My Memoirs part 5-7
- Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Wahhab Al-Banna
He was a very close friend of Sheikh Al-Albani and he was the one normally accompanying him in his car on his way to Madinah after the morning session was over. Though I did not study upon him directly as he had been a teacher in the secondary section but I enjoyed his company in many a travels. During the first year of our studies, we went with him to Makkah in the month of Ramadan. He was a man of faith and practice with a calm and impressive voice, his teachings seemed to penetrate in our hearts. He spoke on Tawhid, the character of the Prophet (SAW) and his Sunnah in Da’wa to the way of Allah. That was the first time, inspired by him that I stood in Masjid al-Jinn at Makkah after one of the prayers to deliver a short speech in Arabic to the attendants. This is how he encouraged his pupils to take courage and prepare themselves for Da’wa. He was one of my mentors who showed me that it is the good company which moulds your character more than simply reading the books. He must not be confused with the famous Sheikh Hasan al-Banna, the founder of Al-Ikhwan. They share the same surname but they had no family relations at all. I have already noted down how I had been inspired by the latter when I had the privilege, during my early days of reading Arabic, of translating his memoirs into Urdu. May Allah have mercy upon Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Wahhab Al-Banna, he died in November 2009.
- Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Shaibat-ul-Hamd
An Egyptian who settled down in Riyadh, married locally and became one of the Najdian Shuyukh but his speech, flowery and eloquent always revealed his true identity. He was tall in stature, Saudi looking in his appearance and loud in his presentation. After Sheikh Al-Albani left Jami’a in the middle of 1963, he took over his subject: Hadith. The way he taught us is fully manifested in his ten volume book entitled “Fiqh-ul-Islam” which is an explanation of “Bulugh-ul-Maram” by Ibn Hajar. He explains the difficult words first, then an elaboration of the text with meanings and difference of opinions in the matters of Fiqh followed by the important beneficial points derived from the Hadith. He must have compiled this book after his long teaching tenure in the University.
He also taught us the subject of factions deviant in their beliefs and destructive in their practice. Normally this subject covers the factions and groups of the past in line with the books of Ibn Hazm and Al-Shihrastani. An addition is that of Mahdi and the imposter prophet of Qadian in India. We benefited from his elusive coverage of the subject, his eloquent speech and his bold presentation. He benefited our family in particular and this is what I have to disclose later under the events of 1964.
- Sheikh Muhammad Al-Majdhub (d. 1999)
The famous writer and historian from Syria. He is an author of a number of books on Arabic prose and biographies. We had the benefit to read Arabic prose and poetry with him. He could be a match to Ali al-Tantawi of Syria in his style and writing. I was always keen to read the Arabic literature composed by those by whom he was inspired like Al-Manfaluti, Abbas Al-‘Aqqad, Taha Husain, Az-Zayyat, Muhibbul-din-Al-Khatib, Mustafa Al-Siba’i, Ahmad Amin and the likes. One of his famous books, “Men whom I Knew” is a skillfull elucidation of some of his contemporaries.
- Sheikh Abdul Ra’uf Al-Lubadi
A great grammarian from Jordan. He taught us Alfiya Ibn Malik partly. He used to write an eloquent piece of Arabic prose entitled: “Letters not carried by the post” in the organ of the University. I am proud to have such a master of Arabic as my teacher.
- Sheikh Muhammad Sulaiman Al-Ashqar (d. 16.11.2009)
Both he and his younger brothers, ‘Umar Al-Ashqar, come from a family of scholars in Jordan. He used to teach us “Fath-ul-Qadhir” in Tafsir and Bidayat-ul-Mujtahid in Fiqh. A part of it was taught by Sheikh Shanqiti as well. He had to leave Madinah and depart for Kuwait in 1965 because of an unprecedented event about which I have to speak later.
- Sheikh Attiya Muhammad Salim
Originally from Egypt, he settled down in Madinah. We saw him in the office of the Registrar as soon as we arrived in the University. He was not among the teaching staff but I benefitted from him through his recollection of the Tafsir of the Qur’an which he collected from the numerous lessons of our Sheikh Al-Shanqiti entitled: “Adwa-ul-Bayan fi Tafsir Al-Quran bil Quran”. The major part of the book, nine volumes in total. The ninth volume is entirely a product of his research which he managed to compile by his own pen but in accordance to the methodology adopted by Sheikh Al-Shanqiti generally in the Tafsir.
Sheikh Attiya was kind enough to invite all of us, the delegates from India and Pakistan to his house for dinner. We have this privilege only from him or from Sheikh Ibn Baz about whom I have to write in detail once I cover the days of my stay in Madinah until my graduation in the summer of 1966.
- Sheikh Muhammad Al-Abudi
A prolific writer with more than a hundred travelogues which speak about his visits to the four corners of the globe. He used to be the registrar when I joined the university and he remained in this position until his transfer to the Muslim World League (Rabitat-ul-Alam al-Islami) in Makkah. He was not among the teaching staff but I benefitted from him in two ways:
(i) He was the one to highlight the importance of launching a Da’wa scheme in Africa after his long trip in a number of African countries. After my graduation in 1966, this scheme had been materialised and the very first four persons chosen to be the pioneer of Da’wa in East Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe presently) included myself as well and this is how I moved to Nairobi (Kenya) in April 1967 with my wife and a newly born child.
(ii) I benefitted a lot from his travelogues and his experience during my own journeys in a number of countries in Africa. I am thankful to him that he has mentioned my name in the first book, “In Green Africa”.
There were some other Shuyukh from whom I benefitted either through their circles in the mosque or through their speeches and lectures at different gatherings. Among them I remember the following:
- Sheikh Umar Fullatah of Mali whom I found him conducting Hadith circles in the Mosque.
- Sheikh Muhammad Mukhtar Al-Shanqiti. He used to deliver lessons in Fiqh in the mosque.
- Sheikh Abu Bakr Jabir from Algeria. He also had his circle in the Mosque but I benefitted from his book on ‘Aqeedah’ a lot during my days of teaching in East Africa.
- Sheikh Hammad Al-Ansari. A great authority on Hadith.
- Sheikh Muhammad Sa’d Al-Nada. An Egyptian whom we befriended as a neighbour in Madinah.
I have yet to speak about some more teachers from whom I benefitted during the last two years (1965-1966) of study in the University. They include my father Sheikh Abdul Ghaffar Hasan, hafiz Muhammad Gundalwi, Sheikh Nuruddin ‘Itr of Syria, Sheikh Mahmud al-Tahhan and the most famous scholars, the Mufti to be of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz.
Some memorable events during this period:
- A delegation of around 15-20 students landed in Madinah and coming from Tehran, Iran to join the University. They were all dressed in Western attire. Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz hosted them in the same hotel, Bahauddin, where we stayed just after our arrival in Madinah. When they visited the University campus, a very simple of scattered buildings where all the students were male, they could hardly believe their eyes. They were expecting a colourful gathering of both male and female students. Disappointed and dismayed, they asked the Sheikh to be put on a flight back to Tehran. Sheikh’s plea to them to stay fell on deaf ears. All except one of them, the only Sunni among them, took their flight from Jeddah back to their homeland.
- I had to share the room with three companions: Ibrahim Khalil, Muhammad Nasir Rehmani and Farooq Naja of Lebanon. Our Lebanese friend was fond of French journals which he used to receive from Beirut. He was full of curiosity, critique and argumentative. We shared the same room for two years. In summer nights I took my mattress, a thick and bulky one, to the open ground in front of our block, just like other boys, to enjoy a cool and comfortable slumber under the starlit sky. But this experience lasted a few nights only because we discovered that scorpions roam freely at night on the ground. As soon as this dreadful information came to light, we all shifted back to our room.
- Each morning, a steward would come at Fajr time, knock at the door to wake us for Fajr prayers. The, a few days later, he discovered that some of the boys go to sleep once he left their doors. So he started a second round. He would come, open the door and switch on the light to see who the culprits were to lag behind. Thank God!! Many were fortunate to have gone to the mosque but some would find a way to hide. The best way was to lie down under the bed with the sheet covering him to be seen by the intruders.
- Our colleague from Mozambique, Abu Bakr by name, was fond of playing football. He was the one to buy a ball and set up a team to play in the open ground besides the entrance. One of the guards, a Bedouin by nature, did not like this sight at all. How could bearded men, dedicated to the learning of Quran and Sunnah, run after a ball worth a few Riyals? He thought that he should place an end to the evil. So he sat at a corner in hiding with a shotgun in his hand waiting for the ball to bounce within his sight. Once he got this golden opportunity, he shot at the flying ball which breathed its last falling flat on the ground. That was the end of Abu Bakr’s dream and a farewell to football by me as well. May Allah rest his soul. I had a chance to visit him at his home in Maputo in the mid-90s when I visited this country on behalf of Muslim Aid, a London based charity. I will speak about this later.
- During Ramadan (1383 AH/1963 AD) we were blessed to offer our second Umrah in the company of a host of students led by some of our teachers including Sheikh Abdul Wahhab Al-Banna. Two and a half months later I had the opportunity to offer my first Hajj. Mina, at that time, had narrow alleys leading to Jamarat. Even there were two to three story buildings on both sides of these narrow passages. After pebbling at Jamarat, one had to pass through them to reach that vast city of tents where most of the pilgrims had to stop before and after the main ritual of Hajj: staying and supplicating at Arafat. In Mina itself the slaughter big open area was located miles away. I remember visiting that area which did not show a pleasant sight because apart from the designated covered area of slaughtering people used to commit Qurbani in the passages and right in the courtyard at the entrance. The corpses were left without being removed or cleaned. One had to jump over them to make his way towards the exit. I am sorry to say that I had to leave my Qurbani behind as well as there were no arrangements to carry it back home. Normally a pilgrim had to shave his head after the ritual of Qurbani was over. So on my way back to my tent, I was looking for a barber to do the job. You would find some pilgrims with razors, scissors, a comb and a mirror sitting at the edge of the passages taking the role of a temporary barber. Their job was simple. They had to fix a razor in its hold and then try this razor forward and backward on the scalp of the poor pilgrims who had to offer a few riyals for this hasty and clumsy service. I yielded to one of them and offered my head to one of them. Whether his razor was blunt or his skill at this job was of a trainee, I could hardly survive the most painful ordeal and found myself lying on the ground unconscious and bewildered for a few minutes. I don’t remember whether I paid him or not, but I had to take a pledge for myself not to bow for a street barber anymore.
It was my first Hajj: an experience in patience, labour and devotion. There were more to come; Hajj of different status’, from peasantry to nobility, from hardship to comfort, from commoners to royalty, all in my coming life. May Allah accept the devotion which was expressed in different forms and situations.
- Once I myself with one of my friends walked towards the mountain behind the external wall of the campus. It is quite interesting to note that the closer you think a mountain in sight, the farther it is in distance. Anyhow, we reached the mount and started trekking into its stony pathways. We might have gone a short distance when we saw a big snake hurling in and around the rocks. To us it was a frightful sight. We did not throw any stone to the snake but retreated gently to our way back to the buildings. It was evening and buses had already left for Madinah. So we made our way through the abandoned and partly destroyed railway line which could lead us to the town. That was the line which was laid down by the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid between Damascus and Madinah at the beginning of the 20th century to provide the pilgrims a fast and comfortable journey to the sacred land. It lasted only a few years because the Arab revolt led by Lawrence of Arabia, the famous British mercenary, destroyed the line to halt any deployment of the Turkish army from Syria to the city of the Prophet (SAW). We walked within the rails where it was derailed or interrupted because of a broken bridge or a rugged path not good for a passage. It was a long walk but eventually we had the sight of the houses and narrow alleys of the town through which we made our way to the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW) by Maghrib. After the prayer we had a good chat with a Bedouin who was sitting next to me in the row. Out of curiosity and excitement we narrated to him our frightful evening. He told us that we had done good by not killing the snake because there were Jinns, especially in Madinah who could shape themselves in the forms of snakes. To kill one of them is to invite oneself to a disaster. Later I had to come across some interesting situations concerning this issue. I leave it to another occasion to speak about it.
- We had the honour to see a number of very dignified personalities from among the Muslim world during Hajj season, especially those who were hosted by the University. I was very fond of the famous Syrian journal, ‘Hazarat-ul-Islam’. It was a pleasure to see its illustrated editor “Mustafa al-Siba’i” when he came to deliver a speech in Dar-ul-Hadith of Madinah. I saw him reclining on a pillow with his legs stretched out as one of his legs was either paralysed or bandaged. He was an author of many world famous books like the one entitled: “The Woman between Fiqh and Law” (in Arabic).
There had been a delegation of a galaxy of very prominent scholars who honoured the University with their presence and short speeches. Among them I remembered the following:
Sheikh Amjad al-Zahawi of Iraq
Sheikh Muhammad Mahmud Al-Sawwaf of Iraq
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Sabiq of Egypt
Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zuhra of Syria
Mufti Abdullah Al-Qalqili of Jordan
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Habib Bilkhoja of Tunisia
Those from India, included Sheikh Muhammad Zakariyya of Tablighi Jama’at and Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadawi of Lucknow.
May Allah be pleased with them all.
- The first year came to an end by July 1963. We were all very keen to go back to our homeland and see our families. The Hajj was over and the Pakistani carreer Safnat-ul-Haujjaj had anchored at Jeddah sea post to receive the returning pilgrims. We, a number of Pakistani students came to Jeddah, bought our tickets and were looking to stay somewhere at night. We found a Mosque, very near to the port, to be our night shelter. With our handbags under our heads we went to sleep on the roof. By Fajr time we were all awake to discover that the bag of one of our colleagues had been stolen. Thanks God that the thief had thrown the unnecessary stuff on the stairs. So he found his ticket and passport and did Istirja (to say: Inna lillah wa Inna Ilaihe Rajioon) on the loss of his money. Like our last year’s voyage we took seven days to reach the Karachi airport where I was received by my family anxious to meet me. Though I had left them in Montgomry (at present Sahiwal), my father had moved to Karachi to take a teaching post at Madrasa Rahmanya, Soldier Bazar, Karachi. It was also known as Sufaid Masjid (White Mosque). My father had studied in Madrasa Rahmanya of Delhi and now ended up once again in a seminary with a similar name which was established in the memory of its namesake in Delhi by Sheikh Abdul Wahhab, the son of the founder of Delhi Madrasa, Sheikh Ata-ul-Rahman. For two months I had my leisure time to enjoy reading and strolling in the streets of the Capital city of Pakistan. There used to be the office of “Al-Arab”, the only Arabic magazine of Pakistan, edited by Abdul Monim Al-Adawi, an Arab in exile. The magazine used to report the activities of the Arab community and Arab embassies in Karachi. There were very few articles worthy to be read. I developed a friendship with the editor’s young son of my age. We used to have a lot of chats either in the veranda of his house or in the small garden which served as a roundabout behind the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, more famously known as Qaid Azam, the founder of Pakistan. I used to share my experiences with him of Madinah and his speech reflected the aspirations and ambitions of a young man living relevantly in a liberal society of Karachi.
Just near to the office of Al-Arab, was the headquarters of Qureshi Limited Company, to which Dr Israr Ahmed had moved to take a managerial post in his elder brother’s construction company. I paid a visit to him and attended one of his regular circles as well. Three months of vacation came to pass quickly and I had to arrange for my journey back to Madinah.
- A new way to reach Saudi was discovered by me. A steamship company, B.I (British India) by name used to operate a passenger and cargo ship between Bombay and Basra those days. As I had lost contact with my colleagues, I was left alone to embark upon an adventurous journey through this vessel. One evening I had to say farewell to my family once again and set for Bahrain, the nearest point to Saudi Arabia. It was a five days voyage passing through the ports of Gawadar, Masqat, Ra’sul Khaima, Al-Shariqa, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al-Doha. This was a pleasant journey which channelled through the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf in comparison to my first two voyages in the Indian Ocean. Here the sea was calm, the sail was smooth and there were more stops to let travellers witness the land more often.
I had a ticket for deck which meant an open air safari with no seats or beds. I had to spread my sleeping bag on the floor which served as a resting place for the day and night. As soon as we reached our first stop, the port of Masqat (Oman), we were asked to pack our bags and move anywhere in the ship. To my amazement, the floor on which we stayed, was the roof for the lower storey which was used as a go down for the commercial goods. The roof, which comprised of two big wooden planks, was left open and the goods were taken, others brought in by massive cranes on the port. The noise of the labourers working both on the ship and the shore filled the air. I was used to Yamani dialects that of labourers in Saudi Arabia and here was another dialect, Omani and that of Gulf Amirdoms (Emirates later) with a blend of Urdu words.
The sailing was smooth and enjoyable. Whenever the upper deck’s front nook dived in the sea, the water splashed high above the deck rinsing the spectators who stood there enjoying the sight of dolphins. I had to rest on my sleeping bag as long as the ship was mooring. As soon as it came to anchor at a post, we had to fold our bags and look for a safe corner as our platform was to be opened apart to receive or transfer the goods. On the fifth day, I reached my destination: Manama, the port of Bahrain. I had to look for a small hotel as the night had already spread its wings. It was no surprise to find a room shared by three or four persons, all foreigners to one another in a two storey small hotel. In the lounge, which was in fact the open roof area on the second floor, I had my first sight of a small set of black and white TV. In Pakistan, by that time, this innovation had not yet been introduced. I got up early, took my breakfast and rushed towards the other side of Manama port from where dhows and launches sailed for Al-Khubar, the nearest Saudi seaport.
The short journey in a small dhow was another maiden experience of my life. Al-Khobar’s market was thronged with tourists, men and women, both brown and white. Later I came to know that Az-Zahran, the twin city with Al-Khobar, enjoyed a great number of expatriates, mostly from America.
How I came to know Abdul Ghani, a very charming and generous Pakistani young man is beyond my memory. He welcomed me in his spacious good looking apartment. From his fridge, sprang out cheese, butter, cream, yogurt and fruits; all to be shared by the humble guest who was a complete stranger to him
By mid-day he took me to the taxi stand. The American Impala cars had best served as careers between the towns in Saudi Arabia. Once four passengers filled the car seats, the driver darted with it on the highway. It was a 300 kilometre journey passing through the sands of Al-Dahna. Sand made clusters on the road low enough for taxis and buses to traverse upon it. The driver’s face was fully covered by the red-lined Arabian scarf which served a number of functions including a shelter for the face if a person had to emerge out of the car for any reason. By the evening I was in Riyadh looking for a similar vehicle to take me to Madinah. I should have taken some rest that night but a shouting by a driving who kept on saying loudly: “Madinah! Madinah” attracted me. He was a truck driver and his heavy vehicle was full of cartons, goods of merchandise in the open back area. The passengers had to seat themselves on these cartons. I sat on some of them holding the rails in front of me just close to the driver’s cabin. The journey started after the Maghrib on a smooth tarmac road until we reached Afif, a juncture separating the road to Madinah from that to Makkah. To my amazement, the road to our destination was still a mud road, a track in the sand. It was a cool night with fresh comely breeze comforting us throughout the night. We could hear the Bedouin songs sung by the driver and his companion which kept on making us alert. To balance myself I had to keep holding the rails and expel the slumber to take over me. We passed by Buraida and Qasim in the early hours of the morning, prayed Fajr somewhere at a stop and then eventually came to a halt before noon at a shanty restaurant by the sand highway. The driver gave us the good news that we could have a taste of sleep, on the wooden bench-cum-beds till Asr time when the scorching heat of the Arabian noon would fade away. We enjoyed the simple Arabian rice and meat dishes and lied down for our early siesta. Combining Zuhur and Asr at a later time, we were ready to continue our journey once again after Asr. The truck driver followed the track vigilantly but at one point he took a wrong turning and lost his way. Thanks Allah that he was able to re track the path after waving to a Bedouin and asking him for guidance. We were on the right track before the nightfall. It was our second night in this hazardous journey. By the rays of the rising sun, the morning brought us closer to our destination.
Again it was tarmac road behind a chain of mountains on our right. That was the back of Mount Uhud, the famous mountain of Madinah. Soon the shining minarets of the Mosque of the Prophet SAW caught our gaze. Alhamdulilah, we were in Madinah, after a day and two nights’ laborious but adventurous journey. The books of Hadith speak about ‘Rihla’ (journey in pursuit of knowledge), its excellence and many examples set by the careers of Hadith in this regard. I hoped that mine would be a small, humble contribution to this cause as well. Now it was the start of my second year in Al-Jami’a and I have to speak about some more memories of this year until my next voyage back to Karachi in the summer of 1964, in the next chapter.
My second Years in Al-Jami’a (September 1963 – June 1964)
We had a routine of four lessons every day, each around 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute break. As soon as we finished our last lesson, some of us would try to go to the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW) if the transport was available, but most of us would prefer to delay it till after ‘Asr prayer. This is how we could have our lunch at the room (there was no mess at that time), enjoy a short siesta and be ready for ‘Asr and departure to Madina where we would be staying until ‘Isha prayer.
The time we used to pass in the Mosque, benefitted us a lot; memorising the Qur’an, revising our lessons, attending some circles of knowledge or having Muzakara (two persons reading to each other) with a friend. Sometimes, we would have a stroll in the adjoining ‘Uyaina Street, visiting Maktaba Ilmiya of Sheikh Namnakani, or Maktaba Salafiya of Sheikh Abdul-Muhsin (at Bab-e-Majeedi). Or we would enjoy a Halabiya (a sweet dish) or hot tea in one of the cafes around the Mosque.
During the seasons of Ramadan and Hajj, you may come across a number of dignitaries whom you would love to visit at their residence or in the Mosque itself. Those whom I remember meeting, include Sheikh Abul hasan Al-Nadawi at the garden of Noorwali (if I correctly remember this name), Sheikh Muhammad Zakariyya of Jama’t al-Tabligh and Sheikh Mustafa Al-Siba’I, the editor of Hazarat-ul-Islam, Damascus. Furthermore, I met Sheikh Abdullah of occupied Kashmir, Sheikh Abdul Basit Abdul Samad while reciting the Qur’an in the Mosque, Maulvi Farid Ahmad from Dhaka (the then capital of East Pakistan), Sheikh Hamidullah of Paris who gave a series of lectures at Al-Jami’aand Mr Gul Muhammad, a judge of High Court, Lahore and many others whom I may remember later.
New batch of students
This year, four new students from Pakistan joined us: Ihsan Ilahi Zaheer, Hafiz Sanaullah, Abdul Salam Kiyani and Abdul Khaliq Tariq. They all excelled in their teaching or Da’wa profession after their graduation.
Ihsan Ilahi Zaheer had been well-known in Pakistan and international forums until his death, (1988) because of injuries sustained in a bomb blast under the stage from where he was delivering a speech.
Hafiz Sanaullah added to his name “Madani” after returning to Pakistan. He is the most famous and learned person in Hadith throughout the country.
Both Abdul Salam Kiyani and Abdul Khaliq Tariq served in Uganda after graduation. The former in teaching and Da’wa, and the latter in establishing a renowned seminary of Islamic Knowledge in Kampala.
Among the Arab students, I remember Ahmad Muha’iry from Syria, a young and promising student who developed a strong bond of friendship with Ihsan.
Among the Indian students were Muhammad Luqman Salafi and Abdul Hameed Rahmani. Both of them excelled in their work; Salafi remaining in Saudi Arabia and pursuing a high esteemed position in the office of Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz, authoring a variety of books in Tafsir and Ahadith and establishing a paramount seat of education by the name “Jamia’ Ibn Taimiya” in his home town at Bihar, India. On the other hand, Rahmani moved to India after graduation and was known for his scholarly speeches, enriched articles in his monthly magazine ‘Al-Tan’iya’ and his wise leadership of Jammat Ahl-e-Hadith of India.
A Heart-breaking incident
Among the new students was a young man from Singapore, a bright and good looking person, with smiles on his face and warmth whenever you met him. The other one was a hardworking intelligent youth from Indonesia. They formed a good company. After staying in the hostel for a while they decided to move to the city. They hired a two room flat in a newly-built seven storey building at Manakha, the famous taxi and bus stand of Madinah. We used to pass by that building on our way to the hostel after visiting the Mosque in the evening each day. One morning we heard the dreadful news of the sudden collapse of this building during the night; when we rushed to the scene, workers were still busy in removing the rubble and helping those still alive to come out. I do not remember how many dwellers lost their lives but as for our friends; one could not escape death, the other survived.
It is said that the Singaporean brother, just after hearing the cracking and thundering sound of the upper floor falling above him, fled to the staircase to follow the escape route but he could not make it. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihe Raj’ioon’. The Indonesian brother was lying on a thick mattress on the floor, surrounded on both sides with high piles of books. The concrete fell on his body and pressed hard on his legs, but his face was saved because of the books around him. Once dragged out alive, he had to stay a very long time in hospital to get his injured legs treated, massaged and brought back to life once again. It came to my knowledge, that he later went to Pakistan and finished his studies in Darul Uloom of Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Binnori in Karachi. This is the same institute which is now led by my colleague Dr Abdul Razzaq Iskandar.
Before or after the Hajj 1964, I remember visiting the Rabita’s headquarter on the main road leading to Shisha, Aziziya and Mina. It was an old building with verandas and arches. Sheikh Asim Al-Haddad, the Arabic teacher in my early school days, had moved from Lahore to join a relatively ambitious post at Rabitah in Makkah. I was pleased to see him in his office. In the following years, his place of sitting, after entering into the Grand Mosque through the Abdulaziz Gate, in front of the Ka’aba, became an assembly point for the adherent of Jamat Islami. Similarly, the sitting place of one of our Pakistani colleagues, Sheikh Fathi (Fatah Mohammad) Nabina i.e ‘the blind’ became the meeting point, many years later for the Salafi students and scholars.
I also remember receiving a free copy of a translation and commentary on the Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali in two volumes, from either the Ministry of Hajj or the Presidency of the two sacred mosques, which used to have an office building in one of the narrow allies outside the King Abdul Aziz Gate. The organisations used to distribute a number of books including translations of the Qur’an. The old person, who was assigned this task did not know English but he asked me to read a few lines from the translation to find out whether I deserved to receive that copy or not.
Soon the annual vacation was due and once again we, the group of the Pakistani students, were knocking at different offices to secure our tickets on the big Pakistani vessel for a voyage back to Karachi in the summer of 1964. Shopping precedes each travel let alone if it was of a special nature for me. My wedding along with my elder brother Shuaib, had been arranged by my parents and I was very anxious to fill my suitcase with a lot of ladies’ clothes and presents.
The ship was crowded with pilgrims who had just finished their Hajj and were eager to go back to their homes. We students were pleased to stay on the deck with our luggage cornered in an outer corridor, facing the open sea. As described earlier, the voyage had to take seven days to reach our destination. We had to spend our time roaming around the five or seven decks of this huge vessel, meeting new and old faces, conversing to friends and foreigners, looking at the calm surface of the Red sea, then to the roaring, stormy waves of the Indian Ocean once we crossed Bab al Mandib after Aden. At night we had to spread our sleeping bags on the open deck to enjoy our sleep, with the sea breeze soothing and comforting us and the ship’s diving and rumbling sound occasionally interrupting it. I remember one time, at some point after midnight, the meagre sound of an object presumably falling into the sea. After the Fajr prayer, I headed towards the corridor to have a check on our luggage.
Unfortunately, my suitcase went missing. Being a new, shiny suit case, it must have attracted the eyes of a thief, disguised as a pilgrim, who must have emptied the contents of that case into his own bag and thrown the suitcase into the sea to conceal his theft. My efforts, along with my friends, to report this theft to the ship’s captain, and subsequent search for the missing case in a multitude of five thousand pilgrims ended up in vain. The only consolation I had was repeating the Qur’an verse: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihe raj’ioon”. On the ship was a much respected figure from our family, Sheikh Abdul Wakil, one of my father’s cousin’s uncle, a great Imam and orator, to the extent that he acquired the title of “Khateeb” (speaker) with his name. That was the only time I had a close audience with him in my entire life.
I was received by my brothers at Karachi sea-port with great warmth and happiness. This time the family had moved to a house in Aziz Abad; a double storey building with enough space for a large family where six of my siblings were still there, some in infancy, some in school and some elder ones in University or engaged in a job.
24th September 1964, was that historical day when I moved from ‘single’ to a ‘couple. Myself and my elder brother, both married in the same family; the house of a great teacher of Hadith, Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Dehlavi. My brother was wed to his daughter, Razia Khatoon and myself to his granddaughter Shakeela Khatoon d/o Muhammad Zubair Qureshi. It was a simple ceremony of Nikah at Masjid Al-Falah, the mosque situated in front of the Sheikh’s house in the P.E. C. H. S (Pakistan Employees Corporative Housing Society), very near to the great mausoleum of Qaid Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. The next afternoon, the Waleema had been arranged in some hired tents, according to a popular practice in Pakistan where people occupy a street or an open ground to celebrate such an event. A surprise was waiting for us, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Shaibat-ul-Hamd, my teacher of Hadith in Madinah, arrived that day and was brought straightaway to our dwelling to meet my father Abdul-Ghaffar Hasan.
He came on a specific mission: to recruit two most capable teachers of Hadith to benefit the students at the University at Madinah. My father’s name must have been mentioned by the top leadership of Ahl-e-Hadith like Maulana Mohammad Ismail of Gujranwala and Maulana Syyed Muhammad Dawud Ghaznawi of Lahore. For my father, it was a great privilege and honour, a fulfilment of his passionate desire and a pleasant dream to come true. But he had to ask permission from the head of Madrassah Rahmania, Soldier Bazar, Karachi where he had a contract to teach. Sheikh Abdul Wahhab, the son of his benefactor Sheikh Ata-ul-Rahman of Delhi Madrasa Rahmania did not hesitate a moment when he welcomed this offer saying: “Though we would never like to lose you but we will never stop you from joining a seat of knowledge at one of the most celebrated places of Islam?”
The other most gifted and most privileged personality picked by Sheikh Abdul Qadir was Maulana Mohammad Gondalwi, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Hadith in the sub-continent. By that time, I had already planned my return journey to Saudi Arabia by booking two tickets, for myself and my bride, through the B. I.S.C (British Indian Steamship Company) in the same route through Bahrain as I did last year.
My father was allowed to accompany his family by air to Madinah in accordance to the contract of his new employment. We were the only two persons to accompany him at that time. It was a great relief for me to cancel the ship booking and join my father en-route to Jeddah on our maiden flight. On 31st October 1964, the three of us left for Jeddah by a Saudi aircraft. The flight touched down at Zahran and then Riyadh, the capital where we had to stay the night in a hotel due to a technical fault with the aircraft. Next morning we continued our flight to Jeddah where Syyed Manzoor Husain, the husband of my father’s real aunt, Amat-ul-Raqeeb, had passed away.
She had died just a few days ago, so it was a mournful meeting between the two of them. After a visit to Makkah and performing Umrah once again, we flew to Madinah. We were hosted once again in Hotel Bahauddin and three days later we were able to rent a flat at the edge of Manakha (the market near to the taxi stand). There were no more stays in Jami’a’s boarding as I had a family residence in Madinah. I am going to speak about my last two years in Jami’a in the next section. As a married person, I have now entered the married couples circle.
Memoirs No. 7 (1966-69)
Now in the beginning of 1964 academic year we were blessed to have seven new teachers. My father Abdul-Ghaffar Hassan (d. March 07), as a teacher of Isnad and Usul-al-Hadith, Hafiz Muhammad Gundalwi for Hadith in particular, Sulaiman Al-Ashqar, for Fiqh, Muhammad Al-Lubadi for Arabic grammar, Muhammad Ibrahim Shaqra for Fiqh as well, and Mahmud Al-Tahhan for Usul-al-Hadith as well. As for my father, an exhaustive biography is available on my blog.
Hafiz Muhammad Gundalwi
I am sorry to say that I could not benefit from him a lot because he had to leave our class – after a few lessons – to teach the batch one year ahead of us. His short biography is as follows. He was born in Ghondlawala, an outskirt of the famous Punjab town, Gujranwala (the then British India) in 1897. He studied locally then proceeded to Amritsar first and later to Delhi. Among his teachers were farmers Muhaddithin like Sheikh Abdul Jabbar Ghaznawi and Sheikh Ahmadullah in the mosque of Sheikh Nazir Hussain of Delhi. After completing his studies at the age of 22, he came back to his home town where he started his teaching career at Madrasa Muhammadiya. Later he was honoured to be invited to teach at the prestigious educational site, Darul-Hadith Rahmaniya at Delhi (where my father received his higher studies in Hadith), then at Jami’a Darussalam, Omar Abad in Hyderabad, Deccan. After returning back to his home town once again, especially after the one year when he was invited to teach at Madinah. Though his story in the city of the Prophet (SAW) was very short, he left a great impact on both, the teachers and students in the university. Throughout his life, he taught the famous Hadith collection of Imam Bukhari fifty times from the beginning to the end.
He was gifted with a very sharp memory. According to Isham Ilahi Zaheer, his son-in-law, he never committed himself to read daily papers or other magazines lest he committed to his memory some useless material or unnecessary information of knowledge. It was also reported that throughout his life he never missed Takbira-tul-Ihram of the daily five prayers in circles. This is why his written inheritance of knowledge does not exceed ten books and seven unpublished works. At the age of ninety years (according to the lunar calendar) he passed away on 14th Ramadan 1405 A.H. (04/06/1985).
Sheikh Muhammad Sulaiman al-Ashgar
I have received some lessons of Fiqh, mainly from Bidayat-tul-Mujtahid of Ibn Rushd from him in the third year. He had also given tafsir lessons from Fath-ul-Qadir of Imam Al-Shaukami. In my fourth year, both of these lessons are awarded to Sheikh Muhammad Amin Al-Shanqiti. His short biography is as follows. Born in the middle of 1930, Nablus in Palestine. After receiving his early education locally he moved to Saudi Arabia College of Riyadh in 1956 and was among the first batch to graduate. He started his teaching career as a lecturer in the same seat of knowledge. In 1964, he was invited by Sheikh Ibn baz to teach at the Islamic University. His tenure did not last long. He had to leave the university two years later to Kuwait where he worked at different teaching posts including his research work for the ambitious Kuwaiti project of preparing the Fiqh Encyclopaedia.
In 1990, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, he had to move back to Jordan, a natural shelter for the Palestinians. He leaves behind him a wealth of contribution both in the field of Tafsir and Fiqh. He died on 16th November 2009.
Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Muhammad Itr
He was among the youngest teachers at Madinah. Now, at the time of writing these lines, I realise that he was older than me by just five years. Being a graduate of Hadith, he was awarded the subject of Usul-Al-Hadith which was later taken by my father. He belonged to a prestigious family of scholars in Halab, Syria. After he received his doctorate from Al-Azhar in 1964, he straight away came to Madinah to join the teaching staff at the university. His stay in Madinag was confined to two years as well. Being brought up and trained in hanafi Fiqh, the students could notice his warm support for Hanafi opinions both in Usul Hadith and Fiqh.
Apart from them I benefitted from some more people of knowledge either through their lectures from time to time by attending their circles in the mosque of the Prophet (SAW). Among them comes on top, Sheikh Hammad Al-Ansari, a great scholar of Hadith, followed by Muhammad Mukhtar Al-Shanqiti, who used to have his Fiqh circle in the mosque, Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Jaza’iri, the author of ‘Aqeeda-tul-M’umin and a regular speaker at the mosque. Qari Abdul Fattah, the famous Qari from Bukahara who like many other Turkistani migrants have settled in hijaz after the repressive Bolshevik revolution in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century, Yousuf Nada of Egypt who used to be our neighbour and had developed a good friendship with my father.
King Faisal’s Visit to the Jami’a
King Sa’ud bin Abdul Aziz had to abdicate in March 1964 and was succeeded by his brother Faisal. After enthroning as a King, he paid a visit to Madinah, the city of the Prophet (SAW). During his short stay in Madinah he paid a visit to the university as well. It was a simple but adorable ceremony in the only hall existing in the campus at that time: a hall with its ceiling not higher than any adjacent class room. The presences of some sofa sets were the only luxuries at that time. There were welcome speeches, one by a representative from among the students and one by Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, the vice president. I remember the Sheikh suggesting to him to accept the title of Amir-al-Mo’minin as used to be the traditions among the early Muslim Caliphate. King Faisal was wise enough to say that he would rather remain to be a servant of the believers, not their master.
I remember the famous Arabic Nashid (anthem) by which the streets of Madinah had been resounding:
“Ya Faisalna, ya Faisalna, Allah yuhayee Faisalna, ya Faisalna ya Faisalna.”
Our stay in Madinah
My father had to look for an apartment to accommodate all three of us. Sheikh Muhammad Nasir Al-Aboodi, the Registrar of the university was kind enough to find us a two-room flat in a newly built three-story building next to Manakha, Madinah’s famous market with a huge taxi stand for journeys to Jeddah, Makkah and various other destinations in the kingdom. My father was introduced to the landlord as a teacher recruited from Pakistan to teach at the university. On hearing this, the man was aghast with surprise. He asked with curiosity and bewilderment; “How come a non-Arab is teaching our sons in Arabic?”.
Sheikh Al-Aboodi replied to this with a Quranic expression;
هَٰذِهِ بِضَاعَتُنَا رُدَّتْ إِلَيْنَا
“This is our own commodity which has been restored back to us”. (Surah Yusuf:65), a wonderful token of admiration from him!
A few months later, we moved to another apartment, again in a second floor flat in an old building, a bit nearer to Bab-e-Majeedi (one of the northern gates of the Prophet’s mosque and owned by a well-known dignitary in Madinah, Syyed Daftardar). One of my late colleagues, Yusuf Kazim stayed with us at the upper storey of the same house.
Now let me talk about various events in the academic years 1964-65:
- King Faisal’s visit to the Jami’a
King Sa’ud bin Abdul Aziz was forced to abdicate in March 1964 and was succeeded by his brother, Prince Faisal in November 1964. After his enthronement as King, he paid a visit to Madinah, the city of the Prophet (SAW). During his short stay in Madinah he visited the university as well. It was a simple but graceful ceremony in the only hall existing in the campus at that time. There were no extravagant celebrations for the event, only a selection of finely decorated and simple chairs, and sofas for a selected number of students and staff were brought out.
On behalf of the students, one Indian colleague, Muzzamil Siddiqi, had to deliver a welcome speech. Sheikh ibn Baz, the vice-chair at the time also gave a speech and welcomed the King and suggested to him the title of ‘Amir al-Muminin’. King Faisal was a very intelligent man who acknowledged how great the responsibilities would be if he accepted this title. Therefore, he commented in his speech that he would love to remain a servant to the two sacred places, i.e. ‘Khadim Al-Haramain Al-Sharifain’, and that was the title which lasted throughout his life and continues to be attributed to him today. I remember the famous Arabic Nasheed (anthem) which was reverberating throughout the streets of Madinah:
“Ya Faisalna, ya Faisalna, Allah yuhayee Faisalna, ya Faisalna ya Faisalna”.
King Faisal’s visit was a simple one in contrast to a visit by the dethroned King Saud some previous years ago, when golden coins were showered on the spectators, wherever his convoy passed. It was said that unnecessarily lavish displays of wealth, was one of the causes which led Prince Faisal to dethrone his elder brother.
- New Friendships
As I had moved to the town, a phase of celibacy had come to an end, and I had to develop more friendly ties with the married couples in Madinah. One of our colleagues, Ghulam Qadir Balochi happened to marry in a family in Madinah which had mixed roots. Among the more close-friends were Nisaruddin Ahmad from East Pakistan, Sirajul Rahman from India and Abdul Khaliq from Pakistan.
In my later life, first in Kenya and later in London, I would be drawn closer to them, as the field of Da’wa got us together once again. Our studies during the day and regular attendance of evening prayers did not allow us to enjoy any recreational activities.
I remember some of the few gatherings we students had together; once at the site of the Well of Ruma and secondly, at a pool of flood waters on our way to the airport, following a heavy shower of rain; a very rare phenomenon in the mostly dry weather of Madinah. The Well of Ruma had a memorable history going back to the times of the Prophet (SAW).
People in Madinah were short of drinking water, the Prophet (SAW) appealed to the congregation: “Who is going to buy this well which belonged to a Jewish person and declare it a charity for the Muslims? And I announce for him a place in paradise”. That great excellence and blessing was won by Uthman bin Affan, the Prophet’s son-in-law and the third Caliph after the death of the Prophet (SAW). He declared it a Waqf (endowment) for the benefit of the Muslims. His sincerity led this well to survive for fourteen centuries and it is still there in present times.
The fall of rain had always been a jubilant occasion for the inhabitants of Madinah. When a heavy shower poured upon the area, the valleys around Madinah turned into rivulets, and the people flocked to see and enjoy this rare occasion. I remember going to the southern outskirts of Madinah, on the road towards Makkah, where the flood waters were dashing heavily through the valley.
- Hajj of Summer 1965
During the middle of 1965, I was blessed with performing Hajj for the third time, which came out as a family gathering as well. My elder sister, the only one beside her seven male siblings, had come with her husband and children to stay with us in Ramadan. The stay lasted until Hajj; so the first time we had the opportunity to occupy our own tent in Mina, was during Hajj.
My father’s colleague, Hafiz Mohammad Gundalwi, the esteemed Sheikh of Hadith, joined us with his wife and son Masud. When we were in Mina, after retreating from Arafat through Muzdalifa, I remember how Sheikh Gundalwi lost the trail of his temporary accommodation while coming back after throwing pebbles at Jamrah. He must have passed by the tent more than once, but could not recognise it. His wife was earnestly waiting for him at the mouth of the tent. She must have seen him approaching the tent and then missing it altogether. Again, when she sighted him, he was about to cross over. However, she shouted to him in her native Punjabi; “Now, where are you planning to go?”. The Sheikh halted abruptly, but was much pleased to find his place!
After Hajj, we were standing at the bus station, an open courtyard at the outskirts of Makkah, where my sister and her family boarded a bus packed with pilgrims and destined for Zahran, a town 1500 kilometres away at the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. From there, they had to take their flight to Karachi. In those days, PIA, for which my brother-in-law worked as an accountant throughout his life, would have been operating to Zahran more frequently than Jeddah. With my previous memories of such long journeys, I was feeling uneasy to see my sister on the verge of such a hazardous journey ahead.
- The dolls incident
In those days, Saudi Arabia followed a strict and heavy-handed approach towards creating a puritan society. A very glossy, illustrated magazine “Al-Arabi” from Kuwait had started its publication. It used to have a very informative article on one of the Arab towns in each issue. Attractive pictures crowned its title. However, it had to go through a very strenuous censorship process, before it could find its place in the bookstalls. Very often we used to see some of its pictures covered by black ink or the whole page was torn apart.
In such a puritanical environment, the street vendors once came out with imported dolls which were very beautifully designed. They were on sale just a few yards away from the gates of the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW) in the open courtyard in front of Bab-us-Salam (The Gate of Peace). For some students, especially in the last year of the Sharia College, this sight was completely intolerable. Subsequently, a group of them targeted these moving carts carrying the dolls and similar gifts and started breaking them and throwing the merchandise on the ground. The courtyard became a scene like that of a battlefield. The local police had to intervene and put the culprits behind bars. Sheikh ibn Baz tried his best to secure a release of the captives, but his attempts were in vain. At the most, they could sit their final exams. The expatriates among them were deported to their countries of origin and the local ones had to linger on for a while in prison.
I however, had not witnessed the incident, but the news spread like wildfire. Among them were several exemplar students who later excelled in the field of Da’wa in Kuwait and some other Arab capitals.
- Summer vacation of 1965
Accompanying the father, we were back to Karachi after Hajj. By that time, the family had moved to a double storey house in Aziz Abad, a newly-developed area beyond the crowded allies of Liaquat Abad, otherwise known as Lalu Khait.
It was the beginning of September. When the war between India and Pakistan broke out. Indian troops had invaded Lahore, the Punjab capital, where a fierce resistance was triggered, culminating in a repulsion of the Indian army, making headlines across the world. Karachi was far away from the main fighting, but the military airbase at Maripur near Karachi, provided us with an air show where the Pakistani air force had to combat the advancing Indian fighter jets. It was clamour and rattling at daytime and complete blackout at night. The thundering noise of the bombs dropped kept the people sleepless and awake. Thanks to Allah, Karachi had a safe passage during those days of hammering and clamour. Both the Pakistani air force and navy had the opportunity to test its vigour and skills.
As soon as the war was over, my father and I rushed to travel back to Madinah, while my expectant wife remained in her family home at PECH society to witness the greatest maiden experience of her life as a mother.
A few days later, I received the news. She gave birth to twins, named as Abdullah and Abdulrahman. They were both weak and frail and could not survive. Abdullah passed away within hours of his birth. His twin brother joined him after six days. Unfortunately, I was not there to share the moments of grief and sorrow with my wife. As I have not seen them, I seldom remember them coming into this world and then hiding abruptly into eternity. I presented my wife with the saying of the Prophet (SAW), as reported by Imam Bukhari in his collections: Abu Saeed Al-Khudri reported that the women said to the Prophet (SAW): “The men have taken most of your time. So, appoint for us a day from you”. The Prophet (SAW) promised to do so. That day he came and admonished them and gave them some commandments. Among his discourse, he said to them: “Whoever among you send in advance three of her children, they will shield her from hell-fire”. A woman asked; “What if they are just two?”. He replied: “Yes, even if there are just two of them”.
One day during Ramadan, I was at Jeddah airport to receive my wife. To my surprise, there was another lady with her as well. She was the newly-wed bride of Ehsan Elahi Zaheer, who was not aware of her arrival at all. We took her to our rented room in Makkah where I was staying for the last ten days of Ramadan with my father and my mother who had arrived with four of my younger siblings one month ago. Ihsan was alerted by phone and then he was there by the end of the day, coming straight from Madinah!