The book, “al-Istidhkār li madhāhib ‘ulamā’ al-amṣār fī mā taḍamanahu al-Muwaṭṭa’ min ma‘ānī al-ra’yy wa al-āthār”, is an extensively detailed text, in which Imām Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr—may Allāh bestow His Mercy upon him—provided an explication of “al-Muwaṭṭa’ ”, so as to draw attention to the meanings and corresponding jurisprudence (fiqh) of the Prophetic traditions (ḥadīth). The book’s importance lies in that it has few peers in the treatment of legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh) and comparative jurisprudence, especially in those first three centuries when Islamic jurisprudence emerged and took shape, and its maxims (qawā‘id) became well-established. Moreover, given the author’s exceptional prowess in its instruments: possessing a sound understanding of the Noble Qur’ān, and profound knowledge of Prophetic tradition, well-versed in its sciences, effective causes (‘ilal) and distinction between the authentically sound (ṣaḥīḥ) and the flawed; further, extensive grasp of the sayings (āthār) of the Companions (ṣaḥābah), the Successors (tabi‘ūn), and subsequent generations, and their methods of evidenced argumentation (istidlāl). In addition to his signature brilliant, inspired thinking, independent mind, integrity—freeing him from loathsome partisanship, forceful stance in stating the truth, even if it was contrary to his espoused school of jurisprudential thought (madhhab). Above all, he did not neglect any jurist (faqīh) from the pious predecessors (al-salaf) or schools of thought; citing them in evidencing his argument in the issue being examined.
“Al-Istidhkār” encompasses over sixty thousand Prophetic traditions, which included the majority of traditions on the Prophet’s practice, Islamic law rulings (aḥkām), and jurisprudence. He utilised this wealth of traditions in codifying Islamic jurisprudence. The book is organised following the order of “al-Muwaṭṭa’ ”.
The book, “al-Istidhkār”, was exceptional in its novel scientific contributions, and the numerous and diverse benefits relating to Prophetic traditions, jurisprudence, and language.
The critical editor, with an outstanding team of his gifted students, exerted remarkable effort in gathering the book’s manuscript copies, tracking these to the holdings of world libraries, and attempting to reproduce the text that best matched that written by the author and was his intent. They collated manuscript copies; repeating this collation several times, following close scrutiny of the text, where judicious choice between the variant readings was based on evidencing, experience, and the author’s style.