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Interview with Shaykh Mohammad Ba-Dhib, Scholar-in-Residence

Syeda Husain from SeekersHub Toronto interviews our newest scholar-in-residence, Shaykh Mohammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib.

Shaykh Mohammad Ba-Dhib, sits in his brightly lit office and waits for me to begin the interview. We have another brother present, a student named Abdullah waiting to assist us if a translation is required. Shaykh smiles at me and I ask if I can record the interview for my own notes and record. He obliges.

I tell him that I will be asking questions about his childhood, and chosen path of Islamic studies. He laughs a little nervously.

I know that the newest resident-scholar of SeekersHub was born in Shibam, Hadramawt, Yemen. He is not much older than me but has published over 70 books in theology, Islamic Fiqh, Islamic history, Arabic literature, Arabic poetry. His accomplishments might intimidate me if it wasn’t for his warm smile and approachable demeanour.

I begin by asking Shaykh Mohammad about his favourite subject in all the topics he has studied, researched and written of. He tells me enjoys the history of Hadith, and particularly the biography of the Fuqaha and Muhaddit’hain. Shaykh Mohammad tells me that he was always inclined towards learning in the Islamic tradition. He was but eight years old and had memorized the last quarter of the Holy Qu’ran. He loved going to madrassa after school for the Maghrib prayer, and would stay to study of his own volition. When many children are commanded by their parent to sit, listen, learn and recite, Shaykh Muhammad was eager to be immersed in this Prophetic tradition.

Shaykh Mohammad was an excellent student and so much that even in his youth, his peers named him “Shaykh Badiyya” after their teacher because of his mature disposition and affinity for learning in the Islamic Sciences.

His Studies

As the youngest of five boys (his eldest brother is 22 years older) I wonder whether his parents encouraged him to pursue his passion for Islamic studying. He laughs heartily.

I rephrase my question and wonder whether his father wanted him to be an engineer or a doctor, because he was always such a high achieving student in all subjects.

“A pharmacist or a doctor,” he says with a shining smile. “[Initially] My father was against me.”

He moved to Saudi Arabia when he was 12 years old and studied with one of the greatest Shaykhs of that time, Shaykh Umer Jadahi Sadaat. Shaykh Muhammad wanted to go to study at Al-Ahqaf University in Tarim, Yemen, which only began running programs and classes in 1996. Naturally, his father had some reservations about the institution as it had only recently been established.

The teachers at the university recited Fatiha and not long after, his father had an operation. During his recovery, he went to the the teachers and they helped encourage him to give his son his blessing.

Shaykh Muhammad is the proud father of three children, two teenage sons ( one of whom is already Hafiz) and a very young daughter. He tells me that he would support his children’s decision to enrol in traditional Islamic studies. In fact, he would even prefer if one of them chose that path. I notice that he does not discriminate between genders of his children. I ask him about the perceived lack women in Islamic Scholarship, and if there women on the path of seeking knowledge. Shaykh Muhammad sits up and for a moment looks serious. I understand this is to emphasize the importance of what he will clarify. “I have taken Ijaazat from Syeddat (female teachers)!”

Female Scholarship

Shaykh Mohammad tells me about one of his own teachers and mentors, Dr. Attiya Arab, who granted him Ijaaza in Hadith. She taught at the University of Karachi and comes from a long line of scholars who have contributed immensely to Islamic Scholarship. She has Ijaaza in teaching the Isnad from Shaykh Maymani. Her father is Maulana Khalyl Al-Yamani.

This is also of significance. At Aligarh Islamic University in India, there is a council of Arabic and Islamic studies which publishes a special edition of a journal. One issue includes the entire treatise that Dr. Attiya Arab wrote. The point of sharing this is to illustrate that great scholars are certainly taught by women.

Shaykh Mohammad’s craving for knowledge not only took him to Tarim, but to Beirut, Lebanon. He completed his PhD in Theology from Aligarh University in India. Over a four-year period, he completed his doctorate in the History of Hadhrami Scholars in India, while travelling back to the Middle East.

He grins and tells me that butter chicken was his favourite dish. I smile knowingly, because who among the most pious people and greatest minds, does not love juicy chicken pieces smothered in a creamy savory sauce?

“After that?” I ask.

“Parathas, with ghee” he replies very quickly. We digress from the usual interview questions and Shaykh Muhammad tells me that in Yemen, there is a similar type of bread called “barowtha”. I am beginning to get hungry.

I ask Shaykh Mohammad about his experiences in India. He tells me that after Makkah, Madinah and Yemen, India is a spiritual place full of Islamic tradition, and I can see that it is very close to his heart.

He describes a very precious memory to me, as I listen keenly. Shaykh Mohammad is the type of teacher who makes you want to catch every word he says.

“When I was in India, the laundry man … how do you say…”

“Dhobi?” I offer.

“Yes,” he grins “Dhobi! The dhobi used to iron my clothes – 2 Rupees per piece, and he used coal in the iron…:”

“He used coal?” I asked incredulously.

I look at Brother Abdullah to make sure that the words are correct in English. He nods and they exchange a few sentences in Arabic. Brother Abdullah smiles and confirms. “Yes, they use coal.”

Shaykh Muhammad asks Brother Abdullah to Google it. He does. I am fascinated by this information, and also feeling a slight bit sheepish because I had no idea they put coal in irons.

But this incredibly knowledgeable Shaykh, remembers the 80-something year old ‘Dhobi’ who pressed his clothes over four years. He remembers him well. I wonder if the coal ever stained his clothes. But Shaykh Mohammad is pristine and I immediately feel a pang of guilt for assuming that the Dhobi wouldn’t be anything but phenomenal in his professional work.

I appreciated how Shaykh Ba-Dhib recollected this memory, something small that is ample yet meaningful, a poignant reminder of his personality and character.

Often, we see our teachers and our Shuyukh as people who are larger than life. They espouse knowledge, wisdom and are often our guides to betterment. But there are always the moments when their personalities shine through and we get an opportunity to see them as part of the Umma, as former students who struggled, as those striving to follow in the path of the Prophetic tradition, as people who remember their journeys with gratitude and reflection.

Earning a PhD in Theological studies is not a simple task. Taking in the surroundings in a foreign country with so much positivity is no small feat. This is one of the small lessons I have picked up from our hour-long conversation.

Advice to Students

Shaykh Mohammad guides students to have a clear focus. He is very ready to offer a lot of practical advice.

“Students should have a plan,” he reiterates. “So they do not get distracted.” Shaykh Mohammad believes that being goal-oriented is important in many things, particularly in higher studies.

He has not only shown this from a very young age, but continues to exemplify this today. He is of the highest calibre of teachers and brings a sound understanding and personality to SeekersHub.

I make a mental note to bring butter chicken to the next community event.


 

Mawlid al-Dayba’i: Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib

Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib introduces the Mawlid al-Dayba’i, authored by Imam ʿAbd al-Rahman ibn ʿAli al-Dayba who lived from the 9th to 10th Islamic centuries.

The Mawlid al-Dayba’i was written by  the great scholar of hadith, Shaykh Abd al-Rahman ibn ʿAli al-Dayba, from Yemen. He was from the tribe of Shayban, and lived in the city of Zabid. He lived in the 9th century AH and passed halfway through the 10th century.

The name Dayba was given to his grandfather, when he went to Abyssinia to trade. He had an unusually light complexion for a Yemeni, so the people there called him Dayba’, which meant white in their language. The name stuck, and it became their family name.

Shaykh Abd al-Rahman was a great scholar of hadith, who wrote a book called “Easing the Way to Attaining the Hadith of the Messenger,” which was composed of five or six volumes. His other book was called “Differentiating That Which is Good From That Which is Vile,” clarifying sayings wrongfully attributed to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. It was an abbreviation of a text written by his teacher, Imam Sakhawi, who studied under the famous commentator of the Sahih al-Bukhari, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani.

His Mawlid

The Mawlid al-Daybai, like other mawlids, is concise biography of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, which serves to educate the layman about his life and encourage his praise.

Some critics argue that many mawlids reference weak hadith when speaking of the early life of the Prophet. While that may be true, it is important to remember that hadith were not recorded as meticulously as they were after the Prophet received revelation, when it became a responsibility to collect and preserve the religious tradition. Weak traditions may be used for purposes not related to deriving legal rulings. These great Imans who had such deep knowledge would not convey something incorrect.


 

History and Importance of Dala’il Khayrat

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib speak about the history of the famous work of praise, Dala’il Khayrat, and the central role it played historically in Muslim life.

The blessings that we get by seeking blessings on the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, are many and countless. The great scholars and the righteous were creative and variegated in the ways that they sent blessings on him.

These scholars served the Ummah in countless ways.The scholars of hadith gathered the various hadith in an effort to preserve the Prophetic teachings. After the initial age of the science of hadith, other scholars came up with principles to judge the authenticity of hadith. Then there came the scholars of jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, and the rest of the traditional sciences. All these sciences worked to preserved the tradition and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

After these traditions were established, the scholars worked to gather collections of works that gathered acts of remembrance and supplication. It befits any righteous believer to fill their time with them. One such collection, is the Dala’il Khayrat.

Imam Jazuli, Author of the Dala’il Khayrat

Imam Muhammad Ibn Sulaiman al-Jazuli was born in 807 AH, and lived to the age of 73. He saw that the scholars would gather books on jurisprudence, Prophetic biography, and other sciences as a way of serving their Prophet. He resolved to do the same, by compiling a book on prayers and blessings to send on the Prophet.

From the time that Imam Jazuli wrote it, this work has been recited on a weekly basis throughout the Ummah. Countless people complete the compendium every week, beginning it Friday and finishing it Thursday evening. Others complete it in a full day, by themselves or in a gathering set for that purpose.

Historically, gatherings were established which were called, “Gatherings of the Dala’il.” One such gathering, which ran daily, would run in the Holy Mosques of Makka and Medina after Asr. The gatherings lasted hundreds of years, led by an appointed Shaykh called “The Shaykh of the Dala’il.” Certain expert families would take the responsibility of leading these gatherings and transmitting the ijazah, or permission to teach and recite, the Dalaa’il.

These ijazahs give us many useful benefits. We find them in both works of Islamic knowledge, as well as devotional works such as the Dala’il. They tell us about their acceptance, how they were recited and transmitted in the heartlands of the Muslim world.


Mawlid al-Barzanji and Celebrating the Mawlid – Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib

Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib continues the discussion about Imam al-Barzanji, his famous work, the Mawlid al-Barzanji, and whether celebrating the Mawlid is a valid tradition.celebrating the mawlid

Continuing from Shaykh Faraz’s Rabbani’s earlier discussion about the Mawlid al-Barzanji, Shaykh Ba-Dhib continues speaking about this great work.

He begins by speaking about the author, Imam Ja’far al-Barzanji, and his family background. The Imam came from a family of scholars, who had settled in the Kurdish city of Barzanja, hence giving them the name Barzanji. The family was descended from the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, through Imam Hussein.

The scholars of the family came to be very great authorities in their field, and would migrate to Medina to teach there, and sometimes became the Imans of the holy mosque.

The forefather to do so, was Imam Muhamad ibn al-Rasool al-Barzanji, who reportedly wrote and published over a hundred books. This shows us how much Imam Ja’far’s family  served the Ummah. They were not contented simply by beig descendants of the Prophet, but they exemplified his teachings by putting in effort to serve the Ummah.

The Mawlid of Imam al-Barzanji reached such a height of fame that it was read on the pulpit of the Prophet, peace be upon him, after sunrise on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal.

The Fame of the Mawlid

The mawlid is a regular tradition, done out of love for the Prophet. It is an expression of love, which does not diverge from Islamic teachings. We believe that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, but how do we uphold that covenant and firmly root it into our hearts?

This is the purpose of the mawlid tradition. Hearing the name of our Prophet lovingly and with reverence allows faith to be established in our hearts. These focused gatherings were a widespread tradition among the Muslims through the ages.

It’s easy for someone who has not experienced it before, to criticise the tradition, or to say, “The Prophet and his companions did not gather in this manner.” However, someone who takes issue with the mawlid, would have to take issue with various other Islamic sciences such as Arabic grammer, Fiqh (jurisprudence), and Aqidah (creed), sciences which have been developed to help us understand our religion. These sciences were not taught by the Prophet, because the Companions already had the background knowledge needed to understand their faith. Their love of Allah was very strong, but today we are at a much weaker state.

Proofs for the Validity of the Mawlid

There are many proofs for this, but a particularly profound one is the story of Prophet Isa, peace be upon him, mentioned in the Qur’an. Not only did Allah reveal the story of his birth, but also that of his mother, the Lady Maryam. The Qur’an mentions these two events in great detail, beginning from when her mother prayed to Allah, saying that she would dedicate her daughter to His service, all the way to the birth of Prophet Isa.  All these holy verses speak about pregnancy, labour and delivery, childhood, family, miracles, and other facts relating to their story. Similarly, the mawlid poetry speak about these events that led up to the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

As Islam spread, many people entered into Islam, who were previously raised in other religions. They did not know many details about the Prophet, and so the scholars put together things like mawlids to educate people and help them understand. They did this following the format of the above example.

The purpose of the mawlid has always been to educate, and to grow love of the Prophet and his teachings in our hearts.


 

Ala Ya Allah Bi Nadhra – Imam Haddad’s Poem at His Wife’s Death

Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib explains Imam Haddad’s famous poem “Ala ya Allah bi Nadhra (ألا يالله بنظرة),” which he composed upon the passing of his wife.

Not only was Imam Haddad a great scholar and Knower of Allah, but he was also a skilled poet and literary author. One of the characteristics of his poetry is a great sense of grief and sadness, and this poem, “Ala ya Allah bi Nadhra,” was composed after his wife’s passing.

He begins by saying,

“O my friend, do not be overburdened with worries.

And submit to God’s decrees so that you can become praiseworthy and rewarded.

And be content with what the Master has decreed, and don’t have any displeasure with the decree of Allah, Lord of the Lofty Throne.”

Although the Imam was experiencing intense pain and grief, he was advising himself and others to not complain or worry too much, so that they can be rewarded and honoured by Allah for having patience.

“And be patient and grateful,

You will become victorious and rewarded (by Allah)

And be from the people of Inward Secrets.

The people of Allah have an illuminated heart that is purified from all dirt, pure, and a purification for others.”

Here he is saying that when one is patient with Allah’s decree, Allah gives one a purified heart. Most people become very distressed or complain when they are tested, but the true believers are patient, having love of Allah and hope for reward from Him.

“And this lowly world, it’s problems are many in every moment, and life within it does not have a value,

And one does not seek this dunya unless their sight is completely blinded. If they had an intellect, they would have been more reflective.

Reflect over the fading of this world.

And on the great difficulties that occur.

And on the low worth of its value.

So blessed, truly blessed, is to the who is careful of it, and who divorced the world and focus themselves towards obedience of their Lord.”

No matter how rich or poor we are, we all need the same things; a little bit of food, something to drink, and clothing and shelter. Whether those are expensive or cheap, our needs are the same, and so is the end result; a grave and a shroud.

We could spend our lives working, but in the end, it will all come to nothing. Therefore, the best person is the one who recognizes this, and uses the world only for his needs, nothing more.

“Oh my eye! Let the tears flow regarding that beloved that used to be with us, 

Who then went on their journey, and my heart and mind after them have become overtaken

But Allah is my Sufficiency,

And the entire affair belongs to Allah,

And no one remains except Allah.”

Here, the Imam is reflecting on the passing of his beloved after years of spending time together and taking care of each other. He consoles himself by reminding himself that he should rely on Allah, and that everything besides Allah will come to an end.

“Upon Bashar have come the clouds of Allah’s mercy, and Allah has given them glad tidings and has blessed them. 

Within it are our Masters, teachers, our family and our loved ones; those who are beloved to my heart are there. 

And those who have taken residence in the deepest depths of my heart.  And in this plain of the graveyard, its dust is more beautiful than musk. 

Because it is the resting place of the best of the Sayyids,

Exemplars for all people,

Loving them is felicity,

Fortunate is the one who visits them with sincerity. By the blessing of visiting them, what they seek from Allah will come.”

Bashar is the name of the graveyard that his wife was buried in. Imam Haddad recalls this fact that gives him comfort; that his wife is surrounded by righteous men and woman who are teachers, family members, and loved ones who are descendants of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. He advises everyone to follow the sunna of visiting graves.

Listen to this poem here:


 

The Lord of Forgiveness 05 – Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba Dhib

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al Istighfar Explained, by Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib.

In this session, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib concludes Imam Ahmad ibn Zayn al-Habshi’s treatise on sayyid al-istighfar (the foremost way of seeking forgiveness). He continues looking at various methods of forgiveness and their virtues, first covering those narrated from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). In addition, Imam Habshi mentions other forms of supplication and formulas the saints and scholars—including his own teacher Imam Haddad—found effective. He closes by citing the “expiation for gatherings”— a particular form of seeking forgiveness used by the Prophet. Upon request from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Ba-Dhib concludes the series by mentioning his own chain of authorization to teach the text, person by person, back to the author himself.

About the Series

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al-Istighfar Explained”. In this five-part series, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib covers a short treatise on explaining the foremost way of seeking forgiveness as has come to us from Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The work, “Tiryaq al-Qulub w al-Absar fi Bayan al-Ulum allati Tadamanha Sayyid al-Istighfar” (The Healing of Hearts and Eyesight in Exposition of the Knowledges Contained in The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness) is by Imam Ahmed bin Zain al-Habshi (d. 1145 AH). Text, transliteration and translation of sayyid al-istighfar can be found below. اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa Anta Khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana ‘ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, A’udhu bika min Sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u Laka bini’matika ‘alaiya, wa Abu’u Laka bidhanbi faghfirli fainnahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta O Allah, you are my Lord. There is no god but you. You have created me, and I am your servant—and I am upon Your covenant and promise as best I can. I seek refuge in You from the worst of what I have done. I fully admit to You Your blessings upon me, and I fully admit to You all my sins. So forgive me, for there is none to forgive sins but You.


Resources for Seekers

https://seekersguidance.org/answers/general-counsel/experience-of-seeking-knowledge/

The Lord of Forgiveness 04 – Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba Dhib

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al Istighfar Explained, by Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib.

 

In this session, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib begins to look at the conclusion of Imam Habshi’s treatise on sayyid al-istighfar (the foremost way of seeking forgiveness). He explores the key verses and hadiths on the many virtues of seeking forgiveness from Allah Most High. He explains how seeking forgiveness is a powerful means for seeking rain, children, and blessing from Allah, and how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) led by example in his seeking of forgiveness. The text moves on to look at other formulas of seeking forgiveness, beginning with those in the Quran, sunna, and the prayers of previous prophets in the Quran, which, Shaykh Ba-Dhib notes, are the best methods of supplication.

About the Series

This is part of the series presented in Ramadan 2018: “The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness: Sayyid al-Istighfar Explained”. In this five-part series, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib covers a short treatise on explaining the foremost way of seeking forgiveness as has come to us from Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The work, “Tiryaq al-Qulub w al-Absar fi Bayan al-Ulum allati Tadamanha Sayyid al-Istighfar” (The Healing of Hearts and Eyesight in Exposition of the Knowledges Contained in The Foremost Way of Seeking Forgiveness) is by Imam Ahmed bin Zain al-Habshi (d. 1145 AH). Text, transliteration and translation of sayyid al-istighfar can be found below. اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa Anta Khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana ‘ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, A’udhu bika min Sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u Laka bini’matika ‘alaiya, wa Abu’u Laka bidhanbi faghfirli fainnahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta O Allah, you are my Lord. There is no god but you. You have created me, and I am your servant—and I am upon Your covenant and promise as best I can. I seek refuge in You from the worst of what I have done. I fully admit to You Your blessings upon me, and I fully admit to You all my sins. So forgive me, for there is none to forgive sins but You.

Resources for Seekers