He is our Liege-Lord the enlivener of the din and shari‘a Abu l-‘Abbas al-Sultan Ahmad al-Rufa‘i the Senior ibn al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Yahya al-Thabit bin al-Hazim bin Ahmad bin ‘Ali bin al-Hasan (Rufa‘i al-Makki) bin al-Mahdi bin Abi l-Qasim Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin al-Husain bin Musa al-Thani bin Ibrahim al-Murtadha bin Imam Musa al-Kathim bin Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq bin Imam Muhammad al-Baqir bin Imam Zain al-‘Abadin (‘Ali al-Sajjad) bin Imam al-Husain bin Imam Sayyiduna ‘Ali, may Allah ennoble his face, ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with all of them.
He was born in Umm Ubayda, a district of Basra, in the house of his grandfather on his mother’s side who was the shaykh of all the shaykhs of his time, Shaykh Abi Sa‘id Yahya al-Bukhari al-Ansari, in the first half of the month of Rajab, on a Thursday, in the year 512 H. He was from the loins of the Shaykh of the Readers of the Qur’an and the Muhadiththeen, Sayyid ‘Ali Abi l-Hasan bin Yahya l-Makki.
While his mother was pregnant with him she used to visit Shaykh Rufa‘i’s future shaykh, Abi Muhammad al-Shanbaki, may Allah be pleased with him. Whenever she entered his presence, he would stand up. When she asked the Shaykh why he stood for her he said, “I stand in honor of the one who is still in your womb. He will be one who is close to Allah.” His mother related that when she gave birth to her son Ahmad she heard him in the cradle glorifying Allah continuously. He refused to breast feed from a wet nurse until she first made wudhu.
He was brought up in the best possible conditions. When he was a little boy he preferred to sit with the old men of learning and not with his peers. He would listen to recitation of the Qur’an and the lessons of the shaykhs. He sat with the ‘arifin and followed their advise and would not leave them. They recognized that he was a great wali and would praise him a lot.
He read the Qur’an with Shaykh ‘Ali bin al-Qari l-Wasiti, may Allah be pleased with him.
He wore the noble patched robe given to him by his cousin from his father’s side, Sayyid ‘Uthman, who took it from Sayyid ‘Ali al-Makki, who himself took it from Sayyid Yahya al-Rufa‘i who took it from Sayyid Thabit Hazim who took it from Sayyid ‘Ali al-Hazim who took it from Sayyid Abi al-Fadha’il who took it from Sayyid Hasan Rufa‘a who took it from Sayyid Abu l-Qasim bin al-Baghdadi al-Husaini who took it from Sayyid al-Hasan al-Qasim who took it from Sayyid Abd al-Rahman al-Muhaddith who took it from Sayyid Ahmad al-Salih al-Akbar who took it from Sayyid Musa l-Thani who took it from Sayyid Ibrahim al-Murtadha who took it from Sayyid Musa al-Kathim who took it from his father Ja‘far al-Sadiq who took it from his father Muhammad al-Baqir who took it from his father Zain al-Abidin who took it from his father Imam al-Husain who took it from his father Imam ‘Ali, may Allah ennoble his face, who took it from al-Mustafa, Sayyiduna Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
He was well known to be a great qutb that lead the Rufa‘i Tariqah by following in the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah. He took the Qur’an as his imam and the Sunnah as his method for his behavior and actions in this life. He was very humble and broken to Allah, the Mighty and Majestic. He was modest and poor for the sake of Allah. Allah gave him great openings, showing him the secrets of revelation. From his school numerous awliya and scholars graduated.
He died on Thursday the 12th of Jumad al-Ula, 580 H. in Umm Ubayda, may Allah be pleased with him.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab related that the Messenger of Allah said: “Among the servants of Allah are individuals who, though they are neither prophets nor martyrs, are envied by the prophets and martyrs for their rank with Allah on the Last Day.” A man asked ‘Umar, “Who are they and what are their deeds that we may love them?” He said, “People who love each other by the ruh of Allah without being related by blood and without sharing wealth between them, by Allah, their faces have light, and they are on minbars of light without fear when others are afraid and without sadness when others are sad.” Then he read from the Qur’an: “Surely for the Awliya of Allah there is no fear upon them nor are they sad.