The Persuader by Ibn Qudamah
It’s name in Arabic is “Al-Muqni’”, which can be translated perhaps as The Convincer, or The Persuasive, or even as I have chosen, The Persuader. It was written by one of the greatest scholars whose books are often referenced in any Fiqh book, classic or modern, and even by AAOIFI in their Shariah Standards. It was written by Imam Muwaffaq Al-Din Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi (died c. 1223 A.D.), or Ibn Qudamah for short.
Ibn Qudamah was born in Palestine at the time of The Crusades. The year of his birth witnessed the launch of the Second Crusade led by King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany. Palestine was being dominated by The Crusaders. His father therefore took the family to Damascus, where the young scholar would begin his learning under great scholars of his time. He studied a book entitled “Mukhtasar Al-Khiraqi” by Al-Khiraqi (died c. 945 A.D.), which would serve as the basis later for his great work “Al-Mughni”. He also travelled to Baghdad where he learned under great scholars such as Al-Jilani (died c. 1165 A.D.). He wasn’t only a scholar, but he and his brother even joined the army of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi (SALADIN) in his fight against The Crusaders. He witnessed many of the battles of liberation, including the liberation of Jerusalem in 1187 A.D.
This particular book is quite important, and especially in the Hanbali school of jurisprudence. It is not a long book by any means, around 500 pages altogether. But it’s a particularly interesting work because it has gained such importance and spawned many books based on it, whether summaries or detailed explanation all the way from the time it was written until our modern era.
Al-Muqni’ is actually part of a series of four books designed for the students of jurisprudence. They take the student gradually to the level of expertise. The first one is called Al-Umdah, which is about 170 pages long, followed by Al-Muqni’ with around 500 pages. The third level is covered by Al-Kafi, which is over 3000 pages, and finally the grand book of Ibn Qudamah, which is one of the most referenced books ever on many issues especially consensus, Al-Mughni with roughly 9,000 pages.
Al-Muqni’ has spawned many books, and I do not know of any other Fiqh book that has had as many other books based on it. I’ve counted at least 35 that books have been based on Al-Muqni’. Of the notable ones are books like: Sharh Al-Muqni”, the first explanatory book by Bahaa’ Al-Din Al-Maqdissi (died c. 1226 A.D.), Al-Sharh Al-Kabeer by another Ibn Qudamah (died c. 1283 A.D.) and was the nephew of the famous Ibn Qudamah, Al-Mumti’ by Ibn Al-Munji Al-Tanoukhi (died c. 1295 A.D.), Al-Mubdi’ which is an explanation of the original and was written by Ibn Muflih (died c. 1479 A.D.), Zad Al-Mustaqni’ by Al-Hajjawi (died c. 1560 A.D.) which is a summary of the original.
Zad Al-Mustaqni’ by Al-Hajjawi is the really famous summary and itself has spawned further books based on it such as Al-Rawd Al-Murbi’ by Al-Buhooti (died c. 1650 A.D.), which in our modern era gave way to Al-Mullakhas Al-Fiqhi, published in 2002, a summary, by our current scholar Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan of the Senior Council of Scholars of Saudi Arabia.
The scholars who later would base their works on “Al-Muqni’” heaped enormous praise on the book and its author. Al-Mardawi (died c. 1480) and whose book “Al-Insaf” is based on Ibn Qudamah’s work said: “Al-Muqni’ is one of the most useful books, the most comprehensive, clearest in explanation, smoothest in phrase, richest in knowledge, and superior in details and organization.”
Ibn Qudamah introduces his book with a very brief introduction that explains the benefits of this work: “This is a book of Fiqh (Jurisprudence) according to the Madhab (School) of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, which I labored to gather and organize, and to summarize and clarify, making it between brief and long, and containing of most judgments devoid of evidence and reasoning, thus enriching its knowledge, reducing its size, facilitating its memorization and understanding, and to be persuasive for its memorizers, and beneficial for those who review it.”
What’s important to note here, is that Ibn Qudamah deliberately made this book devoid of any discussions of the reasoning of the rules or any disputes between opinions. He simply provides one answer and description to the contract.
The area most relevant to Islamic Finance students or professionals is the “Fiqh Al-Muamalat” part, which occupies around 100 pages. As always in these books, it starts with “The Book of Sales”.
The writing is simple and brief, straight to the point, as in this brief description of what is a Bai’ (Sale) at the start of the Book of Sales: “An Exchange of Mal (Wealth) for Mal for the Purpose of Ownership.” Or this example of the definition of Waqf: “The Confinement of the Asset and the Allowance of its Benefits.” And this final example of the definition of Hiba: “Transfer of Ownership in One’s life Without Compensation.”
This is simplicity at its best. This is where Al-Muqni’ succeeds the best, in its simple and brief definitions, and in laying out concise conditions for each contract.
Reading such books carefully, one receives the full benefit of knowledge in a summarized form. One learns new things about contracts that they may not have heard before.
For example, any student of Islamic Finance would have heard of what is called “Bai’ Al-Ina”, which is when one sells an item on a deferred payment basis to another and then purchases it back for cash at a lower price. This is prohibited if there’s collusion between parties, as it’s a path to Riba. In The Book of Sales, Ibn Qudamah clarifies very concisely this issue but adds a twist to the tale: “He who buys an item for deferred payment is not permitted to buy it back for less than the sale price for cash, unless the item has changed description.” Here, he means that the item must have changed sufficiently in its nature that it becomes contractually a different item.
Some terms are used synonymously sometimes in modern language or by some scholars when in fact, classic scholars considered them different contractually. Here’s an example where Ibn Qudamah places the contracts of “Daman” and “Kafalah” separately. Here we see the contractual difference between the two. “Daman” is a guarantee of the debt obligation itself, while “Kafalah” is a guarantee of the presence of the debtor. Or put more simply, the difference is: Daman is making the Debt Present, and Kafalah is making the Debtor Present.
Ibn Qudamah also mentions possibilities of permission in each contract but without referring to who stated it, or any details as to the possible dispute. For example in The Book of Wakalah (Agency): “The Wakeel (Agent) is not allowed in a sale to sell to himself, but he may do so if his price is higher...or to sell on deferred payment or in a different currency of the country, or it may be possible to do so like a Mudarib…” Here, he meant that it may be possible to do so based on other opinions.
Again, we see this type of brevity and perhaps one would say clarity in The Book of Sharikah (Partnership) where he mentions Mudarabah as one form. He doesn’t mention at all any disputes, whilst in other books, one may find disputes as to whether Mudarabah is in fact a Sharikah, or even described as an Ijarah, and why some called it as against the Qiyas since it would be an Ijarah of an unknown work against an unknown price. Of course the Hanbali School led by Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim consider it as “Within” the Qiyas and a partnership.
This type of brevity is to help the student memorize the basics and not get embroiled in too many details of disputes between scholars, until such time he is adept at the art. Truly, one would say Ibn Qudamah was ahead of his time and thought of future students and the difficulties they might face as he diligently designed this wonderful and easy to read book.
Ibn Taymiyyah said of him: “No one has entered Syria after Sheikh Al-Ouzai’ more knowledgeable than Al-Muwaffaq (Ibn Qudamah).” It was also said that he was always smiling, and he always debated while smiling, such that people stated the he killed his opponents with his smile. Ibn Qudamah witnessed many of the battles of liberation, including the liberation of Jerusalem in 1187 A.D. He would author more than 30 books including the wonderful and very large “Al-Mughni”, one of the most important books in comparative Fiqh. He died in 1223 A.D. and was buried in Damascus.