Following Others in Sin

If a person commits a sin without intending to be followed and someone else sees him doing the sin and does it, will the former bear the burden of the latter’s sin as well?

Assalamu alaykum

Shukran for your question.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever sets a good precedent will receive the reward of that good as well as the reward of all who follows him in that good. Whoever sets a bad precedent will receive the sin of that deed as well as the sin of those who follow him in that bad.” [Muslim]

Despite reading a few commentaries on this narration, I have not seen any of the commentators distinguishing between a sin perpetrated with the intention of being followed or not.

However, the hadith is general and would consequently include all sin, whether the perpetrator intended to be followed or not.

Lastly, the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said, “Whoever calls to misguidance receives the sin of those who follow.” [Muslim]

Imam Nawawi, when commenting on this report, highlighted that while the first narration spoke of inventing a sin, the second speaks of perpetuating a sin that already exists. Either way, when sinning, whether intending to be followed or not, one is inviting to that sin and consequently carries the sin of those who follow.

And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 8: Challenges in Living the Way of the Prophet – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the eighth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

We continue our discussion of the book al-Fawa‘id al-Mukhtarah – selected beneficial anecdotes for the wayfarer – by Habib Zayn bin Sumayt. Our focus in this podcast is on the importance of books and reading in the life of students of knowledge.

The text provides insight into the lives of the scholars of Hadramaut and their attachment to books and reading. The west has lost its love of reading, and our youth almost completely neglect it. Let us take guidance from these great people and start reading.

Important books and their sequence of study

Imam al-‘Aydarus bin ‘Umar al-Habshi said that the six primary works of tasawwuf that should be studied are the following:

  1. Ihya′ ‘Ulum al-Din by Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali
  2. Minhaj al-‘Abidin by Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali
  3. Arba‘in fi Usul al-Din by Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali
  4. Al-Risalah al-Qushayriyyah fi ‘Ilm Al-Tasawwuf by Imam al-Qushayri
  5. ‘Awarif al-Ma‘arif by Imam al-Suhrawardi
  6. Qut al-Qulub fi Mu’amalat al-Mahbub by Abu Talib al-Makki

These six works are foundational. Students of knowledge in western academic circles often believe they are able to study any text. This belief is mistaken and students who try to study any text often misunderstand the scholars. It is vital that they follow a specific sequence. For instance, the Hadrami scholars of fiqh follow this sequence:

  1. Al-Risalah al-Jami‘ah wa al-Tadhkirah al-Nafi‘ah by Imam Ahmed bin Zayn al-Habashi
  2. Safinah al-Najah fi Fiqh al-Shafi’i by Salim ibn ʿAbdullah ibn Saʿd ibn Samir al-Hadrami al-Shafiʿi
  3. Mukhtasar al-Latif fi Fiqh al-Shafi’i by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-Rahman Balhaj BaFadl al-Hadrami
  4. Al-Muqaddimah al-Hadramiyyah by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-Rahman Ba-Fadl al-Hadrami
  5. Al-Ghayah wa al-Taqrib fi al-Fiqh al-Shafi’i by Abu Shuja’ Hussayn bin Ahmad al-Asfahani
  6. Safwah al-Zubad by Ahmad bin Husayn bin Hasan bin ‘Ali ibn Arslan al-Ramli
  7. ‘Umdah al-Salik wa ‘Uddah al-Nasik by Shihab al-Din Abu al-‘Abas Ahmad bin al-Naqib
  8. Minhaj al Talibin by Abu Zakariyya Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi

This order of study involves moving from a smaller to a larger text, each discussing the fiqh in greater detail. Students must not try to jump the queue. Those who do so have become raisins before being grapes! They remain unenlightened, devoid of understanding.

Sayyidi Habib ‘Umar wrote a book, Maqasid Halaqat al-Ta‘lim, on the importance of understanding the sequence of the books in the various disciplines. It has been translated by Shaykh Amjad Tarsin and published by Dar al-Turath al-Islami.

The Ihya of Ghazali
Imam al-Haddad said it is important to read books such as the Minhaj in fiqh and the Ihya in tasawwuf because, through them, one receives great openings, as well as elevation of the soul.

Habib ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf was the qutb of his time. A qutb is a pole or axis around which everything revolves. It is one of the highest stations of sainthood. However, even if one reaches this station, he is not necessarily the qutb of his time because there can only be one quṭb at a time. Habib ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf read the Qur’an eight times every 24 hours. He said: “Whoever does not study the Ihya does not truly have modesty”.

Imam Haddad loved the Ihya and collated whatever was mentioned in it in one of his books, Al-Nasa’ih al-Diniyyah, which has been translated into English under the title of Counsels of Religion. Some of the pious say that the one who reads and acts on the Ihya will be of the people of Paradise.

Our pious predecessors emphasised the reading of the following four introductions:

The books of Imam Nawawi
Imam Haddad had three books that would constantly be recited to him, one reading after the other. One of these books was Riyad al-Salihin by Imam Nawawi which has been translated into English. It has many benefits and Allah grants many openings to the one who reads it.

An enlightened person once visited a scholar. He saw the scholar’s library and asked why some of the books emit light while others do not. The scholar asked him to remove the books which were emitting light and he did so. They were all Imam Nawawi’s books.

Imam Nawawi was regarded as the qutb of his time. Habib Ahmad bin Hasan al-‘Attas said that Ibn Hajar al-Haytami memorised the Minhaj of Imam Nawawi, and through that, Allah blessed his writings so that their benefits spread throughout the world.

Other books of great benefit

  • Muqqadimah of al-Tafsir al-Kabir of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi up to Surah Baqarah
  • Muqqadimah Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Nawawi
  • Muqqadimah al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab by Imam Nawawi
  • Muqqadimah of Ibn Khaldun

Al-Shifa by Qadi Iyad, which has been translated into English by Aisha Bewley, under the title, “Muhammad: Messenger of Allah”, is said to have been tried and tested for the removal of difficulties.

Let us attach ourselves to the books of the predecessors (salaf) for they contain blessings, knowledge and openings. Reading their books is like sitting at their feet, taking from them, connecting to them and receiving their secrets. It is an invaluable opportunity to insulate ourselves from the trials and tribulations of western society by seeking their light and guidance.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 7: Importance of Etiquette – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the seventh part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

We will be focusing here on good etiquette (adab). We are in need of good manners because we live in a society where the youth do not respect the elderly, and the elderly do not display much care for the youth.

Virtues of good etiquette (adab)
It is narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The one who does not show etiquette to the elderly is not of us.” In addition, many narrations discuss etiquette. Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mubarak said, “We are more in need of a little adab than we are in need of much knowledge.” Imam Shafi’i said, “My teacher Imam Malik advised me to let my knowledge be the salt and my adab be the dough.” The vast majority of Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal’s students attended his classes to learn adab.

The work Ta’lim al-Muta‘allim tells the story of two men who left home seeking knowledge. They studied together for the same number of years. When they returned home, one had gained deep knowledge of fiqh but the other had not gained that much. When the people asked why this had happened, they were told that the scholar who had gained a deep understanding of the religion had faced the qiblah whenever he studied. Allah granted him an opening because of his adab. The other one had sat with his back to the qiblah and therefore had gained little knowledge.

You will receive knowledge in proportion to the amount of adab you show to your teachers. Abdurrahman ibn Qasim said, “I served Imam Malik for twenty years. I received knowledge from him for two years, and received adab for the other eighteen years. How I wish I had dedicated all twenty years to adab”.

Our level of adab is often connected to our opinion of ourselves. The more a person considers himself a great man of knowledge and demands respect from others, the more the illness of pride enters his heart, and the more difficult it is for him to display adab. On the other hand, the more a person considers himself the least of people, the more he is able to display beautiful adab.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I was only sent to you to perfect your character.” He also said, “The best of you are those who are best in character.” Our scholars, especially the Ba’Alawi sayyids, take the view that tasawwuf is entirely about having good character.

Examples of Adab
For example, the seating arrangements for major events at Dar al-Mustafa, the institute of Sayyidi Habib Umar, reflect the utmost adab. Senior scholars sit in front of the gathering, facing the rest of the participants. The first few front rows are reserved for senior men, who are seated according to seniority. Younger students of knowledge are seated behind them. Many times when Habib Ali Mashhur (Allah have mercy on him) attended the gathering, he would be seated in the front, facing the gathering, and Habib Umar (his younger brother) would sit in the first row out of adab to his brother.

There are many examples from among the Prophet’s companions illustrating their adab to him. For instance, Thabit sat crying in the road after Allah Most High revealed the Quranic verse: “O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not” (Sura al-Hujurat, 49:2). A passing companion asked him why he was crying, so he said, “I fear this verse of the Qur’an was revealed regarding me, because I have a loud voice, and when I speak my voice is naturally louder than that of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). I fear that my deeds have been blotted out and I am going to be from among the people of the fire.” The companion, whose name was Asim, told the story to the Prophet, who asked him to call Thabit. When Thabit came to the Prophet, he said, “O Thabit, why are you crying?” Thabit said, “My voice is too loud and I fear that this verse of the Qur’an refers to me.” The Prophet cheered him up, saying, “Are you not pleased that you will live in this world praised and that you will be killed as a martyr and enter Paradise?”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was displaying excellent adab by saying this, because it is good etiquette to cheer someone up by saying something that makes them feel good about themselves. His statement was very good news for Thabit, who also undertook never to raise his voice above the voice of the Messenger.

Self-sacrifice: a Form of Adab
The following narration is important within the current context of coronavirus: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said it is haram for Muslims living in a city afflicted by plague to leave that city. They must remain in the city. No one must travel to or from the city. The Prophet is telling us not to run away to save our lives. We should stay in the city, fearing that we may already be carrying the disease, and prefer to be afflicted and die because Islam is about self-sacrifice. We must be prepared to sacrifice ourselves so that others can be safe.

If we develop the quality of self-sacrifice, it will become much easier to serve others, to give them preference, to honour and respect them, to display etiquette towards them, and to have a good opinion of them.

Etiquette with Our Teachers
Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani once saw the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) before Zuhr. The Prophet told him to deliver discourses and teach and call people to Allah. He said, “I do not have a pure Arab tongue so how can I speak among the eloquent people of Baghdad?” The Prophet said, “Open your mouth.” So he opened his mouth and the Prophet spat into it seven times. He told him to speak in front of people and call them to the way of Allah Most High with wisdom and good admonition. Shaykh Abd al-Qadir prayed Zuhr and thereafter a large number of people gathered around him to learn from him. However, he was struck with fear and unable to speak. Then he saw Sayyidina Ali (Allah be pleased with him) standing at his side. Sayyidina Ali said, “O my son, call people to Allah.” He said, “O my father, the crowd has instilled within me a sense of fear that is causing me to become tongue-tied and I cannot speak.” So Sayyidina Ali told him to open his mouth and, when he had done so, Sayyidina Ali spat into it six times. Shaykh Abd al-Qadir asked why he had not done so seven times, so he said, “I stopped at six so I may have adab with the Messenger of Allah.” Thereafter Sayyidina Ali left and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir was able to speak to the people.

Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf once remarked on the importance of adab. He said their nurturing had been such that they would always make sure that they dressed less well than their teachers.

Our community has a very insightful saying: you may achieve whatever you like in life, in the form of degrees, academic knowledge and wealth, but if you do not have etiquette and good character, you have nothing.

May Allah make us people possessing good etiquette.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 6: From the Cradle to the Grave – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the sixth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

One of the challenges of the current age is that many young students of sacred knowledge stop studying after only a few years because they receive public recognition. They are not really scholars but imagine themselves to be, because they are either good at public speaking or are fulfilling some other scholarly role.

We should always seek to increase in sacred knowledge. For example, our Shaykh, sayyidi Habib Umar used to make a point of attending the classes of Habib Salim bin Abd Allah al-Shatiri before he passed away, even though his own classes drew hundreds or thousands of people.

‘Abd Allah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As narrated that he heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ انْتِزَاعًا، يَنْتَزِعُهُ مِنَ الْعِبَادِ، وَلَكِنْ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ بِقَبْضِ الْعُلَمَاءِ، حَتَّى إِذَا لَمْ يُبْقِ عَالِمًا، اتَّخَذَ النَّاسُ رُءُوسًا جُهَّالاً فَسُئِلُوا، فَأَفْتَوْا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ، فَضَلُّوا وَأَضَلُّوا

His statement:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ انْتِزَاعًا، يَنْتَزِعُهُ مِنَ الْعِبَادِ

This means that Allah will not remove knowledge from this earth by stripping it from the hearts and minds of men.

His statement:

وَلَكِنْ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ بِقَبْضِ الْعُلَمَاءِ

However, He will remove it biqabd al-‘ulama’. The common meaning of qabd is to take possession. Thus, taking possession of the scholars is commonly interpreted as causing them to die, so that knowledge will die out with them.

Habib Abu Bakr al-‘Adani points to another meaning of biqabd al-‘ulama. He says it refers to the restriction of sacred knowledge in contemporary societies. Short courses are common, with most Islamic universities producing graduates who call themselves shaykhs after four years.

Traditionally, students would continue their journey of sacred knowledge for ten, twenty or even thirty years before becoming scholars. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, for example, studied for thirty years before he was permitted to conduct his own classes. In Tarim, graduates of Dar al-Mustafa are called students of knowledge (talib al-‘ilm), nothing else, even if they study there for ten years. They are only called ‘Sayyid’ (for the family of the Prophet) or ‘Shaykh’ (for others) if they have obtained recognition from the senior scholars and established themselves in the community.

Gaining sacred knowledge is a life-long journey that requires years of sacrifice and effort. It is not gained by studying at the hand of an academic who does not pray in the mosque five times a day, or who does not pray the voluntary night prayer (tahajjud), or who adheres to modernist ideologies, or who is not even a Muslim.

Studying under such people does not illuminate the heart with sacred knowledge. One must be an exemplary Muslim to be a scholar.

Imam Shafi‘i, one of the most exemplary of all scholars, once looked at the shin of a woman and his memory deteriorated. He sought advice from his teacher, Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah, who advised him:

I complained to Waki’ of my weak memory,
To abandon sin is what he advised me,

For knowledge is light from my ilahi (my Lord),
And a sinner is not given from His Luminosity,

May Allah allow us to be amongst those who seek sacred knowledge only for His sake and allow us to be amongst those who act upon their knowledge.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 5: The Shaykhs We Meet – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the fifth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Here, we will be discussing the different shaykhs and teachers we may encounter in our lives. They may fall into one or more of the following three categories (Although a shaykh can to fall into all of them, it rarely happens).

  1. The Shaykh al-Fath (Shaykh of Opening)

The first, and the greatest, is the shaykh al-fath – the shaykh who is the means of receiving an opening of sainthood. Through him, one becomes detached from the world and connected to his Lord, Allah Most High. One draws closer to Allah and finds enjoyment in worship.

The shaykh al-fath is the door to continuous presence with Allah. Many shaykhs experience this presence to such an extent that, if their heart is absent from their Lord for a minute, they regard themselves as apostates. For example, a shaykh repented to Allah for a single sin for forty years. His students asked him about the sin, and he said, “I had guests over one evening and served them fish. Afterwards, as they left my home, I had the smell of fish on my hands and wanted to get rid of it so I took a piece of mud from my neighbour’s wall and cleaned my hands”. The students said, “that is not a serious sin because you could have told the neighbour you took it by mistake and he would have pardoned you”. He said, “that is not the reason I am crying. I went to the neighbour immediately and apologised and he overlooked the sin. I am repenting of the fact that, for the moment that I took my neighbour’s mud without his permission, I was heedless of Allah.”

Words cannot describe the state that the shaykh al-fath facilitates in his students. He may be someone we meet once in our lives. He may be the most unassuming person, and we may think of ourselves better than him. In so doing, we may deprive ourselves of receiving the great opening.

We must take note that the opening is not given by the shaykh himself. Allah has made him a means for others to attain the state. You may reject this, saying there is no proof. However, our shaykhs are living proof of this.

For example, one day Habib ‘Ali al-Habashi was playing in the road with his friends, and Habib Abu Bakr al-‘Attas looked at him from his window. When Habib al-‘Attas’ gaze fell upon him, he became disconnected from everything around him and connected to his Lord.

  1. The Shaykh of Tarbiyah (Shaykh of Spiritual Nurturing )

The second is the shaykh of tarbiyah. He is the one from whom we take the pledge of spiritual allegiance (‘ahd or bay’ah). He tells us which adhkar or litanies (awrad) to recite, and he advises us in times of difficulty.

There is a debate among the scholars as to whether one should have a shaykh of tarbiyah. It cannot be regarded as compulsory, because this would imply that many Muslims around the world who do not have shaykhs are sinful. No scholar would wish to ascribe to this view.

However, the shaykh of tarbiyyah is important. Imam Ghazali says in Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din that there are different ways of attaining spirituality. For example, you can ask a friend – a trusted person who is close to you – to make you aware of your faults. You will respond readily when he advises you of your bad qualities because you trust him, and you will try your best to rid yourself of them. Nevertheless, Imam Ghazali says that a shaykh of tarbiyyah is the best way to attain closeness to Allah, to increase in spirituality, and to develop the qualities of a real believer.

What qualities should you be looking for in a shaykh of tarbiyah?

  1. There should be an appropriate bond or connection between you and the shaykh
  2. The shaykh’s students shouldn’t try to encourage you to become their shaykh’s student. You should be given the space to find someone who will have a life-long impact on your heart
  3. In addition to fulfilling all the commands of Allah, the shaykh should emulate the characteristics (shama’il) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and display as much of his sunnah as possible

Habib ‘Ali al-Habashi said if you find yourself in your shaykh’s heart and he receives divine outpourings, you will share in them. Imam Hasan al-Basri said if Allah gazes at your shaykh’s heart and you find a place in his heart, you will also receive Allah’s gaze.

  1. The Shaykh of Knowledge

The third shaykh is the shaykh of knowledge (shaykh al-ta‘lim). He is the shaykh from whom you study Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Islamic doctrine (‘aqidah), Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh), tafsir, and all the other sacred sciences.

The shaykh of knowledge plays a major role in our lives. This shaykh ensures that I know how to worship Allah. Through this shaykh, we come to know halal and haram and are able to live lives that are pleasing to Allah. This shaykh assists us in knowing how to execute Allah’s command and to abstain from His prohibitions outwardly; while the shaykh of tarbiyah assists us in doing so, inwardly and outwardly.


We are emphasizing the shaykh of tarbiyah because we are in need of purification of our egos and assistance with our struggle to live as Muslims in the modern western world. The best way to learn how to live our lives in the west is to observe those shaykhs of tarbiyah who have adopted the way of the Messenger of Allah. For example, it is impermissible for a man to shake a strange woman’s hand. This is a big challenge in the west. However, if you really want to follow Allah’s law, He will make things easy for you. When Habib ‘Umar entered a university lecture theatre in North America, a woman professor tried to shake his hand. He raised his hands to his chest politely, thereby letting her know that it was not permissible for him to shake her hand, and smiled at her radiantly. So he made up for not shaking her hand by his smile, as well as his politeness and humility.

While the three kinds of shaykhs are all important, the shaykh of tarbiyah is of the greatest importance to modern western Muslims because he connects us to Allah and guides and benefits us in navigating the challenges we face.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 4: Etiquettes Towards One’s Teachers- Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the fourth part of a series, click here for the previous article.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

No matter how much a student develops, the etiquette with his teacher is of the utmost importance. Seventy percent of knowledge is gained through the student’s connection with his teacher – through his love of and attachment to his teacher, and through his adab and respect. More than five thousand students attended the classes of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal. The majority of them attended to learn adab, while around only five hundred attended to record hadith.

Imam Haddad said, in his book Adab Suluk al-Murid, that if a student is filled with reverence, love and respect for his shaykh, and this is apparent inwardly and outwardly, and he follows the way of his teacher, he will inherit his teacher’s secret. Sayyid Imam ‘Ali Ibn Hasan al-‘Attas said a student will receive knowledge, openings, light and unveilings in proportion to the amount of etiquette he adopts towards his teacher.

Imam Baha’ al-Din al-Subki (d. 1372AD/773AH) told the following story: “We were travelling to greater Syria. My father (Imam Taqi al-Din al-Subki) was riding his horse, and we passed a farmer who said he had asked Imam Nawawi something. It was clear that he had met and studied under Imam Nawawi so my father descended from his horse, saying I will not ride a horse while someone who has seen Imam Nawawi is walking.” Imam al-Subki never met Imam Nawawi but he read many of his books and adopted him as his teacher. So when he met the student of Imam Nawawi he made him ride the horse while he walked.

Habib Salim al-Shatiri was regarded as the most senior teacher in the ribat of Tarim. He met Habib Muhammad al-Haddar, the father-in-law of Habib Zayn and Habib ‘Umar. Habib Salim was Habib Muhammad’s junior, so he tried to kiss his hand. However, Habib Muhammad kept refusing because Habib Salim’s father, Habib ‘Abd Allah, was one of his teachers. He said, “how could I ever allow my teacher’s son to kiss my hand?”

When they both lived in Madinah, someone gave Habib Muhammad a first-floor apartment and gave Habib Salim an apartment on the ground floor below him. Habib Muhammad refused to live on the first floor. He insisted that Habib Salim move into the first-floor apartment and he took the ground floor one, saying, “how can I sleep above the son of my shaykh?”

This etiquette must be emphasised. We do not revere our teachers. We must make dua that Allah hides the faults of our teachers so we do not see them. These days we look for our teacher’s faults, and when we find them we think less of him and, worse than that, we talk about them and make others think less of the teacher.

We should pray for our teachers. Abu Hanifah said, “I made istighfar for my teacher after every salah after he had passed away. I will continue making istighfar for every teacher from whom I have learned and every student I have taught.”

According to a narration, a man has three fathers – his biological father, the father whose daughter he marries, and his teacher, and the teacher is the best of fathers. By honouring and respecting our teachers, we will succeed in our studies and gain knowledge from our teachers.

Imam Hakim developed a dangerous wound that was infected and would not heal. His student, Imam Bayhaqi, asked the resident imam in a town through which he travelled to make dua for Imam Hakim. The imam did so, and a lady who was present at the gathering where the dua was made went home and made dua for him. She fell asleep and dreamed that the Prophet told her to tell Imam Hakim to build a well and give people water to drink and through that he would receive a cure. She told the resident imam who told Imam Bayhaqi who told Imam Hakim. So he built a well and gave water as charity to passers-by and he was soon cured. He received his cure through giving charity, not through medicine.

The outward means we take to become students, namely putting in many hours of effort and hard work, is very important. However, a big part of acquiring knowledge is about lowering ourselves in front of our teachers, and adopting the right etiquette towards them. The companions were the best examples of excellent etiquette. For instance, Ibn Mas‘ud used to carry the Prophet’s sandals (Allah bless him and give him peace).

The more you hold your teacher in great esteem, the more Allah holds you in great esteem. Habib ‘Ali al-Habshi said he did not see the human aspect of his teacher, Habib Abu Bakr. He only saw perfection.

Many academics think they only need books, not teachers. An academic once read the hadith that the Prophet said black seed is the cure for all ills. The Arabic word for seed is habbah (), and he read it incorrectly as hayyah (), which means snake, so he thought the hadith said the black snake is the cure for all ills. He ate a venomous black snake and went blind and eventually died from the snake’s poison.

It is often the case that we make subtle mistakes when we read books without the guidance of teachers. This can lead to diseases of the heart which can cause our hearts to die. It can also cause us to develop an ego. We imagine that we have different titles and think we are better than our teachers. Imam Ghazali said this is one of the things that will lead to our destruction in the hereafter. We must ask Allah to keep us from taking this path.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 3: Nothing is Better than Knowledge – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the third part of a series, click here for the previous article.

The Prophet’s Knowledge
We are continuing our discussion of the importance of knowledge. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) was the most knowledgeable of Allah’s creation. He received his knowledge directly from Allah.

According to a hadith regarding the knowledge of the Prophet, one morning he was late for fajr and did not lead it at the start of its allocated time. The companions (sahabah) waited for him because the prayer only commenced when he entered. He arrived before the allocated time of Fajr had passed, and led the prayer. After the prayer, he turned and faced his companions, explaining that he had ascended to the heavens. He said that Allah asked him three times what the Angels were discussing and that he responded three times by saying ‘Allah knows’. Then Allah placed His hand (not a literal hand) on the Prophet’s back and thereafter he knew everything. He knew what was in the heavens and on the earth. Then Allah repeated the question and the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) replied that the angels were discussing the different expiations for crimes and the different rewards for good deeds. (Reported by Ahmad and others)

Thus we come to know that the Prophet’s knowledge is beyond our comprehension. Our teachers often stated that only Allah knows the extent of his knowledge (blessings and peace be upon him).

Similarly, one who exerts oneself in the acquisition of knowledge, Allah will open a door to special knowledge, directly from Him, like the knowledge with which Khidr (peace be upon him) was honoured.

Knowledge vs worship
Knowledge is essential. In our time, it is more important than worship. Many a worshipper’s life will be wasted due to his lack of knowledge.

The virtue of seeking knowledge is great. Today we find that people turn to gatherings of remembrance (dhikr) much more than to classes of knowledge. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) entered a mosque and found two circles. One was making dhikr and the other was discussing fiqh. He said both gatherings are doing good, but the gathering of knowledge is more virtuous than the other one. He said, “As for me, I was sent as a teacher”, so the circle of knowledge is better.

This does not mean that gatherings of remembrance are not important. Both gatherings are important, but if you attend gatherings of remembrance and you are not part of a gathering of knowledge, you are doing yourself an injustice. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said that if people knew the reward of attending gatherings of knowledge, they would fight each other to attend them. Leaders, governors and kings would leave their positions, and business people would leave their businesses to attend these gatherings.

Habib Ahmad bin ‘Umar bin Sumayt said that if the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) were to enter a home and there were two circles – a mawlid and a fiqh class – he would attend the fiqh class before he attended the mawlid. This is not to detract from the value of the mawlid and circles of dhikr. They are very important, but we must observe the actions of the scholars. They spend more time on the acquisition of knowledge.

Anas ibn Malik narrated that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, whoever leaves home in search of knowledge is in the way of Allah until he returns. So the merit and virtue of seeking knowledge are great.

Imam Haddād said a person who is intellectually challenged should stick to worship, but anyone who has deep understanding should be driven by knowledge.

Habib ‘Ali al-Habshi had a great passion for the science of grammar. He would start his class every morning with a discussion of grammar. One of his students had a dream in which he saw three students with shining faces attending the class. The first one was the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), the second was Sayidina ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him), and the third was Sayidina Hasan (Allah be pleased with him). They said they had come to attend Habib ‘Ali’s class. When he was informed about the dream, Habīb ‘Ali said, as long as the Prophet attends our grammar class we will continue to teach grammar.

The scholar vs the worshiper
It has been said Allah regards that a lazy student of knowledge as more virtuous than 700 worshippers who exert themselves in worship. ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas said that scholars will be elevated above believers by 700 degrees in rank, and that between each degree there will be a travelling distance of 500 years.

According to Habib ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Aydarus al-‘Aydarus, when the demise of the Prophet was approaching, the earth began crying to Allah, saying, “The Prophet used to walk on me. Who is going to walk on me now? There will be no Prophets after the Prophet.” The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) responded, saying “The scholars of my ummah are like the Prophets of Bani Isra’īl.”

What scholar is greater than the worshiper
It is important to realize that the kind of scholar being referred to in all these narrations is not one who merely increases in knowledge but does not increase in closeness to Allah. Allah poses a rhetorical question: Are those who have knowledge the same as those who do not have knowledge? The point is that they are not the same. Allah describes the scholar: He is someone who is submissive to his Lord, who stands in prayer at night and prostrates to his Lord, who fears the afterlife, who fears Allah, who cries in the early hours of the morning.

In other words, the scholar is one who acts on his knowledge. The scholar who has knowledge but does not act on it will be the first to be thrown into the fire.

Acquisition of knowledge has no end
The cycle of knowledge should never end. The scholar is always a student and a teacher. For instance, Habib ‘Umar used to attend the fiqh classes of Habib Salim al-Shaṭiri at least once a week even though he has his own very large classes. This should be an encouragement to students of knowledge.

The Masters and the Millennials | Part 2: Knowledge – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the second part of a series, click here for the previous article.

Knowledge and it’s virtue
Knowledge is very important. It has a prominent place in Islam. It is one of the primary foundations of the Ba ‘Alawi way. Allah Most High said to His beloved (blessings and peace be upon him): “Say, my Lord, increase me in knowledge” (20:114). When Allah commands His beloved to do something, that thing is beloved to Him. He instructed the Prophet to ask for an increase in knowledge because it is one of the most noble and honourable qualities. So we should ask Allah as often as possible to increase us in knowledge.

Abu Hurayrah once announced in the marketplace, “O people, what is preventing you from taking your share of the Prophet’s inheritance? It is being distributed.” They asked where it was being distributed, so he answered, “in the mosque”. They went to the mosque and returned, saying, “O Abu Hurayrah, you said the Prophet’s legacy is being distributed in the mosque, but we found nothing except people praying, reciting the Qur’an and revising knowledge – the fiqh of halal and ḥaram.” Abu Hurayrah said, “Woe to you, the inheritance of the Prophet is in the gathering of knowledge.” He quoted the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), “Indeed, Prophets did not leave wealth as an inheritance. They only left knowledge as an inheritance.”

The Prophet also said to his companions, “You are living in a time when the jurists are many and the teachers are few, those who ask are few and those who give are many, and action is better than knowledge. But a time will come when the jurists are few and the teachers are many.” This statement is very apt in our time. Many people study merely so they can deliver talks. The Prophet referred to this as a bad development. People are not focused on knowledge, but on how well they are able to speak. He went on to say: “A time will come when many will ask and few will give, and knowledge will be better than action.”

Hasan al-Basri said that, had knowledge taken a form, it would have been more splendid than the sun, the moon, the stars and the sky. Imam Shafi’i said whoever desires this world or the next should seek knowledge because he is need of knowledge in this life and the next. Allah Most High gives worldly things to those He loves as well as those He does not love, but He only gives knowledge to those He loves.

Habib ‘Aydarus bin ‘Umar al-Habshi said knowledge is food for the heart. Therefore he would make the du’a that is made after eating at the end of every gathering of knowledge.

Correct worship requires knowledge
Without knowledge we are not able to worship Allah truly. A man may worship Allah the way angels do, but if he does so without knowledge he will be one of the losers.

‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz said that the one who acts and does good without having knowledge spreads more bad than good. Sayyidina ‘Umar bin al-Khatab (Allah be pleased with him) said that someone who has not studied is not allowed to buy and sell in the marketplace. One who does not study the law of commercial transactions ends up consuming riba unknowingly.

Consider the following telling example: A man from Morocco was known to exert himself in worship. One day he purchased a female donkey that he did not use for anything. Someone asked him why he was keeping it if he was not using it. He replied that it was there to keep him chaste. He was engaging in bestiality not knowing it is haram.

It is really important to participate in classes of knowledge. Learning is a cycle that should never end. Imam Ghazali said one should attend a class every day. We should start by attending at least one a week, and then increase our attendance slowly until we are able to attend a class every day.

The Masters and the Millennials | Introduction – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This is the start of a series of articles that are based on al-Fawa’id al-Mukhtarah, one of the seminal works of the great scholar al-Habib Zayn bin Sumayt. The book contains advice on a wide range of subjects that are relevant to daily life, drawing on examples from the Habaib from Hadramout. We will be exploring this advice within the context of Muslims living in the West, with the aim of deriving guidance from it on ways to deal with modern challenges.

Click here to listen to their accompanying podcasts.


This is the first article in a new series, which is designed to derive benefit from the book Al-Fawa‘id al-Mukhtarah li Salik Tariq al-Akhirah, which contains selected beneficial anecdotes for the wayfarer by Habib Zayn bin Sumayt.

The book covers a vast array of topics. The article series (and podcast series) aims to derive benefit from the ahadith and ayahs quoted in it, as well as to find practical examples from the lives of the pious that assist us in our lives.

We are 1,400 years away from the life of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) so there are very few current prophetic examples for us to follow. However, the scholars of the Ba‘alawiyyah from Tarim in Yemen – the Haba’ib – are real examples from the twenty-first century.
We will draw on these examples and from the comments in the book to derive insight into the challenges, psychological problems, abuses and addictions we face in the west. Although the book is traditional, it provides us with an opportunity to see how we can live in the modern era by following the ways of these giants – the heirs of the Prophet.
Before we begin our discussion of the book, it is important to outline the biography of Habib Zayn bin Sumayt.

Author’s Biography
He is a member of the Prophet’s family. He is Ḥusayni. His lineage goes through many pious forebears, such as al-Faqih al-Muqqadam and al-Imam Ahmad ibn ʻIsa al-Muhajir, through Sayyidina Husayn to the Prophet Muhammad. He is Hadrami because his family hails from Hadramaut although he was born 79 years ago in Jakarta.
He is an authority on Shafi’i fiqh and taṣawwuf. He was born of pious parents and his father ensured that he sat in the company of the pious, such as Habib ‘Ali bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad. After he reached puberty he went to Tarim to study at the hands of various scholars and in various institutes. His most senior teacher was Habib ‘Alawi bin ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Aydarus bin Shihab. He was also taught by Habib Ja‘far bin Ahmad al-‘Aydarus, who manifested many miracles and who loved horses. Habib Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafiz was another of his teachers.
After he had been in Tarim for eight years, Habib Muḥammad told him to go to Bayḍa’ to teach. He did so and joined the ribat of Habīb Muḥammad al-Haddar. When Sayyid Habib ‘Umar bin Muḥammad al-Hafiz went to Bayda’ he studied under Habib Zayn.
Interestingly, both Habib Zayn and Habib ‘Umar married daughters of Habib Muhammad al-Haddar. Habib Muhammad observed Habib ‘Umar’s inner light and wanted him as a son-in-law. He told Habib ‘Umar that he had two daughters, one who had been married previously and had a daughter, and another who had never been married. He said Habib ‘Umar was free to choose to marry either of them.
Instead of deciding quickly, Habib ‘Umar consulted Habib Zayn. He said he was looking for a wife who would help him call people to Allah. Habib Zayn said the daughter who had been married previously was the one who would aid him best in that endeavour, so he married her.
Habib Zayn taught in Bayda’ for thirty years. Thereafter he moved to Madinah and opened a ribat. It attracted many students, so the government ordered that it be shut down. Habib Zayn had to decide whether to leave Madinah to continue teaching, or to remain there without teaching. He decided to remain there because of his connection to his grandfather (blessings and peace be upon him).
His wife passed away a few years ago, and this caused him much sorrow. This was because he was very attached to her, much like our beloved Prophet was attached to Sayyidah Khadījah (Allah be pleased with her).

Summary of the Book
The book begins with a chapter on the importance of knowledge. It delves into the etiquette between students, on the one hand, and shaykhs and imams, on the other, as well as the relationship between laypeople and scholars. These issues are foundational to Muslims.
Habib Zayn’s anecdotes span a broad spectrum of issues, including calling people to Allah; the importance of the Qur’an; halal and haram; the rights of one Muslim over another; enjoining the good; the tongue and it’s being a source of harm in the world; sincerity; humility; the disparagement of haughtiness and ostentation; hope in Allah; and following the sunnah.
With the aid of Allah, we will be traversing some of these issues in this series of articles (and podcasts). Our focus will be on how we can ensure that our lives in the West resemble the life of our beloved Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).


Ramadan 2020 Reminders | Episode 7: What Really Counts | Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

Like fasting has conditions for validity, it also has conditions for acceptance. Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan explains how we can put these inward conditions into practice to make our fast truly transformative.

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