For years I’ve longed for this man. My heart yearned his presence. I took a train to Manchester and back to London on the same day with the sole purpose to spend time with him. I had no requests nor questions to ask.
He is a professor of Nuclear Science. But more so, he is a Shaykh in Islamic knowledge. I’ve met him multiple times. The last was 2007, when I begin to have a grasp of how special he is. Since then, anytime I met a student or such from the UK, I’d ask them about him.
He’s the one sitting on the right. On the left is Habib Ali al-Jifri (Habib Ali al-Jifri English) and centre is Shaykh Ahmad Saad (Shaykh Ahmed Saad). All three are in a league that we are fortunate if we even know about, let alone understand or be near it.
Respect for the scholars.
Somebody pointed out to me recently that some people don’t have respect for the ‘ulama for two factors. One, they’re unaware of the sort of training and discipline they go through. Secondly, when they hear about their remarkable stories, they wouldn’t believe – it’s too good to be true as all their lives, they’ve never heard or met anyone like it. For that reason, and others, I find myself often narrating to others about the special ‘ulama that I know about. Those living, and those dead but very much alive.
Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Shu’ayb is from East Africa and based in the UK for decades now. His main shaykh was the Chief Qadhi of East Africa, Habib Omar bin Ahmad Bin-Semait whose face is on the Comoros Island currency note.
When he passed away, he studied under Habib Omar’s student, Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad – famously known by some people today as the teacher to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Abdul Aziz Fredericks and Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad.
Years ago when he used to teach at home in North London, in a separate room there would be his prayer mat on the floor and next to it a phone. He’d call up Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad (typically in Jeddah or Mombasa), just to seek permission to begin teaching.
Whenever my father called him in the UK from Malaysia, he would ask him to make do’a. My father would insist otherwise. So they may do one each. Except he would put the call on speakerphone, and gather his family members to join in on the supplication.
The 2015 visit.
Shaykh Muhammad is likely in his late sixties if not older. I dealt with his son to arrange our meeting. When I arrived at the main train station in Manchester, both we waiting for me at the platform. His humility is incomprehensible and insulting. A few hours later, he made me read the parting do’a right before my departure.
He’s the sort of character that would not greet his guest unless he’s in a state of wudhu’. He would prolong his meal just so I wouldn’t feel like I took too long to finish mine. And as written at the back of my mind, I didn’t leave his presence empty handed. But more importantly, not empty hearted.
Parents are said to sometimes have a strong connection with their children, that they know things, forecast things, breaking barriers of physics. Some call it the Sixth Sense. Whatever it is, basically it happens when the hearts of two or more parties are connected. Very connected. In the special way.
This happens too in the relationship of teacher and student, disciple. We sometimes see that out of respect, people stand up at a dinner table, when someone else stands up to leave. It was said that when Habib Omar Bin-Semait stood up in one room, Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad would stand, even though he was in another room.
Of course this happens with special relationships. During the visit, he spoke of many things – largely out of love for knowledge and scholars, often quoting his Shaykh and East Africa. He told me a story of his Shaykh’s father, Habib Ahmad bin Abu Bakr Bin-Semait.
His student, Shaykh Abdullah bin Abu Bakr Ba-Katheer, was struggling to understand lessons from his teacher regarding the work of Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani and didn’t ask his teacher’s help. He later dreamt that Ibn Hajar came to him, and answered all the questions he had.
The next morning, he and his teacher Habib Ahmad Bin-Semait did dawn prayers together. Once done, Habib Ahmad Bin-Semait turned back to Shaykh Abdullah Ba-Katheer and out of nowhere said, ‘why didn’t you ask me? I’m here and you made someone from al-Barzakh (Intermediary World) come all the way to explain.’
May we be among those blessed to be selected to be among these connected people. Ameen.
*InsyaAllah Shaykh Muhammad bin Abu Bakr Ba-Shu’ayb is due to be in Kuala Lumpur third week of August for the Annual Symposium for the Scholarship of Imam al-Haddad (Haul Imam al-Haddad). I don’t have the details so keep a lookout for that here: www.facebook.com/AmanahHAK
Pic by Mohammed Shaheen.