The Trodden Path (Episode 11): Shaykh Sulayman al-Ahdal

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 eleventh episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Sulayman al-Ahdal of Yemen.

Shaykh Sulayman al-AhdalShaykh Sulayman al-Ahdal (1365-1440=1946-2019)

Sulayman ibn Muhammad Abdul Wahhab al-Ahdal grew up in the city of Zabid in Yemen. This city was known as the city of knowledge throughout Yemen and was regarded as the leading city with regard to scholarship in the Shafi madhhab. In fact, much of Yemen relies on the fatwa that is pronounced by the Mufti of Zabid. A unique feature of this city is that whenever students from other parts arrived here to study, they were welcomed and very soon settled in the city and even married in the city and resided there. Some of the renowned scholars who were lived in Zabid were the author of al-Qamus al-Muhit, al-Fayruz Abadi and the author of Taj al-Urus, Muhammad al-Hasan Murtada al-Zabidi.

Shaykh Sulayman was born in 1946 (1365) into a prominent family with a rich legacy of scholarship. In addition, the family lineage links up to the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Hasan ibn Ali.

Shaykh Sulayman commenced his education by studying the Quran with the jurist, Sa’id al-Mikhlafi, the modes of recitation of the Quran with Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id. In addition, he studied the basics of calligraphy and mathematics.

He gradually progressed in his studies. So in fiqh, he began with Safinat al-Najat, Abu Shuja’, al-Zubad and Minhaj al-Talibin. The student was at liberty to select the subject that he wished to specialize in and the scholars guided him along his way and quest for knowledge without interfering in his choice. Initially, the student studied along the foundational subjects that a student required. These included Arabic grammar, Tafsir and Bulugh al-Maram.

Shaykh Sulayman devoted himself to his studies. They began studying from before Fajr until sunrise. Others spent most of the day studying, only stopping for sleep. Students vied with one another in their acquisition of sacred knowledge. The students never sufficed with a mere overall understanding of the book, but rather they concentrated on understanding the entire book. A text like al-Ajrumiyah for example was studied with ten different scholars because every scholar had his own unique style and manner of explaining the lesson. Thus, they benefited even more. Shaykh Sulayman excelled and he was known as the ‘young Shafi’.

Some of his Shuyukh were:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Siddiq al-Battah
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ahmad (Hanafi jurist)
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ahmad al-Salimi
  • Shaykh Muhammad Sulayman al-Idrisi with whom he studied al-Minhaj and most of the six books of Hadith.
  • Shaykh Ahmad Abdullah al-Khalil
  • Shaykh Abkar Abdurrahman al-Mahadilah
  • Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Bazi with whom he studied Arabic literature and rhetoric.
  • Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad al-Khatib
  • Shaykh Asad Hamza Abdul Qadir
  • Shaykh Khalid al-Shar’abi
  • Shaykh Ahmad Ali al-Sadat al-Sahbani with whom he read and studied Manzhumat Mughni al-Labib and al-Dhari’ah.
  • Shaykh Ahmad Dawud al-Battah with whom he read much of al-Irshad. With this teacher, he gradually progressed in his study of fiqh until he reached al-Minhaj. He attended his lessons on the Sahihayn and the Sunan.
  • Shaykh Abdullah Dawud al-Maghribi
  • Shaykh Umar Ahmad Sayf who was from Ta’iz. The shaykh studied some fiqh, hadith and Arabic with him.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Salim al-Bayjani with whom he read some hadith.
  • Shaykh Abduh Ali Khalil with whom he read and studied tajwid, Arabic grammar and some smaller texts.
  • Shaykh Sa’id al-Nakhlani
  • Shaykh Abdullah Abdul Wahhab al-Iryani
  • Shaykh Husayn Abdullah al-Hadaya with whom he studied some subjects related to the Arabic language including rhetoric.
  • Shaykh Husayn Muhammad al-Wassabi. He attended his lessons in the six books of Hadith and in Tafsir al-Jalalayn and al-Baydawi.

He did not suffice with these scholars, instead whenever other scholars visited Zabid, he was eager to benefit from them. These included Shaykh al-Imrani and others.

The shaykh combined his studies with the responsibility of looking after his family. In addition, the shaykh like many others supported freedom and thus opposed all forms of oppression and injustice. In this regard, he along with some of his friends used to meet to discuss the revolution and they composed poetry in this regard.

In addition to the shuyukh who were mentioned earlier, there were a number of other personalities who had influenced him and his thinking. Some of these were:

  • Abduh Muhammad al-Mihklafi
  • Yasin Abdul Aziz
  • Shaykh Abdul Majid al-Zindani
  • Shaykh Abdullah Atiyah

There were other scholars who visited Zabid from whom he benefited. Some of them were: Shaykh Abdullah Azzam, Shaykh Mustafa Mashhur and Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali al-Nadwi.

Shaykh Sulayman was a voracious reader and he always completed a book once he had commenced reading it. He was specifically influenced by the views of Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali, Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi, Shaykh Sa’id Hawwa, Salamah Musa, Khalid Muhammad Khalid and Abul Hasan Ali al-Nadwi. He enjoyed poetry especially the poetry of Abi Tammam, al-Mutanabbi and Ali Mahmud Taha. He enjoyed Madarij al-Salikin by Ibn al-Qayyim and Sifat al-Safwah. He even composed his own poetry in a book titled: Tagharid Tihamiyah.

He contributed in preparing the curriculum for some of the academic institutions.

The country Yemen was ruled by people who subjected the citizens to cruel anti-Islamic treatment. People who performed Salat were punished. He along with some others worked tirelessly to educate the youth about the teachings of Islam. At one stage, he was sentenced to death, but he remained in his home for about 20 days. He served as the head of the local consultative council in Hudaydah and held various other positions even in 2003. He was a member of the Permanent Council of the National Conference for about 18 years. 

During this period, he was never afraid to offer his advice even to the President whom he urged to fulfill his commitment to the people. During the first parliamentary elections in Yemen that took place in 1993, Shaykh Sulayman was one of those selected to the assembly. Because he called for transparency and details with regard to the wealth of the country, others worked to have removed. He opposed the practices of deviant ad corrupt politicians.

In 1997, he was elected again after he received the most votes but there were people who tried to snatch the ballot boxes and even threatened people with death. When this happened, Shaykh Sulayman opted to maintain public peace and thus withdrew. Shaykh Sulayman was of the view that the success of the country is dependent on three conditions:

  1. An independent judiciary.
  2. A parliamentary system that clearly defines the working conditions of the president.
  3. A local authority with complete authority.

He was convinced that if Yemen held on to these three conditions it could have been one of the powerful countries in the region. 

Marriage

He married for the first time when he was 15 years old but this spouse was chosen for him by his mother. He was blessed with a son who passed away in a car accident. This son was very active in the field of da’wah at the University of Sana’. This marriage though did not last and thereafter he married a second time and he was blessed with seven children. Thereafter he married for the third time and was blessed with a son.

Advice to Students

He encouraged students to dedicate their time to all aspects of knowledge because there is no da’wah without knowledge. The ulama ought to be the ones guiding the Islamic movement. His distinguished between the ‘worldly scholars’ and the ‘scholars of the Hereafter’. The former, are willing to issue fatwa’s in accordance with the wishes of the authorities, while the latter are the ones whom Allah uses to preserve the religion.

Shaykh Sulayman graciously accepted an invitation to Pretoria, South Africa in 2012 during which students and scholars gathered around him to recite the entire Sahih alBukhari. This was completed in nine days. However, those present benefited from his personality and his advices during the meal breaks and the additional time spent with him. He displayed great patience, despite his ill health, enduring long hours listening to the words of the Prophet Muhammad and even advised many to recite certain specific forms of salutations daily upon the Prophet.

اللهم صل و سلم على سيدنا محمد عدد كل حرف جرى به القلم

Demise

When the political situation in Yemen became volatile and his life was in danger, he moved to Makkah where he remained until he passed away on the 8th March 2019 (1 Rajab 1440). While in Makkah he expressed joy and sadness. Joy for being close to the blessed ka’bah and sadness for being separated from his family.

* Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed met Shaykh Sulayman al – Ahdal in the Haram in Makkah in 2018.


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.


From the Dawn of History – Stories of Light

From the Dawn of History

Join award-winning author Mehded Maryam Sinclair with your family as she takes you on a breath-taking journey through:

  • The Formation of the Universe and Planet Earth
  • The Creation of the First Human
  • The Divinely-Intentioned Establishment of Human Life on Earth
  • The Procession of the Divine Messengers
  • The Fulfillment of the Message in the Prophet Muhammad,
    may Allah bless him and give him peace

Foster in your hearts a true, deep certainty in our Divinely inspired history. Foster in your family a deep bond of shared listenings and meanings.

Register Here

The Trodden Path (Episode 10): Shaykh Esa Mannun

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 tenth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Esa Mannun of Palestine.

The Trodden PathShaykh Esa Mannun 1306-1376=1889-1956 (Palestine)

Esa ibn Yusuf ibn Ahmad Mannun was a great scholar of Fiqh, a specialist in the Shafi’ school and a reputable scholar of Usul-Fiqh.

He was born in 1889 (1306) in the village of Ain Kaarim on the outskirts of the city of Quds. This area was known for its beauty, fresh, unpolluted air, sweet, refreshing water and it was an area surrounded by grape and olive trees. Many would come here for their summer vacation on account of the beautiful environment and the generosity and affable nature of the local people. 

Shaykh Esa grew up in this pure environment. His parents were good practising Muslims with a noble background. His grandfather, Ahmad Mannun made sure, that his grandson while still very young, developed a thirst for knowledge and a love for reading and he encouraged him in every possible way.

His father, Yusuf, desired that his son work with him on his grape orchard, but the boy was not very keen. He would remain with his father for short periods, after which he would return to school. His grandfather helped him by speaking to his father and urged him not to let his son be distracted from schooling and acquiring knowledge. 

Thereafter, Esa dedicated even more time and studied with passion and a desperate desire in search of knowledge. It was then through the mercy of Allah that he was blessed by having had the opportunity of studying under a great teacher, Shaykh Yusuf Al-Habiyah, who devoted a lot of time and attention to the young Esa. Because of his intelligence and wit, he excelled way above his friends; as a result, Shaykh Yusuf taught him some additional lessons that were not included in the school syllabus. He taught him the Quran and helped him memorize it. Shaykh Esa also studied Arabic grammar, Lexicology, Fiqh and Tawhid after having grasped all the requirements of the school syllabus, which included subjects like mathematics, history and writing skills.

When he sat for the examination at the Darul Ma’arif in Al- Quds, he impressed the examiners to such an extent, that they were prepared to have him appointed as a teacher in one of the schools on the outskirts of the city. When he learnt about this, he pressurized his grandfather to convince a friend of his to intervene so he would not be sent to another area, as he was not prepared to leave his Shaykh, with whom he had spent so much time.

Shaykh Esa treasured the time with his Shaykh, even though it resulted in a decrease in his salary and reduced the possibility of being promoted.

He taught at the school for one year. Being fifteen years old, he was the youngest teacher at the school. He had a desire to study at the Al-Azhar University. In 1902 (1322), he intended to travel to Egypt to continue his studies. He faced some pressure from his parents, but he continued to be good and kind to them, until they finally granted him permission. During his time in Egypt, he was fortunate to have had the opportunity to have met and become acquainted with some of the senior scholars of the time.

It was his practice not to attend the lesson of any scholar until he prepared it thoroughly and understood it. When the teacher began the lesson, he listened attentively to find out if his understanding of the subject conformed to what the teacher said. In most cases this was true. The only reason why the teacher in many cases was better was because he had the chance to refer to many more and rare references that were not available to the students. Shaykh Esa however was admired both as a student and a teacher.

He had a great desire to benefit from the different scholars. He would rise before Fajr and after the Salat, he attended lessons conducted by the scholars. He sat with one Shaykh and after sunrise he would proceed to another and then another in this way until before Asr. Thereafter, he rested for a while and had his lunch. These lessons he attended were voluntary.

After Asr Salat, he returned to the Al-Azhar to revise his lessons and prepare the lessons for the next day. He continued in this way until late at night. When this was over, he would carry his books and return to his room to continue his normal routine from the morning. He was known amongst his friends for his hard-work and the effective way in which he utilized his time.

Five years after joining the Al-Azhar, the teachers at the University decided to introduce some new policies. They decided to place those students who studied privately under scholars of their choice in formal studies that would correspond with their academic level. They decided on a period of 12 years. For this they carried out examinations that were conducted by committees of Ulama. As a result of this examination Shaykh Esa was placed in the ninth year, even though he was only in Egypt for five years.

This encouraged him to sit and attempt the International Examination, which was only permitted to students after 12 years. He occupied himself during the vacation, and during his years as a student, he only went home once. He did not go home again until he was appointed as teacher at the Al-Azhar. 

Some of his most notable teachers were:

  • Shaykh Salim Al-Bishri, the Shaykh of the Al-Azhar.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Hasanain Makhluf, father of Shaykh Hasanain Makhluf who was the Mufti Egypt and a member of the Council of Ulama.
  • Shaykh Abdul Hakm Ataa, under whom Shaykh Esa studied Tafsir and Usul.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ulayan who was known for his precise understanding and was a famous scholar of Tawhid and logic.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit Al-Mutiie, who was a renowned faqih and Usul specialist of his time. He was the Mufti of Egypt and a person with many books to his credit.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Abduh, who was also the Mufti of Egypt and a person known for his eloquence.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Al-Rifa’ie, who was a person who had dedicated most of his time and effort to the study of Hadith.
  • Shaykh Ahmad Nasr

Certificates and Acknowledgements:

The practice at the Al-Azhar was that a student studied with a Shaykh for a length of time. When he felt that he had the ability to enter the examination, he would present an application to the Committee of Scholars of the Al-Azhar. The examination was conducted orally by a panel of the senior ulama. This examination was very difficulty during which the student was tested on many subjects. 

Shaykh Esa presented his application and did not wish to waste time. When he realized that a month had passed and he still did not receive any notice of his examination, he continued with his usual practice. Many of his colleagues were eager to study with him because of his ability to clarify difficult issues. While studying and preparing for the examination he had the opportunity to go and enquire about his application. He was taken by surprise, when one of the supervisors asked him to immediately sit for the examination. He was happy and he praised Allah for this. He went forward without any fear or hesitation, even though he did not have with him any book to revise from. During the examination he answered by quoting texts from memory in a very eloquent manner. This impressed the examiners and they all agreed to award him the certificate with the highest results.

After completing the examination, he returned to his friends with whom he used to study. He informed them that he had just completed the examination that lasted six hours, and he was successful. They were thoroughly amazed. This outstanding event occurred in 1911 (1328). His success encouraged his friends to take the examination.

After having achieved this certificate, he was confident to try and obtain the highest academic certificate available at the time, at the Al-Azhar. This examination was very difficult because it included various branches of Shariah and the Arabic Language.

He began preparing for this examination. Usually there would be a time period of a few years between the two examinations. However, Shaykh Esa because of his exceptional intelligence, applied one year after he received the first certificate. He passed without any difficulty and all members of the examining committee were highly impressed including the Head of the examination, Shaykh Muhammad Shakir, the father of Shaykh Ahmad Shakir. This was in 1912 (1329).

The practice at the Al-Azhar at the time was that those who applied for this examination were given certain important sections and topics to prepare. The student would have to answer questions on these. This examination was also conducted by some of the most senior scholars of the Al-Azhar. The topics were chosen from sixteen different sciences of Shariah, namely: Fiqh, Usul-Fiqh, Tafsir, Hadith, Tawhid and subjects related to the Arabic language such as grammar, syntax, rhetoric poetry etc. Subjects like logic, research methodology and ahklaq were also included. 

Usually, a student, after he was granted the topics would choose a senior scholar who would help him prepare him for the examination. Shaykh Esa however, began studying and explaining these subjects to his friends and they were in no need to seek the assistance of another scholar.

On the day of the examination, he proceeded to the examination centre where the examination committee was present and was headed by Shaykh Abdul Hakm Ataa. Some examiners informed him not to hasten with Shaykh Esa because if they completed the examination in a short time, another student would be sent and there would not be sufficient time for that.

Shaykh Esa sat in front of the committee for about eight hours, responding confidently. They realized that he was different from the students they were accustomed to questioning. In his presence he was awarded his result, which too was an unusual practice.

Coincidentally, while he was in front of the committee, Shaykh Muhammad Shakir walked in and began questioning him on some intricate issues. The Shaykh answered eloquently and he left a lasting impression on the committee and the students and scholars at the Al-Azhar.

In 1912, there was no real need to appoint graduates as teachers, but the deputy of the Al-Azhar approached Shaykh Muhammad Shakir and asked if they were in need of teachers who could teach writing skills and calligraphy, Shaykh Esa was summoned to participate in a writing contest from which a teacher would be selected. Many prominent scholars in this field were present. However, due to Shaykh Muhammad Shakir’s acquaintance with Shaykh Esa, he was called to resume his post as a writing teacher.

When he arrived on the first day for lessons, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Dinari presented the time-table to him. He was shocked to find that he was assigned to teach all the subjects except Fiqh because the students in that class were all Hanbali while he was Shafi’. He immediately returned it, saying that it was wrongly assigned to him. Instead Shaykh Al-Dinari reassured him that there was no mistake. Shaykh Esa was very happy.

He remained a teacher in the first level for a few years, after which he was promoted to the second level, and then to the highest level in the Faculty. He was soon the most prominent teacher of Shariah. He continued teaching Usul-Fiqh to the fourth year students for a number of years. During this period, he wrote his book Nibrasul Uqul fi Tahqiqil Qiyas inda Ulamail Usul which was acclaimed by many scholars.

When the department for specialization was introduced, he was granted the task of teaching the students one of the most comprehensive books in Usul-Fiqh (Musallam Al-Thubut) and its commentary by Abdul Ali Al-Laknawi Al-Hindi.

In 1918, when only 30 years old, he was appointed to oversee the Syrian students and their dormitories. One of his accomplishments while serving in this position was when he noticed the absence of a good system to control the funds for the students. He studied the Waqf system and implemented it in such a way whereby he had excess funds at the end of every year.  He was also appointed to the section that prepared teachers for the various faculties. He was assigned the task to teach Tawhid and Usul-Din, a duty, he continued to do for a long time. He taught some of the most important and difficult works on the subject namely; Al-Mawaqif by Allamah Al-Iijee with its commentary by Allamah Jurjani and Al-Maqasid by Allamah Sa’d Al-Din Al-Taftazani.

On one occasion, there was a problem at the Syrian students’ dormitories. Shaykh Esa visited the Shaykh of the Al-Azhar, Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa Al-Maraghi with the intention of resolving the problem. Shaykh Maraghi enquired about where and what he taught: When he replied and informed him that he taught at the Faculty of Usul-Din and he taught the likes of Al-Mawaqif, Shaykh Maraghi was taken aback and he began questioning him on some complicated issues. Shaykh Esa explained to them clearly and confidently and this pleased and satisfied Shaykh Maraghi. He then enquired if he had any books to his credit. Shaykh Esa told him about his book Nibrasul Usul…. He asked for a copy then allowed him to deal, with the dormitory problems in a manner he saw suitable and further reassured him of any assistance in any matter. This incident was an acknowledgement and approval by Shaykh Maraghi for Shaykh Esa.

In 1939, Shaykh Esa presented his book to the Council of senior Ulama to achieve recognition and to be regarded as a member of the Council. He was unanimously accepted by all, despite being the youngest. The King of Egypt awarded him the gala uniform as an honour in 1941.

He worked with the endowments to improve the conditions for the students. The number of students he was responsible for would some times reach 500 and they included Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians and Lebanese. 

He visited the students and discussed their lessons with them and motivated and encouraged them to devote more time and effort to their studies. Many prominent scholars came out from these dormitories.

His home was also a place of learning. Students would gather and benefit from him while many were preparing to sit for the examination. His gathering commenced after Asr and ended late after Esha. This used to continue for about two months before the examination. He did this voluntarily and with the intention of promoting Ilm.

When the Shariah Qada College was closed to foreigners, who did not have an Egyptian Certificate, he continued to intercede on their behalf until the students were permitted to study there.

In addition, when the various faculties were established at the Al-Azhar, one of the conditions of enrolment was that the student must have a high school certificate. This was not easy for most foreigners; as a result, they were deprived entry. Shaykh Esa again interceded on their behalf at administration level. They finally agreed, on condition that every faculty had its own entrance examination. This was another contribution to the Muslim World.

He had a lot of care and concern for the foreign students and would invite them to his home in Ramadan to break their fast. He would set aside certain times when students would visit him at his home and he entertained them on the days of Eid. He was like a father to them and would assist them financially and any other way possible.   

Many of these foreign students experienced great difficulties because of their lack of knowledge of the Arabic language, and as a result they could not further their studies. They complained and Shaykh Esa took up the matter with Shaykh Maraghi, and subsequently a committee was formed in 1941 headed by Shaykh Esa to look into students’ grievances. He presented some suggestions to the Shaykh of the Al-Azhar.

He had a special concern for the Palestinian students, especially after the disaster in 1948 when their access to food supplies was cut off. He worked with Al-Azhar Organization for the freedom of Palestine to try and provide some funds for these students. These were noble and virtuous actions that helped protect and nurture a nation.

Positions Held:

In 1944, he was appointed as Head of the Faculty of Usul-Din, because of his excellent administration and his compassion and because he was a person who was concerned about the welfare of the institute. He was able to disassociate himself from all controversies. He believed that the Al-Azhar was a trust from Allah, with which Allah had entrusted the Ulama, and because of it Cairo sparkled above the other cities. In fulfilling this trust, he visited the teachers and lecturers in their classes and listened to their lessons and he questioned the students to ascertain the level of their comprehension. Before leaving, he would advise them to listen to their teachers’ explanation and to prepare the lesson before coming to class. 

In 1946, after the excellent manner in which he administered the Faculty of Usul-Din, he was transferred to the Faculty of Shariah.

Co-incidentally Shaykh Esa was one of the ulama who questioned and examined Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, when he was a student at the Al-Azhar and he was very pleased with Shaykh Abu Ghuddah’s answers and praised him in the presence of the examining committee.

Shaykh Esa remained in charge of the Faculty of Shariah for about ten years. Some of the reasons why he was so effective and successful are:

  • He would proceed very early to the faculty, at times before the staff.
  •  He was very precise in everything he did.
  • He was well acquainted with the students and the teachers.
  • He had a deep insight in selecting the panel of Ulama that was to examine the students.
  • He was concerned about the welfare of the institute, the teachers and the students.
  • He was not interested in amassing wealth or earning high salaries.
  • He advised the authorities to utilize the graduates in various departments of education.

He spent about 42 years of his life at the Al-Azhar, either teaching or in administration or even serving on various committees.

He was at one stage, the head of the Hadith Council and a member of the Fatwa Council and the Committee that reviewed the syllabi. He participated in many research projects in matters of waqf and personal law.

In 1954, he reached the age of retirement, so he requested from the administration to absolve him from administrative duties and to allow him to spend more time on academic research and writing. A function was held in his honour where students and scholars praised him.

After retiring, he remained at home devoted to his books. The Ulama of the Al-Azhar still did not want to leave him, so they appointed him as the Head of the Hadith Council that was set up to revise the book (Al-Jamu’ bayn Al-Sahihayn) by Hafiz Al-Humaidi. He maintained this position until he passed away.

Ever since his student days, Shaykh Esa had a love for books and he acquired many irrespective of the price. Once, he bought a manuscript, and after studying it he realized that it contained a portion from Imam Al-Nawawi’s book Al-Majmu’ in the Shafi’ madhab. He was very happy and encouraged the scholars to have it published. He was so impressed with the book that he decided to complete the book continuing from where Imam Al-Nawawi and Imam Taqi Al-Din Al-Subki stopped. He wrote about 100 notebooks of about 40 pages each after which, he passed away.

Even though Shaykh Esa was so busy, he still managed to write many books. Some of his books are:

 

  • Nibrasul Usul fi Tahqiqil Qiyas inda Ulamail Usul.
  • Completion of Al-Majmu’ by Imam Nawawi.
  • A treatise on the rules of Hajj.
  • Discourses in Tawhid and Usul – Fiqh. 
  • A Treatise, refuting the claims of those who wish to make Ijtihad in this era.
  • The law on killing an apostate.
  • Discourses on the Tafsir of some verses of the Quran that were aired over the radio in the month of Ramadan.

 

The above are his works that have been printed. Those not printed are innumerable.

His Personality and Character:

He was a person of lofty aspirations; he was honourable and trustworthy. He disliked arguments between the ulama. He opposed Taha Husain and his views regarding fasting in Ramadan questioning the one who really has the right to Ijtihad. He loved research and used his time to maximum benefit. He was very friendly in his approach and in his speech. He displayed a high degree of trust in Allah.

Death:

He passed away in 1956 (1376). Many prominent scholars attended his funeral including the Shaykh of the Al-Azhar, students, government officials and journalists. His Janazah was performed in the Al-Azhar mosque and he was buried in one of the graves near Imam Shafi’s grave.


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 9): Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Khutani of Turkestan

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 ninth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Khutani  of Turkestan.

The Trodden Path Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Khutani 1314-1389=1896-1969 (Turkestan)

Muhammad Ibrahim ibn Sa’d Allah ibn Abdur Rahim ibn Abdul Alim Al-Fadli Al-Khutani was a famous scholar. He was born in Qaraqaash, Turkistan in 1896 (1314). He was born into a home with a history and legacy of knowledge and piety.

He memorized the Quraan at a young age under his paternal uncle and teacher, Qari Rozi Muhammad Al-Andajaani. He studied the basics under his father and his cousins, Shaykh Muhammad Sharif Al-Khutani and Shaykh Muhammad Esa Al-Khutani. 

When he completed his initial education, he desired to travel to Lucknow, but as per instruction from his teachers, he travelled to Kashghar. He settled at Madarasah Taj Hakim Bik where he studied under Shaykh Muhammad Yaqub and Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abdul Baqi Al-Artuji. With the latter he studied Talkhis Al-Miftah. In Kashghar, there was a scholar from Tripoli-Lebanon whose name was Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Al-Asli under who he studied Hadith. Thereafter the Russians deported this Shaykh to Khawarizm. 

However, he did not remain in Kashghar for more than eight months, after which he moved to Samarkand in 1914 (1332), where he settled in Madrasah Umar ibn Abdul Aziz. He studied under the Imam of the school, Shaykh Hadi ibn Fadl, Shaykh Muhammad Akram and Shaykh Burhan Al-Din. With Shaykh Burhan Al-Din he studied Al-Jazariyah and Al-Shatibiyah.

In 1920 (1339), he completed his studies, then went to Andajaan where he studied under his cousin Shaykh Rozi. He again read and studied Al-Shatibiyah with its commentary. He then received Ijazah from his Shaykh in Qirat. He then proceeded to Namnakaan where he studied Hadith under Shaykh Muhammad Thabit. He sought Ijazah from his teachers who granted it to him. Many of them narrated from Shaykh Ali ibn Zhahir Al-Watri (d. 1904 -1322).

In 1929 (1348), he traveled to Istanbul, thereafter he went to Hijaz to perform Haj after which he settled in Madinah. In Madinah, he was closely attached to Shaykh Abdul Baqi Al-Laknawi and Shaykh Abdul Qadir ibn Towfiq Al-Shalabi. Both were renowned Hanafi scholars of Hadith. He studied under them and heard the Musalsalaat and various other subjects.

He sought Ijazah from a number of other scholars in Hijaz. They included:

  • Shaykh Umar Hamdaan Al-Mahrasi
  • Shaykh Al-Sharif Ahmad Al-Sanusi
  • Shaykh Ali Al-Maliki
  • Shaykh Habibullah Al-Shanqiti
  • Shaykh Muhammad Al-Khidr Al-Shanqiti
  • Shaykh Ahmad Al-Fayd Abadi
  • Shaykh Idroos ibn Salim Al-Baar
  • Shaykh Umar Ba Junaid

In Madinah, he taught in Al-Madrasah Al-Nizhaamiyah with his teacher Shaykh Abdul Baqi Al-Laknawi, who had appointed him as a teacher. He taught between the years (1351-1354). When this institute was closed due to Shaykh Abdul Baqi’s ill health, he moved to Madrasah Torah Gul Al-Turkistani. When Shaykh Ahmad Al-Fayd Abadi learnt of his brilliance, he requested that he teach students at Madrasah Al-Uloom Al-Shariyah in the senior level.

In 1962 (1382), he moved to the library that was attached to the Prophet’s Mosque and was known as the Al-Mahmudiyah Library. He was very well acquainted with books and manuscripts and wrote a book where he mentioned the manuscripts that he read. He was also involved in translating works from Turkish, Urdu, Persian and the Uzbek language. He did conduct lessons in some of the smaller schools.

He taught in the Prophet’s Mosque, where he taught Al-Muwatta with the transmission of Imam Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan, Alfiyah, Al-Kawaakib Al-Duriyah in grammar and Tafseer Al-Jalalayn. His practice was to repeat these books once he had completed it and he may have even taught Mishkaat Al-Masabih.

Shaykh Muhammad Ibrahim travelled extensively. He travelled to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Najd (Riyadh), Kuwait and Jordan. In these countries he met and benefited from the scholars who included:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Zahid Al-Kawthari
  • Shaykh Mustafa Sabri
  • Shaykh Mustafa Abu Sayf Al-Hamami
  • Shaykh Muhammad Jameel ibn Umar Al-Shatee

In 1379 he visited Damascus and was Shaykh Abu Al-Khair Al-Maydani’s guest. Many benefited from him during this trip.

Over and above his travels, he loved performing Haj and must have performed Haj about forty times either by walking or by camel, even though it was tough.

He was a very warm person, who welcomed the scholars who arrived in Makkah and Madinah from other countries. In this way he met many and sought Ijazah from them. Some of them were:

  • Shaykh Abdul Hay Al-Kettani
  • Shaykh Alawi ibn Tahir Al-Haddad
  • Shaykh Muhammad ibn Iwad Al-Tarimi
  • Shaykh Umar ibn Sumait, Mufti of Zanzibar

Shaykh Ibrahim was affectionate to his students and would encourage them to increase their knowledge. If he observed signs of brilliance in a student, then he took special care of him and guided him. Many gained from him. Some of his students were:

  • Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Daftar Dar
  • Shaykh Hamid Mirza Khan
  • His son, Muhammad Yahya
  • Shaykh Umar Muhammad Falatah
  • Shaykh Muhammad Yasin Al-Fadani
  • Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah

Even though he worked tirelessly, he wrote a number of books namely:

 

  • Tuhfat Al-Mustajizin bi Asanid A’laam Al-Mujizin
  • Fath Al-Rauf Zhi Al-Minan fi Tarajim Ulama Khutan
  • Al-Risalat Al-Fadilah fi Thubut Al-Tawaafeen li Al-Qarin bi Adilat Al-Qati’yah
  • A book on the laws of Jumuah, Eid and Janazah in Turkish
  • A compilation of his teachers Fatawa

 

He was a person known by many to have avoided the luxuries and pleasures of the world; he was simple in his dressing. He was an orator and a person who maintained and upheld the recitation of the Quran. He was very punctual and particular in performing his five Salat in the Prophet’s Mosque. Outwardly, the respect and dignity of the ulama was clearly apparent. He was very fond of gathering books and manuscripts and his own library contained about fifty-two manuscripts. 

He took ill in 1969 (1389), for about six months and succumbed to this illness in the same year. The Janazah was performed in the Prophet’s Mosque and he is buried in Al-Baqi’.


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 Scholar Who Worked as a Waiter – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

One of our teachers was Habib Muhammad bin Alawi al-Attas, a scholar and a true worshipper. He was known as ‘al-Zabidi’ because he spent some years studying with the scholars of Zabid (once a great centre of knowledge in Yemen). During his time there he chose to work as a waiter in a restaurant, not because he needed the money, but in order to refine his lower self (nafs): running round taking people’s orders, bring this, do this..

We visited him in his home in Huraydah at the end of his life with a group of scholars: among them Habib Mashhur bin Hafiz, Habib Umar bin Alawi al-Kaf, Habib Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Shihab and Habib Salim al-Shatiri.

He said:

“Last night someone saw the Prophet ﷺ in this very room.”

May Allah have mercy upon him – a scholar who knew the importance of refining the nafs.

– Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) during his commentary on the Ihya Ulum al-Din, Dar al-Mustafa, 28th Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1440.


 

The Role of Sayyids and Sharifs in Spreading Islam (Interview) – Prof Syed Naquib al Attas

Prof Syed Naquib Al-Attas was interviewed by Prof. Mehmet Ipsirli on the role that the Prophetic family (Sayyids and Sharifs) played in spreading Islam in South East Asia.

 

Prof Mehmet: What are the places of Sayyids and Sharifs in the Islamic tradition?

Prof Al – Attas: Nowadays, I feel that these two concepts have become separated in such a way that the Sharif are Hasanese (i.e. following Hasan), and the Sayyid are Husseinese (i.e. following Hussein). I think that this was probably the same in earlier times. Sayyids were called Sharif, and Sharifs were called Sayyid. Of course it is true that the Hasanese gradually became the Sharifs of Mecca and the post of Sharif was established by the Abbasids. I noticed that when I was reading Tabari, he mentioned that Al-Ma’mun appointed one of the sons of Ali as the Sharif of Mecca. The main aim of Al Ma’mun here was to neutralize the followers of Ali in a diplomatic way, as at first they were opposed to the Umayyads and later to the Abbasid’s as well. Thus, he was trying to be friendly with them and to show his favor by appointing such people. Now, Al Ma’mun lived around the year 800; another man al-Dimashqi, who was a geographer, wrote in 1200 that the first missionaries to be sent to Asia were in the time of Uthman’s caliphate; therefore, he said, the missionaries were here because they were running away from Al-Hajjaj, from his persecution, in the time of the Umayyads. They first fled and then they came to that part of Indo-China known at that time as Shampa, and now called Sand in Cambodia. And they then came to Southeastern Asia. Al-Dimashqi referred to them as Alawiyyun (followers of Ali). This was in the time of Uthman. Therefore in the time of Al-Ma’mun and at later dates there were many envoys who were sent to China; it is said that there were at least 32 envoys sent between the time of the Umayyad and Abbasids until around the year 500 (Hijrah).

 

Prof Mehmet: Was there any policy to send envoys that had been particularly chosen from the Prophet’s descendants?

Prof Al – Attas: Yes, I think that the Chinese emperor respected them more because they were from the Prophet’s descendants. I suppose the reason why the Tang dynasty sent a Chinese ambassador to the court of Medina at the time of Umayyads was because the political center was still in Medina at that time, not in Mecca. There was a Sharif in Mecca, but the seat of caliph was in Medina. The purpose of this ambassador was to report to the emperor about this new power in the world. Who was this new power? It was reported back to China that they were worshipping heaven. They had no idols and they did not eat pork. The source that mentions this ambassador also records that an Arab general accompanied the ambassador back to China. We are not sure who this general it was. Some say that he was Sad b. Abi Waqqas; the Chinese believe that he is buried in the north of the country. This was at the time of the Companions.

 

Prof Mehmet: Was there a difference between the Sayyids and the Sharifs in this sense?

Prof Al – Attas: The role of the Sharifs, I think, was more administrative. They gradually became the Sharifs of Mecca. That is, they acted like governors and gradually became the rulers. But the Sayyids were the ones who continued to struggle, as the Umayyads were more opposed to the Husseinese rather than the Hasanese.  Many of them were located in southern Arabia. What is now known as Oman at that time was called Hadramout – Hadramout is even mentioned in the Bible, and this was at the time of Moses – and this was a very important area.

Many of the Husseinese were located in this area. They were a seafaring people, who traveled by sea. It is for this reason that Ibn Khurdabbe talks about the sea routes, and he mentions how the Sayyids got to China and how they went on to India and so on. They were people who spread Islam following the hadith (sayings of the Prophet). You know the Dutch scholars and Western scholars talk about merchants and traders. Merchants and traders would not be able to be close with ruling powers. The ruling powers would only have respected people who were descendants of the Prophet. For that reason, the locals intermarried a great deal with the Sayyids, just like in Sumatra.

I think one of the characteristics of the Sayyids is that wherever they went, they were not very nationalistic or racist. I think it was Sayyid Ali who was the first one to marry with a non-Arab, the daughter of the Persian emperor, Yezdecarb. In other words, the Sayyids married non-Arabs, but other Arabs did not act like this. When the Sayyids went to Africa, they gradually became like the Africans with this intermarriage, and the same can be stated for China.

But what is important here is that the role of these people, this mission, was prepared in advance. It did not happen accidentally. In other words, they were selected as pious people who knew Islam, and were brave enough to go on these dangerous routes. They were not only traders and merchants either. The western people knew that traders and merchants would not able to spread the religion. They claim that in Islam everybody is a missionary. Of course, theoretically this is true, but in reality, a missionary must be acquainted with many things, because ultimately he has to speak with the king. They have to be able to be close to the kings. Much of the missionary work consists of this high-level diplomacy. That is what is most important in my opinion.

 

Prof Mehmet: In your opinion, what is the social responsibility of descending from the family of the Prophet?

Prof Al – Attas: These descendants of the Prophet spread knowledge. Even Western orientalists say that the descendants of the Prophet are the ones who spread the knowledge. They mentioned the Fatimids and the Al-Azhar. These people established universities and places of education, and much more.

Of course, not everybody was doing all of these things. Some of them, the simple people, may have been doing nothing.  It was a question of spreading knowledge and the religion.

And they were careful not to add to the heresy. They were more traditional, and being traditional entailed going back to the ways of the Prophet. This was because, particularly in the southern part of Hadramout, they were isolated. The early Sayyids who came here learned the hadiths, and then they read the works of the ulama. The books that we can see they were using were ones like Kutb al-Kulubal-Maki, al-Qushayri’s Risala and several others, as well as Ghazali, of course.

As for Hadramout, the first man who brought Sufism (tasawwuf) was a man called Fakih al-Mukaddaam, and this must have been sometime in the 15th century.

 

Prof Mehmet: We see that these journeys started very early from the time of the Prophet. As soon as they learned about Islam they left their country and went to a different part of the world. The Prophet also encouraged the Companions to make these journeys.

Prof Al – Attas: Yes, as we have said already, before the advent of Islam, it has been acknowledged that there were already Arabs in Europe, even at the time of Christ in that area, and they were involved in trade at the time of the Romans.

But I think the role of the Sayyids was to spread Islam. This was the most important. The second factor was that they were trying to teach people the proper forms of Islam from such books. They did not add any thing. Of course, they studied the hadith, so they had more information about what was legitimate. They also read other works. But they did not seek publicity. They also did not care if people acknowledged them or not. They just completed their tasks.

 

Prof Mehmet: How were the Sayyid roots of the first people arriving into Asia influential in the Islamization of the region?

Prof Al – Attas: It is true that the Sayyids came first. These Sayyids were already in the north of Sumatra. They came first to Sumatra, then to the Malay peninsula and then to Joho. Malaca, of course is Joho, and from there they went to Brunei and from there to Sulu and then finally Java. I think the reason why they arrived last in Java is because Java was very powerful at that time and the kingdom was very large. There were also Arab writers there in ancient times; it is said that the maharaja was not called a maharaja, but rather known by the Japanese title batara. It is said that he had a hundred thousand troops and weapons ships. In other words, this was a very strong kingdom with a tradition of Hinduism or Hindu -Buddhist.

So, the plan was probably to first Islamize the Malay side and when that was done then to go on to Java. It would not have been possible to go to Java first, because they were so powerful. Gradually, of course, by coming to them in the 1470s, the Japanese kingdom fell into the hands of Islam. However, some Arabs navigators writing in the 1430s said they Muslim kingdoms were already present in Java. The problem is that I am not sure if this date is correct.

The simpler meaning of Sayyid is those people who went to the villages. They taught people Islam, and the question of adab (manners). This is still going on. If you go to Indonesia you can find many of such people in the villages. They demonstrate a certain exemplary behavior, and they are very pious people. You can the see Hasanese in Singapore; they are very popular in Singapore, even among the non-Muslims, because they are simpler and more open-handed as well.


Syed Muhammad al Naquib bin Ali al-Attas (born September 5, 1931) is a prominent contemporary Muslim philosopher and thinker from Malaysia. He is one of the few contemporary scholars who is thoroughly rooted in the traditional Islamic sciences and who is equally competent in theology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, and literature. He is considered to be the pioneer in proposing the idea of Islamization of knowledge. Al-Attas’ philosophy and methodology of education have one goal: Islamization of the mind, body and soul and its effects on the personal and collective life on Muslims as well as others, including the spiritual and physical non-human environment. He is the author of twenty-seven authoritative works on various aspects of Islamic thought and civilization, particularly on Sufism, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy and Malay language and literature.


* This article was modified from its original source (lastprophet.info)

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.


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.


 

All That Remained – Navigating Dementia With Faith

A student observes his grandmother dealing with dementia, and discovers the one thing that remains with her as her memory slowly fades.

Dementia is a heartbreaking illness. It impairs a person’s ability to think, changes their personality, and can cause them to forget their most beloved ones. In times of hardship, when all else is stripped away, true character shines through. Some conditions, like personality changes, are not the person’s fault. But Allah is never far, and He manifests His mercy in amazing ways.

In the early 60s a pious woman, married a simple bus driver in Pakistan. Three weeks later, she relocated to the United Kingdom, where she is now the matriarch of over 30 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Now in her eighties and despite her age and her deteriorating health, she remains steadfast in her prayers and fasting, seems to constantly be in a state of Dhikr, and is often reading the Qur’an. She is always present for family events, whether they be weddings, funerals, mawlids or casual get-togethers.

For decades she would cook and serve food to the entire family, always offering to serve others. Her food was not just tasty, but had a lot of love and baraka in it.

But dementia has taken its toll on her life, and she is unable to do many of the things she once enjoyed. She recently asked one of her daughters, my aunt, “How many children do I have?” and on another occasion, “How many children do you have?” In addition, I once overheard my uncle say that it’s difficult to plan trips and outings, because she will forget about it when it’s time to go.

When dementia strips a personality down to the bare bones, it reveals what lies underneath. The night before my brother’s wedding, she came to stay at our house, and Allah showed me her rank. I was reading from Sura al-Baqara, the longest chapter of the Qur’an, while she was lying down alongside me. She seemed to be dozing, oblivious to what I was doing. Suddenly, she shouted out and grabbed me on the arm.

At first, I was confused as to what she was doing until I rechecked the verse and discovered that I had mispronounced one of the letters. I reread the word correctly and she nodded and allowed me to continue. I thought it was a coincidence, or that maybe I had been reading a verse that she knew well. But a few minutes later, she woke up again when I’d made another mistake, and she corrected me again in the same way. She corrected me in the same manner that Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa corrects those who slip up while reciting a mawlid.

She has not memorized the Qur’an, nor is she a scholar of tajwid. Yet somehow, she sensed my mistake and been able to correct me. I always knew that she had a love for the Qur’an. It amazed me how Allah had beautifully preserved her memory for His Book, even as the memories of her own children faded.

My grandmother is now entering into the final chapters of her life. We pray that Allah grants her a good end and a felicitous entry into Paradise, by His Grace.

By Zaid Malik


This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.


Why Muslim Youth Need Guiding Mentorship

In this memoir, a student speaks about how having knowledgeable, concerned mentorship in his teenage years helped him take the right path.

My Two Mentors

One day in my late teens, I remember being out all day with my brothers and younger cousins. We engaged in all kinds of activities, such as football, laser tag, and then going to a restaurant to eat.

We had fun all day. My father simply took us to where we wanted to go and would watch us have fun, until we were ready to go to the next one. When we got home that evening, I began talking to my cousins about the next activity my dad could take us to.

At this, my two older cousins, Umar and Ali, approached me. They both pointed out quite bluntly that I needed to be more grateful to my parents and appreciate how much effort and sacrifice they’d made for me. Only then did I realize how much I was taking them for granted.

I benefitted a lot through Umar and Ali, who served as my mentors through my teenage years. Both about ten years older than me, they had been through the same education system as me, and had been brought up in the West just like me. They’d seen the same challenges to their faith that I was going through. I knew I could speak to them whenever I needed.

I didn’t have the benefit of having learnt sacred knowledge from a young age. As a result, for the first twenty years of my life, my knowledge of Islam was quite basic. Like the other Muslims in my school, I had to figure it out largely on my own. I remember being in school at age 12, where the teacher was asking the students how many of them believed in God. Despite their age, many answered that they did not.

In most subjects there was either an anti-God, anti-religious, or anti-Islamic narrative. In history classes, the Islamic nations were always the bad guys, whether it was the Ottoman armies or the successful “kicking out” of the Muslims from Spain. Religious study lessons would include philosophical challenges to the existence of God, such as the so-called “Problem of Evil,” without mentioning the vast contributions and proofs of the great Muslim thinkers.

And of course, biology lessons always featured evolution in biased ways. When speaking about animals that were well adapted to their environments, the teacher would attribute it to the genius of evolution. But when there were apparent biological flaws in an animal, the teacher would say that a Creator would not have let that flaw to exist.

This environment impacted me greatly. I felt very insecure about not having clear answers. I’d find myself around the age of 14 and 15 lying in bed at night for hours thinking about how the universe began, whether evolution existed, and everything else.

By the grace of Allah, I always remained a Muslim in belief. However, I had fundamental questions that needed answering. During this period, I benefited immensely from Umar and Ali, who would answer my questions. They would explain how there is no problem believing in the Big Bang as long one believes it is God that caused it to happen. They explained the problems with evolution from a scientific perspective, and that explaining how science and Islam are compatible. Their mentorship was so effective because they had gone through the same journey that I had. Because of this, they were able to help me in a way that parents, aunties and uncles were not.

Battling Ideology

But my troubles weren’t over. When I began university I got involved with the Muslim student groups. Their arguments seemed logical and straightforward, and I got caught up in them. After all, why did we need to follow a school of thought, if we had the Qur’an and sunna? And why were we introducing innovations if our religion was already clear?

Alhamdulillah, yet again, there were Umar and Ali. They tried their best to gently explain the issues with textual literalism, and the importance of schools of thought and following traditional Islam. It wasn’t an overnight process, nor was it an easy one.

They would patiently tolerate me debating with them on religious issues, but would not argue with me. “Don’t worry,” I heard Umar say to Ali. “He’ll figure it out for himself one day.” With wisdom and kindness, they gave me the space to explore for myself, while also advising me at the right moments when I most needed it.

A few years later, when I was ready, Ali very generously paid for me to study some Sunni Path courses (now Qibla), including an Aqida al-Tahawi course taught by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, and a course that covered the sources of Islamic law, taught by Shaykh Farid Dingle.

I remembered how I told a brother from university that I was about to take these classes. “Be careful,” he warned. “They may be Asharis!” “What are Asharis?” I asked. “They interpret some parts of the Qur’an figuratively,” he replied. “For example, when the Qur’an refers to ‘Allah’s hand,’ they say it’s a metaphor for His power, because He does not resemble created things.”

I personally couldn’t see what was wrong with that. He gave me a CD and told me to listen to it instead. I tried, but the speaker was just bashing the other methodologies without actually proving his own points.

I decided to go ahead with the Sunni Path courses. They were detailed and well-taught, and confirmed to me the truth of traditional Sunni Islam in a clear, factual manner. The Aqida course included some articles written by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller about the Sunni Aqida. I sent them to the brother from university.
When he finally responded, he told me that the articles were not backed up by sources from the Qur’an and Sunna.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “The whole article is based on hadith!” “Yes, but they need to be verified.” “They are sahih, what more do you want?” I was frustrated with the lack of response. Learning from Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Farid gave me the inspiration to study more. Alhamdulillah, Ali also introduced me to the spiritual teachings of Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who I now learn from and do not ever want to look back.

However, their work was not yet over. When the time came for me to start searching for a spouse, it was time for them to help me again, as some of my family members, although they wanted nothing but the best for me, weren’t on the same page as me when it came to what to look for in a spouse. My cousins themselves had gone through the same challenges while looking for a spouse. By now, they were both married and starting families, and through their advice I eventually did find a wife who had the same religious perspective and goals as me.

To this day, Umar and Ali continue to guide me with their calm influence, wisdom and life experience. To me, my story is an example of the importance of Muslim youth having role models, who are older than them but not too old, and well-grounded in their own faith.

By Amjad Shaykh


This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.