How Imam ‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam* Held the Ruler to Account

“I heard the Shaykh [i.e. al-Subki’s teacher] and Imam (Allah have mercy on him) say, I heard our Shaykh al-Baji say, our Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din went to the Sultan in al-Qal’a one time on Eid day and saw the army in full array before the court (majlis) of the ruler who does not make an entrance before his people except in splendour as was the custom in Egypt and the officials would begin kissing the floor before the Sultan. The Shaykh [‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam] turned to the Sultan and called out to him saying, ‘O Ayyub! What is your argument before Allah when he asks you, ‘Did I not give you the land of Egypt and yet you permitted alcohol?’’ [The Sultan] asked, ‘Is this the case?’ [‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam] replied, ‘Indeed, wine is sold in such and such tavern’ – mentioning other evil acts (munkarat) too – ‘while you bask in the luxury of this kingdom!’ He was shouting at the top of his voice in front of the army. [The Sultan] said, ‘My master, I am not the one who did this. It is from the time of my father. [‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam] retorted, ‘What are of those who say (Lo! We found our fathers following this and we are guided by their footprints)?’ [cf. Qur’an 43:22] The Sultan ordered the tavern be closed.

I heard the Shaykh and Imam say that I heard al-Baji say, I later asked [‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam] when he had returned from the Sultan and had publically done this good: ‘My master how are you?’ he replied, My son, I saw [the Sultan] in that grand state and wanted to humiliate him in case he puffed himself up with pride.’ I then asked him: ‘My master did you fear him?’ He replied, ‘My son, I swear by Allah, when I recalled Allah’s Majesty in my heart, the Sultan became like a kitten in front of me!’…”

[Taj al-Din al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi‘iyyat al-Kubra, 8:211-212]

Hat Tip: Dar al-Nicosia

*Imam ‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam is ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abd al-Salam ibn Abu al-Qasim ibn al-Hasan, ‘Izz al-Din al-Sulami, nicknamed the Sultan of Scholars, born in Damascus in 577 H (1181 CE). A Shafi‘i scholar and mujtahid Imam, he was educated in Damascus, went to Baghdad in 599 H, and then returned to his native city, where he first taught and gave the Friday sermon at the Zawiya of al-Ghazali, and then at the Great Umayyad Mosque. When the ruler al-Salih Isma‘il ibn al-‘Adal willingly surrendered the Palestinian citadel of Safad to the Franks, Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam condemned him from the pulpit and omitted mentioning him in the post-sermon prayer, for which he was imprisoned. Upon his release, he move to Cairo, where he was appointed judge and imam of the Friday prayer, where he gained such public influence that he could (and did) command the right and forbid the wrong with the force of law. He later resigned from the judiciary and remained at home to produce a number of brilliant works in Shafi‘i jurisprudence, Qur’anic exegesis, methodological foundations of the Sacred Law, formal legal opinion, government and Sufism … He died in Cairo at the age of eighty-one [excerpted from Reliance of the Traveller by Shaykh Nuh Keller, p. 1064]

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