Maseehullah Khan RA, an Epitome of Sufi Islam (Part 1)
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA
The world is looking into Sufi Islam as an alternative after defeating the Political and Militant Islam. If we do not look into model Sufis to understand Sufi Islam and follow blindly every irrational and nonsensical precept and practice as Sufism then we will be plunging the world from the frying pan to fire.
Talking about the Sufis and Sufism, renowned Islamic scholar and historian MaulanaAbul Hasan Ali Nadvi RA told his audience once: because of the rapid spread of Islam it had to absorb a variety of people from different cultures and attributes into its fold in the early period. It was not possible for either the government or the Madrassa to bring all these cultures and mindsets towards the true spirit of Islam. The Sufis met this challenge by their selfless attitude with no desire for either power or popularity. They established the mark of their goodness and people used to come to them to turn away from their sinful past and take a vow to live a life of faith, purity and piety. These Sufis established the Islamic value of Zuhd (moving away from worldly temptations) without making their followers hermits. They channelized the energies of their followers to society-building efforts. They weaned them from greed and opulence and made them spend their wealth for social causes. In answer to a question from the audience MaulanaAbul Hasan Ali Nadvi said it is better that young Muslim students associate with such personalities rather than be misled by movements (Majalis e Hasna).
One of the lessons of history which is often repeated is that all popular movements which start to correct decaying societies are successfully hijacked by the well-entrenched elites of the decaying societies once the movement succeeds.
At a time when people are looking for a religious scholar who represents the letter and spirit of Islam that is suited for modern time youth, I see a perfect example in MaulanaMaseehullah Khan RA whom I happened to know personally. The reason for it you will find in his teachings which I had the honor of hearing from him and which you will read in the following article. While every person likes a bevy of admirers around him, MaulanaMaseehullah Khan resented it because of the inconvenience it causes to the troubled souls searching for pious people and seeking their blessings. He dedicated his son who was also a religious scholar to engage in the hard work of farming to support the family and the madrassah which he was running with scores of poor students. He wanted the Muslim youth to leave the work of religion to religious scholars and keep themselves busy in etching their place in some profession and marry and raise good families instead of becoming pawns in the hands of self-seeking religious zealots.
It was sometime in the seventies that I heard an announcement in a mosque where I had gone for Friday prayer that MaulanaMaseehullah Khan, the living representative of the late Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, would address after Jumma prayer. MaulanThanavi was a household name in most Muslim homes in India because of his book “BihishtiZevar”. I, who was undergoing my midlife crisis a little early decided to sit and listen to him to get some direction for my life.
MaulanaMaseehullah Khan RA started his lecture with a hadith of Nabi SA in which he said that Allah swt told Isa AS (Jesus PBUH) who was dispirited about the future of mankind after the harsh treatment which he received from his people. Allah told Jesus (PBUH): after you, I will bring a people who will praise Me and thank Me when they get something good and will be patient and self-critical when they see something bad befalls them. They shall have no knowledge or forbearance of their own for this behavior. Isa AS asked; how is it possible O Allah, how will they display these qualities when they are not inherent in them? Allah said: I will give them knowledge from My knowledge and forbearance from My forbearance. As I was reading this Hadith of Musnad Ahmed the other day a whole lot of events of my life related to MaulanaMaseehullah Khan RA surfaced on my mind which I think will benefit the Muslim youth as they were beneficial to me. We are these people prognosticated to Isa As by Allah swt in the above narration, he said. We should not be complacent but develop closeness with Allah so that Allah bestows upon us what He prognosticated to Isa AS, said the Maulana.
He gave the example from the life of Imam Abu Hanifa RA to explain the extent of forbearance which a Muslim must have. He said that Imam Abu Hanifa was in the habit of taking a siesta. One day a mischief maker woke him up from his rest by calling out his name loudly and banging his door relentlessly. When the Imam came out the caller asked him the question: what is the taste of feces? Imam gave a serious thought to his question without getting angry and said: I think it is sweet when it is fresh and salty when it is dry. This ill-mannered person asked the Imam if he had tasted it. With great patience, he answered: House flies are attracted to sweet things and I have seen lot of house flies on fresh feces while very few are seen on the dry one. He went back to his house. The man called him again after some time in the same boisterous way. When the Imam came out he told him: As your father has died recently and your mother is a widow, I want to marry her. Without getting upset the Imam said: Come after the period of Idda (waiting period which a widow has to undergo), and he will let him know his mother's answer. MaulanaMaseehullah Khan beseeched his audience who were mostly workers of Tabligh in that Center of Tabligh to develop this Hilm (forbearance) in the face of provocations they face to open the hearts of those who view Islam and Muslims with distrust and suspicion.
About Knowledge he said that Nabi SA was anointed as prophet with a message to read (Iqra). This message was actually for us because Nabi SA got his knowledge from the Aleem (All knowing) Allah. We as his followers have a responsibility to read and understand the Qur’an and Hadith correctly and try to understand the problems of mankind and give a nice and acceptable explanation and easy solutions to solve problems which mankind faces. He quoted the verse from Surah E Nahl (Ch 16 V125) to explain it further. As he was presenting these obsrvations, theMaulana was humble and said: I am making these points not because you are unaware of it but just as a reminder to all of us.
It was in April of 1980 when I attended the centenary celebrations of DarulUloomDeoband that I thought of visiting theMaulana who was running a school in the nearby town of Jalalabad. It was close to noon that I reached his place. He was in his office directing his staff about the issues related to his Madrasa. As I was waiting for him to finish his work a bunch of villagers came from distant villages to pay their respect and seek his blessings. They had brought with them some produce of their land. He chided them out of love and concern for them and said: There was no need for them to come to seek his blessings for he prays for all people every day. He further told them that their work and their responsibility to their household are more important to them than visiting holy men. The farm produce which they had brought for him were more needed by the poor of their village, he said.
After finishing his work and dealing with the villagers he turned to me. I told him about his visit to Mysore and my inability to meet him at the centenary celebrations of DaurlUloom. About the purpose of my visit I told him that I wanted to know from him about the responsibility of a young Muslim about religion and society.
He told me that as a Muslim doctor my job was to take the best care of my patients and not to exploit them, get married, and support a good woman in bringing up good children. He gave me a small book and said: your responsibility towards religion is to read this book and follow whatever is in it and leave the work of religion to scholars. That book was HayathulMomineen authored by his teacher Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi. It was about how a Muslim should live his life and talked about faith and rituals of Islam and character of a Muslim.
I had read a lot of books by many contemporary and classical writers and thinkers about Islam and was not impressed by it. I took his permission to stay in his Madrassa and learn more from him through his pre-dusk talk which all scholars like him gave to their audience. He granted me the permission, and told me to come over to his house for lunch and dinner. He also told me that he may not join me at lunch and dinner for he followed different timings for both. He was one of those Sufis who fasted in the day and stood in prayers during the night. He was old and frail but with the support of two people he went to the nearby mosque for noon prayer under the hot sun of April, almost dragging his feet on the ground. I accompanied him and prayed in that small mosque with torn mats. He took me to his house for lunch and asked me to go and rest in his Madrassa and come for his pre- dusk talk later. (To be continued)