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My Journey to Islam: Nazeeha bint Renard

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Guest author Nazeeha bint Renard shares with us the beautiful story of her journey to Islam.

You can ask me what I had for dinner yesterday, and I will stop and think. But ask me at any time, on any day, when I reverted to Islam… and the answer comes quickly to the surface of my mind.

Before I tell you “when,” I will answer the question of “why?” I was waiting to die. No, there was no illness of the body. My heart and soul were dead. My body felt like it existed without purpose.

It was not a morbid feeling; I just didn’t connect spiritually, in my mind, to any faith. My family (who will remain private) and I were raised under the religion of Catholicism. (Smile) I was that girl in the plaid school girl uniform for 12 long years! I was finally free when I attended college.

Believing in God and knowing God, I believe, are very separate concepts. I attended church on the obligatory holidays. I would drop my coins in the faded gold box that was firmly welded to the candle offerings table. Kneeling down, I closed my eyes and prayed to any and all saints to help me.

College life, married life and divorce – all were basically lived without a firm grasp on faith. I was always spiritual (or so I thought), but did not claim any one religion as my own. It was only after having my son that I contemplated something more, a desire to be better and to find something greater in this world.

I was a stay-at-home mom doing my best to raise a “good person.” To give my son unconditional love, and provide him the opportunity to give back to this world. The strange thing for me was I could teach my son how to pray, however, I was unable to teach him about faith.

One day while I was doing my routine housework, I started watching a documentary about the fastest growing religions in the world. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism were the featured religions. When the history of Islam was featured, I thought, “This is it!” My heart literally changed its rhythm. I can’t explain it… it can only be experienced. My eyes cried over the sound of the Athan (the call for prayer) until I could barely see the screen. I remember going to the PC and searching frantically for this “music” I had heard. It was not music, but a call to worship Allah.

The year was 2007 and I said my Shahada and became a Muslim. I have a faith that is more important to me than anyone and anything in my life! Life for me revolves around Islam, not the other way around. I have lost some friendships, but I will not compromise my beliefs for anyone.

My family is very small, and is not what I would call practicing Catholics. My announcement that I was a Muslim came over dinner and was greeted with complete silence. I mean, crickets chirping… But as time passed and my mother and son (who is 21) saw that I was very serious, they still said nothing. My son is accepting and my mother feels I am “sad and unhappy” or going through a phase. You have got to love her. Well, at least I have to love her.

That is all I will say about them for now. I love them deeply and will always make supplication for my mom and son to accept Islam, Insha’Allah. Each day, I love more, and learn more. Does Islam assure me happiness? No, but it does give me the freedom to be a stronger woman.

I started wearing the hijab in stages. Six months after taking my Shahada, I felt the desire to cover yet, I was still nervous of public reaction. The wearing of a bandanna became my introduction to my new life as a Muslim. The first time I went outside a sense of calm overwhelmed me… even though my neck was still visible a transformation of spirit was occurring.

Within two months I was wearing the hijab full time! I still tear up thinking about seeing myself for the first time in the mirror. No longer was I seeing myself. Subhan’Allah, the reflection looking back at me was of a woman who was grateful. For the very first time I saw an outward appearance, that matched my feelings inside. I saw a Muslimah at peace with herself.

I wear my hijab only to please Allah. There are no Muslims in my family, and I am not married. So the answer to if I am being forced to cover is a happy and sincere “No.”

My beauty and femininity are not displayed for the public, or defined by what the fashion magazines say is beautiful. In fact, my makeup routine consists of a clean moisturized face and vanilla scented lip balm.

My hijab is not worn as a political symbol. The way I tie it, or the pins which may adorn it are not the issue. More recently increasing government pressure is mounting to ban the wearing of the hijab and veil. It is beyond comprehension how a group of non-Muslim elected government officials can speak for the choices made by Muslim women!

They say “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Maybe someone should tell these government leaders and their supporters… “Don’t judge the Muslimah for her cover!”

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    LinguisticMiracle

    August 21, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Asalaam alaikum warahmatulah wabarakatuh

    Wow, really nice story masha’ Allah! I think that bandanna idea is good as a gradual approach for the hijab. May Allah have mercy on you, and keep you strong. ameen.

  2. Avatar

    Hafsa

    August 21, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    SubhanAllah! Wonderful story!

  3. Avatar

    Manna

    August 21, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    “Don’t judge the Muslimah for her cover!”

    … i like it!

  4. Avatar

    Truth Muslimah

    August 21, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    SubhanAllah and MashAllah my dear sister. Welcome to Islam.

    Some parts of your story truly display the amount of pain, hardship and rejection you have faced along your journey to Islam. However, the amount of content and hapiness you’ve found at the end truly resonates to us readers.

    Personal satisfaction in life is the most important thing, and since Islam has given you that, the hardships will be worth the rewards.

    May Allah secure a place in Jannah for you, and may He guide your family to discover the beauty of Islam, as He has done for you.

    InshAllah !

  5. Avatar

    Truth Muslimah

    August 21, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    MashAllah

  6. Avatar

    Hassan Adnan

    August 21, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    Awesome. May Allah increase our Iman. Praise be to the Lord of the Worlds.

  7. Avatar

    Waris

    August 21, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    @ When the history of Islam was featured, I thought, “This is it!” My heart literally changed its rhythm. I can’t explain it… it can only be experienced. My eyes cried over the sound of the Athan (the call for prayer) until I could barely see the screen.

    Tafseer of the last part of AYAT Noor. The way the oil catches fire without coming into contact with fire or a spark.

    Amazing !!! May Allah keep her firm on the path.

  8. Avatar

    Siraaj

    August 21, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    Salaam alaykum sister Nazeeha,

    May your good example and patience with your family be the example that provides a bridge for them to become Muslim :) Jazakallah khayr for sharing your story, it was iman-raising to read it.

    Siraaj

  9. Avatar

    Sara

    August 22, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    Assalaam Alaikum sis Nazeeha,

    What a beautiful story, MashaAllah! Even though I have been Muslim all my life, Alhumdulillah, reading of the peace you felt in turning to Islam and love for the deen really resonated with me.

    May Allah (SWT) continue to increase your iman, Ameen. JazakAllah for sharing. =)

  10. Avatar

    Shukri

    August 23, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    MashaAllah sis, May Allah swt. increase your Iman and give you a beneficial knowledge and give you the best of this world and the best of the hereafter, ameen. Jazakallahu kheyr for sharing your story with us. And may He swt. guide your family to the truth as well, ameen .

  11. Avatar

    Hannah

    August 23, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    niceeee niceee. i almost feel sorry for the brothers cus they dont require any scarf and that liberating feeling that goes along with it.

    • Avatar

      Mansoor Ansari

      August 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM

      Men have beards :)

  12. Avatar

    Nazeeha

    September 17, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    As’salamu Alaykum wa Rahmat’Allahi wa Barakatuh

    Even though it has been a few weeks since this has posted, I wanted to give a personal thank you to everyone who took the time to read and reply to my post.

    I am just returning to the internet after some time away for Ramadan and other matters. My dua’s are for each of you, and I thank Allah swt for your kind words of support an encouragement.

    May we all continue to grow in our iman and be the best of examples of the Muslim Ummah.

    Jazak Allah Khairum

    Your sister in Islam, Nazeeha

  13. Avatar

    Mohammad Aamir

    September 29, 2010 at 6:35 AM

    Assalam alaikum wr wb
    SubhanAllah
    its very nice story. Its i can’t cry in office. but its increase my decision to keep my beard. i m trying from 1 months to keep my beard. May Allah guide yr family and make more strong u of islamic way.

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Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #7: Islamic Modesty vs. Muslim Shame

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Muslims who discuss sex are sometimes met with a call to shame, but if modesty is observed, then is there any cause for such shame? It all boils down to what shame really is, and how it differs from modesty not only in our lives, but also in the lifetime of the Prophet himself ﷺ.

To view the entire video series, visit muslimmatters.org/LMM

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The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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#Society

Obituary of (Mawlana) Yusuf Sulayman Motala (1366/1946 – 1441/2019)

Monday, September 9, turned out to be a day of profound anguish and sorrow for many around the world. In the early morning hours, news of the death of Mawlana* Yusuf Sulayman Motala, fondly known as “Hazrat” (his eminence) to those who were acquainted with him, spread. He had passed away on Sunday at 8:20 pm EST in Toronto, after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier.

Dr. Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera

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Dar Al Uloom Bury, Yusuf Sulayman Motala
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

A master of hadith and Qur’an. A sufi, spiritual guide and teacher to thousands. A pioneer in the establishment of a religious education system. His death reverberated through hearts and across oceans. We are all mourning the loss of a luminary who guided us through increasingly difficult times.

Monday, September 9, turned out to be a day of profound anguish and sorrow for many around the world. In the early morning hours, news of the death of Mawlana* Yusuf Sulayman Motala, fondly known as “Hazrat” (his eminence) to those who were acquainted with him, spread. He had passed away on Sunday at 8:20 pm EST in Toronto, after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier. (May the Almighty envelope him in His mercy)

His journey in this world had begun more than 70 years ago in the small village of Nani Naroli in Gujarat, India, where he was born on November 25, 1946 (1 Muharram 1366) into a family known for their piety.

His early studies were largely completed at Jami’a Husayniyya, one of the early seminaries of Gujarat, after which he travelled to Mazahir Ulum, the second oldest seminary of the Indian Sub-Continent, in Saharanpur, India, to complete his ‘alimiyya studies. What drew him to this seminary was the presence of one of the most influential and well-known contemporary spiritual guides, Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (d. 1402/1982), better known as “Hazrat Shaykh.” He had seen Mawlana Zakariyya only briefly at a train stop, but it was enough for him to understand the magnitude of his presence.

Mawlana Yusuf remained in Saharanpur for two years. Despite being younger than many of the other students of Shaykh Zakariya, the shaykh took a great liking to him. Shaykh Zakariya showered him with great attention and even deferred his retirement from teaching Sahih al-Bukhari so that Mawlana Yusuf could study it under his instruction. While in Saharanpur, Mawlana Yusuf also studied under a number of other great scholars, such as Mawlana Muhammad ‘Aqil (author of Al-Durr al-Mandud, an Urdu commentary of Sunan Abi Dawud and current head lecturer of Hadith at the same seminary), Shaykh Yunus Jownpuri (d. 1438/2017) the previous head lecturer of Hadith there), Mawlana As‘adullah Rampuri (d. 1399/1979) and Mufti Muzaffar Husayn (d. 1424/2003).

Upon completion of his studies, Mawlana Yusuf’s marriage was arranged to marry a young woman from the Limbada family that had migrated to the United Kingdom from Gujarat. In 1968, he relocated to the UK and accepted the position of imam at Masjid Zakariya, in Bolton. Although he longed to be in the company of his shaykh, he had explicit instructions to remain in the UK and focus his efforts on establishing a seminary for memorization of Qur’an and teaching of the ‘alimiyya program. The vision being set in motion was to train a generation of Muslims scholars that would educate and guide the growing Muslim community.

Establishing the first Muslim seminary, in the absence of any precedent, was a daunting task. The lack of support from the Muslim community, the lack of integration into the wider British community, and the lack of funds made it seem an impossible endeavour. And yet, Mawlana Yusuf never wavered in his commitment and diligently worked to make the dream of his teacher a reality. In 1973 he purchased the derelict Aitken Sanatorium in the village of Holcombe, near Bury, Lancashire. What had once been a hospice for people suffering from tuberculosis, would become one of the first fully-fledged higher-education Islamic institutes outside of the Indian-Subcontinent teaching the adapted-Nizami syllabus.

The years of struggle by Maulana Yusuf to fulfil this vision paid off handsomely. Today, after four decades, Darul Uloom Al Arabiyya Al Islamiyya, along with its several sister institutes, also founded by Mawlana Yusuf, such as the Jamiatul Imam Muhammad Zakariya seminary in Bradford for girls, have produced well over 2,000 British born (and other international students) male and female ‘alimiyya graduates – many of whom are working as scholars and serving communities across the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, the US, Canada, Barbados, Trinidad, Panama, Saudi Arabia, India and New Zealand. Besides these graduates, a countless number of individuals have memorized the Qur’an at these institutes. Moreover, many of the graduates of the Darul Uloom and its sister institutes have set up their own institutes, such as Jamiatul Ilm Wal Huda in Blackburn, Islamic Dawah Academy in Leicester, Jami’ah al-Kawthar in Lancaster, UK, and Darul Uloom Palmela in Portugal, to just mention a few of the larger ones. Within his lifetime, Mawlana Yusuf saw first-hand the fruit of his labours – witnessing his grand students (graduates from his students’ institutes) providing religious instruction and services to communities around the world in their local languages. What started as a relationship of love between a student and teacher, manifested into the transmission of knowledge across continents. In some countries, such as the UK and Portugal, one would be hard-pressed to find a Muslim who had not directly or indirectly benefited from him.

Mawlana Yusuf was a man with deep insights into the needs of Western contemporary society, one that was very different from the one he had grown up and trained in. With a view to contributing to mainstream society, Mawlana Yusuf encouraged his graduates to enter into further education both in post-graduate Islamic courses and western academia, and to diversify their fields of learning through courses at mainstream UK universities. As a result, many ‘alimiyya graduates of his institutes are trained in law, mainstream medicine, natural medicine and homeopathy, mental health, child protection, finance, IT, education, chaplaincy, psychology, philosophy, pharmacy, physics, journalism, engineering, architecture, calligraphy, typography, graphic design, optometry, social services, public health, even British Sign Language. His students also include several who have completed PhDs and lecture at universities. His vision was to train British-born (or other) Muslim scholars who would be well versed in contemporary thought and discipline along with their advanced Islamic learning, equipping them to better contribute to society.

Despite his commitment to the establishment of a public good, the shaykh was an immensely private person and avoided seeking accolade or attention. For many decades he refused invitations to attend conferences or talks around the country, choosing to focus on his students and his family, teaching the academic syllabus and infusing the hearts of many aspirants with the love of Allah through regular gatherings of remembrance (dhikr) and spiritual retreats (i’tikaf) in the way of his shaykh’s Chishti Sufi order.

During my entire stay with him at Darul Uloom (1985–1997), I can say with honesty that I did not come across a single student who spoke ill of him. He commanded such awe and respect that people would find it difficult to speak with him casually. And yet, for those who had the opportunity to converse with him, knew that he was the most compassionate, humble, and loving individual.

He was full of affection for his students and colleagues and had immense concern for the Muslim Ummah, especially in the West. He possessed unparalleled forbearance and self-composure. When he taught or gave a talk, he spoke in a subdued and measured tone, as though he was weighing every word, knowing the import it carried. He would sit, barely moving and without shifting his posture. Even after a surgical procedure for piles, he sat gracefully teaching us Sahih al-Bukhari. Despite the obvious pain, he never made an unpleasant expression or winced from the pain.

Anyone who has listened to his talks or read his books can bear testimony to two things: his immense love for the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his love for Shaykh Mawlana Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi (may Allah have mercy on him). It is probably hard to find a talk in which he did not speak of the two. His shaykh was no doubt his link to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) in both his hadith and spiritual transmissions.

Over the last decade, he had retired from most of his teaching commitments (except Sahih al-Bukhari) and had reduced meeting with people other than his weekly dhikr gatherings. His time was spent with his family and young children and writing books. His written legacy comprises over 20 titles, mostly in Urdu but also a partial tafsir of the Qur’an in classical Arabic.

After the news of his heart attack on Sunday, August 25, and the subsequent effects to his brain, his well-wishers around the world completed hundreds of recitals of the Qur’an, several readings of the entire Sahih al-Bukhari, thousands of litanies and wirds of the formula of faith (kalima tayyiba), and gave charity in his name. However, Allah Most High willed otherwise and intended for him to depart this lowly abode to begin his journey to the next. He passed away two weeks later and reports state that approximately 4,000 people attended his funeral. Had his funeral been in the UK, the number of attendees would have multiplied several folds. But he had always shied away from large crowds and gatherings and maybe this was Allah Most High’s gift to him after his death. He was 75 (in Hijra years, and 72 in Gregorian) at the time of his death and leaves behind eight children and several grandchildren.

Mawlana Yusuf educated, inspired and nourished the minds and hearts of countless across the UK and beyond. May Allah Almighty bless him with the loftiest of abodes in the Gardens of Firdaws in the company of Allah’s beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) and grant all his family, students, and cherishers around the world beautiful patience.

Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera
Whitethread Institute, London
(A fortunate graduate of Darul Uloom Bury, 1996–97)

*a learned Muslim scholar especially in India often used as a form of address
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