Muslim Scholars: Ibn Daqiq al-Id

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Ibn Daqiq al-Id is an example of a true scholar, teacher, professor in modern terms, who, having reached a high level of knowledge, seeks to pass it on to subsequent generations. Such people do not make great discoveries, do not establish new madhhabs or philosophical schools. But their work in enlightening, preserving and increasing knowledge is no less important than the work of the great teachers and theorists of Islam.

Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id was born in 1228 in the small village of Yanbu on the shores of the Red Sea, located at a distance of three days’ journey from Medina. His parents performed the Hajj and arrived here on their way to Mecca. They were originally from the Egyptian city of Qus. At that time the centre of the Muslim world shifted to the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, which ruled in the former lands of the Caliphate and shortly before the birth of little Taqiyuddin (that was the name of the Imam given to him at birth) finally expelled the crusaders from the Muslim lands after the fall of Acre in 1291. Taqiyuddin’s father was a famous scholar of the Maliki madhhab. His mother was the daughter of a famous theologian. One can say that Taqiyuddin grew up in an academic family. His path in life was predetermined from birth, the path of an academic and teacher.

The initial grains of knowledge as well as their more in-depth study were received by Taqiyuddin from his father. He learned the Quran by heart early on, studied all the literature of the Maliki madhhab taught by his father. To continue his studies, Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id went to Cairo, where he sat in for the lectures of many famous scholars of that time. Cairo, as the capital of the Mamluk Empire, had by that time also become a centre of Muslim scholarship. In Cairo, Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id became closely acquainted and became interested in the Shafi’i madhhab. Before the conquest by the Ottoman Empire (dominated by the Hanafi madhhab), the Shafi’i madhhab was the main madhhab of Egypt, but Taqiyuddin knew little about it, since the Maliki madhhab was adopted in his home area.

Gradually, Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id began to write his own scientific works. His interpretation and commentary on the “Forty Hadiths” of Imam al-Nawawi are still famous and popular. The importance of this work is such that to this day no serious scholar can write a work on the collection of Imam al-Nawawi without referring to the book of Imam al-Id. Ibn Daqiq al-Id’s fame as a scholar began to spread throughout all Muslim lands. The Imam went to Damascus, visited Arabia and, returning to Egypt, stayed for some time in Alexandria, where he taught.

Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id attained the degree of mujtahid (some approximate correspondence to the degree of “professor” in the modern understanding, that is, a person who has the right to issue fatwas on issues of doctrine and law). As a major expert on fiqh (Islamic law), Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id was promoted to qadi (judge). By this time, he had attained a myriad of disciples who later became famous theologians and teachers.

Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Id died in Cairo in 1302 at the age of 74, leaving behind a number of works with commentary on collections of hadiths by various authors, which still remain fundamental and canonical works on this subject.