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In love and remembrance

Over the last few years he had became so frail and yet he continued to descend from his apartments and preside over gatherings after the Magrib prayers. He prayed the Tarawih prayers of Ramadan every evening. On one of these occasions I found myself alone with him in his small study. He had lost his eyesight, his hearing was very weak and he could no longer walk. I’m not sure if he even knew I was there, although Adnan, his extraordinary grandson, whispered my name in his ear before leaving me alone with him. I sat beside Al-Habib and remembered the magnificent, gentle, patient, vigorous and wise man I had known and I wept. I wept for all the lost opportunities I had to benefit from his presence. I wept for his astonishing beauty. I wept in gratitude to Allah that I had been given the inestimable gift of knowing him. I wept for the love of him and of all my inadequacies that he overlooked. I wept for a long, long time, wrapped in his presence, and although he never uttered a word or acknowledged me in any way, I felt that he had spoken to me, clearly, deeply, forcefully.


It was late on Wednesday night when Hajj Abdul Adheem informed me that al-Habib died in the late afternoon and that he would be buried in Al Malaa cemetery in Makkah al-Mukaramah after the dawn prayers. I arrived at Al Malaa after dawn prayers to find the cemetery empty. I waited beside the grave of my mother-in-law who was buried near Sayyidat Khadijah at Hejoun and prayed for her and for al-Habib and to be allowed to pray the burial [janazah] prayers for him. Prior to the noon prayers in Al Haram I scanned the mataf for members of the family or followers but could find no one. I vowed to attend every prayer in the Haram until the janazah for al-Habib was said. After the noon prayers the salat al-Mawt was called and believers clustered beside the Ka’aba in the bright winter sunlight to pray for the dead. I rushed out of the shade across the Mataf toward the jostling crowd behind the imam and heard the whispering murmur of al-Habib’s name.

The janazah was said and al-Habib was lifted above the throngs on a wooden bier covered in a green banner with yellow calligraphy. The crowd surged toward the Mas’a carrying al-Habib aloft and reciting the tahlil with increasing force. We carried al-Habib across the Masa’a, up the steps, out through the piazza area, passing into the Souq al-Lail. The passion of the tahlil intensified as the crowd around al-Habib increased and I recalled the verse from a qasida of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib al-Amghari:

“You are a treasure to My worshippers, you are a dhikr for mankind.”

(Haroon Sugich, Jeddah)

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