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My Memoirs part 22

My Memoirs 22 by Shaykh Suhaib Hasan, translated by Ali Hassan Khan, revised by Khola Hasan

It was September 1977 when Dar Al-Ifta (Riyadh) send me an invitation to accompany a renowned scholar from Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Abdul Aziz Musnad, to a tour of South America. The aim was to stay for a few days in Brazil so we could study in detail the conditions of Da’wah and Islamic centres, and on the way we were to attend a conference of Rabitah Alam Islami (Muslim World League) in Port of Spain (Trinidad). Time was so short that I was able to acquire only a visa for Trinidad and thought that I could obtain the visa for Brazil from Trinidad. Before the travel I saw in a dream that I was flying in the air holding a rope and then I saw this rope going down until my feet touched the ground. A sound from the heart said: “O Allah, give a good interpretation of this dream!”. And with this invocation I went on the 24th of September 1977 with Shaykh Abdul Aziz Musnad on a flight of Pan American Airlines toward New York.

After a flight of 7 hours, we were in New York and after a small wait, we took another flight of Pan American Airlines and after four hours we landed in Port of Spain. As the travel was from the west towards the east, we reached our destination before the sun set down. A taxi took us up the Hilton hotel going first through the peak of a mountain. This hotel was known as “Upside Down Hotel” as it rested at the edge of a peak, so that we entered the building on the “ground” floor which housed the Reception. But the rooms were below this floor, descending down the mountain.

The conference had started earlier that morning so we were able to attend the final session. I had the honour there to meet Shaykh Ali Al-Harakan (Secretary General of Rabitah) and Shaykh Muhammad Nasir Al-Aboodi (Vice Secretary General). The next day 25th September we took part fully in the conference. My name was in the Masjid and Fiqh committee whose head was the Imam of an Islamic centre in Venezuela, Abdul Aziz Al-Inani Al-Azhari and the secretary was also an Imam from there. I played the role of translating for other members. I came to meet other honourable members among whom: Gul Muhammad Shah, the envoy of Rabitah in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Na’eem Khan from London Jamaica, Muhammad Abu As-Samh the cultural Attaché of Saudia in Brazil, AbdurRahman Ar-Ruwayshid from Majallah Ad-Da’wah Riyadh, my old friend from Madinah University Ahmad Al-Muhairi (from Brazil), Zubair Baksh an ancient resident of Port of Spain, and many others. One member of the conference organising committee, Sayid Farooq Ali, was a huge proponent of Mawlid so gave his short speech in a very bombastic manner on the topic.

On Monday 26 September, I went to the embassy of Brazil with Abu As-Samh and requested a visa. Their initial response was that I would receive a reply in the afternoon, but when I contacted them again, they made excuses that the visa could not be obtained from them, and they would contact the Foreign Ministry on my behalf.

In the last sitting of the conference, the establishment of a secretariat for South America was discussed in which a Pakistani national envoy Shafeeq Ar-Rahman, Ahmad Muhairi and Abul Faris took part. The discussion became heated about representation in British Guinea, Dutch Guinea (Surinam), and Argentina but finally some were nominated in posts as vice chairmen and some as assistants and the conference ended there.

On the 27th of September Shaykh Abdul Aziz Al-Musnad and Shaykh Nasir Al-‘Aboodi took the flight of Virgin Island (a collection of Islands of West Indies), and I remained stuck in Port of Spain for few days. Among the last activities of Rabitah was a press conference in which Mujahid Sawwaf and Sayid Safwat from Rabitah spoke.

The next day, Wednesday 28 September, I tried to organise my possible trip to Brazil, and learned that to reach Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the flight will need to stop by Caracas (Venezuela) with a stay of more than 2 hours and thus a visa from Venezuela would be also required. Shaken by all this red tape, I approached the Venezuelan embassy for a visa, but they were as unhelpful as the Brazilians. Strangely, I did not have any problems in obtaining a visa on my Pakistani passport to stay in the US for a little while during my return journey.

My sojourn in Port of Spain lasted another ten days as I waited for a positive answer from Brazil. In these 10 days, I visited many Masajid, was introduced to many Islamic centres, and had the opportunity to deliver lectures and Friday sermons. This is not the place to go into details but I will mention some of my experiences:

I met some representatives from Jamaica and Granada in a sitting in the educational Waqf of Zubair Bakhsh. Zubair Bakhsh had organised my stay in one of his houses at the edge of the city which he was about to rent in the next few days. I found another route to reach Brazil, which was a week’s travel going to city of Belem of Brazil through Surinam, and from there Brasilia or Rio de Janeiro could be reached.

I visited a Masjid in the city of Saint Joseph. It was a beautiful Masjid of Caribbean countries (West Indies) whose dome and walls were decorated with the calligraphy of its Imam Sayid Hafeez. I had the opportunity to lead the prayer there, women would form their ranks behind the ranks of men with a small distance without any wall between them. This matter might be strange to many people, but such can be seen in the Haram of Makkah. I also had the opportunity to give Khutbah in this Masjid on the 30th of September.

Another honourable host Sayid Zahid Basheer took me to his large house in the village of Tacarigua, which was 8 miles away, where I stayed until my departure. His house was full of trees and his four children were very friendly. I had the opportunity to give lectures in Waqf Markaz Islami and the local Masjid. After one lesson, a person was very confused whether the Prophet (saw) did Mi’raj with the soul only or with the body, or whether Isa (as) was alive or had passed away. I noticed that Qadianis were making efforts to spread their religion and these questions reflected the effects of their propaganda.

On Wednesday 5th of October, the office of the president of Trinidad was near the Jami masjid and at this time I briefly met the Qaim Maqam President Dr AbdulWahid, who I had met before on the previous Jumu’ah.

The local museum contained un-exploded bombs retrieved from the ocean, probably dropped by Spanish invading troops. I had seen similar things in the port of Mombasa where Portuguese invaders remained for a while. After delivering a lecture in the area of “Jiayrli”, I had to reply to questions such as wiping over the socks, raising hands in Du’a and whether some fish were Halal or Haram, whether usury from banks was permissible or not. After praying Fajr in a Masjid near the house of my host Sayid Zahid, I would deliver a short lecture daily. On Friday I revived the Sunnah of reciting Surah As-Sajdah and Surah Ad-Dahr.

As the hope of a visa for Brazil had died, I booked my tickets back through the US and left Port of Spain on the 7th of October by BWIA flight. My hosts Zahid, Zubair Bakhsh and Zayd Husayn all came to meet me at the airport before leaving.

After an hour’s flight, we landed in an airport of a former British colony Antigua, and after a little wait we departed for New York. I had 3 days stay in New York before returning to London. This will be mentioned in my next article.

The interpretation of the dream that I saw in London before leaving had now come true. According to dream interpreters, flying in the air refers to the completion of one’s wishes, but sliding down the rope referred to the fact that my wishes would not be fulfilled. And this is exactly what happened. I had wished to travel to Brazil but had to change my plans and go straight to America. This was Allah’s will, and all praise to Him that my travels were safe, and I reached home without any severe difficulties..

4. First travel to New York

On the 7th of October 1977 I reached New York from Trinidad in the afternoon. The maternal cousin of my wife Dr Atiyyah Khan and her husband Javed had moved there a year before from Pakistan and they became my hosts for 3 days. Dr Atiyyah Khan was busy in her professional duty and her husband took me to visit different places.

The World Trade Centre which was the largest building of the US (before the incident of 2001) was a building of 110 levels. A fast lift would take people in less than a minute up to the 107 level and it would cause the same effect to the ears as taking a flight. We could see from the top floor the four corners of the city as well as Liberty Island on which stands the Statue of Liberty, and also the Empire State Building which was the tallest building before the World Trade Centre was built.

There is an area of New York called Manhattan and we needed to cross the Hudson River by a bridge named after George Washington to reach it. The city has wide streets, tall buildings in the centre and a busy lifestyle. The area of Harlem is populated by poorer black people, reminding me of the slaves brutalised and brought on ships as slaves from West Africa, chained in their masses. There is a large black Muslim community who despite their limited resources have built Masajid and raised the banner of Islam. Most of the streets there don’t have names but numbers.

The next day on Street N 1, we visited the tall centre of UNO with a state guide. Then on Street 44 we went to the centre of Rabitah Alam Islami where we met some great teachers in charge of Da’wah and education, among whom we count an old Indian friend from the time of Madinah University Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, and Dr Ahmad Saqar from Egypt as well as other Pakistani and Indian teachers.

On the third day after my arrival, we took the train to the Grand Central Station of New York and crossed 30 miles in half an hour. Our aim was to listen to the sitting of the general assembly of the UNO, which for me deserved not only to be seen but also heard. In the huge hall in which the seats of the representatives of 149 countries were arranged, 2 more countries were participating for the first time as they had obtained membership recently: Djibouti and Vietnam. Each country was assigned a desk with three seats, and another three seats behind them. For each sitting, the Secretary General would arrange the setting of the seats by luck of the draw: the country which was drawn first would get the first rank and then the rest would be distributed by alphabetical order. In this sitting Qatar was drawn first and I saw Pakistan and Panama allocated the final seats.

I noticed that the representative of India was wearing a Gandh style hat and the representatives of the Island of Comoro in East Africa were also wearing their famously decorated hats, while the heads of all other representatives were deprived of hats. The presidency of the sitting was conferred to Yugoslavia. In the morning, I listened to the speeches of the representatives of Rwanda, Russia, New Zeeland, and Malawi. After these sittings, by paying a fee of 2 dollars, a female Japanese guide speaking in English showed us some reserved corners of this huge building. We saw the hall of the Security Council which has 15 permanent member states. Five of them reserve the right of veto, which gives them the totally unjust right to stop any motion being passed that is contrary to their interests. In this version of democracy, these five states conceal beneath their gowns a dagger with which to stab all others.

We also entered in the Economical Council and saw the gifts and souvenirs which different countries have given to the UNO: decorated carpets from Iran, behind shining screens a scenery of China’s mountains with trains running through them, from Russia a model of the new Sputnik floating in the air with wires, from Greece a statue of their naked deity. A huge pendulum that reached floor to ceiling was another gift gracing the area.

In the afternoon, we went back to listen to the speeches of the General Assembly. Instead of a discussion, there was an atmosphere of establishing evidence against the other, such as the representative of Zambia speaking against the representative of Singapore in a soft manner. However, the representative of Ethiopia refuted the representative of Somalia with a thundery speech. I was not aware of the full facts, but it seemed that Ethiopia had taken some Somali land by force. A huge crowd in the gallery listened and applauded the exchanges, while Arab and Pakistani representatives had left their seats out of protest. I saw them standing in the corridors of the hall. The discussions of the UNO were well known, but to watch in person was a thrilling experience. This was my first visit to the US but I was destined to come here many times, details of which will be presented in these memoirs later (insha Allah). To be continued…

Original Urdu article

About Me

Sheikh Suhaib Hasan Abdul Ghaffar is the Secretary of the Islamic Sharia Council of Great Britain.

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