Taj al-Din as-Subki

by David W. Myhram

provided courtesy Hani al-Khatib


Taj al-Din al-Subki, the author of the Mu`id al-Ni`am wa Mubid al-Niqam, belongs to a large family of al-Subkis, whose members during the seventh and eighth century A.H. made themselves renowned, not only for their learning, high positions as qadis, jurisconsultants, professors, preachers, and writers, but also for their high personal qualities. As the family name al-Subki shows and historical records prove, the family of these times came from one of the two villages Subk in lower Egypt, namely the Subk in the province of Sharkiyya, near Memphis. Here, as we know, the father of the author, Taqi al-Din al-Subki, was born. Mubarak says that Allah had bestowed special favours on this village in allowing it to give to the world two such men as Taqi al-Din and his son Taj al-Din [1].

The family, however, carried its pedigree back to the time of the Prophet, and claimed to be descendants of the tribe of Khazraj, or one of the two dominating tribes of the old city of Yathrib, the later Medina, who became the followers, supporters, and champions of [the Prophet] Mohammad. Hence the members of the Subki family call themselves al-Khazraji.

The pedigree of Taj al-Din, as constructed from native biographers, is thus carried back through some sixteen generations to the time of the Prophet. It runs as follows:

Taj al-Din Abu Nasr `Abd al-Wahhab ibn Taqi al-Din `Ali ibn Zain al-Din `Abd al-Kafi ibn Diya’ al-Din `Ali ibn Tam­mam ibn Hamid ibn Yahya ibn `Omar ibn `Othman ibn `Ali ibn Sawar ibn Sasawar ibn Salim al-Ansari al-Khazraji al-Subki.

This learned and distinguished family of scholars and high officials of the 7th and 8th century A.H. we find divided into three lines, descending from the great grandfather of the author. The family genealogical table can be construc­ted as follows:

Dia’ al-Din `Ali ibn Tammam al-Subki, the great grandfather of the author, was a qadi according to Ibn Habib.

Zain al-Din Abu Muhammad `Abd al-Kafi al-Subki, the grandfather of the author, was also a qadi and traditionist. He moved away from the village Subk, the family home, and settled in Cairo, where he worked as a teacher of traditions. He died at al-Mahalla 735 A.H.

Taqi al-Din `Ali ibn `Abd al-Kafi al-Subki, the father of the author was one of the most famous men of his time. He and his son, our author, were no doubt the greatest among all the Subkis. Taqi al-Din was born in Subk 673 A.H., but as his father moved over to Cairo, he received his education there. His teachers besides his own father were Taqi al-Din Abu bint al-`Izz, `Alam al-Din al-`Iraqi, Taqi al-Din al-Sa’igh, al-Dimyati, `Ala’ al-Din al-Baji, Sayf al-Din al-Baghdadi, the great grammarian Abu Hayyan, Taj al-Din Ibn `Ala’. He became famous as one of the greatest scholars and teachers of his time. He was equally renowned as traditionist, jurisconsult, interpreter of al-Qur’an, theologian, philosopher, logician and grammarian. He also enjoyed a high reputation for his personal qualities and virtue. For many years he was professor at the great schools of learning in Cairo, as al-Mansuriyya, al-Hakkariyya and al-Saifiyya. In 739 A.H. he was called to Damascus to take the office of head qadi, an office which he held for 16 years. At the same time he was professor at the higher schools of learning, in Damascus as al-Ghazzaliyya, al-`Adiliyya the great, al-Atabakiyya, al-Mansuriyya, al-Shamiyya al-Barraniyya, and the tradition school al-Ashrafiyya. Taqi al-Din also wrote a number of books. He died at Cairo 756 A.H.

Baha’ al-Din Ahmad al-Subki, head qadi, teacher and writer, the oldest brother of the author, was born in Cairo 719 A.H. He studied Arabic grammar with Abu Hayyan, the principles of law with al-Isfahani, and theology with his father, Taqi al-Din. When his father was called to Damascus, although only 30 years of age, he was already teaching at al-Mansoriyya, al-Saifiyya, and al-Hakkariyya. Later be also taught at the chapel of al-Shafi`i, al-Khashabiyya, and al-Shaykhuniyya. For some time he was president of the judicial court of Cairo. In the year 763 he was called to Damascus against his own will to take the place as head qadi, after his brother Taj al-Din, who had been removed. In Damascus he also taught at al-Ghazzaliyya, al-`Adiliyya, and al-Nasiriyya. The following year, however, he returned to Egypt and became president of the military court. He also continued his work as a teacher and turned out many famous scholars. Baha’­ al-Din was as famous as a teacher and author of commentaries as he was for his piety, kindness and friendship. He was known as a faithful attendant of the services at the mosque and he made many pilgrimages. On one of those pilgrimages he died at Makka in Rajab 773 A.H.

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