Imam al-Shafi'i

24 September 2011
Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-'Abbas, al-Imam al-Shafi'i [d.204H/819CE] alayhi al-rahmah wa'l-ridwan

Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-'Abbas, al-Imam al-Shafi'i, Abu 'Abd Allah al-Shafi'i al-Hijazi al-Qurashi al-Hashimi al-Muttalibi (d. 204), the offspring of the Blessed House of the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam, the peerless one of the great mujtahid imams and jurisprudent par excellence, the scrupulously pious ascetic and Friend of Allah, he laid down the foundations of fiqh in his Risala, which he said he revised and re-read four hundred times, then said: "Only AllahÂ’s Book is perfect and free from error."

He is the cousin of the Beloved Prophet AllahÂ’s blessings and peace upon him descending from al-Muttalib who is the brother of Hashim, 'Abd al-MuttalibÂ’s father. Imam al-Shafi'i Rahmatullahi alaih stated "I accompanied the Sufi people and I received from them three knowledges: ... how to speak; .. how to treat people withleniency and a soft heart... and they... guided me in the ways of Sufism." [Kashf al-Khafa, 'Ajluni, vol. 1, p 341.]

Al-Shafi 'i and Tasawwuf

by GF Haddad - Qasyoun/at/ - Shawwal 1423

Imam al-Shafi'i recommended tasawwuf
on condition that knowledge accompany it.

He declared in his Diwan:

Faqihan wa-sufiyyan fakun laysa wah.idan
Fa'inni wa-h.aqqillahi iyyaka ans.ahu
Fadhalika qasin lam yadhuq qalbuhu tuqan
Wahadha jahulun kayfa dhul-jahli yas.luhu

Be both a jurisprudent and a sufi - never just one of the two.
Truly, by the Divine Right, I am advising you sincerely!
For the former is hardened, his heart tastes no Godwariness,
While the latter is ignorant - of what use is the ignorant?

This is similar to Imam Sufyan al-Thawri's statement that -"Among the best of people is the Sufi learned in jurisprudence." [2]

Among al-Shafi'i's sayings on Sufism and Sufis:

• "I accompanied the Sufis for ten years and benefited from them but from two words: their statement that
time is as word: if you do not cut it, it cuts you,

and their statement that

deprivation is immunity."[3]

Some versions have "three words" and add "their statement that ;

if you do not keep your ego busy with truth
it will keep you busy with falsehood."

• “If a rational man does not become a Sufi he does not reach noon except he is a dolt!"[4] Abu Nu'aym narrates this from Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Fadl, from Abu al-H.asan [Ah.mad ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-Harith] ibn al-Qattat [al-Misri], from the thiqa Muhammad ibn Abi Yahya, from the thiqa Imam Yunus ibn 'Abdal-A'la, from the Imam.

• A contrary version of the latter saying reads: ''A rational man does not become a Sufi except he reaches noon a dolt!"[5] Al-Bayhaqi narrates this from al-Hakim, from Abu Muh.ammad Ja'far ibn Muhammad ibn al-Harith, from al-Hasan ibn Muh.ammad ibn al-Dahhak (Ibn Bah.r), both of unknown reliability. For obvious reasons, this is the preferred version of the detractors of Sufis.

IMAM AL-NAWAWI in his 'Bustan al-'arifin fil-Zuhd wal-Tasawwuf';

"The Garden of the Knowers in Asceticism and Tasawwuf") narrated with his chain from al-Shafi'i the saying:

"Only the sincere one (al-mukhlis.)
can recognize self-display (al-riya')."

Al-Nawawi comments: "This means that it is impossible to know the reality of self-display and see its hidden shades except for one who resolutely seeks (arada) sincerity. Such a one strives for a long time, searching, meditating, examining at length within himself until he knows, or knows something of what self-display is. This does not happen for everyone. Indeed, this happens only with special ones (al-khawass.). But for a given individual to claim that he knows what self-diplay is, this is real ignorance on his part."[6]

In Makka al-Shafi'i was the student of al-Fudayl ibn 'Iyad.. It is said that he also took tas.awwuf from the ascetic shepherd Shayban al-Ra'i. Little is known of the latter and there is no report of the two having ever met but there is a narration that Shayban went on pilgrimage on foot with Sufyan al-Thawri who witnessed him tame a lion and tweak its ear [7]

- Allah have mercy on them and be well-pleased with them! -


[1] Al-Shafi'i, Diwan (p. 177 #45).

[2] Narrated by al-Harawi al-Ansari in his Tabaqat al-Sufiyya.

[3] Narrated from Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi'i by al-Bayhaqi in Manaqib al-Shafi'i (2:208) cf. Ibn al-Qayyim in Madarij al-Salikin (3:128) and al-Jawab al-Kafi (p. 208-209) and al-Suyuti in Ta'yid al-Haqiqat al-Aliyya (p. 15).

[4] Narrated from Yunus ibn 'Abd al-A'la by Abu Nu'aym, Hilya (1985 ed. 9:142).

[5] Narrated by al-Bayhaqi, Manaqib (2:207) cf. Ibn al-Jawzi, S.ifat al-S.afwa (1:25) and Talbis Iblis (1985 ed. p. 447) and Ibn Taymiyya in his Istiqama (p. 414).

[6] Al-Nawawi, Bustan al-'arifin (p. 53-54).

[7] In Abu Nu'aym, Hilya (1985 ed. 7:68-69) and al-Dhahabi, Siyar (7:203-203=al-Arna'ut. ed. 7:268). Another rare narration reports other of his miraculous gifts (karamat) in Abu Nu'aym, Hilya (1985 ed. 8:317 #434=1997 ed. 8:354 #425).

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