Biographies of Influential Muslims – A Reader

This reader gathers various SeekersHub resources on inspiring saints, scholars, and other influential Muslims of the past and present.

 

Companions and Pious Predecessor

Sayyiduna Ja’far: A Tale of Love and Sacrifice

Was Uwais al-Qarni Martyred? And a Unique Source for His Biography

Biography of Malik ibn Dinar

Muadh ibn Jabal and the Night of Mid-Sha’ban

Contemporary Scholars

A biography of Shaykh Muhammad Adib al-Kallas

Glimpses of the Life of Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri 

“He Brought Us Back To Life” – A Tribute To The Late Dr Ahmad Sakr

Key Lessons from the Life of Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj 

Shaykh Abd al Rahman Ba ‘Abbad

Habib Abbas al Saqqaf

Habib Abd Allah bin Shihab

The Demise of Habib Hamid bin Muhammad Hamid Ba’Alawi

Biography of Habib al-‘Ajami 

A Great Female Servant of God 

The Muslim 500 – SeekersGuidance’s Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Interview with a Productive Muslim: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Interview with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Living the Ihya in South Africa – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Applying the Prophetic Sunna to the Modern World – Sayyid Naquib al-Attas

Influential Figures

Caribbean Calling, An Interview with Ustadh Nazim Baksh

On Facing My Mortality, by Ustadh Usama Canon

Muhammad Ali-The Acts That Help When We Die 

 Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore

A Female Gnostic: The Story of Umm Iyad

The great Muslim philanthropist, Abdul-Sattar Edhi, returns to his Lord

Three Acts That Formed The Core Of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s Life

Amjad Sabri’s death: Yearning for God till his Last Breath

Mustafa Davis on Spiritual Artists, Social Media and Third Spaces

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

Other Resources

Recommended Works on the Life of the Prophet

What Are Some Resources on the Life of the Mother of the Believers, Sayyida Aisha? 

What Are Some of the Best Works Dedicated to Biographical Data of Saints and Scholars?

On Death and Dying, by Ustadh Salman Younas

With the current year drawing to a close, social media has come alight repeatedly with news of the passing of yet another celebrity. Ustadh Salman Younas shares some personal thoughts on an inevitable journey all of us will embark upon: death.

I have seen many people in my wider circle of friends/acquaintances express how death has seemed so much closer to us this year than previous ones. We have witnessed the passing of many a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, and child. Some of us directly suffered these losses; others suffered through seeing these losses endured by people they knew, such as friends; yet, other losses were so global and impactful that all of us were effected by them.
I was never particularly fearful of death until my daughter was born. After her birth, the fear kicked in. It was in most ways a worldly fear. I wanted to see my little one take her first steps, speak her first words, start school, become a rebellious teenager, go to college, and have a family. I wanted to live to see my child grow.
This all changed after my father passed away. I remember standing with some of my close friends after a Quran recital telling them about how the birth of my daughter led to an increased fear of death on my part. But my attitude had changed now. I knew my father had moved into another room that was out of my sight. But I was no longer afraid to have the door to that room opened for me because I knew that he would be there. It was the first time in a long time that I was not afraid to leave the room my daughter was in for the room my father had gone too.
[cwa id=’cta’]

The Fear Factor

This taught me an important lesson. We often understand death in negative terms: we will be questioned, there is a thing called Hell, God will take us to account for everything, and so forth. The motivating factor in death for many is the fear factor. This is important, of course. Yet, the passing of my father taught me that it is also a motivator because of a love factor, a love and desire for reunion.
This was the perspective of Fatima (God be well-pleased with her). When the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was in his final illness “he said something secretly to Fatima and she wept. Then he said something secretly to her and she laughed.” [Bukhari] When asked later why she wept, she said it was because the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was moving to the next life. But when asked what made her smile, it was because she was told that she would join him in Paradise.
This was the perspective of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). In one of his final sermons, he mentioned how “God had given a slave the choice between immortality in this world or meeting his Lord, and he had chosen to meet his Lord.” He was speaking about himself. His last words according to A’isha were, “to the highest Companion!” He had chosen to move on and unite with God. [Bukhari]

A Beautiful Union

To all of my brothers and sisters who have lost someone, to those saddened by separation, and to those still grieving, do not forget the union that death brings. A union with a merciful and compassionate Lord. A union with a most beautiful and perfect Prophet who will not cease pleading to God until each and every one of his followers is in Paradise with him.
Remember that your loved ones from this community wait for you, and that you have the opportunity to be with them in a place where time has ceased, where there will be no separation, nor grief, nor sadness, nor pain. It is a place where all of you can be together in utter bliss, love, and happiness.
This is the hope and trust we place in our Lord. This is why we worship and engage in righteousness: so we can reunite with those whom we love – God, His Prophet, our parents, children, siblings, friends, and others. So, do not despair, do not lose sight of the bigger picture, and make your life a road to reunion.
We ask God to renuite us in the eternal garden with those we love in the company of our Prophet (blessings upon him) and all the righteous.

What Happens When You Die? Shaykh Ahmed Abdo

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, encourages us to make a journey to the graveyards for verily when you visit this place it reminds you of the next life; and truly reminders benefit the believers. In this beautiful commentary of the Prophetic narration Shaykh Ahmed Abdo takes us on a journey of reflection on death, reality and the ultimate reunion.

What is death? Is it the end of life or the beginning of new one? Your soul lives in this earthly address and your home is your body; but the time will come when you will change addresses and move into a new home.

Are you ready for this move?

The extraction of the soul starts at the feet, moves up to your ankles, then your knees and along your lower body towards your upper body. During this process, the soul can turn to its Creator in repentance. When the soul reaches the throat, repentance is no longer accepted. Why? It’s because at this moment every disbeliever becomes a believer for the veil is removed from the eyes and Reality is perceived.

A life in the Grave

There is a life in the grave, and every person shall have their provisions availed to them and the best of provisions is the Quran which illuminates the abode. As a believing soul, you will be reciting Quran and there will be a window to the Garden of Bliss. Within this life, the souls are mobile, visiting one another, and they are received by their loved ones who departed before them. That is why the righteous predecessors would seek to be buried with their loved ones so that they may be reunited in the next life. Ultimately though, the greatest of companionship is with Allah.

Those who long to meet Allah; Allah longs to meet with them.

Death is a means of reuniting with your beloved. Death for the believing soul is a union and it was cemented by love and loyalty to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and to Allah, our Creator.

Sheer Gratitude

Allah, Mighty and Majestic, grants us gifts each day, and when we perceive this we no longer sees the gifts, we see the Giver. Allah gave us without asking in this life and in death and the greatest gift is His beloved and messenger, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. In life, we receive guidance through him and in death we receive his greatest concern, intercession and salvation. What is the response to such generosity? What can one truly do or say for these gifts?

Resources for the seeker:

We are grateful to Shaykh Ahmed Abdo for the video. Cover photo by Captain Nikon.

What You Need to Know About the Fiqh of Burial, by Imam Tahir Anwar

How much do you know about the fiqh of burial? Do you know what is the first call to make when someone dies? What sort of preparation do you need to make? Is there a religious significance to washing the shroud in Zamzam water? What sort of instructions should you give to your relatives? Is it really true that we must encourage a dying person to recite the testimony of faith? And is organ donation permissible?

In this video, Imam Tahir Anwar discusses what we possibly consider the most difficult subject to think about: death and dying. However, it’s also one of the most important subjects, not to mention a situation that we are all absolutely guaranteed to face, sooner or later.

“Life has no guarantees. A person could pass away at any time.”

 Resources for Seekers

We are thankful to Al-Maqasid for this recording.

Three Acts That Defined Abdul Sattar Edhi's Life, by Ustadh Salman Younas

Ustadh Salman Younas summarizes the core essence of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s life in the words of the Prophet ﷺ

Orphans

The Prophet (God bless him) said, “The one who cares for an orphan will be with me in Paradise like this,” and he held his two fingers together. [Bukhari]
Imagine then the station and proximity of one who cared for and assisted hundreds of thousands of orphans.

Widows

The Prophet (God bless him) said, “The person who strives on behalf of the widow and poor is like one who strives in the way of God and like one who fasts in the day and prays at night.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Imagine then the number of fasts and prayers earned by one who cared for millions of widows and poor people.

Daughters

The Prophet (God bless him) said about a widowed woman he was informed about who was taking care of her two daughters, “Whoever looks after these girls in any way and is good to them will have them as a veil from the Fire.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Imagine then the number of veils between the fire and someone who looked after millions of little girls.

The Grief-stricken

The Prophet (God bless him) said, “Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, God will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment.” [Muslim]
Imagine then the amount of grief and hardship removed from a person who lifted the grief and worry of millions of people.
This was Abdul Sattar Edhi‬. May God have mercy upon him, and us, and all people everywhere.
 
Follow Ustadh Salman Younas on Facebook.
Three Acts That Formed The Core Of Abdul Sattar Edhi's Life, by Ustadh Salman Younas

The great Muslim philanthropist, Abdul-Sattar Edhi, returns to his Lord

The great Muslim, Pakistani social worker, Abdul-Sattar Edhi, has died at the age of 88. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani of SeekersHub pays tribute and reminds us that service can and must be a part of all our lives.

May Allah have mercy on his soul, and admit him among His foremost and most beloved servants—in the close company of His Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him and his folk).

May He make this loss a time to reflect on the urgency of service: the trueness of our faith itself is dependent upon true, expressed concern for others. The Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him) said that, “None of you believes until they love for others all that they love for themselves.”

This brief lesson is a reminder on the urgency, responsibility, and opportunity of service—and some of the principles and proper manners related to service:

Listen: Ummah Boost: Serve The Community, by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Taking heed from his example, make a commitment—now, today—to give some of your time each week in serving others. Consider it the zakat on your time. 2.5% of your week’s 168 hours is 3.5 hours (or 30 minutes a day).
Obituary: The great Muslim philanthropist, Abdul-Sattar Edhi, returns to his Lord

Five Ways Find A Way To Serve Humanity

Choose on the basis of what service would
(1) be of greatest, widest, and most lasting benefit—to yourself and others, in their religion or in their worldly life;
(2) use the skills and experience Allah has blessed you with;
(3) be easy to sustain with consistency;
(4) would be of benefit to you in your turning to Allah (such as by the company it would facilitate for you); and, simply
(5) be an opportunity that is available before you to serve others.
“And Allah remains in the aid of His servant as long as His servant remains in the aid of others,” promised the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk).
Sura Fatiha‬ for the soul of Mawlana Edhi (Allah have mercy upon him).

Watch: These Bird Walk

A moving documentary on a small part of Mawlana Edhi’s legacy can be watched on Netflix, Amazon and also Vimeo (below).
In Karachi, Pakistan, a runaway boy’s life hangs on one critical question: where is home? The streets, an orphanage, or with the family he fled in the first place? Simultaneously heart-wrenching and life-affirming, THESE BIRDS WALK documents the struggles of these wayward street children and the samaritans looking out for them in this ethereal and inspirational story of resilience.

Who was Abdul Sattar Edhi and what is his legacy?

 

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

Amjad Sabri’s death: Yearning for God till his Last Breath

The world is mourning the passing of one of Pakistan’s most beloved devotional (qawwali) singers. Amjad Sabri was gunned down in Karachi, allegedly by extremists who accused him of blasphemy. Shortly after his death, the video of his last televised performance went viral (watch above).

Dr Bano Murtaja has kindly translated the lyrics:

O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O Noor e Khuda, embed yourself in my eyes
Or call me to your doorstep, or come into my dreams
O veiled one, remain in the veil of my heart
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
When in the darkness of my grave, I fear
Come to my aid, my master
illuminate my grave O Noor e Khuda
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request

When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
I’m a criminal of every kind, on the day, keep my honour
Disillusioned with the world, envelope me in your succour
accept my words my Lord
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
From his face the moon and stars took their splendour
From his doorstep, the afflicted and sad took healing
Only he knows how to heal every affliction every sadness
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
I have not seen more beautiful than the beloved of God
It is his station that even his shadow its not seen
God chose not to detach even his shadow
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision.
Amjad Sabri
Bestow your favor upon me, O Beloved of God, for God’s sake
O Prophet, let the bud of my hopes blossom now
I am a pauper at your door, here to seek alms
Fill my bag, O Muhammad
I will not go back empty-handed
“Bhar Do Jholi”

Resources on who Amjad Sabri was and what he represented

On What Ultimately Matters: Muhammad Ali, My Grandfather and Ramadan

Nearly a month ago, my grandfather passed away in a tragic car accident aged 93 along with my father. Today, we lost the great Muslim sports icon and activist, Muhammad Ali, whose charisma, skill, and attitude mesmerized the world for decades. Each of these deaths and the reactions they generated have taught me an important lesson on what ultimately matters, writes Ustadh Salman Younus.

My grandfather was in a number of ways my polar opposite. He was a leading member of the Jamaate Islami being one of the main heads (rukn) of the group in Faisalabad. As a child, I saw letters that Mawlana Mawdudi had written to him hanging on the walls of our home. I heard stories about how he went into hiding during the 1970’s, how committed he was to the vision of the party, and how he sacrificed much of his time in service of it. Indeed, many of the obituaries I read of him in the newspapers identified him as an “elder of the JI.”
My grandfather was not a madhhab-following, Ash’ari abiding, tasawwuf-oriented individual. In contrast, the entirety of my scholarly training made me precisely this. But none of this actually mattered in the end. Absolutely none of it. As I knelt next to him pouring water over his body, the only thing my heart recalled was his constant tahajjud, his teaching me prayer and basic religious practices, and people’s description of him as someone who would go out with his pockets full and return with them empty (due to his charitable nature).
God continued to give him the tawfiq to worship till his last day. With severe memory loss that rendered him unable to even recognize some of his children, my grandfather did not forget tarawih, nor Ramadan, nor going to the mosque. He continued doing this till his final hour. This is what I remember about him and this is what ultimately matters.
Muhammad Ali
The way we remember Muhammad Ali is the same. None of the reactions care about what school he followed. None of them bother with whether he was a Sufi or a Salafi or belonged to this group or that. None of them care how knowledgable he was of the subtleties of Islamic law, how complex his understanding was of theology, whether he celebrated the mawlid, or accepted tawassul, or was slightly progressive or conservative.
All we remember him for are the few monumental acts of good that he did. His speaking truth openly, his charity, the way he represented Islam, his activism during the civil rights era, his courage, and his faith.
Death has a way of reorienting us to what ultimately is of consequence. The nuances of Islamic law did not help me when my father and grandfather died, nor did my Ash’arism, nor did the debates I have had on a hundred and one issues regarding Sufism. My heart only found solace in reciting the Quran, remembering God (dhikr), prayer, charity, and a few other basic acts of worship. My faith at that moment became like that of the old woman in the village.
Ramadan is a time when we reorient ourselves to this perspective and worldview. When teachers cease their classes, when people step away from social media debates and argumentation, when nothing matters but the few prostrations we perform at night, the few dollars we give in charity, and the few words we utter in need of God. This is all that we wish to present to our Lord after our death. This is ultimately what matters. Reflect on that.
Ustadh Salman Younas

Muhammad Ali – The Acts That Help When We Die, by Mostafa Azzam

There had been a time he was named Cassius Clay;
A time he was praising himself night and day.
“I’m the best in the world,” “So pretty,” he’d say.
And then in this world, he had risen so far;
Until he was granted his very own star.
With the famous of famous now put up on par.
But there was a problem with that kind of fame:
On the ground they would put the star with his name;
But now as the Prophet’s his name was the same.
So he said, on the ground the name should not lie;
Let the name of Muhammad be held way up high.
Yes, those are the acts that help when we die.
So now as his body is put in the ground,
And what’s gone around has come back around,
May mercy and peace be what he has found.
And may he be raised for his honoring of
The one who is mentioned in heavens above.
Yes, Lord elevate him…
for that reverence and love.
Lord, have mercy on the soul of our brother, Muhammad Ali, for the sake of the one he named himself after, the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless and salute him.
Mostafa Azzam, 2016

OBITUARY: Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore

Michael Sugich pays tribute to a much loved American Muslim poet, Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore, who passed away this week after a battle with cancer.

My friend Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore died yesterday. He had been battling cancer for 5 years. After giving up on conventional treatments his doctor prescribed a combination of hemp oil, zamzam water and hadra. (Interesting physician!) For the last two years I would replenish his supply of zamzam from Saudi Arabia. Abdal Hayy thrived on the treatment. When I last visited his home in Philadelphia, in 2015 he met me at the door and launched into a spontaneous and joyous hadra. I joined him and we invoked The Living (“Al Hayy”) for a few ineffably blissful moments I will never forget. With the shadow of death hanging over him Abdal Hayy became increasingly light and, on the surface at least, his already beautiful nature sweetened. Death is a serious prospect. Our destinies hang in the balance. We don’t know for certain our place with God. My friend was given the gift of 5 years to reflect upon his inevitable passing and this was frequently reflected in his poetry.

Typically Bemused and Detached

Daniel Moore was a distinguished poet and most people who know of him know him through his poetry. He was a protégé of the American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and of Alan Ginsberg, among other City Lights celebrities. He was an outrageous character before he entered Islam in about 1970. He had a mane of hair and drove around Berkeley, California in a fur car, sitting on a toadstool. At the time he was a local celebrity, a theatrical figure in the 1960s, having written, produced, directed and starred in “Bliss Apocalypse, a spectacular, surrealistic anti-Viet Nam War theatrical event, which was a counter-culture sensation in Berkeley. We strongly suspect that Francis Ford Coppola lifted both the tribal aesthetic and the title of Daniel’s play for his film “Apocalypse Now”. We saw the Coppola film together when it came out and Daniel was typically bemused and detached.

Poetry Poured Out Of Him

After a poetic hiatus of many years – a time he devoted to the remembrance of Allah on the Sufi Path – Abdal Hayy returned to poetry, this time not as a beatnik/hippy freak but as a rather bookish, impish, owlish sage on a Sufi Path. From that point on his life was permeated with poetry. He was the most prolific poet I have ever known or heard of. He would write a poem every day. Poetry poured out of him. I’m not sure if this is true but I would like to think that his soul mate, his wife Malika Moore, was his muse. I have never known a more perfectly matched couple. Malika and I became Muslims at the same time. She is a great, generous soul with a huge sincere heart and wonderful sense of humor. I love them both.
Staying with Abdal Hayy and Malika was a great pleasure, not only for their beautiful company but also because Abdal Hayy let me sleep in the best bedroom ever, his basement room crammed with books. He was a bibliophile who seemed to have collected every book under the sun and stuffed them into every part of his intellectual man cave. I was always reminded of this wonderful space when we did our periodic Skype sessions.

A Sincere Seeker

But I knew Abdal Hayy, not as a poet but as a man of the path. We had many adventures together, in various parts of America, in England (even in Iceland) and in Morocco. We laughed our heads off at some of the absurdities we went through in our younger days. I loved spending time with him, not only for his wonderful wit, but because of his deep sincerity. He was one of the most sincere seekers I have ever known. He was one of the Salihin. When I knew that he was terminally ill, my one prayer was for him to experience the highest Opening with Allah before he passed away from this earth. My beloved shaykh and mentor Sayyid Omar Abdallah, may Allah be well pleased with him, told me that God is so Generous that he gives his servant everything he wants, even if it is only seconds before his death. With that knowledge I prayed for the Opening for Hajj Abdal Hayy. And now I pray that his grave is an expansive sea of light and ecstasy, that he is raised among Allah’s Friends in close proximity to our Messenger, Sayyidina Muhammad, peace be upon him, and that he is given nearness to our Lord.
Last year I wasn’t able to make my usual Umrah and pick up Zamzam for my friend but my wife Randa Fahmy traveled to Saudi Arabia on business and I asked her to pick up a large bottle of Zamzam at the airport, which she brought to Philadelphia on a subsequent visit (God bless her). Abdal Hayy was ecstatic and left a wonderful, effusive message on my answer machine.

A Sign From Allah

When I learned that his health had worsened and that he was in his final illness, I immediately called him. He was buoyant and in high spirits. He confided that the bottle of Zamzam had tipped over and the contents spilled out all over the floor. He saw that as a sign from Allah that he could no longer stave off his inevitable end. I wept. We exchanged expressions of love. My heart ached that I wasn’t there beside him but both he and Malika assured me that my presence was with them.
The second time I called, I mostly spoke to Malika because Abdal Hayy’s condition had worsened and he was weak and drifting in and out of sleep. But we spoke briefly before he excused himself and drifted off.

My Brother

Yesterday, all day, as I was negotiating my way through Istanbul’s heavy traffic, I was scheming to see how I could hop a plane to visit my dear friend. I attended an evening of dhikrullah at the Jerrahi Dargah, not far from the Fatih Mosque and arrived home at 1:30 am. I checked my email and found a message from my friend Peter Sanders that Abdal Hayy had passed. We were prepared for this inevitability, as was he. But he was my elder brother and I will miss him. I will miss him.
May Allah be well pleased with him.
Michael Sugich (Haroon)
Istanbul,
19 April 2016