Suyuti, Al- (1445–1505)

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SUYUTI, AL- (1445–1505)

Al-Suyuti was an Egyptian scholar best known for his prolific writings on prophetic tradition (hadith), Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Qur˒anic studies, Arabic language, and related subjects. The son of a minor religious scholar, he was trained in the Sunni religious disciplines, and held several endowed academic positions in Cairo. Convinced that he alone was truly learned in an age of scholarly decline, he compiled a series of works intended to preserve the fundamentals of classical Sunni scholarship for posterity. His sense of his own superiority and his quickness to denigrate others' abilities provoked his colleagues, and he was embroiled in numerous scholarly disputes. His claims to be qualified to give independent legal opinions (ijtihad) and to be the reviver of Islamic knowledge at the beginning of the sixteenth century were highly controversial. Al-Suyuti's relationship with the Mamluk sultans who ruled Egypt was also an uneasy one, since he firmly believed that the religious scholars (ulema), as guardians of God's law, should be the supreme authorities in the state. Toward the end of his life, frustrated and disheartened, al-Suyuti relinquished his public posts and sought consolation in mysticism (tasawwuf). He continued to write, leaving at his death over 550 books and treatises on a wide range of subjects. Several works are still in use as valuable references. Some modern scholars have dismissed him as a mere compiler, a judgment that underrates his scholarly contributions, especially in the fields of jurisprudence, prophetic tradition, and Arabic language.

See alsoArabic Language ; Hadith ; Ijtihad ; Tasawwuf .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Garcin, Jean-Claude. "Histoire, opposition politique et piétisme traditionaliste dans le Husn al-muhadarat de Suyuti." Annales Islamologiques 7 (1967): 33–90.

Sartain, Elizabeth M. Jalal al-din al-Suyuti. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

E. M. Sartain