Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani

Muhammad Nāsir al-Dīn al-Albanī
Title Shaykh
Born 1914
Shkodër, Albania
Died October 4, 1999 (aged 85)
Amman, Jordan
Nationality Albanian, Syrian
Ethnicity Albanian
Occupation Faqih, historiographer, bibliographer, watch repairman
Religion Islam
Denomination Sunni
Main interest(s) Hadith studies
Awards King Faisal International Prize, 1999
Website Memorial website

Muhammad Nasir-ud-Dīn al-Albani (1914 – October 2, 1999) was an Albanian Islamic scholar who specialised in the fields of hadith and fiqh. He established his reputation in Syria, where his family had moved when he was a child and where he was educated.

Largely self-taught in the study of Islamic texts, Albani is considered to be a major figure of the purist Salafi movement which developed in the 20th century.[1] Al-Albani did not advocate violence, preferring quietism and obedience to established governments.[2]

A watchmaker by trade, al-Albani was active as a writer, publishing more than 100 books, chiefly on hadith and its sciences. He also lectured widely in the Mideast, Spain and the United Kingdom on the Salafist movement.

In the 1960s, Albani was invited to teach at the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia. His views were opposed by numerous traditional clerics and his contract allowed to lapse. He later returned from Syria for a brief time in the 1970s as the head of higher education in Islamic law in Mecca. He again aroused too much opposition, and returned to Syria. After serving time under house arrest by the Syrian government in 1979, Albani moved to Jordan, where he resided for the rest of his life.


Early life

Albani was born into a poor Muslim family in the city of Shkodër in northern Albania in 1914.[3] During the reign of the secularist Albanian leader Ahmet Zogu, al-Albani's family migrated to Damascus, Syria. In Damascus, Albani completed his early education - initially taught by his father - in the Quran, Tajwid, Arabic linguistic sciences, Hanafi Fiqh and further branches of the Islamic faith, also helped by native Syrian scholars.[4][5] In the meantime, he earned a modest living as a carpenter before joining his father as a watchmaker.[5]

Albani began to specialize in hadith studies in the 1930s. Though he was largely self-taught,[6][7][8] he transcribed and commented on Abd al-Rahim ibn al-Husain al-'Iraqi's Al-Mughnee 'an-hamlil-Asfar fil-Asfar fee takhrej maa fil-lhyaa min al-Akhbar.[5] He followed this writing a series of lectures and books, as well as publishing articles in Al-Manar magazine.[3]

Scholastic career

Starting in 1954, Albani began delivering informal weekly lessons. By 1960, his popularity began to worry the government of Syria, and he was placed under surveillance by the Hafiz al-Asad government. He was imprisoned twice in 1969.[9] In the late 1970s, the government placed him under house arrest more than once.[10]

After a number of his works were published, Albani was invited to teach Hadith at the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia by the University's then-vice president, Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz. Shortly upon his arrival, Albani angered the Wahhabi elite in Saudi Arabia, who did not like his anti-traditionalist stances in Muslim jurisprudence. They were alarmed by Albani's intellectual challenges to the ruling Hanbali school of law but were unable to challenge him openly due to his popularity.[11] When Albani wrote a book supporting his view that the Niqab, or full face-veil, was not a binding obligation upon Muslim women, he caused a minor uproar in the country. His opponents ensured that his contract with the university was allowed to lapse without renewal.[11]

In 1963, Albani left Saudi Arabia and returned to his studies and work in the Az-Zahiriyah library in Syria. He left his watch shop in the hands of one of his brothers.[5] He was later invited back to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, but did not remain long because of opposition from clerics.

Imprisonment in Syria

Albani was arrested twice in Syria in the 1960s. He was jailed in May 1967 and released a month later, in June 1967. During his imprisonment, al-Albani edited Al-Hafiz al-Munziri’s Mukhtasar Sahih Muslim.[3]

He was placed under house arrest more than once in the 1970s by the Ba'ath regime of Hafez al-Assad.[9][12] The Syrian government accused Albani of "promoting the Wahhabi da’wa, which distorted Islam and confused Muslims."[12]

Later life

Albani visited various countries for preaching and lectures – amongst them Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, and the United Kingdom. He moved a number of times between Syria and a couple of cities in Jordan. He also lived in the UAE.[5]

After Bin Baz's intervention with Saudi educational management, Albani was invited to Saudi Arabia a second time in order to serve as the head of higher education in Islamic law in Mecca.[13] This did not last due to controversy among the Saudi establishment regarding Albani's views.

Albani returned to Syria, where he was briefly jailed again in 1979. He moved to Jordan, living there for the remainder of his time. He died in 1999 at the age of 85.[3]


Albani was a well-known proponent of Salafism. He is considered one of the movement's primary figureheads in the 20th century. He was critical of what he viewed as the stagnation of Muslim civilization, blaming it on a blind fanaticism to old traditions that resulted in a stifling of free thought and inquiry. Albani criticised the four mainstream schools of Islamic law, in addition to the spread of Sufism and the Tariqa system. Although Salafism has frequently been associated with Wahhabism, Albani distinguished between the two movements, and he criticised the latter while supporting the formert. He had a complex relationship to each movement.[14][15]

Albani was amongst some leading Salafi scholars who were preaching for decades against what they considered the warped literalism of extremists. Politically they were quietists who rejected vigilantism and rebellion against the state. They believed that Muslims should focus on purifying their beliefs and practice and that, in time, "God would bring victory over the forces of falsehood and unbelief."[16]

Albani's own views on jurisprudence and dogma have been a matter of debate and discussion. During a 1989 visit to Saudi Arabia, Albani was asked if he adhered to the lesser-known Zahiri school of Islamic law; he responded affirmatively.[17] Albani's opponents among the mainstream have affirmed this as a point of criticism. A number of Albani's students have denied his association with any formal school of jurisprudence.


Albani held a number of controversial views that ran counter to the wider Islamic consensus, and more specifically to Hanbali jurisprudence.[18] These include:

Additionally, Albani wrote a book in which he redefined the proper gestures and formulae that constitute the Muslim prayer ritual “according to the Prophet’s sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallams practice.” These were contrary to the prescriptions of all established schools of jurisprudence.[18] As he argued that several details of the concrete prayer that have been taught from generation to generation were based on dubious hadith, his book caused considerable unease.[23] Albani's descriptions for the performance of the Tahajjud and Taraweeh prayer deviated considerably from established practice.[23]

Albani openly criticized Syed Qutb after the leader was executed. He claimed that Qutb had deviated in creed and held the belief of Oneness of Being. Further, Albani accused Hassan al-Banna, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, of not being a religious scholar and holding "positions contrary to the Sunna".[24]


Albani was criticized by a number of contemporary Sunni scholars. Safar Al-Hawali criticized Albani for his "categorical condemnation of Taqlid" and his "radical hadith based revisionism".[25]

In the early 1970s Syrian Hadith scholar Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda published a tract against al-Albani's reevaluation of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.[26] In 1987 the Egyptian hadith scholar Mahmud Sa'id Mamduh published a work entitled Alerting the Muslim to al-Albani's Transgression upon Sahih Muslim.[26]

He stated that:

Indeed, I have concluded that his methods disagree with those of the jurists and hadith scholars, and that his methods are creating great disarray and evident disruption in the proofs of jurisprudence both generally and specifically. He lacks trust in the Imams of law and hadith, as well as in the rich hadith and law tradition handed down to us, in which the umma has taken great pride.[27]

Syrian hadith scholar Nur al-Din 'Itr rebutted some of al-Albani's views.[28] His contemporary, the Syrian scholar Said Ramadan al-Bouti, took issue with Albani's well-known call for all Palestinians to leave Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.[29] He wrote two rebuttals of al-Albani entitled Anti-Madhabism: the dangers of an innovation that threaten the Sharia and Salafiyya: a blessed historical period, not a school of fiqh.[28]

Lebanese scholar Gibril Fouad Haddad dubbed al-Albani "the chief innovator of our time" and accused him of bida.[26] The "reformed" jihadist Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif considered Albani to be "wrapped in evil" and "not suitable to be a sheikh" for his alleged claim that Jihad is defined as forgiveness, education and prayer.[30]

Legacy and honors

Albani was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in 1999 before his death for his contributions to Islamic studies. The award committee described him as "considered by many academics as probably the greatest Islamic scholar of the 20th Century."[3][31]

Over a period of sixty years, Albani's lectures and published books were highly influential in the field of Islamic studies, and many of his works became widely referred to by other Islamic scholars.[3] Muhibb-ud-Deen Al-Khatib, a contemporary scholar, said of him: "And from the callers to the Sunnah who devoted their lives to reviving it was our brother Muhammad Nasiruddin Nooh Najati Al-Albani."[32][33]

In 2015, the Huffington Post remarked that Albani's movement of "'Quietist Salafism' with its strong opposition to tafkirism (doctrine of excommunication and declaring other Muslims of being heretics) and violence may provide the rhetoric that could prevent youth from being drawn to the apocalyptic rubbish of ISIS."[34]


Albani's works, mainly in the field of Hadith and its sciences, number over 100. They include:[5]

  1. At-Targhib wa't-Tarhib (Volumes 1–4)
  2. At-Tasfiyah wa't-Tarbiya
  3. At-Tawassulu: Anwa'uhu wa Ahkamuhu (Tawassul: Its Types & Its Rulings) (link to english translation)
  4. Irwa al-Ghalil (Volumes 1–9)
  5. Talkhis Ahkam al-Jana'iz
  6. Sahih wa Da'if Sunan Abu Dawood (Volumes 1–4)
  7. Sahih wa Da'if Sunan at-Tirmidhi (Volumes 1–4)
  8. Sahih wa Da'if Sunan ibn Majah (Volumes 1–4)
  9. Al-Aqidah at-Tahawiyyah Sharh wa Ta'liq
  10. Sifatu Salati An-Nabiyy (link to English translation)
  11. Silsalat al-Hadith ad-Da'ifa (Volumes 1–14)
  12. Silsalat al-Hadith as-Sahiha (Volumes 1–11)
  13. Salat ut-Tarawih (later an abridgement of this book was published by al-Albani – Qiyamu Ramadhan)
  14. Salat an-Nabawi (the prayer of the prophet in the light of authentic hadiths) (link to english translation)

See also


  1. Lauzière, Henri (2015). The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century. Columbia University Press. p. 10 via De Gruyter. (subscription required (help)).
  2. Haykel, Bernard (2009). "Salafī Groups". In John L. Esposito. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required (help)).
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Sheikh Mohammad Nasir Ad-Din Al-Albani, King Faisal International Prize official website. Accessed November 26, 2014.
  4. Roel Meijer, Global Salafism: Islam's New Religious Movement, pg. 63. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 A Brief Biography of Ash-Shaikh Al-Muhaddith Abu 'Abdir-Rahmaan Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaani by Dr. 'Aasim 'Abdullaah al-Qaryooti
  6. Lacroix, Stephane; Holoch, George (2011-08-15). Awakening Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780674061071.
  7. Bruinessen, Martin van; Allievi, Stefano (2013-06-17). Producing Islamic Knowledge: Transmission and dissemination in Western Europe. Routledge. ISBN 9781136932854.
  8. Meijer, Roel (2009-10-01). Global Salafism: Islam's new religious movement. Hurst & Co. p. 63. In this way he became a self-taught expert on Islam, learning from the books rather then the ulema. One of his biographers even states that al-Albani was distinguished in religious circles by how few ijazats (certificates) he possessed.
  9. 1 2 Jacob Olidort, . "The Politics of “Quietist” Salafism", Brookings Institution, Analysis Paper No. 18, February 2015, pg 14
  10. Meijer, Global Salafism, pg. 65.
  11. 1 2 Meijer, Global Salafism, pg. 66.
  12. 1 2 Abu Rumman, Mohammad; Abu Hanieh, Hassan. Jordanian Salafism: A Strategy for the "Islamization of Society"and an Ambiguous Relationship with the State (PDF). Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. p. 43. ISBN 9780674049642. Dec 2010
  13. Meijer, Global Salafism, pg. 67.
  14. Stephane Lacroix, Awakening Islam, pg. 220. Trns. George Holoch. Cambridge: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2011.
  15. Meijer, Global Salafism, pg. 68.
  16. A.C. Brown, Jonathan (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 129. ISBN 978-1780744209.
  17. al-Albani, "Shareet al-Khobar," tape #4, 1989: Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Stephane Lacroix, Al-Albani's Revolutionary Approach to Hadith. Leiden University's ISIM Review, Spring 2008, #21. Page 6
  19. Lacroix, Stephane; Holoch, George (2011-01-01). Awakening Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780674049642.
  20. Batrawi, Samar (28 October 2015). "What ISIS Talks About When It Talks About Palestine". Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  21. 1 2 Brown, Jonathan (2007-06-05). The Canonization of Al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon. BRILL. p. 325. ISBN 9004158391.
  22. Kahn, Jonathan; Lloyd, Vincent (2016-03-22). Race and Secularism in America. Columbia University Press. p. 130. ISBN 9780231541275.
  23. 1 2 Bruinessen, Martin van; Allievi, Stefano (2013-06-17). Producing Islamic Knowledge: Transmission and Dissemination in Western Europe. Routledge. p. 5. ISBN 9781136932861.
  24. Lacroix, Stephane; Holoch, George (2011-01-01). Awakening Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 86. ISBN 9780674049642.
  25. Lav, Daniel (2012-02-29). Radical Islam and the Revival of Medieval Theology. Cambridge University Press. p. 117. ISBN 9781107009646.
  26. 1 2 3 Brown, Jonathan (2007-06-05). The Canonization of Al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon. BRILL. p. 327. ISBN 9004158391.
  27. Brown, Jonathan (2007-06-05). The Canonization of Al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon. BRILL. p. 328. ISBN 9004158391.
  28. 1 2 Pierret, Thomas (2013-03-25). Religion and State in Syria: The Sunni Ulama from Coup to Revolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 106. ISBN 9781107026414.
  29. Cook, David (2015-09-01). Understanding Jihad. Univ of California Press. p. 123. ISBN 9780520962491.
  30. Brachman, Jarret M. (2008-09-03). Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice. Routledge. p. 33. ISBN 9781134055418.
  31. ["Albani 1999 KFIP winner"]
  32. al-Asalaah, Issue #23, Pg. 76–77
  33. Biography of Shaikh Muhammad Naasiruddin al-Albaani by Shaykh 'Ali Hasan al-Halabi
  34. Tariq, Khwaja Khusro (17 December 2015). "Want to Defeat ISIS? Try Muslim Ownership — Part 2" (1). Huffington Post. Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
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