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The Trodden Path (Episode 12): Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi

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 twelfth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi of India.

  Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (1333-1420=1915-1999)

Shaykh Abul Hasan, the great scholar, thinker and author of many books was born on the 5th December 1913 (1333) in a family of scholars and people who had a long history of serving Islam. The family lineage may be traced to the Sahabi Ali ibn Abi Talib. Also, one of the ancestors of this family was the nephew of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Al-Jaylani who lived in Delhi, India. The family moved from Madinah via Baghdad to India.

His father, Shaykh Abdul Hakim Hay (d. 1923) was a scholar, who wrote an eight volume biographical work of about 500 scholars of India. When Abul Hasan was ten, his father passed away and his brother took care of him. His mother was a righteous woman who had memorized the Quran and supplicated to Allah for her son. Once his brother, Abdul Ali (who combined knowledge of Islam with his knowledge of medicine) had completed his medical studies, he took personal care of Shaykh Abul Hasan’s education. 

He received his early education at home. In 1924, his brother entrusted him to Shaykh Khalil ibn Muhammad Al-Yamani, who taught him Arabic. At the age of thirteen, he could speak Arabic fluently. This was achieved under his brother’s supervision. He then joined the Nadawatul Ulama and completed the course in 1927. From 1927-1930 he studied the Urdu Language and its literature after which he began studying English His mother sent him a letter wherein she convinced him and impressed upon him about the importance of Arabic over and above English. 

He began his Arabic studies under the guidance and supervision of Shaykh Khalil ibn Muhammad Al-Ansari Al-Bahufali and his uncle, Shaykh Talha ibn Muhammad Al-Toki. He entered a literature program and after successfully completing the examination in 1929, he entered the Hadith program for a year. 

His paternal aunt invited him to Lahore, where her husband was an Arabic teacher. During this period, he met many scholars and poets. He attended lessons in Hadith conducted by Shaykh Haidar Hasan Al-Yaghistani Al-Afghani (a student of Shaykh Husain ibn Hasan Al-Ansaari) and Shaykh Nazhir Husain Al-Bihari. He stayed with him for about two years during which he read Sahih AlBukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abi Dawud and Sunan AlTirmidhi as well as a portion of Tafseer AlBaydawi and some lessons in logic.  

Then he accompanied Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Al-Din Al-Hilali. He travelled to Lahore in 1930, to benefit from his teacher, Shaykh Ahmad Ali Al-Lahori. He read Surah Al-Baqarah to him. He was very impressed with his Shaykh’s lessons, so he returned in 1931. During this trip, he attended lessons in Hujatullahi AlBaaligha by Shah Wali Allah Al-Dehlawi. He visited Lahore again in 1932, after which he was a registered student at Madrasah Qasim Al-Uloom where he passed and received a certificate at the hands of Shaykh Husain Ahmad Madani. In the same year, he went to Deoband and attended lessons in Sahih AlBukhari and Sunan AlTirmidhi by his teacher, Shaykh Husain Ahmad Madani. He received Ijazah from Shaykh Abdur Rahim Al-Mubarakfuri. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Raipur honoured him with successorship. He studied some Fiqh with Shaykh I’zaz Ali. He also benefited greatly from his paternal aunts husband, Shaykh Muhammad Talhat Al-Hasani, in Lahore who took him to accompany prominent personalities. He also met the famous poet and writer, Muhammad Iqbal.

In 1934, Shaykh Abul Hasan began his academic career as a teacher of Arabic and Tafsir, but later expanded to included history, Hadith and other subjects.  Initially, the advice he received from his friend, Shaykh Masud Al-Nadwi helped him in becoming a better teacher. He began teaching in the Dar Al-Uloom affiliated to Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow. He formulated syllabi for teaching Arabic and he wrote Qasas AlNabiyeen, AlQiraat AlRaashidah and Mukhtaaraat min Adab AlArabi. In many ways he revolutionized the way Arabic was taught. He compiled a book of Arabic prose Mukhtaraat min Adab Al-Arab which was commended by Shaykh Ali Al-Tantawi and Shaykh Muhammad Bahjat Al-Baytar. Under his supervision, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Rabi’ Al-Hasani Al-Nadwi authored a book in Arabic Literature that was taught at the Dar Al-Uloom. He continued writing and he wrote his amazing book, Mazha Khasira AlAalam bi Inhitaat AlMuslimin between the years 1943-1974. He left teaching in 1944 but remained connected to the institute until he was appointed as the dean of educational affairs in 1953 and then the Head of Nadwatul Ulama in 1961. 

His desire to spread Islam brought him into contact with the Jamat Islami. He was in contact with Abul Ala Al-Maududi and some of his books, although he did not approve of some of his views. He was disappointed so he disassociated himself from it. 

In 1940, he went to Nizamudeen where he spent time with Mawlana Ilyas. During his stay there he met Shaykh Muhammad Zakariya. In 1947, he performed Haj and stayed in the Hijaz for six months, where he was involved in various Islamic activities and he met the ulama. He performed Haj again in 1950. He travelled to Egypt and other countries in the East in 1952, during which he met many prominent Muslim personalities and he delivered some talks. In Egypt, he was accompanied by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ghazali and was even invited by Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (a student at the Al-Azhar at the time) to deliver talks in his village. 

He was hoping to meet Imam Hasan Al-Banna, but he had already been assassinated. Instead, he met his father, Shaykh Ahmad Abdur Rahman Al-Banna. In 1956, he travelled to Damascus, Syria in response to an invitation from Shaykh Mustafa Sibaaie and the Faculty of Shariah. He was received with a warm welcome from many including Shaykh Mustafa Zarqa. He remained in Damascus for about three months and delivered a few lectures that were later published in a book entitled Rijaal AlFikr wa AlDawah fi AlIslam

He traveled to Turkey via Aleppo. Dr. Saeed Ramadaan (Hasan Al-Banna’s son-in- law) organized a conference on Palestine in Damascus. Shaykh Abul Hasan returned from Turkey to Damascus to participate along with many prominent scholars that included Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ of Pakistan. He loved Syria and visited it again in 1964 and 1973.

In 1960, he went to Burma where he stayed for a month delivering lectures. In 1962, he travelled to some countries in Europe including Spain. There he met some of the orientalists. This followed with other travels to America, Morocco and the Gulf.  His visit to Europe was in 1963 as per invitation from the Islamic Centre in Geneva. During subsequent visits to Britain, the Oxford Islamic Centre was established in 1983 and he was appointed as its head. He visited America and Canada in 1977 and followed it with other visits, the last was in 1993.

He presented his message in an excellent manner that was relevant to people of all walks of life. He was well aware of the different challenges and ideas within Muslim communities all over the world. 

His writing gained tremendous popularity amongst the scholars, not only in India, but also amongst the Arabs who took a special interest in his writings as well. This was mainly because he selected Arabic more than Urdu.

He was invited to deliver lectures on various topics in Makkah and Madinah.

He proved through his writing, that the material and spiritual prosperity of any system hinged on its concept of following divine guidance and amongst other issues through text and rational evidence as well as the finality of Prophethood. Sayid Qutb praised his book ‘Islam and the World’.

He was well versed in many fields of Islam. One of his greatest contributions was in the field of history and cultural studies in Islam. His book, ‘Saviours of the Islamic Spirit’ in four volumes deals with separate individuals who were portrayed as revivers and restorers of Islam. He wrote a number of other books totaling to about thirty-one in number. Many have been translated into many different languages. Some are:

  • Al-Sira’ bayn Al-Fikrat Al-Islamiyah wa Al-Fikrat Al-Gharbiyah fi Al-Aqtar Al-Islamiyah. He studied and analyzed western thought and the dangers it posed for the Muslim community.
  • Al-Arkan Al-Arba’ fi Daw Al-Kitab wa Al-Sunnah, Al-Salaat, Al-Zakat, Al-Sowm wa Al-Haj – one of his best books in which he explains the objectives of the four pillars of Islam in a very appealing and encouraging way. He also compares the acts of worship practised by the Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.
  • Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyah. This was one of his most loved books.
  • Al-Nubuwat wa Al-Anbiya fi Daw Al-Quran. A series of lectures that he delivered in 1963 at the Islamic University in Madinah where he highlighted the role of Prophets and prophet-hood in guiding humanity.
  • Al-Tariq ila Al-Madinah.
  • Al-Aqidah wa Al-Ibadah wa Al-Suluk.
  • Nahwa Al-Tarbiyah Al-Islamiyah Al-Hurrah fi Al-Hukumat wa Al-Bilad Al-Islamiyah. He spoke about the need to educate and properly train and nurture the youth.
  • Rabaniyah Laa Rahbaniyah –Here he emphasizes on the need for genuine spirituality in all spheres of life.
  • Al-Arab wa Al-Islam
  • He has other books wherein he described his travels to various countries and cities and his message to the people there. These include books like; Ismaie Ya Misr, Ismaie Ya Suriyah, Usbuaan fi Al-Maghrib Al-Aqsa, Min Nahr Kabul ila Nahr Yarmuk etc.
  • Ila Al-Islam min Jadid. The book discusses the need to return to the pristine teaching of Islam and the need for people to carry out this great responsibility. 
  • Al-Madkhal ila Al-Dirasat Al-Quraniyah.
  •  Al-Sira’ bayn Al-Iman wa Al-Madiyah. He discusses the four stories in Surah Al-Kahf in relation to the struggle between Imaan and materialism.
  • Sirah Amir Al-Muminin Ali ibn Abi Talib.
  • Al-Islam Atharuhu fi Al-Hadarah wa Fadluhu ala Al-Insaniyah.
  • Al-Muslimun wa Qadiyat Falastin. He was concerned about Palestinian problem from as early as the thirties. Here he discusses various issues related to Palestine.
  • Al-Muslimun fi Al-Hind. 
  • Izha Habat Rih Al-Iman.
  • In addition, he wrote hundreds of articles that were published in magazines and newspapers, as well as talks that he delivered at conferences and other occasions.

He was always at the forefront in combating all kinds of trials and tribulations (Fitnah). Many times this resulted in confrontation between him and the government. He strongly opposed the move to make the national anthem compulsory in UP schools. The anthem contains lines that are clear examples of Shirk. He also opposed the government’s attempt to include Hindu Mythology in the school syllabus.

He participated in many organizations internationally and many recognized and acknowledged his excellence as a scholar. Some of his activities and affiliations were:

  • In India, he was the founder member and the first rector of Nadwatul Ulama and the Head of the affiliated Dar Al-Uloom.
  • He was also the President of the Academy for Islamic Research.
  • He was the Head of the Council of Religious Education for the Northern Province of India and Head of the Muslim Personal Law Board in India. 
  • Shaykh Abul Hasan was also a member of the Administrative Council of Dar Al-Uloom Deoband.
  • Shaykh Abul Hasan was one of the founder members of the Muslim World League (Rabita). 
  • He was a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
  • He was a member of the World Supreme Council of Mosques.
  • He was even a member of the International Fiqh Academy. 
  • He was a member of the Advisory Council of the Islamic University in Madinah in 1962.
  • He was a member of the Arabic Academy in Damascus (Syria), Cairo (Egypt) and Jordan and a member of the International Higher Assembly for Islamic Propagation in Cairo.
  • He was a member of the Administrative Council of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan. 
  • He was a member of the league of Islamic Universities in Rabat, Morocco.
  • He also served as a member of the Royal Academy for Research of Islamic Civilization in Jordan.  
  • He was appointed as the head of the International Arabic Literature Council in 1981.
  • In 1980, he was awarded the King Faisal Award for serving Islam and the Sultan Hasan Bolkhaih International Prize. 
  • He received an Islamic Scholarship plaque from the Oxford University in 1999.

Among the great honours granted to him by Allah in this world, was the occasion when the door-keeper of the Ka’ba placed the keys of the Ka’ba in his hand. Then, in the presence of many scholars Shaykh Abul Hasan opened the door and on the request of the prince made Dua inside.  

Around about March 1999 he was afflicted with semi-paralysis and he was treated in a small hospital and he sensed that his death was near. Shaykh Muhammad Ijtiba Al-Nadwi visited him before Ramadan and asked him about the contemporary personalities that impressed him. He replied and said that he was impressed with Hasan Al-Banna, Shaykh Mustafa Sibaaie, Muhammad Al-Mubarak, Dr. Saeed Ramadan, Shaykh Ali Al-Tantawi, Shaykh Abdul Aziz ibn Baz, Shaykh Ahmad Ali Lahori, Shaykh Husain Ahmad Madani, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Raipuri and Shaykh Muhammad Zakariya Khandelwi. 

On the 20th Ramadan, he went to the village (Takih Kalan).  

He passed away on the 31st December 1999 (23 Ramadan 1420) after preparing for the Jumuah Salat and after he sat down ready to recite Surah Kahf. But he began with Surah Yasin instead and after reading a few verses, he passed away.


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:

Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.

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 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-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.


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.

Shaykh 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.

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 Trodden Path (Episode 8): Shaykh Yusuf ibn Ismail Al-Nabhani

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 eighth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Yusuf ibn Ismail Al-Nabhani.

Shaykh Yusuf ibn Ismail Al-Nabhani 1265-1350=1849-1932 (Palestine)

Yusuf ibn Ismail ibn Yusuf ibn Ismail ibn Muhammad Nasir Al-Deen Al-Nabhani was a scholar, a poet, an author and a Qadi whose lineage links up with Banu Nabhan, a Palestinian Bedouin tribe who settled in the town of Ijzim near Haifa in North Palestine. He was born there in 1849 (1265) where he grew up.

He studied the Quraan under his father who was a righteous scholar and a meticulous memorizer of the Quraan whom Allah blessed, even in his old age, by maintaining all his senses and he spent most of his time in various acts of worship. His father’s daily practice was to read one third of the Quraan and thus completed the Quraan thrice every week.

Shaykh Yusuf’s father sent him to Cairo, Egypt to study. For six years 1866-1872 (1283-1289), he studied at the Al-Azhar under illustrious and accomplished scholars and masters in the Shariah sciences. One of them, Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Saqaa (d. 1298) was probably the leading scholar at the time and was known for his precise understanding. Shaykh Yusuf spent about three years studying under him, during which he read the two commentaries Al-Tahrir and Al-Minhaj of Shaykh Zakariya Al-Ansaari together with their marginalia by Al-Sharqawi and Al-Bujayrimi. His other teachers were:

  1. Shaykh Al-Sayyid Muhammad Al-Damnahuri (d. 1869-1286)
  2. Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Zurru Al-Khaleeli Al-Shafi’ (d. 1870-1287)
  3. Shaykh Hasan Al-Adawi Al-Maliki (d. 1881-1298)
  4. Shaykh Abdul Hadi Naja Al-Abyari (d. 1888-1305)
  5. Shaykh Shams Al-Deen Muhammad Al-Anbabi (d. 1908-1326)
  6. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Al-Rafiie Al-Hanafi (d. 1905-1323)
  7. Shaykh Yusuf Al-Barqawi Al-Hanbali

 

After graduating, he returned to Ijzim, Palestine where he held various courses and lessons in his home town. He travelled frequently to Beirut and Damascus where he met prominent ulama. One of the leading scholars he met was Shaykh Mahmood Effendi Al-Hamzawi with whom he read the beginning of Sahih Al-Bukhari and obtained a general written Ijazah. He is presumed to have met Shaykh Abdullah ibn Idris Al-Sanusi, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Al-Khair Abideen, Shaykh Husain ibn Muhammad Al-Habashi, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khaani and other renowned scholars.

He went to Istanbul twice where he worked for several years and worked as the editor of the Al-Jawaaib newspaper and proof read some Arabic books. His monthly salary was ten pounds for editing and proof reading for about two to three hours daily. The newspaper’s owner was very sad when Shaykh Yusuf planned to leave this job for his new position as a Qadi in Iraq. He offered him the chance to work as his partner or accept an increase. Shaykh Yusuf refused both these offers.

Shaykh Yusuf left Istanbul for the first time for Iraq and went to Kawi Sanjaq, a district in Mosul. Thereafter he returned to Istanbul. In (1300), he left for the second time when he was appointed as the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court in Latakia, a Mediterranean Sea port. 

After five years of distinguished service, he was transferred to the position as Chief Judge in Jerusalem, Al-Quds. Eight months later, he was promoted in1888 (1305) to Chief Justice of Beirut, Lebanon where he remained for about twenty years.

Some of his books are:

 

  • Riyad Al-Jannah fi Azhkaar Al-Kitab wa Al-Sunnah
  • Jami’ Karamaat Al-Awliya
  • Al-Majmuaat Al-Nabhaniyah fi Al-Madaaih Al-Nabawiyah
  • Wasaail Al-Wusool ila Shamaail Al-Rasul
  • Afdal Al-Salawaat ala Sayid Al-Saadaat
  • Tahzheeb Al-Nufoos
  • Hujat Allah ala Al-Aalimeen
  • Al-Fath Al-Kabir
  • Nujoom Al-Muhtadeen
  • Al-Sabiqaat Al-Jiyaad fi Madh Sayid Al-Ibad
  • Al-Sharaf Al-Muabad li Aal Muhammad
  • Al-Anwaar Al-Muhammadiyah
  • Khulasat Al-Kalam fi Tarjeeh Deen Al-Islam
  • Hadi Al-Mureed ila Tareeq Al-Asaanid
  • Al-Fadaail Al-Muhammadiyah
  • Al-Asaalib Al-Badia’t fi Fadl Al-Sahaba wa Iqna’ Al-Shia’
  • Muntakhab Al-Sahihayn
  • Al-Ahadith Al-Arbaeen fi Fadl Al-Jihad wa Al-Mujahideen
  • Arbaoun Hadithan fi Arbaeen Sighatan fi Salat ala Al-Nabi
  • Al-Bashaair Al-Imaniyah fi Al-Mubashiraat Al-Manaamiyah
  • Dalil Al-Tujaar ila Akhlaaq Al-Akhyaar
  • Al-Dalalaat Al-Wadihaat Sharh Dalaail Al-Khayraat
  • Hizb Al-Awliya Al-Arbaeen Al-Mustaghitheen bi Sayid Al-Mursaleen
  • Husn Al-Shir’ati fi Mashruiyat Salat Al-Zhuhri izha Taddadat Al-Jumuah
  • Irshaad Al-Hayaraa fi Tahzheer Al-Muslimeen min Madaris Al-Nasara
  • Ithaf Al-Muslim bi Ahadith Al-Targheeb wa Al-Tarheeb min Al-Bukhari wa Muslim
  • Jawaahir Al-Bihaar fi Fadaail Al-Nabi Al-Mukhtar
  • Mithal Al-Na’l Al-Shareef 
  • Mufarrij Al-Kuroob wa Mufarrih Al-Quloob
  • Al-Nazhm Al-Badi’ fi Mowlid Al-Shafi’
  • Qurrat Al-Ayn min Al-Baydawi wa Al-Jalalayn
  • Rafu’ Al-Ishtibah fi Istihalat Al-Jihat ala Allah
  • Al-Tahzheer min Itikhaazh Al-Suwar wa Al-Tasweer
  • In some of his works he strongly criticized Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Qayim, Muhammad Abduh, Jamal Al-Deen Al-Afghani and Rashid Rida. He was specifically critical of Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa affirming direction and place to Allah, but he also praised and applauded Imam Ibn Taymiyah’s book Al-Sarim Al-Maslul ala Shaatim Al-Rasul. 
  • There are various treatises in Hadith in his handwriting in the archives in Rabat, Morocco.

After retiring, he engaged in writing and worshiping and he traveled to Madinah where he lived for a while. 

He returned to Beirut where he passed away in the beginning of Ramadaan in 1932 (1350). One of his last students, Shaykh Husayn Usayran, passed away in July 2005 and was about 97 years old.


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 7): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century – Umar Mukhtar

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 seventh episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Umar Mukhtar.

 Umar Mukhtar 1277-1350=1861-1931 (Libya)

Umar Mukhtar, the man who opposed the Italians when they tried to colonize Libya, was born in 1861 (1277) in the valley of Batnaan in Barqah. He was from one of the famous Arab tribes in the area. His father had taken an oath that if Allah granted him a son, he would ensure that he acquired knowledge and serves Islam.

When he was five years old, he joined a primary school to learn the basics in reading and writing. Thereafter he joined the Jaghbub Mosque corner (zawiyah) where he studied the Islamic sciences. Shaykh Muhammad Ali Al-Sanusi started the zawiyah.

Every zawiyah comprised of three rooms. The first was used to conduct lessons to the Bedouin children, the second was used to entertain the travelers and the third served as a residence for the teachers. The zawiyah was always situated next to a well and it had a small piece of land that was cultivated and farmed by the students. The students consumed that which they planted. It also included a small workshop where they produced some goods that were sold to some tribes. It was situated in a place where the students could practically learn about Jihad.

It was in this atmosphere and environment that Umar Mukhtar grew up. Sanusi teachings encouraged its students to abstain from smoking or amassing gold and jewels. They were not to mix with strangers, because of the fear that they would corrupt their beliefs. In addition they were very aware that Islam was not restricted to the five pillars. Instead, it included brotherhood, tolerance, sacrifice and jihad.

These aspects were visible particularly when Umar Mukhtar raised the banner of Jihad against the Italians when they tried to colonize the region.

After completing his studies he was appointed a teacher at the Qusoor zawiyah near the Green Mountain. Initially he faced a rebellious tribe of highway robbers who had no regard for the law. Because of the manner in which he dealt with them, he was able to repress their defiance and he returned them to life of compassion and tenderness. He was able to instill in them pure Islamic characteristics.

When Italy tried to colonize Libya, many Muslims stood up opposing it. One of them was Umar Mukhtar. He appealed to the Muslims to have a conference to prepare the people mentally and physically to fight the colonialists. His vast knowledge assisted him in motivating the people, with the result the people of Libya were changed overnight into an army fighting in the path of Allah under the leadership of Ahmad Al-Sanusi.

Umar Mukhtar and those with him in spite of being few in number with limited resources resisted the Italians with their might. The number of Muslim martyrs in the first ten years, (1911-1921) were more than 70 000. The Italians used to throw some Muslims to their death from airplanes. They also gathered many Muslims and tied them to boats and dragged them in the sea. In addition they slaughtered and butchered hundreds of Muslims.

Umar Mukhtar led the Jihad against the Italians for twenty years until he was captured and imprisoned and sentenced to death in 1931 when he was seventy years old. 

General Istiyani said that he fought 263 battles against Umar Mukhtar in a period of twenty months. Even magazines like the ‘Time’ regarded the killing of Umar Mukhtar as an indication of the Italian’s victory.

When the Italians took over the city of Kafra, Umar Mukhtar took refuge on the ‘Green Mountain’ which he also used as his base.

One night, he went out on an operation along with fifty mujahids. They were taken by surprise when they found themselves surrounded by Italian soldiers. They exchanged gunfire, during which his horse was shot and wounded. When his horse fell, the Italians were then able to capture him. The Italian Governor in Marj arrived by plane, and ordered that Umar Mukhtar be taken to the port and from there he was taken to Benghazi. He remained in prison for four days. When his sentence was passed and he heard all the allegations against him, he did not deny it, instead he said, “You have transgressed and acted in hostility on our land. Islam has made Jihad compulsory on us against the usurpers of our land. I did not do anything except carry out the teachings of Islam, because Islam refuses and does not allow its followers to be disgraced.”

The Italian judge pronounced the sentence. The next day he was taken to the area where he was to be hanged. He continued to recite the Shahadah until he passed away. This was in 1931.


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 6): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century – Mufti Muhammad Shafi‛

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 sixth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Mufti Muhammad Shafi‛ Uthmani

 

Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi‛ 1314-1396=1897-1976 (Pakistan)

He was born in 1897 (1314), in Deoband, India and is a descendant of the Uthmani family. His father, Mawlana Muhammad Yasin was a scholar and a very pious person. He thus grew up in a very religious environment and had the great fortune of sitting in the company of great luminaries of the time.

At the age of five, he began his Quranic education under Hafiz Muhammad Azim. He studied Persian works under his father and some mathematics under his uncle, Mawlana Manzur Ahmad and other secular subjects. Qari Muhammad Yusuf Mirthi whose recitation was broadcasted over the All India Radio, taught him Tajwid.

He was admitted to Dar Al-Uloom at the age of sixteen and qualified in 1918 (1335). Some of his teachers and mentors were:

  • Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri. Under his guidance and supervision, he read and studied Sahih Al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Shama’il, Al-Ilal and some books in Fiqh. His Shaykh loved him and requested that he write a critique of the Qadiyani movement. He complied and wrote a book in Urdu and another in Arabic titled Hadiyat Al-Mahdiyin fi Ayat Khatmi Al-Nabiyin.
  • Shaykh Aziz Al-Rahman Uthmani. With him he read Al-Muwatta with both narrations that are Imam Yahya Al-Laithi and Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan. He also read Sharh Al-Ma’ani Al-Athar, Mishkaat Al-Masabih, Sharh Al-Nukhbah and Tafsir Al-Jalalayn.
  • Shaykh Shabir Ahmad Uthmani. With whom he read Sahih Muslim and about half of AlHidayah. He also accompanied him a lot and benefited tremendously.
  • Mawlana Asghar Husain. With him he read Sunan Al-Nisai, Sunan Abi Dawud and a portion towards the end of Al-Tirmidhi.
  • Mawlana Izaaz Ali
  • Mawlana Rasool Khan Hazarwi
  • Mawlana Habiburrahman Uthmani

Each of these was an ocean of knowledge and piety. His son, Mufti Taqi Uthmani mentioned his other teachers in Zhayl Al-Izdiyad Al-Sani ala Al-Yani Al-Jani.

From his student days, he was regarded amongst the highly intelligent and diligent. He distinguished himself in all examinations, and as a result he was loved by his teachers.

After graduating, Mawlana Habiburrahman appointed him to teach some subjects for the lower classes and very soon he progressed to the higher classes when he taught almost every subject. He taught for about twenty-seven to thirty years until 1943 (1362). During this period, about 30 000 students, from all over the world benefited from his discourses.  Until today there are some of his students still serving the cause of Islam in various parts of the world. He was also given the task of heading the Dar Al-Ifta.

 

Mufti Shafi’ also reached a very high stage in Tasawwuf. He initially took the allegiance (baya’t) to Shaykh Al-Hind in 1920. After the latter’s demise, his spiritual contact continued with Shaykh Thanwi who conferred the mantle of Khilafat to him in 1930. He spent about twenty years in the company of his Shaykh under whose supervision he produced some outstanding literary works.

Mawlana Jamil Ahmad Uthmani said that Shaykh Thanwi had such a reliance on Mufti Shafi’s juristic acumen, that he consulted him on his personal matters as well.

Shaykh Thanwi once said, “May Allah lengthen the life of Mufti Shafi’, for I achieve two joys due to him. Firstly, I obtain knowledge from him and secondly, I have the satisfaction that after me there are people who will continue the work.”

After the demise of his teacher, Shaykh Aziz Al-Rahman, he was appointed as the Head of Fatwa at the Dar Al-Uloom. He remained in this position from 1350-1362. His fatawa were compiled in an eight-volume book entitled Imdad Al-Muftin.

 

Besides his literary and religious endeavors, he also served the people in the political arena. He played a major role in the independence of Pakistan, by openly supporting the Muslim League. Shaykh Thanwi chose him above other scholars to reform and spiritually rectify the leaders of the League like Muhammad Ali Jinnah and others. Mufti Shafi’ was also appointed as the Chief Supervisor of the Jamiyat Al-Ulama, a body created by the scholars who participated in the movement for the creation of Pakistan. In 1945, due to his influence, voting went in favour of Liaqat Ali Khan, who was elected as the President. Due to his political involvement in trying to establish an Islamic State, he was unable to teach, so he resigned.

In 1947 (1367), after the founding of Pakistan, and at the request of Shaykh Uthmani, he left Deoband. In 1949, after the demise of Shaykh Uthmani, he was elected as the Chairman of the Jamiyat Al-Ulama. He was also elected to many national bodies and made great efforts to promote Islam in the country.

In 1950 (1350), he established an institute in Karachi, which after a few months developed into a fully-fledged Dar Al-Uloom, with more than two thousand students. He wrote more than a hundred books some of which like his Tafsir; Ma’arif AlQuran is a great contribution to the study of the Quran. Besides his writing, his Tafsir of the Quran was broadcasted on Radio Pakistan for many years.

Some of his other works are:

  1. Ahkam Al-Quran. He wrote this as per instruction form Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi. Shaykh Zafar Ahmad, Shaykh Idris Khandehlawi and Mufti Jamil were amongst those also selected for this task. Mufti Shafi’s allotment was the portion from Surah Shuaraa until Surah Al-Hujuraat. He completed this in one large volume.
  2. Alaat Jadidah. Fiqh rulings on new issues.

 

Mufti Shafi’ spent his entire life in Islamic activities. Despite his elevated status he was a very humble person. He had an immaculate character and was always smiling. He had a habit of speaking softly but his replies were concise and to the point. He wore simple clothing throughout his life. He had an exceptional ability in both writing and reading and had a phenomenal memory. During his discourses he would give references of books that he had read many years ago. He was a poet in Arabic. Above all he was the head of all the scholars of Pakistan.

Very few people are aware that he was also an expert calligrapher, bookbinder and a hakim (physician). He learnt calligraphy and bookbinding during his student days. He studied herbal medicine as part of his course in the Dar Al-Uloom. His intention was to teach without remuneration and earn a livelihood by practising as a physician. However, Allah had not decreed this for him. When he was initially appointed as a teacher, his monthly salary was five rupees. When he left the institute after twenty-six years his salary was sixty-five rupees a month, whereas he had offers to teach in several parts of the country for a much higher salary, but he did not accept these offers. Madrasah Aliyah of Calcutta, offered him seven hundred rupees a month, but he refused the offer.

 

He passed away in October 1976 (Shawaal 1396). More than 100 000 people participated in his Janazah. Dr. Abdul Hay, senior successor of Shaykh Thanwi and a close friend of Mufti Shafi’ led the Salat. Many scholars expressed grief at his demise.

Mawlana Ihtisam Al-Haq said, “All the ulama have become orphans with his demise.”

Mufti Mahmud said, “Now it is very difficult for such a great learned man and jurist to be born.”

He is survived by his sons, Mufti Taqi Uthmani who is an excellent scholar, a Judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a member of the International Fiqh Academy in Jeddah and Mufti Rafi Uthmani.


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 5): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

He has authored two books:

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

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


 

 

 

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

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


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

Shaykh Salih ‘Abādi (1328-1420=1910-1999)

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

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

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

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

Some of his teachers were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaykh Salih passed away in 1999.

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

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

 

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


Biography of Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed

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

He has authored two books:

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

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


 

 

 

 

 

Was Uways al Qarni Martyred?

Shaykh Gibril Haddad gives a full and rounded answer to the question of the martyrdom of our master, Uways al Qarni, including biographical sources.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

1. Was our master Uways al Qarni, Allah be pleased with him, martyred in the Battle of Siffin while fighting on the side of our master Ali, Allah ennoble his face?

2. Could you relate a few narrations about Uways al Qarni, Allah be pleased with him, giving a general overview of his life?

Answer:

The answer to your first question is yes, and when he was found they counted more than forty cuts on his body as narrated by Ibn ‘Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (9:438).

This is also documented in Tabaqat Ibn Sa‘d (6:205), Mustadrak al Hakim (3:402) and Hilyat al Awliya (2:86). See also the end of the chapter on Uways in Al Dhahabi’s Siyar A‘lam al Nubala’.

Historically his grave was well-known and visited in Raqqa province, to which Siffin belonged. But I am not sure whether it still exists or was destroyed by the supposed upholders of Islamic civilization and statehood.

The most comprehensive source on the biography of our liegelord Uways al Qarni, Allah be pleased with him, is in Ibn ‘Asakir’s Tarikh Dimashq (9:208-455). There is also an interesting entry on him in Ibn Hajar’s Al Isaba fi Tamyiz al Sahaba and an all-too-brief monograph on him by Mulla ‘Ali al Qari entitled Al Ma‘dan al ‘Adani fi Fadl Uways al Qarni.

All but the last of the above sources also mention the alternative account of his death subsequent to an illness on the return of a trip to Azerbaijan with our master Umar ibn al Khattab, Allah be pleased with him. However, the Hafiz Ibn Hajar said its chain contained a discarded narrator.

On our master Uways, you can find something here in English. However I will cite something below which you might not find anywhere else.

Al Khallal narrated in his book Al Hathth ‘ala al Tijara wa al Sina‘a (The Encouragement to Trade and Industry):

I [Abu Bakr al Marrudhi] told Abu ‘Abd Allah [Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal] of a man who quit buying and selling and swore to himself that no gold or silver would ever fall into his hand again. He left his big house without giving any instructions regarding it. He would go on the road and if he saw anything discarded he would take it from the trash. I [al Marrudhi] said to that man: “What is your proof for this? I do not think you have any proof for it other than Abu Mu‘awiya al Aswad [one of the Abdal].” The man said: “Yes, I do. Uways al Qarni! He would pass by garbage heaps (mazabil) and collect rags.”

He [Ahmad] confirmed his words and said: “He is definitely too strict on himself!” (qad shaddada `ala nafsih). Then he said: “Two poor souls once came to me asking me something very similar to this. One of them said he goes on the road and finds something like vegetables and such. I told them: ‘Why not find work? Do you want to be notorious?‘ They only replied: ‘And what do we care about notoriety?’”

Al Khallal also narrated with his chain that a man asked Uways al Qarni: “From where will livelihood come?” Uways said: “Tell him: Truly we declare and do swear that those hearts, when they start doubting, no admonishment will benefit them!”

May Allah have mercy on him and grant us his intercession on the Day of Mutual Cries.

GF Haddad