Sheikh el-Qenawi Mosque
Sheikh Abdel Rahim El Qenawi was born in the Moroccan Ceuta district, 1127. El Qenawi was a religious Sufi scholar and an interpreter of the true Islamic teachings of the holy Quran. He named himself Abdel Rahim because of its virtuous meaning of being merciful while it also has a meaning in his homeland, which is lion.
The Sheikh spent his childhood learning the true Islamic teachings and at the age of seven he memorized all verses of Quran. After his father’s death, he travelled to the city of Damascus in Syria, where he spent eight years gaining a lot of knowledge from various Islamic scholars. He was interested in Sufism and at the age of 20, scholars noticed his interpretation and communication skills, in addition to his knowledge of Islam. Consequently, they asked him to teach lessons, but he refused out of respect for the other scholars in the city.
Afterwards, he decided to move back to his village, where his father’s post as a scholar and teacher of Islamic religion remained vacant, and upon his return the village scholars asked him to take the post and he agreed. At his first ever lesson, he attracted a lot of people with his knowledge of Islam to attend and learn about their religion. Later on, more people came from the neighboring countries in order to see El Qenawi and listen to his perception of Islamic teachings.
El Qenawi spent five years preaching and guiding people on their duties as a Muslim towards God and society, in a magical manner that pushed listeners to weep out of affection and admiration of his technique and approach. After his mother died, he decided to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform his Haj duty to God for the first time and also to meet with the scholars there in order to discuss ways to overcome the obstacles of the Muslim world.
On his way to Saudi Arabia, he stopped in Alexandria and Cairo that left a special impression on him and then went to Saudi Arabia where he spent nine years there. He spent his days between Mecca and Medina, gaining knowledge from scholars, residing in the holy Kaaba and Medina’s mosque, and trading crops for a living. Later on, he met Sheikh Magd Al Dein Qushayri who was a scholar from the Egyptian city of Qus in Upper Egypt’s Qena province, during Haj season. Qushayri then persuaded him to return to Egypt’s Qus, where Qushayri was the Imam of Al Amry mosque.
At that time, Qus had a lot of prominent scholars and was not in dire need of El Qenawi, so, after he spent three days there, he decided to go to Qena. He spent two years worshiping God and receiving people’s admirations for his knowledge and understanding of Islam, as well as his teachings.
During that period, Egypt’s ruler issued a decree to make El Qenawi the Sheikh of Qena and since that day he became known as El Quenaiy. He brought in much profit from his trading in Qena and started helping poor students who wanted to learn about the true Islamic teachings. He established his own Sufism school, called Al Qenawiya. He died in 1196.
His school of Sufism taught people that Islam is all about work and morals, and whoever focuses on one of the two and neglects the other, has lost his way. It also taught people that work is the base of religion, as God and Prophet Mohamed will review their work on judgment day. His school spoke about the distinction between the spirit and soul, as the spirit is at a higher place than the soul, as the spirit belongs to God. He often said that Sufism is not one of the bases of Islam, as it is only one of the bases of morals. He also advised people not to lie and stick only to the truth as it is the way for salvation.
He published interpretations of Quran, a message in marriage, parties and veins. A mosque in Qena was built to his commemoration. People perform Mawlid, which is a celebration of birth, in his name, till this day.