The shaykhs of the Azhar were people of love and strong belief, and their visit to Imam Shafi’i on Friday was a praiseworthy custom that they were very keen on.
It is narrated on the reason behind it, that shaykh Ali al-Sa’idi al-‘Adawi used to say to his student (Shaykh Ahmad) al-Dardir (may Allah be pleased with them both): “They say that you see the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam) frequently. When you see him, ask him about my state.” So he did. He saw the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam) saying to him, “He is a righteous man, but he has some coldness toward me.”
When shaykh al-Sa’idi heard this he cried heavily. His student al-Dardir asked him: “What makes you cry?”
He said: “The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is blaming me for my shortcoming when it comes to going to visit him. I am now old, and cannot bear the difficulties of travel. If you see him again, tell him that.” So he did. He saw the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam) say to him: “Tell him – meaning shayakh al-Sa’idi – that I am at Imam al-Shafi’is every Friday, from after the Asr prayer until Fajr. Let him come to me there.” So shaykh Ali al-Sa’idi al-Adawi went to the scholars of the Azhar and told this to them, and it became their custom to visit Imam al-Shafi’i every Friday, one group after another, from Asr until Fajr. This was in that radiant age, when scholars were real scholars, and students were real students.
– Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari, The Friday Lessons, vol. 2, pp. 62-3, Cairo: Dar Jawami’ al-Kalim, 2001.