One of the Maraji` of Sham
He Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti ad-Dimashqi ash-Shafi`ii. Coming from a family where his father was a chief judge under the Ottomans (the great Mulla Ramadan al-Bouti), one might think that this dynamic marja` could merely rely on his family lineage. However, this man has his own story.
Early life and upbringing
Muhammad Sa`id al-Bouti was born in the year 1346 in the village of Jilka in Turkish Kurdistan. He left for Damascus with his father in the year 1350 AH and began a process that would lead to him becoming one of the foremost Shafi`ii scholars today.
The Imam studied at the Institute of Islamic Guidance and then after that joined Al-Azhar in Egypt and completed his studies in the year 1372 AH. Upon returning to Damascus, he became chief teacher at the University of Damascus in the year 1377 AH.
One year later in 1378 AH, he was teaching religious education in the city of Homs and this carried on until not long after, he decided to head back to Egypt and pursue higher studies in Usul ul-Fiqh and Usul itself.
The subject of his wider research was the principle of Maslahah in the Revealed Law. This principle is especially fleshed out and utilised by the Hanbali scholars and to a lesser extent the Maliki scholars.
A worrying trend, however was that people began to use this principle to state that certain aspects of the Revealed Law either should not be implemented at all or that they are outmoded and should be updated.
This attempt at pruning the foundational principles of the Revealed Law led to the research done by the Imam, which earned him a high graduation score and also countless accolades.
In the year 1395 AH, he was now back in Damascus at the College of Revealed Law in the University of Damascus and was a chief teacher and in 1397 AH, he was made the head of the department of Creed and Comparative Religion.
Working with the Laity
After a long career in teaching high level subjects to tomorrows judges, legal scholars and marja` people, the Imam began to give general lectures to the public in the year 1402 AH. He started with two weekly lectures that attracted a large amount of youth and also the elderly eager to hear knowledge.
Starting in his own local masjid, Masjid ul-Iman, the Imam also included teaching in his father’s masjid before finally filling the halls of the Umayyad Family Central Masjid with his lectures on the Aphorisms of Ibn Ata`illah.
A harsh critic of reformists and legal anarchists, the Imam stood in brazen opposition to the Ikhwan ul-Muslimin inspired failed coup in 1403 AH in which thousands were incarcerated and also killed in mass by the government of then president, Hafiz Al-Assad.
The same condemnation and warning would be given by the Imam in the year 1432 AH when the Arab Spring begun and again more innocent people suffered at the hands of the government of Bashar Al-Assad and also rebel groups.
A large corpus of more than 50 books have been left behind by the Imam, some of which are included below:
1) Ma` An-Nas. Among the People. This is a two volume compilation of rulings on diverse global topics and some of the answers, then and now, garner great controversy.
2) Fiqh us-Sirat in-Nabawiyyah Ma` Mujiz Li-Tarikh il-Khilafat ir-Rashidah. The Understanding of the Prophetic Sirah upto and including the Rightly Guided Successors.
This is a summarised text including the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as well as the first four successors.
3) Dawabit ul-Maslahah Fish-Shari`at il-Islamiyyah. The Impediments and Uses of Maslahah in the Revealed Law. This book covers the issue of maslahah, its’ understanding, abuses, proper use and examples of its’ application in relevant circumstances.
4) Kubra Al-Yaqiniyyat il-Kawniyyah Wujud ul-Khaliq wa Wazifat il-Makhluq. The Greatest Universal Sureties of the Creator’s Existence and the Creation’s Function. This is a large work on theology but covers ontology, cosmology and also answers issues regarding infinite regression, Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, Lemarkism as well as a short discussion on speculative theology.
5) Muhadarat fil Fiqh il-Muqarin. Meetings Around the Issue of Comparative Fiqh. A work covering shared and differed in issues between the four schools and explaining the origin of those differences as well as giving his ruling on which is the preferred.
6) Al-Lamadhhabiyyah Akhtaru Bad`atin Tahaddad ush-Shari`at il-Islamiyyah. Not Following the Madhhabs is the Greatest Innovation Threatening the Revealed Law. This is a scathing critique of Salafiyyah reformists and legal anarchists and this even includes an alarming dialogue with a legal anarchist by the name of Al-Albani.
7) As-Salafiyyah Marhalatun Zamaniyyatun Mubarakatun wa Laysa Madhhabun Islamiyyun. The Salaf was a Blessed Time Period and Not a Madhhab in Islam. This critique examines and also debunks the myth often espoused that merely opening the source texts of Revealed Law will render an immediate answer without any recourse to legal authorities for explanation.
The aforementioned books and others have been translated into English, German and French and numerous people have benefited from the words of the Marja`.
On the date of 10 Jumada Al-Uwla 1434 AH, assassins set off off a bomb in Masjid al-Iman in the neighbourhood of Al-Mazra`ah in Syria, killing more than 15 people, one of them being Imam Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti.