Sidi Abu Imran al-Fasi (d. 430/1015)
The most important proponent of institutionalized Malikism in the tenth/ fourth century Morocco was the grand Fasite legist, Abu Imran Yaqub al-Fasi (d. 430/1015) a contemporary of Abi Yazid al-Qayrawani, who was to become the spiritual father of the al-Murabitun movement (Almoravids). Born between the years 365/975 and 368/978-9 in his family quarter of Darb ibn Ali al-Haj on the al-Qarawiyyine side of Fez, al-Fasi took advantage of his family's wealth and high social position to study under some of the greatest scholars in the Muslim world. He first traveled to Umayyad Cordoba, then in the final years of its glory under the regent al-Mansur ibn Abi Amir. There he attended the lectures of noted scholars in the fields of Hadith, Quranic studies, and jurisprudence. After traveling to Ifriqiya and staying for few years in al-Qayrawan, he journeyed to Baghdad, where his most important teacher was the theologian, jurist and political theorist Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (d. 403/1013). Under him, al-Fasi was introduced to the then revolutionary idea that Asharite theology.
Sidi Qadi Abul Fadl Iyyad (d. 544/1129), author of the Kitab Shifa bitarif huquq al-Mustapha (The Antidote in knowing the rights of the Chosen Prophet), hagiographied Abu Imran al-Fasi in his Tadrib a-Madarik (Exercising Perception), an encyclopaedia of Maliki scholars,
His full name was Musa ibn Isa ibn Abi Hajj ibn Wulaym ibn al-Khayr al-Ghafjumi. Ghafjum is a branch of the Zanata tribe. However, Samantari said that it is part of the tribe of Huwwara. His family came from Fez and were well-known there. They were known as the Banu Abu Hajj. He lived in Qayrawan and obtained leadership in knowledge there. He learned jurisprudence in Qayrawan with Abul Hassan al-Qabisi, and he listened there to Abu Bakr ad-Duwayli and Ali ibn Ahmad al-Lawwati as-Susi. He traveled to Cordoba where he studied jurisprudence with Abu Mohammed al-Asili. He listened to Abu Uthman Said ibn Nasr, Abdelwarith ibn Sufyan, Ahmad ibn Qasim and others. Then he traveled to the east and went on hajj and went to Iraq and listened to Abul Fath ibn Abil-Fawaris, Abul Hassan Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Mustamli, Abul Hassan ibn al-Khadr, Abu Ahmad al-Fardi, Abu Tayyib al-Mohammed, Abul Abbas al-Kawkhi, Abul Hassan ibn al-Hammami al-Muqri, Abul Hussein ibn ar-Radk, Abul Hassan ibn al-Muhamali, Abu Abdullah ibn Bakr ar-Razi, Abul Qasim as-Safri, Abu Abdullah al-Jafi the Qadi, Abu Ahmad ibn Jami ad-Dahhan, Hilal al-Haffar, Abul Hussein ibn al-Mufaddal al-Attar and others. He studied the usul with Qadi Abu Bakr al-Baqillani and met a group of scholars. In Makka he listened to Abu Dharr. Then he left out naming him because of something which occurred between them. They mentioned that the reason for their friendship and love was that when Abu Imran returned from Iraq and found Abu Dharr at Sara outside of Makka while his books were in Makka with his storekeeper. He asked for them from his storekeeper but he would not let him. He wanted one of them them, so he became friendly with Abu Dharr. When he simply decided to take it without consulting him and his storekeeper refused to let him, he was vexed with Abu Dharr and he spoke harshly to him and that lead to bad feelings between them. In the Hijaz he also listened to Abul Hassan ibn Abi Firas, and Abul Qasim as-Saqati; and in Egypt to Abul Hassan ibn Abi Jidar, Ahmad ibn Nur al-Qadi, Abdellwahhab ibn Misr and Ibn al-Washa. Then he returned to Qayrawan and settled there. He remained Imam in the Maghrib. People studied with him and a large group of those we mentioned among the companions of Abu Bakr and others studies with him, like Atiq as-Susi, Abu Mohammed al-Fahsili, Mohammed ibn Tahir ibn Tawus and a group of people from Fez and Sabta and some Andalusians. His fatwas (rulings) went to the east and the west and people were interested in his position. He used to sit for discussion in his house from morning to Dhuhr. He did not say anything but that it was written from him until he died, may Allah have mercy on him.
Upon returning from Baghdad to Fez, al-Fasi attempted to teach these doctrines in the major mosques of his native city. However, he appears to have been a born activist for he was said to have been expelled from Fez by a heretic Barghawata group due to conflicts arising as a result of his zeal in carrying out al-amr bi al-maruf wa al-nahy an al-munkar there. Leaving Fez for a second time, al-Fasi again traveled and and studied in Andalus, made Hajj, and studied with Abu Qasim al-Junayd (d. 298/910) in Baghdad, who expounded sufficient doctrine in his teachings to make tasawwuf a distinct discipline, authorising al-Fasi to proliferate it in the Maghrib. Qayrawan, where he taught the Junaidi-Sufism as well as his usul-based version of Maliki jurisprudence and Asharite theology for the remainder of his life. Al-Fasi apparently lived long in Qayrawan and became one of its most leading scholars attracting students from all over the Maghreb and Andalus. He must have imparted on his students not only his vast knowledge and deep zuhd, but certainly his militant spirit. The Shaykh is said to have distinguished himself with a remarkable memory, mastered the seven recitations of the Quran, the science of the hadith and Maliki fiqh. He wrote a commentary on the Mudawwana of Sahnun. On his virtues and reports, Sidi Qadi Abul Fadl Iyyad (d. 544/1129) infoms in the Tadrib a-Madarik,
Hatim ibn Mohammed said, "Abu Imran was one of the most knowledgeable of people and one with the greatest memory. He had the most comprehensive memory of the Maliki school as well as memory of the hadiths of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and recognition of its meanings. He used to recite the Quran in the seven readings. He was known for his generosity as well as his knowledge of the men and examination of their character. People from all parts of Maghrib and Andalusia took from him. Those who did not meet him asked for an ijaza. He left about 100 pages of hadiths. He mentioned that al-Baqillani used to admire his memory and said to him, "Would that both you and Abelwahhab ibn Nasr were both in my school. At that time he was in Mosul, Iraq to meet for the knowledge of Malik. He said, "You have memorized him and support him. If Malik had seen you both, he would have been happy with both of you."
Ibn Ammar mentioned him in his Risala and said that he was an Imam in every science, effective in the usul, and possessed both excellence and imamate. When he went to Baghdad, word spread that a Maliki faqih from the people of the Maghrib had arrived. People said, "We only see him with Qadi Abi Bakr al-Baqillani. At that time he was the shaykh of the Malikis in Iraq and the Imam of the people. A group of the people of Baghdad went to the assembly of Qadi Abu Bakr; and his companions and Abu Imran were with him. Questions were discussed. Then a Shafi'i man asked him a question about a particular matter and Abu Imran answered with a sound straightforward answer, and the asker asked him for his proof for it. Shaykh Abu Imran bowed his head in silence and a youth of people of Baghdad who was one of the Malikis raised his head. He said to the asker, "May Allah put your right. This is one of our great shaykhs, and it is boorish to oblige him to argue from the beginning. However I will serve him in support of this matter and I will represent him in it. The evidence for the soundness of what the Shaykh answered, may Allah protect him, is such-and-such and such-and-such." The Shafi'i opposed him in it and then the Maliki dismissed his objection until he had clarified the evidence. When he had spoken comprehensively on the question, the Shafi'i came to him and kissed his head, saying, "You did well, my master and beloved. By Allah, you are the support of the school when you helped him." There were other questions discussed in that gathering.
There was a question in Qayrawan about the unbelievers and whether they recognized Allah or not. There was great dispute in it between the scholars and that controversy passed on to the common people. The extent of the discussion between them on it reached the point that some of them attacked others in the markets and left trading to fight. The most intent of them on that was a man who rode a donkey. He went from one to another and he did not leave either a mutakallim or faqih without asking him and debating with him. Someone said "You should go to Abu Imran. He will cure you of this question." So the people of the market went to the door of his house and asked permission to enter, which he gave them. They said to him, "May Allah make you thrive. You know that when something happens to the common people, they flee to their scholars. This question has reached the point about which you have heard, and all we do in the markets talk about it." He said to him, "If you are silent and listen well, I will tell you what I know." They said to him, "We only want a clear answer from you in accordance with our understanding." He told them "Success is by Allah." Then he said, "Only one of you should speak to me and the rest should listen."
So he indicated one of them and asked him, "What would you think about this case? You meet a man and ask him, Do you know Abu Imran al-Fasi? and he replies, I know him. You say, Describe him to me. He says, He is a man who sells vegetables, grain and oil in the market of Ibn Hicham and lives at Sabra. Does he know me?" "No," he replied. He said, "Now if you were to meet another man and ask him, Do you know Abu Imran al-Fasi? and he replies, Yes, and then you say to him, Describe him to me, and he says, He is a man who studies and teaches knowledge. He gives fatwa to the people, and lives near as-Sammat. Does he know me?" "Yes," he replied. Abu Imran continued, "The first did not know me?" "No," he replied. The shaykh said to him, "That is who the unbeliever is when he says that the God he worships has a partner and a child and that He is a body and is worshipped in this manner. He does not know Allah and does not describe Him properly. By his worship he only intends the one with this quality who begets. He is different from the believer who says He worships Allah, the Unique who did not beget and was not begotten and nothing is equal to him. This person recognizes Allah and describes him property and intends by his worship the the One who is rightfully the Lord. Glorious is He and exalted very much above what the wrongdoers say." So the group got up and said, "May Allah repay you well for your knowledge. You have healed what is in ourselves." They made supplication for him, and did not delve into the question after that meeting. Abu Imran died in 403 and was born in 368 according to what al-Jayni related from Abu Umar ibn Abdul-Barr. Abu Amr al-Muqri said that he died at the age of 65.
By the time of his death, Abu Imran al-Fasi had arguably become the most influential authority on Malikism in all of the Maghreb. Because of his Arabised Berber background, he encouraged also encouraged students from the rural and desert regions of the Maghreb to attend his study circle in al-Qayrawan. Among his most influential disciples were Mohammed ibn Sadun al-Qayrawani (d. 485/1070) and Sidi Waggag ibn Zallu al-Lamti (d. 445/1030).
Tomb of Waggag ibn Zallu, Uglu, Western Tiznit, Souther Agdir
Waggag, a member of the Lamta (Oryx) tribe of Sanhaja Berbers from the Wadi Nun region of central Morocco, presided over a network of mosques and educational centres on the mountainous fringes of the pre-Saharan desert. The most famous of these educational centres was his headquarters, Dar al-Murabitun, which he established at the coastal hamlet of Aglu, near modern-day Tiznit. Sidi Waggag achieved supremacy in relation matters in the regions south of the Atlas mountains and remained in close contact with Abu Imran al-Fasi until his teacher's death. In the words of al-Tadili,
“(Wajjaj b. Zallu al-Lamti) of the people of the furthest Sus. He traveled to al-Qayrawan and studied with Abu Imran al-Fasi. Then he returned to the Sus and built a house which he called Dar-al-Murabitin (the house of the Murabitun) for students of religious learning and reciters of the Quran. The Masamida used to visit him in order to be blessed by his prayer. If a drought befell them, they asked him to pray for rain.” The extension to southern Morocco of Maliki brand of Islam have well have gone beyond there. For the ascetic and devout Wajjaj must have been one among many of al-Fasi's students, who may have operated similar ribatat in the wide expanse of the Maghreb and beyond.
The success of Waggag ibn Zallu's religious activism depended on the social and economic ties maintained by Sanhaja pastoralists in the desert regions of the western Maghrib. Like any successful pairing of dissimilar entities, this marriage of convenience between Maliki reformism and tribal social mores involved compromise on both sides. Sources document the frustration felt by Shaykh Waggag and his disciples at the reluctance of their pastoralists followers to give up long-held practices and beliefs. In the following passage from Abu Yaqub Yusuf ibn az-Zayyat's (d. 628/1213), Kitab at-Tashawwuf ila rijal at-tasawwuf (Book of insight into the tradition bearers of Sufism), the Berber's of the Nafis valley ignore Waggag's attempt to portray himself as a little more than a teacher of the Shari'a and Prophetic Sunna. Instead, maintaining a stubborn (and ultimately well-justified) belief in his ability to work miracles (karamat), they treat him as a broker or a middle man who is well positioned to plead their case before God:
I heard Abu Musa Aissa ibn Abdellaziz al-Jazouli say: a drought occurred among the people living along the river Nafis. So they went to Waggag ibn Zulu al-Lamti in the Sus. When they reached him he asked, "What had happened to you?" They replied, "We have suffered drought and have come so that you might ask God to provide rain for us." "Verily" he exclaimed "you are like a group of people who see a honeycomb and assume that it contains honey! However, stay with me, for you are my guests." So he was their host for three days [the term mandated by the Sunna]. When they have resolved to leave and came to him to ask permission to return to their lands he said to them, "Be careful not to take the road that you came on, but take another instead, so you can take refuge from the rain in hollows and caves." When they left him God sent them clouds full of rain, which fell so copiously upon them that they did not arrive at their homes for six months."
Perhaps Abu Imran al-Fasi is best remembered in the historical record as the person who encouraged Yahya ibn Ibrahim, chief of the Gudala Sanhaja pastoralists of the Sahara desert, to seek a teacher among his disciples in Morocco. Eventually, this desert chieftain was put in touch with ibn Zallu's pupil Sidi Abdellah ibn Yassin al-Jazouli (d. 451/1036), who was to become the direct spiritual leader of al-Murabitun. Waggag instructed this latter to teach Islamic dogma and Maliki doctrine to the Veiled Sanhaja warriors becoming the spiritual leader of Almoravid movement. The ties that bound Almoravids to Sidi Waggag appear to have been as close as those between the disciples of Abu Imran al-Fasi and their master in al-Qayrawan. The brothers Sulayman and Abul Qacem ibn Addu, the eventual successors to Ibn Yassin as al-Murabitun's imams, were also students of Shaykh Waggag and continued to maintain close contact with Dar al-Murabitun even after their teachers death.
Another renown disciple of Sidi Abu Imran al-Fasi (d. 430/1039) from the Masmuda members of the High Atlas mountains, was named Abul Mawahib Sidi Abdellaziz Tunsi (d. 468/1053). Unlike Sidi Waggag al-Lamti (d. 445/1030), who founded mosques and ribats of learning in sparsely populated rural areas, Abul Mahawib Tunsi established a ribat at Aghmat Urika, then the premier urban centre of the Nafis valley, just south of the new Almoravid capital of Marrakech. In the sixth/twelfth century the geographer al-Idrissi depicted Aghmat as a town hidden in the shadow of the new empirical city but still prospering from the profits earned by its merchants. He tells us during Aghmat heyday in the early eleventh century the merchants of the town traded copper, brass, glass buttons and beads, turban cloth, woven textiles, spices, and iron tools for the gold, skins, and slaves of the middle Niger region. He also reports that their caravans could comprise as many as 187 camels, and that the wealthy of Aghmat advertised their riches on carved columns erected by the doors of their houses. Of Tunisian origin, Sidi Abul Mahawib Tunsi was so vexed by the mercantile ethics of highland Masmuda culture that he once exclaimed: "By giving them knowledge we have become like one who sells weapons to a thief!" A particularly irritating characteristics of these Berber merchants was their desire to turn any advantage, including their knowledge of the religion, into a profit –a detail which is remarked upon by at-Tadili in at-Tashawwuf,
It is said about Abdellaziz that the Masmuda learned jurisprudence (fiqh) from him and then returned to their homelands, [where they] went about among their people with what they had learned, becoming judges, notaries, preachers, and other occupations. [Once] Abdellaziz went on one of his journeys to the farthest Morocco, and whenever he passed by a group of people they came out and meet him. He found that his students had used what they had learned from him to gain authority and high positions. So he discontinued his teaching of jurisprudence and ordered his students to read the Ri'aya of al-Muhasibi and other of its type among the books of Sufism, until he found that, out of ignorance of jurisprudence, some of his students had began to practice usury. "Glory to God!" he said. "I disapproved of teaching jurisprudence out of fear that you would attain the material word with it, but you have [instead] lost the knowledge of right and wrong (al-halal wal haram)!"
The mosques and educational ribats established by the students of Sidi Abu Imran al-Fasi were widely distributed throughout Morocco. Through the efforts of teachers such as Shaykh Waggag and Abul Mawahib Tunsi, the disciples of Abu Imran were able to assert doctrinal authority over the rural inhabitants of Morocco south of the Atlas mountains. This was particularly the case with regard to the Veiled Sanhaja Almoravids, who had recently come to dominate the caravan trade across the Sahara desert. The righteous men who taught Maliki doctrine to these aloof and aristocratic imashaghen ("free" camel nomads) retained the loyalty and venerations to their disciples until the fall of Almoravid dynasty in 562/1147. Sidi Abdessalam Tunsi, a nephew of the above-mentioned Shaykh of Aghmat, was a favour advisor to the Almoravid ruling elite, despite his ascetic behaviour and disregard for social pretensions. Famous for both his exactness and his violent temper in defence of moral principles, the younger Tunsi once refused an inheritance of 1,ooo dirhams brought to him by his sister, saying: "[Why] have you come to me with these devils? I have no need of them!" When she insisted that he at least take the share allotted to him in the Quran he replied, "It is yours because it is in your hands" As for me, I have no idea what it is and will not take it from you!"
Way to the Tomb of Abul Mawahib Sidi Abdellaziz Tunsi, Aghmat, 30km away from Marrakech
Sidi Abdessalam's association with the politically powerful did not mean that he considered himself subservient to them. It is related that while the Shaykh was tending his garden, the emir Mazdali ibn Tiliggan, a noted companions of the Almoravid ruler Yusuf ibn Tashfin, rode up to him. After only the most perfunctory of greetings, the emir dismounted from his horse, put his burnous on the ground, and sat on it, expecting words of wisdom. Noting his student's lack of respect, Tunsi rebuked him, saying: "What are these actions, oh Mazdali? And where will you find a mantle to sit on tomorrow?" A similar story is told about Abu Zakariyya ibn Yughar (d. 537/1122), another "emir of Sanhaja" and disciple of Sidi Abul Mawahib Tunsi. When he first met this Shaykh, the Sanhaja notable was told that to provide his sincerity he would have to go to the countryside beyond the walls of the city, gather a load of wood, and carry it on his back into the middle of the government house, the Dar al-Imara, where he could be observed by all the members of his matrilineal clan. After Abu Zakariyya complied with these demeaning requirements, Abdessalam was so pleased with his new disciple and he honoured him by calling him malik az-zuhd (King of Asceticism).