Shaykh al-Islām

  (Redirected from Shaykh al-Islam)

Shaykh al-Islām (Arabic: شيخ الإسلام, romanizedŠayḫ al-Islām; Persian: شِیخُ‌الاسلام Sheykh-ol-Eslām; Ottoman Turkish: شیخ‌ الاسلام, romanized: Şhaykḫu-l-İslām or Sheiklı ul-Islam; Turkish: Şeyhülislam[1]) was used in the classical era as an honorific title for outstanding scholars of the Islamic sciences.[2]: 399 [3] It first emerged in Khurasan towards the end of the 4th Islamic century.[2]: 399  In the central and western lands of Islam, it was an informal title given to jurists whose fatwas were particularly influential, while in the east it came to be conferred by rulers to ulama who played various official roles but were not generally muftis. Sometimes, as in the case of Ibn Taymiyyah, the use of the title was subject to controversy. In the Ottoman Empire, starting from the early modern era, the title came to designate the chief mufti, who oversaw a hierarchy of state-appointed ulama. The Ottoman Sheikh al-Islam (French spelling: cheikh-ul-islam[note 1]) performed a number of functions, including advising the sultan on religious matters, legitimizing government policies, and appointing judges.[2]: 400 [5]

Shaykh al-Islām in different languages

With the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, the official Ottoman office of Shaykh al-Islām, already in decline, was eliminated.[6] Modern times have seen the role of chief mufti carried out by grand muftis appointed or elected in a variety of ways.[3]

Classical usageEdit

Like other honorific titles starting with the word sheikh, the term shaykh al-islam was in the classical era reserved for ulama and mystics. It first appeared in Khurasan in the 4th century AH (10th century AD).[2]: 399  In major cities of Khurasan it seems to have had more specific connotations, since only one person held the title at any given time and place. Holders of the title in Khurasan were among the most influential ulama, but there is no evidence that they delivered fatwas.

Under the Ilkhans, the Delhi Sultanate and the Timurids the title was conferred, often by the ruler, to high-ranking ulama who performed various functions but were not generally muftis.[2]: 400 

In the Kashmiri Sultanate, it was implemented during the reign of Sultan Sikandar. He established the office of the Shaikhu'l-Islam under the influence of Sayyid Muhammad Hamadan, who had come to Kashmir in 1393 AD.[7]

In Syria and Egypt, it was given to influential jurists and had an honorific rather than an official role. By 700 AH/1300 AD in the central and western lands of Islam, the term became associated with giving of fatwas.

Ibn Taymiyya was given the title by his supporters but his adversaries contested this use.[2]: 400  For example, the Hanafi scholar 'Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari issued a fatwa stating that anyone who called Ibn Taymiyya "Shaykh al-islam" had committed disbelief (kufr).[8][9] However, Shafiite scholar Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani defended the title of Shaykh al Islam for Ibn Taymiyyah, saying in his own words, "...His status as imam, sheikh, Taqiyuddin Ibn Taimiyah, is brighter than the sun. And his title with Shaykhul Islam, we still often hear from holy orals until now, and will continue to survive tomorrow.."[10][11], which was recorded by his student al Sakhawi.[11] The Hanbalite madhhab scholar and follower of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (himself also given Shaykh al Islam title by his contemporary) defended the usage of the title for him. The two of them are known for contradicting the view of the majority of scholars of all four schools of thought (Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali) of their time in Damascus and of later periods.[12][13]

There is disagreement on whether the title was honorific or represented a local mufti in Seljuq and early Ottoman Anatolia.[2]: 400 

In the Ottoman EmpireEdit

Sheikh ul-islam Mehmet Cemaleddin Efendi during the reign of Ottoman Sultan and Caliph Abdul Hamid II

In the Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of the Sunni Islamic world from the 14th to the 20th centuries, the Grand Mufti was given the title Sheikh ul-islam (Ottoman Turkish: Şeyḫülislām). The Ottomans had a strict hierarchy of ulama, with the Sheikh ul-Islam holding the highest rank. A Sheikh ul-Islam was chosen by a royal warrant amongst the qadis of important cities. The Sheikh ul-Islam had the power to confirm new sultans. However, once the sultan was affirmed, the sultan retained a higher authority than the Sheik ul-Islam. The Sheikh ul-Islam issued fatwas, which were written interpretations of the Quran that had authority over the community. The Sheikh ul-Islam represented the Sacred Law of Shariah and in the 16th century its importance rose which led to increased power. Sultan Murad IV appointed a Sufi, Zakeriyazade Yahya Efendi, as his Sheikh ul-Islam during this time which led to violent disapproval.[citation needed] The objection to this appointment made obvious the amount of power the Sheikh ul-Islam had, since people were worried he would alter the traditions and norms they were living under by issuing new fatwas.[citation needed]

The office of Sheikh ul-islam was abolished in 1924, at the same time as the Ottoman Caliphate. After the National Assembly of Turkey was established in 1920, the office of Sheikh ul-Islam was placed in the Shar’iyya wa Awqaf Ministry. In 1924, the office of Sheikh ul-Islam was abolished at the same time as the Ottoman Caliphate. The office was replaced by the Presidency of Religious Affairs.[14] As the successor entity to the office of the Sheikh ul-Islam, the Presidency of Religious Affairs is the most authoritative entity in Turkey in relation to Sunni Islam.[14]

Honorific recipientsEdit

The following Islamic scholars have been given the honorific title "Shaykh al-Islam":

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hogarth, D. G. (January 1906). "Reviewed Work: Corps de Droit Ottoman by George Young". The English Historical Review. Oxford University Press. 21 (81): 186–189. doi:10.1093/ehr/XXI.LXXXI.186. JSTOR 549456. - CITED: p. 189: "'Sheikh-ul-Islam,' for instance, should be written 'Sheiklı ul-Islam,' and so forth. This mistake is common, but none the less a mistake." - Review of Corps de Droit Ottoman
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i J.H. Kramers-[R.W. Bulliet] & R.C. Repp (1997). "Skaykh al-Islam". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. & Lecomte, G. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume IX: San–Sze. Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-10422-8.
  3. ^ a b Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone, Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, p 509-510. ISBN 0691134847
  4. ^ Strauss, Johann (2010). "A Constitution for a Multilingual Empire: Translations of the Kanun-ı Esasi and Other Official Texts into Minority Languages". In Herzog, Christoph; Malek Sharif (eds.). The First Ottoman Experiment in Democracy. Würzburg. pp. 21–51. (info page on book at Martin Luther University) - Cited: p. 40 (PDF p. 42)
  5. ^ James Broucek (2013). "Mufti/Grand mufti". In Gerhard Böwering, Patricia Crone (ed.). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Princeton University Press.
  6. ^ Brockett, Adrian Alan, Studies in two transmissions of the Qur'an
  7. ^ Hasan, Mohibbul (2005). Kashmīr under the sultāns. Delhi: Aakar Books. ISBN 81-87879-49-1. OCLC 71835146.
  8. ^ Correct Islamic Doctrine/Islamic Doctrine by Ibn Khafif
  9. ^ The Biographies Of The Elite Lives Of The Scholars, Imams & Hadith Masters by Gibril Fouad Haddad
  10. ^ Baits, Ammi Nur. "Gelar Syaikhul Islam untuk Ibnu Taimiyah". Konsultasi Syariah. Dewan Pembina Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  11. ^ a b Sakhawi, Shams al Din (1999). "كتاب الجواهر والدرر في ترجمة شيخ الإسلام ابن حجر". al maktabat al shaamilat al haditha. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  12. ^ Holtzman, Livnat (January 2009). "Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya". Essays in Arabic Literary Biography: 211.
  13. ^ Bori, Caterina; Holtzman, Livnat (January 2010). "A Scholar in the Shadow". Oriente Moderno: 19.
  14. ^ a b Establishment and a Brief History, Presidency of Religious Affairs
  15. ^ "Merits and Virtues of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (R.A.) - Minhaj Books". Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  16. ^ "Merits and Virtues of Sayyiduna Umar b. al-Khattab (R.A.) - Minhaj Books". Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  17. ^ Gibril Fouad Haddad (2015). The Biographies of the Elite Lives of the Scholars, Imams and Hadith Masters. Zulfiqar Ayub. p. 141.
  18. ^ Yazaki, Saeko (2012). Islamic Mysticism and Abu Talib Al-Makki: The Role of the Heart. Routledge. p. 122. ISBN 978-0415671101.
  19. ^ M. M. Sharif, A History of Muslim Philosophy, 1.242. ISBN 9694073405
  20. ^ Islam and Other Religions: Pathways to Dialogue by Irfan Omar
  21. ^ Jackson, Sherman (1996). Islamic Law and the State: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Shihab Al-Din Al-Qarafi (Studies in Islamic Law & Society). Brill. p. 10. ISBN 9004104585.
  22. ^ Allah's Names and Attributes (Islamic Doctrines & Beliefs) by Imam Al-Bayhaqi (Author), Gibril Fouad Haddad (Translator)
  23. ^ Islamic Culture - Volume 45 - Page 195
  24. ^ Correct Islamic Doctrine/Islamic Doctrine - Page 11.
  25. ^ Ibn Taymīyah, Aḥmad ibn ʻAbd al-Ḥalīm; Al-Ani, Salman Hassan; Ahmad Tel, Shadia (2009). Kitab Al-Iman Book of Faith. Islamic Book Trust. p. 3, Quoting al uqud al durriyah min manaqib shaykh al islam ibn Taymiyyah. ISBN 9789675062292. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  26. ^ Mohammad Hassan Khalil, Islam and the Fate of Others: The Salvation Question, Oxford University Press, 3 May 2012, p 89. ISBN 0199796661
  27. ^ Tasawwuf al-Subki
  28. ^ Gibb, H. A. R.; Kramers, J. H.; Lévi-Provençal, E.; Schacht, J.; Lewis, B. & Pellat, Ch., eds. (1960). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume I: A–B. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 791. OCLC 495469456.
  29. ^ Bearman, P. J.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. & Heinrichs, W. P., eds. (2002). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume XI: W–Z. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 406. ISBN 978-90-04-12756-2.
  30. ^ Safinah Safinat al-Naja' - The Ship of Salvation
  31. ^ Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire by John O. Hunwick
  32. ^ The Archetypal Sunni Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of Al-Bajuri by Aaron Spevack
  33. ^ The Prophets in Barzakh/The Hadith of Isra' and Mi'raj/The Immense Merrits of Al-Sham/The Vision of Allah by Al-Sayyid Muhammad Ibn 'Alawi
  34. ^ [Mamluk Studies Review - Volume 6 - Page 118.]
  35. ^ The Biographies Of The Elite Lives Of The Scholars, Imams & Hadith Masters by Gibril Fouad Haddad.
  36. ^ Muhammad Hisham Kabbani (2004). The Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition Guidebook of Daily Practices and Devotions. Islamic Supreme Council of America. p. 187. ISBN 9781930409224.
  37. ^ Metcalf, Barbara D. "Husain Ahmad Madani, Maulana". Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  38. ^ Syeda, Lubna Shireen (2014-08-10). "A study of jamiat-ulama-i-hind with special reference to maulana hussain ahmad madani in freedom movement (A.D. 1919-A.D.1947)". Ambedkar University.


  1. ^ In languages of ethnic minorities:[4]
    • Bulgarian: Шейх юл-ислям (Šeyx-ul-Islyam)
    • Greek: Σεϊχ‐ουλισλάμ (Seïchoul-Islam)
    • Armenian: Շեյխ ալ-Իսլամ Šeyx-iwl-islami
    • Ladino: şeh ul islam

External linksEdit