A Note on Imam Nawawi's Books

Posted on: 25 April 2019

There has been some discussion regarding the order of Imam Nawawi’s books; if Imam Nawawi differs with himself, then which opinion do we opt for. Some sources state that his books are preferred in the order of Tahqiq, then Majmu, then Tanqih, then Rawdah, then Minhaj, then his Fatawa, then Sharh Muslim, then Tashih al-Tanbih.

This order is not absolute. In al-Fawaid al-Madaniyyah p. 50, Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kurdi mentions:

وهذا تقريب وإلا فالواجب في الحقيقة عند تعارض هذه الكتب كلام معتمدي المتأخرين واتباع ما رجحوه منها

“And this is an approximation; otherwise what is necessary, in reality, in an instance of inconsistency between these books is what the chief authorities after him stated, and following what they preferred.”

Kurdi has more details in al-Fawaid al-Madaniyyah regarding the topic; those interested may refer to his discussions.

Another place where details pertaining to this issue are raised is in Ibn al-Subki’s work Tarshih al-Tawdih wa Tarjih al-Tashih; as cited by Dr. Muhammad al-Ibrahim in his introduction to Imam Nawawi’s Tashih al-Tanbih. May Allah reward those who drew my own attention to this passage.

After the editor mentions that he conducted a study, and found that Imam Nawawi is consistent in his views 95% of the time, the editor cites Ibn al-Subki’s mention of the dates in which Imam Nawawi authored his works. On page 57, the information provided concludes that:

Imam Nawawi finished Rawdah in 669.

He began Sharh al-Muhadhdhab in 662 and continued writing until his passing in 677.

He finished Tashih al-Tanbih in the year 671.

Thus, the dates for his writing one work, in fact, overlap with his dates for writing his others. Furthermore, the order of books mentioned is not an absolute rule. In reviewing places that Imam Nawawi may have been inconsistent in an opinion, the works of those authorities who came after him are probably the best guide.

And Allah knows best.