"To Allah we belong and unto Him we shall return"
Mohammed Saeed Ramadan, most well-known by the name of al-Buti, was born in 1929, in the village of Ayn Dewar, Northern Syria. His father was a scholar in the Ottoman world who fled to Damascus when his son was just four years old, fearing the anticlerical excesses of the early Turkish Republic. The Shaykh received both his primary and secondary schooling at Damascus, and in 1953 he joined the Faculty of Shariah at al-Azhar University from which he graduated in 1955, securing a first class in the final exams. The following year he obtained a Diploma in Education from the Faculty of Arabic Language at the same University.
The Shaykh was appointed a teacher in the secondary school of Homs in 1958. And in 1961 he was appointed a lecturer in the Faculty of Shariah at Damascus University. In 1965 he was back at al-Azhar University, where he completed a doctorate with high distinction and a recommendation for a teaching post. In the same year he was appointed as a teacher in the Faculty of Law at the University of Damascus, thereafter an assistant professor and finally appointed as a professor. In 1975, he was given the position of the vice dean at the same college, and later in 1977 as the dean. Although he had retired, he continued to lecture.
Shaykh Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Bouti passed away on a Friday night, March 20th 2013, during his weekly lesson in the Jami' al-Iman mosque of Damascus. A criminal assassination during which his grandson Ahmad and a number of students of knowledge were also martyred. The Muslim community lost a mountain and a lamp of knowledge.
He spent his life as a teacher, author, and caller to Allah. He was separate from political and worldly affairs and always truthful and discreet; he exercised his independent judgement regarding his homeland of Syria without regard to pleasing either the people or leaders. Many muslims have benefited from his lessons and books, which included many volumes on the Sirah and Fiqh, notably "The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography."
The Shaykh authored over sixty works in various fields, which covered philosophical, theoretical, spiritual and Sharia-based topics. He participated in countless conferences and seminars and had an important role in the Algerian conferences of the 1980s, which sought to critically review extremist and anathematizing thought. Shaykh al-Bouti was one of the most important signatories of the "A Common Word" document, which called for rapproachment and mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians, based on the Quranic injunction:
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (Qur'an Aal ‘Imran 3:64).
Habib Ali al-Jifri, a scholar and caller to God, said that he spoke with Shaykh Ramadan only two weeks before he was assassinated, during which Shaykh Ramadan told him: "Only a few days of my life remain and I shall breathe the air of Paradise; do not forget your brother in your prayers."
Scholars who differed with him, let alone those who agreed with him, bore testimony to his truthfulness, integrity and cautiousness, and that he never voiced an issue except that which his independent judgement and inspection had led him to. In his last days, he used to say: "I sincerely hope that everyone who has slandered me or thrown accusations at me due to their own judgement is not spared the reward of a mujtahid." (A mujtahid is a jurist who exercises independent legal reasoning. Their reward has been established through the hadith)
Habib Ali al-Jifri made a final prayer which many Muslims can make along with him:
“Oh Allah, accept him as a martyr and grant him the highest Paradise, al-Firdaws, and make his arrival unto Your presence an intercession for himself, his family, his students, and in lifting the tribulation!"