The Life and Thought of Imām Zāhid al-Kawtharī
By Muntasir Zaman
“What cosmic soul is imprisoned in that human body?” mused the learned Abū Zahrah (d. 1974) in utter admiration—indeed, “it is the soul of al-Kawtharī!” he proclaimed.  In recent memory, relatively few scholars have managed to synthesize expertise in, not merely acquaintance with, the vast majority of Islamic sciences. Shaykh Muhammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī (or Mehmet Zahit Kevsari) is arguably the foremost contender for that accolade; his polymathic oeuvre leaves one hard-pressed to pinpoint his forte,  from the intricacies of philosophy to the minutiae of Arabic grammar, not to mention his undisputed command of theology, Hadīth, and Islamic law. The ripple effect of his peerless intellectual contributions is strongly felt in Islamic seminaries throughout the world till this day.
A modest amount of literature is available on the life and thought of al-Kawtharī (henceforth Kawtharī), To add to the existing material, particularly for an English-speaking readership, the present article aims to delineate the most salient features of his scholarly career, provide a synopsis of his modus operandi vis-à-vis prophetic and non-prophetic reports, and examine the merits of two major points of contention. Relevant details on certain passages have been relegated to the footnotes for the purpose of brevity. Read the rest of this entry »