Friday, April 14th was the day Shaykh Faraz decided to hold the mawlid. The previous day, Thursday, was Shaykh Faraz's dars at the University of Toronto. Unfortunately, I could not make it due to transportation problems and I am thus unable to write about it. However, the Shaykh did send me a recording of his lecture and told me to transcribe it. Insha'Allah, if the Shaykh permits, I will try to make it available on this blog.
We were set to meet Shaykh Faraz that day shortly after fajr. However, the Shaykh told us to delay the meeting till Jumu'a prayer so he could prepare for the upcoming weekend SunniPath classes. The mosque that Shaykh Faraz was going to was called Masjid Falah I believe. It was in Mississauga, about 30-40 minutes away from where we were staying.
We left at around 12:50 and arrived at the mosque around 1:30, just before the khutba. The mosque was literally packed. Cars were lined up and finding parking was simply impossible. Me and Mudasser basically drove around in circles. We decided to double park, praying that it would not inconvenience anyone ( ! ). Mudasser had actually told me to stay in the car while he went and looked around for the Shaykh. However, knowing myself, I could not imagine the fact that Mudasser would be spending some time with Shaykh Faraz without me! After all, what if the Shaykh, in that brief moment, gave some valuable advice?
Thus, I left the car, did wudhu' and caught sight of Mudasser. Shaykh Faraz was standing next to him, waiting for his family to come out so as to inform them that he was leaving. We stood outside for 10-15 minutes as Shaykh Faraz met with some people whom he recognized. It was actually pretty weird for us to see the way the Shaykh's old acquaintances conversed with him, referring to him as "Faraz" whereas the thought of calling Shaykh Faraz merely by his first name would be construed as disrespectful and igorance of his position by us. Ofcourse Shaykh Faraz didn't seem to mind it all and so we did not either. May Allah raise his rank further and grant us all love for him.
After meeting with a few people the Shaykh signalled that we should depart for our next destination: a place to eat. Shaykh Faraz sat in the back. He was wearing, on that blessed day, a green kurta-shirt, green pants, a brownish vest whose top two buttons he had closed and the rest left open, and his white kufi (dark blue socks also for whoever is interested). As he sat in the back seat he caught sight of the Imdad al Fatawa by Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanvi, a book i had bought a few days prior, picked it up, and said, "Sidi, have you read Hakimul Ummat's (i.e. Maulana Thanvi) fatwa on the Shadhili Hadra?". I answered that I had. The fatwa, putting it simply, states that all forms of loud dhikr are permissible and none of the methods of doing loud dhikr can be forbidden, Alhamdulilah. I plan to translate the fatwa for the benefit of the brothers and sisters who are interested in knowing the position of the Deobandi elders on the issue.
We decided to eat at a Pakistani-Indian restaurant. Mudasser had one in mind but Shaykh Faraz decided on another that was within the vicinity. An interesting discussion evolved when Shaykh Faraz asked Mudasser "Doesn't that place serve alcohol" – referring to the restaurant Mudasser had originally chosen – to which he replied in the positive. Mudasser then went on to ask about the fiqh of eating in a restaurant that served alcohol. In summary what Shaykh Faraz said was:
 The blanket ruling would be that it is haram. However, the Shaykh stated that a restaurant such as this one is conceptually akin to a supermarket where pork, wine, and other impermissible products are sold. One merely goes in, buys what he wants, and leaves. Thus, although it would be better for someone to choose a restaurant that does not serve alcohol, it is not impermissible to eat in a place where alcohol is being served (s: although it may be disliked and undignified). At the same time the Shaykh made clear that those who are looked upon as religious figures in the community should definitely try and avoid such places. For more one can read HERE.
Anyway, we went into the restaurant and sat down. We decided to order a few dishes – butter chicken, kebab, some naan, Chicken tikka, some meat shawrba, and lassi. We spoke about a few things over our delicious lunch, including Deoband, the madaris, difference in Arab and Deobandi educational settings, personal suhba and so forth. It was very enlightening. The Deobandi's are well-known for exporting their madaris across the globe on a very large scale. At the same time though, the Deobandi 'Ulema took much from the British, and the way the British organized their educational class structure. I think it is only natural that when something is mass-produced the quality of that thing is not as good as it should be, in comparison to something not mass-produced. This ofcourse does not mean that the Deobandi institutes are not producing solid 'Ulema, but that the amount of "solid" 'Ulema coming out in comparison to the total number of students enterring is not even and balanced. One thing which personally makes me prefer the "Arab" style of traditional education is not that they dont have any institutions (which they do), which are beneficial in their own right, but in the fact that private studies under 'Ulema is a norm. By private studies I do not mean sitting in a class with a hundred other students. What I mean is face to face, one-on-one interaction. Most of my friends who went to the Middle-East had the opportunity to do this. It provides an opportunity for suhba with the masha'ikh and, in my experience, is far more effective.
At the same time though, the Deobandi instituionalization played a key role in preserving the religion in the subcontinent. It further played a key role in spreading knowledge across the globe, especially in the west (such as England). Yet, I believe that we are now living in a time where we need some sort of reform. Please do not get upset at me. I am also a Deobandi, and so is my Shaykh, and therefore I believe it is my right as a Deobandi to discuss and critically analyse such aspects of our manhaj. As far as I'm concerned, my friends who have gone to the Arab lands come out far more stronger in the Islamic sciences, as well as in their encompassing worldview, than my friends who went to the Indian subcontinent, or South Africa, or elsewhere. Why? Our Akabir certainly possessed mastery of the sciences, as did many of their students. However, finding such people now is harder than before. Shaykh Faraz actually has very high praise of the Deobandi's and he considers the akabir to be one of his many inspirations in life as do I. Also, there are Deobandi scholars of high repute put there like Mufti taqi, Mufti Rafi', Mufti Palanpuri etc. We should be producing more of their like.
Shaykh Faraz also told us how it was very easy to access major scholars in the Arab lands, such as Shaykh Adib Kallah, Shaykh Hasaan al Hindi, and so forth. It was even easier to attend their private study groups. All you had to do was buy the book, go, and sit down.
Anyway, while Shaykh Faraz and Mudasser were talking (me being the quiet one as usual), Shaykh Faraz noticed my plate. It was practically empty. I was nibbling on a chicken leg when Shaykh Faraz said "This food is not here for tabarruk!". He actually grabbed the serving spoon, took my plate, and put in spoonfuls (and more) of each dish. I didn't know how I was going to finish it but I knew I had to because the Shaykh had an eye on me. Thus, I listened to the conversation between Mudasser and Shaykh Faraz whilst trying to find some space in my stomach for all the food that the Shaykh had placed on my plate. I did manage to eat it all, comfortably, possibly due to the baraka therein, Alhamdulilah.
After we had finished we decided to order some desert – ras malai. I had a feeling that Shaykh Faraz would, again, try and attempt to pay the bill. This was something I was not willing to let the Shaykh do. I signalled to Mudasser, and passed him my wallet. Unfortunately, Mudasser wasn't a very good actor. As soon as he got up, and Shaykh Faraz asked him where he was going, the Shaykh knew what he was upto. Shaykh Faraz got up quickly, cut him off, and paid the bill. It's actually pretty funny when you imagine it. Subhanallah, as I mentioned before, Shaykh Faraz can easily just be "one of the guys".
While leaving the restaurant, Shaykh Faraz gave another valuable piece of advice. He said:
 The Deobandi akabir would say that just because something is possible does not mean that it has occurred or will occur. After mentioning this principle Shaykh Faraz said that a student of knowledge should make it a habit of not only externalizing these principles, but also internalizing them. It is indeed valuable advice. I have seen in my correspondences with Shaykh Faraz that the reason why he is so solid in fiqh and the reason why – to me – he is nothing short of a vast encyclopedia of knowledge is because he is able to recall the usuli principles and the qawa'id and implement them in his teachings, explanations, his daily life and so forth. It is astonishing as to how much a person can now and how much he can recall at will when confronted with an issue.
I remember once I was speaking to the Shaykh about his journey to the spiritual path and joining the Shadhili path under Shaykh Nuh. He said that the minute he had heard him he knew that this was the person who would guide him to Allah.Shaykh Faraz actually gave bayah in 1996, which was not long after Shaykh Nuh was given ijaza by Shaykh 'Abdur Rahman Shaghouri (May Allah have mercy on him). I recall stating, "so you are like one of his early murids." The Shaykh replied, "Not really. A murid is someone who follows their Shaykh. The ulema mention: al-`ibratu bi man sadaq; wa laysat bi man sabaq (what counts is being true; not being first)."
Books, Books, and More Books
We left the restaurant around 4-4:30. The mawlid was supposed to start around 6. Me and Shaykh Faraz were discussing the bookstore I had gone to previously and out of the blue Mudasser informed us of another branch of the same bookstore within our vicinity. We decided to go there. Mudasser called one of his friends to get the address and after a while we were parking in front of the bookstore, readying ourselves to get our hands on some beneficial material. From the outside, as well as when we walked in, the store looked small. However, they had some excellent works. I could see that Shaykh Faraz was excited. We walked around looking at various books, picking them up, looking through them, and seeing Shaykh Faraz give his occassional comments. When Shaykh Faraz was interested in a specific work he would tell me to go to the store clerk and ask him for the price. The store clerk allowed me to use his computer to look up the prices, which is what I did everytime the Shaykh wanted a price check. Shaykh Faraz became most excited when he saw Mufti Palanpuri's commentary on Shah Waliullah Dehlawi's Hujjat al Baligha. He commented, "An excellent commentary on an even more excellent work." Shaykh Faraz got quite a few books, including those by the akabir of Deoband. He woulld sometimes go through some books and advise me to get them, and sometimes straight-up hand them to me as if signalling a command for me to purchase them for myself.
We spent almost two hours in the bookstore. The store clerk was a very nice man, and he soon understood that the tall, humble, and modest man that was walking in between his shelves was no ordinary man. He was a scholar of the religion, a faqih, and one of the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). He was a person who was not merely buying these books for himself, but in order to benefit the community with them. He was not a man concerned with himself, but concerned also about the students around him. Thus, you would see him say "Get this work sidi" and "This work is excellent" and "This will prove beneficial for you" and so forth. It took only a matter of time for the clerk to realise this and soon he was looking upto the Shaykh the same way we do, referring to him as "Hazrat" and scurrying around to help him.
The Shaykh bought a camel-loads worth of books, many of them being small yet beneficial rasa'il. The Shaykh told me to go over the list of works one more time and see if everything was written down in the clerics register. After doing that, I myself scurried off to shop for some books along with Mudasser. Among the works I got, which include the ones the Shaykh told me to get:
Mufti Palanpuri's Sharh Nukhbat al Fikr entitled Tuhfa al Durur
Shaykh Zakariyya Khandihlawi's Fadha'il Tijarat
Mufti Rafi' Uthmani's Jawahir al Fiqah
Imam 'Abd al Hayy Lakhnawi's Zafar al Amaani
Maulana Thanvi's al Takashaf
Al Fiqh al Islami minal Mukhtasar al Quduri
Imam Razi al Din's Qafu al Athar fi Safwi 'Ulum al Athar
And a number of small rasa'il on the lives of the akabir.
Shaykh Faraz actually handed me both the Zafar al Maani and Qafu personally and told me to definitely get them.
Meanwhile, after Shaykh Faraz had paid for his books, the store clerk calculated my bill. I reached for my wallet and before I knew it, again ( !!! ), Shaykh Faraz just handed him the money. I looked at Mudasser confused and asked "What happened?" and he replied "I think the Shaykh just paid for your books." I really was speechless and could not say anything. I felt as if it wasn't right for me to be taking money from the Shaykh in such a way, but at the same time how could I refuse? I just stayed silent. Shaykh Faraz said that I should, instead, pay seperately for the two books he recommended specifically for me (which I mentioned above) and leave the rest to him. Subhanallah, what a noble teacher, what a blessed student!