Born 1326/1908 in the city of Meknās in Morocco, Shaykha Bahiyyah bint Hāshim al-Quṭbiyyah al-Filāliyyah was one of the rare scholarly giants who still remained from the previous generation who was a great inspiration for men and women alike.
She memorized Qurʾān at the age of 14 at the hands of al-Qāḍī Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Ismāʿīlī al-ʿAlawī and studied the various Islamic sciences with the renowned scholars of her region. She made Ḥajj at age 18 where she studied with scholars of the Ḥijāz. In 1374/1955 she traveled to Tunisia where she studied for 5 years at the renowned Zaytūnah University, being the only woman there at the time. There she was the student of the great scholar of the 20th century Shaykh al-Islām al-Ṭāhir ibn ʿĀshūr (d. 1393/1973) and received Ijāzah from him. After graduating with distinction, she was requested to stay there but she chose to return to her own country.
She was devoted to the study of the Islāmic sciences her entire life and gathered an extensive list of teachers and disciplines that she delved into. She studied tafsīr and portions of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī with al-Ḥājj Muḥammad al-Sūsī, completed Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī with al-Ḥājj b. ʿĪsā al-Khalṭī, studied Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and uṣūl al-fiqh with Shaykh al-Zarīhanī, the text of Ajrūmiyyah in grammar with Aḥmad b. Ṣiddīq al-Meknāsī, the Alfiyyah of Ibn Mālik and Risīlah Ibn Abi Zayd with Mawlāy al-Ṭayyib al-Ḥarīf, the fiqh text of Ibn ʿĀshir with Mawlāy ʿAbdullah Jamʿān, fiqh from Mukhtasar Khalīl with Muḥammad al-ʿArāyishī, the Qurʾānic readings and the Muwaṭṭaʾ with Mawlāy al-Sharīf b. ʿAlī al-ʿĀlawī, the sciences of ḥadīth with al-Sayyid ʿAbd al-Hādī al-Mannūnī, tafsīr with al-Mukhtār al-Sintīsī, various sciences with ʿAbd al-Ḥafīẓ al-Fāsī al-Fihrī. Perhaps her two greatest teachers included al-Ṭāhir ibn ʿĀshūr and ʿAllāmah Muḥammad Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī (d. 1407/1987) with whom she studied Tawḥīd and other topics. In Tunisia, she studied balāgha and tafsīr with al-Ṭāhir ibn ʿĀshūr as well as his son, the sciences of ḥadīth with Ibn Khawjah, history with Muḥammad al-ʿAzīz and other topics with Muḥammad al-Khiḍr Ḥusayn.
What is more amazing is that Shaykhah Bahiyyah was blind but that did not define her nor deter her from her pursuits. In fact, she showed us a copy of a volume of the Qurʾān in Braille in the Riwāyah of Warsh which she had written with her own hand!
She had memorized the Qurʾān, Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī and the Muwaṭṭaʾ among other works.
Shaykhah Bahiyyah lived a life of relative poverty, apart from fame, and was relatively unknown until she was discovered in recent years by the great scholars Shaykh Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Kattānī and Shaykh Muḥammad Daniel Muhājir. Since that time, many traveled to benefit from her and marveled at her amazing memory despite being 108 years old.
Among her distinctions was that she fasted and prayed regularly in the Great Masjid of Meknās. In fact, it was known that anyone who wanted to meet her would go to the masjid to find her. She would fast on Mondays and Thursdays and always made dhikr. In her last days, she became ill and could no longer go to the masjid, but her home remained open to all students. In fact, in my experience every time I reached out to her, she was always willing to meet and listen to ḥadīth at a moment’s notice. Being blind, she would grant students Ijāzah with the stamping of her fingerprint rather than signing her name.
In her company, the only thing that came from her lips was the remembrance of Allah, prayers on the Prophet, supplications for the students, and words of advice from the Qurʾān and Sunnah. In our sittings, the most recent of which was a few days ago, I witnessed her correcting the names of narrators and the words of ḥadīth of the Muwaṭṭaʾ from her memory while we read from the books.
She died May 23, 2016 at the age of 108 (111 by the Islamic calendar), may Allah have mercy on her soul and elevate her ranks.