“It is well known that he is from the most knowledgeable of scholars in the history of Islaam. I mean, if you were to take the ten most notable scholars of the Muslims throughout history, An-Nawawi would be one of them. He wrote a commentary on Saheeh Muslim, and he wrote his book “Al-Majmoo’ ” in fiqh, regarding which Ibn Katheer said, “Nothing was ever written to match its brilliance.” And yes, nothing was ever written like this book.
When you read anything by An-Nawawi, you feel as if you are a plant that is being watered, as he delves deeply into meanings and concepts. Add to this that he abstained from the worldly pleasures, he was a devout worshipper, he would enjoin what is good, and he would forbid what was wrong. He would stand up to the rulers in the peak of their power…
He came into conflict with Dhahir Baybras, the ruler of Sham and Egypt. Dhahir Baybras requested a fatwa from the scholars that money should be collected in order to prepare an army to fight the Tartars in 658H. When the Tartars occupied Baghdaad and advanced upon Palestine ad turned towards Sham, he requested a fatwa while the Tartars were in Palestine that money should be collected to purchase weapons.
Every single scholar issued a fatwa except for An-Nawawi. He said, “I will not provide you with such a fatwa.”
Dhahir asked, “Why not? I want to purchase arms for this struggle, and you refuse to issue a fatwa for it? The entire Ummah and religion will be exposed to loss.”
He replied, “Because you came to us as a slave who owned nothing, and I see that you now own gardens, servants, slave girls, silver, and gold. So, if you sell all of these things and still need money after that, I will issue the fatwa you seek.”
So Dhahir replied, “Leave Sham!”
And he left and went to a small village in Nawa (his hometown). The scholars came to Dhahir Baybras and said to him, “The scholars of Sham are nothing without Muhi Ad-Deen An-Nawawi.” He replied, “Bring him back.” They then went to An-Nawawi and said, “Come back O Muhi Ad-Deen.” An-Nawawi said, “By Allaah, I will not go back while Dhahir is in it.” And Allaah fulfilled his oath; Dhahir died a month later, and An-Nawawi returned to Sham.
This isAn-Nawawi, the devout worshipper, the scholar, the zaahid, the scholar of Usool, Fiqh and Hadeeth. Look at the blessing that is in his books… Look at the barakah; his book Al-Majmoo’ has provided much benefit, his book Riyaadh As-Saaliheen, his book of forty hadeeth, his book Al-Adhkaar – you can feel the barakah in his boks. No books have been written so widely distributed as the books of An-Nawawi.”
[Fee Dhilaal Soorah At-Tawbah, by Shaykh 'Abdullaah 'Azzaam, p.67-68]