My Memoirs 8-9-10
My Memoirs No.8
Final year in Madinah (1966)
I have not many recollections of my last year in the university except that I achieved the highest grade (Mumtāz) in the final exam by which I acquired my certificate in Islamic Sharia. It equates with a B.A in the British educational system.
There had been neither any award-giving ceremony nor any graduates gathering. We had to pick up our certificates from the office and say farewell to the Registrar and slip away quietly.
Would it not be adorable if I gave here some short and sketchy notes about some of my colleagues who shared with me the room, the class, the university as a whole?
With some I had good memories of a long-lasting company; with some others a remembrance of a kind gesture, exchange of some thoughts or opinions, a sitting of mutual reading and discussion. By remembering them, I find myself paying off a debt which I owe to them.
When I speak about them, I have to cover the post-graduate period during which I might have had contact with some of them as well.
So to make my task easier, I could briefly say about the phases of life through which I have passed after leaving Madinah and about which I have to speak in details in a later part of my memoirs.
From April 1967, I started my career as a teacher and Da’ī in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
In July 1976, I moved to London where I first established Al-Quran society and later, with the help and co-operation of some other activists I was able to lay the foundation of the Islamic Sharia Council (1982), and then Masjid Al-Tawhid (1984). I was one of the founding members of the international charity Muslim Aid in 1985.
I had the honour to be a member of the European Council for Fatwa & Research since its inception in 1997 and also a member of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA) since its appearance in 2003.
I had been awarded as well, the membership of the World Organisation of the Muslim Scholars which was established under the auspices’ of Rabita ‘Alam Islami (Muslim World League) of Makkah.
With this background in mind, I am going to speak first about those colleagues who, by the time I write these lines (May 2018) had already passed away. May Allah Almighty have mercy upon them and declare them among the citizens of the Paradise. Secondly, as for those who are still alive, I will keep on remembering them in my writing on the Blog in future. I wish for me and them a blissful end in line with the saying of Allah:
مِّنَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ۬ صَدَقُواْ مَا عَـٰهَدُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَيۡهِۖ فَمِنۡهُم مَّن قَضَىٰ نَحۡبَهُ ۥ وَمِنۡہُم مَّن يَنتَظِرُۖ وَمَا بَدَّلُواْ تَبۡدِيلاً۬
“Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah, of them some have fulfilled their obligations and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least.”
[Surah al-Ahzāb 33:23]
Thirdly, I have to crown this discussion with my thoughts about one of the greatest scholars of this century, a most influential person not only in Saudi Arabia but in the entire Muslim world, his eminence Sheikh ‘Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz, May Allah have mercy upon him.
So let me begin with the first group.
- Ibrahim Khalil
He comes of a very remote northern area in Pakistan, from Skardu, Gilgit, Baltistan, an area where Sunni Muslims, mostly Ahl-e-Hadith to which he belonged and Noor Bakshia, a sect of Ismailia, the followers of Agha Khan live side by side. Difference of faith and practices may lead them to debate and discuss, and sometimes to denounce and have enmities. To come out of that far-flung area and travel to Karachi for the pursuit of knowledge was a great achievement on his part.
As I mentioned earlier we were together for the four years of our stay in Madinah and were also together in our appointment in Kenya. He remained associated to Madrasa al-Falah of Mombasa, from the day he joined till the day he had to leave it. He had been a successful teacher throughout his life and left behind him his legacy: a great number of students.
Visiting him in 2016, at his place in Mombasa, just one year before his death, was a great God-given opportunity for me.
The news of his death came to me through his eldest son Anas, who was with him while he was confined to his bed in Shifa hospital, Islamabad, Pakistan. The family took his body to Skardu for a burial in his native town.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him!
- Abdul Rahman Nasir
My second colleague in the boarding for the first two years of Jam’ia life.
He had to join the secondary stage lasting for three years before entering into the degree college.
With a healthy body and strong physique, he was always interested in militant ways and military life. He started his career as a translator to help Pakistan officials on their visits to Saudi Arabia. But his ambitions came true when he got the translator role with Pak forces headquarters in Islamabad.
He seems to have enjoyed his duties, away from the hectic field of Da’wa or preaching.
As a regular visitor to Islamabad annually, I have met him twice or thrice at his residence.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Muhammad Yusuf Kazim
After graduation, he was appointed as a teacher in Kempala, Uganda. In the summer of 1976, when I had to leave Nairobi for good, he replaced me at Mungana Madrasa where I had been a teacher for nine years.
Later he moved to the Islamic University at Islamabad. There I happened to meet him several times during my visits to Pakistan. He has developed a great liking for western philosophy and was found to be very appreciative of philosophical theories.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Abdullah Kaka Khail
Remembering him means to remember his two colleagues as well; Hasan Jan and Abdul Razzaq Iskandar. All three belonged to the famous seat of knowledge in Karachi; known as Jam’ia Binnuari, named after Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Binnuari. They come from the northern border area of Pakistan. Pathan by tribe and Khaiber by province.
They were all well-versed in Hanafi Fiqh and their stay in Madinah gave them an exposure to Hanbali Fiqh in particular and to all the schools of thought in general. Our text back in Fiqh, Bidayat-ul-Mujtahid of Ibn Rushd allowed them an insight in comparative fiqh.
Though they were impressed by the scholastic approach of Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Shanqiti, they seemed to be at odds with Salafi teachers, like Sheikh Muhammad Nasiruddin Al-Albani and Sheikh Abdul Mohsin Hamd Al-‘Abbad.
Abdullah Kaka Khail turned out to be a popular teacher at the Islamic University in Islamabad. Now his son Adnan is advancing his legacy in knowledge and defence of the religious values.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Hasan Jan
Long after graduation, I met him once in Makkah during a pilgrimage. He had shown me a treatise of his writing on the Hadith of “Umm Zar,” a famous Hadith in Bukhari where a very interesting discussion is recorded among eight women who had been describing their husbands. It is one of those Ahadith which consists of very difficult Arabic words and idioms.
He became famous by winning a seat in the National Assembly of Pakistan.
The last news which struck my ears were about his murder on the hands of some extremists who were not happy on his stance about some political issues in the northern areas of Pakistan.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Abu Bakr of Mozambique
See Memoirs No.5 for a detailed discussion about him.
- Siraj-ul-Rahman Nadawi
Not in Madinah but in Africa, a stronger bond of friendship developed among the two of us, mainly because of the womenfolk in both houses. During my few visits of Kampala, while I had been stationed in Nairobi, we were hosted by him. Later during the times of President Edi Amin, he moved to Mombasa, Kenya where he was able to establish a centre for education and training.
Twenty years after my departure from Nairobi I happened to visit this centre twice. Once during his lifetime and secondly in 2016 after his death. With his friendly contacts with some Arab Shuyukh and wealthy tradesmen, he acquired enough funds to establish this centre.
I remember a friendly gathering of our two families when I took him to Ngong Hill at the outskirts of Nairobi when I was still there.
A year before he passed away, he came to visit his son in London. I found him frail and exhausted, due to a heart attack he suffered while he was in Kenya.
During my last visit to Kenya in 2016, his son-in-law, a medical doctor by profession, took me to the Islamic college, a part of the main educational centre and two other schools and a mosque, which he also established at a distance from Mombasa on the road to Kalifi, a coastal town before approaching Lamu on the east African coast.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Habibullah Abdul Qadir Sindhi
I met him in Madinah where he used to assist the pilgrims in their boarding, lodging and travelling to Makkah especially as a spiritual guide during their sacred journey.
Long after leaving Madinah, I heard about him as a distinguished Sheikh with exhaustive writing on the fallacy of Sufism. I happened to visit him once in his house by the road leading to the airport. Here I got some glimpses of his books on the subject.
Being older than me, he turned out to be an old Sheikh, with fully Arab attire which attracted respect and admiration from the people around him.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Abdul Hamid Rahmani
See Memoirs No.6 where I have spoken about him.
- Hafiz Nisaruddin Ahmad
See my article (obituary) on his death in this blog.
- Abdul Wahhab Khilji
He must be a contemporary to my younger brother, Dr Suhail Hasan who stayed in Madinah with the family (my parents) after my departure to Nairobi in 1967.
He comes from Malair Kotla, one of the princely states in East Punjab, which is my birthplace as well.
I used to see him in Madinah, during my annual visits to see my parents until my father had to leave Madinah in 1980 after retirement.
As a Secretary General of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, India, he was very influential in promoting the Salafi way of Islamic Da’wa in his homeland. On the other hand, this august post provided him a great opportunity to travel widely especially in the middle east to represent Jamiat at international forums. During such meetings and in Makkah, Istanbul and London, I happened to meet him and have exchange of thoughts with him.
After a long illness, he breathed his last on Friday 27th Rajab 1439 AH (13.4.2018) in Delhi.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Ihsan Ilahi Zaheer.
He joined the University one year later than me i.e. in 1963.
He was known to be an active, flamboyant and outspoken young man.
Myself, being away from Pakistan, soon after graduation, in a foreign land, I lost contact with him after leaving Madinah.
Once, during my annual Hajj activities, in late seventies, when I was officially used to be invited to participate in the guidance of pilgrims, I found him occupying a bed in a big room with a few beds, all for the delegates like us during the Hajj season. He told me that he had been invited that year to join hands with the working group during the Hajj season. But for him, to abide by a strenuous working schedule with regularity and punctuality was a task too far. I do not remember for how many days he made himself available but whatever amount of time he spent, he was a valuable asset for the whole group known as ‘’Taw’iya Islamia fi Al-Hajj (Islamic Awareness during Hajj).”
Twice, I think, he came to U.K to participate in the annual conference of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith held at Birmingham. At one occasion he was seen standing hand in hand on the stage with Mian Fazl-e-Haqq, the Secretary General of Pakistan Jamiat, with whom he used to have differences on party politics. The Birmingham meeting brought them closer and a chapter of rivalry and bitterness came to an end.
His books refuting Shi’ism brought him a fortune but also declared him an authority on this subject.
The murderous attempt on his life in 1988 while he was addressing a public meeting, crowned the last phase of his energetic life full in the defence of Islamic values, the propagation of the true Islamic faith and consolidation of a just system in Pakistan.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
- Abdul Salam Kilani
They were three: Abdul Salam Kilani, Hāfiz Sanaullah and Hāfiz Abdul Rahman, all from the same school of thought inspired by Sheikh Abdullah Ropari, who came to join the university in 1963. All three of them excelled in knowledge and adherence to Sunnah.
It is said about Kilani that he followed my footsteps in travelling to Madinah, on his first retreat after passing the summer vacation in his hometown in Punjab, by taking the voyage through Muscat, Dubai and Bahrain. Like me he spent a night in a small hotel in Bahrain where his eyes caught for the first time in his life, the glimpse of a black and white TV set. He simply turned his back to that object which was displaying pictures!
He was very simple in his life, very fond of the books and always with a smile on his face.
Later after graduation, he joined that group of Da’wa delegates who were appointed in Uganda.
Another interesting story is related about him. Once he was riding a tractor beside its African driver. He kept on talking to him about the beautiful teachings of Islam throughout his short journey to the fields. By the time he dismounted, the man had already pronounced the Kalima of Shahadah i.e. the one to embrace Islam.
It has been a normal chat among teachers like us to amuse ourselves to speak about marrying a second wife. Though none of us took it seriously except for Kilani. He, in the absence of his wife who was still in Pakistan, married a lady of Somali origin. It became a nightmare for him when his first wife arrived at Kampala. However, he managed to calm down the situation and even take his second wife to Pakistan for a short stay.
Later his Somali wife, with three of his daughters moved to London where I happened to meet them once according to the wishes of Kilani. These were very sad moments for him and his family as one of his daughters met her death in a road accident.
Kilani, eventually moved back to Pakistan where I had seen him once at the premises of Darus Salam Book shop.
He had grown in weight and seemed to be exhausted by travelling but he was still there with his smiles.
May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
My Memoirs part no. 9
Sheikh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz bin ‘Abdullah bin Bāz
Men fill the whole world but in Quranic terminology “men” (Rijāl in Arabic) in the eyes of Allah Almighty are a race of some specific qualities. For example, the Quran mentions the Houses of Allah as a manifestation of His light where “men” of a certain kind are mentioned:
فِى بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ ٱللَّهُ أَن تُرۡفَعَ وَيُذۡڪَرَ فِيہَا ٱسۡمُهُ ۥ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ ۥ فِيہَا بِٱلۡغُدُوِّ وَٱلۡأَصَالِ رِجَالٌ۬ لَّا تُلۡهِيہِمۡ تِجَـٰرَةٌ۬ وَلَا بَيۡعٌ عَن ذِكۡرِ ٱللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ وَإِيتَآءِ ٱلزَّكَوٰةِۙ يَخَافُونَ يَوۡمً۬ا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُلُوبُ وَٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرُ
“In houses (mosques), which Allah has ordered to be raised (to be cleaned, and to be honoured), in them His Name is remembered. Therein glorify Him (Allah) in the mornings and in the afternoons or the evenings. Men whom neither trade nor sale diverts them from the Remembrance of Allah nor from performing the Salat (prayer) nor from giving the Zakat (Charity). They fear a Day when hearts and eyes will be overturned.” [Surah Al-Nūr 24:36-37]
In Surah Al-Ahzāb 33:23, they are described in a praiseworthy way:
مِّنَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ۬ صَدَقُواْ مَا عَـٰهَدُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَيۡهِۖ فَمِنۡهُم مَّن قَضَىٰ نَحۡبَهُ ۥ وَمِنۡہُم مَّن يَنتَظِرُۖ وَمَا بَدَّلُواْ تَبۡدِيلاً۬
“Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah, of them some have fulfilled their obligations, and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed.” [Surah Al-Ahzāb 33:23]
No doubt that our Sheikh, our mentor was among such “men” of an esteemed high calibre. Though he lost his eye-sight at the age of nineteen but Allah awarded him instead such an insight which excels a thousand eye-sights. In this article, I endeavour to present such aspects of his life to which I was a witness or as they came to my knowledge through other sources.
The Sheikh was brought up in Najd (central province of Saudi Arabia) where the teachings of Sheikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Wahhāb based upon the pure teachings of the Quran and Sunnah were deeply rooted, where the innovations had been buried and vanished and the Sunnah was manifest and flourishing.
He became the champion of this Da’wa and passed his whole life in propagating it.
Though he was trained in Hanbali fiqh, he set a glorious example in following the evidence from the Book and the Sunnah along with the practice of the companions. For example, unlike his contemporary scholars, he adopted the opinion of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Al-Qayyim concerning the issue of triple divorce declaring it as one revocable Talaq as it used to be during the times of the Prophet ﷺ. Similarly, he invalidated a divorce pronounced to a wife while she was menstruating in the light of the hadith of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar.
A journalist, Fahd Al-Bakran, the editor of the Fatwa corner in ‘Al-Da’wa’ magazine of Riyadh once wrote:
“A few months ago, we have published a Fatwa with a sentence in the beginning which says: ‘it is reported in Madhab so and so’ and we attributed this Fatwa to the Sheikh. Once it was brought to the knowledge of the Sheikh, he asked us about the above-mentioned sentence and made it clear that ‘we do not say that this is what Madhab says but we just say that this is what Allah Al-Mighty has said and his Messenger ﷺ has said.’”
It shows very clearly the Manhaj (methodology) of the Sheikh in issuing a Fatwa i.e. not following a particular Madhab but relying totally on the evidences from the Book and the Sunnah.
Once he issued a Fatwa giving the permissibility of marrying a Kitabiya (a Jewish or Christian woman) with certain conditions. A student of knowledge said to the Sheikh that some of the companions did not approve such a marriage. Sheikh simply replied by saying: Will the Book and the Sunnah be bound by the saying of one companion?
Once he was addressing through a tele-conference our gathering at Masjid Al-Tawhid, London when I asked him this question: Here some Salafi youth judge a person through the eyes of his Manhaj (methodology) and not through his Aqeedah (belief)? Sheikh replied: They are both the same. What is our Aqeedah (i.e. the Book and the Sunnah along with the practice of the companions) is our Manhaj as well.
He was a man of many shades; Exegetist of the Quran, Narrator of Hadith, a jurist, a speaker, an administrator but he excelled in the field of Da’wa.
He used to begin his speech with an admonition to acquire Taqwa (fear of Allah) followed by an emphasis on sincerely directing all forms of worship to Allah alone. He had a lot of verses and ahadith in store condemning Shirk (associating deities with Allah). Then he used to highlight the importance of acquiring good characters:
- A deep profound insight in the matters of religion
- Complete sincerity
- A good knowledge
- Good character
And he was equipped with all these four. He was the one to be chosen to be the first rector of the Islamic University at Madinah since the day of its inception. During his patronage, the university enjoyed teachers of great skill and knowledge in each and every subject. For example:
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Shanqiti of Mauritania who had no match in the subject of Tafsir and Fiqh.
Sheikh Muhammad Nasiruddin Al-Albani who was there for three years as a teacher of Hadith. There had been none similar to him in our times in the science of Hadith and the reporters of Hadith.
Hafiz Muhammad Gundalwi of Pakistan who did not stay more than one year in Madinah but his circle in the Prophet’s mosque attracted not only the students but the teachers of the university as well.
My father, Sheikh ‘Abdul Ghaffar Hasan had a great honour to teach there continuously for sixteen years. He taught Hadith, the Usul Hadith and Isnad. A number of teachers took pride in acquiring Ijaza of Hadith from him, i.e. through his Isnad to the Prophet ﷺ.
There were teachers of par-excellence in each and every subject like:
Sheikh ‘Abdul Muhsin Hamad Al-‘Abbad in the subject of Tawhid (Aqeedah: faith)
Sheikh ‘Abdul Qadir Shayba-tul-Hamd in Hadith and comparative religion.
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Majzub in the Arabic literature, prose and poetry.
Sheikh ‘Abdul Ra’ūf Al-Lubadi in Arabic grammar and linguistics.
Sheikh Muhammad Mukhtar Al-Shanqiti in Fiqh and Usul Al-Fiqh
Sheikh Muhammad ‘Umar Falata in Hadith and Tawhid
Sheikh ‘Atiyya Muhammad Salim in linguistics and the subject of Balagha (eloquence)
Later two more great scholars of these two subjects: Muhammad Nazim Nadawi from Pakistan and Taqi ud Din Hilali of Morocco joined this unprecedented galaxy of the knowledge and art.
It was due to the sincerity of the Sheikh that his product, the graduates of this Jami’a are found everywhere in the world spreading the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah.
After serving the Jami’a for fourteen years, when he moved to Riyadh (1975) as a Head of Dar-ul-Ifta, he was given the task of supervising all those Mab’ūth (delegates) in the field of Da’wa. Dar-ul-Ifta was no more a seat for the issuance of Fatwa, it was turned into the Presidency of the scholarly research, Ifta, Da’wa and guidance.
In 1967, one year after my graduation, that Dar-ul-Ifta of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, then supervised by Mufti Sheikh Muhammad bin Ibrahim, a direct descendant of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, was commissioned to take care of Da’wa abroad. As advised by Sheikh Muhammad Nasir Al-‘Aboodi, the registrar of Jami’a, who embarked upon a lengthy tour of Africa for this purpose, the Muslims of the countries of Kenya, Uganda and Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) accepted to host the delegates.
I was among the four who were selected for this job.
Myself and Ibrahim Khalil to Nairobi and Mombasa respectively, Sirajul Rahman Nadawi to Kampala, and ‘Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri to Salisbury (Harare presently).
I stayed in Kenya for nine years (to be discussed in detail in my coming parts of the blog) until 1976 when because of some unpleasant events, I decided to leave the country. I visited the Sheikh in Riyadh and told him about my desire to leave Kenya for good. Not even for a moment he hesitated but simply asked me where I want to move? “To Pakistan, to the U.K or to the U.S.A?”
I chose Britain viewing that I would be able there to pursue my post-graduate studies as a part-time student as well. It was an honour for me to be among the first batch of delegates to Africa and the first one to be delegated to a European country.
During those days another institution by the title of “Al-Ta’wiy al-Islamia fi Al-Hajj (Islamic awareness during Hajj)” had been established. Invited by them, I got the opportunity to visit Makkah almost every year for many years to come. These annual visits, included those to see my parents in Madinah till 1980, allowed me to visit the Sheikh regularly and witness his esteem character of nobility and generosity from a very close end.
He used to pass his days with a regular routine unchanged whether he was in Riyadh or Makkah or Madinah or Ta’if. A piece of admonition after Fajr prayer followed by Zikr individually till the rising of the sun.
He would attend his office at the appointed time. Normally his spacious office will be abounding with visitors including applicants for help or seekers for a Fatwa even before his arrival.
Two of his secretaries, with piles of papers, would sit on both sides. A telephone set would be within his reach on a coffee table before him. Each one of them would read a paper to him and then record his verbal instruction on it. Very seldom the phone bell would start ringing and he would answer the phone. The person on the other end might be a man or woman who would be keen to get an answer to his/her question directly from the mouth of Sheikh. All the applicants in the room would be patiently waiting for their papers to be presented to the Sheikh for his instruction. A phone call or a new visitor’s greeting and shaking hands with him would interrupt him again and again. Sheikh had to attend them all.
I would be very fortunate if my paper was presented to him any time before Zuhr prayer. If not, I had a little chance to get it presented within the last hour of his sitting after Zuhr before he rose to the dinner sheets spread in an adjacent room to which everyone was invited.
Dr. Sa’ād Al-Shuwai’r, his personal secretary remarks in his article, that “quite often delegates from abroad would come to visit the Sheikh. They would enter that spacious Diwan of the Sheikh where visitors were seated on the chairs arranged by the three walls of the room (leaving the front wall for entrance). They would start shaking hands with each sitting person, beginning from the right and after greeting all, they would take their seats at the end. Then some of them would ask me when the Sheikh would arrive for whom they had come a long way to visit. “
Dr. Al-Shuwa’ir, pointing towards the Sheikh would say, “This is the Sheikh, right in front of the phone, with whom you have just shook your hands in greeting.”
Al-Shuwa’ir said that many a dignitary, after experiencing this sight of humbleness and humility on the part of Sheikh came to tears. They said that our scholars lived with pride and arrogance and you could hardly see them without making a prior appointment but Sheikh was unique. He would ask the visitors how was he and his family. If he was someone from abroad, Sheikh would ask him to sit next to him and start conversing with him to have a full introduction of him.
An amazing aspect of him to recognise a person with his voice. Often you greet him saying ‘‘Assalam-u-Alaikum’’ and he would greet you back with your name. When I used to meet him after my father left Madinah in 1980, he would ask about the health of my father and then about Sheikh ‘Abdul Rahim Ashraf of Lyallpur (present Faisal Abad) because of his close association with my father.
He in his generosity was Hātim Tā’ī of our times. Once you say Salam to him, he would invite you by saying “Lunch today is with us.” Once you reach his house for lunch, you will see a big crowd of people, students, teachers and a number of dignitaries, all who have been invited. Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Māni’, one of his close friends said that Sheikh’s daily expenditure was no less than two thousand Riyals (approximately £400), most of his salary goes to meet the needs of the poor and needy along with the entertainment of the guests.
With such an expenditure, Sheikh was always found in debt by the end of each month but there would always be someone, an individual or from the royal court who would pay off his debt.
By the time the midday meal is over, the time for ‘Asr prayer becomes due. Sheikh would rest till Maghrib, then he would deliver a lesson, explaining one of the books in Hadith or Fiqh in one of the mosques.
During my stay in Riyadh, for a specific task concerning the review of the translation and footnotes of ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, I found him occupied with more than one book during that time. A student would read the text from the Book and Sheikh would explain exhaustively whatever was needed to be elaborated. Then comes the term of the second and the third book and so on and so forth until ‘Isha Azan was announced.
Some of his close associates told me that Sheikh used to remain awake sometimes till midnight totally engrossed with the books; reading, looking for references, preparing a paper or writing an article through his secretaries or helpers. With all these engagements, he never missed his night prayers.
He created a special fund for the help of the poor and needy. The money used to pour in from a great number of philanthropists from among the wealthy businessmen and individuals. Because of their blind trust in the Sheikh, the fund used to always be ripe with money.
His family reported of a certain woman who sent their condolence message from Bosnia. We asked her “how did you come to know the Sheikh?”, she said “how should I not know him while I kept on receiving my expenses from him regularly.”
Two years before his death, I witnessed him during Hajj time welcoming the President of Chechnya. Sheikh had a cordial lengthy meeting with him and hosted him at the midday meal. Before he gave him farewell, the entry of his treasurer of the private purse revealed to me that Sheikh must not have seen him off without honouring him.
Let me mention another event of his most humble character to which I stand a witness, that I, during that visit, requested him to honour us after Hajj by his visit to our caravan of pilgrims, known as ‘’Labbaik’’ from London and address them in person. Sheikh accepted my request and gave me an appointment at a certain day after Hajj after Maghrib prayer.
The day arrived and I was very worried how could I be able to approach him while he was always surrounded by the people, visitors and applicants, wherever he was found. I hastened to his mosque in Shisha, Makkah before the prayer.
As soon as the prayer was over, Sheikh, escorted by his personal body guards slipped through a special gate, erected by the side of the Qibla to ride his car. Hurriedly I went through the main gate, rushed towards the guards and reminded them of my appointment with the Sheikh. May Allah bless the Sheikh. He heard my voice and directed the guard to allow me accompanying him in his Jeep which in turn escorts Sheikh’s car to the south of ‘Aziziya where our delegation was camped in a three-storey building. Because of an ailment in his leg, Sheikh preferred to address the delegates at the ground floor hall. The organisers of the caravan, a charity team from Kuwait and the pilgrims were glad to see the Sheikh among them.
What a great honour for them to have the Grand-Mufti of Saudi Arabia honouring them with this unprecedented visit. I was there, sitting next to him and translating his speech into English. I will never forget that great noble gesture when he accepted my request in spite of his busy schedule and an ailing leg.
People from all around the globe used to contact him in the matters of religion. In matrimonial disputes, many couples would not be satisfied until they receive an answer from him. In matters of divorce, people would prefer to get his advice which used to satisfy both the husband and wife.
How often a princess from the royal family would phone him asking advice about their matrimonial matters. It seems that Sheikh knows each and every member of the Royal court. So before answering, he would ask her about her husband, her children and other members of the household. He never used his personal acquaintance with them to gain any benefit but only to meet the needs of those in distress or in deep trouble.
It is reported that when he was appointed as a Qazi in Al-Kharaj district at the age of twenty-seven after accomplishing his studies, he used to write letters to the King and the ministers and the princes, interceding for people in need beside his official role as a Qazi. When it became a routine matter with him, he was told by the higher authorities that his role was confined to judge among the people and not to write letters of recommendation for them. Sheikh responded by saying that you wanted me to judge between the people concerning their camels, oxen, cows and goats only and should not intercede in matters which deserve attention while the Prophet ﷺ said “Intercede and get reward (from Allah).” He said, “If someone meets his need because of my intercession, I will be happy to have served someone and even if the person doesn’t get what he wanted, my reward with Allah will reach me one day.”
No doubt this practice continued with him till he breathed his last. Allah knows better, with his intercessions how many poor people got their house established, how many students came to achieve their targets, how many captives saw the light of freedom and how many jobless amongst them were crowned with jobs.
In addition, there had been no account of such Mosques, schools, orphanages and charities that owe their existence to Sheikh’s help and personal intervention.
An incident of this nature came to my knowledge recently through social media. A narrative by Salah Isma’il, a student of doctorate at the Jami’a in Madinah:
It was night time when a group of four Somali students came to him almost crying with grief. They were very worried because of an alarming news which they heard that evening. Siyaad Barre, the dictator of Somalia had announced that he is going to execute six local Islamic activists (delegated as Da’iya by Saudi Arabia) at the Fajr time next morning. Salah took his friends to Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Jazairi at around 11 PM. They woke him up from sleep and reported to him the sad news. He cried with them in grief and despair. Then he said that ‘’We had none to contact except one person, a father figure to us, none but Sheikh Ibn Baz.” He phoned his secretary Ibrahim Al-Husayyin who was reluctant to wake the Sheikh who already retired to his bedroom at his house in Riyadh. Looking at the seriousness of the matter he eventually woke him up. Sheikh was himself aggrieved and was in tears after listening to the news. He told Sheikh Abu Bakr to wait for his call.
Straight away he phoned crown prince ‘Abdullah at his palace in Riyadh. Again, it was not easy for anyone in his royal office to wake him but Sheikh said in a warning tone that he would be coming by himself if they did not connect him to the crown prince. Then the response came from the prince and when he knew the whole story he retorted, “How dare that man (i.e. Siyaad Barre) execute the delegates who were sent by you to teach and propagate Islam.” Within an hour he reported to the Sheikh that the matter had been settled and he made Siyaad Barre pardon all of them, not only them but all other prisoners of the same kind. And this is how the joyful news, because of the timely intercession of Sheikh Ibn Baz, came to the awaiting group of Somali students in Madinah in the early hours of the morning when Sheikh rang them and said, “Have good news, relief has come, relief has come.”
Let me narrate another case of his extreme generosity and fear of Allah.
Once an applicant from an African country approached him for help. Sheikh instructed his secretary to write at the bottom of his request paper a note directing his treasurer to give him two thousand Riyals (around £400). He was given this note to deliver it by hand to his treasurer seated at another office. The man on his way to the office read the note and added one zero to the amount making it twenty thousand Riyals. The treasurer became a little suspicious and rang the Sheikh whether he really ordered twenty thousand Riyals for the man in question? Sheikh received the call himself. Now look at his reaction. He started crying and asking forgiveness from Allah. Then he said, “I seek forgiveness from Allah as I did not encompass his real need and gave him less than what he required. Give him the amount of twenty thousand Riyals.”
No doubt any other person in the place of Sheikh could have turned the world upside down on this fraudulent activity but the Sheikh was different.
As I said earlier, how many Mosques, schools, orphanages and other numerous types of projects had seen light because of his own donation or through his noble intercession.
One such example is that of the purchase of a corner house, meant to be turned by me and my colleague to Masjid & Madrasa Al-Tawhid in Leyton, London in 1984. That could only be possible because of the donation that came from him. This is why I consider that mosque as a charitable act of Sheikh Ibn Baz.
Those familiar with the sessions with Sheikh know that how frequently he used to say ‘‘Subhan Allah’’ while he was engaged in his daily routine work. If someone is found to be a bit annoyed and bitter in speech, Sheikh would say ‘’Sabbih Sabbih (say Subhan Allah)” He used to say Salah upon the Prophet ﷺ a lot. Another dhikr ‘’La Hawla wa la Quwwatta illa Billah’’ was always on his tongue.
His close friends were asked, had he ever been in anger and if he was, till what extent?
The answer came from one of his companions that once a Bedouin asked him whether he could go back to his wife while he divorced her at three separate occasions. Sheikh said that this was a case of absolute irrevocable divorce where there was no room for getting back to his wife. The man reiterated asking for any solution. His answer was no different. He said, “Please do find a solution for my sake!” To this, Sheikh reacted in a great anger. He said, “Bring me my stick, it is not a joke.”
That was the limit of his anger. He did not mean to actually use the stick.
Many a time he wrote refutations to those who opposed him but his writing used to be totally void of any vulgarity towards his opponents from among Ahl-us-Sunnah. He would simply say, “Our brother so and so.” Or “Sheikh so and so, may Allah forgive him said…” If the opponent is found to be from among the people of innovation or an evil belief, Sheikh would not add more than these words, “May Allah treat him the way he deserves.”
He was not devoid of humour at all. To his visitors, especially those of his age from Arabia, and those from non-Arab countries where polygamous marriages are not practiced, he would say, “Why not a second wife? How many wives have you got? Why not another one?” Someone would reply by saying, “We are Muwahhidūn (i.e. confining to one only).” To which he would reply, “No but you are ‘Kha’ifūn (full of fear).” If someone presented an excuse not to respond to his invitation for the dinner, he would say, “It seems that you fear your wife a lot and this is why you are reluctant to accept my invitation.”
If a child was brought to his meeting place, he would rub his head with his hand, ask his name and that of his father. Then he would ask him what were the pillars of Islam and why Allah Al-Mighty created man. If he replied accurately, he would ask him, “Tell me the evidence from the Quran about it.” As he was keen for every child to know the fundamentals of Islam. That was his mission, to give sincere advice, to which he stood true to the last breath of his life.
Dr. Salih Al-Munajjid reported that when the court in Egypt, at the directive of the then President, sentenced Sayyed Qutb to death, Sheikh was found very aggrieved. He called upon his personal secretary and dictated the telegram to the President which ended with verse no. 93 of Surah Al-Nisa:
وَمَن يَقۡتُلۡ مُؤۡمِنً۬ا مُّتَعَمِّدً۬ا فَجَزَآؤُهُ ۥ جَهَنَّمُ خَـٰلِدً۬ا فِيہَا وَغَضِبَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡهِ وَلَعَنَهُ ۥ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ ۥ عَذَابًا عَظِيمً۬ا
“And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the Wrath and the Curse of Allah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him.”
Look how the Sheikh in spite of his difference of opinion with a certain school of thought to which he kept on advising them in the past, stood to comfort them in their state of being victimised innocently. The difference of opinion did not lead him to speak ill of a person of knowledge.
Sheikh was very concerned on the matters of enjoining what was good and forbidding what was evil but he preferred to talk to the rulers, King, princes, governors and others in privacy in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. All such noble steps implemented by the government like maintaining Islamic values in the Kingdom, treating the people of knowledge around the world with esteem respect, establishing a lot of religious and educational institutions locally and abroad, sending Da’iya and teachers to the four corners of the world, was not possible without the insight and guidance of the Sheikh.
Whereas innovations and impressions of Shirk had become a norm of the society wherever you go in the Muslim World, nothing of that sort is seen or witnessed in the Kingdom. Undoubtedly that might be a fruit of the reformatory movement led by Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab two centuries ago but to maintain these reforms till present times when the doors of Saudi Arabia were kept fully open for all sorts of people with diverse thoughts and opinions, could only be possible because of the efforts and integrity of a person of great conviction and valour who could stand as a solid barrier against all waves of evil, innovations and promiscuity in the name of culture and liberalism. Show me any country where activities such as cinema to promote obscenity, theatre, prostitution, bars and gambling do not enjoy the state approval and encouragement except for Saudi Arabia. (Notice that these lines were written originally around eighteen years ago in an Urdu article). Now I can add; this had been the legacy of Sheikh Ibn Baz and it is an obligation on the part of his contemporary scholars and his students, to preserve and enhance this legacy. If they fail to maintain it, the blessings the land enjoys would fade away as well.
The justice demands that I should hail the very good and cordial relations, the King ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Āl-Sa’ūd and his successors had maintained with the scholars. It had been a part of their weekly activities to have a meeting with Sheikh Ibn Baz and a number of prominent scholars with him. They indeed have enjoyed a place of honour and dignity with the Royal court.
Looking at the simplicity, sincerity and the humble way of Sheikh’s life, we have no hesitation to say that Sheikh had maintained good relations with them, not for any personal gain or benefit, but only to motivate them to carry out all what could benefit the Muslims at large and to preserve the Islamic values of the Kingdom. He used his relations to get the Mosques and Islamic seminars established, to help the poor and the needy and to intercede where it was hardly required.
During his last illness, he had been admitted to the military hospital in Tā’if. According to an authentic source, he always desired to go to the hospital’s Mosque and offer his prayer there. His well-wishers told him not to endanger his health by forcing himself to such hectic movements while he was allowed to offer his prayer in his room. Sheikh replied that ‘’I found myself in a prestigious position to say a few words of admonition after the prayer to the congregation.” A task which no one else could dare to carry out. Be it known that he was in a top security hospital where dignitaries of an esteem position, both from civil and military quarters could be admitted.
Was it not a great blessing of Allah upon him that though he was about 89 years of age, he enjoyed both his heart and mind till his last days. He tried to maintain his daily routine in spite of his ailment.
That great love and honour he enjoyed from all and sundry came to light when the news of his death broke out. People from each and every corner of the kingdom flocked to Makkah to attend his funeral prayer. The flights from Riyadh were abounded by travellers. Those who came by cars and coaches flooded the streets of Makkah as if it was a scene of visitors for ‘Umrah during the month of Ramadan. The sacred mosque was packing with the people as if was a day of Hajj.
Indeed, he was the one for whom the avenue of love and acceptance in the earth had been open as indicated by the Prophet ﷺ, “If Allah loves a person, he would place acceptance for him in the land.”
I had met him a lot at his offices, in the Mosques and at his residences in Madinah, Makkah, Riyadh and in Tā’if (during summer months) but in the end I love to narrate the most inspired meeting with him.
It was October 1998 when I was on a visit to Riyadh. A night before my journey I saw him in my vision, standing and then lying down on his bed. I saw myself standing at a distance from him when I said to him these words which kept on resounding in my ears ever after being awake, “Ana Uḥibbukum (I love you).”
The next morning, I visited him in his office, presented to him a brochure on the newly-completed building of Masjid Al-Tawhid in London. At that point, suddenly I remembered my dream and in a low secretive voice I narrated this dream to him.
That is the Sunnah, if you love someone for the sake of Allah, then tell him.
It is narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said these words to Mua’dh bin Jabal. Then Abu Idrees Al-Khaulani; a successor, came to visit Mu’adh in the mosque of Damascus, Syria. Once he found him sitting alone, he addressed him by these three words, “I love you.” Mu’adh’s face was glowing with happiness. He embraced him in love and emotion and said, “Is it for the sake of Allah, is it for the sake of Allah, is it for the sake of Allah!”
After listening to my vision, I could hear, from the lips of Sheikh those three words as well, “Ana Uḥibbuka (And I love you)”
It was a great moment for me which enriched my mind and soul vehemently.
As usual he invited me to his midday meal to which I responded. He even said to me “Please do present yourself at lunch time every day as long as you are in Riyadh.”
I had to apologise to him on this kind offer as my residence was quite far from that of the Sheikh.
We all wanted to have the person of Sheikh amongst us as long as it could be but the decree of Allah had to prevail.
At four in the morning of Thursday 27th Muharram 1420AH (31st May 1999) he breathed his last. The noble soul returned back to his Creator.
“Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi Raji’ūn.”
(We are for Allah and we are going back to him)
May Allah expiate his worldly shortcomings, forgive him and honour him with a place in the higher ranks of Al-Jannah with the Prophets, Siddiqīn, Martyrs and the Pious.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Memoirs Part 10
An interview with Sheikh Wasiullah ‘Abbās
Sheikh Wasiullah is currently a prominent lecturer in the sacred masjid in Makkah. He elaborates on various books of Ḥadīth. He came from India the year I graduated, i.e. 1966. In this conversation with him, there is a glimpse into the early days of the University of Madīnah.
I was the one to receive them at Jeddah airport in 1966 when he came with five Indian students. Passing through Syyed Linjawi, the representative of the University of Jeddah, the very same person who received us in 1962, we went to Makkah for Umrah under a light shower from the heavens. Then I brought them back to the airport to board a plane towards Madīnah.
My father, being a product of Raḥmānia, Delhi and being a teacher of Ḥadīth in Banaras (Varanasi presently) before the partition of India, was very close to our Salafi students and teachers in India. Wasiullah was one of them who developed good relations with our family in Madīnah. Wasiullah told me how frequently he used to visit our house and help one of my younger brothers, Raghib (d.2014) in his studies. Raghib throughout his childhood was a very shy and quiet lad. Although he was always shy to speak to visitors, he excelled in his studies.
As a pre-requisite to admission, Wasiullah was interviewed by Sheikh ‘Abdul-Moḥsin Ḥamad al-‘Abbād. He accepted some of his group members in the higher level (Sharia’ college) and asked him whether he was with them in the Madrasa back in India. He told him the truth that he was behind them by two years. This led him to be admitted to a lower level (Pre-College Secondary stage). It was a blessing for him in disguise because by the time he graduated (two years later than his companions), post-graduate studies had been introduced to Jam’ia in which he was accepted as well.
By 1967 or 1968, Dr Taqiuddin al-Hilāli, a very famous scholar from Morocco came to perform Hajj. Invited by Sheikh Ibn Bāz, he accepted to join the teaching staff in Madīnah. He used to teach the subject of comparative religion based upon the writings of Sheikh ‘Abdul Qādir Shaiba-tul-Ḥamd. Sheikh al-Hilāli was very annoyed by the ill-treatment of his son-in-law towards his daughter. He used to beat her and one day he left her for good. Wasiullah offered to serve Sheikh al-Hilāli instead. This is how he became very close to him. Al-Hilāli mentioned to Sheikh Ibn Bāz how Wasiullah had come to his help when there was no one around him to serve him. Sheikh Ibn Bāz asked al-Hilāli whether Wasiullah could be treated as an employee with a paid salary. But Wasiullah declined this offer saying that the stipend offered by the Jam’ia to him was enough for him.
He was very close to Sheikh Ḥammād al-Ansāri, a teacher well versed in the science of Ḥadīth. His company helped him a lot in deepening his knowledge of Takhrīj (i.e. the source of the transmissions of a Ḥadīth).
He graduated from the college, completed his Masters studies but an admission to doctoral studies was still a bridge too far. The foreign students were not allowed to take it. Ziaur Raḥmān Al-A’zami was allowed because of his unique position and special circumstances (see my interview with him in the next few lines).
Eventually Wasiullah and six others were allowed to be interviewed for the admission by Sheikh Muḥammad Amin al-Misri and his colleagues. Because of his knowledge of Takhrij, he was able to answer their questions easily. For example, they asked him about al-Ḥākim. He at once retorted back by saying, “Which one do you mean? The older one or the younger one?”. They were amazed at his knowledge. He told them that al-Ḥākim, the compiler of ‘al-Mustadrak’ was the younger one. They also asked him how could we know about the books of the past. He mentioned them the source book of Fu’ād Sirteel (other than Fu’ād Sezgin who died recently in July 2018). Impressed and bewildered by his knowledge, they told him that he would be at the top of those accepted for the doctoral studies. He was very thankful to Allah saying that Allah blessed him with his own transport for the past forty years since he started teaching at the secondary level. “Was it not the blessing of Ḥadīth for which he devoted his life?”, he exclaimed.
He mentioned a Muslim family in America. The father was a wealthy person but found himself in a constant trial because of his son and daughter who do not listen to him and followed their own ways. Sheikh Wasiullah guided him to some Ḥadīth institutions in Pakistan which might suit his children to receive the knowledge, but he never contacted him later. On the other hand, a family from Britain approached him on how their son could memorize the Quran. He advised them to bring their son to Makkah and let the boy join the circles of the memorization of the Quran. He responded and he was successful.
He told me that the Presidency of Al-Ḥaramain (Makkah and Madīnah) intended to publicize sermons which had been delivered the previous year at both places in English. The task to render them in English had already been done by a young man from Canada and now they were looking for someone to review it. He also informed me that Sheikh ‘Abdul Wahhāb al-Banna (my mentor in the early days of the Jam’ia) had died long ago (around 2011) survived by an older brother in Egypt.
Though I used to visit Wasiullah almost every time I came to Makkah, but there had been a very special visit several years ago when he took me to visit Sheikh Rabi’ al-Madkhalī at his residence at al-‘Awāli of Makkah. It was not a pleasant conversation with him as he was surrounded by a bunch of hateful young Britons from among his followers with an extreme interpretation of the Salafi way; a way which has no reconciliatory approach to other Sunni groups like Ikhwān and Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan. His thinking or methodology was never in line with that of Sheikh Ibn Bāz or Sheikh al-Albāni. He was even refuted by our Sheikh ‘Abdul Moḥsin Ḥamad al-‘Abbād who wrote a treatise entitled “Rifqan be Ahlus Sunnah” (Be kind to the people of Sunnah). Sheikh Madkhali thinks that I have been following the way of Jamat-e-Islami (because my father was a member of Jamat from 1941 to 1957) but he did not realize that these were the days when I was a teenager. From 1957 to 1966, all my learning was under Salafi scholars including those at the University of Madīnah. Even Sheikh Wasiullah could not escape his wrath because he could not agree with him in each and every matter.
Let me end this interview with an interesting but meaningful story narrated to me by him in this sitting:
A family in Makkah employed a maid from the Philippines to take care of the household. It happened that a child was born to the family but got seriously ill and died soon. The following year a similar event happened. A child was born and then died in a mysterious way. Even the doctors were not able to detect the cause of death. Another maid, disclosed a terrible secret to the family when the third child was born and fell ill like his predecessors. She told them that their house maid was a vicious lady who did not want to serve the little infant in the family. She used to insert a small needle in the top of the child’s skull just after the birth to let him die a painful death. With this secret revealed, doctors were alerted who were able to detect the lethal weapon in the infant’s skull and save him from a sudden death. What happened to the maid was not known but her fate was doomed.
An interview with Ziaur Raḥmān Al-‘Azami
Born into a Hindu family in Azam Garh, India in 1943, he studied in Shibli college at his home town and then converted to Islam. It was a long story of trials and tribulations for him due to his conversion to Islam. He had to move away from his home to avoid any confrontation with his Hindu relatives So he ended up in the famous Dār-ul-‘Uloom of ‘Omar Abad from where he graduated around 1966.
Like Sheikh Wasiullah ‘Abbās, he came to Saudi Arabia in 1967. He was fortunate enough to complete Sharia studies for four years in Madīnah, then two years to have a master’s degree in Makkah until he joined Al-Azhar in Cairo from where he achieved his doctorate in 1977. I must have seen him in around 1977 when I started visiting Makkah to work during the Ḥajj season with “Al-Ta’iya al-Islamia fi Al-Ḥajj” (The committee to create awareness during Ḥajj). At that time, he was employed by Rabita (Muslim World League). Sāliḥ Al-Qazzaz used to be the secretary general of Rabita in those days. Al-‘Azami told me that his association with Rabita meant that he should accompany the Secretary General in all his journeys abroad to attend international conferences whenever required but he apologized to travel anywhere because he was busy in accomplishing his doctoral papers entitled “Aqẓiya-tul-Nabi” (The rulings given by the Prophet ﷺ).I remember meeting there Sheikh ‘Āsim Al-Haddad, my teacher of Arabic in Lahore in my school days. I met him at Rabita’s old headquarters on our way from the sacred Mosque to Al-‘Aziziyya. Al-‘Azami told me that he lived with him in his flat before his family joined him.
During his studies in Madīnah, Dr. Taqiuddin Al-Hilali who was entrusted with the subject of Comparative Religion used to call him at night and discuss with him the summary of the lesson he had to deliver next morning. He said to him, had it not been due to the regulations of the Jam’ia, he would have allowed him to deliver the lessons instead.
He mentioned to me one of my dear colleagues in Jam’ia Madīnah, Hafeez-ul-Raḥmān Al-‘Umary, who used to be his teacher at Dār-ul-‘Uloom, ‘Umar Abād, India, a man of great skill; well-versed in Urdu literature and poetry. We used to exchange our thoughts while we were on our way from Jam’ia to the city of Madīnah in the evening. Truly speaking, he was the one who would talk a lot out of his abounding knowledge and I was the one to listen.
Al-‘Azami told me that he was now given the task of running Dār-al-‘Uloom. Sadly, his wife had passed away while his three daughters were all married, so he had to pass his life alone at home. Al-‘Azami took his Ijazah in Ḥadīth, especially in Saḥīḥ al-Bukhari and Saḥīh Muslim from two of his Shuyukh: Sheikh Subhani and Sheikh ‘Abdul Majīd of India.
From him I knew that our Sheikh ‘Abdul Qādir Shaibat-ul-Ḥamd, the one who taught us Bulūgh al-Marām and the subject of Comparative Religion had passed away. So among our Shuyukh in Madīnah two are still alive: Sheikh ‘Abdul Moḥsin Hamad Al-‘Abbād and Sheikh Abu Bakr Jābir Al-Jazairi.
Then he mentioned two of his books which were crowned with popularity and acceptance.
The first one is the Encyclopedia of the Quran, which was first published in the Hindi language and proved to be very beneficial and inspiring for the Hindus in India. A Muslim lady was so motivated by its contents that she rendered the whole work into English. Al-‘Azami wanted a review of its language to a standard more acceptable to the English readers.
The second book is the product of a number of years after retirement from teaching at the Islamic University of Madīnah. He started collecting all Saḥīḩ Aḥādīth scattered in a great number of Aḥādīth collections to accommodate them into one single book. Apart from Saḥīh Bukhari and Saḥīh Muslim, he subjected all other Aḥādīth to his own research. Eventually he was able to compile “Al-Kāmil” which accommodated sixteen thousand Saḥīḥ Ahādīth in twelve volumes. Another three thousand weak Aḥādīth were also added to this work only for distinction. He also prepared a summarized edition of this collection in five volumes without Takhrīj. It came to my knowledge that the book was sold like hot cakes in a short period of time, and is now in need to be reprinted.
May Allah accept his services for the Deen of Islam and make his work an asset for him to achieve His pleasure.
A journey to Nigeria via Kharṭūm
It must have been a few days after graduation, around July 1966 when my name was proposed among a delegation of three students to attend a conference at Ibadan University, Nigeria. The other two were Mohsin from the Jaizan region and Khalid (of African origin). Both names are pseudonyms as I forgot their actual names.
We flew from Jeddah to land in Kharṭūm, the capital of Sudan. Our stay was in Grand Hotel, a spacious lodging from the colonial days. The only person I knew in Sudan was Mamūn ‘Abdul Wahhāb, my colleague at Jam’ia. He told me that he came from a small island, named as Tottee where the Blue Nile joins the White Nile. That was the only information I got of him. So I took a boat and landed at Tottee. It was not difficult to find his house in such a small place. He was delighted to see an old friend but an unexpected guest. Could I imagine that I would be meeting him again after around 46 years! Yes this is what happened. In 2012, I had to visit Kharṭūm, as a vice-chairman of Muslim Aid, UK to probe into some issues concerning the Sudan office.
One morning we were at the office of the Health minister where I asked my Sudanese guide if he had come across the name of Mamūn ‘Abdul Wahhāb, a graduate of Madīnah University. The man was keen to acquire this information. Soon he brought the news that a man of this name had been a lecturer at the Islamic University of Umme Durman. Necessary contacts were made and he was informed of my desire to see him. It was another moment of pleasure when I saw him; an old Sheikh in Sudanese traditional attire.
How strange would it be when you have in your imagination the face of a young man, full of energy and enthusiasm compared to what you see in front of you. He must have the same feelings about me. He remembered me and my father, one of his teachers as well. He told me that Tottee was no more their dwelling place. Instead they had moved to a far-off locality in the outskirts of the town, which had spread far and wide.
Invited to a dinner, we set off in our office Jeep to his locality. The area was still ripe with mud roads and narrow alleys. Like all eastern traditions, we were served with our food in the reception area. We also attended ‘Isha prayers at a spacious mosque, very much in line with the structure of the village surroundings.
May Allah accept my kind gesture towards him and his affectionate response towards me.
Our next stop was Lagos from where we had to take a bus provided by the University to the city of Ibadan. It was Africa, with lush green pastures, colorful dresses of the people, full of energy and activities, music with drum-beatings echoing everywhere. The University itself attracted our attention. Elegant and spacious halls with scenic surroundings, abounding with students, both men and women, quite contrary to what we experienced in our Jam’ia. But there was no comparison! We have been a product of a religious and spiritual institution in one of the most sacred places in Islam. It was a model to be followed and envied.
We were housed in some of the student’s lodging, again very different from what we used to witness in the early days of Jam’ia, rooms with shared residence. There were male and female students to guide us during the deliberations of the conference. For me it was a temporary phase of few days of my journey but it became an interesting feature of one of my travelling comrades from Saudi Arabia. I came to know later that he was very successful in persuading one of those attractive female guides to marry him.
We came back from Nigeria, the country of Abu Bakr Tafawa and Ahamadu Billu with pleasant memories and with a lot of encouragement for my teaching career awaiting me in East Africa.
Preparation for my first contractual job
It was the summer of 1966 when I set on my journey to Riyadh to be interviewed for the post of a Da’iya (to work for an Islamic cause) in Africa. I was fortunate to get this job just after graduation because a new scheme which had been launched by Dār-ul-Ifta to start this type of activity in Africa after an exhaustive effort was carried out by Sheikh Muḥammad Nāsir Al-‘Aboodi, the then Registrar of the Jam’ia, to explore possibility of sending delegates to some African countries for the purpose of teaching and Da’wa. Primarily, three countries, Kenya, Uganda and Rhodesia (presently Zimbabwe) were chosen.
Dār-ul-Ifta was located in a two storey building in Deerah, the oldest part of Riyadh. I had to find out a temporary lodging for my stay for a few days. An Indian student, Jawaid by name, welcomed me in his simple residence: a room enough to accommodate one mattress only. He managed to create a wooden floor over his head to facilitate another mattress linked through a staircase. This is how he could host his guest in a very small place with his big heart. It was a room in the second floor of a building erected with mud and clay like all other houses in most streets of Deerah. For the toilet, they had left a room at the corner of the second floor with a hole in the middle. The excretion fell down through the hole to a room in the ground floor which was sealed by the four walls around it. There must have been a day when an exit was created every year, so that it could be cleaned. Jawaid had also created some shelves on the surrounding walls to decorate them with his books and crockery. Tea could be prepared on a stove by the mattress. For food he could use another open space on the courtyard of his floor.
Dār-ul-Ifta was headed by Sheikh Muḥammad bin Ibrāhīm Āl-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Like Sheikh Ibn Bāz, he had to depend on his insight (Baseerah) more than his eyesight (Basar) because he had lost it as well. I happened to meet him once in his office and once at the mosque. Those days I had little knowledge of his voluminous collection of Fatawa which were out of print. Later in my life I caught sight of it in a library. It has been remarked that it contained a good amount of advices (Naseeha) to the people in authority
In the Dār-ul-Ifta office, I came to meet Sheikh Muḥammad bin Qa’ood, the director of Da’wa Affairs abroad. My interview with him was short and sweet. He himself was a cordial, lovely person. I will be saying much about him later in my memoirs. Once the contract was signed by me as a Da’iya in Nairobi, Kenya, I had to come back to Madīnah to prepare myself for this task. There I also came to know the three other colleagues who had been selected for this task:
(i) Muḥammad Ibrāhīm Khalīl to Mombasa, Kenya
(ii) Sirajul Raḥmān Nadwi to Kampala, Uganda
(iii) ‘Abdul Raḥmān Mubārakfuri to Salisbury, Rhodesia
In November 1966, I was blessed with the birth of my daughter Khola at Madīnah, the day I received the first cheque of my humble salary. Her Aqiqa was attended by a great number of my colleagues and teachers including ‘Abdul Qādir Shaiba-tul-Ḥamd. Khola had been preceded by the birth of twin boys in the previous year who did not survive except for a few days. They were born in Karachi while I was at Madīnah. This is why I had a vague memory of them.
It must have been early 1967, when I received a ‘go ahead’ directive from the office to set out on my journey to Kenya. It must have been a very emotional departure from Madīnah, the city where I spent four years of my youth, a place where my parents, my younger brothers were still stationed. A surprise awaited me at Jeddah airport. I with my tiny family was about to leave the Kingdom when my older brother, Shuaib Hasan arrived there with his wife and daughter to join Saudi Arabian airlines as an engineer. We both started a new career in our lives though he was well ahead of me as he had previously been working with PIA at Karachi as well. Later his abode at Jeddah had to be a meeting point for all the members of the family, my parents from Madīnah, myself in Nairobi, and my sister’s family in Karachi.
Saying goodbye to Jeddah, we boarded an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft heading towards Nairobi via Asmara and Addis Ababa.
A Tribute to Hafiz Nasiruddin Ahmad
By Dr Suhaib Hasan
The Islamic University in Madinah, which I joined in July 1962 as a young student, was a blessed place where I made many acquaintances. Among them was a young man, of my age, from the then East Pakistan, Hafiz Nasiruddin Ahmad by name. He joined the university a couple of years after me, but I got married then and moved out of the bachelor lodgings at the Campus. I moved to the small town of Madinah which had a population less than one hundred thousand people. Thus all the married couples had an opportunity to meet and visit each other. I was fortunate enough to live with my father, in his newly hired flat, who came to teach Hadith at the University just days after my marriage took place in Karachi. My other married colleagues, including Hafiz, had to rent lodgings in Madinah within the limited stipend of three hundred Riyals which every student used to receive monthly. Imagine how cheap living expenses were at that time. 50 to 75 Riyals was the average rent for a small house. Studying at Madina gave us all the opportunity to meet a number of respected scholars and dignitaries from East Pakistan as well as all over the world, who used to visit the holy land during Hajj every year.
I left Madina after my graduation in 1966, and was sent on my very first mission of teaching Arabic and Islam in Nairobi, Kenya where my stay was extended to a period of nine years, a long gap in that friendship which had its root in Madinah.
But Allah wanted this friendship to revive once again. In 1976, when I moved to London, apart from a family that has immigrated to UK from East Africa, Hafiz Nasiruddin Ahmad was one of two friends who received us at Heathrow. He had already rented for me a terraced house in Shepherds Bush. After a delicious meal at his apartment in Battersea, we moved to this temporary residence for two weeks. Although I later settled down in Wood Green, I continued to visit the Centre which he established in Battersea. I found him to be very industrious, courteous to whom he met, helpful to the seekers of assistance, an able educationist and a person with concern for the welfare of this Ummah.
I wish I knew the circumstances which led him to leave London and settle permanently in Bangladesh. During his visits to London he told me about his new centre in or around Dhaka, known as Shah Waliullah Centre, which catered both for orphans and the seekers of knowledge. A few years before his last illness, he visited me at my office at the Islamic Sharia Council at Leyton. I was shocked to see him as a frail old Sheikh accompanied with a younger relative. He must have been advised by his well-wishers to rest until he was stronger but I found him very concerned about the running and expansion of his Centre in Bangladesh. He carried with him a bundle of plans, all for just one cause! His concern was how to expand the Centre which he had established with dedication and the sweat of his brow. He was one of those fortunate people who live for a noble cause and die for a noble cause.
I remember him as a successful man who, as mentioned by the Prophet (saw), left behind him the three legacies which do not terminate by the death of a person. Instead they continue to increase the reward of the one who initiated them. They are/:
- The pious children who always supplicates for him.
- The knowledge from which the people benefit.
- The act of charity which continues giving its fruits to the people.
I end these short lines by the saying of Allah:
Among the Believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah: of them some have completed their vow (to the extreme), and some (still) wait: but they have never changed (their determination) in the least
That Allah may reward the men of Truth for their Truth, and punish the Hypocrites if that be His Will, or turn to them in Mercy: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
[Surah Ahzab verse 23-24]