Janasheen al-Huzoor Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind
|Hadrat Shaykh al Islam|
It would be impossible to relay all the early childhood, education, achievements and successes of His Eminence Shaykh al-Islam Hadrat Allama Mufti Pir Sayyad Shah Muhammad Madani Miya al-Ashrafi al-Jilani, but we shall give you a brief factual insight and commentary in the short space we have here.
We would like to thank Imtiaz Ali Ameen Ashrafi, Dewsbury U.K.for his tireless work and effort, as most of the content is taken from his book on Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam ("Hadrat") is the son of Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi 'alaih). Hadrat's paternal grandfather was Mawlana Sayyad Shah Nadhar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi 'alaih) who was a renowned Hakeem, an outstanding Islamic scholar and a distinguished lecturer of the Persian language. He was also well respected for his debating skills and poetry. Sayyad Nadhar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi 'alaih) had a reputation of being extremely generous, and whatever wealth he ontained was generously distributed among the poor.
It was in the light of such an Islamic enviroment that Hadrat was born
on the 1st of Rajab 1357 A.H. Hadrat was one of six children who are
all listed below ;
Hadrat's childhood was not typical as he refrained from normal childhood participation in the playing of games and such. Even at a very young age Hadrat led a very pure and simple life preferring to spend all of his time learning about Islam and what he had been taught. In this regard Hadrat followed in the footsteps of his Pir Shaykh al-Mashaykh, Mawlana Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf Ashrafi al-Jilani 'Sarkar-e-Kalan (Rehmatullahi alaih).
Hadrat went to Jamiya Ashraf in Kicchocha Shareef and obtained his
Hadrat was still a student when his noble father Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi 'alaih) suddenly and tragically passed away in Lucknow on 16th of Rajab 1381 A.H. (25th December 1961). This was an incredible tragedy for Hadrat to deal with as he was very close to his noble and pious father.
The entire Sunni community mourned this death as a truly Great Saint had left this world, but for Hadrat this loss was not only spiritual but very personal. It was only with the unwavering support of his pious mother and Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam's (Rehmatullahi 'alaih) spiritual guidance that Hadrat came to terms with this tragedy. Hadrat adapted and became the head of the household taking it upon himself to ensure the well being of his family.
On the fortieth day 'Chaleesma' anniversary of Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind's (Rehmatullahi alaih) death in Shawwal 1381 AH the gathered Sunni Ulema, Pirs, Islamic Scholars, Kanwada-e-Ashrafiya family members and mureeds of His Eminence Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) saw the honour of 'Janasheen' bestowed upon Hadrat. Hadrat was thus handed the responsibility for the spiritual well being of Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) disciple's throughout the world and to carry forward the mission of Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) that had been inherited from Hadrats great grandfather A'la Hadrat 'Ashrafi Miya' (Radi 'Allahu anhu) and his grandfather Mawlana Ahmad Ashraf 'Alim al-Rabbani' (Rehmatullahi alaih).
After studying the science's it was imperative for Hadrat that he completed studying Islamic Philosophy. Therefore, after being chosen as the successor to Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind, (Rehmatullahi alaih)
Hadrat returned to Mubarakpur to complete his studies, thus showing the importance Hadrat attached to his continuing education. After spending a further year at Mubarakpur, Hadrat's graduation took place at the hands of Hafiz e Millat on 10 Shawaal 1382 (Jan 1963).
At the age of twenty-five years, one month and ten days Hadrat had finally completed his further education,spending over ten years at Darul Uloom Ashrafiya. Hadrat's intellect and thirst for further knowledge enabled him to cover all known fields of Islamic Sacred Law and Fiqh (Jurisprudence), science, philosophy, mathematics and all known fields of legal requirements of writing Fatwa's as well as numerous other areas. Hadrat's teachers included, among others :
Hadrat's initial education was commenced by his mother Sayyada Fatima Makhdooma and thereafter by Mawlana Nabi Hasan Khan, Mawlana Imam Ali, Hafiz Dargahi and Hafiz Ilahi Buksh.
Hadrat's personal wish was to become a disciple of his illustrious father, however, on the occasion's that Hadrat approached his father on this subject he was rebuked and told that he would have to do what Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) himself had done i.e. become a disciple of his maternal uncle. After Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) passed away Hadrat became a disciple of Shaykh Al-Mashaykh Mufti Sayyad Muhammad Mukhtar Ashraf 'Sarkar-e-Kalan (Rehmatullahi alaih) ("Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf") on 26 Shawwal 1381 A.H. The events leading upto Hadrat becoming a
disciple are worthy of note.
While Hadrat was still a student, he had a dream in which he went to become a disciple of Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih). The room was full of people wanting to become disciples and as is customary practice, they were all holding a sheet at one end and Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) the sheet at the other end.Hadrat in this dream entered the room upon which Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) called Hadrat to sit next to him and performed the initiation ceremony by holding Hadrat's right hand with his right hand. Hadrat narrated this dream to his teacher and uncle Ashraf al-Ulema Mawlana Sayyad Hamid Ashraf Ashrafi al-Jilani (Rehmatullahi alaih) who presently is Shaykh al-Hadith at at the Darul Uloom Muhammadiya in Bombay. When Hadrat actually went to become a disciple of Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) the events unfolded exactly as Hadrat had dreamt.
Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) bestowed upon Hadrat all his spiritual and personal attributes as well as countless other blessings including making Hadrat his Khalifa. The relationship between Hadrat and his Pir reflected the relationship that had existed between Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) and his Pir Mawlana Ahmad Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih). Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) adopted the same manner as Mawlana Ahmad Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) in passing on knowledge and spiritual attributes as well as countless other blessings including making Hadrat his Khalifa. The relationship between Hadrat and his Pir reflected the relationship that had existed between Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) and his Pir Mawlana Ahmad Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih). Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) adopted the same manner as Mawlana Ahmad Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih) in passing on knowledge and spiritual wisdom to Hadrat Muhaddith al-Azam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) and Hadrat adopted the same humility in accepting what his Pir gave him as had Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih). In short, the relationships between both sets of uncles and nephews were identical.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam married the daughter of Sayyad Akhtar Hussain of Dotspur, district Sultanpur on 26 Shaban 1383 (27th December 1964). Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf 'Sarkar-e-Kalan' (Rehmatullahi 'alaih)performed the Nikah ceromony.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam has written extensively books in prose, which have been published at various times during the last thirty five years. Some of the books authored by Hadrat Shaykh al Islam are listed below :
Hadrat was also the architect in publishing Ma'ariful Qur'an ; which is the translation of the Qur'an al-kareem into Urdu by Hadrat Muhaddith al-Azam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih). This great translation was published along with notes in Gujerati and Hindi languages.
Hadrat is and has always been an outstanding poet writing numerous Naats, displaying how completely immersed he is in the love of the Beloved Prophet Sayyadina Muhammad (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa aalihi wa Sallam). When Hadrat first started writing naats he sent some of his work for perusal to the famous Indian poet Shafiq Jaonpuri who after reading Hadrat's work replied that ;
' poetry this complete and comprehensive does not require rectification or amendment.'
Hadrat writes poetry under the pseudonym of Akhtar and a great compilation of his work was made and published in the sub-continent titled 'Guldasta'.
Hadrat's Shaykh al-Islam's first visit to perform 'Hajj' took place in 1973 with his blessed mother, wife, sister, younger brother Ghazi al-Millat Sayyad Muhammad Hashmi Miya Ashrafi al-Jilani, and nephew Sayyad Jahangir Ashraf. Hadrat performed the pilgrimage and went to Madinah Shareef where he obtained countless blessings at the shrine of the Most Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam).
Hadrat has also visited the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as well as shrines of Awliya Allah in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Pakistan and India and throughout the middle east and Asia in order to pay his respect and to obtain their blessings.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam has just completed another Hajj (2004/2005) - one of many. A mureed has written a personal account of his journey to Makkah and Madinah ... read 'Hajj with my Shaykh'.
Hadrat acquired the title of 'Shaykh al-Islam' circa 1974 when the Ulema of India started addressing him as such. Among the Ulema present at the time were Mufti-e-Azam al-Hind Mawlana Mustapha Raza Khan (Rehmatullahi 'alaih) of Bareilly Shareef son of Ala'Hadrat Azeem al-Barkat Imam-e-Ahle Sunnat Mawlana Ahmad Raza Khan (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu) ; and Hadrat's Pir Shaykh al-Mashaykh Mawlana Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf Sarkar-e-Kalan (Rehmatullahi alaih).
Hadrat was first addressed as 'Raees al-Muhaqiqin' by His Holiness Gazzali-e-Doaran Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Sayyad Ahmad Saeed Kazmi (Rehmatullahi alaih) of Pakistan after Hadrat had sent for his perusal a fatwa on the Islamic use of television and video. Gazzali-e-Doaran Sayyad Ahmad Saeed Kazmi
(Rehmatullahi alaih) was so pleased with Hadrat's ruling and the excellent way that he had dealt with such a difficult subject that he addressed Hadrat as 'Raees-ul Muhaqiqin'. A letter confirming this was published in the monthly journal 'Al-Ashraf ' in Karachi in 1986. It is testament to Hadrat's knowledge that Muslims around the world almost universally rely on this fatwa when recording religious programmes.
After Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) passed away there appeared to exist a huge chasm in Sunni Islam. Followers of Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam (Rehmatullahi alaih) were in a state of shock and needed re-assuring that they had a worthy successor to Hadrat Muhaddith al-Azam(Rehmatullahi alaih). Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam was of a relatively young age and had not yet completed his studies. Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) was not only a great spiritual leader but also an outstanding scholar, Pir, debater, orator and writer ; and there was concern among the faithful as to how Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam, who as yet had not made one speech, could replace him. However, these concerns have proved to be unfounded. Hadrat has proven himself to be an equally competent scholar, spiritual leader, Pir, debater, orator and writer having inherited all the necessary skills and qualities from his Eminent father and from his Pir Sayyad Mukhtar Ashraf (Rehmatullahi alaih).
Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam (Rehmatullahi alaih) had thousands of disciples throughout the sub-continent who needed spiritual guidance and Hadrat had an almost impossible task just visiting these disciples and satisfactorily providing them with spiritual supervision, yet Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam has not only fulfilled that role but taken Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam's (Rehmatullahi alaih) mission several steps further by converting non-Muslims to Islam and making thousands of disciples in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North America.
Those who had never met Hadrat chose to become disciples after listening to his speeches,whilst those who met Hadrat became his disciples after they had been spiritually enlghtened by being in the exalted presence of Hadrat. Hadrat met disciples and non-disciples alike throughout the day and imparted unto them his vast knowledge and blessings,as well as dealing with any problems and difficulties that people came to see him with, by providing spiritual help and special prayers.
Hadrat is a noble, compassionate, generous and honourable person, and like all truly great men extremely humble and modest. Hadrat's characteristics and attributes are well in accordance with the Shariah, and those who have had the good fortune to sit in the presence of Hadrat will testify that each and every meeting is wholly Islamic and spiritual; and sitting in Hadrat's company reminds them of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) and his Most Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa aalihi wa Sallam). Hadrat also refrains from unnecessary wordly discussions in his gatherings preferring to remain silent than engage in small talk. Those who ask Hadrat questions are provided with in-depth and knowledgeable answers with reference to the Qur'an al-Kareem and the traditions of the Most Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) ensuring the questioner is completely satisfied when he leaves.
In short Hadrat's character is irresistibly enchanting and a model for anyone wishing to follow the loftiest principles of Tassawwuf. Hadrat has undoubtedly captured the hearts, minds and souls of people with the sheer beauty and nobility of his character.
Each year on the 15th and 16th Rajab the Urs of Hadrat Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind (Rehmatullahi alaih) takes place at the shrine of Muhaddith al-A'zam (Rehmatullahi alaih) in Kicchocha Shareef, India under the guardianship of Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam. Thousands of people attend not only from the sub-continent but from all over the world to obtain spiritual enlightenment and blessings at the shrine.
Over two days speeches are made by distinguished scholars, a Naat programme takes place, a flag ceremony is held on the first day followed by prayers for the deceased, and Dhikr is performed in the Sufi tradition led by Hadrat. During the Urs Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam provides accomodation and continuous food for all his guests, even with the numbers increasing year by year.
One of the many achievements of Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam was that he was responsible for opening a primary school in his home town of Kicchocha Shareef for local children that not only provided conventional schooling but also basic Islamic education. This school achieved excellent results and gradually the school was changed to a high school and acquired a reputation for its pupils obtaining outstanding results. The aim now is to expand the school into a Further Education College and eventually a University.
The school is privately funded through donations from the public and is efficiently managed by Hadrat. The foresight shown by Hadrat in opening the first institution of its kind in India has been quite remarkable. Pupils now leave the school to go onto further education equipped with superior Islamic knowledge or go onto Islamic Universities with a very thorough grounding in the traditional subjects, preserving the Sunni faith but also providing all the children with an excellent education.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam has also established a 'Darul Ifta' (place where Fatwas are issued) in Kicchocha Shareef where Muslims from all over the world send questions relating to aspects of Islamic Law and are given answers in accordance with the Qur'an al-Kareem and Hadith. The head of the ' Markazi Darul Ifta Muhaddith al-A'zam al-Hind ' is Fakhrul Amasil Mawlana Hafiz Qari Mufti Muhinuddin Ashrafi ; Khalifa of Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam.
Strenuous efforts were made in the early 70's by Sunni Muslims to get Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam to come on a preaching mission and eventually their wishes were granted when Hadrat arrived in England for the first time in April 1974.
Hadrat made approximately thirty speeches on his first visit travelling all over the country in very difficult surroundings. Most speeches were held in small and cramped venues with poor public address facilities. However, this was overcome with the way Hadrat captured the hearts of the people with his words of wisdom. The enthusiasts recorded every speech and these recordings remain evidence of the way Hadrat sought to transform the anti-Sunni climate that existed in England at that time with the spread Wahhabism.
At the time the Wahhabis had established several bases and were propagating their heretical brand of Islam that sought to dilute the true love of the Most Beloved Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) and the Awliya-Allah. They attacked almost every Sunni belief associated with orthodox Sunni Islam that places the love of the Beloved Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam) as fundamental to a Muslim's faith. The Ahl al-Sunnah W'al Jama'ah ("Sunnis") was nonplussed. Sunni Ulema appeared to have no answers as to how to stem the tide of Wahhabism, and while the ideological arguments against the Wahhabis had been won by Sunni scholars years ago - most notably by Imam-e-Ahle Sunnah Mujaddid-e-Deen o Millat Ala'Hadrat As-Shah Ahmad Raza Khan Barelwi (Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu), the work being done by the Wahhabis on the ground appeared almost impossible to combat.
The majority of the Sunni Ulema in Britain did not appear to be openly critical of the Wahhabi movement, and those who were critical achieved minimal success. Though scholars of repute had arrived with the waves of migrants in the 1960's and 1970's, no one person appeared to stand out as the undisputed leader of the Sunni Muslims of Britain to whom everyone could turn to for guidance and a saviour who would be able to take on the Wahhabis and other heretical and non Islamic movements such as the Shia and Qadianis. Those Ulema who had sufficient knowledge were not competent orators which at the time was necessity, while others simply refused to speak out against the Wahhabis for various reasons. Increasingly, Sunni Muslims started going to Wahhabi-controlled Mosques, the Sunnis that had just arrived from the Gujerat State of India. Sunnism was being corroded by the work of the Tablighi Jamaat.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam spent the next thirty years in the true propagation of Islam through his speeches, spiritual gatherings, meetings with people and most notably by his impeccable behaviour and actions, exempliflying how a Muslim should conduct himself by harmonising the Shariah with Tariqat.
Hadrat made clear in his speeches why Sunni Muslims should refrain from following Wahhabi beliefs and why they were un-Islamic. Hadrat challenged the Wahhabis' to public debates to discuss his assertion that their beliefs were heretical and contrary to what is stated in the Qur'an al-Kareem and other religious books. This challenge was rarely accepted and on the occasions that it was, the Wahhabis would fail to show up. On the one occasion they did turn up, at Sutherland St Mosque in Leicester, they were comprehensively defeated by Hadrat who answered all the questions that the Wahhabis posed and when he asked a question in return, they could not answer and voluntarily left the Mosque in disgrace.
The leader that the Sunni Muslims of Britain had been yearning for was thus found in the shape of Hadrat. His speeches galvanised people into taking action ; hundreds if not thousands became his disciples immediately, Sunnis started building their own Mosques, and other scholars started speaking out against Wahhabism and other heretical movements that had been established in Britain.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam probably saved thousands of people from the Wahhabi menace and ensured future generations did not fall prey to them. Hadrat was invited to preach by different communities, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Indians alike. Those Ulema that had established Mosques and Islamic Centres sought Hadrat with enthusiasm and Hadrat was welcomed with open arms by the likes of Pir Allauddin Siddiqui, Pir Maruf Hussain Shah, Allama Arif Ullah Siddiqui, Pir Abdul Wahhab etc. However the Gujerati Sunni Muslim community owe a debt of graditude to Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam as he has bestowed particular blessings on them for the way they have attended him.
After Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam arrived in Britain and achieved spiritual success in saving Sunni Muslims from the extremes of Wahhabism, other countries desired that Hadrat go on preaching missions to them. This led to Hadrat visiting Belgium, Holland, Canada and the United States of America as well as countries in the African Continent. Hadrat achieved similar success in those countries winning the hearts and minds of people with his intellect and by his humble nature. It is testament to Hadrat's stature that every country desires that Hadrat visit them every year, and it is a testament to Hadrat's spiritual strength that he manages to visit such a large number of countries as well as preaching all over the sub-continent (which is an impossible task given the size of the area). Hadrat also finds time to attend to family life and oversee the school he has founded in Kicchocha Shareef as well as numerous Islamic Universities under his guardianship around the world.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam is also the first member of the Ashrafiya dynasty to propagate Islam in the western world. There have been many illustrious personalities in the Ashrafi household in the six centuries after Sultan Sayyad Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir (Radi Allahu anhu) ; but no Pir or Scholar has ventured to the West and beyond. Hadrat thus holds a unique place in the history of this great family as being the first to carry the mission of Hadrat Sultan Sayyad Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Semnani (Radi Allahu anhu) to these parts of the world.
Hadrat's stature is impossible to convey fully, and to recognise and understand who Hadrat is would require the help of someone who is at the very least on a par with Hadrat, and since no one is at that level, we will be unable to determine what Hadrat's status is. It is sufficient for us to know that Hadrat is a saint and when this period of Islamic history is looked back upon years from now, people will desire a personality such as Hadrat's in their time and will look back in bewilderment at Hadrat's achievements.
Hadrat Shaykh al-Islam has provided the Sunni Muslims of Great Britain with an invaluable service for nearly 30 years. Hadrat has made an outstanding contribution to the communities in keeping with Sufi traditions and following the ways of his father, grandfather and great grandfather. The Sunni Muslims all over the world are extremely fortunate to have such a pious saint that has done so much for them, to teach, guide and spiritually enlighten them. We shall be eternally grateful.
AL-SAKHAWI ON THE TITLES OF SCHOLARS: SHAYKH AL-ISLAM, MUHADDITH, and HAFIZ
Translated by Recep Senturk, Columbia University Posted with permission.
The great hafiz Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman al- Sakhawi (831-902 H) was along with hafiz Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (849/1445-911/1505) the star student of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani (773/1372-852/1449), the last of the great huffaz (hadith masters). The following is taken from Sakhawi's introduction to his biography of Ibn Hajar entitled "al-Jawahir wa al-Durar fi Tarjamat Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar (al-`Asqalani)" [Pearls and Diamonds: the Biography of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar of `Asqalan], ed. Hamid Abd al-Majid and Taha al-Zayni (Cairo: Wizarat al-Awqaf, al-Majlis al-A`la li al-Shu'un al-Islamiyya, Lajnah Ihya' al-Turath al-Islami, 1986). There is no copyright. The book begins with the invocation: "al-hamdu lillah al-ladhi ja`ala al-`ulama' warathat al-anbiya' wa al-salatu wa as-salam `ala nabiyyihi muhammadin sayyid al-asfiya' wa `ala alihi wa sahbihi al-sadat al-atqiya' salatan wa salaman da'imayni yastawjiban rutbat al-awliya'" which means: "Glory to God Who has made the Learned the inheritors of the Prophets, and Blessings and Peace on His Prophet Muhammad, the Master of the Pure Ones, and upon his Family and Companions the Pious Authorities, Blessings and Peace perduring as befits the rank of the Friends of God."
Definition of Shaykh al-Islam, Muhaddith and Hafiz
"Shaykh al-Islam," as inferred from its use as a term among the authorities, is a title attributed to the follower of the Book of God and the example of His Messenger, peace be upon him, who possesses the knowledge of the principles of the Science (of Religion), has plunged deep into the different views of the scholars, has become able to extract the legal evidences from the texts, and has understood the rational and the transmitted proofs at a satisfactory level.
At times, this title is given to those who have reached to the level of sainthood, and from whom people derive blessings both when they are alive and when they are dead. Similarly, whoever has tread the true path of the People of Islam and has come out unscathed from the folly and ignorance of youth; and whoever has become a living apparatus for others (in solving problems or winning a struggle) and a refuge in every difficulty: these are the meanings of the word as used by the general public.
At times, this title is also given to one who grows old in the fold of Islam and becomes outstanding among his peers for his long life and enters into the meaning of the hadith "There will be a light for those who grow old in the fold of Islam" [al-Hakim, ch. on Kuna, ending with the words: "... and has not changed his word"].
This title was not common among the earlier generations after the two Shaikhs, al-Siddiq and al-Faruq, may God be well pleased with them, and we know that `Ali, may God be well pleased with him, applied it to them. Al-Muhibb al-Tabari [615/1218-694, Shafi`i hafiz and faqih] related in his book "al-riyad al-nadirah" [The Resplendant Groves], without providing a chain of authorities, that Anas, may God be well pleased with him, said: "A man came to `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may God be well pleased with him, and said: O Commander of the Faithful, I heard you saying on the pulpit: "O God, help me as you helped the rightly-guided and enlightened caliphs. Who are they?" Anas said: Tears welled in `Ali's eyes and began to pour down, then he replied: Abu Bakr and `Umar, may God be well pleased with them, the two leaders of rightful guidance and the two shaykhs of Islam, the two men of Quraysh, the two who are followed after the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him. Whoever follows these two gains respect; whoever lives up to the legacy of these two is guided to a straight path; whoever sticks with these two is from God's party, and God's party--they are the saved."
Al-Dhahabi reported in "al-Kashif" on the authority of Ibn al-Mubarak (118/736-181) -- mark him, O Reader, as one who was a Shaykh al-Islam: "The only one to carry the title Shaykh of Islam is Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, may God be well pleased with him, who preserved the zakat (poor-tax) and fought against the apostates. Know him very well." The report ends here.
Ismail al-Harawi (396-481 al-Ansari al-Harawi, a Sufi of the Hanbali school) came to be known with this title. His full name was `Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari, a Hanbali scholar and the author of "Manazil al-Sairin" and "Dhamm al-Kalam." Abu `Ali Hassan ibn Said al-Mani`i al-Shafi`i and Abu al-Hassan al-`Ukkari were also known with this title. Ibn al-Sam`ani said about the latter that he was called Shaykh al-Islam. He also was a Shafi`i.
Among the scholars of the Hanafi school the following carried this title:
- Abu Sa`id al-Khalil b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. al-Khalil al-Sajzi, who died after 370; - Abu al-Qasim Yunus b. Tahir b. Muhammad b. Yunus al-Basri -- Ibn Mandah mentions him -- who died in 411;
- The judge Abu al-Hasan Ali b. al-Husayn b. Muhammad al-Sundi who died in 461--he may also have been called Rukn al-Islam (Pillar of Islam);
- Abu Nasr Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Saa'id al-Saa'idi -- Dhahabi said about him: He is one of those who are called Shaykh al-Islam -- who died in 482;
- Ali b. Muhammad b. Ismail b. Ali al-Isbijai, who died in 535;
- His student, the author of al-Hidaya, Burhan al-Din Ali b. Abu Bakr `Abd al-Jalil al-Farghani, who died in 593;
- Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Hulmi;
- al-`Imad Mas'ud b. Shaybah b. al-Husayn al-Sindi;
- Abu Sa'd al-Mutahhar b. Sulayman al-Zanjani;
- Sadid b. Muhammad al-Hannati.
The master Abu `Uthman Isma`il b. `Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad al- Sabuni al-Shafii was also known by this title. Ibn al-Sam`ani gave it to him in al-Dhayl. Also known by this title was Taj al- Din al-Firkah, who was a Shafi`i. Ibn Daqiq al-`Id (d. 702; said to be the Renewer of the seventh century) gave this title to his master (al-`Izz) Ibn `Abd al-Salam. He said: He is Shaykh al- Islam. Also known by this title were Abu al-Faraj b. Umar the Hanbali, the first who undertook the jurisdiction for the Hanbalis (in Mecca), Ibn Daqiq al-'Id himself, Ibn Taymiyya -- Abu al- Hajjaj al-Mizzi (654/1256-742/1341 Shafi`i hafiz of Damascus) did not give this title to anyone else among his contemporaries besides Ibn Taymiyya -- Ibn Abi `Umar, Taqi al-Din al-Subki, in whose time and in whose son's time the use of this title increased, especially in Damascus. Later, Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini (Ibn Hajar's shaykh) was given this title. I read in Ibn `Ammar's own hand that it was used exclusively for him...
Since the beginning of the eigth century innumerable people have been given this title, to the extent that even the chief judges came to be called with it even if they lacked the knowledge and the age. Indeed, ignorant writers and other than they took to attributing individuals all manners of qualities which nowadays exist only distributed among different persons. Those who confirm them in this abuse are the strangest of all. Verily we belong to God and to Him do we return.
Ibn Hajar, may God have mercy on him, entirely merits being called with this title because he had most of the qualities that are mentioned above, and when that title was used by the authorities in his time he was meant and no-one else. Even if he was not an authority in everything, in the field of the hadith of the Prophet he was, beyond question, Shaykh al-Islam. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, whose piety is beyond question, called Abu al-Walid al-Tayalisi and Ahmad b. Yunus "Shaykh al-Islam" although they had only the knowledge of hadith, whereas Ibn Hajar's authority was not limited to one field only. May God have mercy on them and us.
Peace and Blessings upon the Beloved Prophet
(Salla Allahu Ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam),
his Blessed Family, and his Noble Companions