He is Abdullah Mohamed Ibn Idris Al Shafii, a prominent Imam who was a descendant from the Hashimi family of Quraysh tribe, which Prophet Mohamed (PBIUH) came from.
He is known as the revivalist of the second century, for he was the one who put the fundamental of jurisprudence; science of (usul al Fiqh).
At the age of 10, Al Shafii mother sent him to Makkah, near his tribal ancestry. After entrusting him initially in the care of a relative, she followed him there to keep an eye on his studies.
As he could not afford enough writing material, Al Shafii used to go to the governors offices in search of paper that had already been used. On the blank side of the paper, he would do his lessons. He memorized the Quran at a very young age.
In order to improve his knowledge of Arabic, he went deep into the desert to join the Bedouin tribe of Huthail, who were renowned for the best standard of literary Arabic. He studied poetry and learnt their prose reporting and stories. He accompanied the tribe on nomadic travels, until he mastered all that was there to learn. He also learnt archery and became very skilful; he could hit the target 10 times out of 10.
On his return to Makkah Al Shafii continued studying. At the age of 20 he had completed all that its scholars had to teach, but this thirst for knowledge was not quenched. So, he travelled to Medina to learn from Imam Malik.
Al Shafii wished to have a foretaste of what he would be learning. He borrowed Al-Muwatta to read which even fuelled him more made him more eager to study under Imam Malik.
Al-Shafii stayed very close to Malik for nine years, he never left him during those nine years except to visit his mother, or to stay for a short while with some Bedouin tribes. The last three years at Maliks study circle were doubly fruitful because the eminent Iraqi scholar. Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaibani (132-189H) who recorded all the Hanafi scholarship had come to study under Malik.
Imam Malik used to care more and give more attention to poor and needy students. Al-Shafii was one of them. When Malik died (179H), Al-Shafii returned to Makkah hoping to earn his living. Some people asked the governor of Yemen to help Al-Shafii, and so he took him to Yemen where he was appointed justice in the city of Najran. The people there soon realised that they had a judge who was devoted to justice, unwilling to swerve from it for any favor or pressure. They respected him so much and learnt a great deal from him.
In his fifth years at Najran, Al-Shafiis mettle was tasted when a strong-fisted governor took over. Al-Shafii did not spare him from criticism whenever the occasion arose. In the process of curbing the governors injustice, Al-Shafii earned his enmity.
The governor wrote to Caliph Al-Rasheed in Baghdad, accusing Al-Shafii of backing a revolt by people loyal to the Alawis, the descendants of Ali ibn Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). He said:
|I have no authority over this man, and he achieves by his tongue much more than a fighter can achieve with this sword.|
Was this accusation false? Indeed it was, for Al-Shafii never supported or advocated any revolt or rebellion against the Caliph. On the contrary he used to love the Alawis, as they were the descendants of Ali, (may Allah be pleased with him), and Fatimah, (,ay Allah be pleased with her), the daughter of Prophet Mohammad, (PBUH).
At the age of 34, Imam Al-Shafii was brought in 184H before the Caliph in Baghdad, in fetters and chains. Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaibani, the Chief Justice was the only of his advisers and top officials present at the court. Two factors affected the Caliphs Judgement: a lucid defence by the accused himself; and Chief Justice Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaibanis Testimony. Al-Shafii pointed out that his scholarship was known to the Chief Justice, who described Al-Shafii as a scholar of eminence who would not be involved in such matters.
Caliph Al-Rasheed, known to be kind and merciful, saw in this testimony his way out to spare Al-Shafii. He told Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaibani to take Al-Shafii to his home while he thought the matter over. There the case ended. The charge was never revived. The governor who had rid himself of a fearless critic was no longer interested what happened to him.
This episode was a blessing in disguise because it brought Al-Shafii back on track in his quest for knowledge. Al-Shafii stayed with Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaibani and read under his guidance all the books that he had written, recording the Fiqh of Imam Abu Haneefah ( one of the Four grand Imams) and his disciples. After two years, Al Shaafii left Baghdad, he said:
|I carried with me a whole camel load of books, all of which I learnt directly form Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan.|
Al-Shafii learnt the Fiqh in Baghdad as well as memorized the Ahadith that were known in Iraq, but not in Madinah or Mekkah. He also entered into debate with many scholars, speaking as a student of Imam Malik, but he would only debate with lesser scholars than Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaibani, whom he gave great respect.
Among the most important characteristic of Al-Shafii was his native intelligence that gave him an easy and good grasp of even the most difficult of questions. He always studied matters in depth, so as to reach the right solution and the right answer regarding any question put to him. His cleverness was coupled with a superb memory and ready argument.
When discussing any matter, Imam Al-Shafii would put it with a wealth of meanings that he always found ready to hand, his explanation was always rich and to the point.
Al-Shafii had a unique exquisite literary style, lucidity of expression and command over the language. His very clear use of words made him an influential speaker. One of his students said:
|Every scholar gives more in his books than when you meet him personally, except for Al-Shafii whose verbal discussion gives you more than his books.|
Imam Al-Shafiis books are among the finest in style, eloquence and presentation.
Another quality that positioned Al-Shafii at the highest rank of Islamic scholars was his persistent devotion and sincerity in the pursuit of truth, and declaring it even if it was unpopular, or at variance with his teacher, to whom he was most devoted. His gratitude to Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan, who had saved him from the Caliphs wrath, did not prevent him from supporting the Madinan scholars views. No one ever accused him of rejecting true evidence.
Imam Al-Shafii used to urge his students to devote both their time and effort in studying the Hadith.
Imam Al-Shafii never got furious while debating with anyone, because he was not interested in scoring points or winning peoples admiration, but rather in reaching the truth. And if his opponent were right, he would not find any difficulty accepting his view.
He was quoted as saying:
|I wish people would learn what I have to give, without it being attributed to me. In this way, I will receive the reward for it from Allah, without having peoples praise.|
With such noble qualities and wealth or knowledge, no wonder that scholars placed Imam Muhammad ibn Idris Al-Shafii in the highest rank.
Adapted from islamonline.com(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)