Imam al-Haramayn ibn al-Juwayni (419 – 478)

‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Yusuf, Abu al-Ma’ali ibn Rukn al-Islam Abi Muhammad al-Juwayni al-Naysaburi al-Shafi’i, known as Imam al-Haramayn and Ibn al-Juwayni (419-478), al-Ghazzali’s teacher, the jurist, scholar of legal pinciples, expert in kalâm and debate, Shaykh al-Islam, “the Glory of Islam, absolute Imam of all imams, main authority in the Law, whose leadership is agreed upon East and West, whose immense merit is the consensus of Arabs and non-Arabs, upon the like of whom none set eyes before or after,” (Ibn ‘Asakir) “whose work forms the connecting link between the respective methods of the Salaf and Khalaf” (al-Kawthari).

He is the main figure among the fifth generation of al-Ash’ari’s students. Al-Bakhirzi compared him to al-Shafi’i and al-Muzani in fiqh, al-Asma’i in manners, al-Hasan al-Basri in preaching eloquence, and al-Ash’ari in kalâm. Ibn ‘Asakir mentioned it and said: “Truly he is above that by far.” Ibn al-Subki said: “Whoever thinks that there is anyone in the Four Schools that comes near his clarity of speech has no knowledge of him.” “He felt bound to follow neither al-Ash’ari nor al-Shafi’i.” Abu al-Ma’ali’s father is considered, like him, a major authority of the Shafi’i school and among Ash’ari scholars.1

Famous for his intelligence, eloquence, learning, and charisma, Abu al-Ma’ali began to teach in Naysabur immediately after his father’s death, only twenty and still a student in al-Bayhaqi’s school. He took usûl from Imam Abu al-Qasim al-Iskaf al-Isfarayini and read the Qur’an under Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Khabbazi. He took hadith first from his father, then from Abu Hassan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Muzakki, Abu Sa’d ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hamdan al-Nasrawi, Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Yahya al-Muzakki, Abu Sa’d ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Aliyyak, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-’Aziz al-Nili, Abu Nu’aym al-Asbahani, and others.

Abu al-Ma’ali fled from Naysabur at a time when the anthropomorphist governor al-Kunduri and other Mu’tazili and Shi’i-inclined Hanafis used to curse the Companions as well as Imam al-Ash’ari from the pulpit every Jum’a. Among those imprisoned or compelled to leave at that time were Abu Sahl al-Bastami, al-Furati, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, al-Bayhaqi, and others of the Shafi’is.2 He travelled to Baghdad, then Mecca where he taught and wrote for four years, earning his nickname of Imam of the two Sanctuaries. He then returned to Naysabur as the unchallenged grand mufti and headmaster of the newly-built Nizamiyya school where he remained for the next thirty years, forming generations of Shafi’i jurists and Ash’ari scholars and writing the following works:

  • In fiqh: Ghiyath al-Umam, Mughith al-Khalq, Nihaya al-Matlab fi Diraya al-Madhhab (“The End of the Quest in the Knowledge of the [Shafi'i] School”), his magnum opus, which Ibn ‘Asakir said had no precedent in Islam, and Mukhtasar al-Nihaya.
  • In usûl: al-Burhan, al-Talkhis, and al-Waraqat.
  • In kalâm: al-Shamil, al-Irshad, and al-Nizamiyya.

Love of Knowledge

Imam al-Haramayn was humble and acknowledged his debt even to the unschooled if he had learned something from them, never belittling anyone. Inversely, he did not hide or gloss over his disapproval of something he disapproved of, even when it came to the words of his father or those of the famous imams.

The grammarian al-Mujashi’i said: “I never saw anyone crave after knowledge more than this imam. Truly he pursues knowledge for the sake of knowledge.” Ibn ‘Asakir related: “His pleasure and leasure consisted in the sessions of knowledge.” “Whenever he spoke of spiritual states and probed the sciences of the Sufis in his early morning gatherings, he wept and made everyone weep at his words.” Among his sayings:

“I do not eat or sleep out of habit, but only if sleep overcomes me whether by night or by day, and only if I need to eat, whatever the time.”

“I did not utter one word of kalâm before first memorizing twelve thousand folios of the words of the qadi Abu Bakr [al-Baqillani] alone.”

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