teacher and student


Age of the Ulema

A dear Brother wrote me expressing his admiration at the fact that both Sayyidi al-Habib ʿUmar and Sayyidi Muhammad al-Yaʿqubi 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-Shafiʿi and Imam al-Nawawi died in their forties. The Ulema said Allah sped up their intelligences in view of their early disappearance.

Imam ʿAbd 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-ʿAbbas (RA) - the uncle of the Prophet ﷺ 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-Jamiʿ 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 Ashʿari 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-Suʿluki, 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 ʿAlim - 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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latest update: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
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