This was two years ago.
I suspect many people don’t know about such gatherings like this, for a few factors. And there’s a grand point which I think needs to be mentioned, which I will at the end of this.
I don’t refer to the ones where you’d find the likes of Habib Omar Bin-Hafidh, among others, reading a text aloud to an elder or a senior scholar or to the head of the gathering – although that itself is quite a sight for the likes of us.
Rather I am referring to these simple organic long standing gatherings or classes that are not announced because they are either just known, or known to those who seek to find out, or fortunately informed to those who didn’t even ask.
For example, this is the Majlis al-Awwaabiin of Imam al-Haddad. It takes place on the last Tuesday of the Islamic month of the lunar calendar, an hour before the adhaan of Asar. It has been on going for 300 years approximately.
Masjid al-Awwaabiin is located in the old district of Khulaif/Khelaif. Many would know this area only as the home of Habib Abdullah BinShihab. Some would know it as the home of Masjid as-Suruur for its Monday night Mawlids.
In this gathering (pic), they would start by reciting a poem, and then a few passages of a book would be read, continued from the previous month.
Then they’d do two or three more books before doing another poem. This sequence goes on repeat.
No commentary is involved and all books read are by or on Imam al-Haddad and typically read by old and young men from the family of Imam al-Haddad or those connected to him.
It is chaired or led by the head of the family (munsib) from Imam al-Haddad’s lineage who gives the cue to who reads what and when, also managing the time so that all gets done by Asar – as you’ll observe the tertiib (program) including poems and coffee, happen like clockwork each month.
Habib Omar or any other established scholar present that month tends to read the last book on the roster, Tathbiitul Fu’aad – a compilation of Imam al-Haddad’s saying, actions and observations of him. Once I had the pleasure of being there when the Habib Abu Bakr Bil-Fagih read it. He’s the academic head at Rubat Tareem now.
When Ustadh Amjad Tarsin (Seeker Guidance/al-Maqasid) came to Tareem, he sought permission and blessing from the munsib to read a portion of Adaab Suluk al-Mureed (Treatise on the Discipline in the Path of the Seeker) and was granted, even though the book was off-roster.
Most attendees are local Tareemis, scholars in general and many students from the prestigious school Rubat Tareem. Getting to the mosque in old Khulaif is a maze and following a trail of these students makes a difference.
At some point coffee will be served to the hand, as often seen elsewhere in Hadhrami culture.
When the adhaan of Asar goes, they pray two cycles immediately, then Asar, following by group recitation of Yaassiin with the intention of gifting it to Imam al-Haddad. They close with short poem and prayer. Done.
There are quite a few others like this and I suggest visitors to Tareem to seek them for they give you a taste of what things were like originally centuries ago.
Lookout for Madras at Rubat Tareem, Majlis at Aideed Mosque, Hadhra al-Aydarus, Madras BaFadhl, Madras Imam al-Haddad, Madras Ihya Ulum-Uddin Gubbah al-Aydarus.
The grand point.
People come to Tareem or hear of it generally for the same reasons. All that greatness is not build by one man or institution, let alone era – not a point of dispute either. A lot is going and plenty have been going on.
Thus it’s key then to be aware of the long-process of ‘brick building’ which at times are manifested in a simple and casual form, and therein, at least, is a lesson on how we could go about things in our personal affairs, community life and for his great nation (pbuh).