasai. He was well-versed in Hadith, its deficiencies and narrators, even more than Imam Muslim, Imam Abu Dawud and Abu Eisa (Imam At-Tirmidhi). He was in the same rank of Imam Al-Bukhari and Abu Zurah.”
Al-Qadi Taj Ad-Din As-Subki said:
“I asked our sheikh Adh-Dhahabi, ‘Who was more perfect in memorization Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj or An-Nasai?”’ He replied, “An-Nasai,” and I mentioned this to my father who agreed to it.”
“Abu Abd-ur-Rahman (An-Nasai) was placed at the top of all the scholars of this (Hadith) knowledge in his era.”
Abu Ali An-Naysaburi said:
“The unchallenged leading scholar of Hadith is Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai, who narrated Hadiths to us.”
Abu Abdullah ibn Mandah said:
“Those who narrated the authentic Hadiths and distinguished the established from the deficient and the truth from the falsehood are only four: Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai.”
Imam Ad-Daraqutni said:
“Abu Bakr Al-Haddad Ash-Shafi`ee narrated lots of Hadiths but he did not narrate to others except the Hadiths of An-Nasai. He said, ‘I accepted him (An-Nasai) as an excuse between me and Almighty Allah.”
Ibn Al-Athir said:
“He (Abu Abd-ur-Rahman An-Nasai) adopted the Shafi`ee school of Fiqh, and he had some rituals according to the school of Imam Al-Shafi'ee. He was a devout and well-verified scholar.”
May Allah accept the work of this great Imam. AMEEN.
Source: Biographies of the Imams of Hadith by E-Da’wah Committee