The Correct Meaning of the Statement “When a Hadīth Is Authentic, It Is My Opinion”
The Correct Meaning of the Statement “When a Hadīth Is Authentic, It Is My Opinion”
The following is an excerpt from our abridged translation of the masterpiece,Athar al-Hadīth al-Sharīf fī Ikhtilāf al-A’immah al-Fuqahā’, by the Syrian Hadīth scholar, the teacher of our teachers, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah. There were numerous requests for an abridged translation of the work for the benefit of non-Arabic readers, as the original work is relatively lengthy. The abridged translation has now been completed. We will post sections of it in instalments and finally publish the complete abridgement in a separate post.
The excerpt before you is a clarification of a famous statement issued by the Imāms of the madhhabs, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion.” In recent times, a literal and overzealous reading of this statement has led to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. In this excerpt, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah provides quotations from leading scholars of each madhhab that explain the correct purport of this statement. Moreover, he presents several examples of individuals who attempted to practice on the outward meaning of this statement and as a result were subject to criticism by leading scholars.
To make the article more reader-friendly, an idiomatic translation was adopted in several places. In contrast to the remainder of the abridgement, this section of the work was for the most part left as it is in the original.
Muntasir Zaman Sha‘bān, 25, 1435
The Correct Meaning of the Statement “When a Hadīth Is Authentic, It Is My Opinion”
By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
Before concluding the first cause of difference, it is necessary to discuss two doubts that dwell in the minds of many people:
The statement, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion”
The authenticity of a Hadīth is sufficient to practice upon it
The first doubt is put forth as follows:
Imām al-Shāfī‘ī mentions, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion.’ Hence, if we come across an authentic Hadith in Sahīh al-Bukhārī, for example, in a particular issue and we practice according to that Hadīth, then we have practiced upon an established Sunnah and according to a reliable school of jurisprudence. Moreover, it is incorrect to confine the madhhab of Imām al-Shafi‘ī to what is written in the works of his school of jurisprudence because, based on his own statement, any authentic Hadith will also form part of his madhhab.”
The answer is that the statement “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion” has been recorded from scholars besides Imām al-Shāfi‘ī. Rather, this is the mute expression of every Muslim who understands the meaning of the statement, “there is none worthy of worship besides Allāh, and Muhammad is His messenger.”
In his Tafsīr, after quoting the above statement from Imām al-Shāfi‘ī, Hafiż Ibn Kathīr [d. 774 AH] comments:
This was due to his integrity and honesty, and this is the view of his brothers from the Imāms (Allah be pleased be pleased with them all).
In my opinion, it does not behoove any person of understanding who can distinguish between authentic and weak narrations, has a deep understanding of legal theory and Arabic, and is well versed with the differences and sources of the Salaf, when he comes across an authentic narration that contradicts the opinion of his Imām, that he turns a blind eye to the hadith and continues to practice on the opinion of his Imām.
However, the correct meaning of their statement is “When a Hadīth is suitable for practice, it is my opinion.” Numerous scholars from the three schools of jurisprudence, i.e. Hanafī, Shāfī‘ī and Mālikī, have articulated this explanation.
Statements from the Scholars of the Hanafī School
In his commentary on al-Hidāya, Ibn al-Shihna al-Kabīr [d. 815] writes:
When a person finds a Sahīh Hadīth that is contrary to the madhhab, he should practice on that Hadīth, as that will be his madhhab. By doing this, he will remain a Hanafī because it has been authentically recorded that Imām Abū Hanīfa said, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion.” Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr has related this statement from Imām Abu Hanīfa and other Imāms besides him.
In his Book Radd al-Muhtār, after quoting the above statement, Ibn ‘Ābidīn [d. 1252 AH] comments:
Imām al-Sha‘rānī has related a similar statement from the four Imāms. It is evident that [this address] is directed to those who are qualified to examine scriptural texts and distinguish between abrogated [texts] from non-abrogated [ones]. Hence, when the scholars of the madhhab examine evidence and act upon it, its attribution to the madhhab is sound because it was issued by the permission of the founder of the madhhab, since there is no doubt that if he knew the weakness of his proof, he would retract from it and follow the stronger proof.
He further writes:
Any view for which there is an authentic report without conflicting evidence will be the position of themujtahid even if he he did not explicitly state as such. This is due to what we have presented earlier in the preface [relating] from Hafiż Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr and Imām al-Sha‘rānī that each of the four Imāms said, “When a Hadith is authentic, it is my opinion.”
He also discusses this issue in his treatise, “Sharh Rasm al-Muftī”, wherein he places an additional condition. He writes:
This ought to be restricted to an opinion of the madhhab, because they have not permitted ijtihādoutside the madhahb from what our Imāms have agreed upon, because their ijtihād is greater than hisijtihād, since it is evident that they came across evidence stronger than what he came across, due to which they did not practice upon it.
I wish draw attention to two points:
Some deceptive people quote the above statement of Ibn Shihna from the marginalia of Ibn ‘Ābidīn, Rad al-Muhtār, [without mentioning the remarks of Ibn ‘Ābidīn] giving people the impression that this is the opinion of the scholars, in particular Ibn ‘Abidīn who is the seal of the latter-day critical researcher of themadhhab. Likewise, they deceptively quote similar statements from al-Mīzān al-Kubrā of al-Sha‘rānī, and tell people, “He [al-Sha‘rānī] is a reliable Sūfī scholar whose statements are accepted among the followers of the Imāms of the madhhab!” He is as they describe, but this is truthful speech produced for a corrupt motive.
The statement of ‘Ibn ‘Ābidīn “It is evident that [this address] is directed to those who are qualified to…” is very important to note, as the statement “It is evident” in our terms is similar to “common sense”, so Ibn ‘Ābidīn considers this restriction, i.e. qualification, as common sense and such that no one should be ignorant regarding it. An example of common sense is the indication of the statement “the sun has risen” that it is day and not night. Similarly, the statement of the Imām, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion” indicates without any doubt that this address is directed to those who are qualified to examine scriptural texts and distinguish between abrogated [texts] from non-abrogated [ones]. Thus, it is incorrect for these ignoramuses or misled [half] students to act bold regarding this issue.
In his book, Daf‘ al-Awhām, ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ghaffār ‘Uyūn al-Sūd [d. 1349 AH] quotes the statement of Ibn Shihna and the restrictions placed by Ibn ‘Abidīn, after which he writes:
It is an excellent restriction because we see in our era many misled people, who are affiliated with knowledge, assume themselves above the stars whereas they are beneath the gutters. They read one of the six canonical books of Hadīth, for example, and come across a Hadīth that apparently contradicts the madhhab of Imām Abū Hanīfa so they say, “Throw the madhhab of Imām Abū Hanīfa against the wall, and hold firm unto the Hadīth of the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessing be upon him).” They do not realize that this Hadīth is possibly abrogated or opposed by a Hadith with a stronger sanad. If these people are left to practice on any Hadīth without restrictions, not only will they deviate but will lead astray anyone who follows them. 
In such instances, the pseudo-propagators of practicing on the Sunnah cause a commotion by saying, “Is it permissible for you to pass a ruling of deviance on those who practice on the Sunnah and instruct others to do so?” We respond to such a question in the affirmative if the person lacks the qualifications for that position. We consider him a deviant not because he practices on the Sunnah-we seek Allah’s protection from that- rather, because of his audacity in assuming a post for which he is unqualified.
We have been preceded in passing such a ruling by an authority of Hadīth and jurisprudence, Imām ‘Abd Allah ibn Wahb al-Misrī, one of Imām Malik’s esteemed students in Madīnah and Imām al-Layth ibn Sa‘d’s students in Egypt. He says, “Hadīth can be a means of deviance except for the scholars.”
Imām Ibn Abū Zayd al-Qayrawānī says, “[Sufyān] Ibn ‘Uyanah mentions, ‘Hadīth can be a means of deviance except for the scholars’. He intends by it that non-scholars may interpret a Hadīth literally even though a separate Hadīth explains it differently, an evidence is unknown to him, or that Hadīth is dismissed due to relevant factors that necessitate such, all issues that only highly qualified jurists are capable of comprehending.
Statements from the Scholars of the Shāfī‘ī School
In his monumental commentary, Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, Imām al-Nawawī [d. 676 AH] has discussed this issue in detail wherein he says:
[It is reported that al-Shafi‘i (Allah have mercy on him) said, “When you find in my book [anything] contrary to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), then accept theSunnah of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and leave my opinion.” Moreover, it was reported from him, “When a Sahih hadith is contrary to my opinion, act upon the hadith and leave my opinion,” or he said “then it is my madhhab.” The purport of this has been narrated with different wordings.]
Our [Shafi‘i] companions have acted on this in the issue of tathwīb, the condition of being released from ihram due to illness and other [issues] besides these which are known in the books of the madhhab.
The meaning of what al-Shafi‘i said is not that everyone who sees an authentic hadith can say, “This is the madhhab of al-Shafi‘i,” and act on its outward [meaning]. This is only for those who have reached the rank of ijtihad in the madhhab, [the description of which has preceded, or close to it]. It is [also] a condition that he predominantly thinks that al-Shafi‘i (Allah have mercy on him) did not come across this hadith or did not know its authenticity. However, this is only [possible] after studying all the books of al-Shafi‘ī, the books of his companions who took from him and what resembles them. This is a difficult condition, and rarely does one acquire this [qualification]. The scholars have placed this condition because al-Shafi‘i (Allah have mercy on him) avoided acting on the outward [meaning] of many narrations which he saw and knew but a proof was erected before him invalidating it or abrogating it or specifying it or interpreting it etc.
Shaykh Abu ‘Amr, i.e. Ibn al-Salāh, says, “Acting on the apparent meaning of what al-Shafi‘i said is not easy, because it is not permissible for every jurist to independently act on what he believes is proof from Hadith. From the Shafi‘is who trod this path in acting on a Hadith, which al-Shafi‘i left deliberately although he knew its authenticity due to an obstacle which he comprehended and was hidden to others, is Abu ‘l-Walīd Mūsā ibn Abi ‘l-Jārūd, a student of al-Shafi‘ī. He said, ‘The Hadith, “The cupper and the cupped have broken the fast,” is authentic, so I say, ‘Al-Shafii‘s opinion is that the cupper and the cupped have broken the fast.’ The scholars did not accept this from Abu ‘l-Walīd because al-Shafi‘i left it, despite knowing its authenticity, because it was abrogated according to him. Al-Shafi‘i clarified its abrogation and adduced proof against it.”
It will be appropriate to add over here what ‘Allāmah al-Kawtharī [d. 1371 AH] has alluded to in his statement:
[In many rulings, Imām Abū Hanīfa followed the likes of Shurayh and al-Nakha‘ī without taking the effort to recognize their evidences. However, when the correct opinion is apparent and proof is found that contradicts this view, it is incorrect to ascribe to his ijtihād that which he followed someone else without evidence and the invalidity of that opinion is apparent like the clarity of morning, because ijtihād is only in issues where there is no scriptural text…]
From this statement, we learn that when the following conditions are found it is incorrect to attribute to the Imām the opinion that is contrary to clear proof because ijtihād is in those issues where there is no textual evidence:
When it is evident that the Imām of the madhhab opted for this view without effort [in searching for evidence], and just followed someone else
The correct opinion is apparent and proof is produced contrary to his view
The mistake of the person the Imām followed is apparent like the clarity of morning
‘Allāmah al-Kawtharī also writes:
The statement of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion” does not mean “Every Hadīth anyone has classified as authentic I [al-Shāfi‘ī] will practice upon it and retract from my original view.” The correct meaning is “When a Hadīth is authentic with its relevant prerequisites and its indication is clear, I [al-Shāfi‘ī] will practice upon it” otherwise, his madhhab will be incoherent.
Scholars have criticized Abū Muhammad al-Juwaynī when he attempted to compile a book gathering therein rulings in which there are authentic narrations according to him, and ascribe them to Imām al-Shāfī‘ī. He premised this on the aforementioned statement of Imām al-Shāfī‘ī. However, Hadīth scholars realized that he [al-Juwaynī] would authenticate unauthentic narrations, and ascribe the opinions extracted from those narrations as opinions of Imām al-Shāfī‘ī, so they prevented him from doing so.
In his treatise, Ma‘nā Qawl al-Imām al-Muttalibī: īdhā Sahh al-Hadīth fahuwa Madhhabī, Imām al-Taqī al-Subkī [d. 756 AH] writes:
Abu ‘l-Walīd al-Naysābūrī [d. 349 AH], one of our leading scholars, would take an oath that the opinion of al-Shāfī‘ī is that the fast of the cupper and the cupped is invalid, basing this on that [the Hadīth in this regard is authentic, and Imām al-Shāfi‘ī says, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion.”] However, scholars refuted him with a similar answer [al-Shāfi‘ī did not practice on it despite knowing its authenticity because according to him it was abrogated] just as they refuted Ibn Abi ‘l-Jārūd. This is like an issue where some Mujtahids slip, but to accuse of error is difficult due to the vastness of understanding….
It has been related that Abu ‘l-Hasan Muhammad al-Karajī al-Shāfi‘ī, who was a jurist and Hadīth scholar, would not make Qunūt in the Morning Prayer [an opinion of the Shāfi‘ī madhhab]. He would say, “According to me it has been authentically transmitted from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) that he would not make Qunūt in the Morning Prayer…”
Hence, Imam-al-Subkī – also did not make Qunūt for a period of time. Thereafter, I learned that the authentic report of the Messenger of Allah making Qunūt in the Morning Prayer refers to the supplication against [the tribes of] Ri‘l and Dhakwān, and in prayers besides the Morning Prayer. As for leaving Qunūt out completely after Qiyām in the Morning Prayer, there is the narration transmitted by ‘Isā ibn Māhān regarding whom there is well-known criticism but this is not the place to elucidate. Accordingly, I retracted from my view and now I [once again] make Qunūt. In this there is no objection against Imām al-Shāfī‘ī, rather it is only a deficiency on our part in examining. 
In this excerpt, there is great lesson for those willing to heed! When this is the condition of Ibn Abi ‘l-Jārūd, who was a student of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī, and whose academic standing needs no introduction. Moreover, like him, rather more eminent than him, is Abu ‘l-Walīd al-Naysābūrī, who was not only a narrator, but an authority in al-Dirāya as well, yet he would take an oath and ascribe to al-Shāfi‘ī practice on such a Hadīth that al-Shāfi‘ī deliberately did not practice on because he considered it abrogated. When this is the condition of these great personalities, what can we say regarding the people of our time? Does it make sense that they practically demonstrate on [the madhhab of] Imām al-Shāfī his statement even though they hardly comprehend one of al-Shāfi‘ī’s opinions?
Similarly, Abu ‘l-Hasan al-Karajī, who al-Subkī describes as a jurist and Hadīth scholar, and his student, al-Sam‘ānī describes him as “An authority, ascetic, scholar, intellectual, jurist, Muftī, Hadīth scholar, poet and linguist”, yet we find him opposing the Imām of his madhhab by not practicing on Qunūt on the basis that the Hadīth in this regard is authentic, and his Imām clearly stated, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion” and, “Leave my opinion and practice and the Hadīth.” Despite this, those after him criticized him, amongst whom is al-Tāj ibn al-Subkī in his encyclopedia of biographical entries, Tabaqāt al-Shāfi‘īya, in the entry of al-Karajī.
After mentioning the stance of Abu ‘l-Hasan al-Karajī, al-Tāj al-Subkī [d. 771 AH] writes:
In front of him is two extremely difficult obstacles. The first is proving the authenticity of the Hadīth- in leaving out Qunūt-what a difficult task! The second is to attribute this opinion to the madhhab of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī, which is also a difficult task.
Likewise, al-Taqī al-Subkī would make Qunūt in the Morning Prayer in accordance to the Shafī‘ī madhhabupon which he was brought up. Then after coming to know of the incident of al-Karajī, he omitted the Qunūt. Thereafter, he retracted and began making Qunūt. Al-Subkī is an Imām justifiably described as an “unrestricted mujtahīd” or a “mujtahid in the madhhab.” His contemporary Hafiż al-Dhahabī [d. 748 AH] described him-despite their mutual difference- as the leader of his era in Hadīth and jurisprudence.
When the likes of al-Subkī got tangled up in such a confusion, keeping in mind his academic position, is it permissible for those who are [exponentially] inferior to him to cling unto the outward meaning of al-Shāfī‘ī’s statement. Furthermore, is it permissible for them to hastily practice on authentic narrations confusing themselves and others in the process pretending to practice on the dictates of the statement of a reliable Imām of the Muslims? [Accordingly, they say,] “How could we be blamed?”
Thereafter, al-Subkī quotes a lengthy excerpt from Abū Shāmah al-Maqdisī in this regard, the beginning of which is:
Abū Shāma, the student of Ibn al-Salāh and the teacher of al-Nawawī, who was extremely particular about following Hadīth, mentions…
Then he quotes the entire statement of Abū Shāmah, the ending of which is:
Only that scholar can assume this task who has reached the ranks of ijtihād. It was such a person who Imām al-Shāfī‘ī was addressing when he said, “When you find the Hadīth of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) contrary to my opinion, then opt for the Hadīth and leave my opinion” and this is not everyone’s task.
It is narrated in Sahīh al-Bukhārī on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) would lift his hands when standing for the third rak‘a. In his monumental commentary, Fath al-Bārī, under the commentary of this Hadīth, Hāfiż Ibn Hajar [d. 852 AH] writes:
Al-Khattābī mentions, “Imām al-Shāfī‘ī did not practice on this Hadīth even though it is the implication of his stance in the issue of accepting addition (qabūl al-ziyāda). Ibn Khuzayma says, “It is a Sunnahdespite al-Shāfī‘ī not mentioning it, as the isnād is authentic, and he [al-Shāfī‘ī] stated, “Practice on theSunnah, and leave my opinion.”
Ibn Daqīq al-‘Id says, “Based on the dictates of al-Shāfī‘i’s view, lifting the hands therein should be recommended, as he establishes the lifting of hands when going to Rukū‘ and getting up from there. However, to make it part of al-Shāfī‘i’s madhhab because he said, “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion” is problematic.
[Hāfiż Ibn Hajar says] The reason this is problematic is because the situation to practice upon this advice is when it is known that al-Shāfī‘ī did not come across this Hadīth. However, if we come to know that he came across it but rejected it or interpreted it, then no. In this situation, both are possible.
In view of this essential clarification from these pious authorities of jurisprudence and Hadīth, it becomes evident who al-Shāfī‘ī was addressing with his statement. He did not intend these claimants to superiority over knowledge and scholars who in their true state and reality are [academically] crippled.
Statements from the Scholars of the Mālikī School
In his book, Sharh al-Tanqīh, Imām Shihāb al-Dīn Abu ‘l-‘Abbās al-Qarāfī al-Mālikī [d. 684 AH] expounds on the prerequisites for assuming this task wherein he says:
Many Shāfī‘ī jurists rely on this principle and say, “This is the opinion of al-Shāfī‘ī, as the Hadīth in this regard is authentic.” This is an erroneous approach because first they must ascertain the absence of conflicting evidence, which requires a comprehensive study of Sharī‘ah after which one can safely claim, “There is no conflicting evidence for this Hadīth.”
As for the comprehensive study of other than an unrestricted mujtahid is irrelevant. Accordingly, the Shafī‘ī who claims [“This is the opinion of al-Shāfī‘ī, as…”] should firstly acquire the ability of comprehensive study [of Sharī‘ah] before he passes such a verdict. 
Hence, if we wish to attribute a view to the Shafī‘ī madhhab due to the authenticity of the Hadīth supporting it, then it is imperative that we first conduct an extensive study to ensure the absence of conflicting evidence. Further, to ascertain the absence of conflicting evidence one requires the ability to comprehensively study the entire Sharī‘ah, not only Hādīth, which is the sole task of a mujtahid.
This statement of al-Qarāfī al-Mālikī reminds us of a statement Abū Bakr al-Mālikī said concerning Imām Asad ibn al-Furāt [d. 213 AH], the student of Imām Mālik in Madīnah, and the student of Imām Muhammad in ‘Irāq:
It is well-known that Asad ibn al-Furāt (may Allah be pleased with him) would adhere to those opinions of the people of Madīnah and the people of ‘Irāq that he deemed correct. He had the qualifications to do so, due to his depth of knowledge, relentless search for knowledge and preponderance of ‘Ulamā’ and Hadīth scholars he met.
Consider the three conditions that qualified him for that position:
Depth of knowledge
Relentless search for knowledge
Preponderance of ‘Ulamā’ and Hadīth scholars he met
If it were not for the necessity of reflecting (ta’ammul), composure (ta’nnī) and prerequisites, it would be permissible for any person to ascribe every ruling to a particular Imām in which he is content with the authenticity of the Hadīth that supports it. Thereafter, a second person can ascribe the same opinion to a different Imām. Now, a third person, who is content with the authenticity of a contrary Hadīth in this very issue, can ascribe this new opinion to both the first and second Imāms, and so ad infinitum, causing incoherence in knowledge and chaos in dīn under the pretext of implementing the slogan “When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion.”
In that case, the matter worsen and the chaos extends to claiming consensus in an issue wherein any of us are content with the authenticity of the Hadīth that supports it! Because this statement [When a Hadīth is authentic, it is my opinion] is the mute expression of every scholar, nay every Muslim. We seek Allah’s protection.
If it is asked:
Then what was the intent of the Imāms in establishing this statement and other similar statements in the hearts of their disciples and those after them?
The answer is what the expert scholar and theoretician, Mawlānā Habīb Ahmad al-Kirānawī, mentions in the second introduction to the book, I‘lā’ al-Sunan:
The reality of these statements is to express the fact that the evidence in reality is the statement of the Messenger of Allah and not my statement. Therefore, do not regard my statement as an independent proof. I absolve myself from whatever I say contrary to the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings be upon him). This reality does not necessitate what this claimant has ascribed to him [al-Shāfī‘ī] i.e. ascribing every ruling to him in which the Hadīth supporting it is authentic according to any claimant. Understand this well and do not be deceived by these statements…
The gist of the answer to this objection from the these Imāms: Ibn ‘Abidīn, Ibn al-Salāh, Abū Shāma, al-Nawawī, al-Qarāfī and al-Subkī, is that only that person can ascribe an opinion to the madhhab of Imām al-Shāfi‘ī based on the aforementioned statement who has reached the ranks of ijtihād or is near it.
In light of the above, it is clear that we cannot practice on an opinion merely because we came across a Hadīth, be it authentic, that supports it, and thereafter claim that it is the madhhab of Imām al-Shāfī‘ī or any other Imām.
We have seen how many great early scholars practiced on the outward meaning of this statement, due to which those after them criticized them, or their application emerged incoherent; hence, it is the responsibility of the intelligent to take heed. The religion of Allah is loftier than leaving it as a toy for the jesters simply because the non-qualified claim to practice on the Sunnah.
Nevertheless, we do not reject that this statement has a practical implication, such as the places where Imām al-Shāfī‘ī has sated the authenticity of the Hadīth. Under the Hadīth of ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) “My place is wherever you hold me back”, Hāfīż Ibn Hajar writes, “This is one of the places where Imām al-Shāfī‘ī has stated the authenticity of the Hadīth; I have gathered all such narrations in a separate book alongside an analysis of those narrations.”
Every field has its experts, so one should not exceed his limitation.
After this explanation, I say: should we not take a lesson from the condition of others [i.e. the scholars mentioned above] keeping in mind their knowledge and virtue, and halt at the statements of the Imām who Allah has made easy for us to follow from our formative stage?
 In the entry of al-Ismā‘īlī, the author of al-Mustakhraj ‘alā al-Sahīh al-Bukhārī, in Tadhkirat al-Huffāż Hāfidh al-Dhahabī writes, “He has compiled the Musnad of ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him), which I have read. I was amazed by this Imām’s phenomenal memory, due to which I now have conviction that the latter-day [scholars] have no hope in reaching the ranks of the predecessors.