Friday, August 05, 2005

Sh Ya‘qubi: "If I should not make it across the sirat"

Photo: Shaykh Mohammad Yaqoubi completes teaching the Shama'il.
© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I just missed the 8:46am train into downtown Chicago. Sitting here on the station platform, waiting for the next train to arrive, it hits me how far from Madinah I’ve truly come. It’s been a full week since I’ve returned, and though I tried my best to remain in at least a semi-khalwa state in order to preserve the emotions, there’s only so long one can avoid the dunya, especially living here in this “great metropolis.”

But Madinah in fact is not so far away after all. In my bag I have with me the latest copy of Q-News, and as I flip it open, I come directly upon a shining, glorious portrait of our beloved Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya‘qubi, hafidhahullah. Suddenly, all the moments of our rihla come flooding back, as near as ever before my eyes…

Those of us who have sat with Shaykh Muhammad know how beautiful he is, and how he seems to exist simultaneously in parallel universes — one here with us in this dunya and another in a different plane which we can only perhaps experience through reading hikayat and stories of scholars past.

But at this Rihla, in the tranquil city of Shaykh Ya‘qubi’s blessed ancestor (صلي الله عليه و سلم), the other-worldly aura surrounding the shaykh was electric, almost tangible. He is a home in this town; he doesn’t just feel the presence of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), he walks with it. How many times did I sit in class and wish that I too could see through his eyes, feel through his heart. We know Shaykh Ya‘qubi experiences Madinah at a different level, but we can only hope to imagine what those openings are…

When I look at Shaykh Ya‘qubi, I’m reminded of the hayba they say Imam Malik possessed — an absolute awe-inspiringness that dares anyone to utter a single extraneous word. Shaykh Ya‘qubi possesses such hayba, and so, when he describes and physically demonstrates with utter humility and love the way our Beloved Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم) would grasp a morsel with his fingers, and the way he would bring the morsel to his lips; the way the Prophet would wear his sandals, and what these sandals looked like; the way the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) would walk with a determined pace, and the way he would sit when he ate; seeing all of these things demonstrated with the seriousness and humility of Shaykh Ya‘qubi made us pay attention all the more. This was because reading the Shama’il with Shaykh Ya‘qubi was not like simply hearing a description of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). It was in fact like hearing a first-hand account. He was not just relaying narrations he’d read in the sacred texts; he was saying to us “Pay attention! This is what my beloved grandfather (صلي الله عليه و سلم) used to do, and this is how he would do it…”

Shaykh Muhammad conveyed the knowledge of the Shama’il with great seriousness, but this does not mean that he was in any way stone-faced or cold. He was alive with the meanings of this text: sometimes somber, sometimes joking lightly with us, and sometimes breaking out into spontaneous song, out of love and longing for the Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم). It was not until the khatm of the text approached that I began to somewhat fully understand the immensity of this blessing: here we were, simpletons, Westerners, many of us embarking on the path to sacred knowledge for the first time, hearing this mubarak text of the Shama’il of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) own city, through the mouth of his own direct descendant…


Photo: Students sob as Shaykh Yaqoubi pleads they help him across the sirat on the Last Day if he should not make it as he promises to do the same for them. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.



So on the day of the khatm, when our beloved Shaykh al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Ya‘qubi, begged us to please grab his hand if he faltered on the Bridge (sirat), to please grab his hand if we passed the Fire and saw him in it, these words pierced our hearts like daggers and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. If Shaykh Ya‘qubi had fear of such an outcome for himself, what could we expect? It is only by the light of faces such as his that we even hope to get by…

Now that I am back at home, it is difficult to even keep in mind the brilliance of his light. I struggle to maintain before my eyes the illumined faces of our beloved shuyukh, and to not forget the radiance of Madinah, al-Munawarrah (The Radiant). But tall buildings surround me, blocking my vision, and the quick, hurried paces of downtown pedestrians beckon with the illusion of other “important” preoccupations. As I speed off in the dark underground subway tunnels of my busy hometown, I can only clutch my masbaha and beg Allah to please, please not let me forget…

- Anonymous

9 Comments:

At Thursday, 04 August, 2005, Blogger Obaid said...

I love Shaykh Yaqoubi :)

 
At Thursday, 04 August, 2005, Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

Thank you for the pictures, thank you for the blog. Thank you, thank you! Jazakhum Allahu Khairan.

 
At Friday, 05 August, 2005, Blogger tislam5 said...

subhanAllah...you can really see the blood of the Nabi salAllahu alaihi wa sallam tasleeman kathira circulating in this man's veins...it's like we were sitting in class with a sahabi... alas what company can now compare!

 
At Saturday, 06 August, 2005, Blogger potwari said...

Asisalamu alaykum. Thank you so much for this post.It was what i hoped for. Masha Allah the whole blog is wonderful.JazakAllahu khayran.

 
At Saturday, 06 August, 2005, Blogger Saman said...

subhanAllah...

 
At Saturday, 06 August, 2005, Blogger sofia said...

wow, mashaAllah you beautifully put the feelings in my heart into such eloquent words. this, for me, is definitely one of the best blogs of one of the best moments at the rihla.
thank you.

 
At Sunday, 07 August, 2005, Blogger munawarali said...

Someone said on the Rihla, "When Sheikh Yacobi speaks of the Prophet, it's like he actually saw him." I felt the same way, Subhanallah.

 
At Tuesday, 09 August, 2005, Blogger Sersem Oldum said...

Subhanallah.

 
At Monday, 29 August, 2005, Blogger Obaid said...

in response to munawarali: well u feel that way because he does actually see him :) i remember when he came to knoxville for the shifa retreat, he was teaching a class on the Hamziyya and one day after class when i was driving him back to his cabin, he looked at me and said i saw a vision of the prophet salallahu alayhi wasallam while i was teaching (that explained why he started singing tala'al badru... in the middle of the class)... anyways i felt like i was carrying a priceless gem with me and couldn't manage to drive faster than 10mph.

 

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