Shaykh al-Islam (Arabic: شيخ الإسلام) (English: "the Elder of Islam" or "the Master of Islam") is a title of respect for outstanding scholars of Islam. The title may also be used for the chief expert in Islamic Law of a city or kingdom.
"The term shaykh al-Islam, as inferred from its use as a term among the authorities, is a title attributed to that follower of the book of Allah Most High, and the example of His messenger, who possesses the knowledge of the principles of the science [of religion], has plunged deep into the different views of the scholars, has become able to extract the legal evidences from the texts, and has understood the rational and the transmitted proofs at a satisfactory level."
There were not many scholars known as shaykh al-Islam. The title was used for the following scholars:
- Ibn Surayj (249–306 A.H.)
- Al-Daraqutni (306–385 A.H.)
- Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani (336–430 A.H.)
- Abu Hamid al-Isfarayini (344–406 A.H.)
- Al-Bayhaqi (384–458 A.H.)
- Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi (393–476 A.H.)
- Al-Juwayni (419–478 A.H.)
- Ibn al-Jawzi (509/510–597 A.H.)
- Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (544–606 A.H.)
- Al-'Izz ibn 'Abd al-Salam (577–660 A.H.)
- Ibn Daqiq al-'Id (625–702 A.H.)
- Al-Nawawi (631–676 A.H.)
- Ibn Taymiyyah (661–728 A.H.) The Hanafi scholar 'Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari said that anyone gives Ibn Taymiyya the title "Shaykh al-Islam" is a kafir (disbeliever).
- Taqi al-Din al-Subki (683–756 A.H.)
- Taj al-Din al-Subki (727–771 A.H.)
- Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (773–852 A.H.)
- Zakariyya al-Ansari (823–926 A.H.)
- Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (909–974 A.H.)
- Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini (724–805 A.H.)
- Shihab al-Din al-Ghazzi (000–822 A.H.)
- Shihab al-Din al-Ramli (000–957 A.H.)
- Muhammad al-Tahir ibn 'Ashur (1296–1392 A.H.)
- Abdel-Halim Mahmoud (1328–1397 A.H.)
- Al-Dhahabi, Siyar a'lam al-nubala' ('Biographies of Noble Personalities').
- Gerhard Böwering; Patricia Crone; Mahan Mirza, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), p. 509
- Recep Şentürk. Narrative Social Structure: Anatomy of the Hadith Transmission Network, 610-1505 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), p 62.
- Ibn Khafif, Correct Islamic Doctrine (Al-'Aqida al-Sahiha); Islamic Doctrine (Al-'Aqida Ahl al-Islam) ( Fenton, MI: As-Sunna Foundation of America, 2007), p. 16