Habib Umar bin Sumayt

His Lineage

He is al-Imam al-Habib `Umar bin Ahmad bin Abu Bakr bin `Abdullah bin `Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Zayn bin `Alawi bin `Abd al-Rahman bin `Abdullah bin Muhammad Sumayt bin `Ali bin `Abd al-Rahman bin Ahmad bin `Alawi bin Ahmad bin `Abd al-Rahman bin `Alawi `Amm al-Faqih (uncle of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam), bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, bin `Ali Khali` Qasam, bin `Alawi, bin Muhammad Sahib al-Sawma`ah, bin `Alawi, bin `Ubaydullah, bin al-Imam al-Muhajir il-Allah Ahmad, bin `Isa, bin Muhammad al-Naqib, bin `Ali al-`Uraydi, bin Ja`far al-Sadiq, bin Muhammad al-Baqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Abidin, bin Husayn al-Sibt, bin `Ali bin Abi Talib and Fatimah al-Zahra’, the daughter of our Master Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets .

His Life

Habib `Umar was a descendant of Habib Muhammad bin Zayn bin Sumayt, a great scholar and one of the main students of Imam al-Haddad and Habib Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habashi. His grandfather, Habib Abu Bakr, left his birthplace in Shibam in Hadramawt and settled in  the Comoros Islands, off the coast of East Africa, and this was where Habib `Umar was born in the year 1303 (1886). His father, the great scholar Habib Ahmad, was with his shaykh, Habib Fadl bin `Alawi Mawla al-Dawilah, in Istanbul at the time of the birth. Habib Fadl gave Habib Ahmad good tidings of the birth of his son and named him `Umar long before any news of the birth reached Istanbul. In fact, the baby was given another name which Habib Ahmad changed to `Umar when he returned from his travels. Due to the absence of his father, it was his mother, the pious Fatimah bint al-Mu`allim Shanzi, who raised him in his early years. When he was six, his father requested that he be sent to him in Zanzibar, where he was a judge. There he oversaw his development until, at the age of eight, he sent him to his ancestral home in Shibam.

In Shibam his father’s uncle, Habib Tahir bin `Abdullah bin Sumayt, took over the supervision of his education. During the years he spent studying in Hadramawt, he received knowledge from the masters of the time, among them Habib `Aydarus bin `Umar al-Habashi; Habib Ahmad bin Hasan al-`Attas; Habib `Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad al-Mashhur and his son, Habib `Ali; Habib `Ali bin Muhammad al-Habashi; Habib `Alawi bin `Abdullah bin Shihab; Habib `Abdullah bin `Umar al-Shatiri and Habib Salim bin Hafīz.

His father then ordered him to return to Zanzibar. Habib `Umar kept his father’s company constantly and continued his studies at his hands and the hands of the scholars of the island until he emerged as a great teacher and caller to Allah. He saw that the Comoros Islands were more in need of his knowledge than Zanzibar, and thus he returned to his birthplace. His intense concern for spreading knowledge and Prophetic guidance caused him to travel constantly throughout the towns and villages of the islands and also to make excursions to the neighbouring island of Madagascar. He said: “If you want rest in the next life then forsake rest in this life.” As a result of his efforts many people accepted Islam. He was involved in building a number of mosques and schools, and built tanks to collect rainwater to provide drinking water to those that needed it. In a certain area many people were suffering from malaria but when they drank the water from one of Habib `Umar’s tanks, they were all cured.

After his father’s death in 1343 (1924), he returned to Zanzibar to divide his inheritance. Three years later, he returned again to the Comoros, where he continued teaching and calling to Allah while engaging in some business to support himself. While being a master of the Ba `Alawi Way, he was closely connected to the Shadhili and Qadiri orders on the islands. He would attend their gatherings and even composed poems which are still sung in those gatherings.

In 1355 (1936), the Sultan of Zanzibar appointed him judge of the island of Pemba and then in 1357 (1938) as one of the judges of Zanzibar, as his father had been before him. In 1362 (1942), he was appointed Chief Judge of the island. He performed his role in the best possible way for around twenty years, constantly mediating between conflicting parties while hardly ever having to issue a judgement. He reorganised the system of religious endowments (awqaf) such that their proceeds were spent correctly. As a result old mosques were refurbished, new ones built and a salaried imam was appointed to each mosque.

He held a daily gathering after `Asr in the Jami` Mosque of Zanzibar. He would teach from Fath al-Mu`in, an advanced text in the Shafi`i school. A large number of people would attend, amongst them people of wealth and status. When he saw that the majority of people did not understand the lesson, he told some young boys to read to him Safinat al-Najah, a basic text, so that everyone would learn the rulings of purification and prayer. During these years, he would make annual trips to Hadramawt and the Hijaz. He also visited Egypt and travelled throughout East Africa.

He always had the best opinion of Allah and instilled this in whoever was with him. People would come to him with their problems and leave full of hope in the mercy and grace of Allah. He said: “Seeking to approach Allah (iqbal) is the door to acceptance (qabul). Even if He only accepts one, everyone else will enter because if people come to the door of the Generous, He will not allow some to enter and turn some away. He will allow them all to enter.” He counselled people every morning to intend the good actions that they wished to perform that day so that they would be guaranteed the reward even if they were unable to perform them.

Bin Sumeit Airport 2

He had no regard for worldly possessions. He would spend freely from the wealth that came to him and had no regret for anything that he lost. After the revolution in Zanzibar in 1384 (1964), his house and all that it contained were confiscated by the government but he never complained or showed any sign of discontent. He forgave all those who wronged him over the years and treated them in the best way. He said: “If people would stop arranging their own affairs, Allah would arrange them in the best of ways. Look at a young child: he does not arrange his own affairs and as a result he receives love and compassion from his family.”

One would expect a scholar and caller to Allah of his stature to be a great speaker, but Habib `Umar spoke very little. His call to Allah was with his state (hal) rather than his words. The Messenger of Allah said: “If you see someone who has been given silence and abstinence, draw close to him, for he receives wisdom.”1 He indicated that just as the turtle uses its gaze to raise its young, he would impart spiritual secrets through his gaze.

He kept his gatherings short but his presence had such a strong effect on those in attendance that they would find their souls being raised and their worries removed. They would leave with the desire to do good. He possessed immense humility and would personally serve his guests. He had a great gift for poetry, but he never allowed any of his poems to be published. He was constantly in a state of vigilance of his Lord. Whether alone or in company, he would sit very straight with his head lowered, deep in reflection.

Habib Umar was once at the airport with some of his students. A young Sikh man who was at his desk was so taken by Habib Umar that he was unable to concentrate on his work. He could not resist saying to Sayyid Umar Abdullah, Habib Umar’s student: “He’s not just for you Muslims. He’s for all of us.”

Many great scholars graduated at his hands, such as Habib `Umar bin `Abdullah bin Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim, who travelled the world calling people to Allah. Many others benefited from him, among them Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad, Habib `Abd al-Qadir bin Ahmad al-Saqqaf and Habib `Abd al-Qadir bin `Abd al-Rahman al-Junayd, who wrote a short biography of him. When Habib `Umar wrote to his close students, he would address them as his spiritual children. Although he had no male offspring, he had many spiritual sons.

His Death

The revolution in Zanzibar caused much turbulence and oppression and caused Habib `Umar to leave the island with his whole family. He settled for a time in the city of al-Shihr on the South Yemen coast until the president of the Comoros Islands insisted that he return to his birthplace. Habib `Umar’s insight also told him that troubled times were ahead for South Yemen, so he moved with his family to the Comoros. There he lived out his days, continually calling to Allah until his death on 9th Safar 1396 (1976) at the age of 92. He was buried in the qubbah (dome) of his grandfather, Habib Abu Bakr, in Moroni, Comoros. May Allah have mercy upon him, benefit us by him and grant us a portion of his legacy.

Such is the place that Habib Umar holds in the hearts and minds of the people of the Comoros Islands that his picture features on one of the nation’s banknotes.

comoros bank note

1 Narrated by Ibn Majah


Balancing Seeking Knowledge and Remembrance of Allah

A Tunisian scholar asked Sayyidi Habib `Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him):

How does one balance between seeking knowledge and spending time in the remembrance of Allah (reading awrad or litanies)?

Habib Umar replied:

“The key to seeking knowledge is the soundness of one’s intention. If one’s intention is sound and pure, then seeking knowledge is one of the best acts of worship and one of the best forms of remembrance.

If you would like to continue reading your awrad but are considering reducing them to focus on seeking knowledge, not out of laziness, then this is a sign of sincerity. In this case you may reduce the amount you read, but you should not leave your awrad completely. If, however, you find yourself wanting to leave your awrad out of laziness, then it is a sign that you are not sincere, so you should persist in reading them.

Soon after I left Hadramawt, when I was based in al-Bayda, I visited one of my teachers, Imam Abu Bakr al-`Attas bin `Abdullah al-Habashi (may Allah have mercy upon him). He said to me: “Do not read a lot of awrad since you are busy seeking knowledge and calling people to Allah. The Wird al-Latif of Imam al-Haddad is sufficient. If this is too much, then just read the second half of it from ‘hasbiya Allah..’ onwards.” He was indicating that there should be a balance in one’s affairs.

May Allah take us by the hand and rectify our outward and inward state.”

On Free Will

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

Does man have free will or not?

Man’s Creator requests things from him and decrees things to occur by him. Man has a choice in that which is requested from him but he has no choice in that which is decreed to occur by him. Our role in life is thus to perform that which has been requested from us as well as we can using the strength and ability which we have been given.

Anyone who has intellect can distinguish between someone who moves their arm out of choice and someone whose has a twitch and whose arm moves without his control. This shows us that some things are within our control and some are not.

A man once stood in front of Sayyiduna `Ali and asked him whether man has free will or not.

Sayyiduna `Ali said: “Lift your foot.” The man did so.

Then he said: “Lift your other foot.”

“I am unable to,” the man said.

“That is your answer,” said Sayyiduna `Ali.

Thus to say that mankind has complete free will is incorrect and to say that he has no free will is also incorrect. In reality man has free will in some things and not in others.

Weekly Salawat: Ya Hamid

We continue our journey through Sayyidī Ḥabīb `Umar’s collection of prayers using Allah’s beautiful names. In this collection, Ḥabīb `Umar calls upon Allah by His beautiful names one by one and then asks Him to bestow prayers upon His Beloved by those names. Finally, he asks Allah for a portion of those attributes which belong to Allah and which He has bestowed upon His Messenger ﷺ. He thus teaches us about the attributes of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ and teaches us how to seek a portion of those attributes.  


اللَّهُمَّ يا اللهُ يا حَمِيدُ صَلِّ على عَبْدِكَ و حَبِيبِكَ سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ النَّبِيِّ الحَمِيد و على آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ و سَلِّمْ تَسْلِيماً وارْفَعْنِي  بِهِإلى مَرَاتِبِ الحَمَّادِينَ لَكَ المُتَحَقِّقِينَ بِحَمْدِكَ و اجْعَلْ لِي بِهِ عَيْشَاً حَمِيداً واجْعَلْني  في الدَّارَيْنِ عَبْداً مَحْمُوداً

Allāhumma yā Allāhu yā Ḥamīdu ṣalli `alā `abdika wa ḥabībika sayyidinā Muḥammad an-Nabī al-ḥamīd wa `alā ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa sallim taslīman wa’rfa`nī bihi ilā marātibi’l-ḥammādīn laka al-mutaḥiqqiqīna bi ḥamdika wa’j`al lī bihi `ayshan ḥamīdan wa’j`alnī fi’ddārayni `abdan maḥmūdā

O Allāh, O Praiseworthy, bestow abundant prayers and peace upon Your slave and beloved, our Master Muḥammad, the praiseworthy Prophet, and upon his Family and Companions, and by him raise me to the stations of those who praise You constantly, those who have truly realised the meaning of praising You. By him allow me to live a praiseworthy life and make me a praiseworthy slave in both abodes.

On Ensuring that Our Faith Remains Firm

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)


What can we do to ensure our faith remains firm?

We remain firm by asking Allah for firmness, keeping the company of the pious and spending time in remembrance of Allah and reflection.

We should also repeat these supplications:

رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ

Rabbana la tuzigh qulubana ba`da idh hadaytana wa hab lana milladunka rahmatan innaka anta’l-wahhab

Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us, and grant us mercy, for truly You are the Bestower of bounties without measure!


يَا مُقَلِّبَ القُلُوبِ و الأَبْصَارِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي على دِينِكَ

Ya muqallib al-qulubi wa’l-absar thabbit qalbi `ala dinik

O Turner of people’s hearts and eyes, make my heart firm upon the religion!



يَالله  بِهَا  يَالله  بِهَا يَالله بِحُسْنِ الْخَاتِمَة

Ya Allah biha ya Allah biha ya Allah bi husni’l-khatimah

O Allah, O Allah, O Allah, we ask You for a good ending!


On Going to Palestine


Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)


Would you recommend that we go to Palestine to show political solidarity with the Palestinian people?

What is recommended is to go to Masjid al-Aqsa, as the Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to do, to pray to Allah there and to help the Muslims in need there. The more Muslims that come together in the masjid to pray, the more likely it is that Allah will relieve people’s suffering. There is no need for us to get involved in politics.

Weekly Salawat: Ya Wali

We continue our journey through Sayyidī Ḥabīb `Umar’s collection of prayers using Allah’s beautiful names. In this collection, Ḥabīb `Umar calls upon Allah by His beautiful names one by one and then asks Him to bestow prayers upon His Beloved by those names. Finally, he asks Allah for a portion of those attributes which belong to Allah and which He has bestowed upon His Messenger ﷺ. He thus teaches us about the attributes of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ and teaches us how to seek a portion of those attributes.  


اللَّهُمَّ يا اللهُ يا وَلِيُّ صَلِّ على عَبْدِكَ و حَبِيبِكَ سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ النَّبِيِّ الوَلِيِّ و على آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ و سَلِّمْ تَسْلِيماً وكُنْ لي بِهِ وَلِيَّاً نَصِيراً

Allāhumma yā Allāhu yā Waliyyu ṣalli `alā `abdika wa ḥabībika sayyidinā Muḥammad an-Nabī al-walī wa `alā ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa sallim taslīman wa kun lī bihi waliyyan naṣīrā

O Allāh, O Protector, bestow abundant prayers and peace upon Your slave and beloved, our Master Muḥammad, the Prophet, the Protector, and upon his Family and Companions, and by him be my protector and supporter.

On Protecting Our Children in Western Society

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

How do we protect our children from bad influences in the society in which we live? We fear for their faith.

It is good to have fear for our children since corruption is everywhere, especially in societies the values of which are distant from Islamic values. This fear must not, however, lead to despair but rather should lead us to take action. Allah gave the believers a model in the life of Sayyidah Asiah, the wife of Pharaoh. In spite of the fact that she lived with Pharaoh in his palace, she will be rewarded by being a wife of the Prophet ﷺ in the next life due to her truthfulness, patience and firmness.

This fear should lead us to create environments which protect our children and to shut the doors to corruption as far as we are able. We should arrange group activities for our children according to their age. These activities should be enjoyable and safe from any harm. We should also give them a portion of adhkar to read and give them that which illuminates their minds. We need to warn them repeatedly about things which they may see which are in contravention to the Sacred Law.

If it is possible to move to an environment which is better for our children then we can do that as long as that does not lead us to neglect any responsibility we have in the place where we are currently living. Otherwise we should remain where we are and follow the principles mentioned.

We should also pray for them in abundance and attach their hearts to the Messenger, his Family, Companions and the pious.


Should we send our children to a better environment?

We should send them at an age where they are mature enough to live in that environment are able to receive knowledge.

Preparing to Meet Allah by Guarding our Sight, Hearing and Speech

Taken from a Friday khutbah by Sayyidi Habib `Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)  at Masjid Nur Muhammad in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 14, 2014.

Khutbah Jumu`ah, Masjid Nur Muhammad, Kemang, 2014


We must guard our sight, our hearing and our speech. If we do so our hearts will be protected and we will attain uprightness. When we look at, listen to or talk about that which does not concern us we are at odds with our fitrah, the state in which Allah created us.

Allah says: “Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Q 17:36)

Do not let the enemies of Allah control your sight, your hearing and your speech to the point that they dictate what takes place in our households, to the point that what we see, hear, and say goes against the laws of Allah the teachings of our Prophet ﷺ . Allah says: “If you obey most of those on the earth, they will lead you astray from Allah’s way.” (Q 6:116)


Our Sight

We should use our sight to gaze upon the pious with love and longing. We should use our ability to see to gaze upon Allah’s creation and reflect upon it. If we disobey Allah with our eyes we may be deprived of the vision of Allah Most High.


Our Hearing

The believers are those that only listen to that which benefits them. Allah says: “When they hear idle talk they turn aside from it and say: ‘We shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds; peace be on you, we do not desire the ignorant.’” (Q 28:55)

Lend your ears only to the sayings of the Companions of Allah, the sayings of the Prophets, and of our Prophet Muhammad, for doing so will prepare us for the ultimate communion with Allah on the Day of Judgment.


Our Speech

Remember that wherever we are, Allah is with us. When four people convene, the fifth is Allah. When six people convene, the seventh is Allah. He knows what takes place between them. He knows what is being said and He knows still what is kept hidden.

On the Day of Judgment, Allah will call upon His servants and commune with them, but there will be some people who have incurred Allah’s wrath and will not be called upon by Him, and we seek refuge in Allah from this.

On this day (Friday) have we recited the Qur’an and heard it being recited? Have we recited Surah al-Kahf?  How many times have we bestowed prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ?

Use your hearing, sight, and speech, only for things that please Allah Most High.

We ask Allah to rectify the state of the Muslims.

On Advising Parents or Elders

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

How do we give advice to parents or relatives who are older than us if they disobey Allah?

We should ask elders or people they respect to give them advice. We can also give them books or show them videos which we think may affect them. The consequences in the next life of acts of disobedience may be mentioned to them but indirectly and with the appropriate respect and courtesy.

In general we should not be overly affected by the negative things we see in them. We should focus on their positive attributes and do what we can to rectify the situation.