In this series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.
In this fourth episode of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of Shaykh Muhammad Shakur al-Mayadini
The Shaykh was born in the city of Mayadin in Syria in 1938 (1356). He hailed from a noble family and his lineage joins with the household of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Husayn ibn Ali (RA). The city of Mayadin was on the banks of the Euphrates River and was an old city that was known from the Roman era and it also featured during the era of the Abbasid leader, Harun al-Rashid.
He was born into a family of average financial standing and his father lived until his 90’s. Initially, the young Muhammad Shakur was the only child. Thereafter his father married for a second time and he was blessed with sons and daughters. Because he had to serve his mother and she had no other children, he was pardoned from the normally compulsory military conscription.
Muhammad Shakur married for the first time when he was 17 and he was blessed with his first child when he was 19. He had six children from his first wife. His wife was the perfect aide and confidant and patiently bore all the difficulties including the times when he was imprisoned and the unsettled lifestyle. Shaykh Shakur said the following about her when she passed away: “I lived with her for 50 years and never once did I go to bed angry with her.”
After her demise, he married for the second time to woman from Jordan who bore him a daughter. She too took excellent care of the Shaykh even during the days of his illness.
He assisted his father in his business and various other chores and patiently bore all the difficulties as a result of the travelling between different towns and cities.
He was loved by all, the young and the old and spent almost all his time in the masjid. He is not known to have missed the Fajr Salat in the masjid except due to severe illness.
Period in Syria
He completed his primary education in Mayadin and he continued in Dayr Zor. It was during this period that he began acquiring sacred knowledge in the different masjids and he even began delivering the Friday sermon (khutbah) in the city and in some neighboring villages. He completed his secondary school at Dar al-Mu’allimin in Aleppo in 1959. During this period he had some confrontations with the Syrian Government and he was imprisoned. His secondary school certificate allowed him to teach and so he taught for a while. He studied under Shaykh Mahmud Umar Mushawwah under whom he studied various subjects and remained with him for a long time. There was a mutual love for one another between the shaykh and the student. Shaykh Shakur regarded his teacher, Shaykh Mahmud as his father. In 1962, he obtained his general secondary school certificate.
He was appointed as a teacher in Hasakah but continued in his quest for knowledge. He enrolled at the Faculty of Shariah at the University of Damascus and graduated in 1967. During his time as a student at the university, he realized that he needed to increase his knowledge because what he gained at the university was not sufficient. So, he began reading profusely day and night until he is supposed to have read about 30 000 pages in one year in different subjects that included the nine famous canonical books of Hadith. He also read voluminous books like Tafsir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Zhilal (fi zhilal al-Quran) and about nine volumes of Tafsir al–Razi and other books. He used to makes notes as he read. If he was not reading then he was listening to a recorded lesson or khutbah on the old cassette players.He spent a lot of time with his teacher (shaykh) and discussed various juristic, political and social matters. Every Friday, asked Shaykh Shakur about the topic of the sermon. The teacher and studied would then walk out of the town discussing and brainstorming the topic. He was prevented from delivering the Friday sermon on a number of occasions because he was fearless when he ascended the pulpit. During this period there were many who were his students and later became reputable scholars and even professors, engineers and teachers.
Period in Makkah
The next phase in his life began in 1976 when he moved to Makkah where he was honoured to teach at one of the schools close to the Haram in the Shamiyah district. Very often he used to go to the Haram early before his teaching commenced in order to perform tawaf. He also taught at the Abu Zayd al-Ansari Hifz School in the Tan’im district until 1983.During this period he had a permanent place in the Haram where he taught various subjects including Tafsir and Islamic etiquette. He began editing and annotating various books and one of his first works was al–Awa’il by al-Tabarani which was published in 1983. He registered for the Masters’ degree in Egypt and successfully completed the first year but was unable to complete his studies due to financial constraints. He also wished to return to his country to promote the religion. It was during his time in Makkah that he became acquainted with various scholars that included; Shaykh Ali al-Tantawi, Shaykh Muhammad Mahmud al-Sawwaf, Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni and Shaykh Diya al-Din al-Sabuni.
He was fortunate to have entered the Ka’bah on a number of occasions. During his stay in Makkah he collected many books which resulted in his own large library. His passion for books continued until a short while before his death. His selection was so huge that even while completing his doctoral thesis there were only two books that he required that were not in his library. He eventually bought these as well.
He was even appointed as an Imam in one of the mosques in Makkah for four years and served as the Friday preacher in another mosque in Aziziyah also for about four years. Thereafter he resigned from his teaching post in Makkah and decided to move to Baghdad in Iraq to devote more time calling people to Allah.
Period in Iraq
In 1983 he moved to Baghdad, Iraq where he remained for a few years calling people to Allah while never neglecting his research. While in Baghdad, he edited a number of books which were published.He visited the different libraries in Baghdad to familiarize himself with the different manuscripts. It was during his stay in Iraq that he was able to complete his Masters’ degree which he obtained from the Punjab University in Pakistan. Even while in Pakistan, he maximized his time to study and read Hadith with various scholars from whom he obtained ijazah. He travelled numerous times to Makkah where he was fortunate to have met and read with scholars like Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani, Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zhahiri and others and from whom he also received ijazah. It was during this time that he studied under Shaykh Husayn Usayran. He read the entire Sahihal–Bukhari and the complete Quran to him and he received ijazah from him. His son, Muhammad Adib also read a portion of Sahihal–Bukhari with Shaykh Husayn and also received ijazah from him.
Period in Jordan
This is regarded as the golden period in his life because it was filled with his lessons from which many benefited. He dedicated all of his time to serving the religion. He was appointed as the imam and preacher in two cities; Zarqa and Amman. He moved to Jordan in 1991 where he lived in Zarqa and served as an imam in one mosque after which he moved to Masjid al-Quds in Zarqa. This mosque became a beacon of knowledge because it was here that Shaykh Shakur led the prayers, delivered lectures and taught hundreds of students. He used conduct lectures in various other mosques as well. He conducted weekly lessons during which he taught Tafsir, special lessons for the women on a Wednesday. Many of these ladies were prominent in the field of Da’wah and used to phone him for answers to their questions. During his lessons in Zarqa, he explained a reasonable portion of the book, al–Hidayah by al-Mirghaynani. He also conducted lessons in sirah.
After some of his students insisted, he finally registered at the al-Quran al-Karim University in Sudan for his doctorate with a special focus on Hadith. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1998 when he was about 60 years old. Thereafter he relocated to the capital, Amman where students from different parts of the world thronged around him. Some were post-graduate students and others were scholars. They studied Sahihal–Bukhari and Muwatta under him. He continued conducting lessons in some of the other mosques. He continued teaching women on a Wednesday and these lessons continued for over 12 years. Many completed Sahihal–Bukhari, Muwatta, al–Adab al–Mufrad and a portion of Ihya Ulum al–Din. These women maintained a very high level of dedication and punctuality and would rarely miss a lesson except if it was beyond their control.
During this period he began conducting some online lessons. During these lessons, students would read to him and he explained. He did this despite his ill health because he was too ashamed to turn a student away. He delivered the Friday sermon in Jordan for about 24 years and only stopped due to his illness in 2012. He obtained Jordanian citizenship in 2003.
Some of his Shuyukh:
- Shaykh Mahmud ibn Umar ibn Muhammad Sharif Mushawwah (d. 1420) who was the Mufti of Dayr Zor. With him Shaykh Shakur studied Fiqh of the Hanafi School.
- Shaykh Abu Abdullah Muhammad A’zam ibn Fadl al-Din al-Jondalwi (d. 1405). Shaykh Shakur received ijazah from him.
- Shaykh Ibrahim Fatani.
- Shaykh Muhammad Ubaydullah, a mufti from Paksitan.
- Shaykh Abu al-Tayyib Muhammad Ata Allah Hanif al-Fojiyani (d. 1409). He received ijazah from him.
- Shaykh Muhammad Malik Kandehlawi, who was the senior scholar of Hadith at the Dar al-Hadith al-Ashrafiyah in Lahore. He received ijazah from him as well.
- Shaykh Abu Muhammad Badi’ al-Din Shah al-Rashidi al-Sindi (d. 1416).
- He received ijazah from both Mufti Taqi and Mufti Rafi’ Uthmani who are two senior scholars from Pakistan.
- Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani (d. 1410). He read the Muwatta as per the narration of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.
- Shaykh Abu Turab al-Zahiri who was the son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi.
- Shaykh Abdul Wakil who is a son of Shaykh Abdul Haq al-Hashimi
- ShaykhHusaynUsayran (d. 1426). He read the Quran and Sahihal–Bukhari to him.
Shaykh Muhammad Shakur was blessed with many students. This is due to him having taught in Makkah, Baghdad and Amman. He read and taught Sahihal–Bukhari and the Muwatta well over 20 times.
Some of his students who are respectable scholars are:
- Shaykh Ali ibnYasin al-Muhaymid
- ShaykhHusayn al-Ubaydli
- Shaykh Muhammad Adib (son of Shaykh Shakur)
- Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Britain)
- Shaykh Ali ibn Muhammad al-Imran
- ShaykhRiyadibnHusayn al-Taaie (Iraq)
- Shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf al-Alawi
He was deeply hurt and affected when a Jewish soldier killed a number of Palestinians during the Fajr Salat in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. After this incident he delivered two fiery and emotional sermons after which he was admitted to the hospital and they discovered that he had a clot in his heart. He underwent numerous medical procedures and operations. Some of the medication had side-effects and caused other complications. He was afflicted with prostate cancer and received treatment for about four years. Despite his ill health, he remained committed to the Din and continued teaching.
Those who interacted with Shaykh Shakur would agree that he was soft natured, he cried easily, devout worshiper and a person who was eager to impart knowledge at every opportunity. He was very emotional when he heard the blessed characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad. He loved and respected the ulama.
He continued teaching even in his old age and despite his illness. He even had women attend and complete Sahih al–Bukhari with him. He was alert during the recital of the Hadith and very often pointed the variations in the different editions. He preferred commenting on various aspects related to the Hadith.
We witnessed all of the above when we invited him to South Africa in 2013 as per the recommendation of Shaykh Muhammad Daniel (Cordoba Academy). When I (Shoayb Ahmed) phoned him to invite him, he gladly accepted despite his ill health and having never met me previously. Yet he was willing to undertake the long journey. He traveled with his wife and his young daughter. It was a pleasure having such a scholar with such an amazing personality. I asked him as to why he didn’t hesitate in accepting the invitation. He said that a Muslim brother made a request and he accepted the opportunity to travel for the pleasure of Allah and to impart ‘ilm. He did not inform his children about his planned visit to South Africa until the night prior to his departure. He feared that had they known earlier, they would have prevented him from travelling. He didn’t even inform us that he was unable to walk and needed a wheelchair. When he was questioned about this? He said that if we knew that he was unable to walk, we would have cancelled his visit. He would sit for hours while we read al–Muwatta and other works to him. He carried many books with him as gifts for the students and he even distributed cash to those who were graduating. He was overjoyed to have met an old friend when he was reunited with Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni in South Africa. The day before he departed he was taken to the Pretoria Zoo and he really enjoyed himself. When he departed and we greeted him at the airport, it was as if we were bidding farewell to our father. This is how attached we became to him during his ten day visit.
His books and annotations:
Despite his teaching, his Hadith sessions and his responsibility as imam, he still found time to write and annotate various books. Sometimes he used to spend 14-15 hours a day reading and researching various aspects.
- He gathered 40 Hadith on sending salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad. He compiled this in Baghdad in 1405.
- Fayd al-Mu’in ‘ala Jami al-Arba’in fi Fadail al-Quran al-Mubin by Mulla Ali al-Qari (d. 1014). He referenced the Hadith and edited the work.
- Targhib Ahl al-Islam fi Sukna Bilad al-Sham by al-‘Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. He edited it and referenced the Hadith.
- Fad al-Wiaa’ fi Ahadith Raf’ al-Yadayn fi al-Dua by al-Suyuti. He edited this work in Pakistan
- Al-Rawd al-Dani ‘ala al-Mu’jam al-Saghirby al-Tabarani (2 volumes)
- Al-Lum’at fi Khasais al-Jumuah by al-Suyuti
- Al-Ifsah ‘an ahadith al-nikah by Ibn Hajr al-Haytami.
- Hibat al-Rahman al-Rahim min Jannat al-Na’im fi Fadail al-Quran al-Karimby Muhammad Hashim al-Sindi. Shaykh Shakur condensed it and edited it.
- Siham al-isabah fi al-da’wat al-mujabahby al-Suyuti.
- Majma’ al-zawa’idwamanba’ al-fawa’idby al-Haytami
- Al-Imta’ bi al-arba’in al-mutabayinah bi shart al-sama’ by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani.
- He edited al-Majma’ al-Mu’assas li al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras by IbnHajr
- Tasdid al-Qaws fi Takhrij Musnad al-Firdaws by Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani. This book contains about 6000 Hadith. He passed away before completing this work. He completed about one third.
He passed away on a Friday night having conducted his last lesson in Sahih al–Bukhari a day prior to his demise. He requested to be taken to hospital where his health deteriorated and he was in severe pain. He used to place his hand on the area where he experienced pain and say: ‘Ya Allah!. His children were at his side and he spoke to them. He passed away on the 10th December 2015(28 Safar 1437).
Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.
He has authored two books:
- Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
- Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.
He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.