The Trodden Path (Episode 5): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this fifth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra

 

The Trodden Path

Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra 1316-1397=1898-1974 (Egypt)

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Mustafa, Abu Zahra was born in the city of Al-Malla Al-Kubra in Egypt in 1898 (1316).

As a young boy, he studied at the Al-Ahmadi Mosque in Tantaa, where he memorized the Quraan and some basics in the Islamic Sciences.

Then he joined the Shariah School, from which he graduated with excellent results in 1924. His certificate was equivalent to that of the Cairo Darul Uloom.

He taught Arabic and some Islamic subjects at the Darul Uloom and at the Faculty of Usul-Deen at the Al-Azhar University, as well as at the Faculty of Law at the University of Cairo.

He also occupied the position as lecturer for post-graduate studies from 1935 (1354). He was a member of the Higher Council for academic research and Head of the Shariah Department. He was the Deputy of the Faculty of Law and the Institute for Islamic Studies.

Hundreds of ulama from all over the world studied under him and it was he who established the Shariah Department at the University. He used to deliver lectures and lessons without any remuneration. He was invited to many parts of the world to deliver talks and to participate in seminars and Fiqh academies.

He contributed greatly to the Islamic World through the many books he wrote. His books are about eighty in number some of which are volumes; these are in addition to the many articles and fatawa he issued.

Some of his most famous books are: (titles translated from Arabic)

  • Discourses on the History of the Islamic Schools of thought.
  • Lectures on Christianity
  • The Life of the Prophet Muhammad and Biographies of Imams Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi’, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyah, Zaid ibn Ali and Jafar Al-Sadiq
  • The Laws of Inheritance and Succession
  • Muslim Personal Law
  • Usul-Fiqh
  • Studies in Riba (Interest)
  • Islam’s planning of the Society
  • Crimes and Punishment in Islamic Jurisprudence
  • A Commentary on the Laws of Bequest
  • International Relations in Islam
  • Discourses on Marriage and the Contract
  • Discourses on the Laws of Endowments
  • Lectures in Comparative Religion
  • Lectures in Jafari (Shia) laws of Inheritance
  • The History of Dispute and Argumentation in Islam
  • Social Insurance in Islam
  • A Book on the Manner of Delivering Khutbah’s
  • The Encyclopedia of Islamic Jurisprudence

 

Shaykh Abu Zahra was known for his courage for the truth. He was a very honorable and kind hearted person. He possessed a strong memory and the ability to invent and think of new things. He debated with clear and strong proof. In his era, people were pre-occupied with his writings and his views in Fiqh. He was willing to oppose any deviant idea, as well as those who were the students of orientalists or were influenced by secularist ideas.

The ruler of Egypt at the time issued an order that prevented Shaykh Abu Zahra from teaching at the University and from delivering any talks in the mosques. He was even prevented from speaking on the radio or appearing on television or even writing for newspapers. Instead many of the smaller newspapers were encouraged to attack his character and personality.

In an interview with Shaykh Abu Zahra in December 1960, he was asked about what should be done regarding a leader who assisted in corrupting the country and whether he should he be obeyed?

He replied, “Indeed Allah does not love evil and corruption, the worst of leaders is the one promotes evil and corruption. Any leader who does this, then his punishment is Jahanam, because authentic Hadith have been reported wherein the Prophet prohibited the chopping of trees and plundering of land during war even if it were in enemy territory. So how can such acts be permissible in the land of Islam?

Those who do that deserve the punishment of highway robbers and those who support them deserve the same punishment.”

He strongly opposed those Muslims who were influenced by foreign and western ideas that stated that a country couldn’t be established on religious principles.

He fought all attempts by the government to distance the Shariah and re-structure it to suit their desires. He participated in a number of debates with the government in which he always emerged victorious. He opposed the government’s proposal to adopt family-planning. He also resisted the Socialists and he annulled the fatwa passed by some permitting some forms of interest.

The government’s attempts to silence him, whether peacefully or by force were all unsuccessful.

On one occasion, an arrogant judge opposed Shaykh Abu Zahra and criticized his books. The Shaykh replied that these books were written for the pleasure of Allah, they were not prescribed to anyone, and neither did any government take the responsibility of distributing it.

He was once invited to a large Islamic Conference together with a number of prominent ulama from the Muslim World. The president of the host-country was an oppressive tyrant who in his opening address at the Conference spoke about the ‘socialism’ of Islam. The President called on the ulama to support him and to proclaim this as being the truth. Many were helpless and bewildered. Shaykh Abu Zahra asked for a chance to speak. He said: “We, the ulama of Islam, who know the law of Allah in matters of the country and in matters related to peoples’ problems, have come here to proclaim the truth as we know it, so the leaders of the countries should stop within their limits and they must leave Ilm for its people so they may openly proclaim the truth. You have been kind to invite the ulama and now you must listen to their views so that you don’t pronounce a view that they regard as incorrect. We ought to fear Allah regarding his Shariah.”

The President of the host-country was alarmed and afraid, so he requested that one of the scholars stand and defends him against Shaykh Abu Zahra. No one complied and the conference was abandoned after the first sitting, when the President stormed out of the hall.

 

Shaykh Abu Zahra passed away in Cairo in 1974 (1397) and the Janazah Salaat was led by the Shaykh of Al-Azhar, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Fahaam.

Abdullah Al-Aqeel praised him in a speech after his death where he said, “Allah has chosen Shaykh Abu Zahra, a brave man, an excellent scholar, a prominent jurist and a mujtahid, a very intelligent person who spent his life serving Islam…”

Dr. Muhammad Rajab Al-Bayoomi said in his book, that Shaykh Abu Zahra was the refuge and solace for the scholars in any crisis. He was sharp-witted, very eloquent and very strong and convincing in his arguments. He was known for his sincerity and his harshness against the oppressors. He was pressurized, but he never succumbed.

Shaykh Salih Al-Jafari, Imam of the Al-Azhar, also commemorated his death by speaking about Shaykh Abu Zahra and his personality.


Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


 

 

 

The Trodden Path (Episode 4): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this fourth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini

 

The Trodden Path  Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini   

The Shaykh was born in the city of Mayadin in Syria in 1938 (1356). He hailed from a noble family and his lineage joins with the household of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Husayn ibn Ali (RA). The city of Mayadin was on the banks of the Euphrates River and was an old city that was known from the Roman era and it also featured during the era of the Abbasid leader, Harun al-Rashid.

He was born into a family of average financial standing and his father lived until his 90’s. Initially, the young Muhammad Shakur was the only child. Thereafter his father married for a second time and he was blessed with sons and daughters. Because he had to serve his mother and she had no other children, he was pardoned from the normally compulsory military conscription.

Muhammad Shakur married for the first time when he was 17 and he was blessed with his first child when he was 19. He had six children from his first wife. His wife was the perfect aide and confidant and patiently bore all the difficulties including the times when he was imprisoned and the unsettled lifestyle. Shaykh Shakur said the following about her when she passed away: “I lived with her for 50 years and never once did I go to bed angry with her.”

After her demise, he married for the second time to woman from Jordan who bore him a daughter. She too took excellent care of the Shaykh even during the days of his illness.

He assisted his father in his business and various other chores and patiently bore all the difficulties as a result of the travelling between different towns and cities.

He was loved by all, the young and the old and spent almost all his time in the masjid. He is not known to have missed the Fajr Salat in the masjid except due to severe illness.

Education:

Period in Syria

He completed his primary education in Mayadin and he continued in Dayr Zor. It was during this period that he began acquiring sacred knowledge in the different masjids and he even began delivering the Friday sermon (khutbah) in the city and in some neighboring villages. He completed his secondary school at Dar al-Mu’allimin in Aleppo in 1959. During this period he had some confrontations with the Syrian Government and he was imprisoned. His secondary school certificate allowed him to teach and so he taught for a while. He studied under Shaykh Mahmud Umar Mushawwah under whom he studied various subjects and remained with him for a long time. There was a mutual love for one another between the shaykh and the student. Shaykh Shakur regarded his teacher, Shaykh Mahmud as his father. In 1962, he obtained his general secondary school certificate.

He was appointed as a teacher in Hasakah but continued in his quest for knowledge. He enrolled at the Faculty of Shariah at the University of Damascus and graduated in 1967. During his time as a student at the university, he realized that he needed to increase his knowledge because what he gained at the university was not sufficient. So, he began reading profusely day and night until he is supposed to have read about 30 000 pages in one year in different subjects that included the nine famous canonical books of Hadith. He also read voluminous books like Tafsir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Zhilal (fi zhilal al-Quran) and about nine volumes of Tafsir alRazi and other books. He used to makes notes as he read. If he was not reading then he was listening to a recorded lesson or khutbah on the old cassette players.He spent a lot of time with his teacher (shaykh) and discussed various juristic, political and social matters. Every Friday, asked Shaykh Shakur about the topic of the sermon. The teacher and studied would then walk out of the town discussing and brainstorming the topic. He was prevented from delivering the Friday sermon on a number of occasions because he was fearless when he ascended the pulpit. During this period there were many who were his students and later became reputable scholars and even professors, engineers and teachers.

Period in Makkah

The next phase in his life began in 1976 when he moved to Makkah where he was honoured to teach at one of the schools close to the Haram in the Shamiyah district. Very often he used to go to the Haram early before his teaching commenced in order to perform tawaf. He also taught at the Abu Zayd al-Ansari Hifz School in the Tan’im district until 1983.During this period he had a permanent place in the Haram where he taught various subjects including Tafsir and Islamic etiquette. He began editing and annotating various books and one of his first works was alAwa’il by al-Tabarani which was published in 1983. He registered for the Masters’ degree in Egypt and successfully completed the first year but was unable to complete his studies due to financial constraints. He also wished to return to his country to promote the religion. It was during his time in Makkah that he became acquainted with various scholars that included; Shaykh Ali al-Tantawi, Shaykh Muhammad Mahmud al-Sawwaf, Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni and Shaykh Diya al-Din al-Sabuni.

He was fortunate to have entered the Ka’bah on a number of occasions. During his stay in Makkah he collected many books which resulted in his own large library. His passion for books continued until a short while before his death. His selection was so huge that even while completing his doctoral thesis there were only two books that he required that were not in his library. He eventually bought these as well.

He was even appointed as an Imam in one of the mosques in Makkah for four years and served as the Friday preacher in another mosque in Aziziyah also for about four years. Thereafter he resigned from his teaching post in Makkah and decided to move to Baghdad in Iraq to devote more time calling people to Allah.

Period in Iraq

In 1983 he moved to Baghdad, Iraq where he remained for a few years calling people to Allah while never neglecting his research. While in Baghdad, he edited a number of books which were published.He visited the different libraries in Baghdad to familiarize himself with the different manuscripts. It was during his stay in Iraq that he was able to complete his Masters’ degree which he obtained from the Punjab University in Pakistan. Even while in Pakistan, he maximized his time to study and read Hadith with various scholars from whom he obtained ijazah. He travelled numerous times to Makkah where he was fortunate to have met and read with scholars like Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani, Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zhahiri and others and from whom he also received ijazah. It was during this time that he studied under Shaykh Husayn Usayran. He read the entire SahihalBukhari and the complete Quran to him and he received ijazah from him. His son, Muhammad Adib also read a portion of SahihalBukhari with Shaykh Husayn and also received ijazah from him.

Period in Jordan

This is regarded as the golden period in his life because it was filled with his lessons from which many benefited. He dedicated all of his time to serving the religion. He was appointed as the imam and preacher in two cities; Zarqa and Amman. He moved to Jordan in 1991 where he lived in Zarqa and served as an imam in one mosque after which he moved to Masjid al-Quds in Zarqa. This mosque became a beacon of knowledge because it was here that Shaykh Shakur led the prayers, delivered lectures and taught hundreds of students. He used conduct lectures in various other mosques as well. He conducted weekly lessons during which he taught Tafsir, special lessons for the women on a Wednesday. Many of these ladies were prominent in the field of Da’wah and used to phone him for answers to their questions. During his lessons in Zarqa, he explained a reasonable portion of the book, alHidayah by al-Mirghaynani. He also conducted lessons in sirah.

After some of his students insisted, he finally registered at the al-Quran al-Karim University in Sudan for his doctorate with a special focus on Hadith. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1998 when he was about 60 years old. Thereafter he relocated to the capital, Amman where students from different parts of the world thronged around him. Some were post-graduate students and others were scholars. They studied SahihalBukhari and Muwatta under him. He continued conducting lessons in some of the other mosques. He continued teaching women on a Wednesday and these lessons continued for over 12 years. Many completed SahihalBukhari, Muwatta, alAdab alMufrad and a portion of Ihya Ulum alDin. These women maintained a very high level of dedication and punctuality and would rarely miss a lesson except if it was beyond their control.

During this period he began conducting some online lessons. During these lessons, students would read to him and he explained. He did this despite his ill health because he was too ashamed to turn a student away. He delivered the Friday sermon in Jordan for about 24 years and only stopped due to his illness in 2012. He obtained Jordanian citizenship in 2003.

Some of his Shuyukh:

  • Shaykh Mahmud ibn Umar ibn Muhammad Sharif Mushawwah (d. 1420) who was the Mufti of Dayr Zor. With him Shaykh Shakur studied Fiqh of the Hanafi School.
  • ShaykhHusaynUsayran
  • Shaykh Abu Abdullah Muhammad A’zam ibn Fadl al-Din al-Jondalwi (d. 1405). Shaykh Shakur received ijazah from him.
  • Shaykh Ibrahim Fatani.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ubaydullah, a mufti from Paksitan.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Tayyib Muhammad Ata Allah Hanif al-Fojiyani (d. 1409). He received ijazah from him.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Malik Kandehlawi, who was the senior scholar of Hadith at the Dar al-Hadith al-Ashrafiyah in Lahore. He received ijazah from him as well.
  • Shaykh Abu Muhammad Badi’ al-Din Shah al-Rashidi al-Sindi (d. 1416).
  • He received ijazah from both Mufti Taqi and Mufti Rafi’ Uthmani who are two senior scholars from Pakistan.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani (d. 1410). He read the Muwatta as per the narration of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.
  • Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zahiri who was the son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi.
  • Shaykh Abdul Wakil who is a son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi
  • ShaykhHusaynUsayran (d. 1426). He read the Quran and SahihalBukhari to him.

Shaykh Muhammad Shakur was blessed with many students. This is due to him having taught in Makkah, Baghdad and Amman. He read and taught SahihalBukhari and the Muwatta well over 20 times.

Some of his students who are respectable scholars are:

  • Shaykh Ali ibnYasin al-Muhaymid
  • ShaykhHusayn al-Ubaydli
  • Shaykh Muhammad Adib (son of Shaykh Shakur)
  • Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Britain)
  • Shaykh Ali ibn Muhammad al-Imran
  • ShaykhNizamYaqubi
  • ShaykhRiyadibnHusayn al-Taaie (Iraq)
  • Shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf al-Alawi

His character:

He was deeply hurt and affected when a Jewish soldier killed a number of Palestinians during the Fajr Salat in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. After this incident he delivered two fiery and emotional sermons after which he was admitted to the hospital and they discovered that he had a clot in his heart. He underwent numerous medical procedures and operations. Some of the medication had side-effects and caused other complications. He was afflicted with prostate cancer and received treatment for about four years. Despite his ill health, he remained committed to the Din and continued teaching.

Those who interacted with Shaykh Shakur would agree that he was soft natured, he cried easily, devout worshiper and a person who was eager to impart knowledge at every opportunity.  He was very emotional when he heard the blessed characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad. He loved and respected the ulama.

He continued teaching even in his old age and despite his illness. He even had women attend and complete Sahih alBukhari with him. He was alert during the recital of the Hadith and very often pointed the variations in the different editions. He preferred commenting on various aspects related to the Hadith.

We witnessed all of the above when we invited him to South Africa in 2013 as per the recommendation of Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Cordoba Academy). When I (Shoayb Ahmed) phoned him to invite him, he gladly accepted despite his ill health and having never met me previously. Yet he was willing to undertake the long journey. He traveled with his wife and his young daughter. It was a pleasure having such a scholar with such an amazing personality. I asked him as to why he didn’t hesitate in accepting the invitation. He said that a Muslim brother made a request and he accepted the opportunity to travel for the pleasure of Allah and to impart ‘ilm. He did not inform his children about his planned visit to South Africa until the night prior to his departure. He feared that had they known earlier, they would have prevented him from travelling. He didn’t even inform us that he was unable to walk and needed a wheelchair. When he was questioned about this? He said that if we knew that he was unable to walk, we would have cancelled his visit. He would sit for hours while we read alMuwatta and other works to him. He carried many books with him as gifts for the students and he even distributed cash to those who were graduating. He was overjoyed to have met an old friend when he was reunited with Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni in South Africa. The day before he departed he was taken to the Pretoria Zoo and he really enjoyed himself. When he departed and we greeted him at the airport, it was as if we were bidding farewell to our father. This is how attached we became to him during his ten day visit.

His books and annotations:

Despite his teaching, his Hadith sessions and his responsibility as imam, he still found time to write and annotate various books. Sometimes he used to spend 14-15 hours a day reading and researching various aspects.

  1. He gathered 40 Hadith on sending salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad. He compiled this in Baghdad in 1405.
  2. Fayd al-Mu’in ‘ala Jami al-Arba’in fi Fadail al-Quran al-Mubin by Mulla Ali al-Qari (d. 1014). He referenced the Hadith and edited the work.
  3. Targhib Ahl al-Islam fi Sukna Bilad al-Sham by al-‘Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. He edited it and referenced the Hadith.
  4. Fad al-Wiaa’ fi Ahadith Raf’ al-Yadayn fi al-Dua by al-Suyuti. He edited this work in Pakistan
  5. Al-Rawd al-Dani ‘ala al-Mu’jam al-Saghirby al-Tabarani (2 volumes)
  6. Al-Lum’at fi Khasais al-Jumuah by al-Suyuti
  7. Al-Ifsah ‘an ahadith al-nikah by Ibn Hajr al-Haytami.
  8. Hibat al-Rahman al-Rahim min Jannat al-Na’im fi Fadail al-Quran al-Karimby Muhammad Hashim al-Sindi. Shaykh Shakur condensed it and edited it.
  9. Siham al-isabah fi al-da’wat al-mujabahby al-Suyuti.
  10. Majma’ al-zawa’idwamanba’ al-fawa’idby al-Haytami
  11. Al-Imta’ bi al-arba’in al-mutabayinah bi shart al-sama’ by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani.
  12. He edited al-Majma’ al-Mu’assas li al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras by IbnHajr
  13. Tasdid al-Qaws fi Takhrij Musnad al-Firdaws by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani. This book contains about 6000 Hadith. He passed away before completing this work. He completed about one third.

His demise:

He passed away on a Friday night having conducted his last lesson in Sahih alBukhari a day prior to his demise. He requested to be taken to hospital where his health deteriorated and he was in severe pain. He used to place his hand on the area where he experienced pain and say: ‘Ya Allah!. His children were at his side and he spoke to them. He passed away on the 10th December 2015(28 Safar 1437).

 


Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


 

 

Reflections on the Life of Omar ibn Said – Dr Hadia Mubarak

Dr Hadia Mubrak shares her reflections and thoughts on the life and legacy of Omar ibn Said.

 

In our public discourse, the term “Muslim” tends to be synonymous with words like “foreigner,” “immigrant” and “refugee.” Yet the historical reality of Muslims in America depicts a completely different portrait. The first Muslims to come to America were Africans, chained, forced into bondage and stripped of their heritage, religions, and families.
The history of Muslims in America begins with people like Omar ibn Said, a Muslim scholar who was brought to Charleston, SC in 1807 and was later imprisoned in Fayetteville, NC for running away from his slave master. A few months ago, the Library of Congress made virtually accessible his autobiography, the only one of its kind, to the world, noted in the PBS video below.As a Muslim American, I feel personally indebted to the legacy of Omar ibn Said. I cannot fathom what it must have been like for this 37-year-old Gambian scholar of Islam to arrive to a new land, forced to contend with a new culture, religion and language and be stripped of one’s freedom and identity. The autobiography of Ibn Said speaks to his faith, wisdom and perseverance.
His decision to write his autobiography in Arabic – the only extant autobiography in Arabic by an African slave – is not incidental. By writing his autobiography in Arabic, a language that neither the slave masters nor the dominant society could understand, Omar ibn Said was asserting an autonomy of identity. He, and not his slave masters, would have the final word on his own narrative. Further, Ibn Said’s reference to the 67th chapter of the Quran, the Chapter of Dominion (Surat al-Mulk), in his autobiography is revealing. It reflects the faith of a man who internalized the ultimate reality of God’s dominion over all things; it reflects the knowledge of man who recognized that the only Master in this world is the Creator of the heavens and earth and everything in between.
It is worth considering how Omar ibn Said’s mastery of the Quran paved his way to living the rest of his life honorably, removed from a life of arduous labor under ruthless conditions, to which most slaves were subject. By writing passages of the Quran in Arabic on the walls of his Fayetteville prison cell, Ibn Said was recognized by those in power to be an educated man. As a result, Ibn Said was not subject to the laws applied to runaway slaves. Saved from punishment, he was instead transferred to the home of General James Owen, the brother of North Carolina’s governor, and treated very well, according to Ibn Said himself. It was not Omar’s decision to run away from slavery nor to seek shelter in a church that turned his fate around. Rather, it was his decision to write passages of the Quran on his prison cell walls that turned his fate around, attracting the attention of state authorities.
As the Library of Congress makes virtually accessible Ibn Said’s autobiography to the world, I cannot help but wonder whether he had ever considered the possibility that millions of people would one day read his biography. As an educated, literate and well-read scholar, his decision to select high quality paper for his manuscript indicates that he was writing for posterity. Could he have imagined, however, that millions, maybe billions, would read his words nearly 200 years later? We can never really know.
The public release of his autobiography reflects the redemptive nature of history, a history in which the marginalized, the oppressed and the voiceless are given the final word. As a Muslim, I interpret this as God’s acceptance of Ibn Said in His divine favor, and God knows best.
The stories of Muslim African slaves like Ibn Said’s offer just a glimpse into a part of American history that we’ve neglected to tell. And by the way, Ibn Said’s story represents not African American history nor Muslim American history, but American history. The personal accounts of enslaved Muslims like Ibn Said, who felt compelled to publicly convert to Christianity – the official religion of their slave masters – shifts the overall story we have told ourselves about religious freedom in U.S. history. Without question, America offered refuge from religious persecution for scores of immigrants who came to U.S. shores of their own volition. Yet this was not the case for over 300,000 enslaved African men and women. The personal accounts of folks like Omar ibn Said should occupy the center, not the margins, of American history.

Dr. Hadia Mubarak is an assistant professor of religious studies at Guilford College. Previously, Mubarak taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Davidson College. Mubarak completed her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Georgetown University, where she specialized in modern and classical Qurʾanic exegesis, Islamic feminism, and gender reform in the modern Muslim world.


The Trodden Path (Episode 3): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this newly anticipated series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this third episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji.

 

The Trodden Path

Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji (1342-1434=1923-2013)

Shaykh Wahbī ibn Sulaymān ibn Khalīl Ghāwji Albānī was born in 1923 (1342) in Skudera, the former capital of Albania. He attended classes and studied the Qurān and theHanafi books of doctrine and morals. His first teacher in the Islamic Sciences was his father who narrated with chains of transmission (samā’) from the shuyūkh of Albania. In 1937 he migrated with his family to Syria where they settled in Damascus. His father assumed the position as Imām in the al-‘Umariyyah Mosque where he served as the deputy to Shaykh Muhammad Shukrī al-Ustuwānī.

His secondary education ended when King Ahmad Tughu decreed that Albanian students had to wear European hats. In 1937 his father sent him to Egypt to continue his studies where he initially studied at the Cairo Institute and in 1939 he enrolled at the Faculty of Sharī’ah of the al-Azhar University. Shaykh Wahbi’s proficiency in the Arabic Language was weak but he was dedicated and motivated and he graduated from the al-Azhar University in 1945. He then enrolled in the specialization programme concentrating on the Islamic Judicial System (Qadā) from which he graduated in 1947 with the International al-Azhar Certificate. Shaykh Wahbī said: “My father sent me to Egypt and I stayed there for ten years. I studied Arabic and received a degree from the Faculty of Shari’ah and then obtained a specialized degree that enabled me to serve as a judge in an Islamic Court. I attended the discourses of Imām Muhammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī whose hand I was honoured to kiss and who handed me a compilation of his teachers, which included chains of transmission (thabt) titled ‘al-Tahrīr al-Wajīzfīmā Yabtaghīhi al-Mustajīz’. However, I narrate from him only through the intermediaries of Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alī al-Murād and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah (d. 1997).” Shaykh Wahbī described al-Kawtharī as a sign of Allah in learning, modesty and abstinence, as if al-Kawtharī were a king walking in the street.” Shaykh Wahbī himself has been described inthis manner.

He returned to Syria where he was accepted by the Ministry of Education as a teacher in schools in Aleppo. While in Aleppo he became acquainted with Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali al-Murad and they developed an excellent relationship that resulted in Shaykh Wahbi and his brother both marrying the sisters of Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Murad. After three years in Aleppo, he was transferred to Damascus where he taught formally in the schools and voluntarily in various mosques. Sometimes he conducted as many as eight lessons per week and these included a Tafsir lesson at Jami’ al-Rawdah that continued for about ten years.Shaykh Wahbi remained in Damascus until 1965 during which he even taught at the Faculty of Sharī’ah at the University of Damascus and among his students here were: Dr Muhammad al-Zuhayli. It was during this period that he began writing some articles for newspapers and magazines.

When he reached the age of forty, he began writing and one of the first books he authored was the book titled: ‘ArkanalIslamalKhamsah’. In 1966 he travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he taught at the Faculty of Sharī’ah of the Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University for one year after which he moved to the branch of this university in Madinah where he remained for five years. In 1972 he returned to Damascus where he continued teaching at various secondary schools until 1980 when he formally retired. He returned to Madinah where he taught for a while at the Secondary School affiliated to the Islamic University for a short while before being transferred to the Center for Academic Research of the same university. He faced some hardship because of his book ‘ArkanalIman and he then submitted his resignation. He remained for about year in Madinah unemployed after which he travelled to Jordan where he settled in Amman during which he authored his book titled: alTaliqalMuyassarala MultaqaalAbhur in Fiqh of the Hanafi madhhab.

In 1986 he moved to Dubai where he taught Fiqh at the College of Arabic and Islamic Studies. He also served as the deputy director and the head of the Fiqh Department for one year. He continued teaching until 2001.

In 2001 (1422) a function was held in his honour and it was attended by some renowned scholars who included: Shaykh Ibrahim al-Salqini, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ijaj al-Khatib, Dr Muhammad al-Zuhayli, Dr Mustafa Muslim, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim Tatan, Dr ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Kaylani, Dr Ma’mun al-Shafqah and others. The guests spoke about the Shaykh and his personality and some even composed odes in his honour describing him as a rare pearl and requesting to him to supplicate to Allah for them.

In 2000 he returned to Damascus where he lived since. He taught Fiqh form the famous Hanafi book, alHidayah at Ma’had al-Fath al-Islāmī and he delivered the Jumu’ah sermon at Jami’ al-Arnaout in Damascus and taught at various mosques including Jami’ al-Iman.

Ever since Yugoslavia gained independence, Shaykh Wahbi travelled to Albania about six times for the sake of propagating and spreading the message of Islam. His first visit was in 1991. During these visits he conducted lessons and lectures in Albanian in Skudera.

Among his teachers apart from those already mentioned are:

  • Shaykh ‘Ināyat Allah al-Askūbī who narrates with chains of transmission from his Macedonian and other shuyukh
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-Khidr Husayn who was the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar from 1952-1954.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Abu Daqiqah in Egypt
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sāyis in Egypt
  • Shaykh Hasan Habannaka al-Maydani in Damascus who was a renowned Shafi’ scholar and the teacher of renowned scholars like Shaykh Mustafa al-Khinn, Shaykh Mustafa al-Bugha and Shaykh Muhammad Sa’īd Ramadan al-Būtī.
  • Shaykh Muhmamad Salih al-Farfūr who was a renowned Hanafi scholar and the teacher of illustrious scholars like Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Halabi, Shaykh Adīb Kallās and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Bazm.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Yusr ‘Abidīn who was the Mufti of the country.
  • Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhāb Dibs wa Zayt a renowned scholar in the Hanafi madhhab and in the science of qirā’āt.
  • Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali al-Murad
  • Shaykh‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-Hāmid of Syria.
  • ShaykhSa’d al-Dīn al-Murād al-Hamawī of Syria
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Arabī al-Tubbānī
  • Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī of Makkah
  • Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ ‘Uthmānī and his son, Mufti Taqī ‘Uthmānī of Pakistan
  • Shaykh Mufti ‘Ashiq Ilāhi al-Murtahinī al-Madanī of India but he resided in Madinah.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ‘Alī al-Nadwī of India

 

He was known for the books he authored related to Fiqh of the Hanafi madhhab as well as about 35 books he authored in his native Albanian Language. He participated in writing textbooks to teach Hanafi Fiqh at Islamic Institutions that were affiliated to the Ministry of Endowments in Syria. He also wrote about 400 articles that were published in various magazines.

He visited Shaykh Mustafa al-Sibaī in his last illness and he presented him with an article in which he criticized him on some aspects of socialism. Shaykh Mustafa published it verbatim. This is a sign of the lofty character of a scholar and exactly how Shaykh Wahbi described Shaykh Mustafa.

He revised some of the books authored by Shaykh Sa’īd Hawwa and he even wrote the forward to Shaykh ‘Abd Allah ‘Alwan’s book titled ‘TarbiyyatalAwlad fi alIslam’.

 

Among the works Shaykh Wahbī authored and published are:

  • Abū Hanīfah al-Nu’mān Imām al-A’immah al-Fuqahā
  • Arkān al-Imān on the branches of faith
  • Arkān al-Islām on the Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) of the five pillars according to the Hanafi school of thought
  • Al-Hayāt al-ākhirahah wa luhuwaah waluhu wa Husn ‘Aqibati al-Muttaqīnafina bi Fadl Allah wa Rahmatihi on the states of the Hereafter
  • Jābiribn ‘Abd Allah, Sahābiyyun Imāmun wa Hāfizun Faqīh
  • Kashf Shubuhāt man za’ama Hilla Arbāhi al-Qurūd al-Masrafiyyah in refutation of those who declared bank interests on loans as permissible.
  • Kalimatun ‘Ilmiyyatun Hādiyatun fi al-Bida’h wa ahkāmiha which is a concise study of the Sunni definition of innovation
  • Maqālatun fi al-Ribāwa al-Fā’idah al-Masrafiyyah
  • Masā’il fi ‘Ilm al-Tawhīd
  • Min Qadāya al-Mar’ati al-Muslimah
  • Munāzratun ‘Ilmiyyatun fi Nisbati Kitāb al-Ibāna Jami’ ila al-Imam al-Asha’ariwa Yalihi faslun fi Khilāfat Ahl al-sunnahwa Khilafāt al-Manqūlabayn al-Māturidiyyahwa al-Ashā’irah
  • Al-Salātu wa ah kāmuhā
  • Al-Shahādatānwa Ahkāmuhā
  • Al-Siyāmu wa ah kāmuhu
  • Al-Tahdhīr min al-Kabā’ir
  • A two volume compilation of his fatwa’s that were issued in Dubai.

He also wrote important marginalia:

  • Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar on Mulla ‘Ali Qāri’s Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar a classic textbook on Sunni doctrine
  • Al-Ta’līq al-Muyassar on Shaykh Ibrāhīm al-Halabi’s recension of Hanafi Fiqh, Multaqā al-Abhur
  • Muqaddimah fi ‘Ilm al-Tawhīda long introduction to Idāh al-Dalīl fi qati’ Hujaji Ahl al-Ta’tīl by the Shāfi’ scholar, Qādi Badr al-Dīn ibn Jamā’a which is a defence of Sunni doctrine against anthropomorphists
  • On al-Qāsim ibn Sallām’s Fadā’il al-Qurān
  • On Hāfiz al-Zabīdi’s two volume ‘Uqūd al-Jawāhir al-Munīfah fi Adillat Madhhab al-Imam AbiHanīfah on the Hanafi proofs in jurisprudence.
  • Al-‘Iqd al-Jawāhirin his bio-bibliographical introduction to al-Zabīdi’s Bulghat al-‘Arib fi MustalahAthar al-Habīb
  • On al-Kawtharī’s Mahq al-Taqawul fi Mas’alah al-Tawassul and Hāfiz Muhammad ‘Abid al-Sindī’s Hawla al-Tawassulwa al-Istighātha written to clarify the Sunni ruling on tawassul.

 

He also wrote prefatory comments for the following works:

  • ‘Abd al-Karīm Tattān and Muhammad Adīb al-Kilāni’sSharh Jawharah al-Tawhīdin two volumes
  • Khaldun Makhlut’s Ahwāl al-Abrārinda al-Ihtidār on the states of the pious at the threshold of death

 

His Personality:

He was a very handsome person upon whom the awe of the fuqaha and the nūr of ‘ilm was apparent. He had a thick beard and was very neatly dressed. He practically demonstrated the noble character of the Prophet Muhammad in his conduct and he was very particular on adhering to the Sunnah. He was a humble person and disliked those who pretended to possess Islamic sacred knowledge. He was pleasant in his speech and close to the hearts of those seated around him. Peoples’ hearts even those who opposed him were attracted to him. He never offended anyone and he carefully selected his words before he spoke. He was patient and always pardoned people. He displayed anger for the sake of Allah but never harboured any hatred or malice for anyone. He cried easily especially hen reciting the Qurān or when listening to the incidents of the pious predecessors. Despite this he shared some light-hearted moments with those with him from time to time. He was very particular about his dressing and even in the quality and appearance of his books.

 

What the ‘Ulama Said About Him:

Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro: ‘When I speak about the righteous scholar, my brother for the sake of Allah, respected Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji who has acquired his ‘ilm from one of the most prestigious institutions in the Muslim World; al-Azhar University, I will state that this Shaykh is indeed a proof in ‘ilm and ma’rifah and a role model in propagation and spirituality and an illuminating light…’

 

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah: ‘The noble brother, Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji. May Allah protect him and may the slaves and the lands benefit from his knowledge and virtue.’

 

Shaykh Mustafa al-Khinn: ‘I have lived a long time with the honourable brother Shaykh Ghawji in different situations. I have only found him to be a righteous man, a sincere caller to Allah based on ‘ilm and guidance.’

 

Shaykh Muhammad Sa’īd Ramadan al-Buti: ‘…one of the divinely inspired scholars who combined vast knowledge of ‘Aqidah and Fiqh while treading the way of the pious predecessors in worship, piety, abstinence and adherence to the way of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. I regard him today as one of the best people who demonstrate the belief, character, piety and method of the pious predecessors…’

 

His Demise:

Shaykh Wahbi remained in Damascus until a few months ago when he left to Beirut where he was intentionally delayed by members from Hizb for about 24 hours and with the result he missed his flight. Shaykh was ill suffering from a weak heart and water in his lungs. He arrived in the UAE the next day and he was admitted to hospital where he remained for one week. He was discharged but a month later he was re-admitted with inflamed lungs. He received treatment for two weeks and he passed away on the 19th February 2013 (9 Rabi’ al-Akhir 1434). The Janazah Salat was led by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim Tatan and he was buried in the al-Qawz cemetery in Dubai.

 

* Profile prepared by Shaykh Gibril Haddad with additional notes translated by Shoayb Ahmed from the Arabic article by Muhammad Muyassar ibn Shaykh Muhammad Bashir al-Murad. The translator visited the Shaykh in Damascus in 2006 and attended a lesson in Hanafi Fiqh and was granted ijazah and permission to translate the Shaykh’s books into English. This biography appears in the book: Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century by Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed (published by DTI)


Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


The Trodden Path (Episode 2): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this newly anticipated series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this second article of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of the Syrian scholar, Shaykh Tahir Al-Jazairi (RA).

The Trodden Path

Shaykh Tahir Al-Jazairi (1268-1338=1852-1920)

His full name is Tahir ibn Muhammad Salih ibn Ahmad ibn Mawhub Al-Samouni Al-Jazaairi Al-Dimashqi.

This reformer and great scholar of tafsir, hadith, fiqh, usul, history and the arabic language was born in Damascus in 1852 (1268) where he passed away in the year 1920 (1338).

His father Muhammad Salih emigrated from Algeria to Damascus in 1846 (1263) along with the great Algerian leader Abdul Qadir Al-Jazairi. He lived there until he passed away in (1285). His father was a scholar in the Quraanic sciences and a reputable scholar in the Maliki Madhab. He was the authorized Mufti on behalf of the Madhab in Damascus.

Shaykh Tahir received his early education from his father; thereafter he studied with other ulama in Damascus. His father, Shaykh Salih migrated from Algeria after the French occupied their lands and imposed various pressures on the Muslims. He was a scholar and was responsible for Fatwa in the Maliki madhab in Damascus. He also read and repeated the lessons in Sahih AlBukhari on behalf of Shaykh Ahmad Al-Kuzbari in the Umawy Mosque. He authored a few useful books. He passed away in Damascus in 1868 (1285).

He studied Arabic, Turkish and Persian under Shaykh AbdurRahman Al-Banushnaqi. He also studied French, Syriac, Hebrew and the Ethiopian Language. He also knew some of the Berber tribal languages, particularly of those who inhabited parts of Algeria.

The scholars under whom he studied the various Islamic sciences with were many. One of them was Shaykh Abdul Ghani Al-Ghunaymi Al-Maydani (1222-1298=1807-1881, author of AlLubaab in Hanafi Fiqh, Sharh AlAqeedah AlTahawiyah and other books), who was one of the most senior Hanafi scholars who was a student of Imam Ibn Abideen (author of Rad AlMukhtar), one of the greatest Hanafi scholars in that century. From him, Shaykh Tahir learnt how to be thorough, accurate and precise when analyzing complex fiqh issues.

Shaykh Tahir devoted all his time and energy towards studying which also included studying the natural sciences. He also studied mathematics, astronomy and history. His knowledge of history was superb and in addition he was very well acquainted with the biographies of the previous scholars and their books.

In his youth, he was among the founders in a charitable organization that was established by a group of scholars of Damascus in 1877 (1294). In 1878 (1295), at the age of 26 he was appointed as a general inspector for the primary schools. During the period he served in this position, he wrote some books that were necessary at the time for pupils in various levels. Together with Shaykh Ala Al-Din Abidin (d.1888), they agreed to establish the Al-Jamiyat Al-Khairiyah Al-Islamiyah that was very active in Damascus and was responsible for establishing many schools.

In 1879 (1296) he attempted to gather in one place all historical manuscripts from the endowment libraries in Damascus. The result of his efforts was the establishment of the Zahiriyah Library that became one of the most prominent libraries in the Arab world because of its valuable collections of manuscripts.

After his success with this library he strove to repeat the same in Jerusalem to establish the Khalidiyah Library in Al-Quds. Shaykh Tahir continued to serve the knowledge of Islam through his writing, teaching, and promoting it through his libraries.

His activities increased after 1886 after he had abandoned his work with the government. He devoted his time to teaching and towards promoting various reforms.

In 1907 (1325), he faced some harassment and pressure from the Turkish authorities in Syria. As the result he immigrated to Egypt where its scholars welcomed him, especially the likes of Ahmad Taimur Basha and Ahmad Zaki Basha.

He refused to take a cent from the State, because he feared that he would be forced to be silent on issues that were not palatable to the leaders. Instead, he lived by sacrificing his most beloved possessions. He sold his books and his manuscripts in order to survive. Even in these desperate times, he chose to sell his books to Dar Al-Kutub Al-Misriyah for half the price he would have received from the British Museum because he wanted to ensure that the books remain in Muslim lands.

Shaykh Ali Yusuf and Ahmad Taimur Basha tried to allocate some position to him, which would enable thousands to benefit from his vast knowledge and at the same time he would receive a salary. He excused himself because of his old age and his inability to fulfill official administrative and time requirements and also because he was accustomed to reading and researching the whole night right until Fajr. This was particularly his practice in the last forty years of his life. He remained in Cairo for about thirteen years and in 1920 (1337) he became seriously ill, and he returned to Damascus. Soon after his return he was elected as a member of the Arabic Academy in Damascus and the Director of the Zahiriyah Library. He passed away four months later in 1920 (1338) and is buried on the Qasiyoun Mountain in Damascus, Syria.

As Shaykh Taahir was so careful about utilizing his time, he did not care about his appearance and dressed very shabbily. He never married and used to spend a great deal of the night with his friends and the remainder in reading and writing. He enjoyed swimming and walking as an exercise. He was very particular about performing his salah punctually to the call of the adhan, no matter where he was. He defended the Arabic Language and the Hijri Calendar.

Although he was modest by nature he was fiercely independent. He never accepted any gift from the rulers. When he was financially in need, he continued to sell some of his books. The most expensive and dearest thing to him was his books and the time he spent studying and conducting his research. Nothing at all distracted him. He was able to answer questions that were posed to him with ease and was very annoyed at those who tried to insult the scholars.

He used to prepare a large quantity of coffee that would last for a few days to save on preparation time.

He drank coffee to give him energy and to keep him alert and awake. Whenever he left his home he always carried a book or some notes from which he could benefit, thus never wasting any time.

Despite the great amount of time he spent in reading, he advised students to lessen their reading during the holidays and, instead, to increase their sporting and recreational activities. He maintained that, deep immersion into books could lead to seclusion and alienation from people. He in turn had an excellent relationship with many scholars of Damascus that included; Shaykh Abdul Razaaq Al-Baytar, Shaykh Abu Al-Khair Abidin, Shaykh Salim Al-Bukhari and his special friend Shaykh Jamal Al-Din Al-Qasimi (author of a 17 volume Tafsir titled Mahaasin Al-Tawil fi Tafsir Al-Quran Al-Karim, 1283-1331=1866-1914). Shaykh Tahir visited Shaykh Jamal Al-Din daily from the beginning of 1906 until he left for Egypt in 1907. He attended Shaykh Al-Qasimi’s lessons in Mustalah Al-Hadith and Tafsir. Shaykh Tahir even reviewed Shaykh Al-Qasimi’s book in Mustalah Al-Hadith. They continued to correspond with one another even when Shaykh Tahir was in Egypt. Many orientalist scholars respected him and consulted him on numerous occasions. The Jewish orientalist scholar, Goldziher was one such scholar who even attended the Shaykh’s lessons in Damascus and translated his book Towjeeh Al-Nazhr  into German.

He wrote many books, over 35 in number on various subjects. These include aqidah, ulum Al-Quran, tajwid, the science of hadith, sirah, usul, Arabic rhetoric, Arabic literature, the philosophy of natural mathematics, history and introductions to many Islamic manuscripts.

His most important books are:

  • Irshad Alba (in teaching the Arabic Language)
  • Al-Tibyan (the science of the Quraan)
  • Towjih Al-Nazhr (in the science of hadith). This book is described by Shaykh Abu Ghuddah as one of the most extensive works on the subject. Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah edited and published the last two.
  • Al-Jawahir Al-Kalamiyah fi Al-Aqaaid Al-Islamiyah (Aqidah)
  • Al-TaqribilaUsul Al-Ta’rib (Arabic Grammar)
  • Sharh Khutab Ibn Nabatah(Poetry and Literature)
  • Al-Tazkirah Al-Zhahiriyah (articles on various topics)
  • Al-Uqud Al-Alaali fi Al-Asanid Al-Awali
  • Muniyat Al-Azkiya fi Qisas Al-Anbiya
  • Mukhtasar Adab Al-Katib by Ibn Qutaybah
  • Madkhal Al-Tulabila Fan Al-Hisaab

Some of his works are still manuscripts and have never been published. Some of the titles are:

  • Asna Al-Maqasid fi Ilm Al-Aqa’id
  • Al-Ilmam bi Usul Sirat Al-Nabi Alayhi Al-Salatwa Al-Salam.
  • Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir. (4 Volumes and can be regarded as notes to Tafseer Al-Baydawi).
  • Various others describing his travels to Alexandria and other places.
  • Various compilations of biographies of scholars of different eras.
  • Selections from Al-Muwafaqat by Al-Shatibi and Zaruq’s work in Tasawwuf

He could be distinguished from many of his contemporary scholars because he enjoyed the following:

  1. His initiatives in spreading education and establishing schools. Through his interaction with the Turkish authorities, he worked tirelessly to achieve this many times convincing people who owned large palatial homes to donate a portion, which could be used for a school. These schools were in all the cities of Syria and he even established a school for girls.
  2. He personally took charge of the syllabus. He did receive some opposition from certain sectors in Damascus, who wanted this knowledge to be exclusively for them and their families. He endured and persevered and because of his acquaintance with the governor, he was successful. He also encouraged and supported the establishment of a school dedicated to teaching the seven modes of recitation of the Quran.
  3. His active participation in establishing social and charitable organizations.
  4. His efforts in promoting history and various aspects related to the Arabic language.
  5. His role in bridging the gap in some way between realities and absolute aspects of Islam and modern science.
  6. His emphasis on education (tarbiyah) and ethics (akhlaaq).
  7. His activism through writing and keeping the people informed through the newspapers. Once Ahmad Zaki Basha received 10 000 pounds from the Minister of Education to publish rare books. A year passed and nothing was done. When a new minister was appointed, this amount was returned to the Ministry. Shaykh Taahir was very annoyed and upset and he felt that Ahmad Zaki had done a great disservice to the Ummah.

His students, Shaykh Muhammad Sai’d AlBani Al-Dimashqi, Muhammad Kurd Ali, Shaykh Ali Al-Tantawi and Shaykh Adnan Al-Khatib revered him and they wrote about his productive life and distinct personality.

 

* This biography may be found in the book: Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century by Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed


Biography of Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed

Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


https://seekersguidance.org/articles/the-trodden-path-a-glimpse-at-the-lives-of-the-illustrious-scholars-and-saints-of-the-20th-and-21st-century/

Talk about Islam with Shaykh Hamza Karamali (Episode 2) – What is the purpose of life?

Dear Readers, welcome back to the second episode of our periodic conversations with Shaykh Hamza Karamali as part of the “Talk About Islam” series. Shaykh Hamza Karamali is the Dean of Academics at SeekersGuidance, and is one of our senior teachers. 

 

Osama: Salam ‘alaykum Shaykh Hamza, As always, it’s a great blessing to be talking to you. In our previous conversation, we talked about the concept of religion, it’s relevance, and the experiential and logical proofs for it. Today, as a follow-up to that conversation, I’d like to pose a more practical question to you: What is the purpose of life?

Shaykh Hamza: Wa ‘alaykum salam Osama. I’m happy to be talking to you again! Let’s start in the same way as our last conversation: define your terms! When you ask, “What is the purpose of life,” what, in your mind, do you mean by purpose and and what do you mean by life?

Osama: Of course, that is a pertinent reminder. When I use the term purpose, I mean: the reason for which something is done or created, or, the reason for which something exists.

Shaykh Hamza: Okay great, let’s start with purpose; so you’ve defined the word purpose as, the reason for which something is done, created, or for which something exists. Now, someone who asks what the purpose of life is, and uses purpose to mean what you have just said, often doesn’t realize that he thereby presupposes many things. For example, someone who asks the question, “What is the purpose of life,” and means by purpose, “the reason for which something is done,” this person presupposes that life is something that has been done by someone for some reason. In the back of his mind, he is accepting that there is someone, a doer, a volitional agent who made the the phenomenon of life for some reason. Someone who says purpose is “the reason for which something is created,” (the second part of your definition) goes even further to presuppose that this doer, or volitional agent who made the phenomenon of life is God. The latter part of your definition, however–“the reason for which something exists”–does not explicitly reveal this presupposition. People who have this latter part of the definition of purpose in their minds may or may not presuppose that there is a Creator or Maker of life. Aristotle, for example, believed that all things exist for a reason that is embedded within them and that this reason drives them towards a particular end. He called this reason the “final cause” (telos) of things, and it was one of four kinds of causes that he postulated drove things in the world to change. I won’t dwell on these four causes now, but I will may have to return to some of them later as we will try to understand why a scientific understanding of the universe is often incorrectly equated with a purposeless understanding of the universe. So Aristotle believed that it was these final causes within things that gave them their purpose, not God. Aristotle did believe in God, but not in the same way that we do. More on that at a later point in our conversation, in sha’ Allah.

Osama: Sidi, these days a lot of people in the West do not believe in God, and most have not read anything about Aristotle. Don’t you think the presuppositions of modern people about the term purpose will be different to the ones that you have highlighted so far?

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, most people today would have different presuppositions about the term purpose because we live in a post-Enlightenment and postmodern world that is heavily influenced by a worldview grounded in modern scientific reasoning that seeks to explain the universe without any reference to God.  So today, when people ask the question, “What is the purpose of life?” they are most likely  not asking from the perspective of someone who believes in God, nor are they asking from the perspective of Aristotle, rather they are probably asking from the perspective of modern science. But I think that Aristotle is still important because people’s perspective today has its roots in a reaction to a Christianized Aristotelianism.

Osama: Can you elaborate on the relationship between modern science and this “Christianized Aristotelianism”?

Shaykh Hamza: Good question! To answer this properly, I’ll need to give you a brief history of modern science so that you can appreciate how we got to where we are now. Modern science came out of a period in the history of Western Europe called the ”Enlightenment.” I am saying quote-unquote “Enlightenment” in quotation marks because true “Enlightenment” comes from the light of Allah Most High that He sends through His prophets–”Allah is the protector of the believers: He takes them out of the darknesses into light.” (Qur’an, 2:256) “Into light”–in other words, He enlightens them. I think I talked about this period in our previous conversation, right?

Osama: Yes, I recall that you mentioned to me that this was a period in Western history in which oppressive and corrupt religion was displaced, through revolution in some places and gradual movements in other places, because oppressive religious state structures in Europe wronged people by denying them property rights, trapping most of them in a life of serfdom in which they were bought and sold with the land they belonged to, wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few people, and religious people would use religion to become wealthy.

Shaykh Hamza: That’s right, and in this conversation, I want to tell you something else about this period. Not only was this a period when the Christian Church was corrupt, it was also a period when it forcibly imposed a view of the universe that was, scientifically speaking, wrong. It taught by religious and political writ that the earth was at the center of the universe and that everything else–the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars–revolved around it. It took this position of Aristotle and “Christianized” it. (We’ll talk more about that later.) A number of scientists (most notably Copernicus and Galileo) challenged this view based on empirical evidence, but the Christian Church used its political authority to persecute and silence them. When, during the Enlightenment, the political power of the Church was taken away, scientists gained the freedom to use their minds and do science, and so science began to flourish. That’s what brought us to the world that we live in today.

Osama: I see, so from the perspective of the scientists, it seems that the Age of Enlightenment truly was, to a certain degree a period of “enlightenment” because it allowed intellectuals to reasonably question and critically examine the dogmatic teachings of the Church in order for the truth to prevail, right?

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, it was “enlightening” from the perspective that it sought to critically evaluate the dogmatic teachings of the Church, but the reactionary nature of the Enlightenment movement led to a hyper-correction in which things went from one extreme to another one. So they took steps towards enlightenment, but they never got there.

Osama: I learned from your “Introduction to Logic” course how Aristotelianism became a part of Christian theology by passing first through the Muslim world, and then from there to Christian Europe. I think that the introduction of Aristotelianism into Christianity–what you just called a “Christianized Aristotelianism”– led to the downfall of the state-sponsored Church in the Enlightenment. I think that Christian scholars, despite their intention to prove as valid the beliefs forwarded by their religion through rational means, failed to recognise the false-truths that were “unprovable” through rational means, like for example, the Trinity, which Christians to this day have a tough time explaining.  This type of blind imitation that rejects the rules of correct reasoning, I estimate, is exactly what the Quran asks us to abandon, when God urges us to use our intellects. I would argue that this type of intellectual reasoning, which sought to prove the validity of a religion that had admixed within it falsehood, and that had no access to preserved revelation, must have been what led to the development of tension between the Christian theologians and empirical scientists; and this is probably what brought about the Age of Enlightenment in the West. Scientists like Copernicus and Galileo must have justifiably been opposed to the authoritative imposition of incorrect intellectual and scientific positions. Now, I think that in their zeal to rid their society of false, corrupt, and oppressive religion, the Enlightenment scholars must have opposed anything that sought to justify it; hence Aristotelianism too must have become a victim of their justifiable and long overdue intellectual onslaught of false and unjust religion, namely Christianity.

Shaykh Hamza: Exactly! Alright, now that we understand why a non-religious scientific perspective has become the prevailing worldview that modern people–sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously–ascribe to, let’s return to our discussion of what pre-modern Western intellectuals would have presupposed of the term purpose. You should keep in mind that the incorrect scientific positions that the Church upheld were actually directly taken from the natural philosophy of Aristotle — that is why I mentioned him at the beginning of our conversation. One of the aspects of this natural philosophy that the Church found theologically useful was its emphasis on final causes (teleos) –the purposes of things, which I explained to you at beginning of our conversation too. We saw earlier that Aristotle believed that the purposes of things were embedded within them, and drove those things to change and realize their purposes. The Church appropriated this view of the universe from Aristotle and it interpreted the final causes of things in a way that was consistent with its own belief in God, which was very different from the way Aristotle believed in God. For Aristotle, God was like an inanimate cause that didn’t have a will, that didn’t have any volition, that couldn’t choose to do anything, from which the universe necessarily followed just like burning follows from fire. For the Church, on the other hand, God actually created the universe, so He was someone who acted out of His free-Will (this is also what we believe and also what Jews believes). So the Church took Aristotle’s natural philosophy, and the universe was interpreted to be a universe that God had designed with purposes that it was meant to fulfill. Now, Aristotle also believed that the earth was at the center of the universe, so they appropriated that, too, and made it part of their religious belief that the Earth’s being at the center of the universe reflects the fact that human beings are the most special creation of God.

Osama: Is this an illustration of why the science-versus-religion debate began in the Western world? It seems that the scientists were at odds with Christianity, and by extension Aristotelianism too, as it was used as a tool by the Church to prove its own theology and philosophy.

Shaykh Hamza: That’s right, so when scientists challenged the Church on scientifically incorrect beliefs like the earth being at the center of the universe, science and the Church became enemies, and that’s why the science-religion debate exists in the Western world. Aristotelianism, too, became an enemy of the scientists by both virtue of its conflict with science and by virtue of its historical association with the Church that forced its natural philosophy on others. Because of this enmity with the Church and with its accompanying Christianized Aristotelianism, scientists sought to understand the world in a way that was devoid of God and final causes. They said that they wanted to understand things not in terms of their final causes, the purposes that the Church had taught were embedded by God within them, but instead in terms of what Aristotle called the efficient cause.

Osama: I understand what you mean by the term final cause, but what do you mean by efficient cause?

Shaykh Hamza: The efficient cause was another one of the four causes that Aristotle believed in, and scientists sought to emphasise the efficient causes of things in the universe over their final causes in order to remove God and final causes from the philosophical–or, in a modern idiom, the scientific— analysis of the universe. Let me explain the difference between the efficient cause and the final cause. The efficient cause comes before its effect whereas the final cause comes after. Let’s say, for example, that I feel cold and so, in order to become warm, I wear my warm coat. The efficient cause of my wearing my warm coat is my feeling cold. My feeling cold (the efficient cause) comes before I wear my coat (the effect). My final cause, or purpose, or the reason why I wear my coat, however, is so that I can thereby become warm. My becoming warm (the final cause) comes after I wear my coat (the effect). The efficient cause drives me to wear my coat and if I am driven by a purpose (as all sane human beings are), then my purpose in wearing the coat (the final cause) is realized by doing the action, by my wearing my coat. So the final causes come after, and reflects the motive of the doer, and the efficient cause reflects the thing that drives someone to do it. In Aristotelianism, everything in the universe is alive and driven by purposes, similar to the way that human beings are. The seed has a purpose, a final cause, embedded into it. Its purpose, its final cause is to become a tree. And it has efficient causes that drives it towards becoming a tree–water, soil, and sunlight. Scientists who studied the universe sought to rid our analysis of the universe from these final causes, which were emphasized by the church in order to highlight the action of God, and focus solely on efficient causes. They thus got rid of both the oppressive Church and the irrational Aristotelianism.

Osama: This is an important discussion because one can definitely notice these subtleties when one studies science in college. We are not taught why the sun shines, or why flowers grow, or why it rains, but rather the emphasis is always on how the sun shines, or what makes flowers grow, or how it rains. The “why” question seems to be either ignored, or left for you to figure out for yourself, or is left for philosophy or religion. It seems like, as you pointed out, this is due to science focusing only on the efficient causes behind phenomena as opposed to its final cause.

Shaykh Hamza: Correct, and the reason for this is that modern science was formed in the crucible of all these tensions in the Enlightenment period. To illustrate the point you made about the way science is taught in classrooms today, you will notice that when you learn that plants grow through a chemical reaction called photosynthesis, in which chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy that drives an endothermic chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water to produce glucose and oxygen, you don’t learn that God created plants so that livestock could graze on them so that, in turn, humans could benefit from the milk, meat, skin, and wool of those livestock (which is what the Qur’an, for example would tell us). You learn about efficient causes, but you don’t learn about final causes. Another example. When you study fire in your school science class, you learn that it is the visible effect of a chemical reaction called “combustion”, in which a flammable gas is ignited to begin an exothermic chemical reaction between that gas and between oxygen to produce water, carbon dioxide, and heat. You don’t learn that God made fire so that we could warm ourselves in the cold (as the Qur’an would tell us), cook food, and drive cars, trucks, and airplanes. You learn about efficient causes, but you don’t learn about final causes. This is what we do when we study science. We focus on efficient causes and try as best as we can to ignore final causes, to ignore any kind of purpose in the universe. (We are not always successful in this. Biology is a prominent example of our failure–it is impossible to understand the organs of the human body, for example, without reference to purpose.)

Osama: Shaykh Hamza, it seems like we have come to agree that the reason why modern people have presuppositions of the term purpose, which are grounded in an atheistic worldview influenced by scientism, is the because of the outcome that ensued due to the tension that existed between a Christianised Aristotelianism and the western scientific community prior to the Age of Enlightenment. We also seem to agree that the Enlightenment, was to a degree, enlightening because it freed western civilisation of false and oppressive religion, and allowed the western scientific community to finally pursue their intellectual endeavours without fear of persecution. I don’t see anything wrong with what happened in the Age of Enlightenment so far, what do you think went wrong?

Shaykh Hamza: Well, this modern scientific view of the universe is wrong, just as the preceding Christianized Aristotelian view of the universe was wrong. They are wrong in different ways, but they are both wrong. Deep down inside us, we all know that this modern scientific view of the universe is wrong. Despite the fact that our science classes teach us–sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly–that the things in the universe don’t happen for any purpose, that they just happen because a bunch of a atoms and molecules randomly (whatever that means!) bumped into each other, we still find ourselves asking the question, “What is the purpose of life?” The fact that we insist on asking this question despite our modern education reveals that we know deep down inside us that there is something fundamentally wrong with this view of the universe. The search for purpose is embedded into what Muslims call the fitra; it is embedded into our souls and primordial natures. Because of our fitra, our souls, our primordial natures, we instinctively search for purposes, and when science tells us that there is no purpose in the universe, only efficient causes, we know that there is something missing. That is why we ask about the purposes of things. That is why we ask about the purpose of life. My reading of the Enlightenment is that it  was also , in reality, motivated by a search for purpose because the Christianity of that time wasn’t doing its job for people–it wasn’t giving them purpose. So people saw in their fitra, in their souls, and in their primordial natures, that their purpose wasn’t being fulfilled and they were moved by the Enlightenment to discover the true purpose of their life. The trajectory their search for purpose took, however, went off-course. They missed Islam and hence missed discovering the purpose of their life. They went from one state of purposelessness (Christianity) to a state with even less purpose (modernism) to another state with even less purpose (postmodernism). Their search for purpose took them farther and farther from their purpose because they weren’t enlightened by the light of revelation.

Osama: There is a lot to unpack in what you  have said here. Why do you think the Enlightenment was motivated by a search for purpose?

Shaykh Hamza: Living in the Age of the Enlightenment wasn’t pleasant. It was a period of revolution and civil strife. One of the reasons why that strife happened was that people knew within them that the societies in which they lived didn’t fulfill the purpose of their lives. They knew that the dogma of the Church wasn’t fulfilling their purpose, so they sought to fulfill it themselves through their reason. That’s why the Age of Enlightenment is also called the Age of Reason, in which we were to free ourselves of religious dogma by not doing things because God told us to do them, but because we wanted to do them, This is what we call humanism.

Osama: Right, so civil strife and revolution was a symbolic of a deeper problem, which was that the dogmatic religious teachings of the Church weren’t fulfilling the purpose that human beings sought to fulfill, so in their search to fill this void, they resorted to humanism. What is humanism, what is its relation to the post-Enlightenment world, and to the larger question of purpose?

Shaykh Hamza: Humanism is centered around the human being. It is the idea that things should be seen from the perspective of “me” and “I” and how “I” as the human being in general can maximise my own benefit by using my reason. I use my reason to find prosperity, eliminate poverty, to spread tolerance, to attain happiness, good health, and longevity, to reduce the infant mortality rate, and so on. This is humanism. It produced the dreams of the Enlightenment. We went from an oppressive Church-oriented society, in which we felt upset, to this world, to the pursuit of these dreams. Now, these dreams are good, but they are not the purpose of our lives. As religious people, as Muslims, we want these good things, too. However, we were not created to achieve these dreams. We were created for God. When we look at our existence in this world through these dreams, we look at the world as though there is no afterlife. This leads to societies in which, once again, we know within us that the purpose of our lives is not being fulfilled. And, once again, we feel oppressed. This is how humanism relates to our larger question about purpose. As for the relationship of humanism with other post-Enlightenment ideas, let me give you a few reasons why it failed, and how western intellectuals resorted to other ways of thinking. Events of the 20th century have rudely woken us up from our dreams to reveal the senselessness, the purposelessness, and the oppression of our post-Enlightenment world of “reason”. 20 million people died in the four years of World War I, 80 million in the six years of World War II, and two nuclear bombs destroyed the entire cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of the deaths of the two world wars and the dozens of modern conflicts since then have shown that as a result of human reason, as a result of the science and technology that was born out of the Age of Reason, the Age of “Enlightenment”, as a result of that, “enlightened” human beings have killed more people in the last one hundred years than they have in thousands of years before that. We all know this. We recognize this. And the rude awakening that the dreams of the Enlightenment are not meant to be, has left us disappointed and pessimistic about the Enlightenment project. From this disappointment has come a way of thinking that we call Postmodernism. Modernism  is the Enlightenment. Postmodernism is after the Enlightenment when we lost confidence in the Enlightenment project.

Osama: Before you go on, let me confirm my understanding here with you. So what you have argued thus far is that the Enlightenment produced various expressions of thought like humanism that were broadly grouped under modernism, and the dreams and ideals modernity called us to, through the use of reason, weren’t fulfilled because these ideals too were not the purpose of our life. Instead, because we didn’t pursue the actual ideals that were meant to fulfill our purpose, we ended up with events like World War I and II, which eventually caused the western civilisation to lose hope in the project of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, as a result of which we find ourselves in a postmodern world, wherein the project of Enlightenment has been deemed to have failed. Am I following correctly thus far? If so, can you please explain what is postmodernism, and how does it relate to the larger question of purpose that we are investigating?

Shaykh Hamza: That’s right, you’re with me so far. Now, postmodernism is a pessimistic view of human beings. It’s the view that anybody who has power is corrupt and must always be suspected of harboring a desire to benefit at the expense of those under his power. (Sounds like pre-Enlightenment Europe, doesn’t it? Can you see how we’ve come full circle?) The goal of postmodernism is to curb the power of anyone who has power, to never trust anyone who has any authority, and to have the individual freedom to do whatever you want, to say whatever you want, and to interpret things any way that you want. Postmodernism is explicitly non-rational (the opposite of the reason-oriented spirit of Enlightenment modernism) and also explicitly purposeless. That makes it very difficult to have a reasoned dialogue with a postmodernist. It also breeds a non-rational anger, frustration, and vindictiveness in its most ardent adherents. That anger, frustration, and vindictiveness becomes its purpose. It has many different manifestations. Feminism is a manifestation of Postmodernism. Post-colonialism is a manifestation of Postmodernism. The LGBTQ movement is a manifestation of Postmodernism. Many kinds of strange art and music are manifestations of Postmodernism. The list goes on. Enlightenment humanism sought purpose in the abandonment of religion under the guise of reason. That failed to fulfill the purpose of our lives because it focuses on this world and turns away from God and the afterlife. Postmodernism was an offshoot of Enlightenment humanism and sought purpose in the critique of power and the promotion of an extreme individualism that seeks to disturb the norms of surrounding societies and seeks to stand out, but that, too, hasn’t helped us find the purpose of our lives because it, too, focuses on this world and turns away from God and the afterlife. Our purpose is found in true religion, in the submission of our souls to God through the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and living this life for the afterlife. Where do we go from postmodernism? Maybe we are going to go to post-postmodernism (laughs) or maybe we will finally discover the revelation of Islam as being true (smiles).

Osama: Now, by mentioning that the revelation of Islam truly presents the world with a solution to its philosophical problems and  lack of purpose, you are bound to have many who are going to doubt this notion by pointing to history to say that religion has already failed us in the West, why should we trust it again?

Shaykh Hamza: Well, when we look back at the history of Western Europe and refer to the Age of Enlightenment as the Age of Reason we are saying that the Christian Church suppressed our reason and that we found enlightenment by using our collective social will to put an end to oppression and our minds to decide for ourselves what is best for us. The idea that the false dogma of the Church should not be accepted on authority, and that we find enlightened by using our reason is correct. But the idea that this happened in the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason is not correct. It didn’t happen then. It actually happened a thousand years before that time in the age of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), who called the ancient Arabians to turn away from the false dogma of the Qurashite idolatrous establishment, and to become enlightened by shining the light of divine revelation onto their lives and then using their enlightened reason (enlightened by divine revelation, in other words) to make choices that fulfilled the purpose of their lives. There are many, many verses in the Qur’an that tell us that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was sent to take believers out of the “darknesses” of disbelief into “light” of belief (e.g., Qur’an, 2:257, 5:16, 6:39, 13:16, 14:1, 14:5, and many others). There are also many, many verses that command us to use our minds. “Won’t you use your minds?”–afala ta‘qilun–is a common expression of censure that is mentioned at the end of more than a dozen verses. And the Arabian polytheists are frequently censured for clinging mindlessly to the customs of their ancestors and refusing to use their reason to discern the truth and follow it. There is not a single verse in the Quran that tells people not to use their minds, not to reason, not to think. Thinking and reasoning is what our religion is based on, and the first obligation of every human being is to use their mind, their reason to discern that God exists, that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is His messenger, and that God will resurrect us and bring us to judgment after we die. The first obligation of every human being, in other words, is to discover the purpose of their lives. Now, the Enlightenment thinkers also used their minds, but not to discover the purpose of their existence. They used their minds to expose the hypocrisy and contradictions of the Church institution and its beliefs. But they didn’t go all the way. They didn’t go on to use their minds to rationally show what the purpose of our lives is. They didn’t do that because their rational inquiry was not enlightened by the light of genuine divine revelation.

Osama: So you’re arguing that reason, when used correctly, is bound to lead human beings to recognise God and His true message to humanity?

Shaykh Hamza: Yes, that is correct. A common analogy that Imam al-Ghazali and other scholars used to describe the relationship between revelation and reason is that revelation is like a light and reason is like the eyes. So if you go into the entrance of a dark cave and shine a light, then you can use your eyes to find your way, but if you enter without any light, then you will grope around in the dark and get lost. Allah sends us prophets and messengers to bring us revelation, which is a light that enlightens our minds to help us reason clearly. He tells us that that the Torah that He gave to the Prophet Moses (upon him be peace) contained “light” (Qur’an, 5:44), that the Evangel that He gave to the Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace) contained “light” (Qur’an, 5:46), and He tells us that he revealed a “light” to the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) (Qur’an, 7:157), and that the Qur’an takes us out of darknesses into “light” (Qur’an, 14:1, 57:9, and 65:11). The Quran is a light because when you read it, it illuminates the way, and when you examine it, it makes sense. The Quran is guiding you to use your mind without any coercion and when you use this guidance and think correctly, you will independently come to the conclusion that Islam is true, Allah exists, and that He sent the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) as the last messenger. The Enlightenment thinkers were unable use their reason to discover the purpose of their lives because they weren’t enlightened. They didn’t have the light of revelation to enlighten their thinking and reasoning. You need the light of revelation in order to use your reason properly otherwise you will make mistakes. You might be correct on many conclusions, but you will make mistakes, not on every point–you might reach many correct and valuable conclusions–but on the things that really matter, the things that give purpose to our lives, you will make mistakes. There’s many good things that came out of the Enlightenment, just as there were good things that came from Aristotle before the Enlightenment. But enlightened thought requires revelation, and it is not possible for us to discover the purpose of our lives without recourse to revelation. In conclusion to our discussion about the Enlightenment, what I am saying is that calling what happened in Western Europe the “Age of Enlightenment” is a misnomer.

Osama: Why do you call the Age of Enlightenment a misnomer, especially, when it took the western world out from the dogmatic teachings of the Church?

Shaykh Hamza: It’s a misnomer because true enlightenment only comes through a mind that is enlightened by revelation. So when the mind is enlightened by revelation, the conclusions that it comes to will move a person to turn his soul towards the worship of Allah. It will move him to the fulfill the purpose for which he was created. In contrast, a mind that turns away from revelation and tries to be independent will grope about in the dark and make mistakes. Because it hasn’t been enlightened by revelation, it won’t see the light, it won’t know what it is supposed to go towards. This will end up destroying the soul by turning it towards the pursuit of worldly possessions — the “here-and-now” — and that pursuit is a feature of the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment has turned human beings away from focusing on God and the afterlife to focusing on the here-and-now, away from God to focusing on the human being, not as he was meant to be — someone who fulfills purpose of his life — but as someone who is focused on maximising pleasure and prosperity in this life.  Just look at the statistics: Canada, for example, is set to lose 9000 churches over the next decade because religion is no longer important to communities (link to: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/losing-churches-canada-1.5046812). Even though we believe that Christianity has been corrupted and has strayed from the original teachings of the Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace), it still officially promotes the ideal of living for God, for others, and for the afterlife, and goes against the Enlightenment ideal of the here-and-now, and the decline of those ideals in Canadian society is moving people even further from fulfilling the purpose of their lives.

Osama: If you hold the Age of Enlightenment to be a misnomer, do you have a different name that better describes that period in history?

Shaykh Hamza: A better name for what happened in Western Europe in this period is the “Age of Escape from the Oppression of False Religion”. So the Age of Enlightenment, in reality, was the “Age of Escape from the Oppression of False Religion”. If we, as Muslims, were to write a history of Europe, that is what we would call it. When “Enlightened” societies turned away from God, religion, and from focusing on the afterlife, they did this because false religion was being used to oppress people. They saw this and they turned away from it. They didn’t find enlightenment through false religion so they left all religion. The path to true enlightenment would have been to leave false religion and adopt true religion, enlighten the mind with the light of revelation to take the soul towards the purpose for which it is created, namely to love, adore, and worship Allah, and to focus on the afterlife. But that path–on a large-scale, at least–has not yet been taken. I want to emphasize here that the Age of Enlightenment–as Western historians would call it–or the Age of Escape from the Oppression of False Religion–as we would call it–wasn’t bad or evil. It was an escape from something bad and it was a step in the right in the direction because it threw off the shackles of blind faith and sought to discover the truth through the mind. These are all admirable things that we agree with. But just as the false and oppressive religion of western Europe didn’t give us the purpose of life, humanism and modernism, as I explained just a little while ago, also didn’t give us the purpose of life. That’s why people disappointed in the modernist project have turned to postmodernism. But postmodernism, too, doesn’t give us the purpose of life because it is anti-reason, and it is anti-purpose–that is the reality of the postmodern age and postmodernism. Postmodernism is, in many ways, even more entrenched in worldliness and even further from God and the afterlife than modernism was. So if we want the purpose of life, we need to turn to revelation, and to use that to turn with our souls towards Allah and the afterlife. Allah Most High says, “You prefer the life of this world even though the next life is better and more lasting.” (Qur’an, 87:16).

 

To be continued…


Osama Hassan is an Australian of Pakistani descent who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Curtin University. He is currently pursuing studies in the Islamic sciences and Arabic in Amman.


Is Religion Relevant in the 21st Century – Interview with Shaykh Hamza Karamali

Why Islam Is True E05: God and Science

Why Do We Die? – Shaykh Hamza Karamali

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Atheists, Balance, and Responsibility

Reflections on Isra’ (Night Journey) and Mi’raj (Ascension) – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

This article is sourced from Muwasala: Click here for the original post

Every created thing longed to have its portion of Allah’s Beloved (Peace be upon him). It was not until he (Peace be upon him) made his Mi’raj that the heavens got their portion of him.
— Al-Habib- Abdul Qadir Al Saggaf

Importance of Isra’ and Mi’raj

We are approaching the night on which the Islamic world traditionally celebrates the Isrā’ (Night Journey) and Mi`rāj (Ascension) of our Prophet, the Chosen One ﷺ. The Isrā’ and Mi`rāj was a great sign and an immense miracle which Allah gave to the Master of the people of the heavens and the earth, to demonstrate his superiority over mankind, jinn-kind, angels and the whole of creation. There are great lessons in the events that took place and a means of increasing in belief and certitude.
The scholars say that the best night in relation to the Ummah as a whole was the night on which the Prophet was born, whereas the best night in relation to the Prophet himself was the night of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj.

Trials and Tribulations

Prior to this night the Prophet had displayed great patience in the face of hardship and it is one of Allah’s wisdoms that He bestows His gifts accompanied with hardships.
Allah says: They encountered suffering and adversity and were shaken such that the Messenger and those of faith who were with him said: “When will Allah’s assistance come?” Truly Allah’s assistance is always near.[1]
At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah said that the worst treatment that he received from the disbelievers was his violent rejection at the hands of the people of al-Ṭā’if. Most of the scholars of the Sīrah say that that the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj took place shortly after this, a year prior to the Hijrah on the 27th night of the month of Rajab.[2]

Preparation & Journey

The Prophet ﷺ saw some of the events of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj in his dreams as a preparation for them before the events actually occurred. Some people claim that all the events of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj took place in a dream state but this is not the case: the Prophet experienced them with his body and soul. Had the Isrā’ been merely something the Prophet experienced in his dream, the disbelievers of Quraysh would not have had difficulty accepting it. They would not have asked: “How can you have travelled to Jerusalem last night and be with us in Makkah this morning?”
Allāh says: Transcendent is the One Who caused His slave to travel by night from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām to al-Masjid al-Aqṣā.[3] Allāh tends to express His transcendence before mentioning a great affair which is beyond what people are accustomed to.
When Allāh wished to speak to Sayyidunā Mūsā, He told him to wait thirty days and then a further ten days: We appointed for Mūsā thirty nights and we completed (the period) with ten more.[4]
Allāh, however, did not tell His Beloved to wait. Rather His order came suddenly, without any warning. The Prophet’s chest was split open and his heart was washed and filled with knowledge and forbearance. The Burāq was then brought to him. Allāh could have caused him to travel without the Burāq, but it was a means of honouring and ennobling him. Jibrīl said to the Burāq after some initial obstinacy: “Are you not ashamed, O Burāq? By Allāh, no one more noble in the sight of Allāh has ever ridden you!”
The Prophet stopped in a number of places on the Isrā’ to emphasise the importance of visiting the places in which Allah bestowed His bounties upon His pious slaves. He was ordered to seek to draw close to Allah by praying near the tree where Allah spoke to Mūsā, by praying at Mount Ṭūr, where Allah gave revelation to Mūsā, and at Bayt Laḥm, where Īsā was born.
The whole earth was made a place of prayer and prostration for the Prophet so what was the significance of him praying in those places if it was not seeking blessings (tabarruk) and spiritual assistance from them? It is also narrated in Saḥīḥ Muslim that he visited the grave of Mūsā and witnessed him praying in his grave. He said to his Companions: “If I was there I would have showed you his grave.” He was thus teaching his Ummah the importance of knowing the location of the graves of the Prophets and thus the importance of visiting them.
While on his journey, someone called him on his right side but he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that this was the caller of the Jews, and had he responded, his Ummah would have followed the way of the Jews. Then someone called him on his left side and once again he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that this was the caller of the Christians, and had he responded, his Ummah would have followed the way of the Christians. Thus, in spite of all the efforts of the Christians to convert people to Christianity, the Ummah remains in Allāh’s care and protection due to the steadfastness of the Prophet ﷺ.
He was called a third time, and once again he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that it was the dunyā or the material world calling him, and had he responded, his Ummah would have chosen this life over the next. The dunyā then appeared to him in the form of an old woman. Jibrīl informed him that all that remained of the life of this world before the Day of Judgement is like the time this old woman had left to live. We witness all the wars and struggles that take place and in reality this life is like an old woman on the verge of death and ahead of us is the next life! May Allāh give us the best of endings! Due to the Prophet’s refusal to respond to the callings of the dunyā, there remain to this day people who know its worthlessness.

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺled the Prophets in prayer in al-Masjid al-Aqṣā. Jibrīl informed him that the soul of every prophet sent by Allāh from the time of Ādam to the time of Īsā was brought to pray behind him so that they would come to know the station of their master, Muḥammad. He was the imām who led all the prophets and angels in prayer. Why do we not make him our imām?
SONY DSC

The Ascent to Heaven

The Prophet then ascended from heaven to heaven. The angels in the heavens had been informed that he would come and it was their opportunity to be honoured by meeting him just as his Companions had that honour on the earth. The people of the earth threw stones at him and insulted him but the people of the heavens gave him the warmest of welcomes. In the Prophet’s meeting with his father Ādam and the other Prophets in the various heavens there is a lesson. In spite of the Prophet’s superiority over them, he was still ordered to greet them. There was no-one less in need of anyone else than him but he met them and displayed great etiquette and manifested his slave-hood to his Lord.
Among the things he witnessed was people who turned down freshly cooked meat and chose to eat putrid rotting meat. He was told that this was like those who leave that which is lawful and choose that which is unlawful. He saw people’s heads being smashed with rocks. As soon as their heads were smashed they would be restored and then smashed again and so on. He was told these were the people who were too lazy to pray the obligatory prayer.
He ascended to al-Bayt al-Ma`mūr, which resembles the Ka`bah above the seventh heaven. It lies directly above the Ka`bah, and every day 70,000 angels enter it. The Prophet entered it and prayed in it, along with the spirits of some of the elect of Allah. Then he came to al-Sidrat al-Muntahā, a tree whose size and beauty is indescribable. Were one of its leaves to fall it would cover the heavens and the earth. This is the end point of the knowledge of creation.
It was here that Jibrīl stopped. He said that if he went any further, he would burn but he told the Prophet to continue his journey alone.

The Divine Meeting

He duly ascended to the Throne of Allah and fell into prostration. Mūsā had been ordered to remove his sandals when Allah spoke to him, but the Beloved was not ordered to do so. Allah then ordered him to raise his head and he addressed Allah: “Greetings, blessings and the best of prayers to Allah.”
Allah responded: “Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy and blessings of Allah.”
At this point, when Allah was manifesting Himself to him, the Prophet wished to remember the pious members of his Ummah and the previous nations. He said: “Peace be upon us and upon Allah’s pious slaves.”
The angels of the heavens then cried out: “We testify that there is no deity other than Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.”
When Allāh spoke to him, He said: “I have taken you as My beloved and I have expanded your heart and raised high the esteem in which you are held so that whenever I am mentioned you are mentioned with Me. I made your nation the best of nations and I made them the last and the first on the Day of Judgement. I made you the first prophet to be created and the last to be sent.” Allāh thus spoke gently to His Beloved and reminded him of His blessings upon him. He said things to Him which only He knows.

The Blessed Gift

AllahHe made fifty prayers compulsory on his nation. This was eventually reduced to five with the reward of fifty. Are those who are unable to perform the five not ashamed of their Lord? What would they have done if it was fifty prayers that they had to perform? Allāh made five prayers compulsory upon His slaves, in which there is the opportunity to converse with Allāh and draw close to Him. “The closest the slave is to his Lord is when he is in prostration.”
The Prophet was blessed with the vision of his Lord, a blessing which no-one else will receive until they enter Paradise. The vision cannot be understood in a conventional way since Allah is transcendent and cannot be limited to a place or direction. Some Muslims deny that the vision of Allah is possible and we agree with them that the vision of Allah in a conventional sense is impossible. However, we understand the vision of Allah to be something far greater than that, a pure manifestation of Allah’s light, which is indescribable.
Sayyidunā Mūsā was keen to receive some of the light that was on the face of the Prophet ﷺ who himself had just seen his Lord. Mūsā had asked to see Allah while on the earth but his request was not granted. He thus took as much light as he could from the Prophet’s face. The Prophet ﷺ informed us that there will come a time when the Muslims will seek victory through people who had seen him, and later through people who have seen people who have seen him.[5] This shows us that secrets are transmitted through the vision of people’s faces.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺremained firm while witnessing all the things that he witnessed: His vision did not stray, nor did it go wrong[6]; His heart did not lie about what it saw, for truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, the greatest.[7]
All of this took place in a few instants. So little time had elapsed that the place where he had been sleeping was still warm. All of these are amazing examples of divine power. We are so accustomed to the pattern of cause and effect and the laws of creation that we tend to forget the presence of divine power in everything. In reality the things which we regard to be normal are miraculous – our sitting and standing, our eating and drinking.
Allah says: Do you see the water which you drink? Did you bring it down from the clouds or did We?[8]
May Allah bestow prayers upon the one who made this awesome journey and may He resurrect us with him. Make us among those who are truthful in their following of him. Do not deprive us of the vision of him in this life, the Barzakh and the next life. Allow us to see the face of the one who You allowed to see Your countenance so that we are ready to see Your countenance in the abode of Your pleasure.

[1] Al-Baqarah, 2:214
[2] In the Islamic calendar the night precedes the day, so what is meant is the night before the 27th day
[3] Al-Isrā’ 17:1
[4] Al-A`rāf, 7:142
[5] Narrated by al-Bukhāri
[6] Al-Najm, 53:17-18
[7] Al-Najm, 53:11
[8] Al-Wāqi`ah, 56:68

Spirituality Reflected Through Activism – By Shaykh Sadullah Khan

In this article, Shaykh Sadullah Khan deeply reflects on the life of Imam Abdullah Haron RA. Imam Abdullah Haron RA was a South African scholar, community leader, and political activist who stood against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He was martyred during his incarceration under the apartheid regime.

* The original source of this article is from the Muslim Views (March 2019):

http://muslimviews.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/MV-March-2019-LoRes.pdf


Shaykh Sadullah KhanHafidh-ul-Quran at 14, Imam at 31, Martyred at 45: ash-Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron.

Having lost his mother in infancy, reared lovingly by his dear aunt Mariam and tutored in Makkah by the likes of Shaikh Abdurrahman al-Alawi al-Maliki, all impacted on the spiritual roots of this noble icon in our historic struggle against racism and injustice in South Africa.

As one who loved to constantly recite the Quran, as one who fasted every Monday and Thursday, Imam Haron’s spiritual consciousness demanded of him that he engage the world around him in a proactive manner.

As imam and spiritual leader of Al-Jamia Mosque (Stegman Road), in Claremont, he promoted youth programmes, initiated adult male and female classes, organised study circles and encouraged women to participate in the mosque’s executive activities.

He created discussion groups, established the progressive Claremont Muslim Youth Association, publishing the monthly bulletin Islamic Mirror, co-founded and edited the community newspaper Muslim News and, through these, he addressed spiritual, cultural, religious, social and political issues.

All of these played a functional role in engaging the community, informing the community, binding the community and enlightening the community.

Imam Haron’s spirituality was informed by the Quran, which imbued his life with clarity of moral purpose, and was exercised through social engagement rather than withdrawal from society. His moral depth and spiritual strength was evident in:

  • his fiery determination in standing up and publicly denouncing the apartheid state when his peers were cowed by the racist government. And it was highly uncommon for religious people to engage in ‘politics’ because it was neither socially safe nor politically correct to do so;
  • his preference was to walk the walk rather than talk the talk, living his ideals in practice by active involvement with all strata of civil society rather than sermonising and projecting beautiful visions and solutions without practical implementation;
  • his stand when the Group Areas Act threatened Al-Jamia mosque by forced removals. He said, ‘The precincts of the mosque are inviolable and the building sacred forever. No mosque can be sold or destroyed.’
  • his active involvement with the Defence and Aid Fund to assist freedom fighters, political prisoners, exiles, those who were banned and their families (who were often forgotten);
  • his ethical commitment to physically go and uplift the impoverished through personal interaction despite laws that were designed to keep people apart; so much so that even those not of his faith recognised his spiritual stature by calling him ‘mfundisi’ (holy/ religious man);
  • his physical ability, enormous courage and selfless dedication to endure harassment, interrogation, torment and torture for 123 days (even till death) without ‘selling out’ to the notorious brutality and power of the oppressors.

Imam Haron’s activism personified the ethical message of the Quran that he had memorised. Bearing witness (shahadah) is the foundation of spiritual life and Imam Haron lived the Shahadah and died a shaheed (martyr).

A martyr is never defeated nor conquered; they killed his body but his mission is alive. They silenced his voice but his message continues to inspire. His body lies buried but his spirit lives on; it lives in every person he taught and helped (young or old, male or female), in every poor home he visited (in Bonteheuwel or Langa), in every life he touched (Muslim or not).

The pain of his death and the memory of his martyrdom should evoke a moral responsibility on our collective conscience to ensure that the blood of martyrs is never spilled in vain.


Biography of Shaykh Sadullah Khan

Shaykh Sadullah Khan memorized the Qur’an at the age of eight, studied law in South Africa, journalism in Britain and Islamic studies in Egypt. He has spearheaded youth development programs in South Africa and the USA for two decades; has been an inspiring religious leader, motivational speaker and an educator for the past 25 years. Shaykh Sadullah is currently the COO of the Islamia College, in Cape Town, South Africa.


 

The Trodden Path: A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this newly anticipated series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this first article of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of one of the most well known scholars of Cape Town, Shaykh Salih ‘Abādi (RA).

The Trodden PathShaykh Salih ‘Abādi (1328-1420=1910-1999)

Muhammad Sulayman ‘Abadi, the father of Shaykh Muhammad Salih came from the town of Ta’iz in Yemen. He had five children from his wife, Rufi’ah Adams.

Muhammad Salih attended the Talfalah Primary School in Claremont. He studied some of the basics in Quranic recital under Shaykh Muhammad Hanif of Wynberg.

He stared memorizing the Quran under Imam Mu’awiyyah Sedick who was teaching at the school at the time. Imam Mu’awiyyah was of Turkish origin as his grandfather had arrived from Istanbul and settled in the Cape.

By the time he was fifteen, Muhammad Salih had memorized the Quran and in 1927 on the inspiration of his father and his teacher he left for Makkah to further his studies. He remained there for about twelve years. He returned home after eight years to get married after which he returned to continue his studies.

Some of his teachers were:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Jamal Mirdād under whom he studied the mode of recitation according to Hafs. Shaykh Muhammad Jamal as the Imam of the Maqam al-Hanafiyyah at the time in the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. He was granted a sanad in the recitation of Hafs with permission to teach (ijazah). Years later, Shaykh Jamal would recall that he never had a student like Shaykh Salih. In fact Shaykh Jamal’s family even visited Cape Town in search for Shaykh Salih’s family until they met with his youngest sister, Fatimah.
  • Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ubayd who taught him the mode of recitation according to Warsh.
  • He also studied some aspects related to the Islamic Sciences in the famous al-Madrasah al-Sawlatiyyah in Makkah. This institution was established by the scholar, Maulana Kirānwy.
  • He attended private lessons with renowned scholars like Shaykh ‘Alawi al-Maliki (d. 1391=1976). This scholar and his family are famous for their piety and scholarship. He led the Tarawih Salat and conducted lessons in the Grand Mosque of Makkah. He also received ijazah from the illustrious Moroccan scholar, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Kettani.
  • He attended some private lessons with Shaykh ‘Isa Rawwās (d. 1365=1946) who studied and graduated from al-Madrasah al-Sawlatiyyah and benefited from scholars like Shaykh ‘Abd al-Bāqi al-Laknawi and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman Dahhan.
  • Shaykh Hasan al-Mashshāt (d. 1399=1978) who studied under Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Sunnari and in al-Madrasah al-Sawlatiyyah. He received many ijazah’s from prominent scholars. He also taught in the Grand Mosque of Makkah.

When Shaykh Muhammad Salih returned to the Cape there was an established tradition of memorizing the Quran. Within a short time he had established himself as a qārī and a hāfiz and he founded a small madrasah at his parents home. Two of his students were: Imam Shams al-Din Ibrahim and Ahmad Moos. Occasionally he was permitted to lead the Salat on Friday at the Yusufiyyah Mosque in Wynberg.

Shaykh Salih played an important role in the Khatm al-Quran Jamā’ah that was previously established. This group would meet often solely to recite the Quran. One of the objectives of this group was to unite the huffāz in the spirit of friendship while at the same time critically listening to one another’s recitation. Many of the senior scholars of the Cape participated in this initiative. This practice continues today and the reciters meet every Sunday to recite the Quran.

Shaykh Salih was considered the doyen of the hāfiz fraternity during his time. No other religious leader in the Cape received the respect and honor that was shown to him. Many would attend the mosque which ShaykhSalih attended simply to here his recitation or to meet him. Allah had blessed him by allowing him to visit Makkah and Madinah frequently and on one occasion, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki saw him and took him to his institution where he was received with great respect.

His life revolved around the Quran. From the time he awoke until the last minute before going to sleep, he was reciting the Quran. The breaks he had were for the Salat, other dhikr, research and eating. Although he honoured his invitations, he used to be agitated at the thought of having spent some time in such functions without reading the Quran. Many of those who drove him from place to place, confirmed that from the time he got in the car until he reached his destination he used to be busy reciting the Quran. In fact he never read less than five juz daily. He strictly adhered to various adhkār like the rātib al-Haddad and ratib al-‘Attas.

His day started about one hour before Fajr when he prepared for the Salat and he recited Quran until the time of Fajr. After breakfast he recited Surah’s Ra’d, Nūr, Yāsin, Mulk, Dukhān and Wāqi’ah. Occasionally he would invite a student to participate in the recitation. Even though he spent most of his time reciting the Quran, he increased his recitation while he was in the Holy Lands.

He was a very disciplined person and uncompromising in fulfilling Allah’s and His Prophet’s commands. He never missed Salat al-Duhā (forenoon prayer) and he never allowed anyone to delay him in performing the obligatory Salat. Anyone who visited the Shaykh would not be welcomed unless he was wearing proper Islamic attire and a fez. Even if it meant that the visitor would have to wait a few minutes extra at the door, it would not be opened until the shaykh was properly clothed. Even when he performed his Sunnah Salat, he ensured that he was appropriately dressed because he was standing before Allah.

Many have regarded him as a true wali of Allah believing and trusting none but Allah. Often he would advise his students to leave everything else and devote their lives to the Quran. His love and conviction in Allah could clearly be seen in the simple remarks made by him.

Shaykh Salih passed away in 1999.

Students from all over South Africa studied under and benefited from Shaykh Salih. Some of them are:

  • ‘Abd al-Rahman Salie (Cape Town)
  • Shams al-Din Ibrahim (Cape Town). Many students completed their hifz under his supervision. He was very humble and had tremendous respect for Shaykh Salih.
  • Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Awal al-Din (Cape Town)
  • Fu’ad Gabier (Cape Town)
  • ‘Abd al-Haq Makdah (Durban). He has his own hifz class where many have studied.
  • Shabir Kajee (Durban)
  • Abu Bakr Muhammad (Durban)
  • Maulana Farouk Patel (Johannesburg). A person with an exceptional memory of the Quran and regarded by many as the walking Quran. He too teaches Quran to this day.
  • Shaykh Sa’dullah Khan (Vryburg)

 

* The biographies provided for this series have been extracted from the book written by Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed, Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century (published by DTI).


Biography of Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed

Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


 

The Historical Significance of the Dala’il al-Khayrat

Laila Abdel Ghany explores the history behind the Dala’il al-Khayrat, and why it had such a massive impact on Islamic history.

The Dala’il al Khayrat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salat ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar (The Index of Good Things and the Advent of Blazing Lights in the Remembrance to ask for Blessings upon the Chosen Prophet) is a compilation of salawat, or sending of blessings and peace upon the Prophet, combined with supplications for oneself, for the umma, and callings upon Allah Most High. It was authored by Imam Jazuli from Fez, Morocco, a North African center for knowledge.

The text can be read many different ways. In Fez, it is read in one sitting on Fridays. Later, text was divided into sections, in order to facilitate a weekly completion.

Who Was Imam Jazuli?

One day Imam Jazuli intended to perform his ablutions from a well,  but failed to find something with which to draw water from the well. A young girl saw him and wondered how this well-praised man could be confounded by this matter. She merely spit into the well, and the water flooded up. After finishing his ablutions he asked her how she had attained this station. She answered, “through constantly invoking blessings upon the one, who if he walked on the dry lands, the beasts would cling to him.” Tihis encounter impacted him greatly, and he swore that he would write a book of invocations of blessings upon the Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Imam Jazuli lived in 9th Hijri-century Morocco, a time of weakness in the Muslim umma, with weakening scholarship and corruption that lead to a normalization of major sins. He compiled this text for an umma that was increasingly in need of re-establishing its connection with the very foundation of the religion; the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. By understanding his centrality to our religion, it becomes even more important that we follow the command of our Lord Most High:

“Indeed Allah and His angels confer blessings upon the Prophet, O believers! Confer blessings upon him and salute him with a worthy salutation” [33:56]

The Chain of Transmission

The lesson by Sheikh Muhammad Ba-Dhib and Sheikh Faraz Rabbani also addresses the times of confusion that we live in, with ideologies springing up and bringing doubt to what have for centuries been established traditions. Texts like the Dala’il were taught continuously, its inheritors becoming scholars of the Dala’il al-Khayrat, who carried out gatherings of reading the text. The chain of transmission is a symbol that proves the longevity of the tradition. This teaches us, as inheritors of the religion and the next links in its chains, that such gatherings can be traced all the way back to Imam Jazuli’s life, and that each link in the chain is benefitting through this continuity.

To conclude, the benefits of invoking blessings upon the Messenger are plentiful and numerous. Among them is the chance to draw near to Allah through praising His Chosen and Beloved Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. And as it is impossible for anyone in a lesser rank to truly see the value that lies in the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, it is only through asking Allah that we are able to do so.

May we continue to benefit from the many blessings Allah Most High has continued to preserve for the umma of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.


Laila Abdel Ghany lives in Cairo, Egypt. She studied Comparative Literature, with minors in Anthropology and Education, and is interested in how these fields can be brought together and perfected through the Islamic tradition.


The Genre of Love and Beauty: al-Shama’il – Tarek Ghanem

Al-Busiri’s Burda and Celebrating the Mawlid – Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib

Can A Sinner Love the Prophet? – Ustadh Salman Younas