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Cairo's Historic Cemetery of al-Suyuti Conflicting Claims.

SHAYKH JALAL AL-DIN AL-SUYUTI

15th C religious scholar buried in the hawsh of Qusun. Famous for his numerous writings and religious compilations and for a book on the wonders of Cairo entitled Husn al-Muhadara. The current shrine and mosque is dated to 1211/1796-7 and is under the supervision of the Awqaf. It was recently whitewashed twice using donations, one of them from sisters from Syria claimimg to be descendants of al-Suyuti.  It is infrequently visited by tourists from India and Pakistan. Used to hold a hadra during the mawlid of al-SayyidaA’isha, now cancelled. This section of the cemetery started to be called after al-Suyuti in the Ottoman period.

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The Shrine of Sayyidi Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505)

Identification

Al-Suyuti was the most prolific writer of the 15th century. His writingS in the field of Islamic Sciences include some 723 works that range from short monographs to monumental volumes. Many of al-Suyuti’s books are published and widely available. His ten-volume hadith work Jami` al-jawami`  and his Qur'anic exegesis Tafsir al-jalalayn are two classical examples of his contributions. He also wrote a description of Cairo entitled Husn al-muhadara fi akhbar misr wa al-qahira.

Abu’l-Fadl 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti was born in 849 H/ 1445 AD in Cairo and was raised by Shaykh Kamal al-Din b. al-Humam after his father died when he was only five years old. He memorized the entire Qur'an at the age of eight, after which he devoted himself to the study of Islamic sciences under prominent Shafi’i and Maliki shaykhs of his time. He sought knowledge at various centers of learning around the Islamic world and returned to Cairo where he first taught at the Shaykhuniyya madrasa then the Baybarsiyya. By the age of forty, al-Suyuti deserted the people for the seclusion of AL-Rawda Island on the river Nile, thus staying away from his former acquaintances, and it was there that he authored most of his books and treatises. Al-Suyuti died in 911/1505 and was buried in his father’s grave in Hawsh Qusun. Funerary prayer was also held for him in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

The most famous of Imam al-Suyuti's students were the historians, al-Dawudi (died 945/1538), author Tabaqat al-mufassirin and Ibn Iyas (died 930 /1524), author of Bada’i' -al-Zuhur.

The section of the Southern Cemetery within the scope of this study is called Sayyidi Jalal after Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti who is also popularly called al-Asyuti by the people of the cemetery.

Myth and Ritual

We know that the shrine of al-Suyuti was a popular site of visitation in the Ottoman period and that it was a recipient of awqaf money, most notably the funds endowed by Masih Pasha and mentioned in the waqfiyya of the mosque he built for Nur al-Din al-Qarafi north of al-Suyuti. Al-Suyuti also appears frequently within the list of popular contingency shrines to which awqaf money would be allocated if the original fund recipient becomes redundant. Travelers ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nablusi (who visited Egypt at the beginning of the 12th century H(c. 1790) and Abu’l-‘Abbas al-Fasi (who visited Egypt in 1211/1796) both visited the shrine and described it as a popular vibrant site of veneration.

In the second half of the 19th century, Ali Mubarak described it as Zawiyat al-Suyuti. He also reported that it was a functioning mosque and that it contained the cenotaph of the knowledgeable Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti. Mubarak quotes al-Sha’rani and clarifies that al-Suyuti was buried in hawsh Qusun (Qusun’s graveyard) which is located outside Bab al-Qarafa. He further mentions that the shaykh’s marked grave was visited by people, and that a dome was built above it with the revenue of a mill and two houses consecrated for its upkeep. The construction date of the mausoleum, 1211/1796, is inscribed above the qubba’s door. He also mentions that it had a mawlid but does not describe it much.

Ahmad Taymur, the poet and scholar who in 1927 wrote a small publication verifying the site of al-Suyuti’s grave, mentions a weekly hadra that had been discontinued by the time he wrote his book. He confirms, however, that the mawlid was still being held in mid Sha’ban.

According to the cemetery residents, al-Suyuti’s mawlid continued until recently although it used to be a modest affair that took place on the same night as that of the mawlid of al-Sayyida ‘A’isha. More a hadra than a fully-fledged mawlid, its highlight was a dhikr ceremony in which devotees stood in two lines opposite each other singing and swaying to the religious music.

The tradition goes that the Fatiha should be recited over his grave 111 times and that al-Suyuti would recite the prayer invoking blessing on the prophet 12 times and on the 13th time he would have been transported to Mecca.

The shrine is currently closed although those intent on visiting it (they are now mostly students from south-east Asia) can get the key from the Awqaf caretaker who is based in al-Rifa’i Mosque in al-Qal’a Square. These visitors are not frequent but they are regular enough to be noted by the area’s residents as al-Suyuti’s most ardent devotees. One group of students visiting from India said they visited him in honour of his scholarship and piety but that they had no fixed visitation times. They said that he is believed to have seen the prophet 75 times in his sleep.

The shrine is generally not very popular among Egyptians and most manifestations of veneration come from Arabs and foreign Muslims. In 2011, its interior was whitewashed and its kiswa was renewed by two women from Syria who claimed to be descendants of al-Suyuti.  Then its exterior was painted by a Sudanese, then by a Pakistani. These works were done with the consent of the Ministry of Endowments.

Description

The building bears the construction date of 1211/1796. It is an oblong space divided longitudinally into two sections by a four-arched arcade. The space is roofed with wooden beams except for the bay in the south-eastern corner which is topped with pointed dome with a ribbed exterior. Under the dome , and enclosed within a wooden screen is the maqsura draped with green cloth. The entrance is through an arched door within a trilobed recess in the north-western façade.

Except for the foundation plaque above the entrance the exterior of this simple structure is almost completely void of decoration. The interior is painted in modern tones of green and off-white. The lower section of the wall around the mausoleum is painted with a trompe l’oeuil design emulating a marble dado while the squinches in the transitional zone below the dome are painted in white with the names of the Rashidun  against a green background.

 

Bibliography

Al-Ghazzi, Najm al-Din, Al-kawakib al-sa'ira bi-a’yan al-ma’a al-‘ashira (Beirut, 1979).

Mubarak, A. Al-khiṭaṭ al-tawfiqiyya al-jadida li-miṣr al-qahira wa muduniha wa biladiha al-qadīma wa al-shahīra (Cairo, 1980), vol. 6, pp. 88-9

Al-Nablusí, `Abd al-Ghaní b. Ismá`íl, Al-Haqíqa wa’l-majáz fi’l-rihla ilá bilád al-shám wa’l-Hijáz (Cairo, 1986).

Sartain, E.M., Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (Cambridge University Press, 1975)

Al-Sha’raní, ’Abd al-Wahhab b. Ahmad, Al-Tabaqat al-kubra, ed. K. al-Mansur (Beirut, 1997).

Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Díi `Abd al-Rahman, Husn al-Muhadara fi akhbar misr wa’l-qahira, ed. K. al-Mansur (Beirut, 1997).

Taymur, Ahmad, Qabr al-imam al-suyuti wa tahqiq mawdi’ih (Cairo, 1346 H)

 

Appendix

Summary of documents in Darih Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti File

Idarat al-Madafin wa’l-Adriha, File no. 85; Tawliya File no. 1734 in Idarat al-Awaqf w’al-Muhasaba; Wizarat al-Awqaf (Ministry of Endowments)

 

No.

Date

Correspondents

Summary

503

30 Mar 1965

Khadim to Adriha & Madafin  (A&M)

Khadim (Sayyid ‘Abd al-Hadi Zaydan (S.A.Z)) requests new lock .

519

18 Oct 1965

Adriha & Madafin to Handasa

Shrine in bad structural condition. Cracks in walls.

 

 

Khadim to A&M

Legal document that S.A. Z. does not have another job and his working hours are 8.00 – 16.00.

788

25 Jul 1966

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Awqaf al-Qahira

Mudir ‘Am al-Awqaf should inspect shrine.

1101

19 Oct 1966

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Awqaf al-Qahira & Handasa

Tawliya says that this is a waqf khayri and budget for restoration can come out of the general budget.

1218

15 Nov 1966

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Awqaf al-Qahira & Handasa

Tawliya says that this is a waqf khayri and budget for restoration can come out of the general budget.

414

7 May 1967

A&M to Mudir ‘Am al-Mizaniyya (Finances)

Request for allotting LE 450 for restoration.

435

10 May 1967

A&M to Handasa

Request for allotting LE 450 for restoration.

629

2 Jul 1967

A&M to Mudiriyyat Awqaf al-Qahira

Request for allotting LE 450 for restoration.

427

20 Apr 1970

Mushrif over Imam Shafi’i area to A&M

Shrine in bad structural condition. Cracks in walls.

380

20 Apr 1970

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Awqaf al-Qahira

Shrine should be inspected.

807

25 Jul 1970

Layla ‘Ali Ibrahim (?) to A&M

‘Ali Abu Sibha appointed khadim of shrine.

709

26 Jul 1970

A&M to Layla ‘Ali Ibrahim

‘Ali Abu Sibha is the turabi of the area. (*not appointed? SAZ’s name continues to appear.)

 

2 Sept 1973

Khadim to A&M

S.A.Z.: Windows  and door damaged – should be replaced. Door could be stolen.

1134

6 Sept 1973

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Awqaf al-Qahira

Shrine should be inspected.

99

22 Sept 1973

Handasa to A&M

Engineering Dept inspection: Lower wall sections decaying, plaster damaged and deteriorated. Repair cost LE 300.

914

26 Sept 1973

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Awqaf al-Qahira

In response to request that LE 300 required for restoration be taken from the revenue of the waqf – that the revenue goes directly to the general budget and the funds should be taken from there.

41

8 Jan 1977

Khadim to A&M

Sayyid ‘Abd al-Hadi Zaydan requests that tiles should be changed and new windows fixed.

97

23 Jan 1977

A&M to Mudir ‘Am Maslahat al-Athar al-Misriyya (Antiquities)

Athar should do the restoration.

232

9 Feb 1977

Antiquities to A&M

Shrine not a listed monument.

197

15 Feb 1977

A&M to Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba - Tawliya

LE 300 should be allotted for restoration

269

3 Mar 1977

A&M to Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba - Tawliya

Inquiry about the waqf terms

299

9 Mar 1977

Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba – Tawliya to A&M

The waqf file no. is 1734 and it is a waqf khayri whose revenue goes to the general budget

382

24 Mar 1977

A&M to Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba - Tawliya

LE 300 should be allotted for restoration from the general budget

431

30 Mar 1977

A&M to Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba - Tawliya

Inquiring about the section of the revenue allotted to the shrine according to the conditions of the waqf

603

9 Apr 1977

Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba – Tawliya to A&M

This is a waqf khayri whose revenue is not known as it goes directly to the general budget

556

24 Apr 1977

A&M to Mudir ‘Am al-Muhasba - Tawliya

Funds for restoration should be allotted from excess from revenue (fa’id al-ri’)

 

10 May 1979

Khadim & area supervisor to A&M

Inventory & measured sketch plan of shrine. Has electricity – no water. Muhammad Hamid ‘Ali (‘amil al-madfan) resides there – employee of ministry and in charge of ‘uhda. Madfan roofed with wooden beams. Has a wooden door and 6 windows. Contains a bed and personal items belonging to ‘amil, and floor has rugs. Religious activities take place here and the area inspector is required to investigate what happens exactly. (Note: Inventory number mentioned for the structure is 16/28 but this currently belongs to another burial lot).

774

25 Jun 1979

Khadim to A&M

S.A.Z informing that a new kiswa has been presented to the shrine – made of green silk.

956

25 Jun 1979

A&M to Mudir Idarat al-Kiswa

An inspector should go to inspect the kiswa and add it to the ‘uhda.

 

20 Dec 1979

 

Inventory of contents of shrine. 43 items. Total value LE 106.232

1087/ 2212

17 Sep 1980 / 7 Oct 1980

Mudir Idarat al-Adriha to A&M

Request for a copy of Waqf document of Hajj ‘Ali Abu Sibha – Bab ‘Ali – 10 Muharram 1232 H – reg. no. 2840/37 qadim. Was sent and placed in file on 7 Oct 1980.

Summary of waqf and legal actions:

A property belonging to ‘Ali Abu Sibha son of Muhammad Abu Sibha consisting of a qa’a (hall) and hujra (room), hawsh and latrine in Misr al-Mahrusa in the vicinity of  Bab al-Qarafa next to Qa’at al-Qarafi. Its ri’ (revenue) is to be spent on the shrine of Sayyidi Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti on mats and oil and one Quran reciter.  According to Law no. 246 of 1953 – later revised by law 547 of 1953, than law no 272 of 1959, the Waqf Ministry is now the nazir (overseer) of the waqf and has taken charge of it in accordance with Law 44 of 1962.** Arabic transcript of hujja below – shows that the waqf itself is dated to 4 Shawwal 1206 H.

 

21 Nov 1992

Site inspection committee to A&M & Head of Committee for inventory of madfans.

Madfan Sayyid Jalal was inspected and the committee recommends that the names of beneficiaries are revised and documented in official records.

 

10 Jan 1993

 

Copy of id card & bayan hala (HR letter) of Muhammad Hamid ‘Ali Yusuf – khadim of Suyuti Shrine.

131 / 54

20 Feb 2006 / 2 Mar 2006

Huda & Muna Jalal al-Suyuti to Mudir ‘Am A&M

Descendents of Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti informing the ministry that they have fixed the doors, windows, shroud and other items in the shrine and put up wooden frames (items in frames?). The repairs cost LE 2000 and the frames cost LE 400. The latter should be added to the ‘uhda of the ‘amil Hasan Muhammad Jabr. They are also willing to fund other repairs in the future.

Arabic transcript of Hujja (Endowment Deed) held in Darih Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti File

Idarat al-Madafin wa’l-Adriha, File no. 85; Tawliya File no. 1734 in Idarat al-Awaqf w’al-Muhasaba; Wizarat al-Awqaf (Ministry of Endowments)

صورة طبق الأصل من الحجة الأصلية

 

محفوظة بوزارة الأوقاف ، الإدارة العامة للمدافن والأضرحة

ملف ضريح سيدى جلال السيوطى، تحت رقم 85

 

  • نمرة مسلسلة:-  2840/ 37 قديم
  • اسم الواقف:-  الحاج/ على أبو سبحة التربى
  • اسم المحكمة:-   الباب العالى بمصر
  • تاريخ الحجة:-   10 محرم سنة 1232 هـ
  • عدد صفحاتها:- صفحة واحدة فقط

 

سطر1: بالباب العالى أعلاه الله تعالى وشرفه بمصر المحروسة لدى

سطر2:  ماذون سيدنا ومولانا فخر قضاة الاسلام الناظر فى الأحكام الشرعية قايمقام

سطر3:  يومئذ بمصر المحمية الموقع خطه الكريم أعلاه دام علاه امين بحضرة

سطر4: كل من المكرم الحاج ايوب الدخاخنى بن المرحوم سليمان اوده باشى والمكرم

سطر5: الحاج محمد الساداتى السيوفى بن المرحوم الحاج حسن الساداتى الركيب والمكرم

سطر6:  رضوان الصراف بن المرحوم الحاج بدوى الصراف كان والمكرم وهبه بن

سطر7: المرحوم سالم دام كمالهم امين اشهد على نفسه المكرم الحاج على

سطر8: ابو سبحه التربى بن المرحوم محمد ابو سبحه بنورة الاشهاد الشرعى فى كمال

سطر9:  صحته وسلامته وطواعيته واختياره ورغبته فى الخير واراداته له

سطر10:  وجواز الاشهاد عليه شرعا انه وقف وحبس وسبل وأيد وأكد وخلد

سطر11:  وتصدق لله سبحانه وتعالى بجميع القاعه وحجرتها الكاينه

سطر12: بمصر المحروسه قريبا من باب القرافه الصغرى المشتمل ذلك بدلاله الحجه

سطر13:  الحجه الشرعيه المسطره من هذه المحكمه المؤرخه فى خامس عشرى محرم سنة اثنين

سطر14: وثلاثين وماتين والف على الباب الأصلى وقطعة حوش وحفرة مرحاض

سطر15: وقاعه ومنافع وحقوق المجاور لذلك لقاعة القرافى ولمكان الحرمه صالحه

سطر16: ................  وللطريق وفيه الباب ولذلك نمرة فى محله تدل عليه المعلوم   

سطر17: ذلك شرعا والجارى ذلك فى ملك المكرم الحاج على ابو سبحه الواقف المذكور

سطر18: ويده وحوزه وتصرفه الشرعى بمفرده الى تاريخه تدله لذكره الحجة المحكى تاريخها

سطر19:  اعلاه المختوم على هامشها بمعنى ذلك وله ولاية ايقاف ذلك بالطريق

سطر20:  الشرعى لدلالة ما شرح وقفا صحيحا شرعيا وهبا صريحا مرعيا وصدقة

سطر21: جارية على الدوام بحكم جملة الاتباع ذكره ولا يوهب ولا يوقف ولا يناقل

سطر22: به ولا ببعضه قايما على اصوله سبلا على سبله محفوظا على شروطه الآتى 

سطر23:  ذكرها فيه ابد الابدين ودهر الداهرين الى أن يرث الله الارض ومن عليها

سطر24: وهو خير الوارثين انشا الواقف المذكور وقفه هذا من تاريخه على 

سطر25: ان يصرف ريع ذلك على مقام وضريح المرحوم الشيخ محمد جلال الدين

سطر26: السيوطى الكاين مقامه وضريحه بالقرافه المعروفه بجلال الدين  

سطر27: فى ثمن حصر وزيت وقود وقارى يقرا على المقام والضريح المذكورين

سطر28: فان تعذر الصرف لذلك صرف ريع ذلك للفقرا والمساكين من المسلمين 

سطر29:  اينما كانوا وحيث ما وجدوا يجرى الحال فى ذلك كذلك الى ان يرث الله

سطر30:  الارض ومن عليها وهو خير الوارثين وشرط الواقف المذكور اعلاه

سطر31:  فى وقفه هذا شروطا منها ان يبدا من ريعه بعمارته ومرمته ولو

سطر32: تصرف فى ذلك جميع غلته ومنها ان النظر على ذلك من تاريخه لنفسه 

سطر33: ايام حياته ثم من بعده لاولاده بسوية تم من بعدهم لاولادهم واولاد 

سطر34: اولادهم وذريتهم ونسلهم وعقبهم طبقه بعد طبقه ونسلا بعد نسل 

سطر35: وجيلا بعد جيل الى حين انقراضهم اجمعين يكون النظر على ذلك لمن

سطر36: يقرره حاكم المسلمين الحنفى بمصر حين ذلك شروطا شرعية بأعرافه لذلك  

سطر37:  الاعتراف الشرعى وسلم وقفه هذا لمسئول شرعى إقامه عليه ليتم أمر

سطر38: التسجيل فاعترف المسئول المرقوم بتسلمه فارغا غير منقول بما يمنع

سطر39: صحة التسلم شرعا تسلما شرعيا ثم عين للواقف المذكور الرجوع عن وقفه  

سطر40:  وعوده الى ملكه كما كان متمسكا فى ذلك بعدم اللزوم على قول الامام

سطر41: الاعظم ابو حنيفة النعمان فما فرضه المتولى المرقوم مستمسكا بالصحة

سطر42: واللزوم على قول الامامين الصاحبين الامام ابو الحسن والامام ابو يوسف

سطر43: وتخاصما وترافعا لدى مأذون مولانا افندى المومى اليه وسألاه من قبل

سطر44: الفقيه بينهما فعاين فى جانب الوقف المرقوم رجحا قانونا وبرهانا

سطر45: جليا فاستخار الله تعالى فعاين فى جانب الوقف رجحا قانونا وحكم 

سطر46: بصحة الوقف المرقوم فى خصومته وعمومته عالما بالخلاف فى ذلك بعد

سطر47: ان ثبت مضمون الوقف والشروط بها ........... شهوده حكما شرعيا

سطر48: فقد تم هذا الوقف ولزم ونفذ حكمه وتم وصار وقفا من اوقاف الله الاكيدة

سطر49: مدفوعا عنه بقوتها لدين فلا يحل لأحد يؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر ان يغيره

سطر50: او يبدله فمن بدله بعد ما سمعه فانما اثمه على الذين يبدلونه ان الله سميع

سطر51: عليم وبه ضل وحرر ورقم وسطر فى رابع شوال سنه ست وماتين والف

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* ملاحظة:-  يوجد فى أعلى الحجة على الشمال ختم فخر قضاة الاسلام الناظر فى الأحكام الشرعية قايمقام يومئذ بمصر المحمية وهو (محمد حسن الساداتى)