Yearning for History

Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki writes on every Muslims’ desire to connect with the great events in our history and why it is meaningful to do so through commemoration and celebration.

Of the accepted and established principles among the people of knowledge (ahl al-‘ilm) is that a particular moment in time is made remarkable or auspicious by the events associated with it. The event, in other words, forms the source of the values and the estimation ascribed to that moment.

The magnitude of the event determines the magnitude of the occasion; likewise, the ascribed blessings of the event determines the ascribed blessings of the occasion.
Moreover, the stronger the identity, and the greater the impressions made by the events on people, the stronger and greater will they identify with the time during which the events occurred.

From this point of view it will become evident that the essential purpose of this book, Madha fi Sha’ban (What is in Sha’ban?), is to focus on the links that connect the umma (the global Muslim community) to their history with the aim of deepening their perceptions and religious experience of Din-related events and occurrences.

Methods and Aims of Commmoration

While it is true that some differ with regard to the method and manner of presenting these events to people, namely, that they are not in agreement with respect to their arrangement and organization; there can nonetheless be little doubt that even two people – on their own – would not differ with regard to the aims and objectives of organizing and commemorating these events.

This is so for the reason that whenever we set out to strengthen these connections that bind the umma to its history by utilizing the events and occurrences through and by which these moments become exalted; then we are at once inviting them to a reality that is pure, a belief system that is correct, a path that is straight, and a way that is natural. This indeed constitutes, at once, the essence of our history and our ennoblement as a people. From this foundation we are able to proceed to all that is good, righteous and beneficial.

The commemoration of all these events and exalted moments are – through the permission of Allah – acceptable and legitimate. For it is through this fundamental principle, viz. the undeniable interconnectedness of the event and the moment, that we are able to take advantage of these opportunities that have the force to stimulate our minds into a recollection of these momentous events. In this way the mind, the heart, and the emotions return to the distant past with a sense of yearning for our history – a yearning that enables us to examine that past for the lessons it may provide.

The Experience of Remembrance

This is what constitutes the genuinely “informed lesson” (al-dars al-‘ilmi). It is this that the universities with their lecturers and lectures, and the madrassas with their programs and prescribed works cannot transfer to people in a way that would allow them to live, perceive, and experience this history in a holistic manner – with their hearts, minds and emotions.

Indeed, whenever, we celebrate by commemorating the birth of the Prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, or the Hijra (his flight from Makkah to Madinah), or the Isra and Mi’raj (the Night Journey and Ascension), or the month of Sha’ban, then we invite people to connect with their minds, hearts and emotions to the realities and the events that fill the vast spaces of these moments.

However, these commemorations are not meant to venerate the event as such or to deify it; nor are they commemorated in a manner that expresses an article of our faith. On the contrary, these commemorations are designed to express our ultimate veneration of Allah, the Exalted, who is the ultimate Creator of both space and time.

These commemorations, therefore, essentially represent the veneration of a slave to his/her Lord, the Creator. But, at the same time, they are also designed to celebrate and laud the one who has played a seminal role in these events – the one who at once formed an intrinsic part of, and for whom these events were established; and who, moreover, forms the axis around which these events are all connected. This latter veneration is the veneration of the one who loves for the sake of the beloved … for that possessor of grace whom Allah has chosen to be at the center of these events.

Beyond Space and Time

I am astonished at those petrified and fossilized minds, those minds of stone, that ignore the central figure of these events – the figure through whom, for whom, with whom, and from whom these events emerged in the first place; and then proceed to focus on the event in so far as it is merely an event. This perspective, without a doubt, constitutes the essence of bid’ah (a reprehensible innovation). Indeed, and even beyond that, it signifies the epitome of ignorance and short-sightedness.

We do not venerate or exalt time for time’s sake, nor space by virtue of it being space, for this is in fact, and in our estimation, an act of shirk (idolatry).

On the contrary, our focus is upon that which is beyond, greater and more exalted than mere time or space. Nor do we venerate particular personages for what they possess of body and bones. What we in fact do is to look at their station, their standing, their rank, and their love and belovedness … so is there any sin or falsehood in this? [sh: italics mine].

“Glory to Allah, this is indeed a serious slander!” (Sura al Nur 24:16)

The above is an extract from Madha fi Sha’ban? (What is in Sha’ban?), pp. 4-6, by Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki, Allah show him mercy. The translation is by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks [sh]. It was first published in 2011 on Shadow of Pure Light, and is reproduced here with Shaykh Seraj’s permission.

Introduction to the Mawlid al-Barzanji – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this video, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives a background of the Mawlid al-Barzanji. He speaks about the life of the author, Imam Ja’far al-Barzanji, and his life and works.

Everyone thinks about whom or what they love. For the believers, however, our rejoicing is in Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace. This imperative to rejoice is a means to sustaining life of faith. One of the best things we can possibly find joy in, is the gift of the Prophet.

When we recite mawlids, or poetry in praise of the Prophet, it rejuvenates our faith and gives us joy. This is why scholars have written poetry throughout the ages, teaching the readers about the life of the Prophet. One of the best-known such poems, is the Mawlid al-Barzanji.

About Imam al-Barzanji

Imam al-Barzinji was an Imam originating from a town called Shazur in Kurdistan. He was born on Friday, the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal in the year 1040 after hijra. He was raised in Shazur, where he studied the Islamic sciences. Islamic knowledge in his hometown.

At the age of 63 he moved to Medina. This was the habit of many scholars, who would spend their lives teaching and calling to Allah. Then, in the later part of their lives, they would devote their lives to devotion and writing.

Imam al-Barzanji, however, was a Shaf’i mufti. Although he came to Medina as a foreigner, he was made the Chief Justice in Medina because of his knowledge, piety, and virtue. He died in Medina and is buried in Jannat al-Baqi’.

His Mawlid

His mawlid is very unique,  mainly focused on the birth of the Prophet and its coming. Some parts of the mawlid are composed in poetry, while other parts of it are written in prose form.

Much could be said about it, but one of its characteristics is that it speaks about the Prophet in language that is eloquence, yet is clear and easily accessible to the common person. It has been translated in many languages, including Java, Urdu and Swahili, and is widely read across the Muslim world.

Influential Muslim Women – A Reader

This reader gathers various SeekersGuidance resources on inspiring Muslim women, where Companions, scholars, or community leaders, both past and present.

Women Documented in the Qur’an

 Hawa, the First Woman

Sarah, Wife of Prophet Ibrahim

 Aasiyah, Wife of the Pharoah: A Brief Biography

Lady Asiya and the Mother of Musa

Lady Asiya – Her Life of Faith and Trials 

Bilkees, Queen of Sheba

Maryam, Mother of Isa: A Brief Biography

Lady Maryam – Her Virtue and Merit

Lady Maryam – Her Favor and Blessings

The One Who Complained (Al-Mumtahina)

Women from the Family of the Prophet

Khadija bint Khuwaylid: A Brief Biography

Lady Khadija – Before Revelation

Lady Khadija – After Revelation Until Her Passing

The High Rank of Sayyida Khadija

Lady Aisha: Most Knowledgable of All

Slander Against Lady Aisha

 The Love Between Lady Aisha and the Messenger of Allah

What Are Some Resources on the Life of the Mother of the Believers?

Fatima az-Zahra: Introduction and Virtues

Fatima az-Zahra – Prophetic Care and Concern

The Life of Umm Salama

Umm Salama – The Knowledgable Women’s Rights Activist ..

 Umm Ayman – The Prophet’s Mother After His Mother

Female Companions of the Prophet

 Sumayyah, the First Martyr 

Umm Ma’baad: Hadith Narrator

Fatima al-Fihri: The Visionary

Who Was the Companion Sayyida Furay’ah (Allah Be Pleased With Her)?

Khansa’ – The Poetess of Islam

Nusayba – Defender of the Prophet

Women Through the Ages

Amra bint Abdurrahman

Nafisa al-Tahira

Fatima al-Fihri

Maryam al-Istirlabiyya

Karima bint Ahmad

Fatima bint Saad al Khayr 

Razia Sultan

Al Adar Al Karima

Bibi Raji

Queen Aminatu 

Nana Asma’u 

Amina Assilmi

The Death of a Star – On the Passing of Aminah Assilmi

Women: Agents of Change – Dr. Ingrid Mattson 

“I Love Being a Woman!”

SeekersHub’s Female Teachers

Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Shaykha Noura Shamma

Ustadha Mariam Bashar

Ustadha Nagheba Hayel

The Power Of Storytelling with Ustadha Mehded Maryam Sinclair 

Amina Assilmi –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Amina Assilmi from the 14th century.

Amini Assilmi accepted Islam in 1977. She was an activist, educator, public speaker, and advocate. Her contributions to American Muslim society are vast.

Some she worked for the National Organisation for Women, where she advocated for rape to be listed as a war crime during the Bosnian war. They won their case, but when the awards ceremony came, the organisers did not want her on stage because of her hijab. Only after much negotiation was she allowed to dress as she chose.

She was also instrumental in the campaign to issue an Eid postage stamp. Postage stamps are a little portrait of American life, and having a postage stamp commemorating Eid was a great step for Muslims in America.

Amina was also a speaker, who spoke at many Islamic events, such as ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America). In addition to speaking, she was an instrumental part of the establishment of many of these organisations. She was also involved in early broadcasting media, such as Sound Vision.

All during her community involvement, she was suffering from a variety of diseases, including cancer. At one point, she was using a wheelchair, but later recovered and regained the ability to walk. She  also experienced many family struggles. However, eventually her family accepted Islam as well.

Amina died in 2005, and is very much missed by the American Muslim community. May Allah send us more leaders like her.

With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.

Nana Asma’u –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Nana Asma’u from the 13th century.

Nana Asma’u was a scholar, poet, and pedagogue who changed the environment of the Sokoto Capliphate where she lived. She uplifted the people around her and ensured that the women were educated in matters of religion, education, health and other sciences.Nana Asma'u

She was a deeply spiritual woman. It is said that she possessed karama, or miracles associated with the pious. She corresponded regularly with the scholars of her time, and was fluent in four languages. She would write her poetry in the language of the people she was writing for, many of which were intended for curriculum purposes.

Her educational movement was her response to the overwhelming amount of people in the villages who were uneducated. She developed a creative method to reach them, which was to prepare “team teachers.”  These teachers would come to her to learn her system. She would teach them her curriculum, dress them in her signature uniform, and send them out to the villages to educate the residents.

Nana Asma’u was a deeply concerned leader, who revolutionized the education system of her time. She is a great example for all teachers and educators, as well as anyone who would is concerned about the next generation.

With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.

The History of Social Justice – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. This segment covers the history of social justice, from the times of the Ancient Greeks until today.

Social justice as we know it was first codified by John Rawls in his book A Theory of Justice, published in 1971. He based his theory upon “a veil of ignorance,” from a position where no one one anything about anybody: not their age, economic stats, race, or even gender.

From this basis, he came up with two standards. Firstly, that each person should have equal rights to the most extensive privileges available to other people enjoying the same. Secondly, that inequalities should be arranged so that no one person would be blocked from occupying any position.

Some people criticised this, saying that while it sounded great in theory, in reality people do have positions of privileged, so it would not be possible to give everyone exactly the same social position. In addition, Rawls did not have a plan of action as to how to implement this. Nonetheless, his theory formed the blueprint for many groups.

Plato and Socrates also had similar conceptions of justice. According to them, justice was embodied in a just man. Knowledge and reflection were both the keys to justice. They also believed that justice was one of the cardinal virtues, which sustained and perfects the other three: temperance, wisdom, and courage.

The challenge with philosophical theories, is that few people follow philosophers as a way of life. Rather, philosophers were mostly talking amongst themselves. However, a large amount of people would follow the Prophets’ message.

St Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic theologian, took it a step further by saying that justice was Divine. He believed that justice was a habit, by which a person gave everyone their due through perpetual will.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?

Mumtaz Mahal –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Mumtaz Mahal from the 11th century.

Mumtaz Mahal is best-known for being buried in the Taj Mahal tomb, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, little attention is given to her full and active life.

At a time when the sanctity of marriage was overrun with political ambition and greed, Mumtaz Mahal was married to the emperor, Shah Jahan in a love marriage. She was a very devout woman, and would perform many night prayers, seeking good for her husband and for her people. It is said that she was able to ease her husband onto the straight path through her piety.mumtaz mahal

Mumtaz would travel with him on his military expeditions and on his Hajj pilgrimage, and he trusted her so much that he gave her the Imperial Seal.  She gave birth to 14 children, although 7 of them died in stillbirth or while still young.  Throughout this time, she remained an active part of court, and was particularly concerned about gardening and beautifying the palace. She was also interested in watching sports, and was a balanced and well-rounded woman.

She died giving birth to her 14th child, which caused Shah Jahan to go into grieving for a full year. When he emerged, his hair had turned white, and he had a bent back. Their daughter, Jahanara,  stood by his side and nursed him  until he was healthy enough to return to rule the country.  Over the next 23 years he built the Taj Mahal as a final resting place for his late wife, in an attempt to display what she had meant to him and to the world.

With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.

Queen Aminatu –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Queen Aminatu from the 10th century.

Queen Aminatu ruled a place called Zaria, which is now a province of Nigeria. Queen Aminatu’s mother ascended the throne when Aminatu was 16. She learned to ride horseback for military campaign, to wield weapons, and military strategy. When her mother and brother died, Aminatu took the reign at age 34.

Leading Zaria was very difficult at the time, because there was a lot of tribal unrest and very little unity. Queen Aminatu is credited as being the first ruler to unite the area and bring peace and security to the land. She did this not through just the military expeditions that she led, but also through her strategy. When settling up a military camp, she would build a clay wall around the boundaries of the camp. After the military left, cities would form within those protective walls.

The political stability that Queen Aminatu’s leadership, allowed the opportunity for safer trade and new imported goods, including the cola nuts which came from Sudan. She is known as being a fierce leader, who bought peace to the Hausa land, bringing safety and economic prosperity. She ruled Zaria for a total of 34 years.

With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.

Our Lady Fatima al Zahra

Sister Nurulain Wolhuter has written a moving, concise, and loving portrait in praise of our Lady Fatima al Zahra, highlighting her flawless and noble character.

She is Fatima al Batul, al Zahra, the radiant Lady of Paradise, the daughter of the Beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace. She is the mother of the prophetic progeny, Allah be pleased with her. She is also called al Siddiqa, the truthful; al Tahira, the pure; and al Zakiyya, the flawless.

She has become my mother, due to the love between her and the followers of her beloved father. Through her I have come to know him more intimately, and to strive to tread his path more faithfully, Allah bless him and give him peace. Encountering her changed my life from one dominated by worldly things to one focused on the hereafter. Her way is a sword of protection and a rope of victory. It is my bastion in times of difficulty and my strength in times of need.

The Essence of the Sunna

She is our role-model as Muslim women. Our beloved Prophet said: “Fatima is part of me. So whoever angers her, angers me.” (Bukhari) Al Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf says this means Fatima is a piece of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, not separate from him. So, if a Muslim woman emulates Fatima, she is emulating “the essence of the Sunnah” of Allah’s Messenger. (Our Liege Lady Fatimah the Resplendent)

Our lady Fatima was known for her utmost modesty. She covered herself completely. Her outer clothes were the abaya, a loose long dress; the khimar, a garment covering the head and upper body; and the niqab, a face veil. She always wore black. On the day of judgment she will receive the highest of commendations for her modesty.

It is narrated that our master Ali, Allah be pleased with him, said he heard the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, say that on the day of judgment an announcer will call upon the people to lower their gazes until Fatima has passed. (Hakim)

Worldly Matters Were Meaningless to Her

However, our lady was also the bearer of other noble attributes, such as asceticism and generosity, to which men, as well as women, should aspire. Fatima is called al Batul because she was devoted to worship, and this to the extent that all worldly matters were meaningless to her. She lived in the simplest of houses, with the barest of essentials.

Her bed was a thin mat and her only covering was a short blanket that, if it covered her feet, left her upper body open and, if it covered her upper body, left her feet exposed. Her beloved father, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged her to abstain from worldly things. Once he refused to enter her house because he saw a colorful decorated curtain on her door, saying “I am not interested in worldly things.” Fatima immediately dispensed with it. (Bukhari)

Our lady Fatima was generous to the point of self-sacrifice. She and her family once fasted for three days, breaking their fast on water, because they gave the only food they had to the needy. Allah Most High praised this nobility of spirit in the holy Qur’an:

They fulfill their vows. They fear a day of widespread woes. They give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of God alone: We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you. We fear the Day of our Lord – a woefully grim Day. (Sura al Insan 76:7-10)

So our lady Fatima is truly a part of her beloved father. She has bequeathed us the best, and most faithful, way of following him, Allah bless him and give him peace. May Allah grant us the grace to emulate even the smallest part of her pure and flawless way.

Bibi Raji –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Bibi Raji from the 9th century.


Bibi Raji was from Delhi, and lived in the 9th century of the Islamic calendar. She is known for her establishment of buildings and institutions, some which are still standing today, including the Dargha Suleman. By doing this, she was leaving a legacy that would remain for years to come.

She was deeply concerned about the accessibility of education, and would give scholars stipends and awards for their work. She would also give students scholarships and pay for their expenses.  This was a far cry from today’s education system, where teachers make low wages and students fall to huge loans. Bibi Raji was dedicated to giving to both educators and students, so that could concentrate on the quality of their work.

Bibi Raji was also dedicated to uplifting women’s education. She opened a girls’ school with the ethos of ensuring that women could access education and the resources that came with it. She was a trailblazer for women’s education and female representation, centuries before the Western societies caught on.

With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.