Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad describes Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad:
Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad was widely acknowledged as among the leading scholars and spiritual masters of the twentieth century. He was born in a town in Hadramawt, in southern Arabia. At an early age he committed the Quran to memory and spent most of his time in the relentless pursuit of the various branches of religious knowledge. He dedicated his life to teaching and spreading the word of Islam. He died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1995.
Shaykh al-Haddad, religious counsellor to ministers and
paupers alike, was a rare living embodiment of traditional styles of da’wa. He
was a founder member of the Muslim World League, but never accepted money for
his services to Islam. Running a small business in East Africa, he lived to
obey Allah’s injunction to bring Islam to all people.
One week he would almost be eaten by crocodiles during a
mission to the Pygmies of Western Uganda; the next he would be using his fluent
Swahili to defeat the Ahmadiyya cult in a vast public debate in Kampala. Not a
second of his life was wasted: his annual Hajj, his regular teaching of Shafi’i
fiqh at the houses of friends in Jeddah, his support for new madrasas, his
Mawlids in Mombasa mosques which caused the conversion of so many: every moment
was filled with the remembrance of Allah, and the quest for still greater
learning. Even in advanced old age, weighed down by illness and deeply
distressed by the war in Bosnia, he insisted that his house remain open seven
days a week, every day of the year, for those who wished to sit with him, and
absorb some of his learning and the subtle blessings of his company. And when
his guests left each evening, he would rest only briefly, before beginning his
long nightly vigil of Qur’anic recitation and tahajjud. Having travelled with
him, I know that he rarely rested for more than two hours a night.
Shaykh al-Haddad was distressed by even slight variations from the Sunna. His house and household, his wives and great grandsons, all lived in the radiance which only the full Sunna can bestow. Part of this, for him was his dislike of any criticism of other Muslims, whatever their tendency, or however grievous their faults. Anyone voicing such criticism would be discouraged in his gatherings from continuing to speak. The reputation of all Muslims, as one of his favourite hadiths affirms is sacred and inviolable. It is estimated he administered between 20-30,000 shahadas.
Sayyid Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad narrates that his grandfather, Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him), gave permission for the following to be recited in order to see the Prophet ﷺ.
Recite this verse of the Burdah of Imam al-Busiri followed by any prayer upon the Prophet ﷺ. Repeat this ten times:
نَعَمْ سَرَى طَيْفُ مَنْ أَهْوَى فَأَرَّقَني
وَ الْحُبُّ يَعْتَرِضُ اللَّذَّاتِ باِلأَلَمِ
Na`am sara tayfu man ahwa fa arraqani
Wa’l-hubbu ya`taridu’l-ladhdhati bi’l-alami
Yes, a vision of the one I love came to me by night, and I could not sleep,
Oh, how love hinders the tasting of delight with its suffering
A second method Habib Ahmad mentioned was to go bed on Thursday night in a state of complete purity and to recite the same verse of the Burdah once followed by this prayer upon the Prophet ﷺ seven times:
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ حَبِيبِ الرَّحْمَن وسَيِّدِ الأكْوَان الحاضِر مَعَ مَنْ صَلَّى عَلَيْهِ في كُلِّ زَمَان ومَكان
Allahumma salli `ala sayyidina Muhammadin habibirrahman wa sayyidi’l-akwan al-hadir ma` man salla `alayhi fī kulli zaman wa makan
O Allah, bestow Your blessings upon our Master Muhammad, the Beloved of the All Merciful, the master of all creation, the one who is present with whoever bestows prayers upon him in every time and place.
Words of wisdom from Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him)
In al-Salat al-Ibrahimiyyah we say: “O Allah, bestow prayers upon our Master Muhammad just as You bestowed prayers upon our Master Ibrahim.”
In the dua of qunut we say: “O Allah, guide us among those You have guided.”
In the Qur’an, Sayyiduna Sulayman says: “Admit me, through Your mercy, to the ranks of Your pious slaves.” (27:19)
What these prayers have in common (and other similar prayers) is that they are based upon a prayer that has previously been answered. The person hopes that by making these prayers he will be accepted by Allah just as those who made them previously were accepted. He hopes that Allah will bestow His generosity upon him just as He bestowed it upon those who came before.
He follows in the footsteps of those who reached Allah and he hopes to be considered one of those people, among whom are the Prophets, the martyrs, the siddiqun and Allah’s pious slaves. Making these prayers assist him in attaining sincerity, for those people’s prayers were only accepted due to their sincerity and truthfulness. Not only does he follow them but his aspirations are raised and he finds comfort in doing so.
The following salawat were composed by Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him).
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ صَاحِبِ المقَامِ الأَسْنَى المَخْصُوصِ بِشَرَفِ الإِدْنَى مَنْ لَوْ لا هُو ما كُنَّا و اغْمُرْني بِأَنْفَاسِهِ في الحِسِّ و المَعْنَى وعلى آلِهِ وصَحْبِهِ وَ سَلِّمْ
O Allah, bestow prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad and upon his Family and Companions, the one who holds the highest station, the one who was honored with the greatest degree of proximity – had it not been for him we would not have existed – and envelope me with his blessings both tangible and intangible.
O Allah, O Light of the heavens and the earth, bestow prayers and peace upon the one You created from Your Light and upon his Family and Companions. Forgive my sins and fill my heart with the light of Your knowledge and his knowledge of You.
اللهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّد الَذِي مَا ذُكِرَ اسْمُهُ عَلَى مَرِيضٍ إلا شُوفِي وَ لا سَقِيمٍ إلا عُوفِي وَ عَلَى آلِهِ وَ صَحْبِهِ وَ سَلِّمْ
O Allah, bestow prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad, the one who when his name is mentioned the sick are cured and blessed with wellbeing and upon his Family and Companions.
O Allah, bestow prayers and peace upon the radiant full moon, the bringer of glad tidings, the warner, the spirit and essence of all existence, the gift of mercy for the whole of creation and upon his Family and Companions and all those that come after them until the Promised Day.
O Allah, bestow prayers and peace upon our master Muhammad, the leader of both worlds, the most splendid of all people and jinn, the grandfather of Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn and upon his Family and Companions and make my utmost delight bestowing prayers upon him.
Words of wisdom from Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him).
Allah says to His Prophet ﷺ:
“Say: ‘This is my path..’”
With this command Allah honours the Prophet ﷺ and affirms his station. The command also contains the meaning of granting permission (ijazah). The ijazah is one of the foundations of the religion and is especially important in the science of hadith. Scholars traditionally give each other ijazah and shaykhs give their students ijazah. The ijazah is an affirmation of what is contained in the heart of the person receiving it and is a means for the pious to exchange secrets with one another.
If a Shaykh tells you to do something or gives you permission to recite a certain invocation, it means that he sees that you have the capability and the readiness to do that thing or recite that invocation. Through that permission you may receive strength and secrets from the Shaykh. For this reason it is said that only through the ijazah do the secrets of reciting the Qur’an, the adhkar or the names of Allah become manifest.
When Allah says to His Prophet ﷺ: ‘Say,’ this is a command and also a sign that the Prophet is worthy and capable of fulfilling His command.
“Say: ‘This is my path: I call to Allah on clear evidence – I and whoever follows me.’”
So whoever takes that path will be with the Prophet ﷺ . Anyone who calls people to Allah will be blessed with being with Allah’s Beloved ﷺ. This a high station and only those who are patient and immensely fortunate will attain it.
We must, however, call to Allah with insight and on clear evidence. We cannot show arrogance or contempt to any Muslim. We cannot attack the beliefs of the Ummah of Muhammad, the Ummah to which Allah showed mercy.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
“My Ummah shall not concur on misguidance.”
O Allah, make us among those who convey this message and follow Your Messenger and among those who are guided by the light of Prophet-hood.
Words of wisdom from Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him).
Etiquettes (adab) are what beautify one’s actions. One’s actions are not complete without etiquette. Etiquette is ihsan and ihsan is one of the three foundations of the religion mentioned in the hadith of Jibril. Ihsan is to perform one’s actions with etiquette and this is a means for those actions to be accepted.
Every action requires etiquette, whether it be prayer, fasting, zakat, hajj or reciting the Qur’an. Entering the mosque requires etiquette. You should realize that you are in the house of Allah, that He sees you and that you are visiting your Lord in His house. It has been narrated:
“Mosques are My houses and those who pray in them are My visitors.”
So behave as a guest should behave. Allah says:
“In houses which Allah has allowed to be raised. In them He is glorified morning and evening by men whom neither trade nor sale distract from the remembrance of Allah, the establishment of the prayer or paying the zakat, because they fear a day when hearts and eyes will be turned about.”
He is al-Habib Ahmad Mashhur bin Taha bin`Ali bin `Abdullah bin Taha bin `Abdullah bin Taha bin `Umar1 bin `Alawi bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin `Abdullah bin Muhammad bin `Alawi bin Ahmad “al-Haddad” bin Abu Bakr bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin `Abdullah bin Ahmad bin `Abd al-Rahman bin `Alawi `Amm al-Faqih (uncle of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam), bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, bin `Ali Khasli` 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 ﷺ.
Habib Ahmad was born in the town of Qaydun in the Daw`an Valley, South of Hadramawt, in the year 1325 (1907). His father, Sayyid Taha, was one of the people of Allah. He spent long periods of time in Indonesia and it was his mother, the saintly Hababah Safiyyah, daughter of the Imam Tahir bin `Umar al-Haddad, who raised him. She had memorised the Qur’an and would recite it while breast-feeding him. She then proceeded to give him an upbringing infused with the recitation of the Qur’an and its teachings. It was her that told him at the age of seven to go and pray the Fajr prayer behind the great Imam, Habib Ahmad bin Hasan al-`Attas when he visited Qaydun. He then recited Surat al-Fatihah to Habib Ahmad bin Hasan. This in turn led to further meetings between the two. She also placed him in the Ribat of Qaydun, the religious school founded by his two uncles, Habib `Abdullah bin Tahir al-Haddad and his brother, Habib `Alawi. There he learnt the Islamic sciences. Habib `Alawi took him to Tarim where he took knowledge from the great scholars of the time, among them Habib `Abdullah bin `Umar al-Shatiri, Habib `Alawi bin `Abdullah bin Shihab and Habib `Abd al-Bari bin Shaykh al-`Aydarus. Habib `Alawi also took Habib Ahmad to Indonesia while he was still in his late teens to connect to scholars such as Habib Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Mihdar and Habib `Abdullah bin Muhsin al-`Attas. Habib Ahmad then returned to Qaydun to continue his studies with his other uncle, Habib `Abdullah. He began teaching there at the same time. In al-Mukalla’, he learnt from Habib Ahmad bin Muhsin al-Haddar, and it was from him he received his opening.
He travelled to East Africa for the first time in 1347 (1928). He visited Zanzibar and was asked to teach in the main mosque during Ramadan. He began with a commentary on Surat al-Fatihah and spent 15 days expounding on the meanings of the verse: You we worship and from You we seek assistance. On a subsequent trip in 1351 (1932), he visited Habib Salih bin `Alawi Jamal al-Layl on the island of Lamu, who was one of the great callers to Allah in that region and the founder of Masjid al-Riyad, one of the first institutes of Islamic learning in East Africa. Habib Salih, then in his eighties, commanded Habib Ahmad to lead the prayer in Masjid al- Riyad.
Seeing the dire need for scholars and callers to Allah in the region, he returned to East Africa after performing hajj and settled in Mombasa, Kenya’s main port. This was his base for around 25 years. His house was always full of students and visitors and he would teach in the mosques of the city. More than once he was asked to take the position of judge but he refused. He ran a small business in order to be financially independent and he would remain so throughout his life, never in need of financial support from individuals or groups. He made many expeditions into rural areas, calling local tribes to Allah. He learnt Swahili, the language of the region, and would use it for communication. However, he always made his speeches in Arabic to emphasise its importance and nobility as language of the Qur’an and the Prophet ﷺ. One of his students would then translate his words into Swahili. In this period, he established a strong connection to Habib `Umar bin Sumayt, at times visiting him in Zanzibar and the Comoros Islands. Habib `Umar also visited him in Mombasa and later in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, where he settled in 1375 (1956).
In Uganda, Habib Ahmad found a number of tribes who were animists worshipping a variety of deities. He also found Muslims who had accepted Christianity at the hands of missionaries, as well as sects such as the Qadianis and the Ismailis. He found Muslims who had moved towards secularism or socialism and those at the other extreme who, claiming to defend the religion, declared many of their brothers outside the fold of Islam. Still others were giving religious judgements and spiritual guidance while being unqualified to do so. Habib Ahmad addressed his call to all these different groups. This call is reflected in his book, Miftah al-Jannah (beautifully translated by Dr Mostafa Badawi under the title “Key to the Garden”) which was first published in 1389 (1969). The Key to the Garden is la ilaha ill’Allah, and the book is essentially an explanation of the meanings of this formula and what it entails. The first part of the book deals with the fundamental beliefs of Islam, the second with oft-misunderstood elements of the religion and the third provides direction for those wishing to tread the spiritual path. The book thus comprehensively deals with the constituent parts of the religion – Islam, Iman and Ihsan. The core of the book is contained in Habib Ahmad’s supplication:
“My Lord, I seek refuge in You, lest my faith in You and Your revelation be derived from reflection polluted by the attributes of the lower self or from an intellect that is mixed with the earth from which mankind was created. Rather, I ask that my faith be derived from Your manifest light, Your most exalted assistance, the light and blessings of Your Prophet, the Chosen One.”
Habib Ahmad returned to Mombasa in 1389 (1969). His efforts in Uganda had led tens of thousands of people to convert to Islam. Many Muslims who had accepted Christianity returned once again to Islam and others came back to the straight path after deviation. His expeditions had taken him to the frontiers of Congo, Zaire and Rwanda. He did not merely convey the message and then move on; rather he left behind teachers in communities that had accepted Islam and built schools and mosques.
He would perform hajj every year and meet with the scholars of the Hijaz, with whom he would discuss and attempt to solve the problems of the Ummah. He had a strong bond with Habib `Abd al-Qadir bin Ahmad al-Saqqaf, and they would often attend gatherings together in Jeddah. He also travelled to Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
He can be described as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is described: he spoke little and spent much time in reflection; his laugh was a smile; and he spoke to people according to their understanding. There is no doubt that he was among those mentioned in the hadith of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ: “The best of my nation are those the sight of whom reminds one of Allah.”2 He would answer anyone’s invitation and, in his old age and in poor health, he could still be seen going from house to house and gathering to gathering. His gatherings were gatherings of mercy and remembrance of Allah. At the end of his gatherings he would often recite la ilaha ill’Allah Muhammadan Rasulullah to those attending and they would then recite it back to him, thus directly receiving these words through an unbroken chain to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. He had the utmost concern for the Ummah, and was greatly troubled by conflicts such as the civil war in Somalia, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the war which followed. Those with him said that he would be in a state of fever at the times that the Muslim Ummah was suffering, in embodiment of the hadith: “The believers in the love, mercy and compassion they show one another are like the body. If one part of it suffers from an ailment, the rest of the body complains of insomnia and fever.”3 He represented Uganda at the conferences of the Islamic World League, seeking to find solutions and raise awareness of the problems of the region.
He played an important part in the spread of the work of Imam al-Haddad. Due to his influence, Imam al-Haddad’s books were republished and several were translated into foreign languages. He revived the methodology that Imam al-Haddad laid down for those unable to undertake the spiritual strivings of the elite but who nonetheless wished to travel the spiritual path.
Allah says in the Qur’an: For the one that fears the station of his Lord there are two gardens.4 Habib Ahmad said of the two gardens that one is in this worldly life and one is in the next. The first is the knowledge of Allah and the Messenger of Allah and the unveiling of the realities of faith and certainty. In this first garden, the heart is filled with light and contentment with the decree of Allah. The second garden is the bliss of Paradise.
Besides Miftah al-Jannah, he authored a number of essays on important issues. He put Safinat al-Najah, the well-known primer in Shafi`i law, into verse. From a young age he had been gifted with great poetic ability and he left behind a Diwan of his poems.
Towards the end of his life he would divide his time between Mombasa and Jeddah, until poor health prevented him from travelling to East Africa. Heads of state would come to visit him to pay their respects and ask for his prayers and advice, along with a constant stream of visitors and students. He left an indelible mark on all those with whom he came into contact and many of them went on to call others to Allah in the same merciful way as he did. We are fortunate to have some of these people in our communities around the world.
He finally departed from this life on 14th Rajab 1416 (1995). The funeral prayer was performed over him first in Jeddah and was led by Sayyid Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki, in the presence of Habib `Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf. It was then performed again in the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah before he was placed in the blessed earth of the `Alawi enclosure in the Ma`la cemetery.
May Allah raise him to the highest of ranks and help us to preserve his legacy.
1 Sayyid `Umar was the brother of the great Imam `Abdullah bin `Alawi al-Haddad, who is thus Habib Ahmad’s great uncle.
Advice from Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him).
If someone combines between bestowing prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ (salawat) and seeking forgiveness (istighfar) they will be guaranteed safety. Allah says:
Allah will not punish them while you are with them, nor will He punish them while they seek forgiveness. (8:33)
He will not punish this nation as He punished the previous nations as long as the Prophetﷺ is with us. He is still with us with his spirit and with his Sacred Law and he is with us if we bestow prayers upon him. If you bestow prayers upon him you are united with him and if you give him greetings of salam he returns those greetings. So if he is with us we will be safe from Allah’s punishment and if we seek forgiveness from Allah we will also be safe. So we should combine between salawat and istighfar. There is no quicker means of getting closer to Allah in this time than doing these two things. This is a prayer upon the Prophet along with istighfar which I took from my shaykh, Habib Ahmad bin Muhsin al-Haddar. He said that this prayer takes the place of a spiritual guide (if you do not have one):
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ النَّبِيِّ الأُمِّيِّ و على آلِهِ و سَلِّمْ تَسْلِيماً و أَسْتَغْفِرُ اللهَ العَظِيمَ و أَتُوبُ إِلَيْهِ
Allahumma salli `ala sayyidina Muhammad an-nabi’l-ummi wa `ala alihi wa sallim tasliman wa astaghfirullaha al-`Azima wa atubu ilayh
O Allah, bestow abundant prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad, the Unlettered Prophet and upon his Family and I seek the forgiveness of Allah the Almighty and I repent to Him.