Imam An-Nawawi (Big)

Imam An-Nawawi
أبو زكريا يحيى بن شرف النووي‎

Imams: Abu Zakariya Yahya Ibn Sharaf An-Nawawi
Autor: Of The Forthy Hadeeth, and many Books

Decorative Lines

Abu Zakaria Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (1234–1278) popularly known as al-Nawawi, an-Nawawi or Imam Nawawi (631–676 A.H. / 1234–1278 CE), was a Sunni Muslim author on Fiqh and hadith. His position on legal matters is considered the authoritative one in the Shafi’i Madhhab. He was born at Nawa near Damascus, Syria. As with many Arabic and Semitic names, the last part of his name refers to his hometown.

He studied in Damascus from the age of 18 and after making the pilgrimage in 1253 he settled there as a private scholar. From a young age he showed signs of great intelligence, and so his father paid for a good education. As a judge, he was much sought after for advice and adjudication of disputes.

During his life of 45 years he wrote many books on Islamic studies and other topics. He collected and sourced 40 hadith of the Islamic prophet, Mohammed back to one of his companions.

In 1267 he succeeded Abu Shama as professor of hadith at the Ashrafiyya [school] in the city. He died at Nawa at a relatively young age, having never married.

Birth and Birth place

The complete name of Imam Nawawi is Abu Zakaria Mohiuddin Yahya, son of Sharaf AnÄNawawi, son of Murry, son of Hassan, son of Hussain, son of Muhammad, son of Juma, son of Hazam. Nawawi refers to Nawa, a place near Damascus, in the suburb of the city of Howran. One of his ancestors named Hazam had settled at this place. Imam Nawawi was born at Nawa in the year 631 A.H. His father, a virtuous and pious man, resolved to arrange for proper and befitting education as he had discovered the symptoms of heavenly intelligence and wisdom in his promising child at an early stage.

Shaikh Yasin bin Yousuf Marakashi, a saintly figure of Nawa says: “I saw Imam Nawawi at Nawa when he was a youth of ten years of age. Other boys of his age used to force him to play with them, but Imam Nawawi would always avoid the play and would remain busy with the recitation of the Noble Qur’an. When they tried to domineer and insisted on his joining their games, he bewailed and expressed his no concern over their foolish action. On observing his sagacity and profundity, a special love and affection developed in my heart for young Nawawi.

I approached his teacher and urged him to take exceptional care of this lad as he was to become a great religious scholar and most pious saint of future. His teacher asked whether I was a soothsayer or an astrologer. I told him I am neither soothsayer nor an astrologer but Allah caused me to utter these words.” His teacher conveyed this incident to Imam’s father and he keeping in view the learning quest of his son, decided to dedicate the life of his son for the service and promotion of the cause of Islamic Faith.

In a short period, Nawawi learnt to read the Holy Qur’an and by that time he nearly had attained puberty. Nawa had no academic or scholarly atmosphere and there were no religious academies or institutes where one could earn excellence in religious learning, so his father took him to Damascus, which was considered the center of learning and scholarship, and the students from far and wide gathered there for schooling.

During that period, there were more than three hundred institutes, colleges and universities in Damascus. Imam Nawawi joined Madrasah Rawahiyah which was affiliated with the Ummvi University. The founder and patron of this Madrasah was a trader named Zakiuddin Abul-Qassim who was known as Ibn Rawahah. Madrasah was named after him. Noted and eminent teachers of the period taught in that Madrasah.

Imam Nawawi says, “I studied in this institution for two years. During my stay in Madrasah Rawahiyah, I never had complete rest and lived on the limited food supplied by the institution.” As a routine he used to sleep very little at night. When it became irresistible as a human being, he would lean and slumber for a while against the support of books. After a short duration he would again be hard at his scholastic pursuits.

His Teachers & Guides

During his stay at Damascus, he studied from more than twenty celebrated teachers. These teachers were regarded as masters and authority of their subject field and disciplines they taught. Imam studied Hadith, Islamic Jurisprudence, its principles, syntax and Etymology fromgreat scholars of his time.

Abu Ibrahim Ishaq bin Ahmad AI-Maghribi, Abu Muhammad Abdur-Rahman bin Ibrahim Al-Fazari, Radiyuddin Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin Abu Hafs Umar bin Mudar Al-Mudari, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin Isa Al-Muradi, Abul-Baqa Khalid bin Yusuf An-Nablusi, Abul-Abbas Ahmad bin Salim Al-Misri, Abu Abdullah Al-Jiyani, Abul-Fath Umar bin Bandar, Abu Muhammad At-Tanukhi, Sharafuddin Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad Al-Ansari, Abul-Faraj Abdur-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Ahmad Al-Maqdisi, Abul-Fada’il Sallar bin Al-Hasan Al Arbali etc.

There were hundreds of Imam’s students, among them some notables are: Alauddin bin Attar, Ibn Abbas Ahmad bin Ibrahim, Abul-Abbas Al-Ja’fari, Abul-Abbas Ahmad bin Farah, Rashid Ismail bin Mu’allim Al-Hanafi, Abu Abdullah Al-Hanbali, AbulAbbas Al-Wasti, Jamaluddin Sulaiman bin Omar Az-Zar’i, AbulFaraj Abdur-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Abdul-Hamid AlMaqdisi, Badr Muhammad bin Ibrahim, Shamsuddin Muhammad bin Abu Bakr, Ash-Shihab Muhammad bin Abdul-Khaliq, Hibatullah Al-Barizi, Abul-Hajjaj Yusuf bin Az-Zaki etc.

His Desire and Crave for Learning

Imam Nawawi had endless thirst for knowledge, and it can be guessed from his daily practice of studies. He used to read daily twelve lessons and write explanation and commentary of every lesson and also made important additions. Whatever the book he read, he put down the marginal notes and explanations on that book. His intelligence, hard work, love, devotion and absorption in his-studies amazed his teachers and they became fond of him and began to praise and admire him.

According to Imam Dhahabi, Imam Nawawi’s concentration and absorption in academic love gained proverbial fame. He had devoted all his time for learning and scholarship. Other than reading and writing, he spent his time contemplating on the interacted and complex issues and in finding their solutions. Allah had also conferred upon him the gift of fast memory and depth of thought, and he who makes the right use of this boon, there remains no doubt in his sagacity and discernment. Imam Nawawi made full benefit of his God given qualities and potentialities and earned the highest degree of honor.

Imam’s Simplicity and
Niceness of Manners

The learned persons, elite of the society and the public greatly respected the Imam on account of his piety, learning and excellent character. He used simple dress and ate simple food. Devout scholars do not care about worldly chattels, they give preference to religious and academic pursuits, propagation of Faith etc. They experience more heavenly delight and joy in such activities than those who seek satisfaction in luxurious foods, precious clothes and other worldly things. Imam Nawawi had a prominent place among the erudite notables of his age. He was a God-fearing person with illustrious and glorious aims regarding propagation of Faith. Celebrated Sheikh Mohiuddin expresses his impression about Imam Nawawi as thus:

Imaam an-Nawawi had three distinctive commendable qualities in his person. If anybody has only one out of these three, people turn to him in abundance for guidance. First, having knowledge and its dissemination. Second, to evade completely from the worldly inclinations, and the third, inviting to all that is good (Islam) enjoining virtue and forbidding vice. Imaam an-Nawawi had all three in him.

Shi’a Muslims have a sympathetic view of him. They regard some of his works favourably and have translated some into Persian.[citation needed]


  • Al Minhaj bi Sharh Sahih Muslim شرح صحيح مسلم, making use of others before him, and is considered one of the best commentaries on Sahih Muslim. It is available online.
  • Riyadh as-Saaliheen رياض الصالحين, is a collection of hadith on ethics, manners, conduct, and is very popular in the Muslim world today.
  • Al-Majmu’ sharh al-Muhadhdhab المجموع شرح المهذب, is a comprehensive manual of Islamic law according to the Shafi’i school has been edited with French translation by van den Bergh, 2 vols., Batavia (1882–1884), and published at Cairo (1888).
  • Minhaj al-Talibin منهاج الطالبين وعمدة المفتين في فقه الإمام الشافعي, a classical manual on Islamic Law according to Shafi’i fiqh.
  • Tahdhib al-Asma wal-Lughat تهذيب الأسماء, has been edited as the Biographical Dictionary of Illustrious Men chiefly at the Beginning of Islam by F. Wüstenfeld (Göttingen, 1842–1847).
  • Taqrib al-Taisir التقريب والتيسير لمعرفة سنن البشير النذير, an introduction to the study of hadith, it is an extension of Ibn al-Salah’s Muqaddimah, was published at Cairo, 1890, with Suyuti’s commentary “Tadrib al-Rawi”. It has been in part translated into French by W. Marçais in the Journal asiatique, series ix., vols. 16–18 (1900–1901).
  • Forty Hadiths الأربعون النووية, collection of the forty (actually forty-two) chief traditions has been frequently published along with numerous commentaries.
  • Ma Tamas ilayhi hajat al-Qari li Saheeh al-Bukhaari ما تمس إليه حاجة القاري لصـحيح البـخاري,
  • Tahrir al-Tanbih تحرير التنبيه,
  • Kitab al-Adhkar الأذكار المنتخبة من كلام سيد الأبرار, is a collection of supplications of prophet Muhammad.
  • Al-Tibyan fi adab Hamalat al-Quran التبيان في آداب حملة القرآن,
  • Adab al-fatwa wa al-Mufti wa al-Mustafti آداب الفتوى والمفتي والمستفتي,
  • Al-Tarkhis fi al-Qiyam الترخيص بالقيام لذوي الفضل والمزية من أهل الإسلام,
  • Manasik متن الإيضاح في المناسك, on Hajj rituals.
  • Sharh Sunan Abu Dawood
  • Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari
  • Mukhtasar at-Tirmidhi
  • Tabaqat ash-Shafi’iyah
  • Rawdhat al-Talibeen
  • Bustan al-`arifin

Recent English Language Editions

  • Bustan al-`arifin (The Garden of Gnostics), Translated by Aisha Bewley

Minhaj Et-Talibin

  • Minhaj et talibin: A Manual of Muhammadan Law ; According To The School of Shafi, Law Publishing Co (1977) ASIN B0006D2W9I
  • Minhaj et talibin: A Manual of Muhammadan Law ; According To The School of Shafi, Navrang (1992) ISBN 81-7013-097-2
  • Minhaj Et Talibin: A Manual of Muhammadan Law, Adam Publishers (2005) ISBN 81-7435-249-X

The Forty Hadith

  • The Compendium of Knowledge and Wisdom; Translation of Jami’ Uloom wal-Hikam by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali translated by Abdassamad Clarke, Turath Publishing (2007) ISBN 0-9547380-2-0
  • Al-Nawawi Forty Hadiths and Commentary; Translated by Arabic Virtual Translation Center; (2010) ISBN 978-1-4563-6735-0
  • Ibn-Daqiq’s Commentary on the Nawawi Forty Hadiths; Translated by Arabic Virtual Translation Center; (2011) ISBN 1-4565-8325-5
  • Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, Translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim, Islamic Texts Society; New edition (1997) ISBN 0-946621-65-9
  • The Forty Hadith of al-Imam al-Nawawi, Abul-Qasim Publishing House (1999) ISBN 9960-792-76-5
  • The Complete Forty Hadith, Ta-Ha Publishers (2000) ISBN 1-84200-013-6
  • The Arba’een 40 AHadith of Imam Nawawi with Commentary, Darul Ishaat
  • Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (3 Vols.), by Jamaal Al-Din M. Zarabozo, Al-Basheer (1999) ISBN 1-891540-04-1

Riyadh As-Salihin

  • Gardens of the righteous: Riyadh as-Salihin of Imam Nawawi, Rowman and Littlefield (1975) ISBN 0-87471-650-0
  • Riyad-us-Salihin: Garden of the Righteous, Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah
  • Riyadh-us-Saliheen (Vol. 1&2 in One Book) (Arabic-English) Dar Ahya Us-Sunnah Al Nabawiya.

Shafi’i  ”Mad-Hab ”

The Shafi’i (Arabic: شافعي‎ Šāfiʿī ) madhhab is one of the schools of fiqh, or religious law, within the Sunni branch of Islam. Named after Imām ash-Shafi’i, it is followed by Muslims worldwide in Southeast Asia, Somalia, Yemen, and parts of the Egypt and Indian subcontinent.


The Shafi’i school of thought stipulates authority to four sources of jurisprudence, also known as the Usul al-fiqh. In hierarchical order, the usul al-fiqh consist of: the Quran, the Sunnah of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, ijmā’ (“consensus”), and qiyas (“analogy”).

The Shafi’i school also refers to the opinions of Muhammad’s companions (primarily Al-Khulafa ar-Rashidun). The school, based on Shafi’i’s books ar-Risala fi Usul al-Fiqh and Kitab al-Umm, which emphasizes proper istinbaat (derivation of laws) through the rigorous application of legal principles as opposed to speculation or conjecture.

Shafi’i’s treatise ar-Risala fi Usul al-Fiqh is not to be mistaken or confused with the al-Risala of Imam Malik.

Imam Shafi’i approached the imperatives of the Islamic Shariah (Canon Law) distinctly in his own systematic methodology. Imam Shafi’i, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal almost entirely exclude the exercise of private judgement in the exposition of legal principles. They are wholly governed by the force of precedents, adhering to the Scripture and Traditions. They also do not admit the validity of a recourse to analogical deduction of such an interpretation of the Law, whereby its spirit is adapted to the circumstances of any special case.

Shafi’i is also known as the “First Among Equals” for his exhaustive knowledge and systematic methodology to religious science.

The Imam

Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i:
Shafi’i’s [150 – 206 AH] full name is Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs ibn al-Abbās ibn ‘Uthmān ibn Shāfi‘ ibn as-Sa’ib ibn ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Abd al-Yazīd ibn al-Muttalib ibn ‘Abd Manaf. ‘Abd Manaf was the great great grandfather of Muhammad. Based on this lineage, he is from the Quraish tribe. He was born in 150 AH (760 CE) in Gaza in the same year Imam Abu Hanifa died. Al-Nawawī, a prominent Shāfiʻī scholar, cited Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah, one of al-Shafi`i’s teachers, as being from “the grandfathers of the Shāfiʻī scholars in their methodology in jurisprudence”.

As a member of the school of Medina, ash-Shafi’i worked to combine the pragmatism of the Medina school with the contemporary pressures of the Traditionalists. The Traditionalists maintained that jurists could not independently adduce a practice as the sunnah of Muhammad based on ijtihad “independent reasoning” but should only produce verdicts substantiated by authentic hadith.

Based on this claim, ash-Shafi’i devised a method for systematic reasoning without relying on personal deduction. He argued that the only authoritative sunnah were those that were both of Muhammad and passed down from Muhammad himself. He also argued that sunnah contradicting the Quran were unacceptable, claiming that sunnah should only be used to explain the Quran. Furthermore, ash-Shafi’i claimed that if a practice is widely accepted throughout the Muslim community, it cannot be in contradiction of sunnah.

Ash-Shafi’i was also a significant poet. His poetry is noted for its beauty, wisdom, despite the fact that during his lifetime he stood off becoming a poet because of his rank as an Islamic scholar. He said once:

  • و لولا الشعر بالعلماء يزري
    لكنت اليوم أشعر من لبيد
    For scholars, if poetry did not degrade,
    I would have been a finer poet than Labīd.

However, the beauty of his poetry made people collect it in one famous book under the name Diwān Imām al-Shafi’i. Many verses are popularly known and repeated in the Arab world as proverbs:

  • نعيب زماننا و العيب فينا
  • و ما لزماننا عيب سوانا
  • و نهجو ذا الزمان بغير ذنب
  • و لو نطق الزمان لنا هجانا
  • We blame our time though we are to blame.
  • No fault has time but only us.
  • We scold the time for all the shame.
  • Had it a tongue, it would scold us.

The Qur’an has brought a transformation to the Arabic language, especially in Arabic poetry and prose. It has thus shaped the form and essence of contemporary Arabic literature.

Importance of the Shafi’i School Demographics

The Shafi’i school is followed throughout the Ummah and is the official school of thought of many traditional scholars and leading Sunni authorities. It is also recognized as the official school of thought by the governments of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia. In addition, the government of Indonesia uses this madhab for the Indonesian compilation of sharia law.

It is the dominant school of thought amongst Muslims in Yemen, Lower Egypt, Syria, Jordan, North Caucasus, Southeast Turkey, Northwest Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, parts of Northern Syria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Maldives, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia.

It is also practised by large communities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia (in the Hejaz and Asir, the Swahili Coast, Mauritius, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan (by Chechens) and Indian States of Kerala (most of the Mappilas), Karnataka (Bhatkal, Mangalore and Coorg districts), Maharashtra (by Konkani Muslims) and Tamil Nadu.

In terms of followers, Shafi’i is the second largest school of the Sunni branch of Islam after the Hanafi madhab. It is practiced by approximately a third (32%) of Sunni Muslims, or around 29% of all Muslims worldwide.


The Shafi’i madhab was adopted as the official madhab during periods of the Abbasid Caliphate, in the first century of the Great Seljuq Empire, Zengid dynasty, Ayyubid dynasty and later the Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo), where it saw its greatest development and application. It was also adopted by the Kathiri state in Hadhramawt and most of rule of the Sharif of Mecca and Hijaz.

Early European explorers speculated that T’ung-kan (Hui people, called “Chinese Mohammedan”) in Xinjiang originated from Khorezmians who were transported to China by the Mongols, and that they were descended from a mixture of Chinese, Iranians, and Turkic peoples. They also reported that the T’ung-kan were Shafi’ites, which the Khorezmians were as well.

Famous Shafi’i’s

According to the great Indian Hanafi scholar, Shah Waliullah, The Shafi’i Madhab is distinguished among all the Sunni Schools in having the most illustrious Islamic scholars in history, in all fields, among its followers. As Imam al-Shafi’i emphasized the importance of muttasil hadith (connected) and undermined the relevance of mursal (skipped) hadith, his madhab found particular favour among hadith scholars.


  • Al-Ghazali, Authority in Sufism, Aqidah, Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, and Logic.
  • Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi, Sunni’s second highest authority in Hadith, principal Shafi’i jurist; author of the Sahih Muslim commentary.
  • Suyuti, Sunni authority in history, Quran, Fiqh, Tafsir, and Hadith
  • Fakhr al-Din al-Razi
  • Ibn al-Nafis

In Hadith:

  • Al-Bayhaqi, Sunni authority in Hadith; Shafiite authority in Fiqh
  • Hakim al-Nishaburi, Sunni authority in Hadith
  • Al-Tabarani, Sunni authority in Hadith
  • Ibn Khuzaymah
  • Ibn al-Salah, hadith specialist
  • Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Mizzi
  • Dhahabi, Sunni authority in Hadith
  • Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Sunni’s foremost authority in Hadith, author of the authoritative commentary of Sahih Bukhari.
  • Al-Sakhawi
  • Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, A renowned Sunni expert in Hadith methodology and jurisprudence
  • Abd al-Rahim ibn al-Husain al-‘Iraqi
  • Al-Qastallani

In Tafsir:

  • Ibn Kathir, top-notch Sunni expert in Tafsir, Hadith, Biography and Fiqh.
  • Al-Baghawi, Also known as “Reviver of Sunnah”, well known for his Ma’alim Al-Tanzil in Tafsir.
  • Baidawi
  • Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tha’labi
  • Said Nursî
  • Hamka

In Fiqh:

  • Al-Mawardi, Sunni authority in Legal ordinances, history and Islamic governance.
  • Al-Juwayni
  • Zakariyya al-Ansari
  • Ibn Hajar al-Haytami
  • Sayf al-Din al-Amidi
  • Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri
  • Zainuddin Makhdoom al-Mallibari I and II, The Jurist and Historian (respectively) of Kerala
  • Ibn Nuhaas

In Aqidah:

  • Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari, Leader of Ash’ari Aqidah.

In Sufism

  • Harith al-Muhasibi
  • Junayd al-Baghdadi
  • Ibn Khafif
  • Abd al-Karīm ibn Hawāzin Qushayri
  • Abu Talib al-Makki
  • Imam al-Haddad
  • Ahmad Ghazali
  • Ayn al-Quzat Hamadani
  • Abu al-Najib Suhrawardi
  • Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi
  • Yusuf Hamdani
  • Ahmed ar-Rifa’i
  • Shams Tabrizi
  • Safi-ad-din Ardabili Is’haq Ardabili
  • Kamal Khujandi
  • Yusuf an-Nabhani
  • Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani

In History

  • Ali ibn al-Athir
  • Ibn ‘Asakir
  • Ibn Khallikan

In Arabic Language Studies

  • Raghib Isfahani
  • Fairuzabadi


  • Saladin
  • Nizam al-Mulk

Contemporary Shafi’i Scholars

  • Wahba Zuhayli – Professor of Jurisprudence at Damascus University.
  • Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti – Head of Theology at Damascus University.
  • Ali Gomaa – Grand Mufti of Egypt.
  • Habib Umar bin Hafiz – Founder of Dar al-Mustafa, a leading Islamic educational institute in Tarim, Yemen.
  • Habib Ali al-Jifri – Popular scholar from Yemen.
  • Abdullah al-Harari (1910 – September 2, 2008) – Started the Ahbash or Habashi movement, also known as the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects at
  • Afifi al-Akiti – University Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford.
  • Taha Karan- A leading scholar and teacher from South Africa (ash-Shāfi‘ī as-Sagīr (A title given to Ml. Taha by the renowned Shaykh, Khalil Ibrahim Mula Khatir from Madinah al-Munawwarah)).
  • Hasyim Muzadi – Former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia.
  • Aboobacker Ahmad – A. P. Sunni leader in Kerala and General Secretary of the Sunni Scholars’ Organisation of India.
  • Nuh Ha Mim Keller – Translator of Imam Nawawi’s Al-Maqasid and Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri’s Umdat al-Salik wa Uddat al-Nasik.
  • Mohammad Salim Al-Awa – Leading Islamist thinker from Egypt.
  • Ahmed Kuftaro – Former Grand Mufti of Syria.
  • Ahmad Syafi’i Maarif – Prominent Indonesian intellectual.
  • Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas – Leading Malaysian intellectual.
  • Taha Jabir Alalwani – Leading scholar in the United States.
  • Zaid Shakir – Prominent American scholar.