Understanding the Terminology of Bequests and Explaining the Division among Eligible Recipients


Yahya ibn Muhammad al-Ḥattab al-Ruʻayni (circa 1496‒circa 1587) was a mathematician, astronomer, and Maliki jurist. He was born in Mecca into a learned family of Maghrebi descent; his father Muhammad was likewise a mathematician and astronomer. A formidable author in his own right, Yahya is probably best known for his Irshād al-sā’lik al-muḥtāj ilá bayān afʻāl al-muʻtamir wa al-hāj (A guide to the rituals of Umra and Hajj). He also wrote on the sine quadrant and parallel circles, commenting on works by his father, as well as by astronomer and mathematician Sibt al-Maridini (born 1423). Presented here is Sharḥ alfāẓ al-wāqifīn wa-al-qismah ʻalá al-mustaḥiqqīn (Understanding the terminology of bequests and explaining the division among eligible recipients), a treatise on waqf (religious endowments). It consists of two parts: a glossary explaining the legal terminology used in the field, and a “conclusion” specifying the eligibility for recipients of waqf. The glossary is comprised of 13 terms and concepts, with long tanbihat (explanatory notes) that shed additional light on each term. The conclusion contains three chapters, with the first on the laws governing endowments, the second on the maturity dates of endowments, and the third on how endowment revenues should be divided among recipients. The Maliki school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence is named after Imam Malik ibn Anas, who was born and died in Medina (present-day Saudi Arabia), the burial city of the Prophet Muhammad. Malik is sometimes referred to as the Imam of the Abode of Emigration. The Maliki school is dominant among Sunni Muslims of North and Sub-Saharan Africa. The convergence of religious jurisprudence with mathematics and astronomy in the Islamic sciences is largely driven by the need of the faithful to fulfill their religious obligations. These include the proper distribution of alms and inheritance, the accurate calculation of prayer times, determining the correct direction of prayer toward Mecca, and knowing the beginning and end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Published in 1923, the copy presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

Last updated: May 9, 2016