A Short Biography of Imam An-Nasai

“I asked my teachers at Egypt about Imam An-Nasai and heard them saying that ‘An-Nasai was one of the greatest Imam of his generation.’”

“I asked my teachers at Egypt about Imam An-Nasai and heard them saying that ‘An-Nasai was one of the greatest Imam of his generation.’”

The full name of Imam An-Nasai was Ahmad ibn Shuaib ibn Ali ibn Bahr ibn Sinan ibn Dinar An-Nasai. He was born in 215 Hijri in a city called Nasa of Khorasan. His father died during his childhood and he was raised by his pious mother.

Imam An-Nasai received his preliminary knowledge about the Islamic religion from the local scholars of Nasa – it was the time when Khurasan was blessed to have legendary Islamic scholars, thinkers, and jurists. 

The Imam completed the memorization of the entire Quran when he was only 8 years old. He was a very intelligent, sharp, and enthusiastic student of knowledge. The teachers of Imam An-Nasai had noticed his unparallel brilliance and inquisitiveness at an early age, which compelled them to think differently about him.

From around 230 Hijri, Imam An-Nasai started travelling to different Muslim lands in order to acquire further knowledge. The Imam visited Balkh, Egypt, Hijaz, Iraq, Basra, Kufa, Naisapur, Syria, Nazd, Damascus, Marv, and other places of Arabia. After travelling for so many years, the Imam ultimately settled in Egypt. 

Imam An-Nasai has acquired knowledge from numerous Islamic scholars and Muhaddithoon. His most famous teacher was none other than Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (who died in 241 Hijri). An-Nasai was also a direct student of Imam Al Bukhari (who died in 256 Hijri) and Imam Abu Dawood (who died in 275 Hijri).

The famous Muhaddiths Abdullah ibn Mubarak (died on 254 Hijri) and Yahyiah ibn Musa (died on 240 Hijri) were also teachers of Imam An-Nasai. The Imam also studied under scholars like Qutaybah ibn Saeed (who died in 240 Hijri) who was a student of Imam Malik ibnu Anas (died on 179 Hijri). 

As a teacher, the role of Imam An-Nasai was also remarkable. Students of knowledge from around the Muslim world used to attend his lectures. One of his prominent students was Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal (died on 290 Hijri). Ibrahim ibn Mohammad ibn Salih (died on 349 Hijri), Mansoor ibn Ismail Al Mishri (died on 306 Hijri), Mohammad ibn Qasim Al-Andalusia (died on 327 Hijri), Imam Abul Qasim ibn Ahmad At-Tabarani (died on 360 Hijri), and Imam Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Muwayiah (died on 358 Hijri) were also notable students.

It is reported that one of the greatest Muhaddiths of Egypt, Imam Ahmad At-Tahawi Al-Misri (died on 321 Hijri), narrated Hadith from Imam An-Nasai and his son Ali studied under the Imam as well.

Imam An-Nasai was God-conscious, extremely polite, forbearing, and a staunch critic of Bidah (innovation). The Imam used to fast on every alternative day which was the sunnah of Prophet Dawood (AS). He used to avoid gatherings at royal palaces and mansions. The famous Hafiz Abul Hasan Mohammad ibn Muzaffar said:

I asked my teachers at Egypt about Imam An-Nasai and heard them saying that ‘An-Nasai was one of the greatest Imam of his generation.’”

The Imam used to remain involved in a lot of ibadah, used to perform Hajj every year and he was extremely enthusiastic about Jihad. The Imam was also very good-looking, strong-built, and had a striking appearance. In addition to that, he used to put on nice clothing all the time.

It is reported that while staying in Egypt, An-Nasai went to the house of the then famous judge and Hadith scholar of Egypt Al Harith ibn Miskeen in order to study. However, due to his elegant appearance, the Judge thought that An-Nasai could be a government spy and expelled him from the classroom. Such expulsion, however, could not diminish his eagerness in seeking knowledge and he continued to sit at the door of Imam Miskeen’s house so that he can listen to the Ahadith.

Imam Daraqutni (who died in 385 Hijri) commented that: “Imam Nasai was the most knowledgeable scholar of his generation in Egypt.” The Imam had tremendous expertise and wisdom in scrutinizing the weak Ahadith and selecting the authentic Ahadith. He had a vast knowledge about the entire biographies of the narrators of Hadith. 

Imam An-Nasai also authored many books such as (i) Kitabul Fadayilul Quran, (ii) Kitabut Tafsirun Nasai, (iii) Kitabul Asma wal Kuna, (iv) Kitabul Manasik, and (v) Kitabul Fadayilus Sahaba. It is reported that once the Imam wrote a book of Hadith called Sunan Al Kubra (the big Sunan).

Subsequently, the Imam compiled another book containing authentic Ahadith only and named it Sunan As-Sugra Wal-Mujtaba Wal-Mujtana (The Small Sunan, Carefully Chosen). This book is popularly known as Sunan An-Nasai for which Imam An-Nasai is best known for.

Sunan As-Sugra contains around 5700 Ahadith (with repetitions) in 52 volumes. The book also contains the clarification of difficult words along with different narrations for particular Hadith. In compiling the book Imam An-Nasai followed the approach of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. The book mostly contains authentic Ahadith, and whenever the Imam narrated a weak narration he explained the weakness. If we compare the books according to the ratio of the compilation of authentic Ahadith then it is 3rd in number after Bukhari and Muslim. 

As stated earlier, Imam An-Nasai lived in Egypt for a long time. It is true that his popularity reached every corner of the Muslim world but at the same time, there was a particular group of people who were jealous of the Imam. In order to avoid any conflict, the Imam migrated to Damascus around 302 Hijri.

Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad Dynasty for a long time and the Kharejis (the extremist group) also had influence in that region. As a result, the Imam noticed that the people of Damascus have grown some distorted and hostile beliefs about Ali Ibn Abi Talib. In order to correct the peoples’ creed, the Imam wrote a book called ‘Characteristics and Virtues of Ali ibn Abi Talib’ in which Ali ibn Abi Talib was praised in the right manner.

When the Imam recited his book to the people at the Masjid of Damascus, some people became agitated and asked the Imam about his views regarding Muwayiah ibn Abi Sufiyan. The Imam replied that there is a Marfu Hadith about Muwayiah which says the Prophet () once said: “May Allah never fill the belly of Muwayiah” but being a Companion of the Prophet () he may save himself by borderline.

Such a response infuriated some extreme and overzealous fanatics who started to beat the Imam mercilessly. The Imam was brought to Makkah in critical condition and he died there in 203 Hijri. Imam An-Nasai was buried in a place between the mountains Safa and Marwa.