Jalaluddin as-Suyuti

`Abd al-Rahman ibn Kamal al-Din Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Sabiq al-Din, Jalal al-Din al-Misri al-Suyuti al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari, also known as Ibn al-Asyuti (849-911), the mujtahid imam and renewer of the tenth Islamic century, foremost hadith master, jurist, Sufi, philologist, and historian, he authored works in virtually every Islamic science.

Born to a Turkish mother and non-Arab father and raised as an orphan in Cairo, he memorized the Qur’an at eight, then several complete works of Sacred Law, fundamentals of jurisprudence, and Arabic grammar; after which he devoted himself to studying the Sacred Sciences under about a hundred and fifty shaykhs.

Among them the foremost Shafi`i and Hanafis shaykhs at the time, such as the hadith master and Shaykh al-Islam Siraj al-Din Bulqini, with whom he studied Shafi`i jurisprudence until his death; the hadith scholar Shaykh al-Islam Sharaf al-Din al-Munawi, with whom he read Qur’anic exegesis and who commented al-Suyuti’s al-Jami` al-Saghir in a book entitled Fayd al-Qadir; Taqi al-Din al-Shamani in hadith and the sciences of Arabic; the specialist in the principles of the law Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli, together with whom he compiled the most widespread condensed commentary of Qur’an in our time, Tafsir al-Jalalayn; Burhan al-Din al-Biqa`i; Shams al-Din al-Sakhawi; he also studied with the Hanafi shaykhs Taqi al-Din al-Shamni, Shihab al-Din al-Sharmisahi, Muhyi al-Din al-Kafayji, and the hadith master Sayf al-Din Qasim ibn Qatlubagha. He travelled in the pursuit of knowledge to Damascus, the Hijaz, Yemen, India, Morocco, the lands south of Morocco, as well as to centers of learning in Egypt such as Mahalla, Dumyat, and Fayyum. He was some time head teacher of hadith at the Shaykhuniyya school in Cairo at the recommendation of Imam Kamal al-Din ibn al-Humam, then the Baybarsiyya, out of which he was divested through the complaints of disgruntled shaykhs which he had replaced as teachers. He then retired into scholarly seclusion, never to go back to teaching.

Ibn Iyas in Tarikh Misr states that when al-Suyuti reached forty years of age, he abandoned the company of men for the solitude of the Garden of al-Miqyas by the side of the Nile, avoiding his former colleagues as though he had never known them, and it was here that he authored most of his nearly six hundred books and treatises. Wealthy Muslims and princes would visit him with offers of money and gifts, but he put all of them off, and when the sultan requested his presence a number of times, he refused.

He once said to the sultan’s envoy: “Do not ever come back to us with a gift, for in truth Allah has put an end to all such needs for us.” Blessed with success in his years of solitude, it is difficult to name a field in which al-Suyuti did not make outstanding contributions, among them his ten-volume hadith work Jam` al-Jawami` (“The Collection of Collections”); his Qur’anic exegesis Tafsir al-Jalalayn (“Commentary of the Two Jalals”), of which he finished the second half of an uncompleted manuscript by Jalal al-Din Mahalli in just forty days; his classic commentary on the sciences of hadith Tadrib al-Rawi fi Sharh Taqrib al-Nawawi (“The Training of the Hadith Transmitter: An Exegesis of Nawawi’s `The Facilitation’”); and many others.

A giant among contemporaries, he remained alone, producing a sustained output of scholarly writings until his death at the age of sixty-two. He was buried in Hawsh Qawsun in Cairo. In the introduction to his book entitled al-Riyad al-Aniqa on the names of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — he said: “It is my hope that Allah accept this book and that through this book I shall gain the Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — intercession. Perhaps it shall be that Allah make it the seal of all my works, and grant me what I have asked Him with longing regarding the Honorable One.”

The editors of the Dalil Makhtutat al-Suyuti (“Guide to al-Suyuti’s Manuscripts”) have listed 723 works to al-Suyuti’s name.1 Some of these are brief fatwas which do not exceed four pages, like his notes on the hadith “Whoever says: `I am knowledgeable,’ he is ignorant”2 entitled A`dhab al-Manahil fi Hadith Man Qala Ana `Alim; while others, like the Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur’an or Tadrib al-Rawi, are full-fledged tomes.

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