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The Gap

“The death of a scholar leaves a void in Islam,” the blessed Prophet observed. For very many, it will not be possible to imagine a greater void than that left by Shaykh al-Haddad, both in the hearts of his pupils and of all who loved, and in the Islamic umma as a whole, whose interests he served so quietly for so long.

Shaykh al-Haddad, religious counsellor to ministers and paupers alike, was a rare living embodiment of traditional styles of da’wa. He was a founder member of the Muslim World League, but never accepted money for his services to Islam. Running a small business in East Africa, he lived to obey Allah’s injunction to bring Islam to all people. One week he would almost be eaten by crocodiles during a mission to the Pygmies of Western Uganda; the next he would be using his fluent Swahili to defeat the Ahmadiyya cult in a vast public debate in Kampala. Not a second of his life was wasted: his annual Hajj, his regular teaching of Shafi’i fiqh at the houses of friends in Jeddah, his support for new madrasas, his Mawlids in Mombasa mosques which caused the conversion of so many: every moment was filled with the remembrance of Allah, and the quest for still greater learning. Even in advanced old age, weighed down by illness and deeply distressed by the war in Bosnia, he insisted that his house remain open seven days a week, every day of the year, for those who wished to sit with him, and absorb some of his learning and the subtle blessings of his company. And when his guests left each evening, he would rest only briefly, before beginning his long nightly vigil of Qur’anic recitation and tahajjud. Having travelled with him, I know that he rarely rested for more than two hours a night.

Shaykh al-Haddad was distressed by even slight variations from the Sunna. His house and household, his wives and great grandsons, all lived in the radiance which only the full Sunna can bestow. Part of this, for him was his dislike of any criticism of other Muslims, whatever their tendency, or however grievous their faults. Anyone voicing such criticism would be discouraged in his gatherings from continuing to speak. The reputation of all Muslims, as one of his favourite hadiths affirms is sacred and inviolable.

As Islam deteriorates into ‘organised religion’, with its Societies, Parties, Movements and the rest, we should look very closely at those who operate within completely Muslim models of activism. The tens of thousands who attended his janazah at the Ka’ba, and stood reverently as he was lowered into his resting place near his ancestor Khadijah, show that traditional forms of scholarship and sainthood are still appreciated by many Muslims. Will others of his calibre appear, to manifest Islam in all its splendour? We must trust in Allah that this is so. But meanwhile, taking stock of our declining and divided situation in today’s dunya, we recall the line spoken by the daughters of an early Muslim as he took his leave of them and departed for Jihad: ‘Father, who will guide us if you are absent from us, when those still alive are all in dispute?”

(Abdal Hakim Murad, Oxford, writer, broadcaster and publisher)

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