The City of Baghdad

The Scrolls of History

The City of Baghdad (Part 2)

Mawlana Asif Iqbal Attari Madani

Department, Graduates of Jamia tul Madina,

Translation Department, al-Madina tul Ilmiyyah (Islamic Research Centre), Karachi

Historical Masjids of Baghdad

After the construction of the palace, Manūr built a masjid, but as it was slightly off from the Qibla, the Caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd had it demolished and rebuilt.[1] During his caliphate, this was the grand masjid of Baghdad. Queen Zubayda added a masjid near the royal palaces on the banks of the Tigris. She also constructed a magnificent masjid in the north of the city, in her neighbourhood Qatiya. According to records, by 3 AH, Baghdad boasted of 300,000 masjids.[2]

Baghdad’s Seminaries and Shelters

When the era of formal religious seminaries began, Baghdad was at the forefront of this field. Major religious institutes such as the Niāmiyya and Mustaniriyya were founded in the city, and their pedagogy, curricula, and architecture influenced all later seminaries. Soon, Baghdad emerged as a centre of learning with 30 institutes of higher learning. These were supported by endowments and trusts. The most famous of them were:

1.   Nizamiyya, established in 459 AH.

2.   Madrasa Abū anīfa, established in the same year, and still operating today as the Faculty of Sharia.

3.   Mustaniriyya, founded in 631 AH and remained established for a long time.

4.   Bashīriyya, founded in 653 AH. The jurisprudence of the four schools was taught here and in the Mustaniriyya.

5.   Madrasat al-Aṣḥāb

6.   Al-Madrasa al-ʿImatiya

7.   Shaykh Abū Saʿīd al-Makhzūmī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه also founded a grand seminary.

After Shaykh Abū Saʿīd al-Makhzūmī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه , the seminary came under the auspices and care of the crown of the saints, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه . He taught hadith, jurisprudence, tafsir, and 13 other disciplines. The exponential surge in students prompted a major expansion of the seminary. Around 100,000 scholars, jurists, Sufis, and students took blessings from him. In 606 AH, a shelter was built in every area of Baghdad to feed the poor during Ramadan.[3]

The Scholars and Hadith Masters of Baghdad

Sayyidunā Yūshaʿ b. Nūn عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام was a prophet of Allah, alluded to in Surah al-Kahf, hailing from the family of Sayyidunā Yūsuf عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام. He settled in Baghdad, and his shrine, near the shrine of Bahlul Dana رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه , is well known. Baghdad was also home to native scholars and those who had arrived from elsewhere. Major figures included:

1.   Imam Mūsā Kāim and Imam Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad al-Taqī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْهمَا. They were oceans of knowledge and respected authorities in jurisprudence and tasawwuf. They were spiritual guides for the people of Baghdad until they passed away there.

2.   The foremost Imam and master of the jurists, Imam Abū anīfa, Nuʿmān b. Thābit رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه was born in Kufa and passed away in Baghdad. His shrine is in the Khaizran cemetery.

3.   Imam Amad b. anbal رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه was born in Baghdad. In the pursuit of sacred knowledge, he travelled across the Muslim world. He passed away in Baghdad.

4.   Imams al-Bukhārī, Muslim, al-Tirmidhī, Ibn Māja, and Abū Dāwūd رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْهم are esteemed hadith masters who travelled to Baghdad many times in the pursuit of knowledge and hadith. Imam Abū Dāwūd authored his Sunan while sojourning in Baghdad.

5.   Shaykh Maʿrūf al-Karkhī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه was born in Karkh, Baghdad. He studied under Imam ʿAlī Riā and Imam Abū anīfa. His shrine is in Baghdad. For centuries, the residents of Baghdad have supplicated near his shrine for their needs to be fulfilled.

6.   The Sufi master, Sayyidunā Junayd al-Baghdādī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه . His ancestors were from Nahawand but he was born and raised in Iraq. He passed away in Baghdad.

7.   The proof of Islam, Imam Muhammad al-Ghazālī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه . In 484 AH, he became the vice chancellor of the Niāmiyya. After 4 years of teaching and writing, he left Baghdad.

8.   The crown of the saints, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه . He was born in the village of Jīlān, Iraq. He went to Baghdad in his youth and lived their for the rest of his life. His shrine is a frequented locus of blessings.

9.   Shaykh Shihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه . He was born in Suhraward, Zanjan Province, Iran. He went to Baghdad when he was young. While enrolled at the Niāmiyya, he studied under Imam al-Bayhaqī, al-Khaīb al-Baghdādī, and Imam al-Qushayrī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْهم. He also took blessings from Shaykh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī  رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه . His shrine is in Baghdad.

10.   Mawlana Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه was born in Balkh but studied in the Mustaniriyya, Baghdad.

Tartar Invasion

In 656 AH, during the caliphate of the last Abbasid Caliph, al-Muʿtaim Billah, Genghis Khan’s grandson, Hulagu Khan, marched on Baghdad with a large army. The Mongols launched a fierce attack on the city until finally, they penetrated the defences and wreaked havoc in the city. Not sufficing with killing thousands of civilians, they brought masjids, libraries, and seminaries to ruins.

Baghdad and Imam Ahmad Raza Khan

Imam Ahmad Raza Khan رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه respected the pious predecessors and everything associated to them. He respected the city of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه so much that after learning the direction of Baghdad when he was 6 years old, he never pointed his feet in that direction again. Respecting the direction of Qibla is a display of manners, while respecting the direction of a scholar or saint is an expression of love.[4] The city of Baghdad is also mentioned in his poetry.

[1] Tareekh Baghdad, vol. 1, p. 122

[2] Urdu Daira Ma’arif Islamia, vol. 4, pp. 646,648

[3] Ibn Battuta, vol. 1, p. 105, Al-Wafi Bil Wafayaat, vol. 2, p. 393, Al-Muntazam, vol. 18, p. 173, Mirat al-Jinan, vol. 3, p. 267, Urdu Daira Ma’arif Islamia, vol. 4, pp. 651,657,659,662

[4] Tazkirah Imam Ahmad Raza, p. 3




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