Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah - Mauritania
Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah is one of Islam’s greatest living jurist. An extremely well-known and well-respected scholar, he is considered a “scholars’ scholar” since many of his students are actually considered ulama in their own right. Shaykh Abdullah grew up in one of the eastern provinces of the West African nation of Mauritania. From a very young age, he showed extreme gifts intellectually and a profound ability to absorb a lot of information and a lot of the text.
During his studies, he memorised an extraordinary number of texts. Then, at a very early age, he was appointed with a group of people to study legal judgements in Tunis and went there for a period of time. When he returned to Mauritania, he became a minister of education and later, a minister of justice. He was also one of the vice-presidents of the first president of Mauritania. However, due to the conditions in Mauritania and the military change of governments that took place, he began to teach, and he ended up going to Saudi Arabia and becoming a distinguished professor at The University of Usul al-Fiqh.
The shaykh is presently involved in several organizations in the Muslim world, such as the organisation which is known as Al Majma’ al-Fiqhi, which is comprised of a body of scholars that come together from all over the Muslim world and from all the different madhhabs and different viewpoints; they analyze and study a lot of the modern issues to come up with Islamic solutions to the issues confronting modern Muslims in the modern world. Shaykh Abdullah is also involved in writing. He has written several books and has delivered lectures all over the world. He has expertise in a lot of areas that have been unfortunately ignored by the vast amount of contemporary scholars.
One of the areas of expertise that he has is in what is known as fiqh al-aqaliyaat which is the fiqh or juristic rulings related to Muslims living as a religious minority with a dominant alien territory. Because the Muslims tended to prefer hijra to countries where Muslims were the majority, there are not a lot of scholars that work in the area of dealing with how Muslims in minority areas should actually live their lives and how they should behave when confronted with issues that often are in contradistinction to their deen.