Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Dawud al-Zahiri, Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Dāwūd al-Iṣbahānī (868 - May 22, 910), also known as Avendeath, was a medieval theologian and scholar of the Arabic language and Islamic law. He was one of the early propagators of his father Dawud al-Zahiri's method in jurisprudence, Zahirism. A writer and jurist born in the late ninth century, he celebrated the idea of passionate love between men in his Book of the Flower, dedicated to his friend Muhammad ibn Jami.
Ibn Dawud was born in Baghdad in the year 255 according to the Islamic calendar, corresponding roughly to the year 868 according to the Gregorian calendar. By the age of seven, he had memorized the entire Qur'an by heart. By the age of ten, he was already an exemplary student in the fields of Arabic grammar, lexicography and Arabic literature under his teacher Niftawayh, himself a student of Ibn Dawud's father. In regard to the variant readings of the Qur'an, Ibn Dawud learned from Al-Duri, a student of Abu 'Amr ibn al-'Ala', one of the ten primary transmitters of the Qur'an. Ibn Dawud's classmate, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, also learned the Qur'an from the same study circle in addition to having been a student of Ibn Dawud's father, suggesting a close relationship early on, despite their later rivalry. Ibn Dawud's relationship with his father was complex. As a child, Ibn Dawud was bullied by other children, being given the name "poor little sparrow." When he complained to his father about the nickname, his father insisted that names of people and things are predestined by God; there was no reason to analyze the meaning of names in order to know that they had been established. His father then actually affirmed the nickname given by the other children, emphasizing that all things occur according to divine will. While Ibn Dawud told his father that he was as mean as the other children were for laughing at his own son, it is not known if this episode continued to affect Ibn Dawud into adulthood, or if this was characteristic of the entire father-son relationship.
Upon his father's death in 884, Ibn Dawud took up Dawud's teaching position in Baghdad. Despite being only fifteen years old, he was still considered an outstanding jurist, and the four-hundred or so students of his father became his own students. Ibn Dawud had a tendency to speak using Saj', a form of Arabic rhymed prose, in everyday speech. This caused difficulty for many who sought verdicts from him, though it is not regarded as having lessened his popularity. Some years after his teaching position, the Abbasid administration appointed him to a judicial post in western Baghdad.
Although Ibn Dawud is generally considered to have died young, his exact date of death has been a matter of some dispute. Masudi recorded Ibn Dawud's death at 296 Hijri, corresponding to 908 or 909 Gregorian. The Encyclopaedia of Islam records his death as 294 Hijri and 909 Gregorian, yet the two dates do not match. Ibn Khallikan recorded Ibn Dawud's death as Ramadan 9, 297 Hijri, or May 22, 910 Gregorian. While the exact cause of death is not known, Ibn Dawud proclaimed a deathbed confession to his teacher Niftawayh that he was dying of a broken heart, due to a forbidden love for another man. The topic of Ibn Dawud's affections has been the topic of much discussion, as his confession of such feelings is unique among Muslim theologians even up to the present era. The setting of his death has been perhaps the most vividly described piece of his biography. During his final moments, Ibn Dawud lied on a bed between the light filtering in through the grated window and the empty space of the floor as a blind nightingale sang in a gilded cage nearby; he was described as weary with regrets, yet also serene in his last moments. His body was ritually washed by his student Ibn al-Mughallis according to Islamic funeral rites.
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