Al-Azhar Grand Imams

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Muḥammad Shanan (...-1133 AH/1720 CE)

Muḥammad Shanan

Office assumption date


Retirement date

1133 AH/1720 CE.


The Ottoman’s.

A Note about the Grand Imam

     Grand Imam Muḥammad Shanan Al-Mālikī was born in 1056 AH/1656 CE in the village of Al-Jiddiyyah, Al-Buḥairah, Egypt.  Being wealthy never adversely affected Shanan's eagerness to seeking knowledge. He studied at Al-Azhar Mosque where he was educated by the top scholars, including Al-Azhar Grand Imam Al-Qallīnī, who preceded him in the position of Al-Azhar Grand Imam. Shanan was the fifth to assume Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position. He took care of the renovation of Al-Azhar Mosque, and continued to supervise and teach there until his death in 1133 AH (1720 or 1721 CE).

Brief Biographical Notes

     Muḥammad Shanan joined Al-Azhar at his young age. He devoted himself to seeking knowledge, working hard and memorizing what his teachers, including Al-Qallīnī and others, dictated to him. Thus, he excelled in his studies, occupied a high position among scholars, and gained good reputation. Historians stated that despite his great wealth and enormous amount of money, as he was one of the richest at his time, he was a polymath and a widely-knowledgeable scholar. His wealth did not divert him from seeking knowledge or looking after his students.

     For a long time, Sheikh Shanan wavered between the knowledge he loved and the money profusely flowing to him, which one to choose, while they both were beneficial? Eventually, he decided on devoting himself to seeking knowledge. Thus, he became one of the great jurists, a venerable scholar, a diligent jurist, and a Mālikī luminary scholar at his time.

     However, Grand Imam Shanan did not author any books. Perhaps the reason is that he was content with other scholars’ books. He worked on explaining these books and making them easier for his students to understand and quote from. Perhaps he was one of the scholars who preferred to orally convey knowledge, without relying on written books. In addition, Shanan took over Al-Azhar’s responsibility that had been given to him. He worked on developing Al-Azhar and promoting its status. He was also interested in renovating Al-Azhar Mosque. When he noticed that some parts of the building cracked, he met the Ottoman Pasha to present the matter to him. Then, he and other Azhari scholars wrote a petition to Sultan Aḥmad III, who responded to them. An official mission was sent to Egypt by the Ottoman Sultan, delivering his approval of allocating fifty official bags[1] to be spent on renovating the mosque. Grand Imam Shanan continued to supervise and teach at Al-Azhar Mosque until his death in 1133 AH (1720 or 1721 CE).

Notable Contributions and Events

• He took care of the architectural works and renovated the cracked parts in Al-Azhar Mosque.  He continued to follow up the matter with the Ottoman Pasha, ˁAlī Pasha Al-Maẓloūm, until it was done with the approval of Sultan Aḥmad I.


[1] An official bag was a unit of money containing five hundred (silver) piasters.

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