Reminders From the Life of Al-Tirmidhi

One of my most favorite sessions I enjoyed at IlmSummit 2010 was Tarbiya, taught by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi; Fresh in the morning following breakfast and our after-Fajr(Morning Prayer) Quran recitations.   I knew I was not the only one who was hyped to go to Tarbiya; an Eman (faith) lifting class with no bore moment. This year we learned about Al-Tirmidhi’s most famous book, Al Jami’.  Last year the students learned about Bukhari, and I didn’t know what to expect now that we were learning about Tirmidhi, a student of Bukhari, but I now know that I really underestimated this entire class. 

Tirmidhi started studying hadith at the age of 20. He was 20 years old, not 3, not 10  but 20. So what? You ask.  Well, we hear so much about these scholars and how they learned such and such from an early age.  We learn that these people set a standard and normalized the earliness of their Islamic education, which is great.  But it definitely isn’t the same for every individual.  One has to consider what kind of family you have, what country you live in, what kind of influences surround your lifestyle. And even though we hear about the rare few who try it out at an extreme late age, I was so inspired to see that someone like him, a man who studied under the most famous teachers of hadith including Bukhari, started this journey at the age of 20, and he was not born into a family of knowledge. What’s stopping us from doing the same? Look at where he got, and know that you may just get there too, because seeking knowledge doesn’t start or stop at a set age.

We learned in class of an instance when Tirmidhi went to Hajj and he heard about a muhadith (Narrator of Hadith) he wanted to meet. Back in those days, going to hajj was an academic experience, the “ultimate” IlmSummit you might put it.  Now, everyone goes for a spiritual experience and to fulfill an obligation. But he was on his way to meet a muhadith because he heard a hadith but he didn’t quite hear it directly from the muhadith.  As I heard this I felt ashamed to simply google my ahadith I wanted to know and simply copy and paste.  These students were so committed to get the most authentic kind of hadith and here we are arguing and not knowing what hadith is from what muhadith or what level it has received in terms of the quality of authentication.  So he went to this muhadith during Hajj, and realized he forgot his pen and paper! That’s like forgetting your laptop after a long flight to Houston for IlmSummit. But, Alhamdulillah (All Praise belongs to Allah (swt)) Tirmidhi was blessed with a sharp mind; he memorized the hadith from beginning to end without even having to write it down.

This incident reminded me of a special gem from Waleed Basyouni’s Bid’ah session in IlmSummit was when he talked about how Bukhari had an excellent memory.  He didn’t just become gifted with it, he read a lot of books, which helped him develop this blessing of memorizing everything easily. Here we are making our brains and minds dependent on technology to record our stuff, when we fail to understand that it just takes some practice and effort on our part and our minds will become developed on its own inshaAllah.

Tirmidhi’s relationship with Bukhari, his main teacher, was extremely close. We can see this through the mention of Imam Bukhari’s name 120 times in Tirmidhi’s book, Al Jami’.  When Tirmidhi became blind at the near end of his life, people said that he cried so much when Bukhari died that he had become blind.  This shows how beautiful the relationship truly was.  Finally, the best gem I got from their relationship was that Bukhari himself said to Tirmidhi, “I have benefited from you more than you have benefited from me.” How often does a teacher, as brilliant and famous as him, say that to their very own student?

Tirmidhi’s book, Jami’, was compiled over 20 years, and was his most famous work to this date.  Abu Al Ansari said that in his opinon it was better than al-Bukhari because anyone can benefit from it, while Bukhari is more academic.  InshaAllah (God Willing) I will share with you in next article some entries from Jami’, so stay tuned.  In the meantime I leave you with Tirmidhi’s powerful words regarding his work, “Whoever has this book, it is as if he has a prophet speaking in his house.”

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