Imam an-Nawawi

Imam an-Nawawi

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Sacrifices in Drawing Near to Allah: In the Pursuit Knowledge
Imam ad-Diqr on Imam an-Nawawi (May Allah be pleased with them both)

Commenting on Iman an-Nawawi’s effort in the pursuit of knowledge, Imam ad-Diqr wrote,

He used to have twelve study sessions a day with his teachers. These included explanations, verifications, commentaries, explaining the difficult aspects and expressions as well as exacting the correct wordings. This would take, as a least approximation, twelve hours a day.Then he would need to revise what he had learned and memorized and what needed to be memorized. The very least approximation is that this would also take twelve hours a day.This is twenty-four hours in a day!When would he eat?When would he performs acts of worships?When would he perform the voluntary late-night prayers?

It is well known that her performed those types of acts of obedience and worship. When would all of that take place? He was in need of studying and reviewing for all the twenty-four hours in a day and night.

This shows how Allah blessed and graced this man. Allah blessed him in his time. He gave him the ability to complete in one day what it takes everyone else two days to do, and in one year what takes others two years to accomplish.

This is the only way we can explain this tremendous undertaking that made him one of the greatest scholars of his time in about ten years. In fact, it made him the leader (Imam) of his time. This is also the only way we can explain all of his wonderful, detailed and radiant writings in a span of time that lasted no more than fifteen years. He spent all of his lifetime and living hours in learning, teaching and writing. (ad-Diqr, p. 34)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Zuhud and Imam an-Nawawi
The Ascetic Life of Imam an-Nawawi

He led a very austere and simple life. Some narrations state that all the clothing he possessed was a turban and a long gown. He did not desire any of the pleasures of this world. At one point in time, he would not eat anything except some cake and olives that his father would send him from time to time from Nawa. One of the reasons for this was that he was certain that such food came from permissible sources.

He would refuse even permissible things out of fear that they may lead to doubtful matters. Indeed, he refused to eat any of the fruit of Damascus because he knew that the orchards, many of which were endowments and for orphans and others, were not handled properly and he feared that the food he would be eating was not from a permissible source. Another reason he gave for not eating that fruit was that much of it was handled through sharecropping and there was a differences of opinion among the scholars concerning the validity of sharecropping. In a footnote, al-Haddad points out that, in reality, all of those matters boiled down to one thing: an-Nawawi was afraid to involve himself in any matter concerning which there was even the slightest doubt.

An-Nawawi desired to live a simple and pure life, although it would have been possible for him to live otherwise, given his teaching position and influence. Chief Justice Sulaiman az-Zara’i narrated that he visited an-Nawawi on the day of ‘Iid. An-Nawawi was eating some kind of broth with no meat. He asked Sulaiman to eat with him and he said that it was not appealing to him. Sulaiman’s brother went and brought some roasted meat and sweets. Sulaiman told an-Nawawi to eat from it but he refused. Suliman said to him, “O my brother, is this forbidden?” He said, “No, but it is the food of the tyrants [and extravagant].” In this matter, he was following the example of the Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) who could have enjoyed many of the bounties of this word, but, instead, his household would go for days without cooking any meat or having their full of bread for two days straight (al-Haddad, p. 87). It seems that an-Nawawi did not consider such food as impermissible, in general, as obviously the Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) ate such foods. However, it seems that he was never sure that their source was permissible, so he refused to eat such foods (ad-Diqr, p. 129).

He was also well-known for his modesty. Part of his modesty included never being served by any of his students. At the same time, he continued to serve his students even into his old age. An-Nawawi would fast perpetually (every day except the days of ‘Iid). In general, he would eat once a day, after the last obligatory prayer of the day; and he would only drink once a day, before dawn. When he drank, he would not drink cold water out of fear that it may make him drowsy. Al-Haddad argues that this was done by an-Nawawi so that he would dedicate all of his time to work and worship instead of the pleasures of this life. Al-Haddad writes that it is said that knowledge is not attained by rest. In face, he states, a person will not receive even part of knowledge unless he dedicates all of himself to it. If a person dedicates all of himself to knowledge, then he may achieve a portion of it. Al-Haddad states that perhaps this was an-Nawawi’s perception of knowledge. He left his heart completely free and open to receive the blessed knowledge of the religion of Islam.(al-Haddad, p. 35).

He did not accept a stipend for is teaching. It seems that he may have accepted money for the first year or two. That money that he did receive, he would spend on books that were left as endowments after him. However, after that time, he refused to accept money whatsoever for his services (ad-Diqr, p. 127).

One material possession of this word that an-Nawawi did have was books. In general, a student is greatly in need of books. He is perhaps as much in deed of books than he is of food and water, as al-Haddad pointed out. As alluded to earlier, an-Nawawi’s small room was like a warehouse of books. One of the testimonies as to how many books an-Nawawi had may be found in his introduction to at-Tahqiq wherein he said, “I have with me, the books of Shafi’i fiqh, and all praises are due to Allah, about one hundred books, including well-known books, rare books and others (Quoted in al-Haddad, p. 71).” Al-Haddad comments, “If that was the case with the number of books of fiqg, which were not as plentiful as they were in later eras, then what about the number of books of hadith available at his time (al-Haddad, p. 72).” Taj ad-Din as-Subki (683-756), who was a Chief Justice (Qadi al-Qudha), was asked to complete one of an-Nawawi’s works, al-Majmu’. He tried to excuse himself by saying that he did not have the number of references available to him that an-Nawawi had.

It seems clear, though, that an-Nawawi’s goal was not simply to possess a large library. His books were not for decoration or display. Instead, he benefited greatly from those works and, from his lectures and writings, numerous people have benefited from them since then.