by Shaykh Rami Nsour
About the Author (1)
Allah has given us signs within the creation that guide us to knowing that He is One. Some of the greatest of these signs are the scholars that have inherited the knowledge of the prophets and act as guiding stars in the darkness of this life. Shaykh Muḥammad Mawlūd is one of these signs, giving guidance to those around him during his life and continuing to give guidance through the many books that he authored.
Muḥammad Mawlūd was born in the country of Mauritania in approximately the year 1260 Hijra/ 1844 C.E. Mauritania is a desert country with its inhabitants living primarily as nomadic herders and subsistence farmers. Despite the harsh environment that provided very few resources, the Mauritanians were able to establish a sophisticated system of preserving the sacred sciences of Islam. There were specific clans, known as zawāya, in Mauritania that made scholarship their primary focus took every effort to pass on knowledge to each successive generation. It was into one of these families that Muḥammad Mawlūd was born, thus receiving his portion of the Inheritance of the Prophets.
He came from a long line of scholars who were also accomplished authors and religious judges who ran traditional Islamic Universities, known as maḥḍaras2. His father is Qāḍi Ahmed Fāl the son of Qāḍi Muhamadhan Fal the son of Qāḍi al-Amin the son of Qāḍi al-Mukhṭār the son of Qāḍi al-Faʿa Musa. Even though many of his grandfathers were qāḍis, Muḥammad Mawlūd chose not to take that position preferring to spend his time authoring books, specifically focusing on Spirituality (taṣawwuf) and the Arabic language. He is from the family known as the Ya’qūbiyīn who are descendents of Jaʿfar ibn Abī Ṭālib, the cousin of the Prophet Muḥammad. His mother is Maryam bint Muḥammad Mawlūd ibn al-Nāhī was also knowledgable and she was her son’s first teacher.
Muḥammad Mawlūd, while still a child, memorized the entire Qur’ān at the hands of his mother. He then went on to study the science of Qur’ānic recitation (tajwīd) with Qāri Muhamdhan Fal ibn Būfirra. He studied jurisprudence, fiqh, with his cousin the great scholar Shaykh Muḥammad Mukhtār ibn Habīb Allāh. He studied grammar and other sciences related to the Arabic language with the great scholar and linguist Shaykh Muḥammad ʿĀli ibn Sayyid. During his time at the maḥḍara3 of Shaykh Muḥammad ʿĀli, he attained a high level of knowledge and began teaching other students. He purchased a tent and would sit there to teach unless he had a question, at which point he would go to his shaykh and get clarification. Muḥammad Mawlūd studied with various scholars of his age and it did not take him as long as the average person to reach a high level of scholarship. When he chose to leave the maḥḍara (2), after only having been there a year, a number of students followed Muḥammad Mawlūd to continue their studies with him.
It was at this point that Muḥammad Mawlūd established his own maḥḍara that soon became filled with students who had travelled from various regions within Mauritania. As per the style of teaching in the maḥḍara, Muḥammad Mawlūd would teach each student individually. The maḥḍara system is such that each student follows his or her individual track of studies, rather than studying in a classroom setting with a number of students studying the subject at the same pace. To indicate the size of the student population, it is mentioned that at one time there were 40 students each individually studying the chapter of Oaths from the Mukhtasar of Khalīl, a text on Islamic jurisprudence. This is along with students that were at other points of the same text, students of other disciplines and children who were studying the Qur’ān with Muḥammad Mawlūd. A number of the graduates from his maḥḍara would go on to become accomplished scholars establishing other maḥḍaras, authoring texts, and furthering Islamic scholarship.
His children, two sons and three daughters also took their part in studying and teaching others. They are:
- Muḥammad, who memorized the Qur’ān at 7 years of age and studied a portion of the Mukhtaṣar of Khalīl with his father. Muḥammad preferred to spend his time in worship rather than being with people and so he did not have many students. One of Muḥammad’s students said, “If the people met Muḥammad, they would have forgotten about his father, Muḥammad Mawlūd.”
- Muḥammad al-Amīn, who became an accomplished teacher of the Qur’ān and taught many people to memorize the Qur’ān. He was also a qāḍī and a scholar who many people came to have difficult matters of fiqh solved by him.
- Umayma, who memorized most of the Qur’ān and she was actively engaged in a number of scholarly subjects.
- Khadīja who had memorized the entire Qur’ān and had a good scholarly standing. She is the mother of the great scholar Shaykh Sidi Aḥmad ibn Aḥmad Yaḥyā who is the sole source of his grandfather’s books.
- Saʾdā, who had memorized the Qur’ān and would teach most of the books in the maḥḍara She had excellent knowledge of the laws of inheritance. She wrote a number of poems including one on the sīra (biography) of the Prophet.
Muḥammad Mawlūd spent all of his time teaching, reciting Qur’ān, engaged in worship and authoring texts. He was once writing something when a person came and said that the
great scholar Muḥammad ʿAbdullah ibn Muḥammad Mukhtar, who was Muḥammad Mawlūd’s cousin, was wronged by someone. Muḥammad Mawlūd, knowing that he could not do anything in the situation, said, “What hurts me the most in this situation is that the devil has taken this as an opportunity to distract people from remembering Allah.” He then continued writing his book. He was known to be very gentle and was content with a simple life and was not in need of other people or their wealth. He was once living in the vicinity of a wealthy family who were known for their generosity. It was during that time that he completed his book Madubat al-Andāb, which is a text on the adab of giving charity. He delayed making the text public until he had moved away from the area where the wealthy family was out of fear that they would think he had written it with an intention to get gifts from them. When he would meet poor people, he would be very open with them and at times even joke with them. When wealthy people would come to visit him he would give them the greeting and not much more. They would be content with being dealt with in this manner even though they had given him gifts.
In the nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouin, the masjid is a central location where people meet and would discuss many things related to both matters of the dīn as well as matters of the dunyā. When people would speaking about matters of the dunyā, such as when to move the encampment, Muḥammad Mawlūd would sit alone remembering Allah, for fear of speaking about matters of the dunyā in the masjid. When he would return to his home, his wife would ask about what the people in the masjid discussed and what they decided the group had decided as far as moving. He would say, “I do not know because I did not ask them anything since they are not more knowledgeable in terms of what Allah expects from me.”
Muḥammad Mawlūd authored many works on what he saw as much needed relevant knowledge. In total, he has authored of 70 works including books, poems and commentaries. Some of his works are:
- A poem on the adab of Qur’ān recitation
- Al-Mutarādif, a poem explaining words in the Qur’ān that have them same meaning
- Baṣā’ir al-Tālīn, a poem on the rules of tajwīd
- A tafsīr of the Qur’ān written in poetry form
- A tafsīr of the Qur’ān titled al-Bashā’ir
- A text on the technical terminology of ḥadīth (muṣṭala al-ḥadīth)
- A book about the Mahdī
- A poem clarifying the soundness of certain ḥadīths and other ḥadīths that are not correct
- Inārat al-Afkār, a text detailing the ḥadīth used as proofs for rules of grammar
- Kafāf al-Mubtadī, a 3,747 line poem on Mālikī fiqh with mention of opinions of the other schools of thought
- A commentary on the Kafāf
- Raḥmatu Rabbī, a text on fiqh
- Shukr al-Niʿma, a commentary on Raḥmatu Rabbī
- Miftāḥ al-Dhafar, a commentary on the Mukhtaṣar of Khalīl
- Iḥkām al-Maqāl, a text on the rules of asking wealth from others
- Maṭhara al-Qulūb, a poem on the purification of the heart
- A commentary on Maṭ-hara al-Qulūb
- A poem on the idea of reflection
- A commentary on the Burda of Imām al-Buṣayrī
- Maḥārim al-Lisān, a poem on the prohibitions of the tongue
- A commentary on Maḥārim al-Lisān
- Ishrāq al-Qarār, a poem on the spiritual aspect of prayer
- A commentary on Ishrāq al-Qarār
- Al-Ḥisba, a text on enjoining righteousness and forbidding evil
- A poem with commentary on the adab of eating
- Ma’dabat al-Andāb with commentary, a poem on the adab of ṣadaqa
- A text on the adab of hosting guests
- A text on the adab of seeking knowledge
- A text on the adab of the masjid along with a commentary
- A commentary on the versified version of Ajjurūmiyya
- A commentary on the Alfiyya of Ibn Mālik
Muḥammad Mawlūd passed away in the year 1323 H/1905 C.E. after experiencing a light sickness that did not last very long. He is buried in the area known as al-ʿArsh, which is 110 km south of the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott. He lived a little over 60 years and in that time established a legacy of scholarship through his books and students. The Muslim community, which has benefitted immensely from these and other works of Muḥammad Mawlūd, is forever indebted to him for his selfless work that he dedicated his life to. One of the poets said about him that:
He used to quench the thirst of ever thirsty person
Using commentaries and poems
We pray that Allāh quenches our thirsts and the thirst of humanity with the books of Muḥammad Mawlūd.
1: This biography has been condensed from Ustadh Ahmed Sālim ibn Muhammad’s biography of Muhammad Mawlūd. The entire biography written by Salīm can be found in the foreward of Marām al-Mujtadī, a written by Shaykh Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Ahmed al-Khadīm. Marām al-Mujtadī is a commentary on Muhammad Mawlūd’s work on fiqh called Kafāf al-Mubtadī.
2: Maḥḍara is the name of the centers of learning in Mauritania which teach the same subjects and texts traditionally taught in the major universities of the Muslim world, such as the Qarawiyyīn and Azhar Universities.
TWO BOOKS WRITTEN BY SHAYKH MUHAMMAD MAWLUD HAVE BEEN TRANSLATED AND COMMENTED BY SHAYKH HAMZA YUSUF AND SHAYKH RAMI NSOUR
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