Islamic Studies Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī
by
Emad Hamdeh
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0263

Introduction

Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī (1914–1999) was one of the most influential Salafi scholars in the 20th century. He sought to reform Islam by requiring Muslims to return a puritanical and literalist approach toward scripture. Albānī moved from Albania to Damascus with his family as a child, and his father became a leading Ḥanafī scholar in the Albanian Muslim community in Syria. From a young age, Albānī disagreed with his father and the Albanian Ḥanafī community. He rejected their allegiance to the Ḥanafī school of law and instead advocated a strict adherence to the Qurʾān and Sunna. His scholarly career was full of tug-of-war battles with traditional jurists over the validity of following a madhhab and particular principles of Islamic legal theory. His legal scholarship contains many unconventional opinions, and he was therefore taken most seriously in the field of ḥadīth, not fiqh. A distinctive aspect of Albānī’s legacy is his constant effort to reevaluate the authenticity of ḥadīth. He sifted through thousands of ḥadīths and reevaluated them using traditional ḥadīth methodology.

General Overviews

Most works on the topics of Salafism and ḥadīth make some mention of Albānī. However, despite his importance in Islamic studies, there are relatively few academic works in English that focus primarily on Albānī’s life and methodology. A general overview of his life and impact is found in Hamdeh 2016 and Lacroix 2009. Hamdeh 2017a provides a detailed analysis of his stance toward Islamic legal tradition. A presentation of Albānī’s ḥadīth methodology is given in Amin 2004 and Brown 2009. Shaybānī 1986 and ʿAwda 2001 contain detailed biographies of Albānī and a list of his many works.

  • Amin, Kamaruddin. “Nāṣiruddīn al-Albānī on Muslim’s Ṣaḥīḥ: A Critical Study of his Method.” Islamic Law and Society 11 (2004): 149–176.

    DOI: 10.1163/156851904323178737E-mail Citation »

    An examination of Albānī’s methodology in determining the authenticity of ḥadīths. It also analyzes the ḥadīths declared weak by Albānī from the perspective of traditional ḥadīth scholarship as well as non-Muslim methods of dating ḥadīths.

  • ʿAwda, ʿAṭiyya. Ṣafaḥāt bayḍā’ min ḥayāt al-imām Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī. Al-Sanaʿa, Yemen: Maktaba al-Islāmiyya, 2001.

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    A detailed biography of Albānī. It provides an excellent contextualization of the books he wrote. It also contains a list of unpublished books.

  • Brown, Jonathan. The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004158399.i-431E-mail Citation »

    The status of Bukhārī and Muslim has been a contentious issue in modern Islam. This excellent work contains a detailed discussion of Albānī’s views on the authenticity and status of these two canonical works.

  • Brown, Jonathan. Hadith Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009.

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    An excellent introduction to the science of ḥadīth. This provides a good overview of Albānī’s ḥadīth methodology.

  • Brown, Jonathan. “Even If It’s Not True It’s True: Using Unreliable Ḥadīths in Sunni Islam.” Islamic Law and Society 18 (2011): 1–52.

    DOI: 10.1163/156851910X517056E-mail Citation »

    This article broadly covers the stance of Sunni scholars toward weak ḥadīth. It highlights Albānī’s role as one of the strongest opponents to the use of weak ḥadīth.

  • Brown, Jonathan. “Is Islam Easy to Understand or Not? Salafis, the Democratization of Interpretation and the Need for the Ulema.” Journal of Islamic Studies 26.2 (2014): 117–144.

    DOI: 10.1093/jis/etu081E-mail Citation »

    Explores the role of the ʿulamā’ in Salafi circles. It also contains an excellent discussion on the Salafi rhetoric against traditional institutions. Albānī is mentioned among the other anti-tradition scholars.

  • Hamdeh, Emad. “The Formative Years of an Iconoclastic Salafi Scholar.” Muslim World 106.3 (2016): 411–432.

    DOI: 10.1111/muwo.12157E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a translation of one of Albānī’s autobiographical interviews. It sheds light on the biographical details of Albānī’s formative years, namely, his sour relationship with his father, quarrels with the Albanian community in Syria, and his controversial professorship at the University of Medina. This is the only academic article to date that provides a detailed analysis of Albānī’s formative years.

  • Hamdeh, Emad. “Qurʾān and Sunna or the Madhhabs?: A Salafi Polemic Against Islamic Legal Tradition.” Islamic Law and Society 24.3 (June 2017a): 1–43.

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    An annotated translation of Albānī’s lecture titled “Misconceptions Surrounding Salafism (Shubuh Ḥawl al-Salafiyya).” In this lecture Albānī attempted to defend Salafism against its anti-madhhab image. The introduction includes a detailed discussion on Albānī’s polemics and rhetorical strategies Albānī uses to discredit Islamic legal tradition.

  • Hamdeh, Emad. “The Role of the ʿUlamā’ in the Thoughts of ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghudda.” Muslim World 107.3 (2017b): 359–374.

    DOI: 10.1111/muwo.12199E-mail Citation »

    ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghudda was one of Albānī’s main critics. This article is a comparative study of the two Muslim reformers and their approach toward Islamic scholarship. Their positions are examined in light of the different status they both give to the Muslim scholarly tradition.

  • Haykel, Bernard. “On the Nature of Salafi Thought and Action.” In Global Salafism. Edited by Roel Meijer, 33–57. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

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    This is an introductory chapter that attempts to provide an overview of the nature of modern Salafi thought and action. Haykel works to provide a definition of Salafism in both the premodern and modern contexts. This chapter does not focus on Albānī, but he is mentioned several times.

  • Lacroix, Stephane. “Between Revolution and Apoliticism: Nasir al-Din al-Albani and His Impact on the Shaping of Contemporary Salafism.” In Global Salafism. Edited by Roel Meijer, 58–80. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

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    Important work on the impact Albānī had on modern Salafism, especially in the Saudi Arabian context.

  • Olidort, Jacob. The Politics of “Quietist” Salafism. Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World Analysis Paper No. 18. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 2015.

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    An important work on Albānī’s political thought and challenges the idea that all quietist Salafis avoid politics.

  • Shaybānī, Muḥammad. Ḥayāt al-Albānī wa-āthāru-hu wa-thanā’ al-ʿulamāʾ ʿalay-hi. Cairo: Maktabat al-Sarrāwī, 1986.

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    A good biography of Albānī written in Arabic. This was written during Albānī’s lifetime and therefore does not contain all of the information one might be looking. It is nevertheless one of the more comprehensive books on Albānī’s life.

  • Wagemakers, Joas. Salafism in Jordan: Political Islam in a Quietist Community. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

    E-mail Citation »

    An important work on political Salafism. In particular, it provides detailed insight into politically quietist Salafism that Albānī adhered to.

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