ABU AL-WALID AL-BAJI
Sulayman ibn Khalaf ibn Sa`d or Sa`id or Sa`dun ibn Ayyub, al-Qadi Abu al-Walid al-Tujaybi al-Andalusi al-Qurtubi al-Baji al-Tamimi al-Dhahabi al-Maliki (403-474), "One of the imams of the Muslims," the jurist and mutakallim, hadith master, man of letters, poet, "the skilled debater, author in many sciences, meticulous scholar, upon whose great rank in knowledge, and merit in religion there is agreement." Born in Baja near Seville or - more probably according to al-Dhahabi - its namesake Baja near Qayrawan, he took hadith from Abu al-Isba` ibn Shakir, Muhammad ibn Isma`il [?], Abu Muhammad Makki ibn Abi Talib, al-Qadi Yunus ibn `Abd Allah ibn Mughith, Ibn al-Mutawwa`i, Ibn Muhriz, Ibn al-Warraq, Ibn `Amrus, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Damighani, and others. Both al-Khatib and Ibn `Abd al-Barr, although his seniors, narrated from him. Among his students are his son Ahmad, Abu `Abd Allah al-Humaydi, `Ali ibn `Abd Allah al-Saqali, Ahmad ibn Ghazlun, Abu Bakr al-Turtushi, the two hadith masters Abu `Ali al-Jiyani al-Sadafi and Abu al-Qasim al-Ma`afiri, Ibn Abi Ja`far, al-Qadi Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman ibn Bashir, and countless others.
Al-Baji worked at various times as a watchman and a goldsmith to support himself. He performed pilgrimage four times and lived austerely in the pursuit of knowledge: in Mecca for three years with Abu Dharr al-Harawi, then Baghdad for three, where he accompanied Abu al-Tayyib al-Tabari and Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, then Mosul where he studied under Abu Ja`far al-Samnani and Ibn al-Baqillani. His wealth increased greatly after he returned to Andalusia and became its chief scholar and teacher. The Qadi Abu `Ali ibn Sakra said: "I never saw his like; nor anything like his appearance, his majesty, and the dignity of his gatherings. He is one of the imams of the Muslims."
After al-Baji came to Andalusia he went to Majorca where he defeated Ibn Hazm in debate according to Ibn Bassam. Ibn Hazm reportedly said: "If the Malikis had only `Abd al-Wahhab [ibn `Ali ibn Nasr al-Baghdadi] and al-Baji, it would suffice them."
Among al-Baji's books: Al-Tasdid ila Ma`rifa al-Tawhid, Sunan al-Minhaj, Tartib al-Hajj, Ihkam al-Fusul fi Ahkam al-Usul, al-Ta`dil wa al-Tajrih li man Kharraja `anhu al-Bukhari fi al-Sahih, Sharh al-Muwatta' in two versions: al-Istifa' and its abridgment al-Muntaqa - named by the author of Shajara al-Nur "the best book ever written in Malik's school" - al-Imla' - a shorter version of the latter - Mukhtasar al-Mukhtasar fi Masa'il al-Mudawwana, and Sunan al-Salihin. In al-Muntaqa he states, in explanation of the hadith of Allah's descent to the nearest heaven in the last third of the night:1
The Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- saying that our Exalted Lord descends every night to the nearest heaven is to inform us that supplication at that particular time is answered, petitioners are given what they request, and those who ask for forgiveness are forgiven. It warns us as to the great merit of that time and strongly encourages us to make abundant supplication, petition, and contrition at that time. It was narrated from the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- in similar terms that Allah Almighty and Exalted said: "If My servant comes near Me one hand-span I come near him one cubit. If he comes near Me one cubit I come near him an arm's length. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running."2 He did not mean by this hadith a coming-near in terms of distance, for such is impossible and inexistent. All he meant was the servant's coming-near in terms of good works, and Allah's coming-near in terms of answer and acceptance. In the same sense one says "So-and-so is near So-and-so," and they say of the leader "He is near his people" if he helps them a lot and welcomes them. This is well-known in the language of the Arabs.3
In his book Tahqiq al-Madhhab, he replies to those who attacked him for representing that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- could write on the literal basis of the hadith of al-Bara': "Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- took the treaty - he did not excel at writing - and wrote..."4
Sources: Makhluf, Shajara al-Nur p. 120-121 #341; Ibn Farhun, al-Dibaj p. 198-200 #240; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 14:59-65 #4347 and Tadhkira al-Huffaz 3:1178-1183 #1027.
1Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Malik, and al-Darimi. It is narrated from twenty-three Companions, as stated by al-Kattani in Nazm al-Mutanathir.
2Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari and Muslim: "I am as My servant thinks of Me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he mentions Me in Himself I mention him in Myself. If he mentions Me in a gathering, I mention him in a better gathering. If he comes near Me one hand-span (shibran) I come near him one cubit (dhira`an). If he comes near Me one cubit I come near him an arm's length (ba`an). If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running."
3Al-Baji, al-Muntaqa (1:357).
4See the documentation and discussion of this hadith in the post titled "Unlettered."