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Al-Azhar Grand Imams

Al-Azhar Mosque/Al-Azhar Grand Imams
Al-Azhar Grand Imams

Friday, August 28, 2020

ˁAlī Al-Biblāwī (1320 AH/1903 CE-1323 AH/1905 CE)

ˁAlī Ibn Muḥammad Al-Biblāwī

Office assumption date

1320 AH/1903 CE.

Retirement date

1323 AH/1905 CE.

Era

Muḥammad ˁAlī and his Family.

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Grand Imam Al-Biblāwī was born in Rajab 1251 AH / December 1835 CE, in the village of Biblāw, Assiut, Egypt. There, he grew up, memorized the Noble Qurˀān and learned the basics of Arabic and Islamic disciplines. He joined Al-Azhar in 1269 AH/1853 CE, where he was educated by scholars of his time. Then he travelled to Ḥijāz, Saudi Arabia to benefit from the scholars there. He was appointed at the Egyptian National Library, where he left the best impact in administration. After ˁUrabī Revolution, he was appointed as a preacher in Al-Ḥuseinī Mosque, then he became the Imam who served the mosque in addition to managing the Syndicate of Nobles (People whose lineage goes back to the Prophet Muḥammad, pbuh). He was appointed as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, succeeding Grand Imam Salīm Al-Bishrī. Al-Biblāwī was the best aid to Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdou in his projects to reform Al-Azhar, but the anti-formatives who opposed him pushed him to resign from his position.

Brief Biographical Notes

     After Al-Biblāwī had learned the basics of Arabic and Islamic disciplines in his village, he joined Al-Azhar in 1269 AH/1853 CE.  He was educated by scholars of his time, including Sheikh Muḥammad ˁEleish, Manṣour Kassāb Al-ˁAdawī, Muḥammad Al-ˀInbābī, and ˁAlī Ibn Khalīl Al-Asyūṭī. Al-Biblāwī was especially keen to attend Al- Asyūṭī’s classes. While studying, he always accompanied his classmate Sheikh Ḥassouna An-Nawāwī. They both lived together and attended their classes together, except for the Islamic Jurisprudence classes, as Al-Biblāwī belonged to the Mālikī School whereas An-Nawāwī belonged to the Ḥanafī. Al-Biblāwī continued to work hard seeking knowledge; thus, he was qualified to be a teacher. He taught books, commonly known at that time, in Al-Azhar and Al-Ḥuseinī Mosques. In 1280 AH/1863 CE, he travelled to Ḥijāz to perform pilgrimage. There, he met senior scholars of Al-Ḥijāz, debated with them and benefitted from them.

Al-Biblāwī wrote a number of books, including:

  • Risālatun fī Faḍāˀili Lailat in-Niṣfi min Shaˁbān (A Treatise on the Virtues of the Eve of Mid-Shaˁbān), sometimes titled as:  Risālatun fī mā Yataˁallaqu bi-Lailat in-Niṣfi min Shaˁbān (A Treatise Regarding the Eve of Mid-Shaˁbān).
  • Ijāzah (License of Narration) to Sheikh Muḥammad Ibn Ḥāmid Al-Marāghī Al-Mālikī.
  • Iˁjāzul-Qurˀān (The Miraculous Nature of the Qurˀān), which is a collection of articles.
  • Al-ˀAnwār ul-Ḥusainiyyatu fī Sharḥ il-Ḥadīthil-Musalsali Yawma ˁĀshūrāˀ (The Ḥuseinī Illumination on the Explanation of Al-Ḥadīth il-Musalsal[1] [Chain-reported Hadīth] on ˁĀshūrāˀ Day), also titled as: Al-ˀAnwārul-Ḥusainiyyatu ˁalā r-Risālat il-Musalsa lil-Amīriyyah (The Ḥuseinī Illumination on the Royal Treatise of Chain-reported Hadīth).
  • Risalatun Tataˁallaqu bi-Laylat il-Qadr (A Treatise on the Night of Power).

     He was appointed as the Director of the Egyptian National Library, which was known then as “the Khedive Library”. When the ˁUrābī Revolution broke out, Maḥmoud Sāmī Al-Bāroudī formed a new Cabinet whose policy tended to employ Egyptians.  Al-Biblāwī was then appointed as Director of the Egyptian National Library in 1299 AH/1882 CE. He played a major role in managing it, as he set the basis for indexes, numbers, arrangements and classifications.

He was appointed as a preacher in Al-Ḥuseinī Mosque, then he became its Head Imam who served the mosque starting from Safar 2, 1311 AH/August 14, 1893 CE.

He was appointed as the Manager of the Syndicate of Nobles on Shawwāl 6, 1312 AH/April 1, 1895 CE.

He was appointed as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on Dhul-Hijjah 2, 1320 AH / March 1, 1903, succeeding Grand Imam Salīm Al-Bishrī who resigned from his position. Grand Imam Al-Biblāwī was the best aid to Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdou in the reform movement, but the anti-formatives who supported Khedive Abbas Helmy II pushed him to resign from his position.

Notable Contributions and Events

  • He developed the Egyptian National Library (the Khedive Library) while he was its manager.
  • He stood against heresies and evil deeds during his service tenure at Al-Ḥuseinī Mosque.
  • He organized the affairs of the Syndicate of Nobles and managed its endowments.
  • He assisted Imam Muḥammad ˁAbdou in going forward with reforming Al-Azhar.
 

[1] A Musalsal Ḥadīth refers to a ḥadīth whose narrators follow a regular pattern. For example, each narrator may use the verb phrase “I heard” before quoting his authority. Moreover, each narrator may do a certain action after narrating the ḥadīth, such as smiling. Furthermore, all narrators may share the same first name (such as “Muḥammad”), the same nisba (such as “Qurashī”), or the same profession (such as “jurists”). In addition, it may happen that the ḥadīth that each narrator in the chain narrates is the first ḥadīth that each of them hears from his teacher.


Categories: Grand Imams
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