Shaykh Bakri al-Tarabishi 1921-2012 – Nur Sacred Sciences
Shaykh Bakri al-Ṭarabīshī was born in Damascus in 1338 AH/1921 AD to a home of learning and piety. His father was Shaykh ʽAbd al-Majīd al-Ṭarābīshī from among the legal scholars (fuqahāʼ) of Damascus specializing in the Ḥanafī school of law. King Fayṣal b. al-Ḥusayn selected him as a confidant after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in greater Syria in 1918. Shaykh Bakrī memorized the Qurʼan when he was a boy of twelve years and perfected his memorization at the age of fifteen. He also worked with his father in trade.
His Memorization of the Qur’an
Shaykh Bakrī al-Ṭarabīshī memorized the Qur’an when he was twelve and learned it with tajwīd and beautiful recitation when he was fifteen. When he was twelve years old, his father took him to the Shaykh ʽAbd al-Wahhāb Ḥāfiẓ (known as Shaykh ʽabd al-Wahhāb Debs wa Zayt due to an old family title). He later became a student of Shaykh ʽIzz al-Dīn ʽAraqsūsī. When he reached the age of twenty, he recited the Qur’an under Shaykh ʽAbd al-Qādir al-Ṣabbāgh who took his chain of recitation from the elder Shaykh Aḥmad Ḥulwānī. In 1942, Shaykh Muḥammad Salīm al-Ḥulwānī certified him, or gave him ijāza, in Qur’anic recitation of the seven canonical readings from the Shāṭibī chain of transmission. Shaykh Muḥammad Salīm al-Ḥulwānī passed away shortly after, and Shaykh Bakrī was the last person he certified. After this, Shaykh Bakrī al-Ṭarābishī followed up his studies by taking the ten canonical readings with Shaykh Salīm’s peer, Shaykh Muḥammad Fāʼiz al-Dayr ʽAṭānī. Thus, Shaykh Bakrī became a Qur’anic reciter with the shortest chain of oral transmission (the least number of oral transmitters) of the Qur’an in the world. He had only twenty-seven transmitters between himself and the Prophet (PBUH). The last person besides him to have had an equally short chain of transmission died over thirty years ago.
The Shaykh did not leave behind any works in the form of writing, but he left behind “works” in the form of his many students who continued to teach the Qur’an and pass its transmission throughout the world. Among these students are Shaykh Muḥammad Shaqrūn in the UAE, Shaykh Ḥusām Sabsabī in Kuwait, the Reciter and Shaykh Muḥammad Burkāb in Algeria, Shaykh ʽUmar Dāʽūq in Labanon, and the Reciter ʽIṣām ʽAbd al-Mawlā in Jordan. All of them took the path of their teacher to establish programs to teach the Qur’an and pass its chain of oral transmission. Shaykh Bakrī and his students exerted all of their energies to facilitate teaching the Book of God wherever they were. Shaykh Muḥammad Shaqrūn established a large school and foundation for memorization and certification in Dubai. Shaykh Ḥusām Sabsabī became a member of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Kuwait and established a branch responsible for teaching Qur’anic recitation. Shaykh ʽUmar Dāʽūq participates in similar projects in Lebanon. In Algeria, Kuwait, and the UAE a certification in Qur’anic recitation became considered equivalent to a university degree.
Shaykh Bakrī as a Man of God
Shaykh Bakrī used to see the Prophet in his dreams and speak to him regularly. He would spend 3-4 hours standing in prayer every night for as long as many who knew him closely could remember.
He had a balcony that overlooked Damascus where he spent many hours reciting the Qur’an. He never liked people to kiss his hand or treat him differently. He was a hidden gem who became known later in his life when people would seek him out for his short chain of transmission (sanad). During his early years as a father, he struggled to make ends meet and provide for his family. He owned valuable land in an area outside of Damascus that was usurped by the government. Despite his having lost a significant source of his lawful income from the fruits of his land, he still managed to do good works. He was one of the main people to help build one of the newer mosques in Muhājirīn, Damascus. He also helped scholars and students of knowledge marry and settle down by providing them with financial stability.
Shaykh Bakrī has been described by other scholars as a shaykh who combined three virtues (khayrāt). The first virtue he embodied was that in the saying of the Prophet (PBUH), “the best among you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” The second virtue he embodied was in the hadith, “the best among you are the ones who are best to their families.” Finally the third virtue is referred to in the hadith, “the best among you is he whose life is the longest and his works are the most excellent.” The evidence of his sincerity in his devotion to God is manifested in the piety of his own ten children (one of whom died) and their children. Many of them also memorized the Qur’an and excelled as pillars of guidance, piety, and learning in their various communities. The immense love and compassion he continuously showed his wife, children, grandchildren, their wives, and their children is described as truly unique by those who knew him in this way.
The Shaykh not only emphasized religious learning, but also knowledge of the world. When one of his grandsons wanted to study Islamic Law (Shariʽa), he firmly advised him to study something he could earn a livelihood with and to learn religious knowledge without making his religious learning a means of his livelihood. The best provision is the one that is earned through the work of one’s own hands was a belief he adhered to until his last days.
During the final days of his life, Shaykh Bakrī remained in a state of constant dhikr, or remembrance of God. He was happy and content, knowing that his meeting with his Lord was imminent. His memory remained sharp well into his late years and up until his death at the age of 91. Indeed, one of the miracles of the Qur’an is that it protects those who have kept it in their minds and hearts during their youth from losing their mental awareness in old age.
Shaykh Bakrī al-Ṭarābīshī died on February 23, 2012 in Dubai. May Allah have mercy on his soul and grant him the highest of Paradise.