Al-Azhar Grand Imams

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

Monday, August 10, 2020

Aḥmad Ad-Damanhourī (1183 AH / 1768 CE-1192 AH / 1778 CE)

Aḥmad Ad-Damanhourī

Office assumption date

1183 AH / 1768 CE.

Retirement date

1192 AH / 1778 CE.


The Ottoman’s.

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Aḥmad Ibn ˁAbdul-Munˁim Ad-Damanhourī was born in Damanhour in 1101 AH/1689 CE, and was an orphan. He moved to Cairo when he was young, then joined Al-Azhar and devoted himself to seeking knowledge. He was approved in the four schools of Islamic Jurisprudence; thus, he was known as Al-Madhhabī (A scholar who combined knowledge from the four schools of Islamic Jurisprudence). He was widely knowledgeable in Arabic and Islamic disciplines, in addition to Mathematics, Engineering, Astronomy and Philosophy. He assumed Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position in 1183 AH/1768 CE, and gained great fame. Rulers respected him, and princes and dignitaries revered him due to his frankness and truthfulness. He has left a distinguished intellectual legacy that indicates his abundant knowledge, polymathy, and his cultural diversity.

Brief Biographical Notes

     Grand Imam Aḥmad Ibn ˁAbdul-Munˁim Ibn Ṣiyām Ad-Damanhourī was born in Damanhour, Egypt, in 1101 AH/1689 CE.  He moved to Cairo when he was a young orphan who had no one to take care of. He joined Al-Azhar and devoted himself to seeking knowledge and did his best to learn.

     He was educated by the top scholars of his time, including Sheikh ˁAbdu-Rabbihi Ad-Dīwī, a master of Shafiˁī School of Islamic Jurisprudence, Sheikh Aḥmad Al-Khulaiqī, Abū Aṣ-Ṣafāˀ Ash-Shanawānī, and many other scholars. Scholars of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence approved him; thus, he was known as Al-Madhhabī. His readings, understanding and familiarity with the four schools were great. He had a sharp memory and an exceptional ability to author. He was hardly content with studying only Arabic and Islamic disciplines. Rather, to the contrary of many other students who were reluctant to studying modern sciences, he was passionate about studying other sciences, including Chemistry, Medicine, Astronomy, Arithmetic, Physics, Mathematics, Biology, in addition to Philosophy and Logic. Thus, he was a far-sighted man, as if he expected Al-Azhar to pay attention to such sciences later on.

     In his time, Ad-Damanhourī gained a great fame to the extent that the kings approached him, presenting valuable gifts, the rulers respected him, and the princes and dignitaries revered him for his frankness, truthfulness, considerable reverence, and great esteem.

     It is reported that there was a competition between him and Sheikh ˁAbdur-Raḥmān Al-Jabartī’s father in studying and writing books in different disciplines. His books indicate the extent of his vast and unparalleled knowledge, especially in his time.

     Grand Imam Ad-Damanhourī performed Hajj (pilgrimage) with the Ceremony of Maḥmal (the Cover of the Kabˁah)[1] in 1177 AH/1764 CE, and the people of Mecca, its ruler, and scholars warmly welcomed him. The meeting was honorable and befitting the stature and personality of Sheikh Ad-Damanhourī. When he returned home, Egyptian people welcomed him warmly, no less than that he received from the people of Mecca.

     Ad-Damanhourī assumed Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position in 1183 AH/1768 CE, succeeding Grand Imam ˁAbdur-Raˀūf As-Sajīnī. Ad-Damanhourī remained in his position until he passed away. The exact date of his death is not affirmed. Some argue that he died in 1190 AH/1776 CE, and that Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position remained vacant for two years until Grand Imam Aḥmad Al-ˁArousī assumed it (1192-1218 AH/1778-1803 CE). Some others believe that Ad-Damanhourī died on Sunday, Rajab 10, 1192 AH/August 4, 1778 CE), which is a more acceptable view. His funeral was performed at Al-Azhar Mosque in a majestic scene, and he was buried in Bustān Al-ˁUlamāˀ Graveyard.

Notable Contributions and Events

• Prince ˁAlī Bek Al-Kabīr revered some of the scholars, including Grand Imam Ad-Damanhourī.

• The Caliph, Sulṭān Muṣṭafā Ibn Aḥmad Khān, was interested in mathematical and stellar sciences, honoring those who possessed knowledge. He used to correspond with Grand Imam Aḥmad Ad-Damanhourī and send him gifts and books.

•  Grand Imam Aḥmad Ad-Damanhourī wrote many great books, indicating his abundant knowledge, polymathy, and cultural diversity.


[1] The Egyptian government used to manufacture a new cover for the Holy Kaˁabah and offer it to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After the cover was prepared in a factory, a large ceremony took place in Cairo, where a parade organized by the Egyptian army included a caravan of decorated camels carrying the Cover, as well as many other gifts. After the caravan ended its tour in Cairo, it used to start its long journey, guarded by the Egyptian army, across the eastern desert, then on to the Suez Canal and Sinai till it reached Palestine. From Palestine, it went directly to Saudi Arabia.

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