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Biography of Imam al-Muzanī
By: Osman Muhammad, 2nd year Alimiyyah Student, ’22- ‘23
The great Imam and jurist, Ismāʿīl bin Yaḥyā bin Ismāʿl bin ʿAmr bin Isḥāq Abū Ibrāhīm al-Muzanī al-Misrī was one of the foremost students of Imam Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī. His name, Muzanī, comes from Muzaynah bint Kalb, one of the mothers of a well-renowned clan. He was born in AH 175, the same year the great Egyptian jurist, Layth bin Saʿd, died. His teachers included Imam al- Shāfiʿī and ʿAlī bin Maʿbad. ʿAmr bin ʿUthman al-Makkī said, “I have not seen anyone with more reverence for sacred knowledge and its people than him.”
He was known to have many students. Amongst them are Abū Bakr bin Khuzaymah, Imam Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī, and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin Abī Ḥātim. Imam al-Tahawi was the nephew of Imam Muzani. He initially followed the Shāfiʿī madhhab but later adopted the Ḥanafī school and excelled therein. Muzanī was known to have written many books including: al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr, al-Jamiʿ al-Ṣaghīr, al-Manthūr, al-Masāʾil al-Muʿtabarah, al-Targhīb fī al-ʿIlm, al-Wathāʾiq, and his famed al-Mukhtaṣar. His Mukhtasar spread far and wide, and many senior scholars commentated on it. It gained such importance that it was said that amongst the things a woman would take with her on her wedding night would be a copy of the Mukhtaṣar of Imam Muzanī.
As for his virtues, they are innumerable. Imam Shāfiʿī said, “He is the helper of my madhab.” On his deathbed, the Imam told Muzanī that, “a time will come when you find that you will be the most knowledgeable of people.” Imam Shāfiʿī also said about him, “If Shayṭān were to debate with him, he (Muzanī) would defeat him.” He was known to be an ascetic. Accordingly, he was an expert debater and would delve into intricate points. Whenever he would write down a legal ruling in his Mukhtaṣar, he would pray two rakʿahs of ṣalāh, and perhaps it is due to this that there was so much acceptance of his work. Those who met him would say that he was a devout worshiper and a great scholar, two qualities seldomly found together.
He was also extremely cautious and strict with himself, but with others, he was very lenient. This quality confirms what people would suggest regarding the scholars of the past, i.e. follow them in their words (because they will be very lenient) rather than their actions (because if one tries to imitate them he will make things very difficult for himself). He was such that whenever he would raise his hands, his supplication would be accepted. He said, “I made myself wash the bodies of the dead often so that my heart would be softened, and it became my habit.” He was the one who washed the body of Imam al-Shāfiʿī. He was very punctual in praying Salah with the congregation, such that when he would miss a prayer in the congregation, he would repeat that ṣalāh individually twenty-five times.
He passed in the year AH 264 on the 24th of Ramadan at 89 years old. He was buried next to his beloved teacher Imam al-Shāfiʿī. May Allah have mercy on him and his teacher, and may He allow us to live our lives by his great devoutness to Allah ﷻ.
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