Book Review 7: Nail al Awtaar by al Shawkaani
This eight volume set falls under what is classified as the fiqh of hadith. There are books that concentrate on the fiqh derived from Quran, such as the books of Tafsir by al Qurtubi and AbuBakr bin al Arabi, and you have books of fiqh that are concerned with a particular madhab, and then you have books of comparative fiqh, and then there is the category that this collection falls into, and that is the fiqh of hadith. This collection of hadith was done by Majdudeen Ibn Taymiyyah, the grandfather of the famous ibn Taymyyiah, and al Shawkani wrote Nail al Awtaar as a commentary on these hadith.
Imam al Shawkani was born in year 1173 in Shawkaan, Yemen. He initially studied the Zaidi madhab, which is the closest of the Shia sects to the Sunnah. But, before the age of thirty, he left the madhab and became a mujtahid. He refuted the Zaidi scholars of his time and became a follower of the Sunnah.
In addition to being the carrier of the banner of Sunnah in Yemen, and offering the strongest critique of the Zaydi school of thought, his knowledge was so impressive that, at the age of thirty, he was also chosen to serve as the Supreme Judge for Yemen for the Zaidi Imam of his time: al Mansoor. He carried on in that post for three of the Zaidi Imams of Yemen for over 40 years. In addition to serving as the Supreme Judge and teaching students, he wrote 278 books and letters!
Al Shawkaani in Nail al Awtaar starts by studying the chain of narration of the hadith, and after that, all the books of hadith that narrated it. He then derives his conclusion regarding the classification of the authenticity of the hadith. He then explains the linguistic meanings of the hadith. After that he goes into mentioning not only the opinions of the four schools, but the opinions of the Sahaba, Tabi’een, and all other notable scholars (such as al Awza’ee, Sufyan al Thawri, al Tabari, Ibn Hazm, etc.). He then discusses the different views and frequently brought usool al Fiqh and Fiqh rules into his discussion.
Nail al Awtaar is an excellent resource for reference on both the evidence of every opinion, and the views of the different scholars on different aspects of fiqh. It is also a good study for students of knowledge to learn the tools of scholarship and how an opinion is derived in Islamic fiqh.
Next: Majmu’ al Fatawa by Ibn Taymiyyah