Name: Imaam Al-Haafidh Sheikh Al-Islam Muhi Ad-Deen Abu Zakariyyah Yahya Bin Sharaf Bin Muri Bin Hasan Bin Hussain Bin Muhammad Bin Jum’ah Bin Hizaam An-Nawawi
Born: 631 (After Hijrah)
His lineage traces back to a town called Nawa in Hauran, Syria. An-Nawawi was an exemplary individual who was truly blessed by Allah as shown by the following incident that demonstrates the discernment he possessed at such a young age.
A sheikh by the name of Yasin Bin Yusuf Al-Maraakishi passed by the town of An-Nawa when he saw a young An-Nawawi being FORCED to engage in recreation by other young children. He would try to escape them but, they would coerce him into playing with them whilst, he would be crying. Despite, all this – Imam An-Nawawi, whilst being in such a circumstance, would be seen reciting the Qur’aan. So, the Sheikh was moved by this observation and visited his father to advise him to free Imam An-Nawawi to pursue Islamic knowledge. His father responded positively and in the year 649 AH set off with his son to Damascus to study Islamic sciences.
SubhanAllah! it is reported Imam An-Nawawi was 10 years old when Sheikh Yasin had spotted him being forced to play with other children! This shows the love Imam An-Nawawi had at such a tender and impressionable age for Islam – May Allah shower his mercy upon him.
Such was his accomplishments at such a young age – he was given the title Muhi Al-Deen (the one who gives life to the religion). However, he despised this title out of his humility towards Allah. Infact, he said “I will not pardon the one who calls me Muhi Al-Deen. This religion has been firmly established as having life and is not in need of anyone giving life to it”.
Adh-Dhahabi: “He was tanned with a thick beard and of medium-build. He did not used to laugh much nor did he engage in recreation. He was frank in nature (serious) as he would speak the truth (enjoin the good) even whilst, in passing (passing by). He did not fear the blame of a critic”.
Abul Faraj ‘Abd Ar-Rahman Bin Abi ‘Umar, Muhammad Bin Ahmad Al-Maqdisi, Abu Isma’il Bin Abi Is-haaq Ibrahim Bin Abil Yusr, Ahmad Bin ‘Abd Da-im, Abul Baqaa Khaalid An-Nabulsi, Diyaa Bin Tamaam Al-Hysi, Hafidh Abul Fadl Muhammad Bin Muhammad Al-Bakri, ‘Abdul Kareem Bin ‘Abdis Samad, Abu Zakariyyah Yahya Bin Al-Fath As-Syurfy Al-Harrani, Abu Is-haaq Ibrahim Bin ‘Ali Bin Ahmad Bin Faadil Al-Waasiti and many more.
‘Alaa Al-Deen Bin Al-‘Attaar, Shams Al-Deen Bin An-Naqeeb, Shams Al-Deen Bin Ja’waan, Shams Al-Deen Bin Al-Qammaah, Hafidh Jamal Al-Deen Al-Muzzi, Badr Al-Deen Bin Jama’ah, Rasheed Al-Deen Al-Hanafi and many more that cannot be enumerated.
HIS ASCETICISM & SCRUPULOUSNESS
Many biographers note that Imam Al-Nawawi was a figurehead of asceticism and an example to follow when it came to scrupulousness. He was unparalleled in the manner he would advise the rulers and the way he would enjoin the good and forbid the evil. An example of his asceticism is depicted by the following incident:
It was narrated that he was asked “Why didn’t you marry?“. To which he replied “I forgot!“. That was an answer from a man who was preoccupied in gaining knowledge and spreading it.
Throughout his life; one can find many examples that point towards his scrupulousness. It was reported that he did not accept gifts or gratuity. He did not accept anything from anyone except, from his parents and those close to him. He refused to eat any of the fruits of Damascus because he knew that orchards, many of which were endowments and for orphans and others, were not handled properly and he feared that the food he would be eating was not from a permissible source.
In fact, He would only eat once a day after the last obligatory prayer of the day and he would only drink once a day before dawn.
Imaam An-Nawawi was also unparalleled when it came to enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. He had a heart that was courageous which did not fear anyone except Allah. The following incident depicts such a trait:
When Sultan Adh-Dhahir (ruler at that time) left to fight the Tatars in Ash-Shaam; he sought fatawa (legal verdicts) from the scholars to take wealth from the citizens to aid him in his battle. He killed many of the scholars for their refusal to offer such permission. He then asked “Is there anyone left (that i should ask for a fatwa (legal verdict)?”. The people replied “Yes, Muhi Al-deen An-Nawawi remains”. So, he asked the imaam and said “Place your signature with the jurists (who have given permission”. Imam An-Nawawi replied “No” to which the Sultan asked “What is your reason for refusal?”. Imam An-Nawawi with such courage said
“I know that you used to be a slave for the Ameer of Bandaqaar and you didnt have any wealth. Thereafter, Allah favoured you and made you king. I heard that you have 1000 male servants. All of them have belts (for their animals) made out of gold. You also have under your possession 200 female servants. All of them have jars for jewellery. If you spend all of that and have male servants that have wool items instead of golden belts..and have female servants that have only their clothes and no jewellery..and their remains nothing in the Bayt Al-Maal (Muslim Treasury) vis-a-vis cash, property & land – then i will give you a fatwa (legal verdict) to take the wealth from the common folk. Indeed, the only way to seek assistance during battle amongst other things is by displaying neediness before Alah and by following the Prophet SAW”.
This made the Sultaan angry and he said “Leave my land”. Imam An-Nawawi obliged with the request and left to return back to Nawa. It was said to the Sultan “What was the reason that you had abstained from killing him (Imam An-Nawawi)?”. He replied “Everytime i wanted to kill him, i saw over his shoulder 70 individuals who would avenge me, so i refrained”.
The Imaam was engaged in a tremendous amount of worship. He was busy with the recitals of the Qur’aan and remembering Allah (Dhikr) whilst, turning away from the Dunya and becoming a visionary in his quest for success in the Aakhirah.
It was narrated by Muhammad Al-Ba’li Al-Hanbali: “In the depths of the night in damascus, I saw Sheikh An-Nawawi standing in the darkness and continuously repeating the verse of Allah
إِنِّىٓ إِذًا لَّفِى ضَلَـٰلٍ مُّبِينٍ
“Then verily, I should be in plain error” (Surat Yaseen Verse 24). Al-Ba’li says that he was repeating this in a tone of submissiveness and sadness.
Ibn Katheer RHM: “Imaam An-Nawawi used to fast for long periods of time”.
Ibn Al-‘Attar: “…he was one-of-a-kind in his era, the one who keeps many fasts, aesthetic, pursuer of the hereafter, possessor of pleasing characteristics, (possessor of) beautiful language, the scholar, the one who reached the pinnacles of knowledge, action, leadership, aestheticism, scrupulousness and his worship…”
Taj As-Subki: “The eyes have never seen anyone who had more zuhd (aestheticism) than him whether, in wakefulness nor in a state of dream. Nor, have they observed anyone more devoted in following the path of the noble predecessors from the Ummah of Muhammad SAW. He has many beneficial works and praiseworthy virtues..”
The Imaam (May Allaah have mercy upon him) passed away in the year 676 [After Hijrah] aged 44.