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Yahya Ibrahim: Shaykhs Need Advice, Too

Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim

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I found myself standing before an audience numbering in the tens of thousands; maybe even hundreds of thousands. Mumbai in November is mildly humid with an acceptable temperature that allows you to perspire but not sweat. The sweat came from the lights, cameras and action.

Shaykh, Shaykh please look into the camera.

Perspire.

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Shaykh can we ask you a question, you have so much knowledge?

Sweat.

One of the problems with internet scholarship, convention groupies and seminar murids is the negative effect they inflict upon the heart of the “Shaykh.”  This is not my unique observation. Rather, it is from years of observing, discussing and questioning various lecturers, callers and organisers of Islamic educational conventions, seminars and classes.

People at times forget that the “Shaykh” is an individual who struggles each and every day of their life to worship Allah competently and in fulfillment of the Divine Grace of sacred knowledge that they have been afforded by Ar-Rahman.

Ibn al-Jawzi rahimahullah sat to teach and found more than 10,000 heads looking up at him. So he wept and supplicated to Allah:

“O Allah! If You punish me on the Day of Judgment for my sins, do not let these students of mine witness it. I pray this not to save face, but so that they do not say, ‘The One he called us to is the One who punishes him.”

While in Mumbai as a lecturer for Dr. Zakir Naik’s 2009 Peace Conference, I was blessed to meet Sh. Salah al-Budair, the Imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah al-Munawarrah. The Shaykh, may Allah grant him protection and shelter him, would lead us in the fajr prayer at the hotel and then have breakfast with us.  He was always joyful, humble, content with whatever was offered to him and a great listener with refined adaab. I have heard him speak before and listened to his awe-inspiring recitation of the Quran during Taraweeh and Qiyaam.  He is known for his soft heart and ease of weeping.

I took council with other honoured lecturers about how to ask him a sensitive question that I feared may be misunderstood. Abu Ammaar (Yasir Qadhi) said, “Just ask.”

“Ya Shaykh, Allah has honoured you and has bestowed an enormous Grace upon you by granting you the duty and privilege of standing on the very Pulpit of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), in his masjid, within sight of his home and burial site, sala Allahu alayhi wa salaam.  You lead the prayers and advise others on his (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) behalf.  Ya Shaykh, how do you prepare yourself for this? How do you prepare your Ikhlas to find the courage to stand where you stand and lead where you lead?”

I can’t fathom the pressure, critical self-assessment, and self-doubt and fear that must be experienced by the Shaykh.

I know from personal experience and through my interaction with numerous students of knowledge and scholars that:

Shaykhs need advice.

Shaykhs need help.

Shaykhs make mistakes.

So-called “Shaykhs” can also be rotten to the core.

Sacred Knowledge and following through with sincere action has always been an eternal, internal struggle of the learned.

Al-Ghazali, al-Ash’ari, Ibn Taymiyyah…those before them and superior to them in knowledge and those after them have ALL commented on Ikhlas, self-reformation, muhaasabah and Taqwa. In fact the first chapter of any hadeeth manual will begin with the chapter of Ikhlas.

At times we forget the Ikhlas that Allah enjoins upon us and that was exemplified by our humble Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam).

Knowledge, its acquisition and dissemination was never the aim of the student or the instructor.  Amal, sincere action, that was the objective.

Imam Muslim narrates that Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

The first amongst mankind to be used as kindle for hell-fire will be an individual who studied [religious] knowledge and taught it and who used to recite (memorize) the Qur’an. He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them. It will be said: And what did you do about them? He will say: I studied [religious] knowledge and I taught it and I recited the Qur’an for Your sake. It will be said, “You have lied. You did but study [religious] knowledge that it might be said [of you]: He is learned. And you recited the Qur’an that it might be said [of you]: He is a reciter. And so it was said.” Then it will be ordered that he be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire.

Shaykh Salah smiled. Bowed his head down and politely said, “Every level has its Divine assistance. To abstain from that would be Riyaah (showing off).”

Subhan Allah.

Allah provides the Ikhlas that we seek to attain and pray for.  It is Allah who grants us success and only Allah who can turn us away from it.

True Ikhlas is actually intending success and seeking Allah in all that we do.  True Ikhlas is a willingness to challenge ourselves and demonstrate conviction of faith to ourselves and others. True Ikhlas compels us to repent and rise up after our stumbling.

True Ikhlas is not a change in mood or a whimsical period of time. It is consistent, constant.  It is a compass that when abandoned one cannot arrive to salvation.

Later in the day, Shaykh Salah pulled me to the side and said privately, “Every day I pray that Allah take my life rather than allow me to stand in the place of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) with an overwhelming hypocrisy in my heart.  I pray every night that I not wake if I do not discharge the trust placed upon me.”

We both wept.

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Imam Yahya Ibrahim, Director of Islamic Community Service; A/Principal of the Langford Islamic College, Perth & Head of Islamic Studies. Imam Yahya Ibrahim is also Curtin University & University of Western Australia's Muslim chaplain and sits on the Human Research Ethics Committee at St Charles Gairdner Hospital for Western Australian Health Services. Imam Yahya is also an instructor for the world-renowned AlMaghrib Institute. His initiatives in Australia and internationally include diversity training, cultural sensitivity programs, educational lectures, and media presentations. His expertise is sought by schools, universities, and a wide range of government & non-government organizations. In recognition of his valuable contribution, Imam Yahya was awarded the West Australian Multicultural Community Service Award for Individual Excellence. He currently oversees a unique educational Online project through https://YahyaIbrahim.com/School and his social media outreach.

50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    March 15, 2010 at 4:19 AM

    SubhanAllah.

  2. Avatar

    Hafsa

    March 15, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    SubhanAllah this is so beautiful! Jazakallahukhair!

  3. Avatar

    Ibn Ameen

    March 15, 2010 at 4:49 AM

    Hope i can c u again Syeikh here in Malaysia Insyallah!

  4. Avatar

    ummahmed

    March 15, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    assalamualykum ,

    Mashaallah.Truly touching.The more ilm you have ,the more humbleness you have ..Subahanallah.

  5. Amad

    Amad

    March 15, 2010 at 6:19 AM

    This is one of those stories that gives you goose-pimples… subhanAllah, great start Shaykh Yahya to your blogging career :)

  6. Avatar

    Mirza Shahbaaz Baig

    March 15, 2010 at 7:06 AM

    Subahan Allah, ya shaykh.

    This last ever Peace Conference was full of such events.

    Ain’t this struggle to get true ikhlas (which Allaah blessed Musa AS) require working so much , whole our life , on first hadith of niyyah.

    o Allaah, help us being among mukhliseen ( those who have ikhlaas to say do things and mean it for Allaah’s sake). ameen.

    • Avatar

      Mirza Shahbaaz Baig

      March 15, 2010 at 7:16 AM

      it may be possible for shuyookh with their knowledge to try maintain this consistency at a much higher level than masses like us.

      hence i remember there to be such a du’a to be to Allaah made before any/every knowledge session by every student to make us focused on knowledge and not on personal lacunae of the teacher.

      subahan Allaah.

  7. Avatar

    Abez

    March 15, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    ” Every day I pray that Allah take my life rather than allow me to stand in the place of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) with an overwhelming hypocrisy in my heart. I pray every night that I not wake if I do not discharge the trust placed upon me.”

    SubhanAllah!

  8. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    March 15, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    SubhanAllah, left me speechless…

  9. Avatar

    Secrecy

    March 15, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    SubhanAllah…

  10. darthvaider

    darthvaider

    March 15, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    SubhanAllah. Jazak Allah khayr shaykh- may Allah preserve you, Shaykh Salah, and all of the a’immah.

  11. Avatar

    Ali

    March 15, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    Subhanallah.

  12. Avatar

    Zulander

    March 15, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Masha’Allah, may Allah forgive us of the sins we do knowingly and unknowingly.

  13. Avatar

    amatullah

    March 15, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    May Allah Swt purify our deeds for His sake alone. Ameen!

  14. Avatar

    Shibli Zaman

    March 15, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Sorry to add to the many “Subhan Allah, great blog” comments, but I just had to say that this is simply one of the most moving and wonderful blog articles I have read, ma sha’ Allah. Ever. Jazakumullahu khayran, brother Yahya, for sharing with us such wisdom.

  15. Avatar

    NurKhan

    March 15, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    I pray every night that I not wake if I do not discharge the trust placed upon me.”

    Could someone please explain what ‘trust’ the shaykh is referring to? As I understand his only responsibility as an employee of the government is to lead the daily prayers and give the Friday khutbah. I would love to know what additional roles and responsibilties the shaykh discharges as Imam of Masjid Nabwi.

    • Avatar

      Razi Ahmad

      March 15, 2010 at 1:36 PM

      The responsibility of being Imaam of any Masjid, much less Masjid an-Nabawi or Masjid al-Haraam, is a great trust that the person occupying the position has in his hands. By being in the position he is in, Shaykh Salah (hafidhahullaah) has the ability to guide (with the Tawfeeq of Allaah, of course) or mislead literally millions of people around the world. Anyone who leads even one Salaah in a Masjid (even a small one) and is truly sincere should feel a heavy weight on their shoulders when they are in that position.
      I believe that this is the trust that he might have been referring to, Wallaahu A’lam.

      • Avatar

        NurKhan

        March 15, 2010 at 2:15 PM

        I don’t understand. He is not giving lectures or issuing fatawa. So how does he guide or mislead others? The salah consists of dhikr and recitation. How can that ‘misguide’ others, regardless of the sincerity of the imam?

        Please clarify your comments with examples.

        • Avatar

          Razi Ahmad

          March 15, 2010 at 2:17 PM

          Sorry for the confusion – I was referring to the khutbah, not necessarily through the daily Salaah.

        • Avatar

          brother_bruce

          March 16, 2010 at 8:18 AM

          Even if he didnt give lectures or fatawa, being an Imaam of a Masjid – and Masjid an-Nabawi, to boot – is an enormous responsibility because people automatically look to him as a role model. So on the one hand, he has to make sure his entire life is ‘clean’ and legitimate – not only meeting the minimum requirements as a normal Muslim, but rather, excelling in them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – so that people wouldnt have the excuse to look at his actions and be misguided, or even slack off.

          Even if he never opened his mouth to talk to the people directly he has the ability to inspire millions of people one way or another, every time he leads the Salaah. Because of WHERE he leads the Salaah. In this manner, he is in a position of trust.

          On top of all that, he has to keep his actions ‘clean’ and ‘exemplary’ not because of what the people might say, but fi sabil illah alone. To try and ignore what the people say.

          Being a leader, a scholar, or an imaam of a masjid – Shaytan focuses his attack heavily on these people, because they are the pillars that support the community. if they are corrupted, then society will follow.

          So lets pretend, for a second, that his dhikr and recitation do not have an impact on the people. Even if it had zero impact, there is still the matter of the niyyah of the Shaykh remaining pure in the face of Shaytan’s attacks, and his responsibility in this regard, to Allah [subhanahu wa ta’ala].

          So these scholars have to walk a very fine line… on the one hand, they need to exert their utmost against Shaytan and maintain ikhlaas, and the other, they need to be role models of excellence for us, and on the third hand, they need to realize when they’re not performing up to par, and step down if required.

          ….But if they step down, are they succumbing to yet another one of Shaytan’s plots?

          Stress upon stress.

    • Avatar

      Abd- Allah

      March 15, 2010 at 2:09 PM

      his only responsibility as an employee of the government is to lead the daily prayers and give the Friday khutbah.

      Isn’t this enough of a responsibility for a person to handle? To lead the daily prayers at the Masjid of the Prophet peace be upon him?

      The Prophet peace be upon him says: “They lead you in prayer; if they get it right (the reward) is for you and for them, and if they get it wrong, (the reward) is for you and (the sin) is on them.”

      And the Prophet peace be upon him said: “The imam is responsible and the mu’adhdhin is trusted, O Allah, guide the imams and forgive the mu’adhdhins.”

      Or is it just because many Imams of masaajid don’t take this responsibility of theirs seriously, that we take it for granted?

    • Avatar

      Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

      March 16, 2010 at 11:30 PM

      NurKhan, go back and read the hadith about “The first amongst mankind to be used as kindle for hell-fire…” and you will see that studying the Quran and reciting it is enough of an obligation in itself to make a mu’min afraid.

      I hesitate to teach Quran for this very reason. But then, on the other hand, withholding knowledge is also a sin. So you see how the accumulation of knowledge right away becomes a burden…

  16. Avatar

    Abd- Allah

    March 15, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    JazakAllah khayr for sharing this humbling story.

    As a side note, be careful about which shaykh you decide to give advice to, because some don’t want it, others are too arrogant to accept it, and some might just blow up in your face! Alhamdulillah, these types of “shuyukh” are not the majority, but keep in mind that they still do exist.

  17. Avatar

    Mariam E

    March 15, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Asalamu Alikum

    Jazakum Allah khair. May Allah protect all of our Shuyukh and raise their status in this life and the Hereafter.

  18. Avatar

    Farooq

    March 15, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    May Allah reward you for this reminder

  19. Pingback: Shaykhs Need Advice, Too «

  20. Avatar

    Marya

    March 15, 2010 at 7:43 PM

    Beautiful, masha’Allah. What an amazing reminder. :)

  21. Avatar

    Abu 'Ubaida

    March 15, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    SubhanaAllah!

    May Allah (swt) increase his honor

  22. Avatar

    Imam Zia

    March 15, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    Wonderful reminder, may Allah SWT give us all Ikhlas. Brother Nur Khan, Imamat even in front of a small community is a huge burden and commitment and trust. Even if you don’t count the khutbas, the lectures, the fatwas, leading prayer and making a mistake in it results in the deficiency of the prayer of the people behind you. And he is standing in the exact position and place in which the Prophet himself stood…what greater burden and trust could that be??

  23. Pingback: Shuyookh Need Advice, Too « Scattered Pearls

  24. Avatar

    orange

    March 15, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    salamalaikum,

    Its very beautiful reminder, May Allah help us with our ikhlas.

    I have this issue with how one can implement knowledge that he gains, that is everytime he learns something new : whether from reading the Quran or beneficial books, ahadith etc.? Everything he knows?

    Because I reda this book, that spoke about the great scholars of the past and how they were very worried about putting what they learned into action, otherwise it is a sin. Some Sahabas would learn every few ayahs then act on them, THEN learn few more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

    Wallahi from start to end it scared me, because I thought there is so much that perhaps, small things, I learn everyday, and learnt but have not yet fully implemented, and if I did in the past am not consistent.

    I donot mean the fard/obligatory actions like salah or sawm etc.

    Subhannalh, it paralysed my thirst for learning a bit! I need to stop and acton everything I know otherwise these things are going to be a witness against me on the Day of Judgement.

    How does one do it?

    Jazakallah khair , ws

  25. Avatar

    Meena

    March 16, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    there is a lot of responsibility in leadership positions, especially when it comes to taking care of the Muslim community.

    this was a beautiful reminder, mA!

  26. Avatar

    NahyanInc

    March 16, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    jazakallahuhkair.

    @Amad – …great start indeed :)

  27. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    March 16, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Beautiful story masha Allah :) may Allah preserve the imaams of Muslims

  28. Avatar

    Abdallah

    March 16, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    I hardly ever comment on articles but this one, subhan Allah, left me speechless and compelled me to do so. May Allah preserve our shuyookh and bless us all with this level of ikhlaas.

  29. Avatar

    abu Abdullah

    March 16, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Salamualaikum,

    If Imam of Madinah is saying this, what is our level ( of imaan)? Allahul Musta’an. Great example for the imam to lead from front.

    How about sharing individual attempts ( if possible ) of achieving certain level of ikhlas in the things we do. Come on, give real life scenarios like what do you do when you try to check out items from walmart and music is going on where you can’t avoid it or the shelf is full of pictures you don’t want to look towards and .. most importantly having that (fake?) smile everytime during you come/go out of masjid when someone is in your way and you say alhamdulillah everything is fine ( just for the sake of it, without possibly meaning it for the sake of Allaah). Allaahu ‘alam.

    For example, Sporadically whenever i am asked to lead the prayer I try to remind myself and entire congregation that listen. (Its just a naseehah with no base in sunnah as far as i know.) Whatever you did till now its past. Now you are about to stand before Allaah, and this is your personal chance to speak to him. Your own worries, problems, thanks anything. our creator and if you are forgetful of any part of this prayer, be sure that its not going to be accepted. Stand straight and close. Allahu akbar. ( i may be wrong but i found it to be beneficial to me personally but again that riyaa thing creeps in your heart and you start battling it whether you did it for self or selfless reason.) may Allaah accept our deeds, ameen.

    PS one thing i also learn as a side note that its ok to narrate such incidents for educational purposes, even though imam himself wouldn’t really want things to be disclosed about him in this level ( got this from the way he pulled the author aside and told his personal story) so this does not count as backbiting instead sadaqa jariya inshAllaah.

  30. Avatar

    Lemon

    March 16, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    For any ounce of goodness that is bestowed upon us by Allah, it is only a realization of the Mercy of Allah, and a means to further praise Him, Alhamdulillah.

    May Allah increase eveyone in ikhlaas, ameen.

  31. Avatar

    Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

    March 16, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    Thank you brother for this glimpse into the doubt and stress in the hearts of individuals that we “the public” tend to think of as beyond all of that. And this reminder of the importance of purity of intention, and that in fact nothing is more important.

    Also for sharing us a very private moment and letting us learn from it, Insha’Allah.

  32. Pingback: Yahya Ibrahim: Shaykhs Need Advice, Too « A World of Dreams

  33. Avatar

    Umm Ismael

    March 19, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Asslam u alaikum wr wb
    JazakALLAH! That is beautiful! To stand where the Prophet (saw) stood and not start considering it an ordinary mundane duty that some of us do when working in the way of ALLAH comes easily to us, is another aspect highlighted to us, Sometimes ALLAH Chooses us for His work but we start considering it a daily routine, until it is snatched away. May ALLAH Help us!

  34. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    March 20, 2010 at 5:02 AM

    This post made me realize how blessed we are to have people with such ikhlaas among us. May Allah protect and preserve our shuyookh.
    O Allah, grant us ikhlaas. Ameen!

  35. Avatar

    shirtman

    March 21, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    Great post, as a young Imam myself this hits very hard; I was just thinking about this when I read it.
    May Allah forgive us all.

    SHIRTMAN

  36. Avatar

    Abu Ibrahim

    March 25, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    By far the one of the BEST post on MM. May Allah azza wa jal reward you and the Shaykh over and over again.

  37. Pingback: Imaams of the Haramain - Part IX - Page 70 - IB Islamic Forum

  38. Avatar

    Nur Taher

    September 21, 2010 at 12:19 AM

    salam.
    can you guys give me yahya Ibrahim’s contacts please, I have this question that is private, and i urgently need an answer to it. and yahya is the only one I can trust……

  39. Avatar

    Aloaras

    December 5, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    “Trust”… Subhan’allah… Another amazing read. I have a question … If a “Shaykh” takes advantage of this trust, portrays himself very differently behind closed doors, is a compulsive liar, impinges upon the rights of others, does not seek the forgiveness of those he has wronged should others be warned about him?

  40. Pingback: MM Treasures: Shaykhs Need Advice Too - MuslimMatters.org

  41. Avatar

    Neelo

    September 18, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    Very touchy

  42. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    September 18, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    …..speechless…SubhanAllah

  43. Avatar

    muslimincali

    September 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    Subhanallah. I’m speechless. These type of discussions are so needed. Whether one is khateeb or Islamic university graduate, don’t we all suffer from these ‘common’ issues ? Who here that has been involved in dawah or gave or gives lectures to the masses has not fallen or called to something that he is guilty of ? We all love Allah even tho we sin against Him everyday. We all love the gathering of the pious even tho we are not one of them. We all hate sinners yet even tho we are one of them. I know myself that I have been giving khutbahs for some time , many many years and I always feel so ashamed of my sins that when I stand n preach, I actually consciously ask myself. that I’m probably the worst sinner here. And no this is not trying to be humble, this is how I feel. If I were to make the duaa that shaykh saleh made, I might not be around. Maybe others feel the same. Also reading that hadith makes me almost wish I was not involved in dawah out of fear of opening myself to be judged in that category and then being dragged on my face. May Allah protect us.

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