This reader gathers various SeekersHub resources on inspiring saints, scholars, and other influential Muslims of the past and present.
Ustadh Amjad Tarsin drove down to Louisville, Kentucky with a friend to attend the janaza of Muhammad Ali, an event Imam Zaid Shakir described as one replete with signs of Muhammad Ali’s closeness to Allah and His beloved Messenger ﷺ. Having now returned, Ustadh Amjad reflects on the things he saw and heard while out there.
In this first Friday khutba of Ramadan, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani reflects on the passing of the late Muhammad Ali and his funeral. In this great moment of truth, people were snapping selfies standing at or near the front of the janaza. The immediate and fleeting seems much more real than the ultimate – our own mortality.
Shaykh Faraz brings to the forefront the reality of death and being prepared for it the way Muhammad Ali was, having set in place the specifics of his funeral over ten years ago.
Shaykh Faraz gives practical steps on how to prepare for death and embrace that inevitable reality. He also explains that one should not wish for death, as the Prophet ﷺ taught us that it is best to have a long life full with good actions. However, one should be prepared for it, both spiritually and materially.
My grandfather was in a number of ways my polar opposite. He was a leading member of the Jamaate Islami being one of the main heads (rukn) of the group in Faisalabad. As a child, I saw letters that Mawlana Mawdudi had written to him hanging on the walls of our home. I heard stories about how he went into hiding during the 1970’s, how committed he was to the vision of the party, and how he sacrificed much of his time in service of it. Indeed, many of the obituaries I read of him in the newspapers identified him as an “elder of the JI.”
My grandfather was not a madhhab-following, Ash’ari abiding, tasawwuf-oriented individual. In contrast, the entirety of my scholarly training made me precisely this. But none of this actually mattered in the end. Absolutely none of it. As I knelt next to him pouring water over his body, the only thing my heart recalled was his constant tahajjud, his teaching me prayer and basic religious practices, and people’s description of him as someone who would go out with his pockets full and return with them empty (due to his charitable nature).
God continued to give him the tawfiq to worship till his last day. With severe memory loss that rendered him unable to even recognize some of his children, my grandfather did not forget tarawih, nor Ramadan, nor going to the mosque. He continued doing this till his final hour. This is what I remember about him and this is what ultimately matters.
The way we remember Muhammad Ali is the same. None of the reactions care about what school he followed. None of them bother with whether he was a Sufi or a Salafi or belonged to this group or that. None of them care how knowledgable he was of the subtleties of Islamic law, how complex his understanding was of theology, whether he celebrated the mawlid, or accepted tawassul, or was slightly progressive or conservative.
All we remember him for are the few monumental acts of good that he did. His speaking truth openly, his charity, the way he represented Islam, his activism during the civil rights era, his courage, and his faith.
Death has a way of reorienting us to what ultimately is of consequence. The nuances of Islamic law did not help me when my father and grandfather died, nor did my Ash’arism, nor did the debates I have had on a hundred and one issues regarding Sufism. My heart only found solace in reciting the Quran, remembering God (dhikr), prayer, charity, and a few other basic acts of worship. My faith at that moment became like that of the old woman in the village.
Ramadan is a time when we reorient ourselves to this perspective and worldview. When teachers cease their classes, when people step away from social media debates and argumentation, when nothing matters but the few prostrations we perform at night, the few dollars we give in charity, and the few words we utter in need of God. This is all that we wish to present to our Lord after our death. This is ultimately what matters. Reflect on that.
Ustadh Salman Younas
There had been a time he was named Cassius Clay;
A time he was praising himself night and day.
“I’m the best in the world,” “So pretty,” he’d say.
And then in this world, he had risen so far;
Until he was granted his very own star.
With the famous of famous now put up on par.
But there was a problem with that kind of fame:
On the ground they would put the star with his name;
But now as the Prophet’s his name was the same.
So he said, on the ground the name should not lie;
Let the name of Muhammad be held way up high.
Yes, those are the acts that help when we die.
So now as his body is put in the ground,
And what’s gone around has come back around,
May mercy and peace be what he has found.
And may he be raised for his honoring of
The one who is mentioned in heavens above.
Yes, Lord elevate him…
for that reverence and love.
Lord, have mercy on the soul of our brother, Muhammad Ali, for the sake of the one he named himself after, the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless and salute him.
Mostafa Azzam, 2016
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