I’ll be speaking in Singapore tomorrow (Sunday 21 June) at 2pm, about being in Yemen with a focus on the life of a student and stories about scholars there. Please send me a private message if you’d like to attend, and I’ll pass you the details.
The man in the pic is a scholar born and raised in the same town I am studying now. He came from one of the centers of Shafi’i Sunni fiqh and yet at age 27, they wanted him to be a Qadhi (judge) – that illustrates his high knowledge.
Yet Shaykh Omar al-Khatib avoided it out of humility. He also moved to Singapore and became a mere clerk at the office of one of his contacts there.* Then he opened a small shop. As that became self sustaining, only then did he go into teaching full time. And gave money to poor students who couldn’t afford the transport cost to come to classes.
When he passed away, many attended his funeral. So many, that the tractor for the burial could not enter the area of the graveyard. I was among the many people in Malaysia who couldn’t make it in time for his funeral.
As a child I sat in his presence a number of times, namely during Hari Raya and other times during personal visits with a family member. I remember nothing but kindness from him, constant hospitality and a smile often broader than the photo you see.
*He comes from a strict tradition of scholarship in Tareem, Hadhramout – where one is not allowed to depend on da’wah (calling people to Allah) as a means of livelihood.What’s meant here is to go around expecting remuneration from doing talks and such. This is different than if you’re an appointed teacher, given a salary. That’s fine, even though there are some (like Habib Abdullah bin Omar al-Shatri for 50 years) refuse to take salary for a number of reasons. One of which fearing the intentions for spreading knowledge may be tainted by personal need/desire for money.