Scientific Endeavors in the Seventh Hijri Century – Shaykh Muhammad Awwama

This article is the translation of a lecture held by the great Syrian scholar Shaykh Muhammad Awwama during the international conference “Manuscripts of the Seventh Hijri Century” hosted by Dar al-Makhtutat in Istanbul, Turkey. The topic given to the honorable Shaykh Muhammad Awwama was “The Scientific Endeavors in the Seventh Hijri Century on the Example of the Sciences of Hadith.”

[I begin] with the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Benevolent.

All praise is due to Allah, the lord of everything in existence. The best of blessings and complete prayers for peace be upon our beloved Master Muhammad. May Allah send his peace and blessings upon him, his family, his companions, and his followers until the day of judgment.

In my speech, I planned to limit myself to what the honorable Dr. Mahmud [Al-Masri] mentioned – may Allah reward him abundantly. But what I heard [during the conference] filled me with deep grief and sorrow. And there is a lot to say, o young people. But I will say one thing. I congratulate my brother, the respected Dr. Mahmud, the respected Dr. Faysal, and all the brothers involved in these blessed endeavors. I commend them, and my support is with you.

Our Connection to Our Heritage

I want to say that the scientific heritage you talked about can be compared to a family whose father died leaving an inheritance, works, and gifts, towards which his family is keen. Our keenness toward our manuscripts, sciences, and scientific heritage is a great example of the metaphor I mentioned. We desire them like the family desires the inheritance of their father.

But there is something else, o young people – something of far greater importance, worth, and value than all of this.

Why are our enemies keen to destroy our heritage? They know that our honor, nobility, glory, power, and blood are in the path of that heritage. That is why they are burning and destroying it. It is not just a heritage our fathers and grandfathers left for us. No. Rather, there is a meaning beyond that. Our enemies are keen to burn and destroy it because our honor and nobility are right here.

Therefore, we need to support organizations like this to protect this heritage and its honor.

After the Fall of Seville, Andalus

When the city of Seville, the last city under the control of Muslims in Andalus, fell, the military commander in control collected the Muslims’ manuscript heritage from the public libraries – public libraries [comparable to] the Sulaymaniyya or Ahmadiyya [in Turkey] – on a big field and burned and destroyed them.

The [number of these books] has been estimated to be 280.000 volumes.

Manuscripts – Nothing but Ink on Paper?

Why did they burn them? Are these manuscripts just ink on paper? No. Rather, they are civilization, honor, nobility, and glory. This is why they are destroying them, o young people. We should think about this. We should be keen on this heritage. It is our blood, our soul, and our mind. And there is a lot to say about this. (…)

The Editorial Process over the Centuries

The seventh [hijri] century, dear respected listeners, is a result of the previous centuries. It is not the birth of a new era. No. Rather, it is a result of the earlier centuries. The knowledge of the sixth century has been transmitted to the seventh century, followed by a process of revision, addition, and omission, based on [specific] needs or the lack thereof.

It’s about Covering Scientific Needs

We see that our scholars – may Allah be pleased with them – from the beginning of Islamic authorship to our day – used to write to cover [specific] needs. Either a great scientific need of scholars, students of knowledge, or the common population. They didn’t write pointlessly. The scholars of the seventh century adopted the knowledge of the previous century, just like the sixth took from the fifth and so on.

They built upon [the adopted knowledge] and then added to it and expanded on it based on what they found to be necessary. Sometimes they left out what they didn’t deem necessary. What matters is covering the scientific needs of the common folk and the ones of the elite. And in the seventh century, o young people, we find giants and pillars of this religion.

Knowing the Luminaries of this Umma

By Allah, I feel shy to mention any of their names without praise, information, or honor – without adding words, anecdotes, or narrations about them that reveal their greatness to us. And it is only natural that people – as they say – are enemies of what they are ignorant of.

If I mentioned to you Ibn Al-Harastani [some of you might ask] “Who is Al-Harastani? We don’t know anything about him. Why do you mention him?” [If] I mentioned to you Ibn Al-Barizi, [some of you might ask] “Who is Al-Barizi?”

But when I mention that “Soandso was soandso” and “Soandso was soandso. He was indeed an aid to Islam. Allah deployed him as proof of this religion,” [it changes]. And there is no place or time except that there is someone who stands upright for the religion of Allah with proof over the servants of Allah to guide them towards the religion of Allah.

Leaders of the Seventh Century

In the seventh century, we find the likes of Al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd as-Salam, the sultan of the scholars. We see the likes of Imam An-Nawawi, Al-Mundhiri, and Ibn as-Salah. Ibn as-Salah is buried in Damascus, and his father, [who lived] in the seventh century as well, is buried in Aleppo.

In Aleppo, we find the family of Ibn Al-‘Ajami– more than fifty scholars. [Some of you might ask] “Who is this Al-‘Ajami?” … but there were more than fifty scholars in this family… the sons of Al-‘Adim. In Damascus, [we find] the Maqadisa: Al-Diya al-Maqdisi, Al-Muwaffaq ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi, Abu Shama al-Maqdisi, and so on and so forth.

These are men that Allah, Most High, deployed to protect his noble religion and to establish proof over his servants through them. O young people, the earth shakes for each and every one of them for what Allah provided them of knowledge and righteous deeds. There are a lot of examples, and the list is long.

The Imam of the Seventh Century

For now, I will talk about one of them.

In [the seventh century], Imam Ibn Daqiq Al-‘Id became well-known. May Allah be pleased with them all. This Imam was born 625 [hijri] and died in the year 702. He entered the eighth century, but his scholarly leadership and educational journey took place in the seventh century. He lived 75 years [of his life] in the seventh century.

This imam was a scholar, the son of a scholar – an imam, the son of an imam, but unlike his father, he became famous. They mention about his madhhab that he was initially adhering to the Maliki school but became a Shafi‘i afterward.

About His Knowledge

Concerning his knowledge … I heard the honorable brothers – may Allah be pleased with them – mention quite often that in [the seventh] century, there were a lot of luminaries and scholarly works that remind one of the past. This imam is one of them, and he produced great scholarly work.

“Nothing like [his work] has been compiled in [the history] of Islam.”

It has been said that “Nothing like [his work] has been compiled in [the history] of Islam.” This refers to his book called “Al-Imam.” [A book called] “Imam” [written] by an imam.

A Fresh Breeze in the Sciences of Hadith: al-Imam and al-Ilmam

In his “Al-Imam,” Ibn Daqiq Al-‘Id compiled hadith narrations about practical sharia rulings. Then he extracted only the prophetic texts he discussed in his book and compiled them in a matn called “Al-Ilmam fi Ahadith al-Ahkam.” It is similar to Hafidh Ibn Hajar’s “Bulugh al-Maram” – may Allah be pleased with them all. “Al-Ilmam” [consists of] the narrations he discussed in his book “Al-Imam.”

But in “Al-Imam” he discussed the narrations from the perspective of hadith sciences in terms of transmission and explanation. [In this book, he mentions] a hadith and what relates to it in terms of rulings and its narrators in the form of deep and detailed research.

For a Deeper Understanding: Sharh al-Ilmam

Consequently, he commented on “Al-Ilmam” from the perspective of fiqh. The comments on the narrations in “Al-Ilmam” from the perspective of hadith are to be found in “Al-Imam.” while the comments on “Al-Ilmam” from the perspective of fiqh are to be found in “Sharh al-Ilmam” (the Commentary on the Ilmam). That makes three books in total. 

A part of “Sharh al-Ilmam” was published based on the preserved parts of its manuscript. In it, he explains 24 narrations as well as a part of the 25th. From amongst these narrations is the one of Al-Bara ibn ‘Azib (Allah be pleased with them both), “The Messenger of Allah commanded us seven things and prohibited us seven other things.”

The Depth of Sharh al-Ilmam

While explaining this hadith in “Sharh al-Ilmam,” from how many perspectives and on how many pages did Imam Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id explain it?

He spoke about [the hadith] from 402 perspectives / in the form of 402 masa’il. This elucidation encompasses 354 pages of the printed edition so that it could have been printed as a book on its own. This is Imam Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id. There’s a lot to say about him and his virtues, but I will finish my words about him with two more points. But before I mention the two points, I will mention his scholarly attributes.

How the Imam Stands Out

Dear respected brothers, Allah is my witness; I don’t describe myself as a student of knowledge. Rather, I’d love to be a student of knowledge. I am not a student of knowledge. I’d love to be a student of knowledge. [Yet, I’d like to] mention that I read a lot of what has been made easy for me from the works of the scholars.

But I have never found anyone like this imam in terms of cleanliness in his scientific research. When he speaks about a hadith from the perspective of fiqh and extracts practical rulings from it in the sense of ijtihad, you never ever find even a trace of fanaticism in [his writings]. Never ever.

After him comes from our scholars – may Allah be pleased with them all – Imam Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr from the Maghrebian Maliki scholars. There is no one like these two imams in terms of the cleanliness of research. 

Two Amazing Statements

The two final things I want to mention about [Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id] – may Allah be pleased with him – show his god consciousness (wara‘) and awareness of Allah’s presence (muraqaba). I do not want to talk about him in the form of a history class. No. I instead want it to be a practical lesson for us.

He – may Allah be pleased with him – said, as reliable imams narrated from him:

“I did not speak a word except that I prepared an answer for it before Allah, Most High.”

Look at this awareness of Allah’s presence (muraqaba)!

Another saying of his, which has also been narrated by the reliable imams, is:

“For years, the angel on my left hasn’t written a word.”

“These are the Imams!”

These are the imams, o young people.

These are the imams of Islam, the pillars of the religion, the supporters of Islam, and the proof of Allah over his creation. May Allah be pleased with them. There are a lot of examples like this in that generation. All praise is due to Allah. It isn’t just one person. And in every time and century, in every time and place, [there are such examples].

The Islamic West and East

For example, the Islamic west isn’t inferior to the Islamic east, but our lack of awareness of the Islamic west deprived us of their knowledge. In the same way, the Islamic west’s lack of awareness of the Islamic east deprived them of a lot of what we [in the Islamic east] had to offer.

Nonetheless, every century of Islam had good in it. In every century, there were luminaries, full moons even, that enlightened the Muslims, o young people. Their connection to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was so strong that it enlightened the whole umma.

The Seventh Century Boasts with Him

While the fifth, third, and fourth centuries as well as the later ones boast about their imams and their excellent books, the seventh century boasts to them about its imam about [whose book] it has been said that “Nothing like it has been compiled in [the history] of Islam.”

I ask Allah, Almighty, Most High, that he makes from us and you righteous followers in terms of knowledge and practice. And I ask Allah, Most High, from his abundance that he reliefs this umma from what has befallen it and that he protects all of the Muslim lands in general from all trials, tribulations, and epidemics – especially the two holy sites (haramayn sharifayn) and these lands [i.e., Turkey]. I ask Allah, Almighty, for forgiveness.

Wa s-salamu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatu Llahi wa-barakatuh