Book Review: Al-Wasiyyah: The Advice of the Esteemed Scholar Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi


Title: Al-Wasiyyah: The Advice of the Esteemed Scholar Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi
Author: Imam Muwaffaq ad-Din Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi
Translation: Ustadhah Aisha Bewley
Publisher: Turath Publishing (2008, 2011)

Imam Muwaffaq ad-Din Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi was a Hanbali faqhi and a mujtahid (a jurist and capable of independent jurisprudential thought). He was born in Palestine, educated in Damascus, lived in Baghdad for four years and passed away in 1223 in Damascus. He is known for his nine-volume work titled al-Mughni [The Enricher], a comprehensive book in Hanbali jurisprudence.

Ustadhah Aisha Bewley wrote a wonderful comprehensive introduction, excerpts of it are below:

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah said, “No faqhi with greater knowledge than Muwaffaq ad-Din entered Syria after al-Awza’i”. Adh-Dhahabi described him as one of the oceans of knowledge and one of the most intelligent men in the world. He called him Shaykh al-Islam. Ibn Rajab did the same.

He wrote about 50 books on the sciences of the Qur’an, hadith, usul ad-din, fiqh and its usul, virtues, abstinence, history and genealogy.

His legal books were widely disseminated and posses so much scholarly merit that the Sultan of scholars, al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd as-Salam, said, “I was not happy with a fatwa until I had a text from al-Mughni“.

Ibn al-Jawzi said about him, “He was a very modest, averse to this world and worldly people, easy, gentle, humble, loving the poor, of good character, generous and magnanimous. Whoever saw him thought that he was like one of the Companions. It was as if light came from his face. He did a lot of worship and recited a seventh of the Qur’an every day and night.”

Ustadhah Aisha Bewley includes a short description of the book in her introduction:

This is the advice of the esteemed scholar, the shaykh, imam and mujtahid, Imam Muwaffaq ad-Din Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi al-Jamma’ili then ad-Dimashqi al-Hanbali. His advice is extraordinary succinct, and revolves around the actions of the heart, in which sincerity settles, and by which taqwa becomes established.

If people wish to apply it, they will find great good in it and by it they can put that which is clearly crooked straight, hurry to right actions, avoid those things that render actions corrupt, be watchful of their behaviour in word and deed, reflect on the outcomes of their actions and be at peace with what Allah loves and which pleases Him.

It is a treatise of instruction and faith of the first degree, and it is enough that it comes from the heart so that it pours into the heart. It is enough for you that it is advice from a scholar who combined knowledge with fear, knew the path of this world and the Next, traveled the path of asceticism, contentment and abstinence, and wrote books that are highly esteemed and that have been passed on for centuries, especially his book al-Mughni which fully covers Hanbali fiqh.

Imam Muwaffaq’s own words are his preface of the book, regarding its purpose:

One of my righteous brothers asked me to write some advice for him, but I refused after realising that I do not enjoin on myself nor do what I ought to do!

Then it occurred to me that I ought to accede to his request, out of hope for the reward for satisfying the need of a brother Muslim and for his prayer for me, and for the reward for his acting by my advice, so that I would be among those who guide people to good when I myself am unable to do it – and by directing people to it I will be like one who actually does it. Actions are judged by intentions. My success is only by Allah, I have put my trust in Him and to Him I return.

This book is wonderfully succinct yet hits the heart on every sentence, waking the reader up from heedlessness. The Imam has divided his advices into three portions, the first part of the book is on ‘Hastening to Act’, followed by ‘Things Which Invalidated Good Deeds’ and lastly on ‘Vigilance and Fear’. In order to give the potential reader a taste of this book, the following excerpt is from the chapter ‘Hastening to Act:

Ibrahim at-Taymi said, “I imagined myself in the Garden eating from its fruit, embracing its virgins and enjoying in bliss, and then I asked my self, ‘My self, what do you desire?’ It replied, ‘I want to return to the world to do more of the deeds by which I obtained this.’ Then I imagined myself in Hell burning with its fire, gulping down its hot water and eating its bitter fruit. I asked my self, ‘What do you desire?’ It answered, ‘To return to the world and perform actions by which I can deliver my self from this.’ So I told my self, “My self, you have that wish, so act!”

May Allah preserve all those who assisted in making this book available to the English reader. Ameen.

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