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Biography of Imam Yahya Abi Zaidah, Author of the First Book in Kufa

Biography of Imam Yahya Abi Zaidah

Imam Yahya Abi Zaidah

Biography of Imam Yahya Abi Zaidah

There are always positive things that can be absorbed from the history and traces of the salaf scholars. His example and success in various fields can be a lesson for the current generation. Among the many inspiring scholars is Imam Yahya bin Abi Zaidah. His intellectual journey, his productivity in writing, and his scholars are recognized by other scholars and are exemplary.

His full name is Imam Yahya bin Zakaria bin Abi Zaidah bin Maimun al-Aslami bin Fairuz al-Hamdani al-Wadi'i al-Kufi al-Hamdani al-Hanafi. He was born during the time of Imam Abu Hanifah an-Nu'man, who was also one of his teachers. Therefore, his fiqh affiliation was influenced by his teacher, Abu Hanifah.

Even though his name is still fragrant and always remembered throughout the ages, the exact place and year of birth of this cleric is not known. There is no history that the author found with certainty regarding the year of birth until his death.

However, by examining his life path, Imam Syamsuddin Abu Abdillah Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Uthman ad-Dzahabi (died 748 H) in his book can suggest that Imam Yahya bin Zakaria was born around the first half of the second century, to be exact in 120 H, and died in the month of Jumadal Ula in 183 H, then buried in the city of Kufa, as the nisbat in his name, al-Kufi. (Ad-Dzahabi, Siyaru A'lamin Nubala, [Muassasah ar-Risalah, third printing: 1405 H/1985 AD, tahqiq: Imam Syu'ib], juz XI, page 72).

Imam Yahya Abi Zaidah's Intellectual Journey

According to Sheikh Khairuddin ad-Dimisyqi (died 1396 H), the Imam Yahya family was a noble family during the sultanate of the 'Abbasiyyah dynasty, precisely in the era of the leadership of King Harun ar-Rashid. His father was a minister at the time, as were several of his brothers. (Ad-Dimisyqi, al-A'lam, [Darul 'Ilmi, fifth printing: 2002], juz VIII, page 145).

At a glance, it will appear that little Yahya's life is very special more than other scholars whose stories are very concerning, but in fact, Imam Yahya's father is a person who does not love the world, the results of his work he often donate to the poor, he only leaves enough to eat with his family.

The nature of his father who did not love the world, little Yahya grew up as a person who did not love the world, he spent his days in Kufa focusing on the Koran and learning through direct guidance from his father. In addition to his time on duty, his father always taught him religious knowledge so that Little Yahya mastered several books at that time.

The son's steadfastness in reading the Koran, and the father's perseverance in guiding gave a very positive influence on his son, his enthusiasm and desire to have broad knowledge and deep understanding was very evident in him. All of this was very evident in Yahya during his growing up years, not even a short time later, he slowly devoured all the knowledge that his father had.

In addition to studying with his parents, he also studied with the teachers in Kufa, who at that time included: 

  1. Imam Abu Hanifah an-Nukman; 
  2. Imam Ayyub bin Kaitsan; 
  3. Imam Idris bin Yazid bin Abdurrahman; 
  4. Imam Ja'far bin Muhammad bin Ali; and several other teachers. 

Of these teachers, Yahya has developed very rapidly in scientific matters. In fact, at a relatively young age, he was able to memorize the Qur'an and several other books.

Under the guidance of the famous scholars at that time, he grew up as a person who was very enthusiastic in seeking knowledge. He doesn't waste time, everything is used to learn knowledge and increase his knowledge.

Imam Yahya grew up to be a very intelligent person, understands the science of fiqh with all its branches, has a wide ratio, so it is very easy to understand all the explanations. Not only that, he is also one of the scholars who has a very strong memorization power, and very noble ethics.

After several years of living in an odyssey as a talib (student of knowledge), it was time for Imam Yahya to reap the rewards, precisely after several years of studying with the scholars at that time. He finally started to be independent, and was able to formulate his own opinion in several branches of Shari'a. His vast knowledge makes him one of the scholars who is highly respected by scholars, umara and loved by all his people.

Author of the First Book in Kufa

After the period of studying with the famous scholars was sufficient, it was time for Imam Yahya to spread what he had learned. He returned to his hometown to spread the knowledge he had. He is a productive scholar figure who also managed to write several books in the city of Kufa.

As is well known, since some time ago, the city of Kufa is a city that has an important history in Islam. One of the cities located in Iraq, built since the time of the Prophet, to be precise during the first expansion of Islam outside the Arabian peninsula. In addition, Kufa has also become one of the centers for the emergence of the treasures of Islamic knowledge which has given birth to a number of productive scholars. In fact, in Arabic grammar, the opinion of the Kufa scholars is one of the most authoritative references.

However, what many do not know is, who was the first author (compiler) of the book in the city of Kufa? So the answer is Imam Yahya bin Zakaria bin Abi Zaidah. This is as emphasized by ad-Dzahabi in his book:

هُوَ أَوَّلُ مَنْ صَنَّفَ الْكُتُبَ بِالْكُوْفَةِ   

Meaning, "He (Yahya bin Abi Zaidah) was the first to compile the books in the city of Kufa." (Ad-Dzahabi, Siyaru A'lamin Nubala, juz VIII, p. 339). Apart from being the compiler of the first book, Imam Yahya is also a very productive scholar in compiling books, many of his books which later became one of the references that were widely recommended by later scholars, especially the Hambali school of thought.

Among his books, namely; Fatawa Yahya, Mughnisy Syifa min Raudhati Syahariraha, and several other books.

Ulama's Praise to Imam Yahya Abi Zaidah

The birth of Imam Yahya bin Zakaria certainly gave pride to the Kufa nation, especially regarding the development of scientific treasures in the city. Before Kufa became a famous city with the birth of several prominent scholars, there was a figure of Imam Yahya who suspected as well as being the forerunner behind the success of the next generation. Therefore, he received a lot of praise and very high appreciation by the scholars.

Imam Husayn bin Umar narrated that Imam Yahya in Imam Abu Hanifah's view of the breadth of hadith knowledge that was in him was like a newlywed who was very fragrant. That is, the breadth of hadith knowledge that is in him will never disappoint those who seek knowledge from him. This is nothing but a high appreciation from Imam Abu Hanifah regarding the success of his students in the science of hadith,

يَحْيَى بِنْ أَبِي زَائِدَةْ فِي الْحَدِيْثِ مِثْلُ العَرُوْسِ العَطِرَةِ   

It means, "(Imam) Yahya bin Abi Zaidah in the science of hadith is like a very fragrant bride." (Ad-Dzahabi, Siyaru A'lamin Nubala, juz VIII, p. 339). In the opinion of Imam Ali bin Ahmad, Imam Zakaria and his son, Imam Yahya bin Zakaria are trustworthy people, both of whom are pious. However, only Imam Yahya had works, he managed to collect hadith and jurisprudence in one codification. (Abdul Qadir bin Abil Wafa', al-Jawahirul Mudhiyah fi Thabqatul Hanafiah, [Darul 'Ashimah, first printing: 1349 H], juz I, page 542). Thus a little biography of Imam Yahya bin Zakaria, starting from his birth and death, his intellectual journey in seeking knowledge, struggles and sacrifices to his enthusiasm in seeking knowledge, so that he was known as a scholar who was recognized by other scholars of his time until the scholars after him.

Wallahu A'lam bisshawab.

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