Shaykh Muhammad Mutawalli al-Sha'rawi was born in a middle class family that was known in the village of Daqadus for its devotion to Islam. From the time of Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's birth, his father had high aspirations for him.
In his childhood he went through the process of memorizing the holy Qur'an in the village's Kuttab . When he finished the memorization his fellow villagers called him al-Shaykh Amin . Amin was Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's nickname in his childhood.
In the year 1930, he attended the primary Azharite education in the Zaqaziq institute of religious education. Whenever he returned to his village, his Qur'an tutor encouraged him to teach Islamic knowledge in the village's mosque. This was Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's first mass lecturing.
In 1930, Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's village Daqadus protested against the Egyptian government of that time and the villagers refused to participate in the parliamentary elections. This led to a confrontation with the police and the village was put under curfue. The curfue coincided with the memorandum of the Egyptian leader Sa'd Zaghlool, and the young Shaykh al-Sha'rawi made a public poem in remembrance of Sa'd Zaghlool despite the police presence.
In 1936, Shaykh al-Sha'rawi travelled to Cairo to enroll in the Faculty of Arabic Language in al-Azhar.
There were several teachers and preachers who contributed to Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's personality. Scholars who contributed to the shaping of Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's knowledge during his Azharite undergraduate years include Shaykh Ahmad Yusuf Nagati , Shaykh Ahmad `Imara , Shaykh Ibrahim Hamrush who is described by Shaykh al-Sha'rawi as the Arabic Language genious of his time and Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraghi . Shaykh al-Sha'rawi mentions other non-Azharites whose knowledge contributed to his own like Imam Hassan al-Banna who had a unique methodogy of lecturing. Shaykh al-Sha'rawi admired the poetry of Ahmad Shawqi who is known in Egypt and the Arab world as the prince of poets.
In the mid thirties Shaykh al-Sha'rawi led a student movement in al-Azhar whose objective was to ensure al-Azhar's independence. The movement was known as al-Maraghi's movement since its members preferred the return of Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraghi to the position of al-Azhar's Grand Imam. This objective was at odds with the will of Egypt's rulers. As the young Shaykh was one of the movement's leaders he was detained in prison for a month in the jail of al-Zaqaziq. In the end the movement succeeded and Imam al-Maraghi retained his position.
Shaykh al-Sha'rawi graduated from the Faculty of Arabic Language in 1941 and in 1943 he obtained the specialization degree from the same faculty.
Shaykh al-Sha'rawi started his Azharite teaching work in Tanta's institue of religious studies. He was then transferred to equivalent institutes in al-Zaqaziq and Alexandria
In 1950 he started his long career of teaching outside Egypt. He was sent by al-Azhar to Saudi Arabia to teach in King Abd al-Aziz al-Su'ud university in Mecca. He then returned to Egypt in the early sixties and worked in several Azharite positions.
In the mid-sixties Algeria won its independence after a long war with the French occupation. One of the highest priorities of the newly independent Algeria was to re-Arabize the country which was tarnished during the years of colonization by the French language. In 1966 al-Azhar sent to Algeria a delegation of Arabic language specialists whose president was Shaykh al-Sha'rawi.
In 1970 Shaykh al-Sha'rawi worked for the second time in King Abd al-Aziz university in Saudi Arabia.
In 1975 he returned finally to Egypt. In that year he made an impressive impact on the Egyptian audience when he appeared in the weekly television program Nur `Ala Nur. His lecturing style was so different than traditional Azharites and he always conveyed ideas in a method that is understandable to everyone. Since that time Shaykh al-Sha'rawi's fame skyrocketed.
He retired from the Azharite career in 1976. In the same year he was appointed by president Sadat as a minister of Waqf. He stayed in that position for two years.
In 1980 he started his famous Friday lessons on the Egyptian television. His speaches in Qur'an interpretation (Tafsir) attracted a massive audience that is probably unparalleled by any contemporary Azharite.