‘Society and Religion in Early Ottoman Egypt: Studies in the Writings of ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani’
by Michael Winter
In collective consciousness of most Egyptian and North African Sufis, however, the enemy was personified in the future of the Maaliki faqid. Sha’rani, for all his sincere efforts to narrow the breach among the four madhhabs, bears testimony to the intensity of these memories. The history of Sufism in Egypt in the late Middle Ages is closely knit to that of North Africa and is full of incidents in which Maaliki jurists attacked the Sufis. This struggle naturally began in North Africa, where the Maaliki madhhab was dominant. The early Egyptian mystic Dhu’l-Noon al-Misri (d. 245/856) was persecuted by Maaliki jurist (1), Ghazali’s books were burnt by the Maaliki fuqaha of Spain; Abu’l Hasan al-Shaadhili himself was a victim of Maaliki harassment; and one of the fiercest attacks on popular religion in Egypt came from the Maaliki faqeeh Ihn al-Haajj. Muhammad Shams al-Deen al-Hanafi, the famous Sufi, won over a hostile Maaliki jurist, as did his dsiciple Madyan al-Ashmuni. Such conversions were considered especially impressive achievements. When Ibraheem al-Ja’bari (d. 687/1288), a popular Sufi preacher, was prohibited from preaching in a fatwa issued a Maaliki qadi, the qadis of the three other madhhabs did not join the Maaliki colleague in their decision. (This is expressly stated in the sources.) (2)
Sha’rani writes of a man who tried to validate his claim to be Sufi shaykh by obtaining an authorization from a Maaliki qadi, and adds contemptuously: “Poor man, he does not understand anything about these matters; this authorization to serve as a Sufi shaykh is given by God.” (3) It is unlikely that Sha’rani mentions the Maalikism of the qadi by chance he obviously considered a Maaliki qadi the on least qualified to determine whether a man had attained the status of a Sufi shaykh.
1)Lawaaqih al-Anwar p. 62
2) al-Tabaqat al-Sughra, p. 39, 45. These were Zakariyya al-Ansari and his Sufi shaykh Muhammad al-Ghamri, al-Zahids disciple. This was possible because Zakariyya lived a very long time.
3) Tabaqat, II, pp. 80-81, 92-94. Both disciples died in the same year – 850/1446-47