As his nisbah shows, Imam Muslim belonged to the Qushayr tribe of the Arabs, an offshoot of the mighty clan of Rabee'ah. His tribe had taken an important part in the history of Islam after the death of the Prophet (SAW). Haydah of Qushayr is mentioned in the Isabah as one of the companions, while Qurra Ibn Hubayrah, another Qushayree, was appointed by the Prophet (SAW) as walee in charge of the alms of his people. Ziyaad Ibn â€˜Abdur-Rahmaan al-Qushayree is said to have killed a vast number of Byzantine troopers at the Battle of the Yarmook, in which he lost one of his legs.
After the great Islamic conquests, various families of Qushayrees migrated from Arabia and settled in the new provinces, some in the west, and others in the east. Kulthoom Ibn 'Iyaad and his nephew Balj Ibn Bishr, who had served as governors of Africa and Andalus (Spain) respectively, settled down in a district near Qurtuba, Andalus (Cordoba, Spain). Another Qushayree family made their residence at nearby al-Beera, Andalus (Elvira, Spain). Others headed east, and settled in Khurasaan. Among them was one Zuraarah, who served as provincial governor for a time. His son 'Amr, and grandson Humayd Ibn 'Amr, settled down at Neesaaboor. From them our author was probably descended: the son of al-Hajjaaj, who was himself a hadith scholar of no mean repute.
His full name was Abul-Hussain Muslim-bin-Habaj al Nishapuri. Very little is known about Imam Muslim's early life. It is said that he was born in 202 A.H. / 817 C.E., and that having learnt and excelled in the usual disciplines at a precocious age, focussed his attention on hadith. In its pursuit he travelled widely, visiting all the important centres of learning in Persia, Iraq, Syria and Egypt. He attended the lectures of most of the great hadith scholars of his day, including Ishaaq Ibn Raahawayh, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, 'Ubaydullaah al-Qawaarifee Shuwayh Ibn Yoonus, 'Abdullaah Ibn Maslamah, and Hamalah Ibn Yahyaa. He settled down at Neesaaboor, earning a living from a small business, and devoted the remainder of his time to the service of the Prophetic Sunnah.