(will be updated and corrections made)
Ever since I came in contact with my Ustaadh wa Habibi Faraz Rabbani, my heart always yearned to meet him in person in order to benefit more from his ‘ilm and taqwa. Thus, when he informed me that he was coming to Canada I rushed to make arrangements to be in his noble presence.
I left from New York around 11 pm and I arrived in Hamilton early morning, after fajr. Accompanying me was my close friend Shuayb Qadri, a murid of Maulana ‘Abd Ar Rahim Motala – successor of Shaykh Zakariyya Khandihlawi and older brother of Maulana Yusuf Motala of Bury. The trip was a blessed one and we arrived, through the grace of Allah, safely and soundly. Our friend, Mudasser (www.molvi.wordpress.com), offered to house us throughout the duration of our stay and proved to be an exemplary host. May Allah reward him and us.
When we arrived at his home, the first thing I did was call Shaykh Faraz in order to arrange a meeting. He was well-spoken, clear, and to the point. One could sense gentleness and humility in his voice. He spoke with kindness and respect making the one being spoken to feel at ease and relaxed. As is the Shaykh’s habit, he would address people as sidi, although it remains true that he was and is our master and not vice versa.
After a brief nap we prepared ourselves to go meet Shaykh Faraz at his parents’ residence in Mississauga which was around forty minutes away from where we were staying. We arrived there an hour before maghrib, prayed ‘Asr, and then stood outside the entrance of the musalla which was located in the centre of the small housing community where the Shaykh lived. The community consisted of many Muslims and, while waiting for Shaykh Faraz, we watched the children engage in a cricket match. It reminded me very much of my own youth in a way.
After a brief wait, while we were speaking to the Imam of the musalla, I saw Shaykh Faraz approaching from a distance. He walked quickly with his head down embodying the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). He stood at the bottom of the staircase leading to entrance of the musalla with his hands in his pockets and after a while signaled to me to come down to the side of the musalla. There we exchanged greetings. He was a man of medium height, brownish complexion, dark hair, and a lengthy beard. He wore a white kurta-shirt that hung down to just above his knees, black pants that rose above the ankles, and a black jacket. He donned his white kufi (skull-cap) which we, his students, are accustomed to seeing in our classes with him. He wore black New Balance sneakers and smelt of musk.
All three of us went and sat down on a bench with me sitting right next to the Shaykh. We spoke about general matters such as our trip, how the Shaykh was finding Canada, Maulana ‘Abd Ar Rahim Motala, and so forth. Then came time for maghrib and we all headed towards the musalla. Shaykh Faraz signaled for us to walk in front of him, moving aside to allow us to go first, out of humbleness and respect. I, however, would intentionally slow down so as to let the Shaykh walk ahead of me. Who am I to be walking in front of the Shuyukh, my back towards them, especially those whom I consider my teachers and guides!
I sat down in the second row and Shaykh Faraz came and sat next to me. It was a great feeling and even though not a word was said I felt spiritual upliftment merely due to his presence. This is indeed the benefit and affect of companionship with the righteous and learned.
We prayed maghrib and stood outside the side entrance of the musalla waiting for Shuayb to come out. As people walked by they would greet the Shaykh, shaking his hand, and gaining the blessings of his companionship even if that companionship was merely for a moment. We then walked towards the car. There I showed the Shaykh a number of books I had purchased for him which he had requested, and I also presented the Shaykh with a copy of Maulana Salimullah Khan’s commentary on the Mishkat al Masabih as a gift. When he saw the work he exclaimed Allahu Akbar which brought joy to my heart. May Allah benefit him tremendously through this work and reward all of us.
Shaykh Faraz then proposed that we go out and grab some coffee and doughnuts. The Shaykh, on request, sat in the back of the car, on the left side, right behind the driver’s seat. We drove to the nearest Tim Horton’s which can be considered the Dunkin Donuts of Canada. I did not talk much during the duration of the drive, and it was mostly Shuayb and the Shaykh speaking about common people they knew, in particular Shuayb’s cousin who went to Qasid.
At Tim Horton’s we ordered some bagels, a muffin, some coffee and juice. I attempted to pay for the lite meal but failed when Shaykh Faraz replied “Don’t you dare”. We decided to eat the food in the car. While driving back Shaykh Faraz gave us some valuable lessons, among them:
 The principle that one should do unto others what one expects others to do unto himself. He brought this up while we were discussing Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani’s Takmila Fath al Mulhim a completion of Shaykh Shabbir ‘Uthmani’s commentary on Sahih Muslim. Shaykh Faraz actually had a signed copy of the Takmila given to him by Mufti Rafi’ ‘Uthmani, which he gave to a scholar believing that it would benefit him. The reasoning is essentially the same as it is for giving sadaqa. Wealth does not decrease when one gives it in charity, rather, it comes back to benefit one. The same is the case with books and other things of benefit.
Shaykh Faraz also told us what Shaykh Adib Kallas told him personally regarding spending money on books which was in essence the same as what was mentioned above.
 Shaykh Faraz explained that one should keep suhba with the scholars by sitting with them, and also suhba with them and the past scholars by reading their works. At the same time, we should be aware regarding what should be read and what should not. For example, reading the works of Ibn ‘Arabi is “destroying ones dunya and akhira” according to Shaykh Faraz, except by one who is qualified. Shaykh Faraz actually mumbled “like an ignoramus like me” when speaking of those who shouldn’t read Ibn ‘Arabi’s works or works that are confusing and high-leveled in general. Subhanllah, humbleness and humility the likes of which are seen rarely these days!
 Shaykh Faraz told us how it was a habit of the scholars to write small works, then medium-sized ones, then fairly larger ones. He gave examples of Imam Ghazali, Ibn Qudama, and Imam Shurunbulali and others.
Every time I would put the bagel to my mouth to eat it Shaykh Faraz would start advising and teaching us and I would place the bagel back down. This happened a number of times. Respect for the scholars is essential and paying heed to what they say falls within this category of respect.
We then carried the Shaykh’s books to his house, said our salams, and headed back home.
Part 2: To The Land Of Baraka Continued
We spent the night at Mudasser’s place and planned to have dinner with Shaykh Faraz the next day. Since we had the whole day to ourselves, Shuayb went to meet his murshid, Maulana ‘Abr Ar Rahim Motala at Masjid Taqwa in downtown Toronto. We drove up there before dhuhr, hoping to catch prayer in congregation. Masjid Taqwa is actually the mosque of Maulana Zakariyya, a young scholar of the Chishti path who has ijaza from Maulana Yusuf Motala of Bury. I met Maulana Zakariyya for the first time. Shuayb had known him for a while since he frequented his masjid whenever he visited his murshid. Maulana Zakariyya was a slender, average-height scholar. He had a large thick beard with a trimmed moustache. He wore a green thobe, a black turban over which he had wrapped a red and white ghutra. We were expecting Maulana ‘Abd Ar Rahim to be there as well, however, Shaykh Zakariyya informed us that he was at Masjid Medina which was only a block away.
We drove towards Masjid Medina and parked our car across the street from the masjid. the masjid was actually quite spacious and there were alot of people. Dhuhr prayer had just ended and me and Shuayb waited near the entrance to see if Maulana ‘Abd Ar Rahim would show up. We saw him from a distance and Shuayb went and sat behind him, waiting for him to complete his sunan prayers. After Maulana prayed, he rose up and greeted Shuayb with a hug and salams. Shuayb then introduced me to him, and he embraced me as well, Alhamdulilah.
Maulana ‘Abd Ar Rahim, was an old man. He was slender and not to tall. He had a long white beard mostly growing from the chin and lesser from the sides. He walked with a slight limp. Shuayb told me that Maulana was given the choice of having surgeory done on his leg. However, he refused to do so because the doctors had informed him that he would not be able to do sujud for some time, something Maulana was not willing to give up. This is the rank ofe the mashaikh and the love they have for that which is dear to Allah. The examples of such mujahada is well known amongst the Akabirin. وأين مثل هؤلاء السادة! (Where are the likes of such masters now!!)
Our meeting with Maulana was brief though as he had to go to the doctor for a check-up. Thus, he informed Shuayb to meet him again after ‘Asr, which was the time allocated for the daily dhikr of the murids.
Me and Shuayb thus headed out to eat since we had a few hours to burn. One good thing was that halal food was easily accessible. The road where Masjid Medina was located was filled with Indian-Pakistani restaurants. We chose one of our liking, grabbed some biryani, and munched down. We then decided to head down to Scarborough to the Al Nour bookstore. Books are my passion. If there are two things which I do not hesitate to spend money on, they are books and thobes. After Shaykh Faraz’s advice to us (see above) I was even more willing and less-hesitant to spend money on beneficial material.
The bookstore was small, yet it had a nice colelction of books. I bough a number of books including:
– Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi’s Imdad al Fatawa (5 vols) which is truyl a gem of legal verdicts covering various topics.
– Sharh Usul Al Shashi, a book on Hanafi methodology primarily taught in the Indian-subcontinent. I also bought the original matn in Arabic.
– Ashraf al Nuri ‘Ala Sharh al Quduri, an Urdu commentary on Imam Quduris Mukhtasar in one thick volume.
– A book on hadith methodology (Arabic) by Imam ‘Abd al Hayy Lakhnawi, edited by Shaykh ‘Abd Al Fattah Abu Ghudda, whose name I cannot remember right now!
They also had a number of other books such as Maulana Khalil Saharanfuri’s Sharh on the Sunan Abu Dawud in 10+ volumes entitled Badhl al Majhud, Ashraful Hidaya, Imam Kashmiri’s Faydh al Bari sharh Sahih Bukhari, Ibn ‘Abidin’s Rad al Muhtar in 16 volumes, and more.
After spending atleast an hour in the bookstore, we finally bought what we wanted and left. We went straight back to Masid Taqwa and waited there till ‘Asr time. Masjid Taqwa also had a number of books which I indulged myself in reading while Shuayb took a nap. In particular I read the introduction of Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani to ‘Ila al Sunan, a work which I am curently studying with Maulana Kashif. It contained a biography of Maulana Thanvi and the reason why he commissioned the writing of the ‘Ila. It was truly an inspiring read which I hope to share with others on this blog in the future.
Our original plan was to have dinner with Shaykh Faraz after maghrib. I received a call from Mudasser to meet him at the train station at Kipling from where he would pick me up and then head off to Shaykh Faraz’s place. Shuayb was unable to come due to the fact that he had a meeting with his Shaykh after ‘Asr. I prayed ‘Asr and headed to the train station from where I went to Kipling and waited for Mudasser to pick me up. While waiting i did my daily awrad and read Maulana Thanvi’s mawa’iz entitled Haqiqat al Ibadat. Mudasser was a little late and so I prayed maghrib at the station.
Mudasser finally arrived accompanied by his friend Munawwar who had brought his car. Munawwar was truly a gem of a brother. Very nice, kind, good to converse with, and had a good collection of nasheeds to play in his car as well! Our plan was delayed due to the fact that Shaykh Faraz hit heavy traffic while returning from the Niagra Falls. Me, Mudasser and Munawwar thus went to a nearby coffee shop and talked about general issues. It was interesting to find out that Munawwar had visited Syria a few years ago to study Arabic. He briefly mentioned some of his experiences including his first look at the hadra, and then me and Mudasser had a converstaion regarding Deobandi establishment, madaris, and possible changes for the better.
I called Shaykh Faraz to check up on his plans. He stated that it was too late for dinner and that, if possible, we should come over to his place. Two of our friends, Ahsan Irfan and Taha ‘Umar were already there (they were actually waiting to pick the Shaykh up and come to dinner with us). We drove over to the Shaykh’s place. It was around 11 pm when we arrived and the Shaykh graciously invited us into his home. There we sat in his living room and Shaykh Faraz ordered some tea for us. Shaykh Faraz seemed to be in a very jolly mood, as he always is. The one thing that I have noticed about the Shaykh is that he really does have a sense of humor. Not only that, but when infront of him he easily makes him self seem as “just one of the guys”. This should, however, not make us lose sight of the fact that he is one of the inheriors of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and thus deserves our utmost respect. Mudasser described it perfectly when he said:
Also, anyone who meets Shaykh Faraz will realize that he has an excellent (and I mean excellent) sense of humour. He had me laughing on plenty of occasions (Salman of course, being the obedient and respectful student controlled himself and limited himself to a smile everytime). The vibe that I got from him was that of happiness. To me, he was the perfect example of a man who chose to do with his life what his heart truly desired. I think that anyone present in his company would agree that we saw someone who enjoyed waking up in the morning because he chose to pursue his dreams. In him, we can find an example worthy of following. (www.molvi.wordpress.com)
Mudasser and Munawwar asked Shaykh Faraz a few questions, among them:
 The reason as to why earrings are forbidden for men although customary practice in western societies does not look upon it as something “exclusive” to women alone. Shaykh Faraz replied that the legal cause for its impermissibilty was the fact that the law had established all jewlerry as against the natural disposition of man, save the silver ring which was used by the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) as a seal. Although it is true that custom does play a role in determining specific rulings, the shari’a also takes into account “sound” versus “unsound” custom. Thus, not all custom is considered to be effective. Further, custo plays a role in rulings which are themselves based on custom, not rulings that are decisively proven through legal texts such as the Qur’an and sunna. The explanation was excellent, and my sumamrisation ofcourse does not do justice to the eloquence of the Shaykh’s reply.
 General guidance on interactions with the opposite sex, especially as it relates to our Msa’s and societal interaction in general. I believe this is one of the points where Shaykh Faraz is very solid in as he understands the framework of the west and our contextual state. Shaykh Faraz said that although one should take precaution with interactions, at the same time one should not go to such extremes wherein he makes other Muslim’s feel isolated and “turned-off” to the religion. He gave us a few examples of such extreme occurrences even during his college days. Shaykh Faraz made it a point to distinguish between interaction with complete strangers and interaction with people whom we see on a regular basis. The difference is important. There is a reason, he explained, why the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) stated that “The in-laws are death” because a large amount of married women and men commit adultery with those whom they are alreayd close to, such as cousins or close friends and so forth. However, in terms of total strangers, such a thing is not likely. Rather, Shaykh Faraz said that in our society there is no harm in smiling, saying thank you, being courteous to, lets say, a female cashier whom you know you will never or hardly ever see again. This is also a good da’wa tool as opposed to outright strictness which may reinforce all the negative perceptions she had of the Islamic religion to being with.
We talked about this for a while and then decided to step outside and continue our conversation so as not to disturb the people in the house. Shaykh Faraz further mentioned some very important lessons that we should all bear in mind. The main lessons were:
 Imams in western society and how we should be getting imams who are able to deal, understand, and communicate with members of our communities in an effective manner. It is becoming all to common that we “import” imams from abroad without paying heed to the fact that their are plenty of scholars born and bred in the west who could do a more efficient job in filling these vacancies.
 The fact that we should have respect for all the Ulema whether they agree with us on all points or not. Shaykh Faraz told us a story of Imam ‘Abd Al Hayy Lakhnawi and the leader of the Ahly Hadith at the time Siddiq Hasan Khan. Between them, he stated, they had six written refutations of each other back and forth. Siddiq Hasan was actually married to the Raja’s daughter and thus commanded immense rank and position. Yet, when Imam ‘Abd Al Hayy passed away at the young age of 39, after authoring dozens of works, Siddiq Hasan Khan actually ordered all markets closed out of mourning.
Once, Shaykh Faraz said, a big Naqshbandi Shaykh was passing through Siddiq Hasan’s town. Siddiq Hasan invited him to his house but he refused to come. After a few tries and more refusal’s Siddiq Hasan asked him for anything from him that would benefit him on which the Naqshbandi shaykh stated “Do plenty of Istighfar“. It is related by those close to Siddiq Hasan that after that and at the end of his life he had increased his istighfar immensel. This is the respect the scholars have for each other.
Similarly, Shayh Faraz also brought up Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the respect the scholars had for him across the globe. He made mention of how Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani, whom he stated was possibly the greatest Hanafi faqih present today, on occassion went against ths Hanafi position due to the fact that he found the position of other schools stronger. However, this does not take away from his rank, and nor does it take away how we view his ‘ilm and position.
We decided to let the Shaykh go as it was 1 am. Shaykh Faraz led me and Mudasser outside (Ahsan and Taha’s car was parked on the other side). While we were walking Shaykh Faraz spoke to me about my visit to the bookstore and advised me on what books I should get. It is truly a blessing to have someone at your side to advise and guide you every step of the way.
Shaykh Faraz invited us for breakfast and a “chill out session” next morning after fajr. We told him that we would try our best to come. With that we said our salams and parted.
(Next: Lunch with Shaykh faraz, shopping for books with him, and a special gathering!)