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Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Alessandra Vianello

Islamic mystic and scholar, and the most outstanding poetess in Chimini, the Bantu vernacular of Brava, was born in Brava, a coastal city of southern Somalia, in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Her full name was Mana Sitti Habib Jamaladdin, but she was affectionately called Dada Masiti (Grandmother Masiti) by her fellow citizens. Her family, both on the paternal and maternal side, belonged to the Mahadali Ashraf. However, through her mother’s maternal grandfather, Dada Masiti was also related to the Ali Naziri Ashraf, who were locally more numerous and influential. Both groups, who traced their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, had settled in Brava in the early seventeenth century.

The events that marked Dada Masiti s early years and had a crucial bearing on her subsequent spiritual development are known only through different oral traditions The most widespread version would have her kidnapped as a child of six ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

Fulani scholar and Muslim cleric Osman dan Fodio was one of the leaders who emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when West Africa had seen a series of revolutions which consolidated Islam in West Africa. Born in 1754 to Fulani parents in Gobir, Osman dan Fodio led a movement for reform caused by political, economic, and social grievances, but voiced through a powerful religious revolution in the Hausa States. It culminated in the creation of the one of the largest Muslim polities, the Sokoto Caliphate, in eighteenth-century Africa.

As a young man, Osman received a Muslim education and studied under a number of famous and reformist teachers who affected his outlook on life and religion. When Jibril b. Umar the last of his teachers fled Agades after an unsuccessful jihad among the Tuareg the twenty year old dan Fodio returned to Hausaland to begin life as a teacher ...

Article

Tanzanian poet and scholar, was born around 1850 on Pemba Island. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather were also poets and scholars. He lived much of his life in Tanga, in what is now Tanzania. He was married to Mwanasia Suwaka, and both were buried near a mosque built by their son Hemedi Ali el-Buhriy.

Hemedi Abdallah wrote both religious and secular poetry. His published poetry was originally written in the Swahili utenzi (“narrative”) genre and in Arabic script. His most well-known poem is Utenzi wa Vita vya Wadachi Kutamalaki Mrima. This poem describes the 1888–1889 war waged by coastal peoples against the Germans Unlike other narrative poems about the conquest that were solicited by the Germans this poem openly praises the consultative leadership of Abushiri bin Salim who led the struggle and is harshly critical of the German invaders who are described as uncivilized drunken infidels The poem ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

was born in Valencia, Spain in Rabi II 595 (according to the Islamic calendar), or January/February 1199, and is considered one of the greatest writers of the twelfth century. His full name, Abu ʿAbd Allah Ibn al-Abbar al QudaʿI, means “Son of the Seller of Sewing Needles,” indicating that his family was probably part of the small-scale merchant class in Muslim Spain.

As a young man Ibn al-Abbar witnessed the devastating battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 which turned the tide against the Almohads in Muslim Spain Divided and defeated the Muslim west began to fracture His early master Ibn Mardanish ruler in Murcia converted to Christianity possibly as a means of forming an alliance with other Christian rulers and averting the capture of his city Although Ibn al Abbar did not follow his master in converting he had no scruples about working for an ...

Article

jurist, historian, and litterateur, was born in the city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta) to an Arab family with origins in the Yemen. ‘Iyad's training in the various branches of Islamic learning was remarkably thorough. He undertook his early education in Sabta at the hand of several scholars, including the jurist ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Isa and the faqih ‘Ali Abu Ishaq al-Fasi. He then traveled to al-Andalus, and there exists notice that he studied there with no fewer than a hundred scholars, among them several leading figures of the age, including the traditionist Abu ‘Ali al-Sadafi of Murcia (d. 1120/21), the jurist Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd of Cordoba (d. 1126), and the religious scholar and jurist Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi of Seville (d. 1148).

Unlike many of his fellow North Africans it appears that Iyad never made the journey to ...

Article

Alessandra Vianello

Somali Islamic scholar and poet both in the Arabic language and in Chimini the vernacular of his hometown was born in Brava a coastal town in southern Somalia in a family that traced its origins to the al Waʾili clan of Southern Arabia Of moderate wealth mainly acquired by trade the family belonged to the learned elite of Brava Sheikh Qasim s father Muhyiddin Maie Ali was a scholar and copyist of the Qurʾan his elder brother Mohammed was a disciple of Sheikh Aweys Mohammed al Qadiri and had accompanied his teacher on his journey to Mecca In a eulogy composed at the time of her death a sister Khadija is remembered as a scholarly woman always with a book under her arm The family tradition was continued in the next generation by the youngest of Sheikh Qasim s sons Mohammed Sheikh Mohammed Sufi who became a renowned Islamic scholar ...

Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian author, literary critic, and activist who helped shape contemporary political Islam, was born in the Upper Egyptian village of Musha in Asyut province on 9 October 1906. His father, Qutb Ibrahim, was a farmer and member of the nationalist Watani party led by Mustafa Kamil. Qutb attended a state-run primary school, but had also memorized the Qurʾan in its entirety by 1916. Qutb experienced the massive 1919 revolt against British rule as a teenage activist. He left the village in 1921 and lived in the Cairo suburb of Zaytun with his mother’s brother for four years, while attending a high school associated with the modernist educational institution Dar al-ʿUlum (founded 1871). In 1929 he entered Dar al-ʿUlum itself and graduated in 1933.

After graduation Qutb first appeared on the Egyptian intellectual scene as a poet and literary critic He was then thought of as a ...

Article

Charles C. Stewart

was born in 1776 CE/AH 1190 into one of the lesser fractions (the Ntishaiʾi) of a southwest Saharan clerical (or zawiya) clan, the Awlad Abyiri. His full name was Sidiyya al-Kabir (“the elder”) b. al-Mukhtar b. al-Hayba al-Ntishai’i.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the region now known as Mauritania was governed by a loose balance of two types of lineage groups, one that lived largely as predators and another that subsisted as pastoralists. Within the latter group were found nomadic schools in the Islamic disciplines where, judging by the texts studied and written locally, a talented student might advance to levels on a par with advanced education in places like Fez or Cairo.

Sidiyya’s early schooling, consisting initially of his memorization of the entire Qurʾan, would have been conducted under the supervision of his father and uncles, common for youth in the tradition of zawiya tribes like ...