Abū ʿAbdillāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi‘ī
Abu ʿAbdillah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i with Islamic calligraphy
|Born||767 CE/150 AH
|Died||20 January, 820 CE/30 Rajab, 204 AH (aged 52-53)
|Era||Islamic Golden Age|
|Notable idea(s)||Shafi'i madhhab|
|Notable work(s)||Risalah: Usul al Fiqh, Kitab al-Umm|
Abū ʿAbdullāh Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfīʿī (Arabic: ابو عبدالله محمد بن إدريس الشافعيّ) A Muslim jurist, who lived from (767 — 820 CE / 150 — 204 AH). Often referred to as 'Shaykh al-Islām' he was one of the four great Imams of which a legacy on juridical matters and teaching eventually led to the Shafi'i school of fiqh (or Madh'hab) named after him. Hence he is often called Imam al-Shafi‘i. :1
The biography of al-Shāfi‘i is difficult to trace. Dawud al-Zahiri was said to be the first to write such a biography, but the book has been lost. The oldest surviving biography goes back to Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi (died 327H/939) and is no more than a collection of anecdotes, some of them fantastic. The first real biography is by Ahmad Bayhaqi (died 458H/1066) and is filled with what a modernist eye would qualify as pious legends. The following is what seems to be a sensible reading, according to a modern reductionist point of view.
Al-Shāfi‘ī belonged to the Qurayshi clan Banu Muttalib which was the sister clan of the Banu Hashim to which the Prophet Muhammad and the Abbasid caliphs belonged. Hence he had connections in the highest social circles, but he grew up in poverty.
He was born in Gaza, near the town of Asqalan. While still a child, his father died in Syria and thus his mother decided to move to Mecca when he was about two years old. His maternal family roots were from Yemen, and there were more members of his family in Mecca, where his mother believed he would better be taken care of. He is reported to have studied under Muslim Ibn Khalid az-Zanji, the Mufti of Mecca at his time and is considered the first teacher of Imam ash-Shafi'i.
Al-Shāfi‘ī moved to Medina in his quest to learn Islam, as was the tradition of acquiring knowledge. There, he was taught by the famous Imam Malik ibn Anas. He memorized Muwatta Imam Malik at a very early age, whereby Imam Malik was very impressed with his memory and knowledge.
After that, Al-Shāfi‘ī lived in Mecca and Baghdad, until 814/198.
He was appointed as a judge in Najran in the time of Harun ar-Rashid. Sunnis portray that his devotion to justice, even when it meant criticizing the governor, caused him some problems, and he was falsely accused of aiding the Alawis in a revolt. He was taken in chains before the Caliph at Raqqa in 803/187. Shaybānī was the chief justice at the time, and his defense of Shafi'i, coupled with Shafi'i’s own eloquent defense, convinced Harun ar-Rashid to dismiss the charge, and he directed Shaybānī to take Shafi'i to Baghdad. He was also a staunch critic of Al-Waqidi's writings on Sirah.
In Baghdad, he developed his first madh'hab, influenced by the teachings of both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik. Thus, his work there is known as “al Madhab al Qadim lil Imam as Shafi’i,” or the Old School of ash-Shafi'i.
al-Shafi'i left Baghdad in 804/188, possibly because Hanafi followers had complained to Shaybani that Shafi'i had become somewhat critical of the school during their disputations; as a result, Shafi'i is said to have participated in a debate with Shaybani over their differences, though who won the debate is disputed. After spending some time teaching in Mecca, where Hanbal is said to have heard him lecturing at the Sacred Mosque, Shafi'i eventually returned to Baghdad in 810/194.
Muhammad ibn Harun al-Amin (787–813) (Arabic: محمد الأمين بن هارون الرشيد), Abbasid Caliph. He succeeded his father, Harun al-Rashid, in 809/193 and ruled until he was killed in 813/197.
Caliph Al-Ma'mun is said to have offered Shafi'i a position as a judge, but Shafi'i declined the offer. In 814/198, Shafi'i decided to leave Baghdad for Egypt, although the precise reasons for this move are uncertain. It was in Egypt that Shafi'i dictated his works to students. Several of his leading disciples would write down what Shafi'i said, and Shafi'i would then have them read it back aloud so that corrections could be made. Shafi'i's biographers all agree that what works we now have under his name are the result of those sessions with his disciples.
At least one authority says that Shafi'i died as a result of injuries sustained from an attack by supporters of a Maliki follower named Fityan. The story goes that Shafi'i triumphed in argument over Fityan, who, being intemperate, resorted to some form of abuse. The Governor of Egypt, with whom Shafi'i had good relations, ordered Fityan punished by having him paraded through the streets of the city carrying a plank and stating the reason for his punishment. Fityan's supporters were enraged by this treatment, and they attacked Shafi'i in retaliation after one of Shafi'i's lectures. Shafi'i died a few days later. However, Shafi'i is also said to have suffered from some sort of intestinal illness, so the precise reason for Shafi'i's death is unknown.
He died at the age of 54 on the 30th of Rajab in 204 AH (20 January 820 AD) in al-Fustat, Egypt, and he was buried in the vault of the Banū ‘Abd al-Hakam, near Mount al-Muqattam. The qubba was built in 1212/608 by the Ayyubid Al-Kamil, and the mausoleum remains an important site today.
Al-Shāfi‘ī developed the science of fiqh unifying 'revealed sources' - the Quran and hadith - with human reasoning to provide a basis in law. With this systematization of shari'a he provided a legacy of unity for all Muslims and forestalled the development of independent, regionally based legal systems. The four Sunni legals schools or madhhabs- keep their traditions within the framework that Shafi'i established.
Al-Shāfi‘ī gives his name to one of these legal schools Shafi'i fiqh - the Shafi'i school - which is followed in many different places in the Islamic world: Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Somalia, Yemen as well as Sri Lanka and southern parts of India.
Saladin built a madrassa and a shrine on the site of his tomb. Saladin's brother Afdal built a mausoleum for him in 1211 after the defeat of the Fatamids. It remains a site where people petition for justice.
Among the followers of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī’s school were:
He authored more than 100 books.
In addition to this, al-Shafi'i was an eloquent poet, who composed many short poems aimed at addressing morals and behaviour.
Tradition says that he memorized the Qur’an at the age of seven; by ten, he had memorized the Muwatta of Malik ibn Anas; he was a mufti (given authorization to issue fatwa) at the age of fifteen. He recited the Qur'an every day in prayer, and twice a day in Ramadan. Some apocryphal accounts claim he was very handsome, that his beard did not exceed the length of his fist, and that it was very black. He wore a ring that was inscribed with the words, “Allah suffices Muhammad ibn Idris as a reliance.” He was also known to be very generous.
He was also an accomplished archer, a poet, and some accounts call him the most eloquent of his time. Some accounts claim that there were a group of Bedouin who would come and sit to listen to him, not for the sake of learning, but just to listen to his eloquent use of the language. Even in latter eras, his speeches and works were used by Arabic grammarians. He was given the title of Nasir al Sunnah, the Defender of the Sunnah.
Al-Shafi‘i loved the Islamic prophet Muhammad very deeply. Al Muzani said of him, “He said in the Old School: ‘Supplication ends with the invocation of blessings on the Prophet, and its end is but by means of it.’” Al-Karabisi said: “I heard al-Shafi’i say that he disliked for someone to say ‘the Messenger’ (al-Rasul), but that he should say ‘Allah’s Messenger’ (Rasul Allah) out of veneration for him.” He divided his night into three parts: one for writing, one for praying, and one for sleeping.
Apocryphal accounts claim that Imam Ahmad said of ash-Shafi'i, “I never saw anyone adhere more to hadith than al-Shafi’i. No one preceded him in writing down the hadith in a book.” Imam Ahmad is also claimed to have said, “Not one of the scholars of hadith touched an inkwell nor a pen except he owed a huge debt to al-Shafi’i.”
Muhammad al-Shaybani said, “If the scholars of hadith speak, it is in the language of al Shafi’i.”
|“||A Mujadid appears at the end of every century: The Mujtahid of the 1st century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Umar bin Abdul Aziz. The Mujadid of the 2nd century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Muhammad Idrees as-Shafi'i the Mujadid of the 3rd century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Abu Hasan Ashari the Mujadid of the 4th century was Abu Abdullah Hakim Nishapuri.||”|
According to many accounts he was said to have a photographic memory. One anecdote states that he would always cover one side of a book while reading because a casual glance at the other page would commit it to memory.
He claimed that the game of chess was an image of war, and it was possible to play chess as a mental exercise for the solution of military tactics. Chess could not be played for a stake, but if a player was playing for a mental exercise, he was not doing anything illegal. Provided the player took care that his fondness for chess did not cause him to break any other rule of life, he saw no harm in playing chess. He played chess himself, defending his practice by the example of many of his companions.
|Early Islamic scholars|
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