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Al-Azhar Grand Imams

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

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Ḥasan Al-ˁAṭṭār (1246 AH/1830 CE-1250 AH/1834 CE)

Ḥasan Al-ˁAṭṭār

Office assumption date

1246 AH/1830 CE.

Retirement date

1250 AH/1834 CE.

Era

Muḥammad ˁAlī.

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Grand Imam Ḥasan Al-ˁAṭṭār, nicknamed as Al-ˀImām ul-Mujaddid (The Reformer Grand Imam), of Moroccan origin, was born in Cairo in 1182 AH/1768 CE. He joined Al-Azhar where he was educated by the top scholars of his time. Soon, his intellectual excellence was noticed, the case which qualified him to teach at Al-Azhar. He had a strong personality and a continuous determination, and drew people’s attention through his educational diversity and versatility. He was a writer and a poet, who took the lead among the writers and poets of his time. He was also the pioneer of the call to renewal. The political ruler of his time, Muḥammad ˁAlī, entrusted to him establish the official government newspaper Al-Waqāˀiˁ ul-Miṣriyyah (The Egyptian Events) and appointed him as its Chief Editor. Al-ˁAṭṭār assumed Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position in 1246 AH/1830 CE, and remained prominent and beloved in this position, until he passed to his Lord in 1250 AH/1834 CE.

Brief Biographical Notes

     Ḥasan Ibn Muḥammad Ibn Maḥmoud Al-ˁAṭṭār, of Moroccan origin, was born in Cairo in 1182 AH/1768 CE. His father who was an apothecary wanted Ḥasan to help him in his trade, but Ḥasan tended to seek knowledge. Thus, he joined Al-Azhar, and devoted himself to seeking knowledge. He was educated by the top scholars of his time, including Sheikh Muḥammad Aṣ-Ṣabbān and Sheikh Aḥmad Yūsuf. Soon, his intellectual excellence, and abundant and diverse knowledge was noticed, the case which qualified him to teach at Al-Azhar. He was not content with studying the common disciplines of his time; so, he also studied Engineering, Mathematics and Astronomy, and delved into studying them, the case which expanded his scientific knowledge.

     Al-ˁAṭṭār enjoyed a strong personality, continuous determination and adherence to freedom. When the French Campaign raided Egypt, he refused to reside in Cairo, and moved to Assiut. When things eased, he returned to Cairo, but he left again because of the French tyranny, dictatorship, and the physical abuse committed against the Egyptian people. He travelled to Mecca to perform Hajj, then went to Jerusalem, and from there to the Levant where he stayed in Al-Badriyyah School in Damascus.

     Besides the Arabic and Islamic knowledge which he obtained, Al-ˁAṭṭār enriched himself with knowledge about the Western culture, and he greatly benefited from his many experiences and the exciting events of his time. In addition, he mastered the Turkish language and was well acquainted with French. He also interacted with many brilliant Arab, Turkish and French scholars. Thus, his polymathy was deeply and broadly enhanced. Besides, he was a distinguished writer and poet who took the lead among the writers and poets of his time.

     After the French had evacuated from Egypt, Al-ˁAṭṭār returned to Cairo where he drew people’s attention. That was why the then political ruler, Muḥammad ˁAlī, entrusted to him the establishment of the official government newspaper Al-Waqāˀiˁ ul-Miṣriyyah (The Egyptian Events), and appointed him as its Chief Editor. Thus, the scope for reform advocacy was broadly extended to him. Al-Waqāˀiˁ ul-Miṣriyyah then became a platform through which Grand Imam Al-ˁAṭṭār expressed his views in calling for renewing the educational curricula through introducing modern sciences. He also called for using the classical books as main sources and for benefiting from the top ancient scholars, rather than being content with the more recent scholars who employed imitation and simulation strategies.

     With the death of Grand Imam Ad-Damhoujī in 1246 AH/1830 CE, Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position became vacant. Thus, Muḥammad ˁAlī entrusted the position to Al-ˁAṭṭār who freely managed its affairs. He thus enjoyed a great position and a high esteem, and remained in his position until he passed to his Lord in 1250 AH/1834 CE, after satisfying minds and ears with his literary and scholarly legacy.

Notable Contributions and Events

• Grand Imam Ḥasan Al-ˁAṭṭār devoted himself to seeking knowledge, and widened his scholarly horizons to digest both traditional and rational disciplines. He started to teach at an early age, thus, drawing public attention. His passion for knowledge and arts led him to seek scientific application of the sciences he theoretically learned. He worked in manufacturing day and night sundials, and mastered astronomical observation using the astrolabe, and recorded that in his books. Besides, he learned Medicine and Anatomy. Thus, his talents and perceptions diversified, until he became sort of a scientific encyclopedia dealing with major arts.

• His travels abroad were numerous. He traveled to Mecca to perform Hajj, then to Jerusalem in Palestine, and from there to the Levant, where he stayed at Al-Badriyyah School in Damascus. There, he educated many students, the most prominent of whom was Sheikh Ḥasan Ibrāhīm Al-Bīṭār. After Al-ˁAṭṭār had stayed in Damascus for five years, he moved to Istanbul, and then to Albania. He stayed away from Egypt until the French Expedition was evacuated.

• He established the Egyptian newspaper Al-Waqāˀiˁ ul-Miṣriyyah, that was a platform through which Al-ˁAṭṭār expressed his views in calling for renewing the educational curricula through introducing modern sciences. He called for teaching Philosophy, Geography, History, Literature and Physics. He also called for using the classical books as main sources in all disciplines, and benefiting from the top ancient scholars rather than being content with the more recent scholars who employed imitation and simulation strategies.

• He authored a number of great books that proved his abundant knowledge, polymathy, and cultural diversity.

• A group of his prominent students had a great deal of influence on the culture and enlightenment movement that Egypt then witnessed, including Rifāˁah Aṭ-Ṭahṭāwī and Muḥammad ˁAyyād Aṭ-Ṭanṭāwī.

• Grand Imam Ḥasan Al-ˁAṭṭār was passionate about seeking knowledge, the case which prevented him from indulging in the political and social events of his time. His life was divided between seeking knowledge and practicing the acts of worship, and he remained on that way even after assuming Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position.

 

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