The Albaani Site

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Al-Albaani and His Access to Books in the Al-Dhaahiriyyah Library Which Many Other Shaikhs Never Had the Chance to See


The Imaam said, “I found the hadith with an authentic chain of narration in, ‘Masaa‘il al-Marwazi,’ from Imaam Ahmad and Ishaaq ibn Raahooyah—a very old manuscript which maybe dates back to the third century, a manuscript in the Al-Dhaahiriyyah Library …”

Al-Hudaa wan-Noor, 90.

“Separately! Separately!” Al-Albaani’s Dream

Translated by Ahmed Abu Turaab

Al-Albaani said, “There was a problem with my eye so the doctor asked me to rest and stop reading and writing for some time. I said [to myself]: so that time is not wasted, I’ll give one of our brothers a small manuscript to copy out for me, such that by the time he finishes, I would have taken sufficient rest.

The brother started to copy out the manuscript and I would look through what he had copied, consoling myself by saying that such reading would not [adversely] affect [my eye] or overstrain it.

[While doing so] I came across a word [in the copy] which I didn’t understand and which I could not read. I went back to the manuscript [the copy was taken from] and found that the brother had copied the word [correctly] just as it appeared in the manuscript, he was a [skilled] scribe.

I started to look over it and ponder, hoping that I’d discover the correct way of reading it. I didn’t [however] and became preoccupied with it.

When the evening came and I slept, I awoke from a dream and I started saying, “Separately, separately!  Separately, separately!”

I had no idea what this dream meant? So I said [to myself], ‘O Naasir, write down what happened,’ so that I wouldn’t forget the dream and in the morning I could take a look at it.

So indeed in the morning I started to think and said: maybe it has a connection to the [difficult] word [that I am trying to read in the manuscript].

I brought the manuscript and started to look at the [difficult] word and [at the same time] started to repeat the word [that I said when I woke up from the dream, i.e., ‘Separately!’]–until I came upon the solution to the problem.

The word found in the manuscript was [in fact] two words joined together by the scribe, so I separated them and was able to read it.

Al-Imaam al-Albaani, Duroos, wa Mawaaqif, wa Ibar, of Abdul-Aziz ibn Muhammad Abdullaah as-Sadhaan, p. 58.

Shaikh al-Albaani’s Life | Questions and Answers … 8


The Story of the Lost Paper

Al-Huwaini asked the Shaikh about the Story of the Lost Paper?

Al-Albaani: The reality is that I got an ailment in my eyes, when I would look at a white wall it would be as though I could see flies moving. When I took myself to the optician he said, “This is what we call the flying fly,” and this was an expression he used referring to a very fine blood vessel which had deteriorated and from which an extremely fine drop of blood had come out onto the eye–and that was what I could see coming and going.

The doctor asked me, “What work do you do?”

I told him, “I’m a watch repairer.”

He said, “This is due to exhausting [yourself].”

I explained my situation to him, that I was a watch repairer and that I would [also] research a lot, so he asked me to take a six month break. I went back to my shop and started to sit there: not doing anything, not in my job, nor reading or researching.

A week or two passed by and boredom started to set in, so I started to entice myself and justify to myself using many different reasons [as to what I could do]. Then an idea came to mind which was that there were a group of different treatises in the Dhaahiriyyah Library, one of which was The Dispraise of Idle Amusement [Dhamm al-Malaahi] by Ibn Abid-Dunyaa, so I thought to myself that I could ask the transcribers there to copy out this manuscript, and that by the time they finish copying, I, maybe, would have gathered up and regained some of the health of my eyes and the rest [they required].

So I went to the Dhaahiriyyah Library and requested the copyist transcribe the treatise, and so he started. When he got half way through he came to me saying that there was a gap in the manuscript, that there was something lacking.  I went to the library and had a look at the manuscript and there was indeed something missing, so I told him, “Carry on as you are doing … and Allaah creates that which you do not know.” He finished copying out the manuscript, and it was as they say … my unconscious mind was working day and night [trying to figure out] where this missing part could be. So I hypothesised that when [all the different individual] manuscript treatises were gathered together to be put into this volume, maybe a page or two from this [particular] treatise fell out and were then later added to a different volume [of manuscript treatises].

And so there would be no path [to find it] except by searching through the collection present in the Dhaahiriyyah Library.

The manuscripts in the Dhaahiriyyah Library were arranged according to subject as is the general [classification] system [used in libraries] … except that there were about one hundred and fifty volumes entitled Majaamee [collections], and it was a befitting title, because every volume contained a number of [different] books, differing in the way they had been arranged and in their classification and topic, for this reason they had been put under the title majaamee [collections].

So I said to myself that I would start with these majaamee, and so I did.

One of the things which made the search easier was that just as these volumes differed in their topics and authors they also differed in the type of paper [they were written on]. So you would find some large [pieces] and some small, some white and others gray, and at times [you would find some that were] blue, and so on. All of this made the way to search easier for me, so I started with the first volume, then the second and third, I don’t remember exactly. Then all of a sudden I came across the title of the book [that I was looking for, The Dispraise of Idle Amusement]—and by Allaah, it is an important book—but it was the second part that I found, if it had been the first the matter would have been over. So when I would find the second or third parts I would leave them and carry on, after [going through] a number of volumes I came across the first part of one of those [other] treatises [that I had come across in earlier volumes], so I lamented myself and was regretful, saying, “Would that I had written down the title and number [showing exactly where I had found] the second part and this first part.” I learnt a lesson and began to record anything that interested me, even if it was not complete.

And you will note here that I was [initially] doing one thing when I began to do something else: I was searching for the lost paper whereas now I had started to record the titles of what can be regarded as treasures, even if they [i.e., the manuscripts] were incomplete. What is important is that I finished going through the one hundred and fifty volumes but I did not come across the lost paper in the volumes [of the books of] hadith, but I left with huge benefit in terms of knowledge. So I said to myself, “You must complete this journey you are upon and that search for the lost paper.”

The number of volumes of hadith books with us in the Dhaahiriyyah Library are more than five hundred so I began to search, and here the search for the lost paper was much easier, because the majaamee were small in size as for the [books of] hadith they were bigger, and the lost paper was small [so it would be easier to find], but [in reality] I had [now] entered into searching for something different, which was the acquisition of the important topics from these priceless books.

So I started to take down the titles, even if the book was a large volume, recording it on my scratch paper—and I finished going through five hundred volumes without coming across the lost paper.

And as they say here in Syria, “Without [giving you] a long biography …” i.e., in short I went through every single manuscript in the Dhaahiriyyah Library, and I was hoping that it might be in [the section of books on] such and such topics, maybe, since it was a mistake that had occurred in a volume [somewhere in the library], so I started to look through the books of biographies [seerah], the books of history, literature, books on Sufism, i.e., every branch of knowledge that had manuscripts [I looked through]. And Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, facilitated this search for me, [whereas it would] normally not have been easy except for someone officially employed [by the library] and specially assigned to the task.

He facilitated it to such an extent that I would put a ladder up to the treasures, because there were shelves there that were high and could not be reached by hand, so I would stand on the ladder. The shelf was about a metre in width, I would take a book from here [i.e., this end] and finish there [at the other end], all while I was on the ladder. When I would find something precious I would come down and record it, and then continue on my journey. In this way I went through the entire library without finding the lost paper. But I felt that it was I who was the winner: I gained hundreds of names and book titles from those priceless works. In the end, I knew that they had something that was called ‘Disht’, and that was a term for stacked up papers which no one [ever] went to or stretched their hands toward. So I said to the specialist librarian—and he was someone whom Allaah had facilitated to help me in my knowledge-based matters and was someone who would respond positively to me—“O Abu Mahdi! Where can the ‘disht’ [collections] be found?” So he showed me the two or three collections. So I started to search through these jumbled up papers and did not find anything, but I did find treasures: among them [the fact that] with us in the Dhaahiriyyah Library are two copies of the Musnad of ash-Shihaab of al-Qudaa’ee, both of which had parts missing. One of these copies was the eastern one and the other the western copy. The script in the western copy was very beautiful and had been given careful attention by some of the preservers of hadith [huffaadh], the people of hadith, and written next to many of these hadiths if not all were [things like: a] weak [hadith], [a] fabricated [hadith] and so on, but the first fascicle of it was missing. All of a sudden, while going through this disht I was taken aback to find the missing part of the western copy [of the Musnad of ash-Shihaab], and with that a priceless manuscript was completed. So I took it with great delight and exhilaration and went to the manager responsible for the manuscripts and said to him, “This part is from the disht and this is the book which you have written down with you in the index as being from an unknown source, its author is unknown and nor is it known what the book is about. [Now] here is the book and this is the author …” but he paid no attention to that, because he, as they say here in Syria, “Everyone sings about his own Layla …” [i.e., each to his own]: this research was of importance to me but not him. Then days and years went by and our brother Abdul-Majid as-Salafi printed the book from this self-same manuscript. And so that you know the [differing] nature of people … the Musnad of ash-Shihaab by al-Qudaa’ee was published by the printers in which Shu’ayb [al-Arnaa’oot] worked, i.e., Mu’assasah ar-Risaalah and on this manuscript for history I had written, “Drawn out from the disht collection by Naasir,” [i.e., Al-Albaani himself] I only wrote ‘Naasir,’ but what did he do? He put a piece of paper on it and covered this fact and now you can find a copy of this main title page from this book in the manuscript copy of the Musnad of ash-Shihaab which our brother Hamdi checked but this knowledge-based reality is wiped out [i.e., that Shaikh al-Albaani was the one who found it after all that hard work]. What makes him do that? You know the answer.

The point is that these are the priceless things that I gained through this research, in the end I gave up hope of finding the lost paper, but I never regretted it, since what I acquired was more than I could have imagined. What is important is that later I went back to the names that I had written down of those works and their authors and so wrote them out again on cards, arranging them in order of the names of the authors, listing every work that the author had written.

Then after I finished listing the names of the authors I arranged the works in alphabetical order, and from that came the index of the chosen manuscripts from the Dhaahiriyyah Library.

Then the final stage came and it was the blessed fruition of that initial effort: I started to read these manuscripts, extracting the hadith benefits from them with their chains of narration [something] which I have with me now, and it is what helps to provide me with [what I need] for my knowledge-based projects in about forty volumes, in it are the hadiths which I took from these manuscripts with their chains of narrations, arranged in alphabetical order to make them easier to refer back to. So this is a summary of the story of the lost paper.

Al-Imaam al-Albaani, Hayaatuhu, Da’watuhu, Juhooduhoo fee Khidmatis-Sunnah, of Muhammad Bayyoomi, pp. 22-26.

Here is the other version of the same story translated in an earlier post:

The Shaikh’s Life in his Own Words … 16


The Story of the Lost Paper

“I had been suffering from a mild eye ailment for over twelve years so an eye specialist advised me to give them some rest and stop reading, writing and working (repairing watches) for six months.

I heeded his advice initially, leaving all of those things for two weeks approximately–then my soul started to entice me, pushing me to do something during this tedious recess, something which would not, in my opinion, go against what the doctor had advised.  I recalled a manuscript I had seen in the library entitled Dhammul-Malaahee of Ibn Abid-Dunyaa which according to my knowledge had not been printed at that time.  So I said to myself, ‘What harm is there in getting someone to copy it out for me?  And by the time the manuscript would be copied out and the time to check this copy against the original would come round, a reasonable amount of time would have passed for my eyes to have rested.  And this would not demand an amount of effort which would compromise my health situation, and then I could check it at my own pace after that, verifying its hadiths and then we could print it, all in stages so that I would not overburden myself!’

When the person assigned to copy out the manuscript had reached half way he informed me that there was a missing part.  I told him to continue copying it out until he finishes it, and then we would compare it to the original.  [When he had finished] I checked and ascertained that there indeed was a missing part like he had indicated.  I estimated it to be about four pages long.

I began to ponder over it and how I could come by it? This manuscript was kept in one volume amongst many which were stored in the library in the section entitle Majaamee.  Each of these volumes on the whole had numerous treatises and books within it, with differing hand-writing, topics and paper different in both colour and size.  So I said to myself, ‘Maybe the manuscript compiler accidentally bound it in one of these other volumes.’  Thus I flung myself into searching for it in sequence with untold enthusiasm and energy.

And I forgot–or I made myself forget–the ailment in my eyes!  So whenever I remembered it I was never short of justifications to continue, like saying that this research would not adversely affect [the eye rest] since there was no writing or strenuous reading involved!

I had gone through only a few manuscripts when my attention was drawn to the titles of some of the treatises and works by famous scholars and well-known preservers of hadith.  So I would stop at them, search them, study them, wishing that they would be copied out and checked and then printed.  But most times I would find them to be missing parts and chapters, so I would find the second and not the first for example, and would thus not record them in my index.  I continued searching for the lost paper, but in vain, until finally I completed going through all of the volumes that were in the Majaamee section and which totalled 152.

Moreover, during this search I had started to pen down the titles of some of the books that had appealed to me and what encouraged me in that was the fact that during the search I had come across some of the missing parts of manuscripts that I had not recorded before [due to them having been deficient, and now that the missing parts had been found and the manuscript was complete he could record their names].

Since I could not find the lost paper among the aforementioned volumes, I said to myself, ‘Perhaps it was wrongly placed in one of the volumes of the books of hadith collections, stacked in the library under the hadith section!’  Thus I started to go through this section, volume by volume, until I went through them all without finding the lost paper.  Yet I recorded [in my index] as many names of treatises and books as Allaah, the Most High, willed.

In this way I continued to justify and entice myself by saying that I would come across the lost paper.  So in the search for it I would go from looking in the volumes and treatises of one branch of knowledge to the next—until I had gone through all of the manuscripts kept at the library, which numbered approximately ten thousand—but still I never found the lost paper.

Yet I never despaired.

For there was a section in the library where stacks and piles of papers and various scrapbooks were kept, the origins of which were not known–so I started to go through them, carefully and precisely, but [again] without success.

It was then that I began to believe that I may not be able to find the lost paper.

Yet after thinking about this situation I found that because of it Allaah, the Blessed and Most High, had opened a towering gateway of knowledge for me, which I had been ignorant of just as others like me had.  [And this was the fact that] the Dhaahiryyah Library [in Damascus] contains a treasure of books and treatises in various branches of beneficial knowledge which our forefathers, may Allaah, the Most High, have mercy on them, left for us, and that it has rare manuscripts which most likely cannot be found in other libraries across the world and which have still not been printed to this day.

So when this [reality of the value of material in the library] became clear to me and was established in my heart, I resumed the study of all of the library’s manuscripts, from the first to the last.  For the second time.

[This time round I did so] in light of the experience I had gained from my previous search where I had [only] recorded selections [that I had chosen] from the books–now I started to record every single thing that [I came across which] was associated with the knowledge of the science of hadith.  Not coming upon the minutest detail except that I recorded it, even if it came from one [stray] piece of paper from a book or volume whose origin was not known.

It was as though Allaah, the Blessed and Most High, was preparing me through all of this for the third and final stage which was the actual study of these books, a detailed study, [so that I could] pull out from them the Prophetic sayings along with their chains of narration and paths, and [any] other benefits.

This index was the result of individual effort, a personal drive, from someone who was not employed at the library or assigned to it, and as such the necessary aids to review the manuscripts, study them and search the parts of them that were unknown were not available as would have been the case for someone who was employed by the library or assigned to do such a job by the administration.

So it was only natural that I face some hardship during that research–and there were days that came by me where I would have to perch up a ladder, and then climb up it and stay there for hours on end in that very spot to study it [as] quickly [as was possible].  So when I would choose something from it which I would want to study and scrutinise deeply, I would ask the librarian to take it down for me to the desk …”

Hayaatul-Allaamah al-Albaani, rahimahullaah, bi qalamihi, pp. 34-37.

The Shaikh’s Life in his Own Words … 9

His Sudden Departure from Amman back to Damascus
and then to Lebanon

“It was while I was preparing for the third lesson that I was shocked to hear of that which forced me–in such a manner that I had no choice whatsoever–but to leave Amman and my dependents therein since it was no longer possible for me to stay there.  Thus I travelled back to my first place of migration, Damascus, and that was during a Wednesday afternoon, the 19th of the month of Shawwaal, 1401 [August 1981 ce].  I arrived there at night in an extremely bleak and sombre state, imploring and beseeching Allaah, the Most High, to avert the evil that has been decreed and also the plots of the enemies.

I remained there for two nights and in the third, after seeking counsel and praying for guidance [istikhaarah], I travelled to Beirut with great caution and fear due to what was known of the great trials and tribulations there and the wanton killings.  The route to Beirut was surrounded by danger but Allaah, the Blessed and Most High, saved me and made it easy.  I arrived at Beirut during the first third of the night, heading to the house of a dear brother of mine, a devoted, close friend who received me with his well-known kindness, manners and hospitality, and who who took me in as a respected and honoured guest, may Allaah reward him with good.

When I settled down in his house and my mind was no longer preoccupied with the difficulties of travelling, it was only natural that I [should] seize the opportunity of this sudden isolation, thus I turned all of my attention to studying and reading in his populous, rich library that was full of books and rare manuscripts, it contained most of the resources that I needed and many others that I did not have in my library in Damascus.

I asked him to show me the catalogue of the manuscripts and photocopied material that were in his hands and which he had written down on cards.  He responded to that with an open heart and righteous Islamic manners that were well-known about him.  May Allaah reward him with good.”

Hayaatul-Allaamah al-Albaani, rahimahullaah, bi qalamihi, pp. 18-19.

[Translators note: It was as a result of this journey that the Shaikh completed his book, Raf’ul-Astaar]

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