Al-Sayyid al-Sheikh
Muhammad al-Makki al-Kettani al-Hasani al-Idrisi
(b. 1312 in Fas  - d. 1393 in Damascus)

Chairman of the Leage of `Ulema of Syria, great muhaddith, social reformer and political personality, sufi and knower of Allah ta`ala, known as Sheikh al-Islam.

He is Muhammad al-Makki ibn Muhammad ibn Ja`far ibn Idris ibn al-Ta'ir ibn idris ibn Muhammad al-Zamzami ibn Ahmad al-Fudayl ibn al-`Ararbi ibn Ahmad ibn `Ali al-Jadd al-Jami`, whose lineage goes back to Idris the founder of the City of Fas and great grand son of Sayyiduna al-Hasan sibr Rasul Allah sallAllah `aleihi wa sallam.

He was born in the city of Fas in 1312, and took from its `ulema. In 1325 and 1328, he travelled to al-Medina al-Munawwara with his father, and drew knowledge from its `ulema. In 1336, his family moved to Damascus and settled there. Apart from the classes of his father, he attended classes by the elite of the Damascene scholars, such as Sheikh Badr al-Din ibn Yusuf al-Hasani, Muhammad Amin Suwid, Muhammad Tawfiq al-Ayyubi and others.

In 1341, he accompanied his father and brother [Muhammad al-Zamzami 1305-1371] to Turkey, upon the inivitation of the muhjahid Ahmad al-Sharif al-Sanusi, and he was given a condecoration by the Othoman Dawla for his support of the Libyan jihad.

In 1343, he visited Hind together with his older brother Sheikh Muhammad al-Zamzami, on a mission of da`wa and seeking knowledge, and they passed through Iraq on their way.

In 1345, he returned with his father to Fas, but after less than a year he came back to Dimashq. and remained there for the rest of his life.

In 1353, he visited Hind for the second time, in the company of his brother, Sheikh Muhammad al-Zamzani. They visited many Islamic learing centers, in particular the University of Deoband, where he met the Imam of Hind, Sheikh Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri, and took from him. He stayed there for some time working as a da`i, murabbi and murshid.

His life was devoted to the seeking and spreading of the diverse disciplines of the sacred knowledge, such as hadith, fiqh, tawhid and tasawwuf. His home in the neighbourhood of al-`Amara in Damascus was a center for sufi devotions and raising murids. He also taught in the Umawi mosque and in Jami` Mazi and the  Takiyya Sulmaniyya, as well as other places inside and outside the city. Thereafter he was assigned the office of Mufti of the Maliki madhhab in Syria.

He was utterly concerned about the Islamic government and fighting the colonizers in all ways. He established in Dimashq the "Association of the black hand" (Jam`iyya al-kaff al-aswad), and selected for it forty of the wisest grand Shuyukh of Syria and defenders of the islamic law, to give support to the mujahidin against the French colonizers in Algeria and Maghrib, against the Brittish in Pastine, and the Italians in Lybia. He gathered young men from the neighbourhoods of Damascus, and trained them in horse-riding and handling of weapons. preparing them for jihad against the French. He thus rose about 500 horse-riders, who were known as the "Leage of young men of Damascus" (Rabita shabban Dimashq).

In 1365 (1944/5) he founded the "Leage of `Ulema of Syria" (Rabita Ulama' Suriya), and directed its affairs so as to make a united front against the colonizers and their helpers. They gained a complete victory in the election to the (national) assembly of representatives, which was filled with candidates from the Leage of `Ulema.

In 1376 (1955 CE), he participated in the popular uprising, together with his fellow `ulema, with arms in hand. He also took an active part in the struggle of Palestine against the sionists, by sending people, weapons and equipment. After the end of open war, he continued, together with the palestinian leaders, to give the jews sleepless nights, by sending commandos to destroy strategic places such as airports and weapon arsenals.

He also founded the "Association for the liberation of Arabic Maghrib" (later renamed "Association for support and liberation of Maghrib" - Jam`iyya Ansar Maghrib wa tahririhi), supporting the Algerian Mujahidin, and he selected individuals for it, most of which assumed important offices in the Algerian government after its independence. This organisation also supported the the Algerian jihad by selling weapons to them, to the extent that the Algerians later said "this was the cause of our victory."

In 1376, the League of `Ulama held a two days conference to investigate the French massacres in Algeria, and came up with a statment that was printed in the Magazine "Islamic Civilization" (Al-Tamuddun al-Islami). It was also the first to call for the formation of the "Leage of Islamic `Ulama", and to take contcrete steps towards its establishment.

Imam al-Kettani represented both Maghrib and Syria i various conferences, such as the first Islamic Conference in al-Quds al-Sharif, which he founded together with th Mufti of Quds, al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni. The latter took the name of the Syrian resistance movement against the French, "al-Kaff al-Aswad", founded by Imam al-Kettani, and named the Palestinian fadaiyyya movement after it.

Imam al-Kettani often visited the Sa`udi Arabian Kingdom, and upheld good relations with its kings: `Abd al-`Aziz, Sa`ud, Faysal, and he kept on giving them advice.

He also kept up relations with the Egyptian president Jamal `Abd al-Nasir, which led to the formation of the United Arab Republic, which thereafter disintegrated because of the Egyptian president's failure to enact Islam.

In 1382 (1962) Imam al-Kettani visited Maghrib upon an official invitation by His Majesty King Hasan II. The King gave a speech in which he mentioned his popularity in Sham and made him the reason for which Sham was looked up to, and invited him to come back to Maghrib. When he visited the city of Sus, all its `Ulema asked for his ijaza in the science of hadith narrators and isnad.

In 1383, he supervised the National Pact which joined together all Islamic Parties and movements in Syria, and he laid down a new curriulum in the field of sciences which guaranteed the presence of Islam in the country.

Al-Sheikh al-Makki al-Kettani was a unique personality of his time. His erudition in the Islamic sciences was inherited from his father Imam Muhammad ibn Ja`ar and other great `ulema of the East, especially in the field of usul (theology). In addition to this he was a great sufi, murshid and murabbi, known amonst th epeople of Sham as a Qutb and Ghawth. He moved from place to place calling people to Allah subhanaHu wa ta`ala, without fearing anyone or anything on this path. Most Sufi Sheikhs in Syria have taken from him.

He is one of the greatest scholars of hadith and isnad of his time. He exchanged ijazas with some 100 scholars in Maghrib, the two Holy Cities, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and India.

He was a wise and skillfull politician, able to navigate through the political storms. However, all his efforts were submitted to the service of the Din and to the estabishment of Islam. Because of this he declined the offer made to him during the time of the French presence in Sham to take the reins of the country. He was even asked to choose for himself any type of government, monarchy or republic, but he refused to walk under the shade of foreign occupation, and preferred to expend his efforts for the sake of Allah ta`ala.

Sheikh al-Kettani left behind thousands of students in the East and in the West, as well as many writings, amongst them an appendix to his father's book "The Muhammadan knowledge". His advice and sayings have been gathered and published, and his travel to Maghrib in 1382 was documeted by his paternal uncle Sheikh `Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad al-Baqir al-Kettani.

He passed away in Damascus as a consequence of a surgery on the 26th of the holy month of Dhul Qa`da year 1393, and was followed by a large crowd to the Kettani family grave near Bab Saghir.

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[1] Tarajum of al-Sharif Muhammad Hamza ibn `Ali ibn al-Muntasir al-Kettani, Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya, Beirut 2004] See also

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Last modified 2007-08-27