Said ibn al-Musayyib

Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib (642-715 CE سعید بن المسیب) of Medina was among the foremost authorities in jurisprudence (fiqh) among the Taba'een (generation succeeding the Sahaba).

Said ibn al-Musayyib
سعيد بن المسيب.png
Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib's name in Arabic calligraphy
Born642 CE
Died715 (aged 72–73)
EraRashidun Era,
Umayyad Era
Jurisprudencehis fiqh transmitted by the Syrian and Medinan schools, respected by all schools
Main interest(s)Fiqh; tafseer, hadith (his students)
Notable work(s)oral only
Muslim leader
  • Zuhri, Malik ibn Anas, Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Ansari, Umar II

Life and contribution to Islamic learningEdit

Sa‘id was born in 642, during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab and had the opportunity to meet most of the sahaba including ‘Umar's successors Uthman and Ali ibn Abi Talib.[1] Said ibn al-Musayyib was well known for his piety, righteousness and profound devotion to Allah; as for his stature in the Sunna, he is renowned as one of The Seven Fuqaha of Medina, and the most eminent of these.[2] He began, as did Hasan al-Basri in Basra, to give opinions and deliver verdicts on legal matters when he was around twenty years of age. The Companions admired him greatly. On one occasion, Abdullah ibn Umar remarked, "If [Muhammad] had seen that young man, he would have been very pleased with him."[3]

Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib married the daughter of Abu Hurayrah in order to be closer to him and to learn better the Traditions that he narrated. The two had a daughter. Sa‘id had her play not with dolls, but with drums;[4] later she learnt to cook.[5]

In "the days of al-Harra", the Syrian occupation of Madina under Yazid 63 / 683, Sa‘id was the one Madinan who prayed in the Prophet's mosque.[6] Sa‘id refused the oath to Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr.[7]

After Abd al-Malik had taken the caliphate and command over Madina, he requested Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib that he marry his daughter (born of his marriage to Abu Hurayra’s daughter) to the prince Hisham. Sa‘id refused and, in the face of increasing pressures and threats, he offered her to Ibn Abi Wada’, who stayed in the madrasa.[8]

In 84/705, Abd al-Malik commanded his governors to enforce the oath of allegiance to his son Al-Walid I after him. Sa‘id refused. Hisham ibn Isma'il al-Makhzumi, the governor of Medina, gaoled him and had him beaten daily until the stick was broken, but he did not yield. When his friends, such as Masruq ibn al-Ajda' and Tawus, advised him to consent to al-Walid’s caliphate in order to be saved from being beaten, he answered: "People follow us in acting. If we consent, how will we be able to explain this to them?"[9]

The next governor Umar bin Abd al-Aziz (a maternal grandson of Umar), over 706-712 CE, would not make a decision without consulting Sa‘id.[10]


Those who received Islamic rulings and Traditions from Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib include ‘Umar II, Qatadah, az-Zuhri and Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Ansari, among others.[11]

Sa‘id appears mainly to have argued from his own reasoning, by analogy, by the examples of Umar and the Prophet and by the Qur'an. He did not treat the Hadith as a science with isnads in the way of those after him (like especially Zuhri). As a result many of his rulings have been equipped with spurious isnads and converted into hadiths.[12] It is similar with tafsir: Sa‘id argued his points from the Qur'an,[13] but refused to expound on verses for their own context or meaning.[14] To the extent a "tafsir of Ibn al-Musayyib" ever existed it was compiled by his students based on his rulings.

Imam Malik ibn Anas and Imam Shafi‘i took as unquestionably authentic the ahadith that Sa‘id ibn al-Mussayyib narrated from ‘Umar or the Prophet as authentic, without mentioning from whom he received them.[15] This means that, in the view of these Imams, Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib was of the same rank as the Companions in knowledge and narration of the alhadith.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Muhammad Ibn Sa‘d was aware of a claim that Sa‘id had heard ‘Umar directly, but Ibn Sa‘d noted that none of the Ulema believed this. Tabaqat v. 5 trans. as Aisha Bewley. The Men of Madina Volume II. London: Ta-Ha. pp. 80–96.; 80. Ibn Sa‘d interprets this understanding as Sa‘id's sensitive knowledge of what ‘Umar would have commanded: Tabaqat tr. 81. Ibn Sa‘d knew variant traditions which had Sa‘id born four years into ‘Umar's caliphate, 637 CE.
  2. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 81. Even Orientalists skeptics concede his stature: GHA Juynboll (1983). Muslim Tradition. Cambridge University Press., 15-17. However the Prophetic Hadith is another matter; see below.
  3. ^ M. ‘Ajjaj al-Khatib. al-Sunna Qabl al-Tadwin. (Cairo: 1383/1963)?, 485.
  4. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 90.
  5. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 86.
  6. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 89.
  7. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 82-3, 91.
  8. ^ Dhahabi. Siyaru A’lam al-Nubala’. (:)?, 4.234.
  9. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 84-5.
  10. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 82.
  11. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 90, 91, 95.
  12. ^ Juynboll.
  13. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 82
  14. ^ Ibn Sa‘d tr. Bewley, 92 from Yahya b Sa‘id.
  15. ^ For instance: Shafii (1963). Risala. Translated by Khadduri. Islamic Texts Society., 135 (quoting Malik, Sa‘id from the Prophet); 261, 263 (Sa‘id < ‘Umar).

External linksEdit