Imām Ibn Kamāl Pāshā al-Ḥanafī: Shaykh al-Islām of The Ottoman Empire

Imām Ibn Kamāl Pāshā al-Ḥanafī
Shaykh al-Islām of The Ottoman Empire
A Brief Biography
By Abu Dawud Mahbub ibn ‘Abd al-Kari

Name, Birth & Family

He is the great imām, the erudite scholar, polymath and prolific writer: Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Sulaymān ibn Kamāl Pāshā (D.940AH) from the Turkish lands. He was born during the year 873AH in the Turkish city of Tokat (it has also been said that he was born in Edirne). He was raised in an honourable and respectable household. His father Sulaymān Chalabī ibn Kamāl Pāshā was a commander of the Ottoman Islamic imperial army during the era of Sulṭān Muḥammad al-Fātiḥ and was present with the army of the Sanjak of Amasya during the conquering of Constantinople. His mother hailed from a house of knowledge, with her father being the greatly learned virtuous scholar Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad, famously known as Ibn Kūbalū (D.874AH), who was given the official role of Kazasker by Sulṭān Muḥammad al-Fātiḥ. His grandfather was Kamāl Pāshā, a vizier (wazīr) of the Ottoman empire and someone who had a hand in the nurturing of Sulṭān Bāyazīd Khān the Second. Thus he became well-known (ascribed to his grandfather) as Ibn Kamāl Pāshā, Kamāl Pāshā Zādah, or Ibn al-Kamāl al-Wazīr. He was also known as Muftī al-Thaqalayn due to his vast encompassing knowledge of the numerous Islamic sciences along with the strength of his adjudications in matters of dispute and the uniqueness of his rejoinders and analyses.

Inspired To Seek Knowledge

Ibn Kamāl Pāshā narrates regarding himself that he was with Sulṭān Bāyazīd Khān during a journey. The vizier at the time was Ibrāhīm Pāshā ibn Khalīl Pāshā and he was of high rank. There was also a commander of very high rank at that time, whose name was Aḥmad Bak ibn Awranūs. No other commander would go ahead of him.
Ibn Kamāl Pāshā says: I was standing on my feet in front of the mentioned vizier [facing him] and the commander was sitting next to him. Then a man that was from the ʿulamā’ – who was of shabby appearance and in mediocre dress – sat in front of the mentioned commander, yet nobody prevented him from doing so. I was quite taken aback by this so I asked some of my companions: “Who is this person that has sat in front of the commander?”; one answered: “He is a man of knowledge (ʿālim) and a teacher in the Madrasah of Filibe (Plovdiv) called Mawlā Luṭfī”. I asked: “What is his stipend?”; he answered: “Thirty dirhams”. I asked: “Then how is it that he is sitting in front of this commander and his rank is of such a degree!?”; my companion answered: “Indeed the ʿulamā’ are revered because of their knowledge – if he was behind them, neither the commander nor the vizier would approve of that”.
Ibn Kamāl Pāshā says: I pondered to myself and thought: I will never reach the rank of this mentioned commander in terms of authority whereas if I devote myself to knowledge it would be possible to reach the rank of this mentioned ʿālim. Thus I resolved thereafter to dedicate to sacred knowledge.
Ibn Kamāl Pāshā then says: After we returned from the journey I placed myself in the service (khidmah) of the mentioned Mawlā [Luṭfī] and that was when he was given the madrasah – Dār al-Ḥadīth, in the city of Erdine and he was assigned forty dirhams every day. I studied under him the marginalia (ḥawāshī) on Sharḥ al-Maṭāliʿ.

Appointed Positions & Roles

He was appointed as a teacher in the Madrasah of ʿAlī Bak, known as al-Madrasat al-Ḥijriyyah, during the year 911AH. In 917AH he was appointed to teach at the madrasah of Isḥāq Pāshā in Skopje, and then in 918AH at al-Madrasat al-Ḥalabiyyah in Erdine. He then became a teacher at one of the the two adjacent madrasahs in Erdine, followed by one of the eight madrasahs of Istanbul. He became the Qāḍī of Erdine during the year 922AH when Sulṭān Salīm the First returned from his journey to Chaldiran. That same year he was given the official role of Kazasker in Anatolia, and later on (also that year) he travelled with Sulṭān Salīm the First to Cairo. During the course of his stay with the Sulṭān in Egypt, the task of overseeing the organisation of administrative issues was delegated to him. When the Sulṭān returned from Cairo during the year 924AH, he was delegated with overseeing the organisation and documentation of issues related to property ownership in the city of Konya. In the year 925AH he was appointed as a teacher at the madrasah – Dār al-Ḥadīth, in Erdine. After the year 926AH, Sulṭān Sulaymān al-Qānūnī (D.974AH) gave to him the school of his grandfather Sulṭān Bāyazīd Khān the Second (D.918AH). He remained here until he became the Muftī of Constantinople (ie. the Muftī of Ottoman caliphate) and thus became the Shaykh al-Islām of the Ottoman Empire. This was after the death of Mawlā ʿAlā’ al-Dīn al-Jamālī, better-known as Zanbīlī ʿAlī Effendi, in the year 932AH. He held this position until his death during the reign of Sulṭān Sulaymān al-Qānūnī.


Among those who have mentioned Ibn Kamāl Pāshā with lofty praises and titles are:
1. Imām Maḥmūd ibn Sulaymān al-Kafawī al-Ḥanafī (D.990) who describes him, in Katā’ib Aʿlām al-Akhyār min Fuqahā’ Madhhab al-Nuʿmān al-Mukhtār (along with numerous other virtues) as: “the teacher of the adept scholars” and “the revealer of the [meanings of the] complex statements of the early [imāms]”;2. Imām ʿIṣām al-Dīn Aḥmad Ṭāshkubrā Zādah al-Ḥanafī (D.968AH) mentions in al-Shaqā’iq al-Nuʿmāniyyah fī ʿUlamā’ al-Dawlat al-ʿUthmāniyyah: “He, may Allah – exalted is He – have mercy on him, was from those scholars who devoted all of their time towards knowledge. He was engrossed in knowledge by day and by night and his pen never slackened. He authored numerous epistles on important and difficult to comprehend fields of research…”;3. Imām ʿAlā’ al-Dīn ibn Amrillāh al-Ḥumaydī al-Ḥanafī, famously known as Ibn al-Ḥannā’ī (D.979AH) mentions in Ṭabaqāt al-Ḥanafiyyah: “Then fiqh reached the generation of al-Mawlā al-Fāḍil Muftī al-Thaqalayn Aḥmad ibn Sulaymān, well-known as Ibn Kamāl Pāshā”;4. Imām Abu ‘l-Suʿūd Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-ʿImādī al-Ḥanafī (D.982/983AH) refers to his teacher Ibn Kamāl Pāshā in Risālah fi Maʿrifah Lafẓ: Jalabī as: “Extraordinary in all the sciences”;5. Imām Taqī al-Dīn ibn ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Tamīmī al-Ghazzī al-Ḥanafī (D.1005AH) mentions in al-Ṭabaqāt al-Saniyyah fi Tarājim al-Ḥanafiyyah: “He is someone after whom there has been no equal to succeed him, nor have the eyes perceived anyone who has embodied together his completeness and virtue. He; may Allah – exalted is He – have mercy on him, was an imām who was proficient in tafsīr, fiqh, ḥadīth, naḥw, taṣrīf, maʿānī, bayān, kalām, manṭiq, uṣūl and other than these; to the extent that he was unrivaled in the mastery of every one of these sciences, and it is rare that a field from the disciplines exists except that he has a written work – or [multiple] works [therein]; thus he became an imām in every field.”; and6. Imām ʿAbd al-Ḥayy ibn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn al-ʿImād al-Ḥanbalī (D.1089AH) refers to him in Shadharāt al-Dhahab fī Akhbār Man Dhahab as: “The greatly learned unique scholar and extremely intelligent verifying researcher”.


He studied under various well-known greatly learned scholars of his time, such as:

1. Mawlā Luṭfullāh ibn Ḥasan al-Tawqāti al-Rūmī al-Ḥanafī, famously known as Mawlānā Luṭfī (D.904AH);
2. Mawlā Muṣliḥ al-Dīn Muṣṭafā al-Qasṭalānī al-Rūmī al-Ḥanafī (D.901AH);
3. Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm al-Rūmī al-Ḥanafī, better known as Ibn al-Khaṭīb or Khaṭīb Zādah (D.901AH); and
4. Mawlā Sinān al-Dīn Yūsuf, better known as Ibn al-Muʿarrif or Muʿarrif Zādah (the historiographers have not mentioned the year of his death).

His most well-known students include:

1. Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Bīr Muḥammad Pāshā al-Jamālī (D.941AH), the Qāḍī of Edirne;
2. Mawlā Saʿdullāh ibn ʿĪsā, better known as Saʿdī Chalabī (D.945AH) who assumed the position of Shaykh al-Islām after the death of his Shaykh, Ibn Kamāl Pāshā;
3. Mawlā Abu ‘l-Suʿūd Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Muṣṭafā al-ʿImādī, commonly known as Abu ‘l-Suʿūd al-ʿImādī (D.982AH), the famous Qur’ānic exegete who held the position of Shaykh al-Islām for a long time;
4. Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdillāh, famously known as Muḥammad Bak (D.950AH);
5. Mawlā Hidāyatullāh ibn al-Mawlā Bār ʿAlī al-ʿAjamī (D.948/949AH);
6. Mawlā ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Wīzawī (D.961AH), the Mufti of Mangesia;
7. Mawlā Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm (D.955AH);
8. Mawlā Darwīsh Muḥammad (D.962AH);
9. Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Qādir, who became famously known as al-Maʿlūl (D.963AH);
10. Mawlā Muṣliḥ al-Dīn Muṣṭafā ibn al-Mawlā Sayyidī al-Muntashawī (D.964AH);
11. Mawlā Yaḥyā Chalabī ibn Amīn Nūr al-Dīn, well-known as Amīn Zādah (D.964AH);
12. Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Ḥusām al-Dīn, well-known as Qurrah Chalabī (D.965AH);
13. Mawlā Muḥyi ‘l-Dīn, well-known as Ibn al-Imām (D.973AH);
14. Mawlā Tāj al-Dīn Ibrāhīm ibn ʿAbdillāh (D.973AH);
15. Mawlā Muṣliḥ al-Dīn, well-known as Bustān (D.977AH);
16. Mawlā Tāj al-Dīn Ibrāhīm (D.994AH);
17. Mawlā Bālī ibn Muḥammad – his son ʿAlī ibn Bālī (D.992AH), in the biography of his father, doesn’t mention the year of his death; only that he was born in the year 901AH and that he passed away during the month of Rajab.

Written Works

Ibn Kamāl Pāshā was a prolific writer and there are at least two hundred and sixty-seven written works attributed to him (in Arabic, Turkish and Persian) on the numerous Islamic sciences, many of which have now been published and are available. His published works in Arabic include Masā’il al-Ikhtilāf Bayn al-Ashāʿirah wa ‘l-Māturīdiyyah[2] (on the differences between the Ashʿarī and Māturīdi/Ḥanafī schools of creed); al-Munīrah fi ‘l-Mawāʿiẓ wa ‘l-ʿAqā’idTafsir Ibn Kamāl Pāshā[3]; SharḥRiyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn[4]; al-Tawḍīḥ fi Sharḥ al-Taṣḥiḥ; and Furūq al-Uṣūl[5]. A large collection of one hundred and fourteen treatises authored by Ibn Kamāl Pāshā has also been published in eight volumes titled: Majmūʿ Rasā’il al-ʿAllāmah Ibn Kamāl Pāshā.


After living a life dedicated to knowledge, teaching, writing and issuing legal verdicts, he passed away at the age of sixty-seven after sunrise on Thursday 2nd Shawwāl during the year 940AH in the city of Istanbul, Turkey. His janāzah prayer was performed on the day he passed away, after the Ẓuhr prayer in Jāmiʿ al-Sulṭān Muḥammad Khān.

May Allāh have mercy on him.

[1] Adapted from the biographies found in the editors’ introductions to Tafsir Ibn Kamāl Pāshā and Sharḥ Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn of Ibn Kamāl Pāshā
[2] Masā’il al-Ikhtilāf Bayn al-Ashāʿirah wa ‘l-Māturīdiyyah, available to read/download (Arabic) HERE
[3] Tafsir Ibn Kamāl Pāshā, available to read/download (Arabic) HERE[4] Sharḥ Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn, available to read/download (Arabic) HERE[5] Furūq al-Uṣūl, available to read/download (Arabic) HERE

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