“The learned are the inheritors of the prophets. The prophets have not bequeathed dinar nor dirham, but have only left Sacred Knowledge, and whoever takes it has taken an enormous share”
All praise is due to Allah and may His peace and blessings be upon our beloved prophet. Inspired by Sheikh Nuh’s book, Sea without a shore, I would like to expound on my first and only teacher Imam Amin. Sheikh Nuh starts his book by introducing us to five people who made a difference in his life during his path, “… lest such men be thought to no longer exist”. This is my purpose.
I sat in a lecture with Imam Amin over a year ago for the Winter Dowra. I was with my niece whom I promised a trip to a doll store near by. I was late for the lecture, catching him in the middle of a sentence. Once I was able to relax and my niece who was under the age of ten was allowed to stay I got myself together mentally, ripped out a piece of paper and pen for my beloved niece and tried to focus.
The lecture changed my life in a small but significant way. I began to pick up the Quran more. Reading the English translation of the meaning of God’s words received by his prophet, His servant (peace and blessings upon him) -His warnings, His commands, and the vision of the hereafter and a reminder of his favors. Once it was over I did not want to leave –but my I’d promised my niece a doll so I had to go. In the Spring semester of Mecca I took a class on purification of the heart the timing began to coincide with the end of my undergraduate program so I began to attend less and less frequently unfortunately so did my fellow students and the class was soon canceled. Though I looked forward to the class and to purifying my heart I knew that the teacher and the book used weren’t moving my soul the way I’d hoped. What I did not know then but know now is that the heart cannot be purified without the limbs in submission to the sacred law.
Imam Amin was teaching a class on Shafi Fiqh the next semester. Growing up in a heavily Salafi influenced Masjid the little I knew about fiqh was that Imam Zaid, someone I greatly admired, was Shafi’i. Then it was no more then a name associated with a famed Imam I had little idea what it actually meant to be Shafi’i. Needless to say I registered for Imam Amin’s class but it was soon cancelled happily he decided to teach it online. I’d always been told zakat was something you paid if you live in an Islamic state, that a pregnant/ nursing women doesn’t have to make up her fast or that we as Muslims were obliged to solely follow Quran and Sunna all of which were wrong.
What Imam Amin emphasized and what I can almost promise you’d get him to talk about for at least a half hour is the method of Ahl Sunna wa jama’a. I once ask him about the Salafis during the Fiqh class and received an answer that would persuade me to completely turn away from their pull and towards traditional Islam. The Salafis claim to be following Quran and Sunna. Jumping ahead hundreds of years to follow the prophetic times. Islam has been, they might say, poisoned by bida (innovation) of madhabs (schools of thought in Islamic law and beliefs systems) and tassawuf (‘spirituality’), the only way to regain pure Islam is return to the way of the companions. This was clearly true, but what they failed to mention is that this is exactly what the great scholars of fiqh, aqueedah, and tassawuf had been doing for hundreds of years.
Madhabs in Aqueedah came about because of the confusions that began to seep in the Muslim beliefs system. Questions began to arrive about what exactly God meant when he referred to his hand, questions that could easily be answered during the prophetic times now came in to dispute amongst certain groups causing the scholars of the time to crystalize our beliefs in to tenets of faith that the majority of Muslims did and have believed in, forming the two schools of Aqueedah –Ashari and Maturidi. Schools of fiqh also came as a product of our beloved prophet’s death (peace and blessing be upon him). What did Allah mean when he said a woman should wait three periods before remarrying? The sahaba had different views on this and other issues. Later scholars asked should we rely more heavily on the hadith or the practice of the sahaba? Differences in methodology created different answers in different fiqh issues and therefore different schools of thought –Shafi’I, Hanafi, Maliki, and Hanbali.
Listening to Imam Amin explain Tassawuf –Sufism, was the first time I heard this branch of Islam given legitimacy in public. It was something “scholars” either scoffed at or brushed over. Though I’d been familiar with ‘tariqas’ (paths in Sufism) from some of my family’s involvement in them I’d never really learn much about what tassawuf actually was or if it was even legitimate within Islam. If you were to pick up the wrong book in tasswuf or go to a particular Sufi “sheikh” you could be completely lead astray and away from Islam. Imam Amin advised me many times to wait, to learn my religion (Aqueedah, Fiqh) before taking a path. Recently I returned to some old Sufi literature that I received from a Sufi Masjid a while back. I shook my head at the truth of Imam Amin’s words, if I knew nothing of Aqueedah or Fiqh the beginning of the book’s words about “the truth in all religions” may have led me astray and far away from Allah in His saying “And whoever seeks anything as a religion but complete submission to Allah, shall not have it accepted of him, and in the afterlife shall be of the ruined” (3:85).
I’ve benefitted a lot from knowing Imam Amin not just in his classes or advice but also in his being a living example of seeking knowledge for the sake of Allah. Not all of us can afford the time and effort nor have the desire it takes to dedicate ourselves to learning sacred knowledge. But we all have not merely the opportunity but the obligation to learn our personal obligations as Muslims. The least of which is to learn what we must believe as Muslims, how to follow Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) in our daily obligations, to learn what is obligatory in other matters we wish to partake in like marriage or business, and to learn how to purify our selves, as Allah says “…He has succeeded who purifies it” 91:9. May Allah grant us all success and continue to give us true sincere teachers… “Whoever travels a path seeking knowledge Allah will make his path to paradise easy”.