Sayyidina Abu Bakr al-Tartooshy

Location: Bab al-Bahr in the area called al-Gumruk

Abu Bakr Muhammad bin al-Waleed bin Muhammad bin Khalaf bin Sulayman bin Ayub al-Qurashy al-Fahri al-Tartooshy was born in the year 450 AH in a Spanish city, which would later on take his name, al-Tartoosh.

In this Andalusian city, jurist Abu Bakr al-Tartoosh met with his first teachers and when reaching adolescence he travelled the country to seek out more knowledge and scholars. His search ended in Sircasta, Andalusia where he met its greatest scholar the Judge Abu al-Waleed al-Baji from whom al-Tartooshy acquired his preference for the methods of disputing and systematically critiquing religious and scientific matters.

In the year 476 AH, he turned east to perform Hajj. He remained studying with the Meccan scholars for a few years from where he sojourned to Baghdad, a city that was brimming with scholars and overflowing with religious knowledge. The academic heart of Baghdad was the Nizamiya school. Here, he learned from scholars such as: Abu Ishaq al-Shirazy, Abu Bakr al-Sheesh and Abu Nasr. In Baghdad al-Tartooshy turned completely toward Sufism through the influence of the scholars that he met. Eventually, he would become known as an ascetic Sufi. Abu Bakr al-Tartooshy travelled to the Levant after he completed his studies in Baghdad where he developed his own practical philosophy that rests on the foundation of Zuhd (asceticism) and the struggle to uphold good and forbid evil. He spent the period in the Levant teaching the people his new established philosophy, instructing them in matters of religion and worldly matters.

Alexandria soon awaited the coming of al-Tartooshy from the Levant as he passed by the city of Rosetta, that was just coming out of a serious famine. This famine started originally during the reign of the Sultan al-Mustansir Billah, the Fatimid ruler in the fifth century AH, as a result of the Nile River receding significantly for a period of seven years. Therefore, the prices soared and hardship gripped all of Egypt. So the Sultan al-Mustansir sought the aid of his viceroy in Acre, Amir Badr al-Jamaly. After the death of the Sultan al-Mustansir, his vizier al-Afdal Shahinsha bin Badr al-Jamaly throned Abu al-Qasim Ahmed the youngest son of the al-Mustansir. The eldest son, Nizar, angered by the decision, fled to Alexandria. Whereupon al-Afdal besieged Alexandria with a large army and catapults until Alexandria was in ruins. al-Afdal took out revenge on the people of Alexandria and killed many of its scholars until the people of the city felt as though there were no more of their great scholars alive any longer. The people felt the need to seek a scholar and jurist to give them lessons in the mosques and to teach them matters of religion. It was by this unfortunate culmination of events that al-Tartooshy was granted the fortune to reside in Alexandria. For when the people heard about the presence of Abu Bakr al-Tartooshy in the nearby city of Rosetta they put together a representative group of scholars and jurists to request his services as judge of the city. So he moved to Alexandria where he began teaching and disseminating knowledge according to the school of Imam Malik. The people flocked to his circles of study and were in awe of his vast knowledge and expositions of his practical philosophy on how to live in harmony.

Despite the government’s intense efforts to disseminate the Sevener Shia School in Egypt, Alexandria remained on the school of Imam Malik. The reason for this can be traced back to the unified front of the Arab tribes that were loyal to the original command of the first four Caliphates, and later of the Umayyads and Abbasids that one fourth of the army of Egypt remains in the city of Alexandria to protect Egypt’s northern coast.

Another significant factor is that Alexandria had always been a station for pilgrims coming to and fro from the western Muslim world to Mecca. This may also explain why the people of Alexandria were so persistent and enthusiastic about having al-Tartooshy (originally from the western Muslim world) become their judge. He married a pious lady from one the most renowned families of Alexandria which permitted him to settle down as well as give him the chance to begin authoring books in many areas of knowledge. He produced books in Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, politics, the art of governance and societal building, etc.

al-Tartooshy passed away (may God be pleased with him) in the year 520 AH at the age of seventy years and he was buried in the mosque that carried his name.