Age of the Ulema
A dear Brother wrote me expressing his admiration at the fact that both
Sayyidi al-Habib `Umar and Sayyidi Muhammad al-Ya`qubi are in their
thirties. This is an important point although their God-given hayba -
majestic presence - mostly veils those who meet them from this fact -
including this writer.
In Islam they say the ages of a man are three:
shabb - young man 12-30
kahl - mature man 30-60
shaykh - old man 60-90
Obviously, some precocious Ulema were Shuyukh [in the later sense] or even
Imams already in
kuhula and even in shabiba.
Imam al-Shafi`i and Imam al-Nawawi died in their forties. The Ulema said
Allah sped up their intelligences in view of their early disappearance.
Imam `Abd al-Hayy al-Lacknawi did not reach forty. He died at 39 and he
was one of the Mujaddids of his time in India.
I saw a book which contains the names of all the Ulema who died in their
30s/40s but I didn't acquire it.
One time Sayyidina al-`Abbas (RA) - the uncle of the Prophet was
asked: "Who is the senior (man akbar)? You or Rasulullah?" He replied: "He
is the senior (huwa akbar) and I am more aged (wa ana asann)."
Imam Malik, as related from Ibn Abi Zayd in al-Jami` fi al-Sunan, detested
that a man be asked his age as a violation of proper adab and an open door
to misconceptions of that man's true rank.
I was reading yesterday the biography of some early Ash`ari Ulema. One had
memorized the Qur'an at age four. Another sat to give his first lecture at
age 9, the day his father was killed by some fanatics. Another one - Abu
al-Tayyib Sahl al-Su`luki, one of the Mujaddids of the Fifth Islamic
Century together with Ibn al-Baqillani and Abu Hamid al-Isfarayini - was
so mature that his father, Abu Sahl - himself a major `Alim - used to say:
"Sahl is a father to me" (Sahlun waalidun).
Early Arab women also were known for their precocious maturity and,
chiefly among them, the women of Quraysh.
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