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A Day in the Company of Shaykh

An account of the 24hr I’tikāf that took place in Jame’ah Masjid Preston on the 25th of December 2010, prepared by Muhammed Ravat, a 2nd year student at Jame‘ah Riyādul ‘Uloom, Islāmic Da’wah Academy, UK.


In order for mankind to remain on the straight path, the practice of Allāh ta‘ālā has been to send a prophet ‘alayhis salām from time to time. However, this chain reached its end with the coming of our beloved Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. He sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam came with his everlasting miracle - the Glorious Qur’ān, which was to serve as guidance for mankind. Once the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam left this world, the task of guiding mankind was put upon the shoulders of his Ummah. As everyone is not capable of taking on this enormous task, Allāh ta‘ālā has made the ‘Ulamā the leaders of this struggle. In every era, Allāh ta‘ālā sends ‘ulamā according to the requirements of the time. It is the sheer grace and mercy of Allāh ta‘ālā that the city of Leicester has been blessed with one such personality, the world renowned, Shaykh Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh. Working tirelessly day and night, the Shaykh is the founder of the Islāmic Da’wah Academy (IDA), and the Shaykh-al-Hadīth of Jame‘ah Riyadul ‘Uloom (JRU), the full time boarding institute for those wishing to expand their Islamic knowledge. The Shaykh regularly tours many countries worldwide and nationally.

 

ڈھونڈتے پھرتے رہوگے بستیاں در بستیاں
روزانہ کب پیدا ہوتی ہے یہ ہستیاں

You can wander from town to town looking for such personalities;
However it is not every day that these personalities are found.

It was on one such tour (Saturday, 25th December 2010) that I was privileged to be part of a group of 16 students, whom the Shaykh permitted to accompany him to the city of Preston in the U.K. There, the Shaykh was to attend a 24 hour I’tikāf programme; the first of its kind. It was the honour of the Jame‘ah Masjid that the Shaykh graced the programme with his presence. Upon our return, one of my colleagues suggested that the experiences of the programme should be penned down for the benefit of the wider public. Thus I begin in the name of Allāh, the most Beneficent, most Merciful.

 

SATURDAY 4:00 PM: Following the Maghrib Salāh, the program was initiated by one of the imāms of the masjid, Mawlānā Uwais Data, who welcomed everyone to the programme and thanked the respected Shaykh for having travelled such a long distance despite being ill. Thereafter the sunan of Maghrib were performed, followed by an introductory speech by Mawlānā Talha Desai, an imām of the masjid and also a graduate of JRU. Adopting the way of our pious predecessors, he began by reminding the congregation to correct their intentions and to spend the next 24 hours solely to acquire the pleasure of Allāh. He further went on to mention the importance of keeping the company of the pious, which we would be achieving through the company of the respected Shaykh.

It was at this point that the respected Shaykh thought it appropriate  to mention a few points which would help in making the I’tikāf as beneficial as possible:

  • Make an intention not to sin for the next 24 hours and then renew this intention every day.
  • Avoid all ‘Lā ya‘nī’ (i.e. non-beneficial actions in both the worlds).
  • Do not intermingle with others except in necessity.

If a person were to follow the above mentioned points then he would automatically turn towards Allāh. Subhānallāh! How easy it is to gain the nearness of Allāh!

The gathering then dispersed for tea and proceeded to the ‘community block’ adjacent to the masjid. As the crowd dispersed, I saw some individuals taking their seats close to the mihrāb, eager to be at the forefront of the upcoming speech of the respected Shaykh, which was yet an hour away.

6:00 PM: The ‘Ishā Salāh was performed followed by its sunan and the witr. Thereafter Mawlānā Uwais called upon the respected Shaykh’s special attendant, Mawlānā Ahmed Patel, to enlighten the gathering with the importance of the beautiful sunan of the Messenger sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam.

Mawlānā began by saying that he had spent the last 8 years of his life in the company of the respected Shaykh. During this period one of the outstanding qualities which he has observed in the life of the respected Shaykh was the quality of ‘adherence to the sunnah of the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam’. He further went on to say that Allāh ta‘ālā has personally taught us two benefits of following the Sunnah:

  • One becomes the beloved of Allāh.
  • One’s sins are forgiven.

These benefits are desired by one and all. Thereafter, Mawlānā went on to share a sunnah with us and encouraged us all to practice upon it as it was an action which we carry out daily. All we need to do is to pay a little more attention by making the intention of practicing upon a sunnah when carrying it out. The sunnah was:

When wearing the clothes, to begin from the right side i.e. first put in the right leg, hand, etc., and when removing them to begin with the left side.

He then took the opportunity to stress the importance of acquiring a book on the topic of sunnah, authored by an authentic ‘ālim, and thereafter to carefully study it. Those brothers holding influence in their respected masajid, were also advised to initiate a daily ta‘līm of at least one sunnah which could easily be read out by the imām immediately after any salāh, as is the practice at the IDA.

After Mawlānā concluded, the respected imām, Mawlānā Uwais briefed us on the difference between ‘ilm (knowledge) and information. Information is something easy to access which can be gained from various sources. However, ‘ilm can only be gained from the company of the pious. A sense of excitement rose as the imām called upon the respected Shaykh to share his words of wisdom. All eyes now turned towards the Respected Shaykh, as he stood up and slowly made his way forward.

Addressing the gathering in the English language, the Shaykh initiated his talk by reminding us that it is only Allāh ta‘ālā who has granted us the tawfīq to spend some time in the masjid. It is such places (where Allāh ta‘ālā is remembered) that shine on the Earth just as the stars twinkle in the sky. The Shaykh encouraged one and all to inculcate the love of the masājid in their hearts, and reminded us that a true believer is he who when outside the masjid feels like a fish out of the water. Unfortunately today, our condition is such that when in the masjid we feel like a bird in a cage; looking for every opportunity to escape.

Moving on, the Shaykh pointed out that nowadays many people come to the masjid well before time; however, they remain occupied in vain activities outside the vicinity of the masjid. Thus they are depriving themselves of the blessings of being in the masjid and awaiting a salāh, a greatly desired action. Our condition is such that if the salāh or any other program is delayed by even a few minutes, we are discomforted. Is this not the sign of the displeasure of Allāh? Why do we leave out these desirable actions? The Shaykh then quoted Dr. ‘Abdul Hay ‘Ārifī rahimahullāh, who very beautifully used to say that mustahab (desirable) is surely something worthy of doing, hence its term ‘desirable’, yet today we discard the mustahab with the lame excuse that ‘It is only mustahab.’

At this point the Shaykh briefly diverted towards the topic of adab (respect), something desired in all acts. As the Urdu couplet explains:

با ادب با نصیب، بے ادب بے نصیب

The respectful one stands to gain;
The disrespectful one will not be so fortunate.

Thereafter the Shaykh narrated some stories about how respectful our pious predecessors were, which left the crowd impressed. As the Shaykh concluded his talk, he narrated how ‘Allāmah Muhammad Yūsuf Binnorī rahimahullāh, after performing salāh, would remain in his seat, saying ‘āmīn’ perpetually. One of his murīds enquired as to the reason for this, to which he replied that the angels make du’ā for a person who after performing his salāh, remains seated in the same place without indulging in worldly activities, and it is to this du’ā that he would say ‘āmīn’. As soon as the Shaykh concluded his talk, the crowd flocked towards him in order to meet him.

9:30 PM: Dinner was served in the classroom block of the building.

10:00 PM: Brothers from Leicester who were out in the path of Allāh (tablīgh jamā’ah) came to meet the Shaykh as they began their forty days. The Shaykh showered them with his du’ā and emphasized the importance of tazkiyah (inner reformation) during their time in tablīgh. He further went on to say that our pious predecessors from all the different efforts of Dīn would work hand in hand in order to spread the word of Allāh ta‘ālā; a quality still found in a vast number of our ‘ulamā. The Shaykh mentioned a noteworthy story of two ‘ulamā of our time which took place recently in Zambia. Shaykh Mawlānā Arshad Madani hafizahullāh, an eminent scholar of Dar-al-‘Ulūm Deoband was scheduled to deliver a talk in a certain masjid of Lusaka after the Fajr Salāh. Shaykh Mawlānā Qamar-az-Zamān hafizahullāh, another outstanding figure amongst the contemporary ‘ulamā, was in Lusaka at the same time. He decided to attend this talk and arrived promptly before the Fajr Salāh. After leading the Fajr Salāh, Shaykh Mawlānā Arshad turned around to recite the Tasbīh Fātimī, whereby his gaze fell on Shaykh Mawlānā Qamar-uz-Zamān hafizahullāh. He therefore requested him to deliver the talk. However, Shaykh Mawlānā Qamar-uz-Zamān hafizahullāh replied, “I came here with this intention that by sitting in your company I would progress spiritually.” This reply prompted Shaykh Mawlānā Arshad to say, “I will not deliver any speech in your presence.” Thus Shaykh Qamar-az-Zamān ended up delivering the speech!

Subhānallāh! We learn how our elders work with humbleness and unity. If the entire ummah would work in a similar manner then there is nothing which could stop us from flourishing in both the worlds. This is the story of two great personalities between whom we find love and humbleness towards each other. What then should be our state as minors in comparison to these luminaries?

10:25 PM: Shaykh met a congregation of ‘ulamā and students, advising them from his years of experience in the academic and spiritual fields. He encouraged them to reform their inner selves, wonderfully explaining that when a raw kebab is served to someone he will not feel tempted to eat it, and even if he does, it will be harmful for him. However, if this very kebab is cooked for a while, it will make everyone’s mouths water. Similar is the case of an ‘Ālim; when he graduates from a Dār-al-‘Ulūm he is no different from this raw kebab; he has all the necessary ingredients which are required to serve the ummah. He simply needs to be ‘cooked’ by his Shaykh. Only then, when he sets out to work will he be successful and accepted by all.

The Shaykh continued advising us whilst the sound of the recitation of the Glorious Qur’ān could be heard from the main masjid hall. Dozens of people had gathered there eagerly awaiting the end of the ‘ulamā majlis so that they may spend some time in the company of the Shaykh as well. Seeing this, the Shaykh concluded his talk by briefly explaining the importance of the Urdu language. One point to be noted is that by neglecting the Urdu language we are distancing ourselves from the rich academic works of our predecessors, as the amount of information currently available in the English language falls far short of that which can be found in the Urdu language. The Shaykh went on to say that he personally feels that not even within the next few hundred years will the English language contain the amount of Islamic knowledge which the Urdu language currently holds.

11:30 PM: As the Shaykh left the ‘ulamā majlis, he felt obliged to speak to the masses seeing the eagerness with which they awaited him. Through the barakah of the Shaykh, dozens of youth had gathered in the masjid close to midnight, regardless of it being the night of Christmas, when the majority of youth are unfortunately indulging in futile and harām activities.

The Shaykh spoke briefly yet concisely, encouraging us to adopt Taqwā and presenting to us an easy method to become the lover and beloved of Allāh. In order to adopt Taqwā, mujāhadah is necessary, which is divided into two levels:

1.      To shun all evils and sins. This will make one the ‘Āshiq (lover) of Allāh.

2.      To practice upon those actions which are below the fardh i.e. sunan, nawāfil and mustahabbāt, thereby gradually increasing in one’s relationship with Allāh. By doing so one will reach his destination - becoming the ma’shūq (beloved) of Allāh.

Along with this, one should keep in mind that the company of the pious and the dhikr of Allāh ta‘ālā, both serve as catalysts to make it easier to practice mujāhadah.

As the time edged towards half past midnight, the Shaykh concluded and encouraged brothers to wake up by 4:45AM, in order to perform the Tahajjud Salāh and present themselves in the court of Allāh.

The crowd dispersed and collected their bedding as the appointed volunteers directed them to their designated areas. As the approximately 200 mu’takifīn filled the masjid to capacity, the Shaykh tirelessly continued to impart advices, and it was not before 3:30am that the Shaykh retired to bed.

SUNDAY: 4:45 AM: The mu’takifīn were awoken by the responsible volunteers and gradually the masjid was filled with people prostrating in front of their Lord and supplicating to Him. To the amazement of the JRU students, Mawlānā Ayadh Sidat, the Principal and senior lecturer of hadīth at JRU, was found to be sleeping close to the Shaykh’s quarters. This meant that after having delivered a lecture at a Special Holiday Weekend Youth Programme at Masjid-An Noor (Leicester), he had made his way overnight to Preston! We can acknowledge from this the level of zeal people have, even in this day and age, to benefit from the company of the pious (and in this case, the company of the respected Shaykh).

5:30 AM: Brothers made their way to partake of suhūr. All the mu’takifīn had been encouraged to fast, as this is a major part of the I’tikāf.

7:00 AM: Mawlānā Uwais led the Fajr Salāh, followed by approximately half an hour of advice. The speaker was Mawlānā Muhammad ‘Ali, who is the founder of the At-Taqwā Academy in London, and a student of the respected Shaykh. He too, like Shaykh Mawlānā Ayadh had addressed the gathering back in Leicester and had made his way over to Preston. He elaborated on what our relationship with Allāh should be like, explaining the concept of Al-Īmān Bayn-al-Khawf war Rajā’ (moderation between the fear and hope of Allāh) explaining that both are necessary but in the correct degrees. These advices were immediately followed by a dhikr majlis. Those brothers who were spiritually connected to a Shaykh were advised to perform the dhikr in accordance to their instructions and those who were not connected to a Shaykh were advised to become so at the nearest opportunity. In the meantime they were advised to recite the third or first kalimah 100 times, istighfār 100 times, and to send salāt and salām upon the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam 300 times.

As the dhikr began a sense of peace enveloped the gathering. The majlis went on for approximately 20 minutes, after which the bedding was rolled out again, in order to allow some time for rest. However, it was not before 10:30am that the Shaykh himself got a chance to rest, as he busied himself with listening to people, and resolving their spiritual issues.

11:45 AM: The mu’takifīn were woken up for the ta’līm (book reading). The Virtues of Salāh were read out from Shaykh-al-Hadīth, Shaykh Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariya’s rahimahullāh ‘Fadhāil-al-A’māl’. As the Respected Shaykh himself had spent considerable amount of time discussing this topic the previous night, the stories were much appreciated and took an effect on the gathering.

1:00 PM: The Shaykh delivered a talk in Urdu following the Zuhr Salāh. He began by reminding us that Allāh had created us, after which He showered us with many bounties, amongst which is the heart, the centre of love, gratitude, hope and many other necessary feelings. What more can be said to show the importance and rank of the heart, than the fact that Allāh ta‘ālā himself says in the Qur’ān, “Had we sent down this Qur’ān to a mountain, you would have seen it humbled, burst apart out of awe for Allāh ta‘ālā.” (59:21) Yet this entire Qur’ān can be held and tolerated by our hearts without the least difficulty. Unfortunately today instead of our hearts being overwhelmed with the love of Allāh, they are filled with things which should never have even entered our hearts. The Shaykh explained this point with the following example: If the minister of a certain king would go and sit on his throne, then this will be considered inappropriate as it is against etiquette that anyone other than the king sits there. Similarly, our hearts which were created to possess the love of Allāh are today full of everything except the love of Allāh. In fact, in the case of the king the minister was no opponent of the king, and there was no relevant harm to be caused by him sitting on the throne, yet even this was considered intolerable. How then can a heart containing love other than the love of Allāh be tolerated?

The love of Allāh is a nūr (light) and the love of others is darkness, how is it possible for these two to gather in one heart? In order to create the love of Allāh in our hearts, we need to work under the guidance of a qualified reputable shaykh. It is such a shaykh who will point out our spiritual illnesses and weaknesses to us. Unfortunately, in our times everyone desires to be independent and no one is prepared to work under an authority, yet the need of working under the authority of a shaykh is necessary. Yes, our connection with such a shaykh should be solely our spiritual reformation, as on the Day of Judgement nobody will be asked, “Whose khalīfah/murīd are you?” Every man will be for himself on that day. Once this bond with a qualified Shaykh is created, then inshā’allāh through his guidance one will reach Allāh.

Further explaining the point of humbleness, The Shaykh mentioned that the branches of a tree with no fruits grow high and upwards, however, the branches of a tree laden with fruits hang low. Similarly, a man with no good qualities and achievements walks with his head high, and someone full of accomplishment always adopts humbleness. Therefore, let us light the fire of Allāh ta‘ālā’s love in our hearts and this will burn away all the evil qualities within us. Side by side let us also make du’ā that Allāh makes us from amongst His lovers and His beloved. The Shaykh concluded with a heart moving emotional du’ā.

3:00 PM: Following the ‘Asr Salāh all brothers busied themselves in the recitation of the Glorious Qur’ān until approximately 10 minutes before the Maghrib Adhān, thereafter all raised their hands in the court of Allāh, beseeching Him individually for their respective needs.

4:00 PM: The Maghrib Salāh was followed by a word of thanks from Mawlānā Talha Desai and some parting advices from the respected Shaykh. As mentioned before, the Shaykh pays particular attention to practicing upon the Sunnah. Thus, he took this opportunity to bid farewell using the words with which the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam bid farewell to Hadhrat Mu’ādh ibn Jabal radhiyallāhu ‘anhu as he departed for Yemen, after being appointed its governor. The Shaykh mentioned that when two lovers part from each other, they both try to control their emotions; however should one lose control then the second will immediately loose it too. In order to keep the emotions under control one method used is to turn the head slightly away; this is exactly what transpired between the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam and Hadhrat Mu’ādh ibn Jabal radhiyallāhu ‘anhu. When the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam informed him that upon return from Yemen it is possible that he would pass by his grave (i.e. the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam would have already departed from this world). However, upon noticing the grief of Hadhrat Mu’ādh ibn Jabal radhiyallāhu ‘anhu, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam consoled him by informing him that the closest person to me, regardless of apparent distances, is he who adopts Taqwā, and this pleased Hadhrat Mu’ādh ibn Jabal radhiyallāhu ‘anhu. We can see from this incident the importance of Taqwā, and this also was the final and parting advice of the respected Shaykh; Taqwā is a nūr (light) within the heart which repels sins, so even if somehow a sin is committed it makes one sincerely repent, therefore the key is Taqwā, and the easy method of adopting it is by:

1.      Mujāhadah (striving against one’s innerself).

2.      Dhikrullāh (remembrance of Allāh).

3.      Pious Company.

Once we develop Taqwā, we will become the lovers and the beloved of Allāh ta‘ālā, which is our sole aim.

A feeling of sorrow could be felt in the atmosphere as the Shaykh concluded by praying that Allāh ta‘ālā gather us all, time and again in the Jame‘ah Masjid of Preston, in other masājid of the world, and ultimately gather us all in Jannah. Āmīn.

As brothers dispersed in order to partake of the Iftār meal, a considerable amount of people queued up to meet the respected Shaykh. The meal marked the end of the program.

As our car drove onto the driveway of JRU in Leicester and I looked back at the events of the last day, and it felt like a golden opportunity to benefit from the Shaykh had not been fully utilised. May Allāh forgive the shortcomings of all the participants of the program, and those of the Ummah at large. Āmīn.

In order to compile this article, many important and beneficial points mentioned by the respected Shaykh may have been omitted. I thus urge all readers to obtain the available recordings of the programme, in order to maximize benefit. For more information on this and future events, please visit www.idauk.org or www.at-tazkiyah.com.

In conclusion, I thank firstly the respected Shaykh for allowing me to accompany him, and secondly the Jame‘ah Masjid of Preston for organizing this spiritually enlightening program in the company of the respected Shaykh. May Allāh reward you all abundantly in both the worlds and shower you with His innumerable blessings. Āmīn.

Lectures by Hadhrat Mawlana Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullah

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