Office assumption date
1250 AH/1834 CE.
1254 AH/1838 CE.
Muḥammad ˁAlī Pasha.
A Note about the Grand Imam
Burḥānuddīn Ḥassan Ibn Darwīsh Al-Quwisnī Ash-Shāfiˁī was born in Quwisnā, Minoufiyyah, Egypt. He memorized the Noble Qur’an in his village and then joined Al-Azhar where he studied Islamic Jurisprudence according to the Shāfiˁī School. He was educated by the three former Grand Imams of Al-Azhar, Al-ˁArousī, Ad-Damhoujī, and Ḥassan Al-ˁAṭṭār. Despite being blind, Al-Quwisnī was a noble man who was revered by the princes and the elite. He assumed Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position, succeeding Grand Imam Ḥassan Al-ˁAṭṭār from 1250 AH/1834 CE until his death in 1254 AH/1838 CE.
Brief Biographical Notes
Source books do not provide much information about Grand Imam Ḥassan Al-Quwisnī. They mention that he was born in Quwisnā, and that he was blind. He joined Al-Azhar Mosque, endeavored, persisted and devoted himself to studying and seeking knowledge until he gained superiority among the scholars of his time. He had an august personality; thus, he won the scholars’ respect, and the princes and the great people’s appreciation.
He was educated by the three former Grand Imams of Al-Azhar, Al-ˁArousī, Ad-Damhoujī, and Ḥassan Al-ˁAṭṭār. It was said that he competed with Al-ˁAṭṭār in excellence in knowledge and poetry.
Al-Quwisnī was considered a master in the Shāfiˁī Islamic Jurisprudence. Given his eloquence, intelligence and acumen, he occupied the best characteristics scholars enjoyed, due to his intellectual excellence in Theology, Logic and Philosophy. Considering his high esteem and polymathy, scholars exclusively nominated him to succeed the former Grand Imam Ḥassan Al-ˁAṭṭār after the latter's death.
With regard to his attitude and knowledge, Grand Imam Al-Quwisnī enjoyed the same good reputation as Abul-Ḥassan Ash-Shāzilī, a role model in the Islamic Mysticism, due to Al-Quwisnī's asceticism, and his devotion in performing prayers and practicing the acts of worship. Thus, he became a man of honor with a high vitality, may Allah rest his soul in peace. When Muḥammad ˁAlī Pasha wanted to grant him some worldly boons, he refused. It is also obvious that he was erudite in the Shāfiˁī School of Islamic Jurisprudence. It was said that he was a master in the Shāfiˁī School.
Many of his students became luminary scholars, including Grand Imam Ibrāhīm Al-Bājūrī, Sheikh Muṣṭafā Adh-Dhahabī. Among his most brilliant students was the renowned Rifāˁah Aṭ-Ṭahtāwī.
Al-Quwisnī assumed Al-Azhar Grand Imam’s position in 1250 AH/1834 CE. In spite of his blindness, he fulfilled the duties of his high position as if he was a sighted one, and even better. He continued to teach Islamic Jurisprudence and giving lectures to his students until his death in 1254 AH/1838 CE.
Notable Contributions and Events
• He set a shining example of brotherhood and harmony among the Muslim scholars, rejecting division among them.
• The ruler, Muḥammad ˁAlī Pasha wanted to grant him some worldly boons, but he categorically refused to accept all the tempting offers. Despite being poor, he enjoyed personal pride.
• A number of his students later became famous scholars.