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FOUR LETTERS OF SAYH HASAN AL-'ATTĀR TO SAYH TĀHIR AL-HUSAYNĪ OF JERUSALEM

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Sayh Hasan al-'Attār, a young 'ālim of al-Azhar, left Egypt for the Ottoman-Turkish lands in 1803. He stayed there for seven years before moving to Damascus in 1810 where he stayed for the next three and a half years. In late 1813 he joined the Hağğ caravan to Mecca. On his way back he went to Jerusalem where he enjoyed the hospitality of its hanafī muftī Sayh Tāhir al-Husainī whom he apparently befriended while the latter was studying at al-Azhar. From Jerusalem he returned to Egypt in the spring of 1814.

The four letters sent by 'Attār to Sayh Tāhir shed a light on his movements and mood of thought at that time, and on the relations between 'ulamā' of al-Azhar and those of Jerusalem and the cultural interests of the latter. Two of the letters are of special importance because they give us a first hand account of his way back to Cairo and of the personal hardships which he encountered after his resettlement there. Moreover, he referred in them to the books which he started to teach and to the great interest they aroused among the Azharite students. In short those rare letters show a side of 'Attār's life unknown to scholars and help us to understand the condition of the 'ulamā' under Muhammad Alī.

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