by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani Sahib
Who are these people? Living examples of our illustrious forefather? Simply dressed, shalwars above their ankles, caps upon their heads, gleaming foreheads, shining eyes, beards gracing their faces, modesty embracing their foot-steps, humbleness dripping from every word, respect from every action. With sleeping bags upon their shoulders, suitcases in their hands they’re making their way to and from the railway stations. Who are they? Ah yes, they are the talabah of deeni madaris.
Shawwal is the first month of their academic year. Having spent two months of vacations they are now on their way to their Alma Maters. Oh wait! O most fortunate people in the world, wait! Give me the honour of few words with you. Your love and prayers just might become a means of deliverance for this uneducated, unworthy one. For it is you, yes you, for whom angels in the skies, ants in their ant-holes, fish in the seas, birds in the air pray day and night. Of the peoples of this world, some are the successors of Fir‘oun, some of Qaroon some are disciples of Abu Jahal, some of Shaddad. But how lucky are you that upon completion of your studies you shall become the heirs of ambia 'alayhissalaam! It is to acquire this very legacy that you have left your homes. For what had Rasool ullah (sallallahu ‘alaihe wasallam) left behind except some weapons of war and a wealth of knowledge? When he left this world, neither dirham nor dinar, neither lands nor houses did he leave behind. But yes! He had left behind him a vast, never-ending wealth of knowledge.
This wealth is being distributed among the people since the last fourteen hundred years but it doesn’t seem to come to an end. Remember what Hazrat Abu Hurairah (radhiallahu ta'ala ‘anhu) had said in the market place of Madina one day? “O people” he had cried aloud, “you are busy in buying and selling in the market – place where while there in the Masjid-i-Nabawi, the legacy of Rasool ullah (sallallahu ‘alaihe wasallam) is being distributed”, everyone had run to the Masjid-i-Nabawi (alaihe salaatu wasalam) but nothing was being given out there. There was only a group of Sahaba busy in teaching Hadith. The people came back and asked Hazrat Abu Huriarah (radhiallahu ta'ala ‘anhu) why he had said such a thing. “When you went there what did you see?” Asked Hazrat Abu Hurairah (radhiallahu ta'ala ‘anhu). “We saw some Sahaba busy teaching Ahadith and ayaat of the Quran to each other”, they replied. “So what else is the legacy left by Rasool ullah (sallallahu ‘alaihe wasallam)? It is the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah. That is the inheritance he has left behind”. O respected talabah! You have left your homes in search of this legacy. You have preferred religion to materialism, poverty to riches, traveling to staying at home.
You have preferred trouble to luxury, plain fare to new and rich dishes, being alone rather than being in company, living in a foreign land than in your own country, trial and tribulation to comfort and luxury. You have left your homes for a great aim. Don’t lose sight of this aim. There is no dearth of people who study for ten or twenty years but their goal is nothing else but a handful of gold or silver, a lucrative job, a grand house, a shining car and false pomp and show. Between you and them lies a distance as of the East and West. You belong to the East while they belong to the West. They are seekers of livelihood, seekers of this materialistic world while you are in search of Aakhirah. Your aim is the world of your inner self, their object is the world of their carnal selves. Don’t let this difference of aim and intention come to an end otherwise there will be no difference left between a ‘maktab’ and a school, a ‘madrasah’ and a college. It is this intention which is the very base.
If it changes the entire building becomes different, the aim changes, the goal becomes different. A person whose intention is not pure keeps traveling towards Madinah all his life but his life come to an end in London or Paris. A good-intentioned man passes his entire life in kafiristan but when his days come to an end the kalimah is upon his lips, the light of emaan in his heart. Believe me it’s a fact that many people come out of the wash-room clean and ‘paak’ while others leave even Bait ullah in the same unclean, ‘na-paak’ state they went in. There was Hazrat Asiya who did not let the light of emaan die even though she was living with Fir‘oun himself, while the wife of Hazrat Nuh (Noah) 'alayhissalaam was not blessed with emaan though she lived her entire life with a prophet. What else can be more ironical and unfortunate than that a man is blessed with the company of good people, with a favourable environment yet he does not take advantage of it? In the book ‘Qushairiyyah’ it is mentioned that Abu 'Usman Khairi (rahimahullah) asked Muhammad Bin Fazal (rahimahullah), ‘who is the most wretched of all people’? There are three persons he answered. ‘A person who is given knowledge yet he is deprived of the power of acting upon it; a person who is given the power of acting upon his knowledge but is deprived of sincerity and a person who is blessed with the company of pious people yet he does not hold them in deep respect’.
Two words learnt with good intention are better than a thousand words learnt when the intention is not good. The person who acquires the knowledge of religion just to earn wealth or to impress the illiterate people or to challenge the 'ulama to debates or ‘munazaras’, he shall on the Day of Qiyamah not even go near Jannah let alone enter it.
O seekers of Knowledge! Remember who you are. You are a continuation of the search and yearning, the thirst of knowledge of the Ashaab-i-Suffah. The Ashaab-i-Suffah, the most exalted of students the world has ever seen. Food was never cooked for them in any ‘madrasah’. Their state was such that they ate whatever left-overs they could find and sometimes they found not even those. The prayer sufficed for them “O Rabb of ours, grant us”. Orchard-owners used to hang bunches of ripe, unripe dates near their place of study and these dates were their only food. They didn’t’ have any kitchens, nor grand houses, nor lofty educational centers, nor an army of servants, nor a team of instructors. They had neither beds nor pillows, neither desks nor books. There was just a raised platform which served them for a hostel, as well as a classroom. There was only one compassionate teacher and a few true seekers of knowledge. The light burned bright on this side as well as on the other.
Their intention (niyyah) was pure, their yearning unallowed. Their resolve was to change their own selves as well as the times; to ignite a restlessness in their own hearts as well as in the hearts of others; and to disperse the knowledge they had acquired far and wide. The light enkindled in their hearts, their pure resolve, sincere intention, their deep yearning at last bore fruit and in a very short time, lamps of the true knowledge began burning from the East to the West. Darkness receded.
Just imagine. What kind of a place of learning it must have been, what teachers, that their attention gave to the world mighty rulers, judges, army-leaders, famous 'ulama, and jurisprudents, successful traders, world-famous personalities! Yet they did not have any of the facilities students have to-day. All that they had was a pure intense yearning to acquire knowledge and a strong system of education and training. There did exist students whose memory was not exceptional but there existed none whose deeds were not matchless. Were we to inculcate these things in ourselves then even the cave of a mountain a dark corner of a forest or a straw hut can be a madrasah, a Jami'ah, a khanqah for us. But if we don’t possess these qualities, yet have a spacious hostel, rows of classes, heaps of books, enticing scholarships. Then beware! This is not a madrasah but a shop. It is nothing but hypocrisy, outward show, a mirage, an illusion.
There is an uproar, an outcry to-day, and it is a justifiable one, that madaris are not producing great men; that every year thousands of ulama are coming out of madaris but there is no sign of a change in society; in fact, the behaviour and character of the students seems to becoming worse, day by day. The main reason for this is that instead of paying attention to building human beings to building character, the focus is upon constructing buildings. More effort is being made to beautify the outward appearance rather than to correct the inner self. Instead of transferring knowledge, it is being considered sufficient to transfer words and letters only. Importance is being given more to acquiring a degree rather than acquiring ability and competence. There is no dearth of such talabah too to whom scholarships and facilities are more important than a literary environment. So when importance is given to the means of attaining the goal instead of the goal itself, when the good-will of the people is sought instead of the Creator’s then how can the knowledge acquired be fruitful, be blessed? The lessons learnt would just be puerile, a pastime of idiots.
You must have heard the name of Mulla Mubarak Nagpuri. He was the father of Faizi who has written an explanation of the meanings of the Quran in Urdu in words without dots. He was the founder of a great university in Agra. Maulana Manazir Ahsan Gilani has written that he was a student, of a teacher’s teacher, of Hafiz Ibne Hajar Asqalani (rahimahullah). Mulla Mubarak was a very learned man but his heart was empty of fear and awe, of sincerity. He passed his entire life in toadying to the rulers. When he left this world, let alone strangers, his own students had nothing good to say about him. One of his eminent students, Mulla Abdul Qadir Badayuni, the author of a famous history book, addressed his teacher in these words: ‘What defect did you see in the Quran and Sunnah that you chose the dish and plate as your religion? Instead of Allah and His Rasool (sallallahu 'alaihe wasallam) you started following the irreligious people?’
So you see, on the one hand are people who served Deen with complete sincerity and devotion with the result that even their enemies attested to the pureness of their character while on the other are those sole aim was acquiring this world and as a result not even their friends had a good word to say about them.
O heirs of prophet hood! This is the time to succeed or fail. What you shall sow to-day, you shall reap tomorrow. If you plant thorns it is stupidity to expect roses to bloom forth. If you pass your time in neglecting your studies and in sleeping, how can you even dream of gracing exalted posts of learning? Education, Knowledge demands your full attention. It is like a jealous mistress. It cannot tolerate for its aspirant, its lover to pay attention to anyone else.
The slightest bit of faithlessness is enough to send it running away in search of a true aspirant. Our ancestors were such that when he left home to study, Hazrat Makhdoom Bihari (rahimahullah) left practically everything behind him. When he received letters from home he used to put them in an empty pitcher. Years later when he completed his education he sat down to read the heap of letters. As he read, sometimes he smiled, sometimes he shed tears.
Thus when time is saved in this way, when knowledge is so earnestly sought, so highly valued, then only shall the Makhdooms, the Imams of the times be born. Don’t think that you can never succeed, Allah Ta'ala has made success conditional to hard work only. A person who strives, finds doors opening for him by themselves. So come O Guests of Rasool! Open the doors of success with your continuous hard work. Come forward, listen every wall, every nook and corner of the madrasah is saying ‘Marhaba, Marhaba! Welcome, Welcome!’ These words are for those who have brought with them the lamp of true yearning, the light of sincerity, and the resolve for continuous struggle. For them are these glad greetings in this world and when they shall rise in the next, angels will be saying in their sweet voices: Marhaba, marhaba, marhaba!