Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

As a senior writer for Economic Affairs Magazine, I penned this piece a few months ago.


Arabic names hold significance.  The significance can be based on both lineage and history.

For an excellent discussion on lineage and jurisprudence read:

Al-Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance) , by Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi.

Chapter eight is dedicated to “The Niqabah Tribunal for those of Noble Lineage”.

My copy is autographed in Arabic and acquired from a friend in 2009.

We all  retain a basic familiarity with the name of Abu Bakr. He  was the first Caliph of Islam.

But there is a name buried in obscurity which sheds greater light on the personality and posture of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – leader of the Islamic State. In not understanding what may be a romantic link to legend, we have not fully profiled the man.

Let me bring you up to speed.

Who has heard of Ta’rikh Baghdad? It is the earliest known biography dedicated to the lectures of leading luminaries and traditionalists (or narrators) of the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. There are quite a few of these biographies available which were organized by historians who lived in various provinces around Makkah, Madinah, Kufah, Baghdad, etc. But Ta’rikh Baghdad is gold standard.

Ta’rikh Baghdad was compiled by Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (392-463 AH) and his full name was…. drum roll…

Abu Bakr Ahmad b. ‘Ali and he was the son of a Khatib from a village near Baghdad.

In Ta’rikh Baghdad, the author compiled the biographies of 7831  eminent men and women who were either born in Baghdad or travelled to it to deliver lectures. It is interesting that he noted the names of some men based on their kunya.

Prophet Muhammad had a kunya.  Do you know what it is and the significance of it?

Perhaps the current Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi imagines himself on the same stage and playing the same role when he delivers his own lectures?  History always steps into the present when dealing with Islamic thought. Our inability to grasp this concept places us at a disadvantage.


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