Abu al-Abbās Ahmad Ibn Idris al-Araishi al-Alami al-Idrisi al-Hasani (Arabic: أبو العباس أحمد بن إدريس العرائشي العلمي الإدريسي الحسني) (1760–1837) was a Moroccan Sunni Islamic scholar, jurist and Sufi, active in Morocco, the Hejaz, Egypt, and Yemen. His main concern was the revivification of the sunnah or practice of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. For this reason, his students, such as the great hadith scholar Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi, gave him the title Muhyi ‘s-Sunnah “The Reviver of the Sunnah”. His followers founded a number of important Sufi tariqas which spread his teachings across the Muslim world.
Ahmad Ibn Idris was born in 1760 near the city of Fez, Morocco. He studied at the University of Al Quaraouiyine. In 1799 he arrived in Mecca, where he would “exercise his greatest influence, attracting students from all corners of the Islamic world”. In 1828 he moved to Zabīd in the Yemen, which historically had been a great center of Muslim scholarship. He died in 1837 in Sabya, which was then in Yemen, later was his grandson’s capital, but is today part of Saudi Arabia.
He was the founder of the Idrisiyya, sometimes known as the “Muhammadiyya’ or “Ahmadiyya” (not be to confused with the Ahmadiyya of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) or the after himself, and sometimes Muhammadiyya after Muhammad. This was not a tariqa in the sense of an organized Sufi order, but rather a spiritual method, consisting of a set of teachings and litanies, aimed at nurturing the spiritual link between the disciple and Muhammad directly. His path became more popularly known as the Idrisiyya, and became widely spread in Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, East Africa (Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya), the Yemen, the Levant (Syria and Lebanon) and Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei).
Ibn Idris’ teachings centered on the moral and spiritual education of the individual Muslim. He emphasized the importance of piety, prayer, religious learning (especially the Prophetic traditions), and close following of Muhammad’s example. He would send his students to revive the Prophetic Sunna in different lands. Ibn Idris called for a revival of ijtihad. His criticism of blind and rigid following of the schools of law (madhhabs) was based on three concerns. First, the need for following the Prophetic traditions. Second, to reduce divisions between the Muslims. Third, mercy for the Muslims, because there were ‘few circumstances on which the Quran and Sunna were genuinely silent, but if there was a silence on any question, then that silence was intentional on God’s part- a divine mercy.’ He therefore rejected any ‘attempt to fill a silence deliberately left by God, and so to abrogate one of His mercies.’ These academic concerns however did not play as important of a role in his teaching as the attention that they attracted from modern academics, and Radtke and Thomassen are correct when they stated that his teachings mainly focused on the moral and spiritual education of the individual Muslim. In a sense, the one teaching underlying all of his thought was a direct and radical attachment to God and Muhammad, achieved through piety, minimizing the mediation of any other human authority.