His Name, Lineage and Birth
He was 'Abd-ur-Rahmaan Ibn Abee Bakr Ibn Muhammad Ibn Saabiq Al-Khudairee, As-Suyootee (Ash-Shaafi'ee). His nickname was Jalaal-ud-Deen Abul-Fadl.
[As-Suyootee is an ascription to a town in Upper Egypt called Asuyoot. One of his grandfathers built a school there and donated money for it. His father, Al-Kamaal was born there in Asuyoot, so that is why Jalaal-ud-Deen ascribes himself to that town. As for his other ascription Al-Khudairee, then it is in reference to a place in Baghdad, from which one of his grandfathers came from. Both his grandfathers were men of leadership and prestige and his father was from the Fuqahaa of the Shaafi'ee madh-hab, as As-Suyootee stated in Husn-ul-Muhaadarah. When his father passed away, Al-Kamaal Ibn Al-Hamaam, a Hanafee Faqeeh, was one of the people that his father left As-Suyootee entrusted to.]
He was born in the month of Rajab 849H in Cairo (Egypt), and was raised as an orphan after his father passed away while he was only 5 years old. He memorized the entire Qur'aan when he was barely eight. Then he went on to memorize "Al-'Umdah" and "Minhaaj Al-Fiqh wal-Usool" and "Alfiyyah Ibn Maalik." He began to engross himself with knowledge starting from 864H (i.e. when he was 15).
His Teachers and His travels
He took knowledge of Fiqh and Nahu from a large group of shuyookh. So he studied the laws of inheritance at the hands of the great scholar, who was the most knowledge on this subject during his time, Shaikh Shihaab-ud-Deen Ash-Shaar Masaahee, who lived to a very old age. He studied his explanation of "Al-Majmoo'" under him.
He accompanied Shaikh-ul-Isslaam Siraaj-ud-Deen Al-Balqeenee, studying Fiqh under him until he died. Then he accompanied his son ('Ilm-ud-Deen Al-Balqeenee), studying under him until he authorized (gave ijaazah to) him to teach and give fatwa in 876H. Likewise, he accompanied Shaikh Sharaf-ud-Deen Al-Manaawee and benefited from him in the fields of Fiqh and Tafseer.
[As-Suyootee moved on to study under Al-Manawee after the death of 'Ilm-ud-Deen Al-Balqeenee in 878H. Ironically, Sharaf-ud-Deen Al-Manaawee was the grandfather of 'Abdur-Ra'oof Al-Manaawee, the scholar that wrote the work Faid-ul-Qadeer, which was an explanation of As-Suyootee's Al-Jaami'-us-Sagheer.]
He studied the sciences of Hadeeth and the Arabic Language under the Imaam, Taqee-ud-Deen Ash-Shublee Al-Hanafee, who wrote some eulogies for him. He also attended the gatherings of the great scholar, Al-Kaafeejee, for the length of fourteen years and learned from him the subjects of Tafseer, Usool, and Ma'aanee. And he received ijaazah (religious authorization) by him. He also benefited from the classes of Saif-ud-Deen Al-Hanafee on Tafseer and Balaagha.
The number of teachers whom he received ijaazah (religious authorization) from, studied under and heard from reaches one hundred and fifty shaikhs, as has been compiled by As-Suyootee himself and his student after him, Ad-Dawoodee, who arranged them in alphabetical order.
[In his book Husn-ul-Muhaadarah, As-Suyootee gives the number of teachers who narrated to him from those he heard from and those who gave him the ijaazah, saying: "As for my teachers who narrated to me, whom I heard from and who gave me the religious approval (ijaazah) then they are many. I have mentioned them in the lexicon I have compiled about them, and I counted them to number about 150."]
Imaam As-Suyootee traveled to Shaam, Hijaaz, Yemen, India and Morocco, and settled down towards the end of his life in his homeland of Egypt.
His Character, Self-confidence and Disposition
He was modest, kind, righteous, fearful of Allaah, satisfied with what sustenance he received from his scholastic life. And he would not extend his eyes out to anyone. The leaders and rich people would go to visit him and would present him with valuable wealth, but he would return it to them.
[As-Suyootee held various positions in his lifetime such as that of teacher of the Arabic Language in 866H, he was authorized to give fatwa in 876H and he taught and dictated hadeeth at the University of Ibn Tuloon in 1367 CE]
He was extremely confident of himself - he did not see anyone among his contemporaries as being equal to him (in knowledge). He had an extraordinary uniqueness In his nature. In fact, his extreme self-confidence brought him to believe that he was the mujaddid (reviver) of the Religion for the 9th century. And he claimed Ijtihaad for himself. At times he asserted this and at other times, he indicated towards that. All of this led him to have severe problems between him and some of his contemporaries, who charged him with some accusations, especially Al-Haafidh As-Sakhaawee. This was such that both of them would write treatises refuting one another. And this issue is too well known for it to be denied.
[In Husn-ul-Muhaadarah, As-Suyootee wrote: "And if I had wanted to write a book on every issue (of the Religion) according to the opinions held on it, the textual and analogical evidences for it, its refutations and its responses, as well as weighing between the differences of the madhaahib on it, I would have the ability to do so, by the Grace of Allaah."]
His Written Works
Imaam As-Suyootee, rahimahullaah, is known through his vast amount of books and writings on all of the subjects of Islamic Knowledge, especially those related to Hadeeth, Tafseer, Fiqh and Usool. However, from these writings, there are those which have their sizes range between a page and numerous volumes. The first book he wrote was "Sharh Al-Isti'aadha wal-Basmalah" in 866H, when he was seventeen years old. For the most part, these books (he wrote) were compilations of numerous other books (written by other authors) or good abridgements for books he had read or books that he added chapter headings to, all of which show his great understanding. It is possible that As-Suyootee relied on some means that facilitated for him his work on the compilations, such as what resembles small paper notes. In spite of this, I believe that his reliance on his memory was very strong. And we mist also confirm something, which we often find in his writings, and it is that many of his books are void of clearness and purity. So the scholastic personality of the author remains hidden behind the vast amount of statements of the scholars he quotes from. However, what minimizes the gravity of this observation is that this characteristic was almost like the typical quality of his time, so it is not limited to just the author (As-Suyootee).
And there are a number of small books that As-Suyootee wrote that comply with some of the Sufi ideologies that spread during his time, which are not correct. Without a doubt, these books agree with the common people's beliefs and they try to find religious justifications for them for what they wrote and heard, such as the belief that Al-Khidr was still alive or that of supporting the use of the tasbeeh beads, and confirming the existence of abdaal and aqtaab and so on. And in many of these books, there can be found contradictions, delusions, mistakes and errors in aspects of knowledge, which at times came as a result of hastiness in authoring, little revision and proofreading, and a lack of proper verification (of the hadeeth found in them). This is the observation that has been made by everyone that deals with the books of As-Suyootee, as has been recorded by the muhaqqiqoon (those who verified and checked his books).
From the best books he wrote was: Husn-ul-Muhaadarah, Tadreeb Ar-Raawee, Al-Itqaan fee 'Uloom-il-Qur'aan, Al-Muzhir fee 'Uloom-il-Lughah, Bughyat-ul-Wi'aat, Hama'-ul-Hawaami' and others. The number of books he has in print has reached 250 works.
[His books and treatises have been counted to number almost 500 works altogether. Some other famous works he produced were: Al-Jaami'-ul-Kabeer, Al-Jaami'-us-Sagheer, Ad-Durr Al-Manthoor and Sharh Al-Alfiyyah]
The most famous of Imaam As-Suyootee's students and it is possible to say the most outstanding student to graduate from the school (madrasah) of As-Suyootee was the Imaam, the historian, Ad-Dawoodee (died 945H) - author of the book Tabaqaat Al-Mufassireen and other works. Then there was his other student, the famous historian, Ibn Iyaas, author of the book Badaa'i-uz-Zuhoor (died 930H).
Some other of his students were the Imaam, the Haafidh Ibn Tuloon Al-Hanafee (died 935H), author of the three "Fahaaris" (indexes) as well as many other works and the Imaam Ash-Shi'raanee, author of the book At-Tabaqaat (died 973H).
His Sickness and Death
As-Suyootee withdrew from the people and remained in his house, busying himself with knowledge, research and writing until he caught a sickness that lasted for seven days, ending in his death. This happened in the month of Jumadaa Al-Oolaa, 911H, may Allaah have mercy on him.
All text in brackets are additional notes from the translator taken from other sources.
See Ad-Dau'-ul-Laami' of As-Sakhaawee (4/65) and Al-Badr-ut-Taali' of Ash-Shawkaanee (1/328-335).
Translator's Note: Al-Aqtaab is the plural form of qutb, which means axis or pivot: the highest station in the Sufi hierarchy of saints. Sufis believe that the universe has a master pivot, which they call al-Qutb, which is to the universe as the soul is to the body; once the qutb departs, the universe can no longer exist. They claim that the one who keeps the greatest name of Allah keeps the secret of the power of the qutb. They also claim that his person reaches the state of "qutbhood" by acquiring the perfection of knowledge, observation and mushahadah, which includes witnessing the Divine essence. He who does this is, according to Sufis, the hierarch of the Sufi leaders of his generation. [Taken from a qss.org article on-line]
Abdaal is the plural of badl, which is a sufi term that refers to designates people that Allaah has given the power to run affairs of the universe. They are called substitutes because according to fabricated ahaadeeth, there are forty or so of them in every generation that are constantly being substituted by next geenrations all possessing this power, which is specific for only Allaah!]
See Shaykh al-Albaanee's introduction to Saheeh Al-Jaami'-us-Sagheer and Da'eef Al-Jaami'-us-Sagheer.
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