My memoirs part 1 to 4
My Memoirs: Early Days of My Life, Part 1
My Memoirs: Early Days of My Life, Part 1
Since my birth in November 1942, in the princely state of Malairkotla (India) till my matriculation (the end of secondary school) in 1957, I had the prints of my future life due to the way I was brought up in a family with seven siblings; one sister and six brothers. I was the third after my sister and my elder brother Shuaib. My brother Shuaib and I advanced in education together sharing the same class and almost the same subjects (except for the last two years of secondary school) but I was the one who was destined to follow my father’s aspiration and his profession as a teacher of Oriental Studies and as a preacher of the true teachings of Islam. Incidentally, this is the very same period which has totally been devoted, by my father, to the Jamaat Islami which was established by Maulana Mawdoodi in 1941 and which my father joined right after its inception. His presence in Malairkotla, the state where my mother’s family has settled since long, was due to his full time teaching job on behalf of Jamaat. No exaggeration if I say that I have been brought up in the lap of Jamaat.
I recollect dim memories of my childhood in the state till our migration to Lahore in 1948, just after the partition of India into Bharat and Pakistan. I remember attending Madrasa in the Mosque where I learnt the Urdu alphabet. My hand-writing, the basis for my interest in calligraphy, was deep rooted in those pens made by sharpening the end of wooden sticks. I remember getting the applause from my first Madrasa teacher when I was able to write the letter ‘Jeem’ better than any other child in the class. By the time we left Malairkotla for good, I had become fond of reading short stories wherever I could get hold of them. The trains to Lahore via Amritsar, the seat of Sikh religiosity, had witnessed in those early days of partition, baths of bloodshed on the hands of the hostile Sikh. Some trains reached Lahore with corpses drenched in blood only.
On a hot day in May 1948, we were fortunate enough to have a safe passage through Amritsar station by midnight. It witnessed an ambush where plundering and looting took place in the rear carriages of the train but we, with the grace of Allah, were not affected. The family of six, the father, mother and four children arrived safe and sound at Lahore. My father’s affiliation to Jamaat kept him moving from one place to the other, during the next nine years.
We spent three months in a two-storey small house in the very famous old city of Rawalpindi with narrow alleys and unhealthy sanitation. In the small reception room on the ground floor, my eyes cast a glance at a wooden cabinet, the shelves of which were seen through the glass, bundled with books and magazines. With lust in my eyes for catching hold of some story books, it was curtailed by the father who said, “These have been left by the Hindu owner of the house who, like us, has migrated to India. We have no right to touch things that belonged to someone else.”
Our family moved back to Lahore to stay in the locality of Ichra, the headquarters of Jamaat at that time. For the next four years, before I was ten, our studies were done at home. We started receiving a children’s magazine entitled “Phool” (A flower) with an entirely Islamic blend. I was fascinated in reading whatever material I could lay my hands on. My happiness knew no bounds when a short story written by me marked the page of this children’s bi-monthly magazine.
My father was so engrossed in jamaat activities that he seldom had time to teach us. Mother took the major role in teaching us the Qur’an and Urdu reading and writing.
The first time I entered a proper school building was in Sialkot, a border town in Punjab, where my father was transferred in 1952 as an activist of Jamaat. He took both of us, me and my elder brother to Pakistan Modern High School (previously known as Khalsa School run by Sikhs) and handed us over to Master Muhammad Hussain, the headmaster and an activist of Jamaat as well. I remember myself crying to find myself in a multitude of boys all around us. We both were admitted to sixth class (the first of three years middle stage in those days).
As migrants speaking Urdu in a predominantly Punjabi gathering, we both were given a new title by the classmates: “Bhayya” i.e. little brother. No one called us by our real names. For the rest of the following three years, we were none but “Bhayya”. For the first time, we had a set curriculum to follow. Apart from Urdu, we had to read English, Diniyat (Islamic studies), history, geography, mathematics, and arts (drawing only). Our school day used to start with the general assembly of all school children who sang with a collective voice the famous poem of Allama Iqbal: “lab pe ati hay dua ban ke tamanna meri”. While in the classroom, we would sometimes recite, “twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are”. I have been fascinated with both, though later in life, Arabic had left no room for mastering Urdu poetry or English classes.
Hockey became a passion for me. Our first group of school mates started playing, not with hockey sticks, because they could not afford to buy them, but with hard twigs of tree branches which had a bend at the end. The only person to bring his own hockey stick was our goal-keeper, who remained throughout his career a shining star of the children’s team. We bought our own hockey sticks sometime later. A scar on my chin, covered up by my beard later, was a result of a strong blow by a player’s stick, and always reminds me of my folly, being on the wrong side of my fellow player. Though this passion lasted only three years of my middle classes (6, 7, and 8th), I have never been as fond of any other game as hockey itself. I loved watching hockey matches, no matter if I cannot play in the field. I remember sarcastic remarks of a Sikh, long after my days of education, when I started my career as an Arabic and Islamic studies teacher in Nairobi, Kenya. I could not resist paying a visit to watch a hockey match between Pakistan and Kenya. The ground was alive with Asian Muslims in support of Pakistan, and hosts of Sikhs to back the Kenyan team, which used to have a number of Sikh players. The remarks made by one of their spectators was “oh look at them (i.e. Muslims); their Molvis are here as well!”
Let me come back to the school. I remember Ashiq, a classmate whose story introduced us to some strange realities of life. One day he was found guilty of neglecting his homework completely. The teacher became so angry that he asked him to stand up and face lashings on his hand. The teacher hit him hard three times on this hand. The boy, with red hot eyes, stretched out both of his hands, inviting for more. The teacher did not resist continuing with more and more strikes while the boy did not show any sign of weakness, and did not, even for a single moment, withdrew his hands. The boys in the classroom shouted “teacher! This boy is possessed”. As soon as the teacher heard this cry, he was the first one to leave the classroom followed by the frightened boys who hurled towards the door while Ashiq was standing still at his desk with his eyes aghast and red. Our teacher for Dinyat (Quran studies) was called upon to handle the boy. He came and asked a few of our classmates to hold him tightly. The teacher read a number of the verses of the Quran and addressed the boy saying “who are you and why are you here?” Of course he was addressing the Jinn who had possessed the boy. “I am not going to leave him!” a trembling voice, much more different from his normal voice, resounded in the room. The teacher commanded more beating of the boy until the Jinn yielded to his demand. That poor child who normally did not have the strength to win a dual, turned into a real wrestler who could barely be controlled by the host of boys who caught hold of him. After he received a lot of blows, the Jinn finally decided to leave. Our teacher took from him a solemn oath not to possess him while he was in the class. As soon as he left, the boy fell on the floor, totally exhausted and unconscious. A charpoy, a bed with woven ropes and wooden frame and legs, was brought which worked as a stretcher for him to be taken back home by four boys. He must have been ill for many days because he did not return to the class. The only other time we felt a visitation by that Jinn was the day when the teachers asked him on the last day of fee collection to pay the fee or get expelled. Ashiq asked to leave to fetch the money. In no time, he came back with the sum in his palm. “How could you get this money so quickly?” the teacher asked. “Oh! That was my old friend who, because of his promise, did not enter the class room, but gave me the amount of fee at once. He said to me that he wanted to take me on a Hajj journey as well”. After this incident, I have never doubted the presence of Jinn, an invisible creature of Allah, who are around us but they hardly interfere with us except in very rare cases as that of Ashiq. Contrary to his name, which means “a lover”, Ashiq became the subject of “ishq”, love.
The other most pressing memory of my school life was the day when our whole house witnessed a lot of sadness and gloom. That was the day when the papers brought the news of the hanging of a great scholar, an Islamic activist, Abdul Qadir Audah, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He was hanged with two other activists, by Jamal Nasir’s dictatorial regime. I remember that famous poem, penned by Naim Siddiqi, which covered the whole front page of Jamat’s magazine “Tasnim” with this opening line: “Ye Kaun Tha, Kis ka Khun Baha?” “Who was he whose blood has been spilled”. Our house, as a beacon of Jamat, used to have the first-hand knowledge of all such world movements with which Jamat shared their thoughts and ideologies. My father, in his beliefs, was a strict follower of the Ahl-e-Hadith school of thought. But he used to have good and friendly relations with other faith groups like Deobandis. This is why sometimes he would take us for Taraweeh prayers at Madrasa Shahabiya, an Islamic institution run by a famous Deobandi scholar Maulana Muhammad Ali Kandhalwi. Though we used to leave after offering 8 Rakaat in line with Ahl-e-Hadith view.
As a strict adherent to Ahl-e-Hadith theology, we were never familiar with such innovative practices in our house like Shab-e-Bara’at (The night of 15th Sha’ban when people adorn the roofs of their houses with candles or small eastern lamps); celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (SAW) on 12th Rabi al-Awwal; providing Sabil of water for passersby on 10th Muharram, the day of martyrdom of Imam Hussain (RA); holding a gathering of friends and relatives to complete the reading of Al-Qur’an, a practice known as Khatam, especially on the third day of the death of a person, followed by the 40th day’s gathering; visiting saint’s mausoleums either locally or abroad; celebrating the remembrance day on 11th day of the lunar month in the name of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, and many more such innovations that are found to be prevalent among many Muslim houses. What we used to witness in our house were either circles attended by ladies to learn the Qur’an or feasts of some delicious food on Eid Day. My mother would hold such circles at home or would go to someone’s house for such a Qur’anic lesson. In Sialkot, Hamida Begum was such a talented woman who would hold weekly circles. In our house there was no such thing as radio, playing music, cards or any similar means of entertainment. Our whole enjoyment was reading the story books and magazines with Islamic flavours like ‘Phool’ (flower), Talim-o-Tarbiyat, Al-Hasanat and Nur (both published on behalf of jamaat in Rampur, India).
Our first residence was in a first floor apartment in Mubarak Pura which faced the railway line. From the windows, we used to have full sight of the trains, coming and going, with the loud cracking sounds of the iron wheels and startling cries of its whistles. My fascination with trains developed there long before I could have access to “The Railway Children.”
Sometimes, I had to accompany my mother, walking besides the rails to visit another famous lady worker of Jamaat who lived in the locality of ‘water works’ before reaching Sialkot station. My biggest attraction to her house was to be allowed to take hold of a monthly illustrated child magazine, ‘Khilona’ (a toy) by name, which her daughter used to receive from Delhi, India. The lady was a prolific writer in Jamaat papers and magazines. Her daughter later excelled her in story writing. In the company of children’s magazines, I could not resist copying that model myself. I started a hand-written small size magazine by the title of Chand (moon) which was decorated in colours by my brother Shuaib. This magazine showed my skill at hand-writing, storytelling and copying the material from the papers at hand. It was just a childish play which lasted a couple of months, an amusement for the visitors, an enjoyment for both of us after school hours. Encouraged by a small sum, a rupee or a half by the parents, we would be able to buy more sheets of blank papers and ink. I wish I had retained some copies of that child play to show to my grandchildren. I hope some of them are still in possession of my elder sister in Karachi.
Two other memories of the school days:
The school was on the other side of Nala Aik (a rivulet) which used to have such shallow water that we could cross it by foot. When it flooded, it turned into a stormy river. Then we had to follow the road, up to the bridge and straight to the school. Once I was holding a football in my hand, with my school bag in the other hand when a naughty village lad snatched the ball from my hand and ran fast to disappear in the mud houses beside Nala Aik. We ran after him, entered one of the open doors of a house. The old lady in the house must have known the vicious nature of her child. So she did not object to us stepping on the staircase to the roof. There he was, trying to hide himself in a heap of hay. We took our ball and headed back to the home. Once, after crossing the water, we passed by a crowd of people who encircled a village house. We could see the gloom, the anxiety, a feeling of awe on their faces. Led by curiosity we entered the courtyard where, on a wooden charpoy, two babies were resting; resting forever. Somebody had strangled them to death. A sight of death, marked in a young boy’s mind to last forever.
I remember that night when my father was delivering his speech in a public lecture arranged by Jamaat in the famous Ram Talai ground, with the shape of an amphitheatre. I was sitting near my mother among the women in a two storey building nearby. I could not resist leaving her to join one of the boys who tempted me to ascend to the roof and play ‘hide and seek’. It was dark. The roof had no boundary wall at all. I ran after him, only to fall from the top of the roof on to the ground below. With pain and anguish, I made my way to my mother and fell unconsciously in her lap. It was an arduous journey back home. I had to be confined to a dark room in the house for home-made treatment which included massage, oiling the legs and complete rest for a number of weeks. Was not I a naughty boy as well!!
How much trouble I had created for the whole family. I could feel the pain and suffering, so vivid in the eyes of my mother who cared for me during days and nights. May Allah shower His blessings and mercy on both graves (my mother and father) in the evergreen cemetery of Islamabad.
The year 1952 witnessed a great turmoil following the blood-stained movement of Khatm-e-Nubuwwat; a movement to support the finality of the Prophethood of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) against the ongoing rebellious blasphemy of a claim of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a Prophet as well. The famous treatise of Maulana Maudoodi, entitled ‘Qadiani Mas’ala’ attracted a death sentence to him by the High Court, which was later changed to a life sentence. My father Sheikh Abdul Ghaffar Hasan, along with the top leadership of Jamaat, were arrested and put behind bars. I remember accompanying my mother to Sialkot railway station where we had a glimpse of him. He was handcuffed and could hardly show his face from a window in a train packed with the prisoners and bound for Multan.
The streets of Sialkot had been surrounded with slogans of Takbir and Risalat, especially when the blood stained bodies of young men, killed by police brutality, were carried on shoulders. From the windows of our house in Kashmiri Kumahran we could see the processions with tumultuous roaring and shouting. At the age of ten, I had no idea of the issue except that a feeling of awe and fear had filled the air. My mother, with five children at that time, managed to cope with the situation with the help of local Jamaat.
During my father’s long absence, eleven months in total, we travelled once to Sukkhar, a very famous town known to have hot weather in Sindh province to attend the wedding of the daughter of Uncle Ubaidullah Ubaidi, one of my father’s best friends. This had been the longest train journey we enjoyed. Nearing Sukkhar, we had a full sight of the mighty river Indus. The bride had been very close to us as she visited us in Sialkot and then stayed at our home for a couple of days.
In 1951(I was still 9 at that time), the year we moved to Sialkot, Jamaat decided to participate in the provincial elections. That was the first time Jamaat tested its political strength. It was an outright failure. People were still not ready to choose a candidate on the basis of his honesty, trustworthiness and piety. Prejudice for clan and tribes affiliation to cast and race and obedience to landlords and masters were the keys to win the election. None of these qualities was enjoyed by the Jamaat. I remember the three “Ds” boldly marked and displayed in Jamaat’s elections’ camps: Na Dhaunce, Na Dhandly, Na Dhoka (i.e. No dictation by force, no malpractice, no deception). The failure in this election led the Jamaat leadership to discuss and debate the most important issue: “could an Islamic State be established through ballots or through a campaign to reform the whole society according to Islamic norms?” My father always believed in the latter in line with the early writings of Maulana Maudoodi on this issue particularly. He always used to quote his saying: “The quality of the cream depends upon the milk itself; how good and unspoiled it is.” So let the society be reformed and it would spill the best out of it. It took my father six more years when the issue, along with the famous debate in Jamaat’s very volatile session in Matchi Goth in 1957, on the report of the survey committee, to which my father was a member, to tender finally his resignation from Jamaat.
In school summer holidays, we had been given a lot of school work which occupied most of our time. One evening, as I came out of the local mosque after Asr prayers, a man with a turban approached me. With a gentle tap on my shoulder, he asked me:
“Lad! Will you do me a favour?”
“What favour?” I asked.
“Sit here in front of me and let me see your thumb.”
He put a little oil on my thumb, on the nail itself. Then he asked:
“Lad! Can you see anything on your nail?”
“No! I cannot see anything.”
The people were now around us and were looking at us with surprise. He rubbed my nail once again and said:
“Can you see a man cleaning the ground and showering water upon it?”
Then, he kept on asking:
“Can you see a horse rider appearing at the sight?”
He could have asked many questions but I was a bit agitated and frightened. So with shouting “No, no”, I withdrew my hand and ran home.
In Punjab, you would see jugglers and soothsayers, story tellers, presenters of street-side shows with a monkey or a bear, drum beaters and lots of others. That man was among those who tried to discover stolen goods or a lost person by using ‘an innocent lad’ whose thumb would reveal the truth i.e. the location of the lost material.
By the grace of Allah, that was my first and last experience of such an exercise except for a very late event in London which involved a sitting to contact the souls which had already departed from this world. It was just an experiment which showed me how futile this exercise was. I will mention this event at a later stage. It will be a long way until I reach, during my life journey, to the British Isles and narrate that phase of my life.
Now let me narrate two events showing how we were disciplined in those days. During a school recess, I was confronted by a boy for no reason. I do not remember what he did to me but I remember calling him a “dog” out of contempt. The deputy headmaster, a very stern old man, happened to pass by the moment I uttered that word. He took out his lashing stick and gave me a hard blow on my palm which caused me a lot of pain for the rest of the day. The master was known for his violence to the boys. Thus he attracted a sarcastic nickname, “Majha Thus” (fat buffalo). Some naughty devils among the school boys had a nasty plan to offend him. One day, they stood in hiding looking for him to come out from his office. As soon as he appeared in the corridor, the boys jumped upon him with a ‘bori’ (a big bag of woven ropes) covering his head and face. Then they pounded him with fists and blows and then ran away as fast as they could. I do not remember what happened to them later.
Once we (both brothers) came to know about a screen show in Jinnah Park, an open play ground a mile away from our house. It was a public show of a documentary film by an advertising company. They used to attract the crowd showing such films through projectors. We got permission from our mother and slipped away to enjoy our first exposure to a very new world of moving pictures. The show ended and we took our way back home. Our father was waiting for us a few yards away from the house. We had never seen him to be so furious as he was that evening. It was just a heavy slap on our cheeks which deterred us from repeating this adventure for at least the rest of our “single” lives. Apart from that, we did enjoy our new hockey sticks to play between Asr and Maghrib.
Once we were taken to a shoe shop where the size of our shoes was measured by the shoe maker. In a few days time, the shoes were ready for us to leave them for wear and tear. These were the only times when we were given this privilege, otherwise I had always my shoes readymade and straight from the shelves.
I still have to go through the events of 1956-1957 of my life. My father had to leave Sialkot in 1955, the year we (both brothers) had completed our middle school and we settled once again in Lahore. This time we were housed in a two room small house in Rahman Pura, very near to Jamaat main headquarters in Ichra. My father was given the task to organise for the members of Jamaat, a system of spiritual training (Tarbiya). To meet this purpose, he compiled a collection of Ahadith, all speaking about the character building of a true Muslim. This collection, known as Intikhab-e-Hadith, became a major source of inspiration for the members of Jamaat. Now I am pleased to see its English translation by my son Usama Hasan after half a century had passed on its first publication.
MY MEMOIRS, PART 2.
My memoirs: Part 2 (1955-1962)
In 1955, my father has moved once again back to Lahore. We stayed in a two-room house in Rahman Pura, adjacent to Ichhra, the headquarters of Jamaat Islami. My elder brother Shuaib and I were admitted to Pakistan Model High School, Urdu Bazar. To reach these we have to take a bus either directly to Secretariat, very near to Government College, next to which was our school or through Regal and Mew Hospital from where we have to walk through alleys to reach the school. We both were admitted to class 9 leading to matriculation at the end of class 10.
Though we were both in the same class, soon we had to change our subjects. Brother Shuaib opted for science subjects (Physics and Chemistry) while I went for Humanities (Urdu, Arabic etc) with English as a compulsory subject. I was fond of reading any form of literature my hands could lay on. Beginning with the historically-based Islamic fictions of Nasim Hijazi, Rashid Akhtar Nadwi, Abdul Halim Sharar with a blend of detective narratives of Ibn Safi, Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin (both in Urdu translation), I was addicted!
There used to be an Ana Book shop (each book to be hired for one Ana i.e. 1/16 of a Rupee) which was somewhere on the main road leading to Ichra bus stop. I had been introduced to Jim Corbett, the famous hunter who had left a host of his encounters with man-eaters of East Africa. I had a very grim picture of life in Africa through his narratives.
Could I have imagined in those days that I would be one day trespassing the very same jungles and bushes Jim Corbett has so earnestly described? On our way to the bus stop, we used to pass by the modest home of Inayatullah Mashriqi, the famous Ahrar leader who played an alarming role in Indian and later in Pakistani politics.
Though I opted for Arabic (against Persian, the subject most commonly chosen by students), I was chosen to receive a further dose of Arabic grammar in the hands of Asim Al-Haddad, originally a pupil of my father. He later excelled in Arabic writing and translation by accompanying Mas’ood Alim Nadwi, the great Arabic scholar who was an ardent follower of Jamaat Islami. Asim Al-Haddad with his profound ability to render Urdu articles to Arabic became a pioneer to introduce Maudoodi’s work to the Arab world. I am proud to have taken some lesson from him. To familiarise me with modern Arabic, a host of story books and illustrated children’s magazine ‘Sinbad’ were brought for me by my father. My appetite for reading was able to digest them all.
One of our neighbours was Professor Ahmad Yar Khan, a Hafiz of the Qur’an, and an authority on Qur’anic script. He was so fond of the Qur’an that he named his children after Qur’anic names and expressions like Ne’mal Abd, Zul Qarnain and Nadratul Na’im (his daughter). We were very close to the boys who shared with us street games including cricket and football. During summer vacations, the eminent teacher used to go to his home town, Jhang, leaving his home keys with our family. The first time I saw the National Geographic magazine was on his bookshelf.
The year 1957 was the end of our exams of matriculation but it was a year of trouble and turmoil for my father. An internal crisis in the Jamaat Islami, about which I have written in detail in my book “Life & Services of Maulana Abdul Ghaffar Hasan” in Urdu, led him to resign from the Jamat and join the newly set up educational institution by the title of “Jami’a Ta’leemat Islamia’ at Lyallpur (presently known as Faisalabad) on the invitation of Hakim Abdul Rahim Ashraf, who was a close family friend and had also resigned his membership. I accompanied my father on his way to Lyalpur on a country bus. There had been a big two-storey house with a big name plate on the gate: ‘Ashraf Laboratries’ where we stayed for a few days. The premises accommodated the office of the weekly Urdu journal ‘Al-Munir’ as well which carried the hallmarks of our host’s skill in Urdu writings on religion and political issues. To my amazement and joy, there were a host of papers and magazines which the office used to receive as an exchange for ‘Al-Munir’ both from Pakistan and India. For me a treasure of knowledge was at hand and I could make use of it in my times of leisure.
There had been no other activities except for studying with my father as the very first student of Jamia and digesting the freely available reading material whenever I liked. Soon the family left Lahore and joined us in Lyallpur, the town named after its founder and designee Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, Sir James Broadwood Lyall in 1892. He planned the town to replicate the design as a Union Jack. There were eight bazaars and eight roads (four wide and four narrow streets) sprouting from a central point where a Watchtower overlooked them. Each Bazar took the name of a city which lies in that direction like Jhang Bazar followed by Montgomary, Bhawana, Chinute, Amin Pur etc or the name of a local landmark like Katchery (the court), Rail and Karkhana (factory). A circular Bazar known as Goal Bazar (round market) passed through them as well.
Hakim Abdul Rahim Ashraf was not only a prolific writer, he was an eloquent speaker as well. In a centenary conference at the Dhobi Ghat of Lyallpur on the liberation movement in 1857 from British advance to bring an end to the Mughal Empire in India, Hakim Sahib was one of the speakers. About him, a journalist commented in his daily paper: “A small man (he meant Hakim Sahib because of his short stature) said something very high and large”. Dhobi Ghat, at a very short distance from Jinnah Colony, the place we stayed at, was a public place famous for public speeches and lectures. I was fortunate enough to attend a host of such conferences which used to be held there during my four years’ stay.
Soon after our arrival in Lyallpur, I had the honour to ride one day in a Tanga (cart driven by a horse) in the company of three great scholars: my father, Hakim Abdul-Rahim Ashraf and Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, the author of ‘Taddalus Qur’an’, a great book of Tafsir in nine volumes. All three men became the source of knowledge for me. Islahi had just started writing his Tafsir beginning with Surah Al-Fatiha which saw its first appearance on the weekly journal Al-Munir of Hakim Ashraf. I have benefitted later in my life with the said Tafsir book of Islahi. In fact, it is the only Urdu Tafsir which I have read from the beginning to the end while I used to hold weekly Tafsir lessons during my stay in London later in my life.
Through his writings, I was introduced to his teacher and mentor, Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi, one of the great scholars of India. His exegesis commentary of some selected Surahs of Al-Qur’an besides his short book on ‘Who Was Zabih’ (the one who was subjected to sacrifice by Syyedena Ibrahim AS) had always been reference books for me. As for Hakim Ashraf, I followed his writings on a variety of subjects which used to mark the pages of Al-Munir which was later renamed as Al-Minber. Then I was the product of my father who motivated me to leave Govt. College and devote myself to the Oriental.
Soon afterwards, my mother with four of my siblings, elder sister and three brothers, moved to Lyalpur. As the classes in Jami’a were still held in the evening, we (myself and my elder brother Shua’b) were admitted to the Govt. College, situated next to Jinnah Colony facing Dhobi Ghat. I had to study Humanities (English, Arabic and Economics) while my brother went for science subjects. Our first residence was in a house at Labour Colony, an area far from the College. I had to peddle the bike or use a bus to attend the College. First time in my life I was exposed to the English Literature, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘The Three Musketeers’ and a novel by Galsworthy, alongside a selection of English prose and poetry, which were part of the curriculum. I enjoyed reading them but to be honest, to pass the exam we had to rely upon summarised versions with explanations in Urdu, in most cases. Even in Arabic, we were introduced to a collection of Arabic prose and poetry ‘Qatf-ul-Azhar’ by Arburry. Thanks to my solid foundation in Arabic at home, I always excelled in Arabic tests. I enjoyed listening to the annual debate, the theme of which was a line of poetry by Iqbal, the famous poet from Sialkot and a national figure in Pak-Indian liberation movement:
“Do not carry the favours of the European mirror-makers. Create your own wine and vessels from the clay of Pak.”
(Pak has been substituted for “Hind” India, in the original poem).
I was fascinated by the debate and addressed myself: “One day you will be addressing in this manner”. I used to borrow books, both in Arabic and English from the College library. In Arabic, mostly story books by Kilani, and in English, I remember borrowing ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. There used to be a Council library at the corner of the Dhobi Ghat. It became another source for me to quench my thirst for reading. I used to sit there for hours reading the books of my choice as it was not a lending library. Sometime in early 1958, I remember reading the news about the death of a great Indian leader, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, while I was looking at the daily papers in the College library. As for the Pakistani politics, the year 1958 brought to us the Marshal Law of General Muhammad Ayyub Khan, the first military commander to show the politicians a taste of military rule.
As a shy teenager, I found it difficult to develop a friendship with any classmate. My studies in the College came to an end after one year. My father was not happy with me to continue with College education. I must follow the path of my father and fore-fathers in pursuing great Islamic heritage which only Arabic could provide. I left the College and in the evening, after Maghrib, I had the honour of being the first student at Jamia Taleemat Islami at 5 Jinnah Colony. The house on a commercial road of the town was our dwelling, the part of which was used for evening classes. Elder people used to attend the Arabic classes with my father. Long after my departure from Lyallpur, Hakim Ashraf with his God-gifted skill and generosity was able to acquire a big piece of land on Sargodha Road, away from the centre of the town, on which he raised a proper building along with a mosque to house this institution.
One day, we were at Lylallpur railway station giving farewell to three Syrian students who after graduating from the Agricultural College, were on their way to Lahore or Karachi to catch their flight home. I had seen the generous gesture of Hakim Ashraf that day. He had sent for each one of them a carton full of his factory’s medical products which contained syrups, sweet kaamira of energetic nature, all sorts of balms and yunani mixtures of soothing affects for pains and aches. (Yunani medicines are named after Yunani in China, not after Greece as wrongly misunderstood).
I was given another task by my father – Translation of the memoirs of Sheikh Hasan Al-Banna, the founder of Ikhwan in Egypt to Urdu language. I engaged myself to do this long and laborious job in my leisure time. By the title of “The Diary of Hasan Al-Banna’, it started appearing on the pages on Al-Minber in instalments. I was happy to see a product of mine, with my name on it, appearing in a well-respected magazine. But, alas, the manuscript was lost when Hakim Ashraf moved his offices from Jinnah Colony to another locality. It was lost forever and I could not see this effort of mine taking the form of a book. Long after, a book by the same title was published by Islamic Publication, Lahore but it was a rendering of the same Arabic book by Khalil Hamidi of Jama’t Islami.
Though I could not see the fruit of my hard-earned exercise, I benefited a lot from the life history of this great man, his zeal for Da’wa, his openness to the people, his unbeatable desire to bring a change in the lives of ignorant masses of his country. My next job was to translate another scholarly work of an Ikhwan writer, Al-Bahi Al-Kholi, entitled “Tazkhirat-ul-Du’at” (An Admonition for the Preachers). That was another voluminous work which I published, but the fate of this exercise was no more different from the first one. I have no recollection of the translated material where it has ended up. Apart from studying, I had enjoyed listening to various speakers, mainly the scholars in public meetings either at Dhobi Ghat or in different Mosques. Among the non-scholars I was fascinated by the speech of Shorash Kashmiri, the editor of weekly “Chitan” and an ardent follower of Syyed Ataullah Shah Bukhari, the most famous speaker in Indian history. He was famous due to his speeches in the defence of the finality of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I had the honour to see him , in his old age, in a public meeting at Jamia Mosque, Katchery Bazar, where he graced the meeting with his Du’a at the end.
My father, by that time had joined the Islamic Seminary, Jami’a Salafiya as a teacher at the far end of the city. For the next two years. I had to attend Tafsir, Hadith, Arabic poetry first in Jami’a Salafiya and then in Dar ul Qur’an wal Hadith, another Islamic institution in Jinnah Colony itself. The latter one was established by a famous Ahl-e-Hadith scholar Abdullah Verowali. Besides my studies in these two seats of knowledge, I was preparing to sit in the exam for attaining an Oriental-based degree, Alim Arabi in 1959 and Fadil Arabi in 1960. These two degrees used to be the highest in Punjab Public Board of Education. The syllabus, in both grades, covered a vast amount of all Islamic subjects especially in Tafsir, Hadith and Arabic poetry. I was very pleased to see my name at the top of the list of successful candidates.
Being first in these two exams brought a sense of satisfaction and self-glorification but no scholarship for further studies. That was allocated only for the top ones at the University level. For a holder of Alim and Fadil degree, the way was open to sit in the University exams of F.A and B.A. for only one subject i.e. English. This is what I did. Taking hold of the syllabus for F.A. in 1961 and for B.A. in 1962, I used to study by myself with an English dictionary at hand. For a very short period, I attended the evening classes of a retired University teacher at Lyallpur. I sat my exam for F.A. at the premises of Islamia College at Lyallpur. During the early days of Jamia, a young tall fellow from Iraq came to study at the famous agricultural College of Lyallpur. He was an energetic supporter of Ikhwan movement. He was none other than our brother Salih Mahdi Al-Sammara’i. As a very keen student of Arabic, I used to visit him a lot at his boarding house, not only to practice the language verbally but to borrow from him Arabic journals like ‘Al-Shihab’ of Beirut, Lebanon. He was a regular visitor to Jami’a and became a close friend of both my father and Hakim Ashraf.
Then to promote Arabic and let the students of various Jami’at in the town, my father established ‘Jamia Ihya Al-lughat ul-Arabia (the society for the revival of the Arabic language). We used to have monthly sessions at this society at the Muslim City School premises where all the proceedings were held in Arabic. Among my colleagues was Bashir Sialkoti, an emerging star of Arabic knowledge and a student at Jami’a Taleemat Islamia. Some local scholars, like Hakim Abdul-Majeed (who was blind), Mufti Siahuddin Kakakheil of Madrassa Ishat-ul-‘Uloom and Ustad Ghulam Ahmad Hasini graced these sessions with their presence. I learnt the famous Arabic proverb, “I was eaten the day the white oxen was eaten” by the mouth of Salih al-Samarrai in one of the sessions.With a creative mind, Salih could always bring new ideas. One day he said to me, “Let us promote the journal ‘Al-Minber’, among the college students. A good amount of its copies were brought each week to him on Fridays. After the Friday prayers were over, we had to stand outside the Mosque and shout to the youngsters leaving the Mosque: “Al-Minber! Al-Minber!” For me it was embarrassing but for him it was a way of encouraging the young lad on how to humble himself in the path of Da’wa.
My familiarity with Arabic, through these different channels, enabled me to deliver a welcome speech at Jamia, at the visit of the most famous scholar of India, Maulana Abul Hasan Al-Nadwi. He visited Lyallpur because his Sheikh, Maulana Abdul Qadir Rayepuri had camped there for a few days. As a Sufi Sheikh, he always moved between India and Pakistan accompanied by a host of his followers. During his stay, I once visited Ali Mian (Abul Hasan al-Nadawi) at the camp as he wanted to dictate to me an article in Arabic. During that dictation, I took from his mouth the following line of poetry:
“How to pass through the mountains of Lebanon
, their winter is just like summer and their summer is just like winter”.
Later in early 20th century, I happened to pass through these mountains during a visit to Beirut.
One month before the exams, I had to prepare myself to go through all those books which were included in the syllabus. To have more concentration and privacy, I would take a bag of some of my books and move to the park very near to Agricultural College where I would sit under a tree for hours and hours to study those books and take notice. Once tired and fatigued, I would pack up once again and take the way back home.
It must have been February 1961, when Queen Elizabeth with her husband Prince Phillip visited Pakistan. I remember standing on the side of the road, near Dhobi Ghat, among other spectators to have a glimpse of the visitors who passed by us in a two horses-led buggy. Could I have imagined that fifteen years later I would end up on the hometown of the Queen herself? Now that I had a degree of Fadil Arabic in my hand, I was looking for a teaching post. My elder brother, Shuaib, had already started working in a textile factory after acquiring a diploma in engineering from the Polytechnic and a degree of BSc from Lahore. As a young man, 18 years old, with no teaching experience, I could not be held favourable in my interview for an Arabic teacher post at a secondary school. However, one of my father’s old acquaintances, Ghazi Abdul Jabbar, who had left Jama’at as well, was looking for an Arabic teacher in his newly-set up private school in Rawalpindi. I was allowed to leave the family and join this new post.
Had it not been the houses of my maternal uncle, Muhammad Aslam and my paternal aunt in Rawalpindi, I could not have managed to stay there even for a single day. For my stay in Rawalpindi, I had to rent a solitary room in the old quarters of the City which used to be a labyrinth of alleys and narrow streets. From Banni Chowk, I had to ride a Tanga to reach my destination at Satellite town where the school was housed. It was my first experience in teaching the kids, who were a few years younger than me. During the three months I stayed there, I found myself lonely, with no outdoor activities and with a great longing to return back home. I think that Ghazi Saheb himself was not very impressed by my work. So he was not hesitant to relieve me when I asked to leave the job. However, I returned to Lyallpur with sweet memories of my Mamu and Mami, Uncle Hakim Yahya Khan and Aunt Safiyya. They were all kind and affectionate to me and they provided me with dining facilitites at their homes. My maternal grandfather (Nana Abdul Rauf) used to be in the same area and I had to see him on and off at my Mamu’s place.
One of the benefits which I achieved during my stay was to attend Friday Khutbah in the main Ahl-e-Hadith Mosque where Maulana Ismail Dabih used to be the Khateeb. He was an eloquent orator and possessed a beautiful voice while reciting the Qur’an. During these days, I had to prepare myself to sit the F.A. exam for English language. In the summer of 1961, I was able to pass that exam and then be prepared for the next one – B.A. (in English).
That was the year when Dr. Israr Ahmed had established a Qur’an Hostel in Montgomery (now Sahiwal). The objective was to provide lodging facilities to young boys who used to receive their higher education in the local Govt. College. By staying there, they had to learn Arabic in the evening and attend Qur’an classes with Dr. Israr himself. By consultation with my father, I was chosen to be their teacher of Arabic while I would have the opportunity to prepare myself for the B.A. exam in English. Once again, I had to leave Lyallpur and travel southwards to take my place in the Qur’an hostel. There were five colleagues, a little younger than me, who were there to benefit from my knowledge of Arabic. Among them were Abdu Khaliq, Abdul Ghani, Salahuddin, Absar Ahmad (Dr Israr’s youngest brother) and Iqbal Suhail (a volatile, sweet table talker whose mother was Spanish). They were all colleagues with whom I shared the lodging, food and jokes. We all had to attend Dr Israr’s Qur’anic circle which were famous because of his eloquence in speech, profound knowledge of the Book and his own impressive personality.
For a few sessions, I benefited from Iqbal’s mother who assisted me in explaining the poetic expressions of Shakespeare’s drama, Macbeth, a part of the B.A. curriculum. Before the summer of 1962, I had my exam which I passed to be a holder of the Bachelor of Arts degree. During my short stay in Montgomery, I joined the famous Islamic seminary, Jami’a Rashidiya which was situated somewhere across the railway station. It was run by Maulana Abdullah and his brother Habibullah. I used to attend in the morning two classes; one the lesson of Musayara Musamara in the knowledge of Kalam by Sheikh Abdullah and the other by Hafiz Siddiq who used to teach Nur al-Anwar in Usul-al-Fiqh. Thus, I could combine my Arabic studies, preparation for the exam and my duties as an Arabic teacher in the evening.
Soon I was called back to Lyallpur. My father had decided to leave Jami’a Ta’limat Islamia and join Dr Israr’s venture for educating the youth in an Islamic manner. I had to assist in collecting the household, especially my father’s vast variety of the books and load them in a truck which was hired for this purpose. For my family, I was a herald when we came to Lyallpur in 1957 and once again I was there before them in 1961. The whole family moved to the new place and by my father’s arrival I was relieved from my duties to focus further on my studies.
Among the memories of my stay in Montgomery, was the episode of “Ghairat Ka Janaza’” (the funeral of honour). What happened was, news had leaked to us that the local council was going to host a ladies hockey match in the City. We, the young pioneers of Islamic idealism, led by Iqbal Suhail, got up to block this event. A leaflet with the above-mentioned title was prepared and printed. First we distributed it to all and sundry, then we took a special task to approach the prominent Imams in the town on a Thursday evening to brief them about this unprecedented event which would bring shame and dishonour to the Islamic values we held. We met a number of them, approaching one after the other, asking them to condemn this proposed activity in the Juma Khutbah. I remember the last one to meet when it was too late at night. He had gone to bed to sleep but he was kind enough to leave his bed and greet us in his reception. We met Imams of all factions: Ahle-Hadith, Deobandi, Barelvi and Shia. With their co-operation and our protest, the expedition ended in success. The event was cancelled.
My other memory was that of attending a Tabligh gathering. I myself with a colleague of mine were supposed to spend the night in a particular Mosque, in line with Tabligh Jamat practice to spend one night in a Mosque weekly. We took our blankets and made our way to the Mosque. It was a cold night. Our blankets could not warm us well. So we sneaked slowly away from among the lines of sleeping devotees to make our way home.
My curiosity and yearning for Arabic literature took me to Maulana Abdul Jalil of the Ahl-e-Hadith Mosque who used to have a good collection of old Arabic journals. [In Lyallpur there used to be two similar sources for me: Hakim Abdul Majeed (the Blind) from whom I used to borrow copies of the monthly “Al-Hilal” of Cairo, Egypt and Master Fateh Muhammad, a teacher at agricultural college who used to have a good collection of Arabic story books].
I remember some of my strolls, accompanied by one of my colleagues, in the rural area around the town. We had to walk the fields, pray in a deserted village Mosque and enjoy the villager’s hospitality when they offered a drink of “Lassi” to us.
There had been an ancient historical site, Harappa by name, very near to the town which I was able to visit in one of our outings. Brother Waqar, the elder brother of Absar, was a lovely, humble young man whose company I enjoyed. Suddenly came the news that he had to leave us heading towards Karachi where his eldest brother, Izhar Ahmed Qureshi, wanted him to join his construction company. With the saddest hearts, we gave him a farewell in a local tea house. Little did I know that I had to follow suit within weeks of his departure.
In 1961, Jamia Islamia (the Islamic University) had been set up in Madina, the City of the Prophet (SAW). They welcomed students from every Muslim country. In the first batch of 18 students from Pakistan, my name was one of them. Long after I came to know how my name was selected. My father approached Maulana Muhammad Dawood Ghaznavi, the then president of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, to consider my name as one of the candidates. He welcomed my father’s request and sent my name to the Saudi Ambassador in Karachi.
With sadness in my heart but with high expectations of the future, I gave farewell to my family members at Montgomery railway station who were all there to see me off. That was the first time I was leaving home on a long journey to an unknown place, the only metropolitan city of Pakistan.
Apart from three children of my parents who died in infancy, I had six siblings till 1962.
- Eldest sister: Sabira Khatoon (b. 1936 at Banaras, India). Her wedding took place in Lyallpur. The groom, Hafiz Abdul-Rabb was the son of a cousin of my father. That was the first time when I saw the close relatives of my father, his uncles (or cousins of his father). She had to leave for Karachi after the wedding. (She is still in Karachi with one son and five daughters).
- My elder brother, Shu’aib Hasan (b. 1940, Banaras, India). We studied together till 1958, when he passes his studies in engineering at Lyallpur Polytechnic first and then at Diyal Singh College at Lahore. As I was fond of writing and them creating hand-written magazines, he created for me a hand made press. It was like a slate of stone on which glue and certain material was spread. Then the hand-written pages (in Arabic) were pasted upon it to make copies. It was again a childish exercise which turned into a hobby. (After a successful career in PIA and Saudi Arabia, he lives in Canada with his daughter and grandchildren).
- My younger brother, Khubaib Hasan (b. 1946 at Malairkotla, India). He attended Naya Madrassa of Jamaat Islami at Johra, Lahore and then joined Sabriya Sirajiya scholl in Lyallpur. (As a professional medical doctor, he now practices in Islamabad after serving a long time in Saudi Arabia).
- Suhail Hasan (b. 1951 in Lahore). As a child in Lyallpur, he received the primary education there. (After graduating from Madinah and Riyadh Universities, he is occupied in his teaching and research work at the International Islamic University in Islamabad).
- Raghib Hasan (b.13.10.1956 in Lahore). (Studied in Madinah, then in Faisalabad and Islamabad, then worked with the Muslim World League Pakistan office, Islamabad until his death on the morning of 8th February 2014).
- Ahmad Hasan (b. 1961 at Montgomery). (Studied in Madinah, Faisalabad and Islamabad where he stays now).
- Hamid Hasan (b. 1963 in Karachi). He was a later addition to the family when I had already moved to Madinah. (Like his elder two brothers, he studied in all three places, then completed his M.A. in Cambridge and Ph.D in Australia in economics. Now works as a professor at Hafoof University in Saudi Arabia).
My teachers and the Books which I studied with them
Normally, because of an objective to pass the exam, time did not allow me to complete reading each and every book in the syllabus. Therefore I have marked ( C ) meaning ‘complete’ after such books which I have read from the beginning to the end. Otherwise, I have read selected parts of it. It mostly applies to the six Hadith collection which I was able to study completely later in Medinah or after my arrival in London in 1976.
- My Father: Sheikh Abdul Ghaffar Hasan
- Tafsir: 1. Al-Baidawi & Jalalain
- Hadith: 2. Sahih Muslim, 3. Sunan Tirmidhi, 4. Sunan Al-Nasa’I, 5. Sunan Abu Dawood, 6. Sunan Ibn Majah, 7. Riyad-ul-Salihin
- Usul Hadith: 8. Nukhbat-ul-Fikr ( C ), 9. Muqaddima Ibn al-Salah ( C )
- Usul Tafsir: 10. Al-Fauz Al-Kabir
- Al-Ba’ith Al-Hadith ( C ) in Madinah
- Islamic Philosophy: 12. Hujjatullah Al-Baligha, 13. Muqaddima Ibn Khaldun, six parts ( C ), 15. Shazah Shuzoor al-Dhahab ( C )
- Arabic Eloquence: 16. Al-Balaghat-ul-Waziha ( C )
- Arabic Prose: 17. Al-Qira’at-ul-al-Rashida, 3 parts ( C ), 18. Al-Nazarat by Al-Manfaluti ( C )
- Arabic Poetry: 19. Diwan al-Hamasa, 20. Al-Mu’allaqat al-Saba, 21. Diwan al-Mutanabbi
- The History of Arabic Literature: 22. Tarikh al-Adab Al-Arabi ( C )
- Logic: 23. A booklet on logic ( C )
- Islamic history: 24. Tarikh al-Umam al-Islamia by Al-Khuzari ( C ), 25. Tarikh al-Khulafa by Al-Suyuti ( C )
- Fiqh: 26. Kanz-al-Daqa’iq
- Sheikh Abdullah Verowalvi
- Sahih al-Bukhari
- Mu’atta Imam Malik
- Sheikh Ghulam Ahmad Al-Hariri
- Fiqh: 29. Bidaya-tul-Mujtahid
- Tafsir: 30. Al-Jalalain
- Arabic prose: 31. Maqamat al-Hariri
- Arabic poetry: 32. Diwan al-Mutanabi
- Sheikh Abdullah of Jami’a Rashidiya
- Ilm al-Kalam: 33. Musayara with Musamara
- Sheikh Muhammad Siddiq
- Fiqh: 34. Al-Hidaya
- Usul Fiqh: 35. Nur-al-Anwar
- Sheikh Ghulumullah Khan
- Tafsir: 36. A speedy circle of Tafsir in Rawalpindi
- Shaikh Asim Al-Hadad
- Basic lessons in Arabic
- Books with my own study
- A fiction by Jurgy Zaidan ( C )
- Qatful-Azhar by Arbury (Poetry)
- Al-Mufaddaliyat (Poetry)
- Siraji in the Knowledge of Inheritance
Part 3 – 1962-1963
It was sometime in June 1962 that I finally left Montgomery. With my suitcase packed by my mother, I was waiting on the railway station with my father and brothers who were there to see me off. Montgomery railway station had only one platform, the longest one in the country’s entire railway network. One half is for the train coming from Lahore (the North) and the other half for trains coming from Multan and Karachi (the South). Of course it had two railway lines to let the trains transfer from the main line to the one along the platform.
It was a long journey for me to travel alone to the metropolis, Karachi, the port city which provided the air and sea access to travel abroad. It was a stunning journey which took the passengers through the fertile lands of Punjab, then across Punjnand, the great water reservoir where the river Sindh hits the other four rivers of Punjab, turning into a massive trail of water. Through Multan and Bahawalpur, it enters into the desert wilderness of Sindh province to which the river Sindh has brought a gift of fertility and growth on both banks. By reaching Rohry Junction, once again we had to cross Sakkhar Bridge, one of the biggest in the whole country. In the early hours of the following morning, long before arriving at my destination at Karachi Cantt, I could see miles and miles of populated area on both sides of the mainline. Karachi, the city of immigrants had expanded towards the Arabian Sea. Stepping outside the station, a tanga took me to the old Golimar where my sister had her abode. The locality, with immigrant population had grown haphazardly with all types of houses mostly with brick walls and tin roofs. In the main room, during the hot hours of mid-day, all family members, some on the bed and some on the floor would enjoy their siesta. From the ceiling, a huge flapper of folded chaddar was hanging like a massive feather, tied with a long string; this was the ceiling fan. It was the duty of the children to take it in turns to pull the string and let the big flapper move and break the air. Soon those hand operated fans gave way to the electric ones.
In Karachi, I had to travel each day by bus to the city, the hub of commercial and state activities, to arrange for getting a passport, then a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia. It was not an easy task to meet all the requirements needed for acquiring a passport but with the help of Ishtiaq Ahmad, father’s maternal cousin, I was able to get hold of the paperwork. Still I needed a verification from an authority, with a status of section officer in a Ministry. Ishtiaq’s step brother, Uncle Khaliq Ahmad was such an authority who was glad to see me embarking upon a noble mission. He had no hesitation in stamping my papers. In a few days I had my green passport in my hand, with my name as Suhaib Hasan Salafi on it. The addition of ‘Salafi’ to my name was an innovation by my brother in law, Abdul Rabb Salafi, the son of Abdullah Salafi.
We had to visit the Saudi Consular (someone) Fatani to get our passports stamped and tickets in our hands. ‘I’ has turned to ‘we’ because by that time I had made the acquaintance of some other young men who were the part of the first batch of Pakistani students selected to study in Medinah; Muhammad Salafi from Ghuraba Ahl-e-Hadith was one of them. In the Saudi consulate, we felt the cool breeze emerging from the air condition unit which had its seat in the wall. One day he gave us the astounding news of our travel arrangements. We were all going on a sea voyage aboard Safina Hujjaj, the biggest Pakistani ship which had carried a massive five thousand pilgrims returning from Hajj that year. Now it was ready to sail back to Jeddah, to bring the second wave of pilgrims.
One day a friend took me to a teaching circle at Idara Ma’arif Islami, Nizamabad. A young teacher, sitting on a chair, was addressing a host of relatively younger group. That was my first encounter with Professor Khurshid Ahmad. (Who knew that thirty five years later, my son was destined to marry his daughter!) He had been an ardent follower of Maulana Maududi. As a former head of Islami Jamiat Talaba, an off-shoot of Jamaat Islami and the editor of its weekly organ, he was a known figure among the youth. Unlike Dr Israr Ahmad, who preceded him in presidency of the Jamiat and joining the Jama’at, he remained attached to Jama’at after the great upheaval of 1957 which led to a schism in Jama’at’s rank.
By that time, Dr Israr Ahmad had established his office, very near to Jinnah’s big mausoleum under the banner of ‘Qureshi Construction Company’. Though he had shifted from his profession, he never abandoned his Quranic circle which he started at Montgomery. Once, accompanied by one of his close friends, Allah Baksh Sayyal, we were strolling beside the highways of Nazim Abad. Allah Baksh Sayyal pointed towards the earth under our feet, which was full of pebbles and sand and said: “This is what Jeddah looks like”.
During my stay in Karachi, I made acquaintance with Abdul Mun’im al-Adawi, an Arab settled in Pakistan. He used to publish a monthly magazine “Al-Arab” by name. The journal used to cover all the activities carried out by the Arab ambassadors and the Arab community in Karachi. It wasn’t much of a pleasant read but through this journal, I developed a friendship with his son who would relate to me his adventures; an imaginative fairy-play to amuse both of us.
At last, on a hot July evening, the day had come when I had to leave the Kemari Shore to embark upon an unknown world: a world in pursuit of knowledge. Waving my hand, from the deck of Safina Hujjaj, I said farewell once again to my father and my brothers, who by that time had also moved to Karachi as well. Gradually, the ship started drifting away to the deeper blue waters of the Arabian Sea with eighteen passengers on board, the first batch of Pakistani students to join the Islamic University of Madinah. The other seventeen were all new to me and I was the youngest among them. We had our sleeping bags type of bedding rolled up on the floor in a big compartment. Soon we were introduced to each other.
Let me see if I can recollect their names:
- Mohammad Salafi from Ghuraba Ahl-e-Hadith, Karachi
- Abdul Razzaq Iskander from Binnori Town, Karachi
- Ghulam Qadir from Baluchistan
- Muhammad Qasim from Baluchistan as well
- Yusuf Kazim from Jamia Salafiyyah, Lyallpur
- Bashir Ahmad from Taqwiyat-ul-Uloom, Lahore
- Abdul Rahman Nasir from Lahore
- Salahuddin from Ocara
- Sufi Ahmad Din from Punjab
- Hasan Jan from Charsaddah
- Abdullah Kaka Khail from Peshawar
- Muhammad Ibrahim Khalil from Skardu
- Two students from east Pakistan
- Abu Bakar from Binnori Town Jamia, originally from Mozambique
I fail to remember the names of the other three. The fate of all these young and excited students was a mystery. Who was going to shine as a teacher, scholar, Imam, Mufti, speaker or politician was all in the making.
By the time of writing these memoirs in July 2016, to my knowledge six have passed away. The latest among them was my class-mate for four years in Madina, Shaikh Ibrahim Khalil of Skardu, Baltistan who breathed his last in Islamabad at the end of June 2016, after serving for fifty years after graduation in Mombasa, Kenya. How fortunate was I, when I met him at his house, after many years, during my latest tour of Kenya in February 2016.
Let me come back to our carrier, Safina Hujjaj, a huge sailing edifice of five or seven floors. We spent much of our time standing beside the railings, at the front decks, turning our gazes to the stormy waves of an agitated ocean, which kept on tossing the mighty ship like a toy. What an amazing sight it was to see another ship which happened to pass by even at a far distance, or of jumping and diving dolphin, small and big creatures of the water. It is at times like these, when one is on a boat in the middle of a vast and seemingly endless ocean, that one sees why the boat has been given the status of ‘sign of Allah’. That ship was our whole universe at the time, our only means of survival in an unruly and merciless ocean.
Apart from the crew, a young Indonesian man was also aboard the ship. Everyone was keen to talk to him.
“How is Indonesia?” we asked.
The young man must have had some dealings with Arabs as he was able to construct a couple of simple sentences. He responded to our questions thus:
“Fi Muslim Kathir, Al-Hamdulillah
Fi Masajid Kathir, Al-Hamdulillah
Fi Cinema Kathir, Al-Hamdulillah.”
(Thanks to Allah, there are many Muslims, thanks to Allah there are many mosques, thanks to Allah there are many cinemas.)
After five days, the southern coast of Oman, Hazramaut and Yemen appeared to our grateful eyes. It had only been five days since we left land, yet we were yearning to see it again. Nearer we came to the port of Aden after crossing the gateway of Al-Mundab, our curiosity to see an Arab land at its height. Embarrassed and horrified, we saw our Indonesian co-passenger chained to a bench. We learned that the poor fellow was on this ship on its previous trip to Jeddah but was refused entry to land because he was travelling without an entry visa. Courier was forced to take him back until his visa was sorted out. So he had to shuttle between Jeddah and Karachi for an unknown time. He was to be chained lest he should try to escape at the port.
We were allowed to visit Aden, still under British Protectorate, for a few hours until the ship could fill its belly with enough fuel to carry on. Though a small boat we came to land at the port. A neat and clean bus took us, through hills and valleys, to the small town of Aden. What a great and amusing experience for us to use our knowledge of Arabic to all Arab hosts around us. We walked the foreign streets and did some window shopping ( a term I did not learn until later in life) until we entered a café to quench our thirst with a taste of coke. One of us was in charge to pay on behalf of us all. Soon a row started with the shop keeper who insisted that we had consumed twenty bottles of coke while we knew that we had drank eighteen. It seemed that two strangers had mingled with our group, finished their drinks and disappeared quietly, leaving us to pay their bill. It was not a good sight of the shop keeper shouting to us at our backs when we had left his shop. So our first encounter in an Arab land was not a pleasant one.
We were two days away from Jeddah. We sailed along the Red Sea, the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula constantly in view. Passing by Yalamlam, a point on the Yemini coast, we were told to enter into the state of Ihram, a ritual required of each pilgrim coming from the south, either for Umrah or Hajj. Our intention was for Umrah; we bathed, perfumed ourselves, and dressed in the two unsewn white sheets of the pilgrim. We then offered two rak’ahs of prayer.
I was fortunate to be the first person in my immediate family to be blessed with fulfilling this sublime act of obedience. What a privilege to be called to the House of God.
After two days journey, the ship was anchored at a distance from the port of Jeddah. It was a unique sight of the first town in Hijaz. Jeddah was at that time a small town with no sky-scrapers or magnificent buildings. Unlike Karachi, the ship had no direct mooring on the bay. A small boat took us to the port. We could see, at a far distance, hundreds of pilgrims waiting earnestly to aboard this ship which would take them all back home; home sweet home. Abdul Aziz Linwaji, the Madina University’s representative in Jeddah was there to greet us; to facilitate our exit and to host us for the remaining few hours until we took our bus to Makkah.
At his spacious residence, he offered us food and drinks while he was busy on his phone speaking to someone in Madinah to let them know about our arrival. Again and again, he had to turn the handle attached to the handset and shout “hello, hello” until the exchange would be able to connect him to the other person on the line. He was a lovely, good-mannered man who did not know how to say “no” to any of our requests.
A mini-bus took us to the most sacred city of Makkah. We had to stop for a while at Bahra, the only rest-area type of a point between the 70 km ride to our destination. The road leading to the Sacred Mosque of Ka’ba goes up and down and long before reaching there we had a glimpse of the tall minarets of the mosque basking in the sunlight of a hot July month. Our bus made its way through a narrow road leading us to the Abdul Aziz gate. Beyond a few steps, Ka’ba, the House of Allah was in our sights. Covered in its traditional black curtains, its marble floor gleaming in the light, it was there to welcome everyone who comes to pay homage to it. With the supplication to grant it more dignity and honour we started our Tawaaf by kissing the black stone glowing in one of its corners.
Passing by Al-Hateem and rubbing our right hand on the Yemen corner, we passed by the black stone once again to mark our first circle. Tawaaf was completed at the end of the seventh circle followed by two Raka’at prayer at Maqam Ibrahim. Then we turned to the wall of Ka’ba: a place to embrace and supplicate as long as you can. Heading towards the hill of Safa, we have to pass by the wall of Zamzam to drink the blessed water. In those days, both the station of Ibrahim and Zamzam well were inside a covered area, the first one with a small canopy above it and second one with a mausoleum type building surrounding it.
At present, in order to make room for the pilgrims to do Tawaaf easily, the building has been removed completely. The water finds its way to the drinkers through pipes connected to the underground well and projecting at many places inside and outside the Haram (precinct of the Sacred Mosque). As for the station of Ibrahim, the canopy is replaced by a glass-covered column. After walking between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, we completed our Umrah. The hair of our heads was then shaved or trimmed before we could remove our Ihram.
This was our first visit to the Ka’ba, and was to be followed by many more throughout my life. Apart from the covered area of Mataf, the remnant parts of open floor around Ka’ba were cut into many pebbled-ridden pieces open for the visitors to spread their mats upon them for prayers in the cool hours of the evening. Ramla (sandy area) was the popular name by which they were known.
The sacred mosque was surrounded by narrow alleys, shops of every kind and some leading to the minor market (Suq Saghir) which offered all types of fruits, vegetables, meat, live chickens, spices and grocery. Similar was the scene outside Masa’a (the place of walking between Safa and Marwa). Somewhere within these alleys was a two-storey building with a sign of Maktaba Al-Haram (the Mosque library). That was exactly the same location where the Prophet (SAW) was born in 570 AD. Once the rituals of Umrah were over, we took our way back to Jeddah. This had been a short but blessed stopover. We had to continue with our 420 km journey to Madinah.
The coastal road passes through Rabigh and Mastura; sea on your left and vast sandy plains on your right for about 270 km. Once you approach Badr (the famous battle-field which witnessed the first encounter between the Muslims from Madinah and the polytheists of Makkah in 612 AD), small hills turn into barren mountains throughout the way to Madinah. You can see oasis here and there; streams of water bringing coolness and growth. At a far distance from Madinah the following morning, we had the first glimpse of the tall and glowing minarets of the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW).
“May Allah bless him and grant peace to him” was the cry on our lips.
We passed by the old Madinah railway station: the end spot of Hijaz railway; a remnant of a glorious past but now a ghost town with old engines, shattered looking carriages and a deserted platform. Then comes a small old mosque with one minaret of a Taskish architect. That was the gateway to Madinah. We were temporarily housed in Hotel Bahauddin, just left to the mosque if you are facing Qiblah. The nearest gate of the Mosque to the hotel was Bab-Majidi (named after Sultan Abdul Majid of Ottoman Empire) but we had to enter the mosque, in our very first visit, from Bab-us-Salam, on the western side of the mosque which used to face the market leading to Masjid Ghamama. There were two more gates, Bab-ur-Rahma which takes you to the front old building of the Ottoman construction and another gate opening to the new added building by King Sa’ud. The old Ottoman building with red round pillars; front wall decorated with multi-lines of the verses of the Qur’an in Naskh calligraphic gold writing, some large and some in small letters. At the middle of the wall was the Mihrab (niche) where the Imam lead the prayer. After entering through Bab-us-Salam one walks until reaching the house of the Prophet (SAW) on your left, which now accommodates three graves: that of the Prophet (SAW), Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA). The whole tomb is covered from all four sides by iron railings. There in front of that wall, where there is a marking which faces all three graves, you have to stand and offer your salutation to the Prophet (SAW) and his two companions. Then you turn towards Qibla and supplicate as long as you can. On the eastern end is Bab-Jibreel to let you exit. A small area beside the Western wall of the House of the Prophet (SAW) is known as Rauda (The Garden of the Paradise) extending as far as the pulpit. The Prophet himself declared: “what is between my house and my pulpit is a garden from among the Gardens of Paradise”. (Bukhari, Muslim)
This area is now at the back of the front four rows. Here you offer your Nafl prayer beside the daily obligatory prayers. Visitors come in huge numbers to look and pray, so courtesy demands they leave quickly to allow others to share in the wonderful blessings. A section is screened off for the women to pray in privacy. In those days, the eastern part of the Mosque was allocated to women who could enter the mosque from three eastern gates or from Bab-un-Nisa at the Northern side, straight opposite to the Qibla and next to Bab-ul-Majidi. In between the old Ottoman building and the newly added Saudi extension, these used to open areas with pebbles under you and sky on your head and was known as Ramla (sandy area). On its both sides was the covered new extension. On the right for men and on the left for women. In the area at the right, on the wall in front of you, was the only clock which gave the Arabic time. This clock rang its bell at 12 midnight, which is the Maghrib time or the start of the new date. According to Arabic time, the night precedes the day. So the Islamic month first day would start from Maghrib and this is why you start praying Tarawih, the moment you see the crescent of Ramadan, followed by Isha prayer, even before beginning your first fasting day. So Maghrib was always at 12 followed by Isha Adhan at 1:30. You can say that Islamic day starts around six hours earlier than the Western-orientated of starting the new day from midnight. We, the students from Pakistan, appointed this place in front of the Arabic clock as our point of gathering in the mosque throughout our four years stay in Madinah.
My Memoirs – Part 4
We had the privilege to be hosted by the University at Bahauddin Hotel at the western side of the mosque for three days. The University was closed because of the summer vacation but Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz, the Vice-President, was in his office with a number of his staff including Sheikh Muhammad Nasir Al-Aboodi, the Registrar.
Sheikh Ibn Baz, though a blind person, had been most popular and famous scholar in the whole Kingdom. His accent was a bit hard for us to comprehend but his warm welcome inspired us all. Then we had an audience with both Sheikh Nasir Al-Aboodi and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zaid who was in charge of our lodging. The University was located in a vast piece of land in the Valley of Aqiq, away from the city. The buildings consisted of a number of villas scattered all over that vast area which has been fenced from all sides. Each villa comprised of four big rooms with a spacious veranda to which each room had its opening door. A kitchen and washing room were added to it as well. With four beds in each room, our delegation was accommodated in two of these villas. Once you enter these premises from the central gate, you end up at the centre of the complex where the whole admin block was situated. On its left were an array of classrooms and on its right were the students’ lodging. On the extreme right was the mosque with its sole minaret.
The whole land was surfaced with pebbles, which unlike sand would help a walker to have a steady walk. This land was next to the royal palace of Madinah and the buildings have been used as barracks for the guards and the soldiers. At the back of the building was a vast hollow wilderness surrounded by hills and mountains, all reddish in colour and barren in nature. On the top of the highest among them we could see a military post with a cannon beside a mast carrying a flag.
I shared the room with two of my Pakistani colleagues, Muhammad Ibrahim Khalil of Baltistan and Abdul Rahman Nasir along with a Lebanese student, Muhammad Farooq Naja. The inauguration of the University had taken place a few months ago in 1961, so we had missed the opportunity to be among the pioneer students of this great seat of knowledge. The first batch of our Indian colleagues had already completed their first year and most of them had returned to India to enjoy the summer leave. We, with a few other students, were there to pass our time until the new session started once again. We were given a host of books in Aqeeda, Tafsir, Hadith and Nahw (grammar) to prepare ourselves for the entry test. At noon it was too hot for us to have a pleasant siesta as there were no coolers or electric fans. Even if there was any, it could not operate because the power was completely cut off at day time. We used to sprinkle some water on the carpet to have some comfort.
Each day after Asr prayer, the University bus, similar to the school buses in America, used to wait for us to take us to the Prophet’s Mosque and then bring us back after Isha prayer. Our driver, Ali al-Zahrani, was a jolly talkative fellow who had a great zeal to impart the true teachings of Islam to all those carried by him in that short journey to the City. We enjoyed his Arabic, his humour and his hospitality. At the mosque, we had the honour to attend, between Maghrib and Isha, the circles held by Sheikh Umar Fullata of Mali and Sheikh Muhammad Mukhtar al-Shanqiti of Mauritania in Hadith and Fiqh respectively.
There were some other Sheikhs like Jabir from Algeria and Sheikh Nuruddin, one of the famous Qaris who was originally from Turkistan. The Mosque was surrounded with markets, narrow alleys on all four sides, the toilets and wudu places were available within those alleys as well. On the eastern side, adorned with three gates, Babus Salam, Bab Abu Bakr, and Bab al-Rahma, there used to be an open area known as Baraha leading through a street (i.e. Shari’ Uyaina) with shops on both sides to Masjid Al-Ghamama, built on the actual site of Eid prayer during the time of the Prophet (SAS).
As stated earlier, we used to assemble at the place near the clock with Arabic time. It was a good time for us to have our own study, attend some of the circles going on in the mosque, have a stroll outside the mosque, have a glance of new and old books at Maktaba Ilmiyya of Al-Turkistani or Maktaba Salafiyya of Abdul Mohsin or a visit to one of the restaurants to save us being occupied preparing the dinner by ourselves.
Among those circles which attracted me was that of Sheikh Umar Fullata of Mali (Africa). With his clear voice, pure Arabic presentation, comprehensive elucidation of the Hadith under discussion, he was a symbol of a very knowledgeable but humble person. I remember describing him in my letter to my father who, in response, asked me to convey his greetings to him.
Sheikh Attiya Salim (of Egypt originally) had to take our entry test. We had to write an article in Arabic of our choice. I remembered writing the article on the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. Because of my keen interest in Arabic prose, I was among the eight out of the whole group of eighteen, who were selected to join the “Kulliya Shari’ya” (Shari’ya College, the only college existing at the time) whereas the remaining ten had to go through the preparatory course of three years known as ‘Thanawiya’ (secondary). The studies started with the beginning of the new academic year (1382 A.H).
The classrooms were no more different from any higher school. Two students a desk was the norm. My desk-mate was Mohammad Ibrahim Khalil of Baltistan and had been so for the whole four years course. We used to have four lessons of around 50 minutes each with a break of ten minutes after the first three.
Let me introduce my teachers:
- Sheikh ‘Abdul Mohsin Hamad Al-‘Abbaad
I think he must have been a fresh graduate from the Shari’a College of Riyadh. He was our teacher of “Al-Aqida Al-Tahawiya”, a major book on the beliefs of a Muslim, introduced in the syllabus after a student had already gone through Kitab al-Tawhid of Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdul Wahhab and Al-Aqida al-Wasitiyya of Imam Ibn Taimiyya. He used to keep standing holding the book in his hand and then keep on moving right and left elucidating the points raised by Ibn Abi Alizz, the exegist of the Aqeeda of Imam Al-Tahawi. Though the renowned book has been compiled by a Hanafi scholar, it was not popular in the Islamic seminaries of India and Pakistan as they were always fascinated by ‘Aqa’id Nasafi: Our Hanafi colleagues were always at odds with the Sheikh as they found it difficult to reconcile with their deeply-rooted beliefs based on Maturidi and Ash’ari teachings. For four years, the Sheikh and the book were hand in hand. The Sheikh was a simple and very humble man. His sincerity, knowledge and good understanding of the aims and objectives of the University won him to be a true successor of Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, when he had to leave Madinah, many years later, to take a prestigious post of the Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the death of Sheikh Muhammad bin Ibrahim in Riyadh. In the eighties, I had the honour to accompany Sheikh Abdul Mohsin Al-Abbad on his appointments, when he came to London, for a check on his eye sight which started failing. One day he accepted to be my guest at home in Wood Green, London N22. I never knew his most gifted son Abdul Razzaq but after meeting him in some conferences in the UK and later at Sheikh’s newly-built house at the rear of the University building. In my days at Madina, the University was the farthest point with no house around it except for the royal palace adjacent to its southern wall.
- Sheikh Muhammad Nasiruddin Al-Albani (d. 2.10.1999)
I was blessed to attend his lectures on the explanation of the Hadith collection entitled Bulugh al-Maram by Ibn Hajar with its explanation “Subul-us-Salam” by Amir al-Sana’ani as well as his Isnad lessons based upon the Ahadith of Sahih Muslim. Though he was of an Albanian origin, he was raised and brought up in Damascus (Syria). His expression of Arabic was clear, arguments always convincing with lots of references and quotes. Because he has to deal with Fiqh issues, exchange of arguments between him and the students ofdifferent Fiqhi background was a usual phenomenon each and every day. In the short break of ten minutes after the lecture, all teachers used to go to the staff room for a break except for our Sheikh who would leave the classroom only to take his seat on the step in the veranda with students around him; once again busy answering their questions with patience and calmness. Once the break was over, he used to move to the next class room.
He was very open and welcoming to the students and so was his car. Just after the fourth period when classes were over and the teachers were on their way to their homes in Madinah, some of the students were eager to go to the town either to pray Zuhur in the Mosque of the Prophet (SAS), or to keep an appointment with a visitor. There were no buses operating at that time. You had to ask for a lift which was wholeheartedly available with Sheikh Al-Albani. His car was not locked. So some students would exploit his generosity to open his car and get seated in the back seat. Some even occupied the passenger seat as well. Once Sheikh was coming with one of his friends to take him to the town. To his surprise, all seats have been occupied before his arrival. He had to plead to the one sitting in the passenger seat to make a place for his visitor.
I happened to be the part of those two camps, in Khaibar and the other in Mastura, organised for the students under the guidance of a number of our teachers and mentors including Sheikh Al-Albani. Sheikh always used to begin his talk with Khutba-tul Haja, the famous sermon of the Prophet (SAW). It was a brilliant occasion to hear from him the account of the battle of Khaibar (7AH) while we were in Khaibar, a small town, 166 km away from Madinah towards north, the main highway leading to Tabuk and Jordan. In Madinah, looking at mountain Uhud, I used to always wonder what lies behind it. When we set on our journey to Khaibar, we had to take the road that passed behind Uhud mountain. It was just a vast wilderness with mounts and hills scattered all the way to our destination.
In the camp we had the common Arabian hospitality of rice cooked with a full sheep. Big kettles of tea has always been on the fire almost the whole day. In Fajr prayer, especially we used to enjoy his melodious recitations of the Qur’an. The two days camp was all educational and Tarbiya-motivated. For recreation, the travelling in Hijaz, glancing the black and brownish mountains around us, or a rare sight of wild rabbits or lizards, gun-shots of hunters within our caravan was enough for the excited students, especially those well-versed in history. It was a cold night both at Khaibar and then in Mastura. We were all stuck in our blankets at night. The entrance of the tent was covered with a thick rug but the cold breeze could still find its way in to fill us with a chill in our spines. In the early hours of the morning, one could hear some low noise and little movements. It was not yet Fajar time and still you could see some fortunate souls, students and their teachers, among them Sheikh Al-Albani as well, standing while facing towards Qiblah and offering their pre-dawn devotion to Allah. Allah knows how many of us got up and did the same and how many waited for Fajar Adhan to wake them eventually.
I was keen to visit him at his house to ask him some questions about Isnad and convey to him the greeting (salam) of my father as well. And one day I was able to knock on his door. His son showed me in where the Sheikh was sitting in his chair surrounded by packs of books, a paper inserted to a small board in front of him while he got his notebook on the table as if he was in the process of checking and correlating material at hand. (Today, the laptop screen has replaced the cardboard frame of the Sheikh). After inquiring about my health and studies and offering me the traditional Arabic tea in a small cup, he started concentrating on his work. Though he answered my questions, he was more concerned with his books and research. This is how I found him always engrossed in his research work; not wasting a single moment of his life. Of course if I was accompanied by a Sheikh, he could have given me more attention. Nonetheless I was able to have a short glance at his study and the way he occupied himself with the work.
It is a pity that he fell prey to the jealousy known to be one of the ailments of contemporary scholars. Sheikh Albani used to have some odd opinions such as:
- Permission for a woman to expose her face in public through veiling, as a preferred opinion with him. I remember, while I was still in Pakistan, that an Arabic translation of Maududi’s book on Hijab was published in Syria with an appendix by Sheikh Al-Albani refuting the opinion of the author on the face veil as an obligation. It was done without the knowledge of the author and caused a great embarrassment to him.
- Wearing gold is not allowed for women except if the bangles are not completely circular, i.e they have a cut in their shape.
- A menstruating woman is allowed to remain sitting inside the mosque.
- The worship I’tikaf is not allowed in each and every mosque, only in the three major ones: the sacred mosque of Makkah, the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW) and the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
What disturbed them more was his stance on the Salafi understanding of Taqlid i.e one should not follow one particular Madhhab but should pick from each Imam what is closer to Qu’ran and Sunnah. Though the official Madhhab in Saudi Arabia was to follow Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal who is held to be the Imam of Salafi school of thought, but they are keen to follow him in the matters of Fiqh just like the other three followers of Madhahib: Maliki, Hanafi and Shafi. They share Ahl-e-Hadith in the matters of beliefs, the repugnance of innovations, exceeding the limits in the veneration of the saints but differ with them in the issue of Taqlid.
It was difficult for them to convince Sheikh Ibn Baz of their complaints as he supported the Salafi and Ahl-e-Hadith views vehemently. So they approached Mufti Muhammad bin Ibrahim, the first Chair of the University as well. This is how they were able to get support to get Sheikh Al-Albani to quit his seat in the University and return to Syria. At least we had an audience of one full year with him. Though he left Saudi Arabia, his vast material on Hadith, like the famous serial of Books on Sahih Hadith and the other on weak and fabricated ones, penetrated their way to the bookshops in the Kingdom everywhere.
Later, long after my graduation, I have seen him in Jeddah where he was surrounded by a vast number of his pupils and admirers in a friend’s big compound. It was no secret that he used to have very cordial relations with Sheikh Ibn Baz. In my opinion, both are shining examples of respect and honour found among scholars even though they differ in opinions held by them. Except for a few, Sheikh al-Albani had become the sole authority in the science of Hadith in our times.
Ten years after my graduation, I was blessed to accompany him, on his visit to the UK in 1977. I took him to the British Museum which used to have the library as well. We visited the main Mosque of Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith in Birmingham, Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking and several other institutions in London. At that time, very few people knew him, so there were not many people to attend his talks. I imagine how tumultuous welcome he would have if he visited a decade later when a great number of the students of knowledge, mostly the graduates of Madinah were running a number of mosques and Islamic centres.
We were invited by our friend Hafiz Nisaruddin Ahmad to his flat for dinner. With us on the table was a grandson of a great Indian Salafi scholar, Maulana Samarudi. The young man was not very well-versed in the academic studies but was too enthusiastic in his practices. He saw Sheikh using a fork and knife on the table. He could not resist to say: “Sheikh! It is not a Sunnah to use fork and knife?”
Sheikh replied smilingly: “What about your watch on your wrist? Is it a Sunnah?”
In another sitting, someone asked him: “Though we people did migrate to this country and got settled down here but we are very much worried about so many impediments we keep on facing to practice our Deen.”
Sheikh remarked by saying: “there is an old Syrian saying: If you do not want to see horrible dreams, then do not sleep in the cemetery!”
That was his mild and wise way to argue with the opponents. He never showed disgust or anger at any question but always took the conversant by gradually coming to the point.
I am thankful to him when he asked me why I had started shaving the hair of my beard around the cheeks. I was sorry to say that it happened during my days in Nairobi where I had been delegated to teach just after my graduation from Madinah in 1967. He told me that the hairs on the cheeks are part of the beard and they should not be exposed to the razor. I took his advice and since then I only touched my beard in its length and from around the sides. Sheikh was of the opinion that the beard could be shortened beyond a handful of length. When I think about him I always remember some of his favourite pieces of admonition based upon Hadith such as:
- The sermon of need (khutbat al-haja)
- The Hadith about Sadaqa in light of the story of the Mudar tribe when they came to the Prophet (SAW) in a miserable state.
- Hadith of Mu’awiya bin Hakam about his sneezing in the prayer.
- The saying of Abdullah bin Mas’ood about preserving the prayers in congregation.
- His explanation, in our class, of the Hadith of Ibn Abbas about omens as reported in Sahih Muslim.
May Allah have mercy on him, accept his services to Islam and elevate his ranks in Al-Firdous.
- Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Shinqiti (died 10.01.1974)
A man of great calibre, with an astounding memory which kept assisting him with the relevant Ayat of Al-Qur’an to his topic and a galaxy of lines of poetry from among the famous texts in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh and Al-Nahaw (Grammar). When he spoke as if a river was flowing which had never to stop. He was our teacher in Tafsir (exegesis of the Qur’an) and Fiqh as well. The Sheikh, as his name comes from Shanqit (Mauritania presently), a desert area at the north end of the African continent. He was famous in his country because of his vast knowledge and God-given ability to decide on the disputes among people. He came to Saudi Arabia for Hajj but his fame attracted the scholars to remain there for the benefit of the students of knowledge. This is how he settled down in Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom in the newly set up Sharia college. The day the Islamic University was established in 1961 in Madinah, city of the Prophet (SAW), he became one of its pioneer teachers and mentors. Once an Iranian pilgrim, the rector of Tehran University, during his visit to Madinah, entered our class as a visitor when our Sheikh was delivering his lecture. He heard him attentively and as soon as the Sheikh was about to finish he took his permission to say a few words. What he said can be summarised as follows:
Friends! I have attended a lot of institutions and seats of knowledge but I have never seen a person like you Sheikh who appears to me like Ibn Jarir in Tafsir, like Bukhari in Hadith, like Ibn Malik in grammar, like Zamakhshari in the interpretation of the Ayat, like Ibn Sa’ad in the Knowledge of Tabaqat (the early generations of Islam). He kept on comparing him to the eminent scholars of the past and then asked permission to leave. The Sheikh was amused but he did not remark more than saying two words: “Eish Hadha!” (“What is that?”).
Once during his lecture, he said amazingly, people are introduced to me with degrees like BA, MA PhD (doctorates) and then I have been asked “What degree (Shahahda in modern Arabic, which actualy means a ‘testimony’), you hold, O Sheikh?” So I have to tell them: “I hold the highest Shahada i.e. Shahada of La ilaha illalah, Muhammadur Rasullulah.”
It was again his general lecture in the modest hall of the University when, after his lecture was over, the Egyptian doctor of the campus said to him: “Sheikh! I wish you could teach me all that knowledge you possess!!”
Straightaway he answered: “Provided you teach me all the medical knowledge you have!!”
Primarily he was a person of fiqh with the opinions of all jurists and their evidences on his finger tips and this is why you see him devoting 47 pages to the issue of triple divorce (in support of its validity unlike Sheikh Ibn Baz and Sheikh Al-Albani) and almost a whole volume of his tafsir (No.5) to the rituals of Hajj.
During my days in Madinah, he was still delivering his Tafseer lessons. Later on, one of his talented students, Sheikh Attiya Muhammad Salim (Egyptian), who used to be in the Registrar office in the beginning, was able to collate all the Tafseer material he had left in the form of his recorded lectures in Riyadh and Madinah and accommodated them in nine volumes by the title of: ‘Adwa-ul-Bayan fi Tafsir Al-Qu’ran bil Qu’ran’ which I acquired long after my graduation.
I remember attending his eloquent lecture in Dar-ul-Hadith of Madinah on the issue of the names and attributes of Allah Al-Mighty. It was chaired by Sheikh Ibn Baz who, according to his normal practice, used to give his comment on every speech once it comes to an end. This time it was all praise and commending remarks by him on that exhaustive discourse by Sheikh Shanqiti. Sheikh had propounded vehemently that no allegorical expression (Al-Majaz) is found in the Qur’an. He has also compiled a book on this issue.
We were told that his driver, an African, used to be his slave. The Sheikh liberated him when he came to the Kingdom but the man loved to remain with the Sheikh and joined him as a driver. I saw him once, long after my graduation, in one of my annual visits to Madinah, coming back from Nairobi. He was all praiseworthy to see me and he blessed me with his Du’a as well. I think that he must have been well-informed of my activities in the field of Da’wa in Africa.
Let me conclude with a couple of lines of poetry said by Az-Zamakhshari which I memorised after listening to it from the mouth of Sheikh in one of our lessons. In these lines, the author of “Al-Kashshaf” criticises the people of his times who are divided among a number of factions, each got prejudices to his own while they disapprove Az-Zamakhshari of his independence in his thoughts:
إذا سألوا عن مذهبي لم أبح بــه *** وأكتمــه ، كــتمانــه لــي أسـلــــمُ
فإن حنفيا قلــت ، قالــوا بأننـــي *** أبيح الطلا وهو الشراب المحـــرمُ
وإن مالكيا قلــت ، قالــوا بأننــي *** أبيــح لهـم أكـل الكلاب وهــم هــمُ
وإن شافعيا قلـت ، قالــوا بأننــي *** أبيح نكاح البنــت والبـنت تحـــرمُ
وإن حنبليا قلــت ، قالــوا بأننــي *** ثقــــيل حلــولـي بغيـــض مجســمُ
وإن قلت من أهل الحديث وحزبه *** يقولون : تيس ليس يدري ويفهمُ
تعجبت مـن هذا الزمــان وأهلـــه *** فمـا أحـد مـن ألسن الناس يسلــمُ
وأخرني دهــري وقــدم معشــــرا *** علــى أنهـم لا يعــلمــون وأعلــــمُ
ومذ أفلح الجهال أيقنت أننــــــي *** أنا الميم والأيام أفلح أعلـــــــــــمُ
- If they ask me about my Madhab, I will not reveal it. I will conceal it. Concealing is safer for me.
- If I say that I am a Hanafi, they would say: Oh! He allows drinking Nabeez while it is a prohibited drink.
- If I say that I am a Maliki, they would say that I allow eating the dogs and they are themselves (dogs).
- If I say that I am a Shafi’i, they would say that I allow marrying a sister while it is prohibited to marry such a girl.
- If I say that I am a Hanbali, they would say: Oh! He is heavy-handed, mostly despised and a believer in corporealism and incarnation.
- If I say that am of one of Ahl-e-Hadith, they would say he is a ram who doesn’t know neither understand anything.
- I wonder how is the times and the people in it. No one is safe from the tongues of the people.
- The times had pushed me behind and advanced some others because they are ignorant while I am the only one who understands.
- Since the ignorant people had become successful, I tend to believe that I am like the letter “Mim” and the times are just like a man whose both lips, upper and lower, are torn.
- According to Hanafi Fiqh, ‘Nabeez’, a drink made of fruits like dates, barley, corn and left overnight is allowed as it doesn’t reach a level which intoxicates, if consumed in small quantities. Other jurists treat it like liquor, if a greater quantity intoxicates, then a smaller quantity is also prohibited.
- According to Shafi’i Fiqh, fornication doesn’t attract a prohibition of relations. So an illegitimate daughter of a person will not be a real sister of his legitimate son. And as long as she is not his sister, he can marry her. Other jurists do not allow such a marriage because the man is still a father for both biologically.
- According to Maliki Fiqh, all sea food including the “sea dog” (i.e. the shark in Arabic) is allowed. Others say that the beast among the sea-creatures are to be treated like predators at land which are not allowed.
- Because Hanbali jurists do not give interpretation to the attributes of Allah and believe that we should believe in them as they have been stated in the Qur’an. So they believe in their literal meanings and do not allow to ask: How they should be understood. This is why they are labelled as believers in incarnation.
- Because Ahl-ul-Hadith do not follow a particular Imam, they are labelled as an animal that doesn’t know or understand anything.
- This is straightforward.
- In this line he complains that he has been discredited by the people of his times.
- Here there is a riddle in this last line. A person with his both lips torn apart cannot say the letter “mim” which needs both lips to join when pronouncing this letter. Similarly, Zamakhshari says that I have become unacceptable to my people. They cannot tolerate me.
Note: In my next article, I would mention briefly my other teachers and mentors during the first two years (1962-1964) followed by the accounts of some other events happened till my return journey to Karachi in the summer of 1964 for the annual vacation.