Book Review: Maktūbat-i-Mashāyikh

By Mawlana Ismaeel Nakhuda

There are three genres of literature that are perhaps unique within the context of Islam in South Asia: malfuzattazkirahs and maktubat (aphorisms, hagiographies and letters). Often written in Urdu or Persian, all three are a delight to read, and overflow with wisdom and academic nuggets that really help us not only gain a better understanding of notable religious individuals and their temperaments, but also provide unique context of the social milieu people lived and operated in.

When it comes to the maktubat there are numerous famous collections of epistles written and received by luminaries from the Sub Continent. Perhaps one of the most famous being the Maktubat of Mujaddid Alf-i-Thani Shaykh Ahmed Sarhindi (d.1624) (may Allah enlighten his grave), which has been translated into various languages. Likewise, those connected to Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi (d.1981) (may Allah have mercy on him) have also tirelessly produced compilations of his letters. Those connected to the silsilah are regularly advised to read them with the aim of gaining spiritual blessings (fayd) and an understanding of the way of our elders.

Within the UK, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Yusuf Motala (d.2019) (may Allah have mercy on him) – one of Shaykh Zakariyya’s leading khalifahs – led the way on this with several compilations of Shaykh Zakariyya’s letters, including Makatib-i-Shaykh al-Hadith and Mahabbat Nameh, and a third compilation entitled ‘Inayat Nameh consisting of the letters he received from leading religious luminaries. Another lovely compilation of Shaykh Zakariyya’s letters was published by Shaykh Mawlana Hashim Patel, another one of Shaykh Zakariyya’s leading UK-based khalifahs, entitled Mereh Hadrat keh Khutut. (And as I write these words one of Mawlana Yusuf Motala’s khalifahs, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Lunat has also published Jamal-i-Yusufi, a beautiful and heart touching collection of Shaykh Zakariyya’s letters to Mawlana Yusuf Motala that I hope to also write about soon.)

Maktubat-i-Mashayikh is a continuation of this Islamic tradition and consists of some eighty letters received by my teacher, the most erudite, hadith expert and accomplished lecturer in hadith, Shaykh al-Hadith Mufti Shabbir Ahmed Patel of Blackburn, UK. The letters span over 40 years and are from several leading scholars, particularly the late Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Yunus Jawnpuri (d.2017) and the late Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Yusuf Motala.

As a former student of Dar al-‘Ulum Bury, I saw Mufti Shabbir in his prime and had the honour of attending his classes and lectures in the final years of my time at the madrasah (1996-2001). His deep understanding, passion for imparting knowledge, wide reading, erudition and engaging style of lecturing was something that energised me then and the memories of sitting in his class still provide solace today, some 20 years later. His lessons were engaging and packed to the brim with wisdom and wit. Not only was he a conscientious lecturer, he was also diligent in covering the books he taught at a steady pace, ensuring the book would be comfortably completed by the end of the academic year without the need to rush due to lengthy discussions towards the beginning of the year. Later, I would read in Shaykh Zakariyya’s autobiography, Aap Biti, that this was also the habit of his father, Mawlana Muhammad Yahya Kandhalwi.

When Ramadan came, students at the Dar al-‘Ulum in those days would normally return home or go abroad to lead Tarawih. As someone who was not hafiz of the Qur’an and did not have the responsibility of leading the Tarawih prayers, it would happen that I would often spend several weeks during Ramadan at Dar al-‘Ulum Bury. This time would be spent either in khidmah of those sitting in seclusion (i‘tikaf) or in seclusion myself. It would also often be the case that Mufti Shabbir would be sat in seclusion and oversee the i‘tikaf programme himself. For a teenager from the back-to-back terrace streets of Lancashire, this was an opportunity to observe how the pious spent Ramadan and what I saw then still elicits a sweet taste in my mouth today. I saw a man who ate and slept little, just the bare minimum. Though he had a profound interest in the hadith sciences, Ramadan was dedicated to the Qur’an. He would spend his day constantly and consistently in its recitation from memory. How much he read was anyone’s guess, but I am sure it was no less than the entire Qur’an during the whole day if not more. His attachment to the Qur’an really stuck out. In those days, his children were young and he would often be flanked by them. He would recite his own Qur’an and then listen to his children’s hifz.

Mufti Shabbir had his own way of reciting. His voice was solemn, heart touching and emotional. Anyone who has had the fortune of listening to his recitation will testify to that. On the verses of punishment his voice would tremble and on the verses relating to Allah’s mercy and the bounties He has in store for the pious there would be a freshness in his voice that reflected the subject being recited. One would never bore of listening to his Qur’an and even now, decades later, I relish those invaluable moments.

He was always full of energy and I saw this increase during the holy month. I recall one Ramadan some 25 years ago, when it fell in winter and the nights were long. That year Mufti Shabbir’s daily routine was to lead a portion of the Tarawih at the Sajidin Mosque in Blackburn and then head to the Markaz al-‘Ulum madrasah (also in Blackburn) where the Tarawih began a little later. He would lead a number of rak‘ahs there and then midway head for Dar al-‘Ulum Bury (some 12 miles away) where the prayer began even later. He would join the Dar al-‘Ulum congregation in between their Tarawih and lead a large portion of the prayer and end with witr. His memory was excellent and recitation steady and flawless. I also observed that he would be reciting the Qur’an from memory while he travelled from one venue to another. In fact, every time I ever travelled with him by car, rather than frivolous talk, his time would be spent reciting the Qur’an in a quiet but audible voice.

Despite being a senior lecturer in hadith and a teacher of individuals who themselves are senior scholars and hadith lecturers, I often recall Mufti Shabbir during the i’tikaf helping us pick up the dastarkhwan and tidying up after the iftar meal. And as my years at Dar al-‘Ulum passed I often saw Mufti Shabbir spending long days and weekends supervising and organising the cleaning of the madrasah, especially in preparation for official visits or annual gatherings such as the graduation ceremony of the final year students studying Sahih al-Bukhari. He was not hands off but got in with the students, and using the art of coaxing and persuasion led from the front and commanded the respect of students to deliver what needed to be done.

On one occasion, I remember the Dar al-‘Ulum cook not being able to prepare lunch for some reason and so Mufti Shabbir himself rolled his sleeves up and, in between lessons, prepared lunch on that day for the madrasah’s 400 students and teaching staff. A mammoth task indeed. If my memory serves me right, he said he had cooked Lucknowi Biryani. As someone who has never tasted Lucknowi Biryani I’m unsure whether this was the case, but I can certify it was a tasty meal and I ate to my fill.

On graduation from Dar al-‘Ulum, I became busy with university and employment in Saudi Arabia and perhaps became distant from our respected teacher. Just a few days before last Ramadan, I was visiting my mother’s home and ventured outside to take a call due to poor reception when a car pulled up next to me. Engrossed in the conversation I initially failed to recognise who it was and then when the window came down realised it was Mufti Shabbir. We met and seeing him unexpectedly made me extremely happy. He then handed me a box of Madinah dates and said this is a gift for you for Ramadan and went on his way. That memory remains with me and I cherished every date in that box. It also then dawned on me that I had taken so much from Mufti Shabbir but given nothing in return.

Maktubat-i-Mashayikh is an interesting read. The letters from Shaykh Yunus Jawnpuri are particularly noteworthy and exemplify the attachment between the two. They also contain a wealth of information on the science of hadith and its commentary. Perhaps the most interesting letter in the collection is the one on page 171 in which Mawlana Yusuf Motala grants Mufti Shabbir khilafah in Tasawwuf and provides some unique and useful advice that would be relevant to any salik. We pray Allah Most High grants Mufti Shabbir a long life, that He accepts his services for the faith and enables us to value this gem who is still among us. Amin.

This review was written at the request of Mawlana Khalil Ahmed Kazi of Madina Academy, Dewsbury, UK.

Taken from basair.net.

Book Review: Al-Zubdah fī Sharḥ al-Burdah of ʿAlī al-Qārī

Al-Zubdah fī sharḥ al-Burdah. By al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī. Edited by Māhir Adīb Ḥabbūsh. Istanbul, Turkey: Dār al-Lubāb, 1438/2017. Pp 203. ISBN 9786058323865.

Reviewed by Mawlana Kamil Uddin, Darul Qasim

The mantle Burdah wears in Islamic literature is unparalleled. A glimpse of this is shown by ʿAbdullah Muḥammad al-Ḥabashī who lists out 48 pages of commentaries and marginalia for the Burdah in his encyclopedic bibliography, Jāmiʿ al-shurūḥ wal-ḥawāshī[1]. The actual title of this instrumental poem is al-Kawākib al-durriyyah fī madḥ khayr al-bariyyah (lit. The Radiant Planets in Praise of the Best of all Creation) written by the Sufi Poet of the Shādhilī order, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Būṣīrī (d. 697/1298). This commentary, titled al-Zubdah (The Choicest), selects from previous glosses and builds a direct bridge from poetry to prose for readers. A salient feature of al-Qārī’s (d. 1014/1606) writings is his ability to take complex topics and weave the thread of understanding through them; this work is no different. Ḥabbūsh edited this work using two manuscripts; the first was from King Saud University and the second from Waliyy al-Dīn Efendi Library in Istanbul which is an extension of Beyazıt Devlet Kütüphanesi (Beyazıt State Library).

In his 25 page introduction, Ḥabbūsh gives brief background information on al-Būṣīrī, his qaṣīdah, and the lasting effect this poem had on poetry that followed him. He also lists out 9 specific commentaries, 2 of which al-Qārī referenced often which are the commentaries of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Maḥallī (d. 864/1460) and ʿIṣām al-Dīn al-Isfarāyīniyy (d. 944/1538), as well as the commentary of Zayn al-Dīn Khālid al-Azharī (d. 905/1500) which was often quoted in the marginalia of the King Saud manuscript of al-Zubdah. Since the three aforementioned glosses have yet to be printed, the value of such a publication heightens. Ḥabbūsh also extracts what he considers controversial couplets that exaggerate the praise of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, listing them out in the following order; 80, 81, 135, 136, 149, 146, 75, 156, 43, and 154. He adds footnotes under some of these couplets explaining how they are problematic and critiquing al-Būṣīrī’s choice of words. However, he does not seem to adopt the reading al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī presents, one that is in line with Sunni creed and law. This is a problem because reading the sharḥ/ḥāshiyah genre requires one to be in sync with the previous research, which is why we see many authors writing glosses on their own texts (matn) because there is no commentator (shārīh) who could better rationalize that author (mātin).

Ḥabbūsh states that al-Qārī’s methodology of explaining contains three aspects. First he explains selected vocabulary (sharḥ mufradāt), followed by parsing (iʿrāb) unintuitive phrases, and concluding by giving a succinct, easy-to-read but eloquent understanding of the couplet. Sometimes al-Qārī switches the order but still touches on all three aspects. One of finest features of this commentary is al-Qārī’s ability to connect the poem to the Qurʾān and Hadith; this rhetorical concept is called iqtibās which literally means “the process of lighting one’s fire from that of another.” In the indexes listed at the end by the editor, I counted 122 ayahs from 52 surahs and 78 hadiths quoted by al-Qārī for a poem totaling 160 couplets. He was able to capture this light from other sources as well, for example he mentioned that couplet 58 was inspired by the eulogy of Fāṭimah, may Allah be pleased with her, for her father, the Prophet, peace be upon him. He also references the famous Majnūn in couplet 5 and al-Buḥturiyy (d. 284/897) in couplet 57, both of whom are famous for the art of panegyric in their own right. Al-Qārī also intertwines supplementary rhetorical and grammatical points along with theological and spiritual allusions (iīmāʾāt) throughout the commentary.

This edition also contains an 8 page bibliography (fihris al-maṣādir wal-marājiʿ) and an unfulfilling one page table of contents (fihris al-mawḍūʿāt). This text would have been enhanced for readers and researchers by including an index for the couplets, proper names and places, and a more expansive table of contents that gives an overview of the wide range of topics covered by both al-Qārī and al-Būṣīrī. One possible addition to the table of contents would be division of the poem into the ten sections (abwāb) mentioned on page 28. The editor ought to have included the full-length poem (qaṣīdah) in the beginning or end of the edition so that it can be read without pauses. It should be noted that the couplets are enumerated throughout the text and are in bold which make it easy to identify. Aside from the last two sentences at the end of the introduction and images of the first and last folios (lawḥah) there is no other information given about the manuscripts. Overall this is a welcome edition with accurate paragraphing, precise punctuation, and reliable referencing. Lastly, other editions of this work have been published since, one by Dār al-Imām al-Rāzī  in Cairo in 2018. Stamped on the title page is the claim Yuṭbaʿ li-awwal marrah alā arbaʿ nusakh khaṭṭīyah (Printed for the first time using 4 manuscripts).[2] Another one by Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah in 2019.[3] However, I have been unable to access these editions and thus cannot compare between them. The expectation is that they should be better but al-faḍl lil-mutaqaddim (special virtue is for the first).


[1] Al-Ḥabashī, A. Muḥammad, Jāmiʿ al-shurūḥ wal-ḥawāshī : muʿjam shāmil li-asmāʾ al-kutub al-mashrūḥah fī al-turāth al-Islāmī wa-bayan shurūḥihā, 5 vols. (Dār al-Minhāj, Jeddah, 2017), 1:659-707.

[2] Al-Qārī, M. ʻAlī and al-Khurāsānī, A. Muḥammad. al-Zubdah fī sharḥ al-Burdah. (Dār al-Imām al-Rāzī lil-nashr wal-tawzīʿ, Cairo, 2018).

[3] Al-Qārī, M. ʿAlī and Farḥāt, Ḥ. ʿAzīz. Sharḥ al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī ʿalā Burdat al-Būṣīrī. (Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, Beirut, 2019).

Readings Amidst the Pandemic

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
يا سَلَام، صَلِّ وَ سَلِّم عَلَى النَّبِيِّ الأَمَان
يا مُهَيْمِن، صَلِّ وَ سَلِّمْ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ المُيَسِّر
يا حَفِيظ، صَلِّ وَ سَلِّم عَلَى النَّبِيِّ العَزِيز

Below are works written regarding plagues/pandemics and general distresses.

The last two Arabic works concern the virtues of solitude, which can be benefited from in light of quarantines and stay-at-home orders.

Arabic works:

بذل الماعون في فضل الطاعون – ابن حجر العسقلاني

ما رواه الواعون في اخبار الطاعون – جلال الدين السيوطي

بغية الداعين برفع النوازل و الطواعين – ابو بكر الملا الأحسائي

فوائد البلوى والمحن – عز الدين بن عبد السلام

الأرج في الفرج – جلال الدين السيوطي

تكميل النعوت في لزوم البيوت – عبد الغني النابلسي

العزلة – ابو سليمان الخطابي البُستي

English works:

Desire for the Hereafter – Mawlānā Ashraf ʿAlī Thānawi
A translation of Shawq-e-Watan (in Urdu) written in the context of a plague that had spread in areas of northern India.

Trials and Tribulations – ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām
A translation of the Arabic text Fawāʾid ‘l-Balwā wa l’-Miḥan listed above.

Kitāb al-Arbaʿīn fī Uṣūl al-Dīn by Imam Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī

كتاب الأربعين في أصول الدين
ط. دار االمنهاج 1439\ 2017

تأليف: حجّة الإسلام الإمام أبي حامد محمد بن محمد بن محمد بن أحمد الغزالي الطوسي الطبراني الشافعي

Image of the front cover.

Imām Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī needs no introduction to any Muslim. Popularly known by the title of ‘Ḥujjat al-Islām’ (the proof of Islām), Imām al-Ghazālī is one of the most phenomenal scholars and ṣūfi masters in the history of Islām who, till this day, continue to amaze humanity with the depth of their knowledge, wisdom and spiritual light that emanate from their works. Author of tens of major works – mostly in Arabic, and some in his native Persian – Imām al-Ghazāli’s magnum opus is without doubt his monumental Iḥyāʾ ῾Ulūm al-Dῑn (Revival of the Sciences of the Religion). [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn (Forty Chapters on the Foundations of the Religion) could arguably be described as a miniature version of his Iḥyāʾ – although, the Iḥyāʾ is what it is – it is huge and a very detailed and breath-taking work on the spiritual and inner dimensions of Islām. This current publication is a new and properly researched (muḥaqqaq) deluxe edition of the [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn by one of the more reputable publishers of the Middle East – Dār al-Minhāj (Riyadh/Jeddah). Measuring 222 x 152 mm, the book is compact. It comprises 543 cream-coloured pages and the text is in two colours – black and maroon. The paper is high quality and the text has been thoroughly researched and compared with several manuscripts of the book, with hadith references and other useful annotations added by the editors throughout the edition – all common features of Dār al-Minhāj’s publications, as we have repeatedly seen over the last several years.

Obviously and without doubt, the Iḥyāʾ is and shall always remain an unparalleled wonder of wonders, and it shall continue to astound academia of the East, as well as the West. The Iraqi-Indian master, Imām Sayyid Muḥammad Murtaḍā al-Zabῑdi’s (1145-1205/1732-1791) massive super commentary on the Iḥyāʾ,titled Itḥāf al-Sādat al-Muttaqῑn bi Sharḥi Iḥyāʾ ῾Ulūm al-Dῑn, has added another layer of astoundment to an already astounding masterpiece.[1] For a much quicker read and a comparatively very brief summary of many (but not all) topics covered in the Iḥyāʾ, Imām al-Ghazālī’s [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn is highly recommended. Indeed, the book was so much liked by the Al-Ghazāli of India, Imām Mawlānā Muḥammad Ashraf ῾Ali Thānwī, that he desired the book be rendered to Urdu to aid the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent in their character and spiritual reformation. When this was accomplished by Shaykh Muḥammad ʿĀshiq-e-Ilāhī, Imām Thānwī was impressed and delighted, and he expressed this in his foreword to the Urdu translation.[2]   

[Kitāb] Al-Arbaʿῑn fī Uṣūl al-Dῑn is actually not a book that Imām al-Ghazāli authored separately. It is in fact the third of three parts of his book Jawāhir al-Qurʾān. When writing this third part of Jawāhir al-Qurʾān, he had indicated that, should someone wish in the future to separate this third part of the book and publish it separately, that will be possible, and, should this happen, he (Imām al-Ghazālī) himself titled this separate book [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn.[3]

In his introduction, Imām al-Ghazālī states that [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fī Uṣūl al-Dῑn is composed of the following:

Ulūm (Categories of knowledge)

Amāl (Categories of actions)

Amāl (actions) are then categorised into ẓāhirah (outer/visible) and bāṭinah (inner/invisible).

The bāṭinah (inner/invisible actions) are then further categorised into tazkiyah (cleansing/ridding) and taḥliyah (adorning or inculcating/adopting).

Thus, there are four categories:

Ulūm (Categories of knowledge)

Amāl ẓāhirah (Categories of outer/visible actions)

Akhlāq madhmūmah, tajibu ‘l-tazkiyatu minha (Blameworthy traits, cleansing oneself from which is obligatory)

Akhlāq maḥmūdah, tajibu ‘l-taḥliyatu biha (Praiseworthy traits, adorning oneself with which is obligatory)

Every category (out of the four) is then divided into ten foundations (or roots).[4]

Thus, the book is in forty short chapters, from which it takes its title of [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dn (Forty Chapters on the Foundations of the Religion).

Abu Asim Badrul Islam
Northampton
ENGLAND
20 Jumādā al-Ākhirah 1440/26 February 2019

Images of just some of the manuscripts used for this edition.

Images of some pages.



[1]  For a fascinating window into the life and world of Imām Sayyid Muḥammad Murtaḍā al-Zabῑdi, see: Stefan Reichmuth, Murtadā az-Zabīdī (D. 1791) in Biographical and Autobiographical Accounts. Glimpses of Islamic Scholarship in the 18th Century in Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 39, Issue 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 64-102.

[2]  Titled Tablῑgh-e-Dῑn, the Urdu translation has been published by Idārat al-Ma῾ārif (now renamed Maktabah Ma῾ārif al-Qurʾān) in Jāmi῾ah Dār al-῾Ulūm Karachi (1420/1999) and other publishers in the Indian subcontinent.  

[3]  See: Jawāhir al-Qurʾān (p. 17), Dār Iḥyāʾ al-῾Ulūm (Beirut) (1405/1985).

[4]  See: [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn, p. 50-51.

How to Perform Hajj, Umrah, & Ziyarah – by Shaykh Saleem Dhorat

Hajj, Umrah, Ziyarah asSalaamu Alaikum,

How to Perform Hajj

How to Perform Umrah

How to Perform Ziyarah

With Hajj less than a month away, these concise booklets compiled by Shaykh Saleem Dhorat (db), published by Islamic Dawah Academy, will be of great benefit to those preparing for the blessed journey and anyone else who plans on visiting for Umrah and for Ziyārah to Madīnah Munawwarah. They also contain illustrations when necessary, such as for the blessed pillars (Ustuwānah) in al-Masjid al-Nabawi.

Another useful booklet to obtain – by the same author and publisher – is Useful Advice for Travellers to the Haramayn.

The booklets are conveniently small and thin enough to be carried with on the journey for quick reference and review.

Please click on the links above to download.

Maqasid al-Sawm by Imām ‘Izz al-Dīn bin ‘Abd al-Salām – Download

at-Tahawi

asSalaamu Alaikum,

Some time ago, Ustadh Murabit Benavidez gifted me a PDF copy of مقاصدالصوم  by Sultān al-Ulama Imām `Izz al-Dīn bin `Abd al-Salām (ra). For the benefit of others, I thought of sharing this gift during the month of fasting. Please view below for the download link:

مقاصد الصوم by Shaykh `Izz al-Dīn bin `Abd al-Salām

asSalaamu Alaikum.

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