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When Zubair Met Zubeida: A Snapshot of Learning at SeekersGuidance – Saad Razi Shaikh

A year and a half ago, I started learning at SeekersGuidance. Here’s why you should start too.

A few weeks into the year 2018 found me by my desk, staring at the blank screen of my computer, not unlike an oracle staring at her orb. A string of lows in life had found me bewildered and lost. My university days were drawing to a close, the career opportunities were not heart-warming, and I was at a loss at what to do next.

Winter was receding, spring was due in a couple of weeks. In February of that year, I began my first term at Seekers Guidance. I had signed up, not sure what was to come next. I was auto-enrolled for the two foundational courses, the ‘Absolute Essentials of Islam’ and the ‘Essentials of Islamic Tradition.’ Before starting on those, I had heard a short clip on how to gain the most from seeking sacred knowledge, the tips and practices, the points of caution.

Back then, I was not aware of the teachers at Seekers. But when I heard the short clip, I took notice. I paused and took detailed notes, something I rarely ever did. Both the style of the teacher and the substance of the lesson taught hit the right wavelength for me. In between jotting down notes and nodding at the screen, I thought of how wonderful it would be if the same person would be teaching the courses I had enrolled in.

And lo and behold! When I first tuned into my first ever lesson, I found the same teacher teaching. I learned his name was Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. He would be guiding the students into their first steps into the learning of the sacred sciences.

The courses were taught in English, the language that had been my medium of learning lifelong. The courses were structured according to levels, starting with the foundations, eventually progressing to Mastery. Both live sessions and term-long Q & A were offered. All of this, for absolutely no cost. Here was guidance that would measure in gold, yet for free? I was intrigued, dumbfounded. Eventually as the year passed, the lessons revised, and the learning put to practice, my intrigue gave way to gratefulness.

What made me most happy was Shaykh Faraz’s manner of teaching. The subject at hand was the building blocks of our faith, the keys to the happiness of this world and the next. As necessary it was to get the basics of it right, the task was overwhelming to picture too. I was nervous at the start, not sure if I would be sincere enough or plain simple good enough to learn it.

This is where Shaykh Faraz’s light-hearted style, his jovial way of teaching came to the rescue. Rarely ever had I seen an Islamic scholar so approachable and fluid in his teaching. The neat structuring of the lessons, the soundness of the classical texts it was based on, the unbroken chain of learning the teacher taught it with, all added up to the learning experience I was happy to partake into. I found myself hurrying through the lessons at first, eager to absorb as much as I could. Later, I slowed down, listened more carefully, took detailed notes and revised them before handing in the assignment due before the close of term.

Those who have heard Shaykh Faraz’s lectures know the characters of Zubair, Zubeida and Uncle Jamil. They are something of a regular, the hapless Zubair wanting to marry Zubeida, with her father Uncle Jamil throwing tests at Zubair. Shaykh Faraz uses them to illustrate the finer points of the lessons. These playful additions bring them to life. I have often wondered if someday, on walking into a Toronto wedding, I may bump into these characters!

As I became more comfortable with the routines and rigor of online learning, I started to explore Seekers more. In between terms, I would tune into the On-Demand courses. I would listen to podcasts, I would swap the time I could have spent reading the news feed for reading through the Answers service. Eventually, I started listening to other teachers, and Alhamdulillah, I felt both their knowledge and their states influence me for the better.

Ustadh Anik Abdullah Misra said in an interview that through the internet, ‘Allah has made believers connect to each other in an age of disconnectedness.’ The more I reflected on this, the more I realized how true it was. For how did I come to SeekersGuidance in the first place?

Back in early 2018, when I had been staring at my desk, I was at a loss at what to do next. At some point, I knew I wanted to study Islam, to at least get the basics of the Deen right. But how was I to pursue this? Drop my academics and head to a local seminary? Do a Masters in Islamic Studies? Study with local madrasah students? I had options but not the clarity to pursue which one.

It was then it dawned on me, I need not break my head open to figure things out. I could ask Allah directly. I decided to offer the Istikhara prayer to seek the way ahead. I took out my phone, googled the Istikhara dua, and opened the first link that felt right. Once the Arabic text appeared, I kept the phone aside, offered the two rakats, before picking the phone again and reciting the dua. Later, I saw the browser tab still open. I read the entire web page, I scoured through the website. I had never seen it before. At the top, I saw the ‘Courses’ section. Before I knew it, I had signed up.

The website was SeekersGuidance. My prayers had been answered, the dilemma cleared up. The road to seeking knowledge was now wide open.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


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Please note that this article is out of date.

For an updated Islamic Scholars Fund report and more information about how this fund works please visit: https://seekersguidance.org/articles/prophetic-guidance/how-does-the-islamic-scholars-fund-isf-use-your-zakat-and-charitable-donations/

The Trodden Path (Episode 4): 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 fourth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini

 

The Trodden Path  Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini   

The Shaykh was born in the city of Mayadin in Syria in 1938 (1356). He hailed from a noble family and his lineage joins with the household of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Husayn ibn Ali (RA). The city of Mayadin was on the banks of the Euphrates River and was an old city that was known from the Roman era and it also featured during the era of the Abbasid leader, Harun al-Rashid.

He was born into a family of average financial standing and his father lived until his 90’s. Initially, the young Muhammad Shakur was the only child. Thereafter his father married for a second time and he was blessed with sons and daughters. Because he had to serve his mother and she had no other children, he was pardoned from the normally compulsory military conscription.

Muhammad Shakur married for the first time when he was 17 and he was blessed with his first child when he was 19. He had six children from his first wife. His wife was the perfect aide and confidant and patiently bore all the difficulties including the times when he was imprisoned and the unsettled lifestyle. Shaykh Shakur said the following about her when she passed away: “I lived with her for 50 years and never once did I go to bed angry with her.”

After her demise, he married for the second time to woman from Jordan who bore him a daughter. She too took excellent care of the Shaykh even during the days of his illness.

He assisted his father in his business and various other chores and patiently bore all the difficulties as a result of the travelling between different towns and cities.

He was loved by all, the young and the old and spent almost all his time in the masjid. He is not known to have missed the Fajr Salat in the masjid except due to severe illness.

Education:

Period in Syria

He completed his primary education in Mayadin and he continued in Dayr Zor. It was during this period that he began acquiring sacred knowledge in the different masjids and he even began delivering the Friday sermon (khutbah) in the city and in some neighboring villages. He completed his secondary school at Dar al-Mu’allimin in Aleppo in 1959. During this period he had some confrontations with the Syrian Government and he was imprisoned. His secondary school certificate allowed him to teach and so he taught for a while. He studied under Shaykh Mahmud Umar Mushawwah under whom he studied various subjects and remained with him for a long time. There was a mutual love for one another between the shaykh and the student. Shaykh Shakur regarded his teacher, Shaykh Mahmud as his father. In 1962, he obtained his general secondary school certificate.

He was appointed as a teacher in Hasakah but continued in his quest for knowledge. He enrolled at the Faculty of Shariah at the University of Damascus and graduated in 1967. During his time as a student at the university, he realized that he needed to increase his knowledge because what he gained at the university was not sufficient. So, he began reading profusely day and night until he is supposed to have read about 30 000 pages in one year in different subjects that included the nine famous canonical books of Hadith. He also read voluminous books like Tafsir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Zhilal (fi zhilal al-Quran) and about nine volumes of Tafsir alRazi and other books. He used to makes notes as he read. If he was not reading then he was listening to a recorded lesson or khutbah on the old cassette players.He spent a lot of time with his teacher (shaykh) and discussed various juristic, political and social matters. Every Friday, asked Shaykh Shakur about the topic of the sermon. The teacher and studied would then walk out of the town discussing and brainstorming the topic. He was prevented from delivering the Friday sermon on a number of occasions because he was fearless when he ascended the pulpit. During this period there were many who were his students and later became reputable scholars and even professors, engineers and teachers.

Period in Makkah

The next phase in his life began in 1976 when he moved to Makkah where he was honoured to teach at one of the schools close to the Haram in the Shamiyah district. Very often he used to go to the Haram early before his teaching commenced in order to perform tawaf. He also taught at the Abu Zayd al-Ansari Hifz School in the Tan’im district until 1983.During this period he had a permanent place in the Haram where he taught various subjects including Tafsir and Islamic etiquette. He began editing and annotating various books and one of his first works was alAwa’il by al-Tabarani which was published in 1983. He registered for the Masters’ degree in Egypt and successfully completed the first year but was unable to complete his studies due to financial constraints. He also wished to return to his country to promote the religion. It was during his time in Makkah that he became acquainted with various scholars that included; Shaykh Ali al-Tantawi, Shaykh Muhammad Mahmud al-Sawwaf, Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni and Shaykh Diya al-Din al-Sabuni.

He was fortunate to have entered the Ka’bah on a number of occasions. During his stay in Makkah he collected many books which resulted in his own large library. His passion for books continued until a short while before his death. His selection was so huge that even while completing his doctoral thesis there were only two books that he required that were not in his library. He eventually bought these as well.

He was even appointed as an Imam in one of the mosques in Makkah for four years and served as the Friday preacher in another mosque in Aziziyah also for about four years. Thereafter he resigned from his teaching post in Makkah and decided to move to Baghdad in Iraq to devote more time calling people to Allah.

Period in Iraq

In 1983 he moved to Baghdad, Iraq where he remained for a few years calling people to Allah while never neglecting his research. While in Baghdad, he edited a number of books which were published.He visited the different libraries in Baghdad to familiarize himself with the different manuscripts. It was during his stay in Iraq that he was able to complete his Masters’ degree which he obtained from the Punjab University in Pakistan. Even while in Pakistan, he maximized his time to study and read Hadith with various scholars from whom he obtained ijazah. He travelled numerous times to Makkah where he was fortunate to have met and read with scholars like Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani, Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zhahiri and others and from whom he also received ijazah. It was during this time that he studied under Shaykh Husayn Usayran. He read the entire SahihalBukhari and the complete Quran to him and he received ijazah from him. His son, Muhammad Adib also read a portion of SahihalBukhari with Shaykh Husayn and also received ijazah from him.

Period in Jordan

This is regarded as the golden period in his life because it was filled with his lessons from which many benefited. He dedicated all of his time to serving the religion. He was appointed as the imam and preacher in two cities; Zarqa and Amman. He moved to Jordan in 1991 where he lived in Zarqa and served as an imam in one mosque after which he moved to Masjid al-Quds in Zarqa. This mosque became a beacon of knowledge because it was here that Shaykh Shakur led the prayers, delivered lectures and taught hundreds of students. He used conduct lectures in various other mosques as well. He conducted weekly lessons during which he taught Tafsir, special lessons for the women on a Wednesday. Many of these ladies were prominent in the field of Da’wah and used to phone him for answers to their questions. During his lessons in Zarqa, he explained a reasonable portion of the book, alHidayah by al-Mirghaynani. He also conducted lessons in sirah.

After some of his students insisted, he finally registered at the al-Quran al-Karim University in Sudan for his doctorate with a special focus on Hadith. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1998 when he was about 60 years old. Thereafter he relocated to the capital, Amman where students from different parts of the world thronged around him. Some were post-graduate students and others were scholars. They studied SahihalBukhari and Muwatta under him. He continued conducting lessons in some of the other mosques. He continued teaching women on a Wednesday and these lessons continued for over 12 years. Many completed SahihalBukhari, Muwatta, alAdab alMufrad and a portion of Ihya Ulum alDin. These women maintained a very high level of dedication and punctuality and would rarely miss a lesson except if it was beyond their control.

During this period he began conducting some online lessons. During these lessons, students would read to him and he explained. He did this despite his ill health because he was too ashamed to turn a student away. He delivered the Friday sermon in Jordan for about 24 years and only stopped due to his illness in 2012. He obtained Jordanian citizenship in 2003.

Some of his Shuyukh:

  • Shaykh Mahmud ibn Umar ibn Muhammad Sharif Mushawwah (d. 1420) who was the Mufti of Dayr Zor. With him Shaykh Shakur studied Fiqh of the Hanafi School.
  • ShaykhHusaynUsayran
  • Shaykh Abu Abdullah Muhammad A’zam ibn Fadl al-Din al-Jondalwi (d. 1405). Shaykh Shakur received ijazah from him.
  • Shaykh Ibrahim Fatani.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ubaydullah, a mufti from Paksitan.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Tayyib Muhammad Ata Allah Hanif al-Fojiyani (d. 1409). He received ijazah from him.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Malik Kandehlawi, who was the senior scholar of Hadith at the Dar al-Hadith al-Ashrafiyah in Lahore. He received ijazah from him as well.
  • Shaykh Abu Muhammad Badi’ al-Din Shah al-Rashidi al-Sindi (d. 1416).
  • He received ijazah from both Mufti Taqi and Mufti Rafi’ Uthmani who are two senior scholars from Pakistan.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani (d. 1410). He read the Muwatta as per the narration of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.
  • Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zahiri who was the son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi.
  • Shaykh Abdul Wakil who is a son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi
  • ShaykhHusaynUsayran (d. 1426). He read the Quran and SahihalBukhari to him.

Shaykh Muhammad Shakur was blessed with many students. This is due to him having taught in Makkah, Baghdad and Amman. He read and taught SahihalBukhari and the Muwatta well over 20 times.

Some of his students who are respectable scholars are:

  • Shaykh Ali ibnYasin al-Muhaymid
  • ShaykhHusayn al-Ubaydli
  • Shaykh Muhammad Adib (son of Shaykh Shakur)
  • Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Britain)
  • Shaykh Ali ibn Muhammad al-Imran
  • ShaykhNizamYaqubi
  • ShaykhRiyadibnHusayn al-Taaie (Iraq)
  • Shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf al-Alawi

His character:

He was deeply hurt and affected when a Jewish soldier killed a number of Palestinians during the Fajr Salat in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. After this incident he delivered two fiery and emotional sermons after which he was admitted to the hospital and they discovered that he had a clot in his heart. He underwent numerous medical procedures and operations. Some of the medication had side-effects and caused other complications. He was afflicted with prostate cancer and received treatment for about four years. Despite his ill health, he remained committed to the Din and continued teaching.

Those who interacted with Shaykh Shakur would agree that he was soft natured, he cried easily, devout worshiper and a person who was eager to impart knowledge at every opportunity.  He was very emotional when he heard the blessed characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad. He loved and respected the ulama.

He continued teaching even in his old age and despite his illness. He even had women attend and complete Sahih alBukhari with him. He was alert during the recital of the Hadith and very often pointed the variations in the different editions. He preferred commenting on various aspects related to the Hadith.

We witnessed all of the above when we invited him to South Africa in 2013 as per the recommendation of Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Cordoba Academy). When I (Shoayb Ahmed) phoned him to invite him, he gladly accepted despite his ill health and having never met me previously. Yet he was willing to undertake the long journey. He traveled with his wife and his young daughter. It was a pleasure having such a scholar with such an amazing personality. I asked him as to why he didn’t hesitate in accepting the invitation. He said that a Muslim brother made a request and he accepted the opportunity to travel for the pleasure of Allah and to impart ‘ilm. He did not inform his children about his planned visit to South Africa until the night prior to his departure. He feared that had they known earlier, they would have prevented him from travelling. He didn’t even inform us that he was unable to walk and needed a wheelchair. When he was questioned about this? He said that if we knew that he was unable to walk, we would have cancelled his visit. He would sit for hours while we read alMuwatta and other works to him. He carried many books with him as gifts for the students and he even distributed cash to those who were graduating. He was overjoyed to have met an old friend when he was reunited with Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni in South Africa. The day before he departed he was taken to the Pretoria Zoo and he really enjoyed himself. When he departed and we greeted him at the airport, it was as if we were bidding farewell to our father. This is how attached we became to him during his ten day visit.

His books and annotations:

Despite his teaching, his Hadith sessions and his responsibility as imam, he still found time to write and annotate various books. Sometimes he used to spend 14-15 hours a day reading and researching various aspects.

  1. He gathered 40 Hadith on sending salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad. He compiled this in Baghdad in 1405.
  2. Fayd al-Mu’in ‘ala Jami al-Arba’in fi Fadail al-Quran al-Mubin by Mulla Ali al-Qari (d. 1014). He referenced the Hadith and edited the work.
  3. Targhib Ahl al-Islam fi Sukna Bilad al-Sham by al-‘Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. He edited it and referenced the Hadith.
  4. Fad al-Wiaa’ fi Ahadith Raf’ al-Yadayn fi al-Dua by al-Suyuti. He edited this work in Pakistan
  5. Al-Rawd al-Dani ‘ala al-Mu’jam al-Saghirby al-Tabarani (2 volumes)
  6. Al-Lum’at fi Khasais al-Jumuah by al-Suyuti
  7. Al-Ifsah ‘an ahadith al-nikah by Ibn Hajr al-Haytami.
  8. Hibat al-Rahman al-Rahim min Jannat al-Na’im fi Fadail al-Quran al-Karimby Muhammad Hashim al-Sindi. Shaykh Shakur condensed it and edited it.
  9. Siham al-isabah fi al-da’wat al-mujabahby al-Suyuti.
  10. Majma’ al-zawa’idwamanba’ al-fawa’idby al-Haytami
  11. Al-Imta’ bi al-arba’in al-mutabayinah bi shart al-sama’ by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani.
  12. He edited al-Majma’ al-Mu’assas li al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras by IbnHajr
  13. Tasdid al-Qaws fi Takhrij Musnad al-Firdaws by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani. This book contains about 6000 Hadith. He passed away before completing this work. He completed about one third.

His demise:

He passed away on a Friday night having conducted his last lesson in Sahih alBukhari a day prior to his demise. He requested to be taken to hospital where his health deteriorated and he was in severe pain. He used to place his hand on the area where he experienced pain and say: ‘Ya Allah!. His children were at his side and he spoke to them. He passed away on the 10th December 2015(28 Safar 1437).

 


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.


 

 

Conquering Mount Sawm, by Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya

Especially motivating for those dreading the long summer fasts, the following diary entries, written by British educator Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya, should provide reassurance that keeping hunger at bay isn’t as hard as it seems.Although describing the challenge of keeping a voluntary fast, the lessons are just as relevant for Ramadan.

After reading extracts from Brad Pilon’s Eat. Stop. Eat, encouragement from my teacher and reflection upon the Sunna, I decide to embark on the ultimate challenge for a food-loving Muslim: a voluntary fast. (And since it’s British summer time, the fast lasts from 02:30 till 9PM – 19½ hours!). What encouraged me was last Ramadan’s experience; we British Muslims dreaded the long summer fast of 2012 – the longest of its kind for almost 30 years! And yet, we did it. It wasn’t that hard. Indeed, I found this extract from a hindsight entry made last year under the title ‘Miracle of Fasting’:

“I somehow fasted from 4.50am till 9.30PM, possibly my longest ever. And it wasn’t hard – despite my normally having 3 square meals and 2 tea-breaks in that time! Allah made it easy, put baraka in my suhur and gave me energy, Alhamdulillah!”

So I went to sleep last night, after a late Isha, with the intention that if Allah would get me up at Tahajjud, only then would I fast with the following intentions:

  1. To follow the exalted Sunna, which should suffice us from having any other motive (though, as with other Sunnas, modern scientific findings help us appreciate the worldly benefits)
  2. To discipline my mind and nafs (self/soul) not to think about food all the time, and therefore
  3. Have a more productive day

02:50 AM

Allah woke me at 2:05AM and I knew He wanted me to try this experiment (perhaps so I could share it with SeekersHub Global readers!). I scrambled to the kitchen to prepare an odd suhur of instant porridge, last night’s pizza & chips leftovers, tea, a date and orange juice. Suitably stuffed, and after some fervent du’a, I’m ready to face the day… after the small matter of sleep!

1:15 PM

Breakfast wasn’t an issue as I was still full from suhur. No headaches or tiredness either. Skipped my compulsory tea-break at work without fuss. This is a big deal as, normally, the first moment after finishing my lesson at 10:30  I’d be rushing to the kitchen to make a cuppa! Got some less intensive down-time for the next few hours. Over half way now: so far, so good.

From a teacher’s point of view I find the ability to fast extraordinary. The nafs is like a teenager/child. Where it knows it has options, it’ll test the boundaries and ask for more than it deserves. However when the boundaries are clear from the outset of the day and one has made the firm resolve NOT to eat until sunset, the nafs grows quiet and barely a squeak of defiance is ever heard!

4:30

Three hours later and still no pangs, Alhamdulillah. I got a slight headache after hours of study on a Seekers Guidance course,  email checking and internet research. The research was worth it though: found out about The Fast Diet which contains much of the inspiration that got me started.

Now, after a brief rest, am pretty energized whilst tutoring the first of two lessons. Only two problems I’ve encountered so far: tendency to do excessive or useless internet jobs, and a longing for Maghrib time to come!

7:00

Last lesson done. Slight headache. Will rest for 20 mins before Tai Chi class at 7:30.

10:00

OK, Tai Chi was agony on my legs for some reason (found out later that this was due to my incorrect posture in one of the positions!) But Maghrib came upon me far from passing out due to hunger.

Conquering Mount Sawm…From the Outside

So if I could climb and conquer Mount Sawm outside Ramadan, anyone can. I’ll leave you with a few top tips that helped me get there:

  1. Have a strong intention for Allah.
  2. Consume a hearty, nutritious (I did have porridge remember!) suhur
  3. Read inspiring literature about benefits of the fast: if you’re not up to date with the two world famous and highly popular diets that lead incredible scientific support to the Sunna fasting system, then do read The Fast Diet by Mosley and Eat.Stop.Eat by Pilon
  4. Keep really busy. I’m sure you noticed my day was quite packed with different activities including work, study and fitness.
  5. Ponder that if millions of other Muslims around the world can do it, so can you. Mothers do this to get over the fear of childbirth. Fasting is not nearly as painful. If you need motivation outside Ramadan, when you are struggling to fast when most people aren’t, then there are a few things to consider: a) Your worship is especially likely to be more sincere. Keep your fast secret (as is recommended with all voluntary acts) and enjoy the special connection you have with Allah, knowing that you are fasting sincerely for His pleasure alone; b) The health benefits you learn from acting upon point 3 above is enough to inspire anyone to take up fasting weekly. Non-Muslims throughout the UK are ‘fasting’ Monday and Thursday due to the proven long-term benefits to health. As Muslims we have even more motivation; c) Although, not everyone is fasting, you can be sure that the ‘ulema of Taqwa, awliya and saliheen all fast regularly. It’s certainly comforting to know you are united with them in following the Sunnah of regular voluntary fasting.
  6. Allow yourself a Sunna qaylula (afternoon nap) after Zuhr; in long summer days this means you can get through plenty of work before your nap. Many nap straight after work. When you wake, it’s just the final lap with the finish line in sight.
  7. Enjoy and take advantage of the fact that you can be so much more productive on a fast day.

The Thought is Scarier Than the Experience

As we’ve all experienced, the thought of fasting – of not having one’s regular meals, of skipping one’s normal snacks – is actually a lot more frightening than the fast itself. Ironically, this is like productivity generally: the anticipation of how difficult it will be to achieve important goals is normally much worse than the actual experience.

And so the upshot is also the same: stop worrying; just do it! Ramadan Mubarak to all reading this and I’d be so grateful if you could remember me in your duas when you break your fasts.

Fruit Photo by Michael Stern. Clock picture by Christine Callahan.

Resources for Seekers

Ramadan: The Doors to Ecstasy – Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf

Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf reminds us that fasting is an act between the creator and His slave. It is an immense gift from Allah Most High.

In the name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful. Praise is to Allah lord of the Worlds and prayers and peace upon Muhammad, leigelord of the prophets and messengers, and upon his family and all of his companions.

Greetings of peace to all my brothers and sisters joining us for this blessed celebration. May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you. A greeting of love from the two blessed sanctuaries to all our brothers and sisters who have in common with us: “There is no god but Allah,” in the East and in the West. And to you especially.

A Special Relationship

From the benefits of Ramadan and fasting is a special relationship with Allah Most High, and with His Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that opens to a person doors of ecstasy and taste for the love of Allah and His Messenger , Allah bless him and give him peace.

For verily fasting as it has reached us in the Hadith Qudsi: “…except for fasting, verily it is for Me.” Therefore it is an act between the Creator and His slave, it is not seen by anyone else, it does not appear in any account and cannot be quantified.

Rather it is an ongoing gift that is not limited and cannot be counted; it is a relationship of ecstasy and experience with The Creator.

The Reason for this Creation

The realization that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the reason for this bounty. That without him we would not have known Ramadan. We would not have known the Qur’an. The Qur’an would not have been revealed. And that we would not have known fasting and that we would not have known anything of worship.

For Verily he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the means of all this good having reached us. May the best of prayers and peace be upon him. Therefore if not for him, Allah bless him and give him peace, none of this good would have reached us.

So every fast, and every night prayer, every Tarawih, every Tahajjud, and our completing of the recitation of the Qur’an should remind us of him, Allah bless him and give him peace.

And also to remind us firstly that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the reason for this good reaching us. Secondly, that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the means by which our actions are accepted. For we do not reach Allah through these actions except that we have done it in accordance with the manner in which he did them, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The Ultimate Imam in All Things

Verily he is the Imam in reality, Allah bless him and give him peace. If I pray in a congregation in a mosque behind an imam, then in my heart I must feel that, this imam is a stand-in, in the place of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. The original imam is the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. For verily the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is without doubt the Imam upon reality in every presence.

He is the Imam in the presence of prayer, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the Imam on the day of the greater intercession, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the Imam of the night of ascension, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the imam of the creation in paradise, Allah bless him and give him peace.

If they go unto the plain upon which they will gaze upon the divine countenance, the veil will not be lifted on the lovers except through there adherence to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

It is at that point that Allah will remove the veils from their sight and insight, so that they may witness the divine countenance, and through that experience eternal happiness.

How then can we not love the beloved? How then can we not make him, Allah bless him and give him peace, our means and path to closeness to Allah Most High?

Strive In Imitation of Him

I am then in my fast, as he fasted, Allah bless him and give him peace. And in my night standing, standing as he stood , Allah bless him and give him peace. In my recitation, reciting as he recited, Allah bless him and give him peace. My heart, my intellect, and my presence is never separate from imitation of him, Allah bless him and give him peace. I imagine him, Allah bless him and give him peace, in my states of movement and stillness. For he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the path to this happiness.

Therefore my dear brother and sister Muslim, if you desire increase in goodness then make present the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and imitate him. Imagining that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is in front of you in all of your states. Thus will you realize happiness.

Through his status, and by Allah’s love of him, Allah bless him and give him peace, he accepts the slaves and lifts tribulation, and registers happiness for whom he has made happy from the people of happiness.

Whoever abandons and distances himself from this beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace, they will bite upon their own hand on the day of resurrection. And whoever follows him, Allah bless him and give him peace, will attain the greatest happiness in the worldly life and on the day of resurrection.

O Allah, make us happy with your Messenger Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace. And gather us with him, Allah bless him and give him peace, and grant us his companionship in the abode of grace. Show us his face in our sleep and when awake and in the hereafter, by way of your mercy, O Most Merciful of the Merciful.

Prayers and peace upon our leigelord Muhammad and upon his family and companions. Praise unto The Lord of the worlds.

10 Ways of Benefit for Menstruating Women in Ramadan

Dread your period during the blessed month of Ramadan? Feel like you’re missing out on all the worship you could otherwise do? As Nour Merza writes, there is much to look forward to.

Every Ramadan, most women will have about a week in which they are unable to join in the major religious practices of the holy month: fasting and praying. Many women, when their menstrual period begins, find that their level of engagement with the high spiritual atmosphere of the month drops. The same goes for those whose postnatal bleeding coincides with Ramadan. For many of these women, frustration and a sense of lacking spirituality sets in.

This, however, shouldn’t be the case.

Menstruation, postnatal bleeding, and other uniquely feminine concerns are all part of Allah’s creation, which He created in perfect wisdom. They are not a punishment for women wanting to draw near their Lord. They are just part of the special package of blessings, opportunities and challenges that God has given uniquely to women. To refrain from ritual prayer (the salaat) and ritual fasting (the sawm) during this time is actually considered a form of worship, and, if done with the intention of obeying God, it earns women good deeds.

In order to take full advantage of the blessed month of Ramadan, however, menstruating women and those with postnatal bleeding can do more than refraining from ritual prayer and ritual fasting to draw near God. Below are ten ways that women unable to fast can boost their spirituality during this special month.

menstruating women in Ramadan

1. Increase dhikr

In the Hanafi school, it is recommended for menstruating women to make wudu, wear their prayer clothes, and sit on their prayer mat while doing dhikr during the time they would normally be praying. This would be especially good to do in Ramadan, a time of special focus on worship. In addition to the adhkar that are well-known sunnas – such subhanAllah, alhamdullillah and Allahu akbar – if you have a litany from a shaykh and are allowed to repeat it more than once a day, try to do it twice or three times for increased blessings. Dhikr has a special way of touching the heart, and by invoking God’s names whenever you can during this unique month you create the space, inshaAllah, for beautiful spiritual openings. See: The Effects of Various Dhikr – Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad

2. Increase du’aa

Du’aa is something we do very little of these days, but speaking directly to your Lord is one of the most intimate ways to connect with Him. The beauty of du’aa is that you can make it in any place or time. Take this opportunity to ask your Lord for all that you need in your life, and to draw near Him through either repeating the beautiful du’aas of the Prophet or reaching out to God with your own unique words. See: Ten Powerful Du’as That Will Change Your Life

3. Feed others

Whether it be your family, neighbors, community members or the poor, use the time you are not fasting to make meals that fill the stomachs and souls of those around you. Recite the salawat on the Prophet (pbuh) while making the food, as this imbues the food with spiritual benefit as well. Consider sponsoring iftar at your local mosque one evening with some other women who are in your situation, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen.  See also: “Manifesting Mercy: Feeding Your Way to God” – Nader Khan at Brampton Islamic Centre.

4. Gain Islamic knowledge

Use the extra time and energy you have from not fasting and praying to increase your knowledge of the faith. Listen to scholars discussing timely issues on our SeekersHub podcasts, form a small circle of non-fasting women who can commit to reading a book on Islam and discuss it together, or take some time to read articles on the religion from trusted online sources, such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s blog or Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s article collection at masud.co.uk. See also: Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge.

5. Increase your charity

We are surrounded by countless blessings, so make sure to spread those blessings in the month of Ramadan. Give money to a good cause, such as supporting Syrian refugees, helping a local poor family with school fees, or supporting students of Islamic knowledge through programs like SeekersHub’s #SpreadLight campaign. In a very busy world, we may have little opportunity to give our time to help others in charity – giving money takes minimal time, but brings great benefit. See: Eligible Zakat Recipients, Giving Locally vs. Abroad, Charity to a Mosque, and Proper Handling of Donations.

6. Make your responsibilities a form of worship

Sometimes, women are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the home and young children, and cannot make time to do things like study or sponsor an iftar. In these circumstances, renew your intention regarding your role as a mother and a wife. See these demanding and time-consuming roles for what they are: responsibilities that you are fulfilling to please God, which makes them a type of worship. Ask God to accept all your work as worship, and approach all that you do in this way. This will make even the most mundane of tasks, such as changing another diaper, cleaning up  another spilled cup of apple juice, or making yet another dinner a way for you to gain the pleasure of your Lord. See: Balancing Worship and Caring for a New Child.

7. Listen to the Quran

menstruating women in Ramadan

Although the Hanafi schools holds that women cannot cannot touch the mushaf or recite Quran while experiencing menses or postpartum bleeding, they are able to listen to the recitation of the Quran. Doing so offers much benefit in a month that has such heavy emphasis on reciting the book. You can take special time out of your day to listen to it, such as while children are napping, or you can listen to it while in the midst of cooking or cleaning the house. See also: Listening to Qur’an While Occupied With Other Tasks

8. Increase Repentance

Ramadan is an excellent time to increase repentance to God. Use moments when others are praying or breaking their fast to ask God to forgive you and your loved ones and to keep you from returning to sin. All we have is a gift from Allah, so even forgetting that for a moment is a deed worth asking forgiveness from. Know that God is the Forgiving, and trust that, as our scholars have said, the moment you ask for forgiveness you are truly forgiven. See also: Damaged Inner State? Imam Ghazali on Repentance

9. Babysit to help mothers worship

Mothers with young children often find it difficult to go to the mosque because they worry that their kids will disturb others who are praying. Since you don’t need to be at the mosque, volunteer a night or two (or more!) to babysit the children of a young mother who would love to go pray taraweeh. If you have young children of your own, you can tell the mother to bring her kids to your house before the prayer. By helping this woman worship, you will gain the same good deeds she gets from going to that prayer. See: I Love Being A Woman!

10. Spread love and light

Use the extra time and energy you have to share the joys of Ramadan and Eid with your non-Muslim friends, peers and neighbors. Invite a work colleague for an iftar, make a special Ramadan dish and give it to a neighbor, or take time to make special cookies or gift bags for peers at the office or in school to hand out during Eid. By sharing these happy moments with friends and colleagues in the non-Muslim community, you counter the negative narratives about Islam in the media. More than that, however, you become someone who creates bonds in an increasingly isolated world, reflecting the beauty of the Prophetic light to all those around you. See: How Can Muslims Become More Effective Community Members?

Cover photo by Edward Musiak. Tasbih photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly. Quran photo by Mohmed Althani.

Resources for Seekers

Ten Ways to Prepare for Ramadan From Now

With Ramadan just around the corner, many of us are looking for ways to make sure that this will be the year we change, writes Nour Merza. With this in mind, here are ten ways to prepare yourself for Ramadan.

1. Make the right intention

Beginning right now, make an intention that this Ramadan will be a time of great spiritual effort and sincerity. To help turn that intention into reality, make checklists of both daily goals for Ramadan (read a section of Quran or a beneficial lecture every day, etc.) and goals for the overall month (visit a home for the elderly, invite two non-Muslim friends for a chance to experience iftar, etc.).

See What Is the Intention” in The Complete Guide to Fasting

2. Prepare your body

Make sure you are up to par physically by adjusting the amount and quality of your food intake. Start by eliminating snacks and have smaller meals in the weeks leading up to Ramadan. Also reduce your caffeine intake so that the lack of your morning coffee or afternoon tea doesn’t debilitate you in the first few days of the holy month. Of course, if you’re fasting during the month of Sha’baan, you’re halfway there.

See: Ramadan Detox for a Healthy Ramadan – Dr. Rehan Zaidi of MysticMedicine

3. Review all medical situations before Ramadan

Make sure to get your medical business in order before Ramadan arrives. If you suffer from a particular illness, check with a doctor, preferably one who understands the importance of fasting, on whether fasting is a reasonable option for you. If you are taking medication, ask your doctor if you can take your doses during non-fasting hours instead of during the day. Also, check if there are options to take your medication via injection instead of orally, as in the Hanafi school injections do not break your fast.

See: When Does an Illness Allow One To Break The Fast?

4. Observe voluntary fasts

Voluntary (nafl) fasts are a great way to help prepare the mind, body and soul for Ramadan. If you can do it, follow the Prophetic sunna and fast the month of Shaaban, which comes just before Ramadan. If that proves too difficult, try to implement some of these other sunnas: fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, or fasting on the ‘white days’ of each Islamic month: the 13th, 14th and 15th.

See: Should I Fast on the White Days or Mondays and Thursdays?, and Merits of Sha’ban Muwasala

5. Increase Quran recitation

Many people aim to do a complete reading of the Quran at least once during Ramadan. If you don’t have a habit of reading the Quran daily, take this as an opportunity to incorporate that habit into your life. This will enable you to read longer sections of the book during Ramadan. Even if doing a complete reading of the Quran during Ramadan is too difficult, making a habit of reading one page or even a few verses a day will bring many blessings during the holy month and afterwards, as the Prophet (pbuh) said: “The most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones, even if in little amount.”

See: Our Relationship with the Quran – Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

6. Perform extra prayers

prepare for Ramadan

Credits: Ccarlstead

If you have no missed obligatory prayers to make up, start to pray voluntary sunna prayers to prepare yourself for the extra prayers that take place in Ramadan. If you do have missed obligatory prayers, use the time you would give to the sunna prayers to make some of them up. Don’t feel that you are missing out on the opportunity to do voluntary sunnas, because God says in the famous Hadith Jibreel, “My servant draws near to Me by nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory on him.”

See: Informative to Transformative: How to Upgrade Your Prayer, and Praying the Confirmed Sunnas with Make-Ups: I Feel Overwhelmed.

7. Give charity

Use the weeks leading up to Ramadan to increase your acts of charity, be that in the form of giving money to needy people or worthy causes. These could be anything from sponsoring a Syrian refugee family, to  supporting scholars and students of sacred knowledge through SeekersHub’s #SpreadLight campaign. Giving charity is a way to purify your wealth, and you can enter the month of Ramadan in a greater state of purity. It also opens doors for great good in your life, for the Prophet (pbuh) has told us, “Allah says, ‘Spend, O son of Adam, you will also be spent on.’”

See: How Much Should I Give in Charity?

8. Engage in service (khidma)

Spend some time before Ramadan to find a local charity or community service opportunity to work with, whether it be in an Islamic environment or in the wider community. If you begin well before Ramadan starts, you will adjust to the environment before you begin fasting, so that you can explain to co-workers  why you can’t join them for a coffee break or a meal.

See: The Roots of Fruitful Service and Seven Counsels for Successful Service and Activism – Advice from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

9. Focus on your character

Imam al-Ghazali discusses the inner dimensions of the fast in his Revival of the Religious Sciences , which you can observe before Ramadan arrives. He mentioned that one must learn to fast with all the limbs, from all that harms the heart. You can, for example, avoid certain television shows to keep the eyes from seeing nudity, leave particular conversations to keep the ears from hearing foul language, and control the ego to keep the tongue from argument or backbiting. The inner fast is among the most important aspects of fasting Ramadan and is often more difficult than the physical fast from food, water and sexual relations, so the earlier you begin to practice this, the better.

See: The Inner Dimensions of Fasting – Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

10. Organize your life to minimize waste, overconsumption and the ills that come with this

One of the major concerns about how Muslims practice Ramadan today is the high level of overconsumption and waste that takes place during the holy month – a reality which is completely antithetical to the Prophetic tradition. Imam Zaid Shakir and others have spoken about ‘greening’ Ramadan as practiced today in the Muslim community, while Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has suggested that Muslims use Ramadan to support ethical, fairtrade companies.

prepare for Ramadan

Credits: Mathew Paul Argall

Imam Zaid’s mosque in Oakland, California offers a great model for doing this. With a little bit of extra organization and commitment, communal iftars are served on borrowed crockery and silverware (from friends, neighbors or a local Muslim restaurant) instead of their disposable variation. Washable handclothes are used instead of paper towels. The amount of trash saved by these actions – especially over the course of the month – is enormous, and embodies the Prophetic example of being, as the Quran describes, “a mercy to all the worlds.” See: Global Warming and Wasterfulness

Written by Nour Merza. Cover photo by Oliver Hegenbarth.

Why Muslims Fast: The Higher Aims of Fasting Explained – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Why Muslims Fast

 

Have you ever wondered why Muslims fast? What’s the point of avoiding food and drink for a month? Surely I can still reach “the heights” whilst I continue to eat and drink? Why is going hungry good for my spirituality? If you’ve thought about Ramadan before and one of these questions has arisen, this is the course for you!

 

In this six part, short course, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani takes listeners on a journey which extracts the profound meanings, merits and benefits of fasting in the month of Ramadan. Using Sultan al-‘Ulama, al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam’s brief treatise, Maqasid al-Sawm, as a basis, Shaykh Faraz expounds upon the reality of the fast, works, righteousness and spiritual transformation. In reality, the fast is one of the greatest acts of worship you can do because it is wondrously sincere, and accordingly, something that Allah Most High Himself will reward for – “Fasting is for Me, and it is I who shall recompense for it.”

 

One of the central verses of this course is the one found in Sura al-Baqara where Allah Most High says, “Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard to distinguish between right and wrong. So whoever is present this month, let them fast. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then let them fast an equal number of days after Ramadan. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” (2:185)

 

The virtues of the fast are numerous, but some of those discussed here include the fact that it (1) is an expiation for your sins and wrongs, (2) is a means of breaking your impermissible desires, and (3) facilitates acts of devotion. The instructor continues to explain the reality of taqwa and its levels, namely: (a) taqwa al-iman: shielding oneself against disbelief; (b) taqwa al-islam: shielding oneself against sin and all that leads to sin; and (c) taqwa al-ihsan: shielding oneself against anything other than Allah Most High.

 

This course also briefly touches upon the important rules with respect to the fast, and also when you can fast outside of Ramadan. Further, it covers the sunnas and proper manners (adab) of fasting, as well as covering important supplications which are to be recited at the time of breaking the fast. One thing which really stands out from this course is the great number of Companion-stories which are related, as well as, importantly, the way of the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, in the blessed month of Ramadan.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Registering is easy and you’ll get immediate access to all lessons:

https://seekersguidance.org/courses/why-muslims-fast-the-higher-aims-of-fasting-explained/

The Trodden Path (Episode 3): 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 third episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji.

 

The Trodden Path

Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji (1342-1434=1923-2013)

Shaykh Wahbī ibn Sulaymān ibn Khalīl Ghāwji Albānī was born in 1923 (1342) in Skudera, the former capital of Albania. He attended classes and studied the Qurān and theHanafi books of doctrine and morals. His first teacher in the Islamic Sciences was his father who narrated with chains of transmission (samā’) from the shuyūkh of Albania. In 1937 he migrated with his family to Syria where they settled in Damascus. His father assumed the position as Imām in the al-‘Umariyyah Mosque where he served as the deputy to Shaykh Muhammad Shukrī al-Ustuwānī.

His secondary education ended when King Ahmad Tughu decreed that Albanian students had to wear European hats. In 1937 his father sent him to Egypt to continue his studies where he initially studied at the Cairo Institute and in 1939 he enrolled at the Faculty of Sharī’ah of the al-Azhar University. Shaykh Wahbi’s proficiency in the Arabic Language was weak but he was dedicated and motivated and he graduated from the al-Azhar University in 1945. He then enrolled in the specialization programme concentrating on the Islamic Judicial System (Qadā) from which he graduated in 1947 with the International al-Azhar Certificate. Shaykh Wahbī said: “My father sent me to Egypt and I stayed there for ten years. I studied Arabic and received a degree from the Faculty of Shari’ah and then obtained a specialized degree that enabled me to serve as a judge in an Islamic Court. I attended the discourses of Imām Muhammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī whose hand I was honoured to kiss and who handed me a compilation of his teachers, which included chains of transmission (thabt) titled ‘al-Tahrīr al-Wajīzfīmā Yabtaghīhi al-Mustajīz’. However, I narrate from him only through the intermediaries of Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alī al-Murād and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah (d. 1997).” Shaykh Wahbī described al-Kawtharī as a sign of Allah in learning, modesty and abstinence, as if al-Kawtharī were a king walking in the street.” Shaykh Wahbī himself has been described inthis manner.

He returned to Syria where he was accepted by the Ministry of Education as a teacher in schools in Aleppo. While in Aleppo he became acquainted with Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali al-Murad and they developed an excellent relationship that resulted in Shaykh Wahbi and his brother both marrying the sisters of Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Murad. After three years in Aleppo, he was transferred to Damascus where he taught formally in the schools and voluntarily in various mosques. Sometimes he conducted as many as eight lessons per week and these included a Tafsir lesson at Jami’ al-Rawdah that continued for about ten years.Shaykh Wahbi remained in Damascus until 1965 during which he even taught at the Faculty of Sharī’ah at the University of Damascus and among his students here were: Dr Muhammad al-Zuhayli. It was during this period that he began writing some articles for newspapers and magazines.

When he reached the age of forty, he began writing and one of the first books he authored was the book titled: ‘ArkanalIslamalKhamsah’. In 1966 he travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he taught at the Faculty of Sharī’ah of the Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University for one year after which he moved to the branch of this university in Madinah where he remained for five years. In 1972 he returned to Damascus where he continued teaching at various secondary schools until 1980 when he formally retired. He returned to Madinah where he taught for a while at the Secondary School affiliated to the Islamic University for a short while before being transferred to the Center for Academic Research of the same university. He faced some hardship because of his book ‘ArkanalIman and he then submitted his resignation. He remained for about year in Madinah unemployed after which he travelled to Jordan where he settled in Amman during which he authored his book titled: alTaliqalMuyassarala MultaqaalAbhur in Fiqh of the Hanafi madhhab.

In 1986 he moved to Dubai where he taught Fiqh at the College of Arabic and Islamic Studies. He also served as the deputy director and the head of the Fiqh Department for one year. He continued teaching until 2001.

In 2001 (1422) a function was held in his honour and it was attended by some renowned scholars who included: Shaykh Ibrahim al-Salqini, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ijaj al-Khatib, Dr Muhammad al-Zuhayli, Dr Mustafa Muslim, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim Tatan, Dr ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Kaylani, Dr Ma’mun al-Shafqah and others. The guests spoke about the Shaykh and his personality and some even composed odes in his honour describing him as a rare pearl and requesting to him to supplicate to Allah for them.

In 2000 he returned to Damascus where he lived since. He taught Fiqh form the famous Hanafi book, alHidayah at Ma’had al-Fath al-Islāmī and he delivered the Jumu’ah sermon at Jami’ al-Arnaout in Damascus and taught at various mosques including Jami’ al-Iman.

Ever since Yugoslavia gained independence, Shaykh Wahbi travelled to Albania about six times for the sake of propagating and spreading the message of Islam. His first visit was in 1991. During these visits he conducted lessons and lectures in Albanian in Skudera.

Among his teachers apart from those already mentioned are:

  • Shaykh ‘Ināyat Allah al-Askūbī who narrates with chains of transmission from his Macedonian and other shuyukh
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-Khidr Husayn who was the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar from 1952-1954.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Abu Daqiqah in Egypt
  • Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sāyis in Egypt
  • Shaykh Hasan Habannaka al-Maydani in Damascus who was a renowned Shafi’ scholar and the teacher of renowned scholars like Shaykh Mustafa al-Khinn, Shaykh Mustafa al-Bugha and Shaykh Muhammad Sa’īd Ramadan al-Būtī.
  • Shaykh Muhmamad Salih al-Farfūr who was a renowned Hanafi scholar and the teacher of illustrious scholars like Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Halabi, Shaykh Adīb Kallās and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Bazm.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Yusr ‘Abidīn who was the Mufti of the country.
  • Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhāb Dibs wa Zayt a renowned scholar in the Hanafi madhhab and in the science of qirā’āt.
  • Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali al-Murad
  • Shaykh‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-Hāmid of Syria.
  • ShaykhSa’d al-Dīn al-Murād al-Hamawī of Syria
  • Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Arabī al-Tubbānī
  • Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī of Makkah
  • Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ ‘Uthmānī and his son, Mufti Taqī ‘Uthmānī of Pakistan
  • Shaykh Mufti ‘Ashiq Ilāhi al-Murtahinī al-Madanī of India but he resided in Madinah.
  • Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ‘Alī al-Nadwī of India

 

He was known for the books he authored related to Fiqh of the Hanafi madhhab as well as about 35 books he authored in his native Albanian Language. He participated in writing textbooks to teach Hanafi Fiqh at Islamic Institutions that were affiliated to the Ministry of Endowments in Syria. He also wrote about 400 articles that were published in various magazines.

He visited Shaykh Mustafa al-Sibaī in his last illness and he presented him with an article in which he criticized him on some aspects of socialism. Shaykh Mustafa published it verbatim. This is a sign of the lofty character of a scholar and exactly how Shaykh Wahbi described Shaykh Mustafa.

He revised some of the books authored by Shaykh Sa’īd Hawwa and he even wrote the forward to Shaykh ‘Abd Allah ‘Alwan’s book titled ‘TarbiyyatalAwlad fi alIslam’.

 

Among the works Shaykh Wahbī authored and published are:

  • Abū Hanīfah al-Nu’mān Imām al-A’immah al-Fuqahā
  • Arkān al-Imān on the branches of faith
  • Arkān al-Islām on the Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) of the five pillars according to the Hanafi school of thought
  • Al-Hayāt al-ākhirahah wa luhuwaah waluhu wa Husn ‘Aqibati al-Muttaqīnafina bi Fadl Allah wa Rahmatihi on the states of the Hereafter
  • Jābiribn ‘Abd Allah, Sahābiyyun Imāmun wa Hāfizun Faqīh
  • Kashf Shubuhāt man za’ama Hilla Arbāhi al-Qurūd al-Masrafiyyah in refutation of those who declared bank interests on loans as permissible.
  • Kalimatun ‘Ilmiyyatun Hādiyatun fi al-Bida’h wa ahkāmiha which is a concise study of the Sunni definition of innovation
  • Maqālatun fi al-Ribāwa al-Fā’idah al-Masrafiyyah
  • Masā’il fi ‘Ilm al-Tawhīd
  • Min Qadāya al-Mar’ati al-Muslimah
  • Munāzratun ‘Ilmiyyatun fi Nisbati Kitāb al-Ibāna Jami’ ila al-Imam al-Asha’ariwa Yalihi faslun fi Khilāfat Ahl al-sunnahwa Khilafāt al-Manqūlabayn al-Māturidiyyahwa al-Ashā’irah
  • Al-Salātu wa ah kāmuhā
  • Al-Shahādatānwa Ahkāmuhā
  • Al-Siyāmu wa ah kāmuhu
  • Al-Tahdhīr min al-Kabā’ir
  • A two volume compilation of his fatwa’s that were issued in Dubai.

He also wrote important marginalia:

  • Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar on Mulla ‘Ali Qāri’s Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar a classic textbook on Sunni doctrine
  • Al-Ta’līq al-Muyassar on Shaykh Ibrāhīm al-Halabi’s recension of Hanafi Fiqh, Multaqā al-Abhur
  • Muqaddimah fi ‘Ilm al-Tawhīda long introduction to Idāh al-Dalīl fi qati’ Hujaji Ahl al-Ta’tīl by the Shāfi’ scholar, Qādi Badr al-Dīn ibn Jamā’a which is a defence of Sunni doctrine against anthropomorphists
  • On al-Qāsim ibn Sallām’s Fadā’il al-Qurān
  • On Hāfiz al-Zabīdi’s two volume ‘Uqūd al-Jawāhir al-Munīfah fi Adillat Madhhab al-Imam AbiHanīfah on the Hanafi proofs in jurisprudence.
  • Al-‘Iqd al-Jawāhirin his bio-bibliographical introduction to al-Zabīdi’s Bulghat al-‘Arib fi MustalahAthar al-Habīb
  • On al-Kawtharī’s Mahq al-Taqawul fi Mas’alah al-Tawassul and Hāfiz Muhammad ‘Abid al-Sindī’s Hawla al-Tawassulwa al-Istighātha written to clarify the Sunni ruling on tawassul.

 

He also wrote prefatory comments for the following works:

  • ‘Abd al-Karīm Tattān and Muhammad Adīb al-Kilāni’sSharh Jawharah al-Tawhīdin two volumes
  • Khaldun Makhlut’s Ahwāl al-Abrārinda al-Ihtidār on the states of the pious at the threshold of death

 

His Personality:

He was a very handsome person upon whom the awe of the fuqaha and the nūr of ‘ilm was apparent. He had a thick beard and was very neatly dressed. He practically demonstrated the noble character of the Prophet Muhammad in his conduct and he was very particular on adhering to the Sunnah. He was a humble person and disliked those who pretended to possess Islamic sacred knowledge. He was pleasant in his speech and close to the hearts of those seated around him. Peoples’ hearts even those who opposed him were attracted to him. He never offended anyone and he carefully selected his words before he spoke. He was patient and always pardoned people. He displayed anger for the sake of Allah but never harboured any hatred or malice for anyone. He cried easily especially hen reciting the Qurān or when listening to the incidents of the pious predecessors. Despite this he shared some light-hearted moments with those with him from time to time. He was very particular about his dressing and even in the quality and appearance of his books.

 

What the ‘Ulama Said About Him:

Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro: ‘When I speak about the righteous scholar, my brother for the sake of Allah, respected Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji who has acquired his ‘ilm from one of the most prestigious institutions in the Muslim World; al-Azhar University, I will state that this Shaykh is indeed a proof in ‘ilm and ma’rifah and a role model in propagation and spirituality and an illuminating light…’

 

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah: ‘The noble brother, Shaykh Wahbi Sulayman Ghawji. May Allah protect him and may the slaves and the lands benefit from his knowledge and virtue.’

 

Shaykh Mustafa al-Khinn: ‘I have lived a long time with the honourable brother Shaykh Ghawji in different situations. I have only found him to be a righteous man, a sincere caller to Allah based on ‘ilm and guidance.’

 

Shaykh Muhammad Sa’īd Ramadan al-Buti: ‘…one of the divinely inspired scholars who combined vast knowledge of ‘Aqidah and Fiqh while treading the way of the pious predecessors in worship, piety, abstinence and adherence to the way of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. I regard him today as one of the best people who demonstrate the belief, character, piety and method of the pious predecessors…’

 

His Demise:

Shaykh Wahbi remained in Damascus until a few months ago when he left to Beirut where he was intentionally delayed by members from Hizb for about 24 hours and with the result he missed his flight. Shaykh was ill suffering from a weak heart and water in his lungs. He arrived in the UAE the next day and he was admitted to hospital where he remained for one week. He was discharged but a month later he was re-admitted with inflamed lungs. He received treatment for two weeks and he passed away on the 19th February 2013 (9 Rabi’ al-Akhir 1434). The Janazah Salat was led by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim Tatan and he was buried in the al-Qawz cemetery in Dubai.

 

* Profile prepared by Shaykh Gibril Haddad with additional notes translated by Shoayb Ahmed from the Arabic article by Muhammad Muyassar ibn Shaykh Muhammad Bashir al-Murad. The translator visited the Shaykh in Damascus in 2006 and attended a lesson in Hanafi Fiqh and was granted ijazah and permission to translate the Shaykh’s books into English. This biography appears in the book: Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century by Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed (published by DTI)


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.


Understanding the Trends in Fiqh Literature – By Mufti Taha Karaan

In this short article, Mufti Taha Karaan succinctly provides a descriptive account on the various trends and genres of fiqh literature. By way of the Shafi school of thought, Mufti Taha Karaan briefly explains the reasons and objectives of the various categories of legal writing in fiqh.

* This article was edited from its original source.


There are certain general tendencies in Islamic legal writing:

  1. There is firstly the phenomenon of the mutawwalat, lengthy, comprehensive and detailed works that would typically deal with several angles of fiqh at once: the basic points of the law, the intra-madhhab differences, the inter-madhhab differences, comparative evaluation of these differences, the extraction of qawa’id and dawabit, application of usul takhrij of ahadith, and other miscellaneous matters. The earliest works in fiqh could be classified in this genre. Imam al-Shafi’i’s Kitab al-Umm, most of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan’s six works that form the zahir al-riwayah in the Hanafi madhhab, and the Mudawwanah of the Malikis would be examples.
  2. This first trend was followed by the phenomenon of ikhtisar through which the mukhtasarat, or abridgements made their appearance. Imam al-Muzani’s Mukhtasar in which he condensed the fiqh of Imam al-Shafi’i is regarded as the prototype amongst mukhtasar works. In it he (successfully) attempted to reduce the entire scope of Imam al-Shafi’i’s fiqh into manageable proportions–manageable in the sense that while it covered the entire fiqh spectrum, it did so in a size that allowed students to memorise, and teachers to cover it completely, and thereby train new generations of fuqaha in greater numbers within a comparatively short period. Such was the success of this mukhtasar that it induced al-Muzani’s nephew, Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi, to author a similar mukhtasar for the Hanafi madhhab. It would also be through the writing of a mukhtasar that Abul Husayn Al-Khiraqi laid the foundations of a systematic madhhab drawn from the fiqh of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
  3. The oral teaching of the mukhtasar works naturally entailed more material than the text of the mukhtasar provided. In the case of our madhhab, for example, solutions to problems as yet unsolved would be regularly provided by the fuqaha of the madhhab in the centuries following Imam al-Shafi’i’s demise. To distinguish these subsequently contributed views from the opinions of Imam al-Shafi’i himself, we call his opinions the aqwal, and their opinions the wujuh. The ones who contributed the wujuh were fuqaha who themselves possessed the requirements of ijtihad though often in an affiliated sense (mujtahid muntasib), or to a restricted degree (mujtahid muqayyad). On account of their contribution of  wujuh to the madhhab they are called the As-hab al-Wujuh. With many of the As-hab al-Wujuh it would happen that their students would document their mentor’s independent contributions to the madhhab. These would then be transmitted to subsequent generations of fuqaha, often in the form of commentaries upon Mukhtasar al-Muzani known as ta’liqat. The phenomenon we see emerging here is that of the shuruh, or commentaries whereby the trend of condensation is reversed into expansion.

The above should give you a broad idea of the expansion-condensation-expansion model along which legal writing proceeded in Islam. This same model replicates itself in the post-wujuh era. Imam al-Ghazali’s 3 abridgements of his teacher Imam al-Haramayn’s Nihayat al-Madhhab, Imam al-Rafi’i’s celebrated commentary upon the last of those 3 abridgements, al-Wajiz, Imam al-Nawawi’s condensation of this commentary by al-Rafi’i into Rawdat at-Talibin, of his Muharrar into the Minhaj, and al-Nawawi’s own magnificent commentary upon al-Shirazi’s Muhadhhab are all excellent and prominent examples.

The factors that prompted a shift from expansion to condensation and vice versa were several:

  • Firstly, the issue of need. Students needed condensed works to facilitate their studies and reduce the amount of time spent in entry level studies. It is not uncommon to find the author of a mukhtasar stating his reason for condensation to be “to facilitate memorisation and study for the beginner”.
  • Secondly, comprehensive documentation. Every stage in the development of the madhhab would bring new material; all this new material had to be incorporated into the madhhab. When the era of wujuh drew to a close we see the emergence of comprehensive works in both the Iraqi and Khurasani branches of the madhhab (or tariqahs,as they are called). In the former tariqah there are al-Muhadhdhab and al-Tanbih by Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, and in the latter tariqah Imam al-Haramayn’s Nihayat al-Matlab, followed by his pupil al-Ghazali’s 3 abridgements al-Basital-Wasit and al-Wajiz. Similarly, after the period of recension by al-Rafi’i and al-Nawawi, the peripheral contributions to the madhhab by men such as Ibn al-Rif’ah, his pupil Taqi al-Din al-Subki, al-Bulqini, al-Isnawi, al-Adhra’i and al-Zarkashi were subsumed into the second wave of recension that came in the 10th century, in the form of the commentaries upon the Minhaj by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari and his pupils al-Khatib al-Shirbini, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and Shams al-Din al-Ramli.
  • Thirdly, style. Language develops constantly, and one of the most pronounced forms of linguistic evolution has to be the refinement and sharpening of legal language. The systematic limpidity of Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi’s Muhadhdhab and the logically integrated arrangement of al-Ghazali’s Wasit and Wajiz give evidence of the maturation of legal style in their age.
  • Fourthly, personal development. At a somewhat less significant level, scholars would sometimes condense the work of an earlier scholar simply for the sake of thoroughly encompassing the contents of the earlier work. Such condensations would be done not for the sake of publishing the work, but rather for the advancement of the condenser’s personal knowledge.

Having thus far covered the trends in legal writing in Islam, I would like to draw a distinction between substantial or essential works on the one hand, and peripheral or supplementary works on the other. The works of which I have spoken above all fall within the substantial category, while the hawashi form the peripheral category.


Biography of Mufti Taha Karaan

Mufti Taha Karaan is a Shafi‘i scholar born in Cape Town, South Africa, to a family renowned in both its maternal and paternal lineage for Islamic scholarship. His father, the late Mufti Yusuf Karaan, may Allah have mercy on his soul, was one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars in the Cape.

Mufti Taha completed his Qur’anic memorization in one year at the Waterfall Islamic Institute, the oldest Islamic seminary in South Africa. During his stay, he assisted in the editing of the Qur’anic prints that the Institute has become famous for the world over. After finishing four years of the ‘alim course in two years, he journeyed to the Indian sub-continent and Dar al Uloom Deoband, graduating from there in 1991 with the highest of distinctions, as did his father, in a class of over 700 students. He then travelled to the Middle East and completed a two-year graduate diploma at the Higher Institute for Islamic Studies in Cairo, Egypt.

Mufti Taha is the recipient of numerous chains of transmission (ijazaat), from well-respected scholars in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, among others, in numerous fields of the Islamic sciences.

Currently, Mufti Taha is the Mufti of the Muslim Judicial Council. He is a sought-after speaker at Islamic symposia and conferences but attends them sparingly, preferring to spend most of his time at the Islamic seminary, Dar al Uloom al Arabiyyah al Islamiyyah, that he founded in 1996. The educational thrust of the seminary reflects Mufti Taha’s own pioneering vision and commitment to squarely interface with the challenges of the modern age through the twin objectives of preservation and progress.

In his teaching, writing and legal verdicts (fatawa), Mufti Taha regularly addresses contemporary issues such as the challenges of post-modernity, feminism, Islamic economics and finance, the old and new Orientalisms, and fiqh issues affecting Diaspora Muslim communities.

His students describe him as divinely-gifted with encyclopedic knowledge; possessed of a near photographic memory; an insatiable bibliophile within the Islamic sciences and without; a teacher that never ceases to inspire; endowed with an elegant calligraphic hand and a penchant for poetry; thoroughly unassuming, pleasant, brilliant and tender-hearted.