He is Ahmad ibn `Abdur-Rahman ibn Muhammad Al-Banna As-Sa`ati Ash-Shamshiri Al-Masri Al-Hanbali. The Imam was born in the year 1301 AH in the town of Shamshirah in the province of West Mudiriyyah in the country of Egypt and had righteous parents.
Early Life and Upbringing
In his early years, at the hands of his parents, he memorised the Qur’an before completing his adolescence. The Imam studied the rules of tajwid from his parents but also from Shaikh Ahmad Rifa`ii at the town kuttab for students. It was the beginning of a life of service.
After his perfection of the tajwid of the Qur’an and completion of the recitals of Hafs from `Asim and Warsh from Nafi` and then headed to Alexandria to study fiqh, creed and other sciences in the Masjid of Shaikh Ibrahim Basha and excelled.
By the year 1322, he had been classed as one of the scholars and at the age of 21 was on the way to becoming a marja`. In his spare time, Imam Al-Banna learned about watches, repairing them and the mechanisms connected to them. Due to this, friends and colleagues gave him the name As-Sa`ati (“the Horologist” or “the scholar of time keeping”).
It was also in the year 1322 that he married his noble wife. They had four children together. Although a Hanbali by madhhab and creed, he chose to have some of his sons go to madrasahs of another madhhab.
His son, Nasib Hasan al-Banna who later founded the group Ikhwan ul-Muslimin) studied in a Hanafi madrasah while Nasib `Abdur-Rahman al-Banna studied the Maliki fiqh along with his sister Fatimah. Nasib Muhammad Al-Banna studied the Hanbali madhhab in the madrasahs of his father and colleagues along with his brother Nasib `Abdul Basit and Zainab but Nasib Ahmad Jamal ud-Din Al-Banna studied the Shafi`ii fiqh along with his sister Fawziyyah.
Imam Ahmad Al-Banna encouraged his children to memorise the Qur’an and all texts to do with the fiqh to which they adhered. The sons and daughters passed with flying colours and studied not only at home but also at other locations with the blessing of their father.
A practical man, the Imam made sure that his sons and daughters had the trade of horology and also bookbinding so as to protect them from being beholden to any government or group in teaching and preaching.
Cairo became the place where the Imam moved with his family and where his teaching began. He found a place to teach on the Azhar campus and although not happy with the direction the institution was taking, he agreed to teach.
He set out editing works and became only the second commentary on the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and its’ chief annotator in this age. He also printed and wrote commentaries on numerous books, such as Shaikh Ahmad Zarruq’s Al-Fawa’id ul-Latifah.
The Imam printed, commented upon and also gave rulings through numerous books but was very modest on the topic of answering questions. He witnessed the heady years in the run up to the destruction of the Ottomans, the abolition of the Egyptian monarchy and the nosedive of Egyptian literacy upon the arrival of communism in Egypt.
Most of his time he spent teaching books, editing works, printing books to preserve Islam in Egypt from becoming secularised and resisting legal relativism. His total written legacy, commentaries and rulings comes to just under fifty in number.
Imam Ahmad `Abdur-Rahman Al-Banna died in 1378 AH in Cairo and was buried not far from the crypt of Imam Ash-Shafi`ii next to his son Hasan al-Banna.