A Brief Biography of the Late Ḥanafī Muḥaddith of Syria: Shaykh Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr
Today we witnessed another great loss for the Muslim ummah in the passing of one of its most erudite Ḥadīth scholars – Shaykh Dr. Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr.
His title and name: The Shaykh, al-ʿAllāmah, al-Muḥaddith, Dr. Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr (May Allāh have Mercy on him).
The noble Shaykh was born in Ḥalab (Aleppo) on the 17th of Safar in the year 1356 AH which is equivalent to 28th April 1937 CE.
He started his initial studies in Madrasah Sayf al-Dawlah in Ḥalab, followed on by completion of his initial studies at Madrasah al-Khusrawiyyah in the same city in 1954. The writer of these lines had the opportunity to visit this Madrasah in 2002. The Shaykh then completed his Bachelor’s degree from the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, in the year 1958, where he was awarded the grade of distinction. Shaykh ʿItr also completed a doctorate (PhD) at al-Azhar in 1964. The doctorate has been published under the title: Al-Imām al-Tirmidhī wa Muwāzanah bayna Jāmiʿihī wa ‘l-Ṣaḥiḥayn (Imām al-Tirmidhī and a comparison between his Jāmiʿ and the two Saḥiḥs (of al-Bukhāri and Muslim).
- In the Khusrawiyyah Madrasah in Ḥalab he studied under the leading Muḥaddith and Historian of Syria, Shaykh Muḥammad Rāghib al-Ṭabbākh, though he did not attain a scholarly Ijāzah from him due to Shaykh Ṭabbākh passing away before Shaykh ʿItr completed his studies under him;
- Shaykh Muḥammad Najīb Sirāj al-Dīn from Ḥalab;
- The late Muḥaddith of Ḥalab and a noted Walī of Allāh, Shaykh ʿAbdullāh Sirāj al-Dīn (d. 2002). The writer of these lines had the privilege of visiting the latter’s Madrasah, named as al-Shaʿbāniyyah as well as also visiting his grave in 2002. Shaykh ʿAbdullāh Sirāj al-Dīn was also the father in law of Shaykh ʿItr;
- Shaykh Muḥammad Asad al-ʿAbhujī;
- Shaykh ʿAbd al-Wahhāb Sakr;
- Shaykh Muḥammad al-Salqīnī;
- Shaykh Muḥammad Najīb al-Khayyāṭah;
- Shaykh Muḥammad Abu ‘l-Khayr Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn;
- Shaykh Bakrī Rajab; and
- Shaykh Muḥammad al-Milāḥ.
In al-Azhar University his teachers include:
- Shaykh ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ʿAbd al-Laṭīf;
- Shaykh Muḥammad Muḥyi ‘l-dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd who was his supervisor for his doctorate, and he studied Imām al-Suyūṭi’s Tadrīb al-Rāwī under him;
- Shaykh Muḥammad al-Samāḥi who was his second supervisor for his doctorate and he studied the Science of ḥadīth under him;
- Shaykh Muḥammad Abū Shahbah. The Shaykh studied Qur’anic studies under him; and
- Shaykh Musṭafā Mujāhid.
The Shaykh took Ijāzah (warrant of authorisation usually in ḥadīth) from a number of scholars among whom were the following:
- Shaykh ʿAbdullāh Sirāj al-Dīn of Ḥalab (d. 1422 AH);
- Shaykh Muḥammad al-Samāḥi (d. 1404 AH) of Cairo;
- Shaykh Muḥammad al-Makkī al-Kattānī (d. 1393 AH) of Damascus;
- Shaykh ʿAlawī ibn ʿAbbās al-Mālikī (d. 1391 AH) of Makkah;
- Shaykh Ibrāhīm al-Khutanī (d. 1389 AH);
- Shaykh Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān al-Aʿẓamī (d. 1412 AH) from Azamgarh, India; and
- Shaykh Muḥammad Yāsīn al-Fādānī (d. 1410 AH) of Makkah, who was recognised as the Musnid al-Dunyā (the one who transmitted the chains of ḥadīth transmission from the largest number of scholars in his age).
The institutes the Shaykh taught in:
- Madinah University from 1965 to 1967. During this period the Shaykh edited a new edition of the famous Muqaddimah ibn al-Ṣalāḥ using some original manuscripts;
- He started teaching in Damascus University from 1967 and taught subjects like ʿUlum al-Ḥadīth and ʿUlum al-Qur’ān in the Faculty of Sharīʿah. He taught here until his retirement;
- He also gave lessons in Aleppo University, Umm Durmān University in Sudan, Umm al-Qurā University in Makka, Muḥammad ibn Saʿūd University in Riyadh, Imām al-Awzāʿī University in Lebanon, Kuwait University, Dār al-ʿUlūm Nadwat al-ʿUlama’ in Lucknow, India, Kulliyat al-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyyah wa ‘l-ʿArabiyyah in Dubai, Marmara University in Istanbul and elsewhere.
His literary works:
The Shaykh composed some unique works and edited some classical works too. There are at least 63 invaluable works produced by his expansive pen. Among them are the following titles:
Al-Imām al-Tirmidhī wa Muwāzanah bayna Jāmiʿihī wa ‘l-Ṣaḥiḥayn (Imām al-Tirmidhī and a comparison between his Jāmiʿ and the two Ṣaḥiḥs (of al-Bukhārī and Muslim)), Manhaj al-Naqd fi ʿUlūm al-Ḥadīth (The methodology of criticism in ḥadīth sciences), Muʿjam al-Muṣṭalaḥāt al-Ḥadīthiyyah (The compendium of hadith terms), ʿUlūm al-Qur’ān al-Karīm (The sciences of the Noble Qur’ān), Usūl al-Jarḥ wa ‘l-Ta’dīl (The principles of the dispraise and accreditation of ḥadīth narrators), al-Ḥajj wa ‘l-ʿUmrah fi ‘l-Fiqh al-Islāmī (Hajj and ʿUmrah in Islamic jurisprudence – available also in English), ʿUlūm al-Ḥadīth of Imām ibn al-Ṣalāḥ, al-Riḥlah fī Ṭalab al-Ḥadīth (Travelling in search of ḥadīth) by al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādi, Sharḥ ʿIlal al-Tirmidhī (a commentary on hidden defects compiled by Imām al-Tirmidhī) by Imām ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī, Nuzhat al-Naẓar fī Tawḍīḥ Nukhbat al-Fikr (The pleasure of the gaze in exposition of the select thoughts) by al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Irshād Ṭullab al-Ḥaqā’iq (Guiding the seekers of truths) by Imām al-Nawawī, Manāhij al-Muḥaddithīn (The methodology of the ḥadīth scholars), Mādhā ʿan al-Mar’ah (What about women?), Fikr al-Muslimīn wa Taḥaddiyyāt al-Alf al-Thālithah (Muslim thought and the challenges of the third millennium). The Shaykh also wrote a four-volume commentary to the Bulūgh al-Marām of al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar with the title: Iʿlām al-Anām (Announcement to mankind).
The Shaykh had many male and female students from the Arab world and elsewhere. From the mid-1990s until the beginning of the Syrian civil war of 2011 a number of Western based scholars and students of knowledge also attended some of the select lessons of Shaykh ʿItr. Our younger brother, Shaykh Sadiq Ahmed from Birmingham, England, had the good fortune of studying under the Shaykh between 1996-1998 in Damascus while studying in al-Maʿhad al-Fatḥ al-Islāmī. He covered selections from Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri, Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, al-Hidāyah of al-Marghīnānī and the Nuzhat al-Naẓar of al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī under Shaykh ʿItr. The writer of these lines also had the privilege to cover the latter work with Shaykh ʿItr and attained a warrant of authorisation (Ijāzah) with his named brother from Shaykh ʿItr.
What we note about the Shaykh is that he was immensely knowledgeable, humble, a true lover of the Prophet ﷺ, and he was very generous and kind with his valuable time; especially to foreign students of knowledge who had travelled a long distance to sit and learn at his blessed feet.
The Shaykh passed away at the age of 83 after some bouts of ill health on the 23rd of September 2020 (5th of Safar 1442AH). His passing away was a major loss to the world of Islamic scholarship. May Allāh have mercy upon him. Āmīn.
A sample of his handwriting:
Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmed
The following is a short video clip of the Janaza of Shaykh Nurud-Din Itr: