The heroic endeavours of Salah ud-din who set himself to work in the most earnest fashion with the re-introduction of orthodox doctrines of Islam in place of the Shia ite creed, the chain of educational institutions started for the purpose all over his wide realm and, above all, the personal example set by him and some of the Muslim rulers in following the religious precepts and code of moral conduct redirected the energies of the people towards learning and teaching of the religious sciences. As a result thereof, we find several erudite scholars during the seventh century, who had devoted themselves, body and soul, to the dissemination of Islamic teachings among their compatriots. The most outstanding personage among these savants was Sheikh ul-Islam Izz ud-din ibn Abdul Salam (d. 660 A.H.). Reputed for profound learning, piety and courage, he never compromised with the corrupting influences of his time and the degenerate ways of the then rulers.
Erudition of Izz ud-din
Izz ud-din ibn Abdul Salam was born in Damascus in 578 A.H. He had the honour of being a student of several eminent scholars of those days such as Fakhr ud-din ibn Asa'kir, Saif u-din Amedi and Hafiz Abu Mohammad al-Qasim. According to certain annalists, he started education, quite late but he soon acquired such a proficiency in the then sciences that his contemporaries have paid glowing tributes to his deep learning and brilliance of mind, Ibn Daqiq al-ld calls him Sultanul-Ulema (king of scholars) in some of his works. When Izz ud-din migrated to Egypt in 639 A. H., Hafiz Abdul Azim al-Munziri, the writer of al-Targhib wat-Tarhib, suspended giving legal-opinions. When he was asked the reason for it, he said : "It does not behove any jurist to give legal-opinion where lzz ud-din happens to be present." Another scholar Sheikh Jamal ud-din ibn al-Hajib was of the opinion that in Fiqah (jurisprudence) Izz ud-din excelled even al-Ghazali,
Al-Zahabi writes in his book entitled al-Ebar: "In his knowledge of Fiqah, devotion to religion and awe of God he had attained that degree of perfection which makes one capable of Ijtihad i.e. of interpreting the revealed law of God and of deducing new laws from it.''-
Izz ud-din occupied the chair of professor for a fairly long period in the Madarsa Zawiyah Ghazfttiyah of Damascus along with holding the offices of Khatib and Imam in the principal mosque of the city called the Ummayyad Mosque. Sheikh Shahab ud-din Abu Shama relates that Izz ud-din vehemently opposed the innovations and later-day accretions like Salat al-Raghayeb and the special prayers of mid-Shaban which had become so popular in his time that several scholars of note thought it prudent to keep silence about these.
Al-Malik al-Kamil insisted on Izz ud-din for accepting the office of Cadi in Damascus which he accepted reluctantly after imposing a number of conditions. During the same period al Malik al-Kamil appointed him as his envoy to the court of the then Abbasid Caliph.
Righteousness of Izz ud-din:
Among the religious scholars of Syria, Izz ud-din was held in such a high esteem that he was received by the then King with the most honourable marks of distinction. On his own part, however, Izz ud-din never visited the king unless he was requested to do so. Being dignified, straight-forward and self-respecting he did not like to curry favour with the king; instead, he insisted always upon the king to follow the course beneficial for Islam and the Muslims.
During his illness Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf who held the principality of Aleppo after the demise of his father, al-Malik al-Adil, sent for Izz ud-din. Earlier the Sultan had had some misunderstandings' with the Sheikh on account of certain views held by the latter but the same were removed as a result of their meeting. The Sultan requested the Sheikh to forgive him for his mistake and also to let him have a word of advise. "So far as the request for pardon is concerned," replied Izz ud-din, "I forgive everyone with whom I happen to be displeased; for, I never allow the sun to go down upon my animus against anybody. Instead of seeking my recompense from the human beings, I desire it from God alone as the Lord has said : But whosoever pardoneth and amendeth, his wage is the affair of Allah.''. "As for my benedictions for you",added Izz ud-din, "I very often pray to God for the well-being of the Sultan, for this also means the welfare of Islam and the Muslims. God may grant the Sultan insight and understanding of the matters which may be helpful to him in the life to come. Now, coming to the advice, it is my bounden duty to enjoin the right course since the Sultan has asked for it. I know that the Sultan is reputed for his valour and the brilliant victories he has won, but Tartars are making inroads into Islamic territories. They have been emboldened by the fact that the Sultan has pitched his arms against al-Malik al-Kamil and thus he would not have time to face the enemies of God and the persecutors of Muslims. Al-Malik al-Kamil is, however, the elder brother of the Sultan and, therefore, I would request the Sultan to give up the idea of fighting against his own brother, instead I would advise him to turn his forces against the enemies of Islam. The Sultan should make up his mind, in these critical days of his illness, to fight for the sake of God alone and for restoring the supremacy of His faith. We hope to overcome the infidels with the help of the Sultan, if God restores him his health. This would verily be a great achievement but if God has willed otherwise, the Sultan would undoubtedly be recompensed for his intention to come to the rescue of Islam".
Al-Malik al-Ashraf thanked Izz ud-dm for his sincere advice and immediately issued orders redirecting his forces to face the Tartars instead of al-Malik al-Kamil. As soon as the orders of the Sultan were communicated to the commander of his army, who retreated to Kasirah.
On al-Malik al-Ashraf's further request to counsel him something more, Izz ud-din said, "The Sultan is bedridden but his chiefs and officials are having rounds of pleasure ; they are revelling in wine and wickedness while Muslims are being burdened with new taxes and tithes. The most valuable presentation that the Sultan can offer to God is that this cesspool of corruption is cleansed ; illegal imposts are abolished, tyranny is stopped and justice is made available to the people." Al-Malik al-Ashraf not only acted on the advice of Izz ud-din but profusely thanked him saying, "May God give you a goodly reward for performing the duty enjoined by the religion, on behalf of all the Muslims whose well-wisher you undoubtedly are. Sire, allow me to be your companion in the Paradise." The Sultan also presented one thousand Egyptian gold mohurs to Izz ud-din but he refused to accept them saying, "I met you only for the sake of God and I do not want any worldly temptation to be made an additional reason for it."
Courage of Izz ud-din :
Al-Malik al-Ashraf was succeeded by Saleh Ismalil who sought help of the Christians against the impending danger of invasion from Egypt. In lieu of the aid promised by the Christians the cities of Salda, Thakif and few other forts were ceded to them. The friendly relations thus established by Saleh Isma il encouraged the Christians to purchase arms and ammunition from the Muslim traders in Damascus. Izz ud-din deprecated these deals as the arms purchased by the Christians were likely to be used against the Muslims and, therefore when the arms dealers asked for his legal-opinion in the matter, he advised that all such bargains were prohibited by the Shari ah. This was not all, Izz ud-din gave up benedictions for the King in the Friday sermons and started invoking the wrath of God on the enemies of Islam. The matter was brought to the notice of the King who ordered to imprison him. After some time, he was transferred to Jerusalem from his Damascus gaol.
In the meantime Saleh Ismail along with his allies, al-Malik al-Mansur, the King of Hams and a few Christian monarchs converged at Jerusalem with the intention of invading Egypt. Although Saleh Ismail had imprisoned Izz ud-din, he was feeling guilty in his heart of heart and wanted to set him free provided lzz ud-din was prepared to give him an excuse for the same. He, therefore, gave his handkerchief to one of his trusted councillors with the instruction that he should present it to Izz ud-din and tell him courteously that if he so desired, his previous position would be restored. The councillor was also directed to present Izz ud-din before the King in case he agreed to the suggestion with the highest respect, otherwise to imprison him in a tent beside that of the King. The Councillor did what he had been commissioned ; paid his compliments and related the admiration of the King for the Sheikh, and then said, "Everything will be set right and your previous position will be restored in no time, if you just kiss the hands of the king and show courtesy to him." History can perhaps offer few such striking examples of fearless expression, for, Izz ud-din replied, "What a fool you are ! You expect me to kiss the hands of the King while I would not like my own hands to be kissed by him. My friend, you are living in a world other than that of mine. Praise be to Allah that I am not a prey to the temptations which have captured your soul. The Councillor then told him that in that case he had orders to imprison him again. The Sheikh was accordingly placed under confinement in a tent beside the king's, who heard him daily reciting the Qur'an. The King one day told his Christian ally that the person whom he heard reciting the Quran at the moment was the chief pontiff of Muslims but he had been divested of his post and honours and kept under confinement because of his opposition to the cession of cities and forts to the Christians. The Christian monarch, however, replied that if he were to have such a man as his bishop, he would have felt honoured to sit at his feet.
Shortly thereafter Saleh Ismail was defeated and killed in an encounter with the Egyptian forces, and Izz ud-din was honourably taken to Egypt.
While on his way to Egypt Izz ud-din passed through the principality of Kark. When its Governor requested Izz ud-din to settle in Kark, he replied, "This small city of yours is not befitting my learning.
lzz ud-din in Egypt:
lzz ud-din was received by the then Sultan of Egypt, al-Malik al-Saleh Najm ud-din Ayyub, with great reverence and honour. He was appointed Khatib of the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As as well as the grand Cadi of Egypt. He was also entrusted with the task of looking after the rehabilitation of deserted mosques and the professorship of Shafei jurisprudence in Madarsa Salihiya founded by the King.
Fearlessness of Izz ud-din:
A man by the name of Fakhr ud-din 'Uthman who was an intendant of the palace had come to wield a great influence over the King. This man got a drum-house constructed over the roof of a mosque. When Izz ud-din came to know of it, he ordered the structure of the drum-house to be pulled down, He declared Fakhr ud-din Uthman as an unreliable witness for the purposes of tendering evidence in a court of law and also resigned from the post of Chief Justice as a mark of protest against the blasphemous action of Fakhr ud-din Uthman. Izz ud-din continued to enjoy the esteem of the king who, however, did not consider it prudent to appoint Izz ud-din as grand Cadi for the second time. Notwithstanding this decision of the King, juristic-opinions tendered by lzz ud-din were acted upon with the same respect as before. During this period al-Malik al-Saleh Najm ud-din Ayyub sent an embassy to the court of the Caliph in Baghdad. When the Egyptian envoy was presented before the Caliph he enquired of the envoy if the Sultan of Egypt had himself commissioned him to convey the message. On being told that he had been charged to convey the message by Fakhr ud-din Uthman on behalf of the Sultan, the Caliph replied that since Fakhr ud-din Uthman had been declared an unreliable witness by Izz ud-din, no credence could be placed on a message conveyed through him. The envoy had to return to Egypt to obtain the orders of the Sultan afresh.
There is yet another incident which bespeaks of Izz ud-din's fearlessness. The Sultan who was holding a durbar on the occasion of ld was seated on the throne in a large reception hall, with the princes and chiefs of the State ranged on his right, and the courtiers and dignitaries on the left. In front of the Sultan stood all the people entitled to enter and salute the sovereign, when a voice was suddenly heard addressing the Sultan by his first name: "Ayyub, what would be your reply before God when He would ask you whether the kingdom of Egypt was given to you so that people should openly indulge in drinking-bouts and you should enjoy public receptions?" "Is it," blurted out the Sultan who was taken aback, "is it a fact ?" "Yes," came the reply from Izz ud-din, "Wine is being freely sold and consumed in the city while people indulge in other vices too". Surprised as the Sultan was, he replied, "But 't is not my fault, Sire, for it has been happening from the time my father held (he reigns of this kingdom". "Then, you are one of those," admonished Izz ud-din, "who say that we found our fathers acting on this wise." The Sultan immediately gave orders to stop the sale of wine in his realm.
While returning from the court one
of the pupils of lzz ud-din asked him why he had raised the question on that occasion. Izz ud-din replied, "When I saw the Sultan surrounded by that pomp and show I thought that he might give himself airs and become a slave to his baser-self. I, therefore, thought it necessary to admonish him publicly." "But were you not seized with fright," demanded the disciple further. "Oh no," replied lzz ud-din, "I was so much seized by the awe and glory of God Almighty that the Sultan appeared to me as meek as a cat."
Saviours of Islamic Spirit By: Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi