Recently some of my students (11 of them) had visited My Honourable Teacher, Al-‘Allamatul Muhaddith, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (hafizahullah) in Istanbul. Shaykh -as is his noble habit- was extremely generous with his time and priceless advices. Hereunder is their account, in brief after a few minor edits.
الحمد لله رب العالمين، و الصلاة و السلام على رسوله الكريم، أما بعد
By the Tawfiq of Allah, a group of students from America (Darussalam in Lombard, Illinois) were recently able to meet the great Muhaddith, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah (hafizahullah) at his residence in Turkey, and benefit from his invaluable advices.
Advice for Life
-After asking general details about our trip, our school, as well as the other Madaris in America, the esteemed Shaykh gave us two main advices, the culmination of over 60 years of experience in the path of ‘Ilm. He explained, “I could spend this time answering some of your general questions, or some questions you have about specific academic issues, and you would get some benefit in that regard. But instead, I will give you advice which will suffice you for the rest of your lives.”
1. He then proceeded with the first advice, in which he impressed on us the importance of having Ikhlās (Sincerely). He said his famous, oft-repeated statement: الإخلاص يصنع العجائب “Sincerity produces wonders.”
To prove his statement, he quoted two examples.
The first was the great scholar Mawlānā Qāsim Nanotwi (rahimahullah), a man who was not a king, nor an influential ruler, but rather a simple man from a village, who started a simple Madrasah in Deoband which developed into a movement that inspired droves of Muslims throughout the world, and produced-without exaggeration- millions of ‘Ulama. The Shaykh, quoting Shaykh Muhammad Amin Harwali from Pakistan, mentioned that Karachi, a single city in Pakistan, alone is home to 30,000 institutes of Islamic education, all stemming back to Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband. Likewise, there are thousands of such institutes in the rest of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, England, America, as well as numerous other countries, with the mother of all being Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband. This was nothing but the result of sincerity of its founder, and his earnest desire for the progression of Islam and the Muslims.
The second example the Shaykh cited to further drive home this point was the example of the great Dā’i, Mawlānā Muhammad Ilyas (rahimahullah), whose sincere, intense concern for the guidance of his people, and the entire Ummah, caused his simple effort comprising of villagers from the outskirts of Delhi to transform in less than a century into an international movement spanning almost all inhabited countries, and become a means of guiding millions and millions of Muslims who strayed away from the path, as well as a significant number of Non-Muslims.
2. After sufficiently demonstrating to us the importance of Ikhlās, the Shaykh, employing the Prophetic method of Targhīb and Tarhīb, severely warned us against a matter which demolishes all the good brought about by Ikhlās. Before telling us what it was, he asked us to guess what we thought it was. So we guessed… “Riyā’ (Ostentation)” “Takabbur (Arrogance)” “Sins” “Hasad (Jealousy)”. To each of these, the Shaykh said “No.”
The Shaykh informed us that this destructive force was none other than Ikhtilāf (disagreement). He then made a powerful statement which may be a surprise to some: “I warn you from disagreement with one another as strongly as I warn you from falling into Kufr!” Possibly seeing the surprise on some of our faces, the Shaykh said: “You may not believe what I am saying now, and think that I am exaggerating, but one day, whether it be after a day, a year, ten years, or twenty years, you will understand that what I am telling you is from the greatest of truths.”
(Note: The esteemed Shaykh (hafizahullah) is not referring to Ikhtilaf in Furū’ Fiqhiyyah, matters related to jurisprudence, which is inevitable, and is actually a means of mercy for the Ummah, as Shaykh ‘Awwāmah himself expounds upon in his excellent work, Adabul Ikhtilāf [pgs. 28-48]. Rather, he is warning against difference in the hearts, by allowing differences in opinion-whether it be in Fiqh, methodology, or other matters- to turn into arguments, discord, and ill feeling amongst us.)
He cautioned against people who, with evil intentions, purposely work to cause strife between the Muslims, and turn them against one another. Such people should be eyed with suspicion, and not be allowed to come between us.
After this main advice, the Shaykh (hafizahullah) gave us the opportunity to ask him questions. We asked him questions related to the advice he gave, as well as other questions regarding Islam in America. Below are some of the gems extracted from his answers:
3. He emphasized the importance of coupling our religious knowledge with intelligence and common sense. He mentioned that having more knowledge than intellect was considered a shortcoming among the ‘Ulama of the past. It is with this intelligence coupled with ‘Ilm that scholars can work to unite, and overlook small differences.
Upon being asked whether intelligence was a god-given gift (Wahbi) or something that can be acquired through effort (Kasbi), the Shaykh replied that it has both aspects to it. There is a certain amount of intelligence given to everyone, some more than others, but one can also increase their intelligence through learning from their experiences (Khibrah).
4. The Qawā’id Fiqhiyyah are the soul (Rūh) of Islam.
When asked about the growing problem of the rejection of ‘Ahadith due to logical objections, he replied: “When addressing such issues, do not immediately answer their contentions on the Hadith, rather address the core of the problem, and explain to them the validity of Ahadith as a source of Islamic knowledge (Hujjiyatul Hadīth). Only when they concede the authority of Hadith should you proceed to remove their confusions with regards to specific Ahadith. If you try to address the objection right away, you will waste your time, as there are many Ahadith people object against. Instead, address the root of the problem.’
5. The respected Shaykh said: “We must make our students of knowledge independent from Western Universities by establishing Islamic Universities.
6. The Shaykh (hafizahullah) emphatically told us: “Fear Allah regarding your Dīn, and fear Allah regarding your Ummah!” Simple words, but carried a profound effect on us coming from the Shaykh.
7. The last advice the Shaykh (hafizahullah) parted us with was to recite the following Prophetic Du’a after Salatul Fajr: اللّهمّ إنّي أسألك علما نافعا و رزقا طيبا و عملا متقبّلا
And to recite the following Qur’anic dua after Fatihah in the 3rd Rak’ah of Salatul Maghrib, as was the habit of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (radiyallahu ‘anhu): ربّنا لا تزغ قلوبنا بعد إذ هديتنا و هب لنا من لدنك رحمة إنك أنت الوهّاب
(For those who do not recite when behind the Imam, they can recite this Du’a after the Salah).
Lessons by Observation
-Besides these advices from the Shaykh, we also benefited from merely being in his presence. Seeing his humility, his gentleness, his constant remembrance of Allah, and his Nasiha (Sincere well-wishing) for the entire Ummah reminded us of the qualities of the Salaf that we read about in the books.
-The hospitality shown by his respected family, especially his son, Shaykh Muhiuddin ‘Awwamah (hafizahullah), was also something to be noted. Despite all of their obligations, they graciously took out the time and allowed us to meet the Shaykh at his house, and patiently waited when we were delayed in arrival, and went out of their way to prepare American-style food.
May Allah reward the Shaykh and his family greatly and bless them and protect them, and allow us to fully benefit from his advices. Amin.
-End of quote.
Note: This is a translation of the Arabic summary (which can be found here) written by one of the students, along with additional points and details, and some rearranging.