Alhamdulilah, I just came back from an exclusive dinner with Mufti `Abdur Rahman and a few other brothers, which included two of my close friends Br. Shu`ayb and Br. Yaser. We were also joined by Br. Sulayman of NYU. It was a very enjoyable time, although it would have been better if I had spoken more and asked more questions. I had a few issues on my mind that I wanted to run across the Shaykh so as to seek his most noble opinion. Yet, Alas, I did not make enough of an effort and thus lost out on the opportunity. However, I thank Allah for allowing me to benefit from the Shaykh’s suhba.
As many may or may not know, this past Saturday was the UANA Introductory Conference held at MCMC in New Jersey. There were a number of scholars that attended including Mufti `Abdur Rahman, Maulana Ibrahim Memon, Maulana Ahmad Patel, Shaykh Nadim Qurayshi, and atleast half a dozen others. We arrived a bit late due to heavy traffic at the Holland Tunnel. Yet, we managed to catch a part of Mufti `Abdur Rahman’s lecture that dealt with traditional Sunni scholarship throughout history, in specific how Sunni scholars stood up and proclaimed the truth even in the presence of corrupt government’s around them. Examples included Imam Hasan al Basri, Imam Ahmad, Shaykh `Izz ibn `Abd al Salam, Imam Zaynul `Abidin, and others (May Allah be well-pleased with them all). I will detail this issue in another post, if Allah wills.
Mufti `Abdur Rahman, through his talk, aimed to embed respect for the `ulema in the minds and hearts of the people. In a society where many cast doubts on them, take the religion from other than them – notably their own opinions -, and see them as backwards and unaware, it is essential to show not only the sacrifices the `ulema made but also their intellectual brilliance, discourses, foresight, knowledge, understanding, tact and wisdom. There is a reason why the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The scholars are the heirs of the prophets”. Here, it is important to note that this inheritance is not merely that of outward knowledge relating to fiqh or principles of hadith and so forth, but also of the prophetic states and their knowledge of Allah so much so that they became the door through which one must walk to reach Him, and now the `ulema have become the door through which one must walk to reach them (i.e. the Prophet’s).
After the talk was over Yaser, Shu`ayb, Husayn, and I went up to meet Mufti `Abdur Rahman to give our greetings. Alhamdulilah, Mufti `Abdur Rahman recognized me and said “Salman! Salamu `Alaykum” adding a firm handshake and a hug. I dont intend to brag but it was definitely a good feeling! Mufti `Abdur Rahman actually had a chance to speak to my murshid over the phone a while ago. They were scheduled to meet during the first half of 2004 during an event at my university. My murshid was, unfortunately, unable to make it. That was the first time I met Mufti `Abdur Rahman. I managed to spend the night with him at the local mosque along with Husayn during that visit. It was just us three and a truly remarkable experience.
Anyways, leaving aside the details of the UANA (which I will detail in a seperate post), Sunday was the day we were scheduled to have dinner with Mufti `Abdur Rahman. We were told to meet him in the city at a Turkish restaurant named Al Barakah which was situated right next to the `Uthman ibn `Affan mosque. When we arrived, Mufti `Abdur Rahman was already there with 3 other brothers. We gave our salam’s, sat down, and after waiting a while decided to order some food. Humus, lamb, chicken, rice, salad, and baklava, with tea to top it off, made an exceptional meal. During the festivites Mufti `Abdur Rahman discussed a few things which i feel is important to share here:
 Firstly, the thing which I believe benefited me the most was when he discussed his days of talab al `ilm. He mentioned how sometimes it is better and more beneficial for a student to travel long distances in order to seek knowledge not only because certain places are in themselves full of blessings but also because it allows one to leave behind all these worldly distractions and firmly concentrate on the goals one is seeking to attain. Mufti `Abdur Rahman mentioned how he got so much done in India, covering the al Lubab fi Sharh al Kitab (a commentary on the Quduri) privately, the Raf` wal Takmila (hadith), and his Ifta’ courses wherein he had to answer 4-5 properly referenced and researched fatwa questions a day! This was all done with a wife and a child to take care of.
 He spoke about studying in Syria and how many students go there and come back without properly completing their studies. This is not because the `ulema there are not solid, definitely not, but mainly because many people go there and jump around from scholar to scholar, searching, looking, and end up wasting alot of time without finding anyone. I have personally seen this happening with friends of mine as well. Unless one gets into a recognised institution such as Mahad al fath it is very difficult to find major `ulema willing to teach privately on a regular and consistent basis. Mufti `Abdur Rahman mentioned how he was blessed to have had the opportunity to study qira’at with Shaykh `Abdul Razaq Halabi (the Shaykh allowed him to read half a juz a day as compared to others who studied only a page or so with him) six days a week, and also specific works (such as the fiqh al akbar) with Shaykh Adib Kallas three to four times a week. Shaykh Adib was also one of the teachers of Shaykh Faraz. I asked Shaykh Faraz, “Is it impossible to study with these two shuyukh now?” to which he replied, “Basically…”.
 One of the crucial points Mufti `Abdur Rahman brought up, which i have discussed on my blog as well under the post formally entitled as “The Guiding Force of the Future: The Deobandis” (now deleted due to fear of fitna), was the unrigorous nature of some of the so-called “`alim programs” currently in existence. In specific, the three or four year intensives that are in place after which one comes out as a “Maulana”. It is really a sad state of affairs. Our Akabir studed eight, ten, twelve years just to complete there `alimiyyah and now we have students doing the same thing in three years? Do we expect a level of mastery being attained in such a short duration? Mufti `Abdur Rahman actually stated that this was an insult to the scholars of the religion and how such students should not be given full blown ijaza’s. Rather, he mentioned how in a minimal of six years a person can have the basics down in a solid manner if he studies hard enough after which specialization comes. I think this is a crucial issue… I mentioned to Mufti `Abdur Rahman students i knew who studied for years yet they could not translate a sentence of Arabic. He simply shook his head… May Allah grant us all knowledge and allow us to fully maximize our learning and understanding of this knowledge. Amin.
 Mufti `Abdur Rahman mentioned the background behind the publishing of the work “Path to Perfection”, which is available for purchase at White Thread Press. As the description states, the work is an anthology of the spiritual teachings of Hakim al Ummah Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (May Allah be well-pleased with him). It was a surprise to discover that one of my close friends and fellow murids Sidi Rashid had an important role to play in the unveiling of this work. Sidi Rashid is actually one of the closest murids of my murshid, probably the closest to him from all of us here in the United States. Sidi Rashid sent Mufti `Abdur Rahman a webserver link which contained this book telling Mufti `Abdur Rahman that it was an excellent manual on tasawwuf that should be published. Mufti `Abdur Rahman, after reading some of it, agreed. At that time both were unaware that the work was by Maulana Maseehullah (May Allah be well-pleased with him) rather assuming it was the work of the scholar whose webserver it was hosted on. They tried to contact him to gain publishing rights and permission. One day though Mufti `Abdur Rahman was going through his library and he saw the work “Shari`at aur Tasawwuf” of Maulana Maseehullah and opened it only to realize it was the same book! He immediately started working on publishing it and, alhamdulilah, now we have this work with us. It is a must read for everyone, especially those affiliiated with the ashrafiyya tariq.
 A funny incident: Mufti `Abdur Rahman told us a story relating to his time in Syria. As it occurs Syria has some excellent tea shops, or so they say. Mufti `Abdur Rahman would visit them and he realized something. Whenever the shop person gave him tea they would also give him a glass of water along with it. Naturally, Mufti `Abdur Rahman would drink the tea and then the water. He assumed it was there as a “cooling” effect. There is a twist though… someone finally told him that the water is there for the shopkeeper to see whether the customer liked the tea or not. If he did not he would drink the water otherwise he would leave the water as it was. We all laughed when we heard this because Mufti Sahib *always* drank the water… for cooling purposes ofcourse!
Anyway, we discussed a few other things including Egypt, publishing houses, Muslims in England, some Deobandi-Barelwi stuff (dont ask, I wont tell, but Mufti Sahib was very balanced), Al Maghrib (we actually discussed this on Saturday at the conference), his law school aspirations, the UANA and just general chit chat.
We then preceded to pray. Maghrib came in and Mufti `Abdur Rahman led the prayers after which we stepped outside. We arranged a date for him to return to New York, after Ramadhan, to visit our university and give some durus. He agreed, Alhamdulilah. We then said our salam‘s and headed in our respective directions. We actually were not pleased to be seperated, even calling up Husayn askign him where Mufti sahib was headed to see whether we could spend more time with him. It was not to be though…
Mufti `Abdur Rahman is really one of the more learned people in North America. With a very strong footing in all the Islamic sciences, he makes an ideal teacher and guide for all of us. His disposition is also very friendly, very jamali. Although a tall and big person, which may intimidate many, he is always smiling and makes everyone feel comfortable. His publishing house, White Thread Press, is by far one of the best out there something which even Shaykh Faraz attested to. I remember speaking to Shaykh Faraz yesterday and he praised Mufti `Abdur Rahman highly as a person commited to learning, serious in his talab and scholarship, and a man of righteousness and piety who I should try my utmost best to seek `ilm from. Here is a bio of the Mufti:
Shaykh Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera has been studying the traditional Islamic sciences and writing scholarly works for most of his life. He completed the bulk of his studies at Darul Uloom Bury, North England, where he memorized the Qur’an by the age of fifteen and thereafter went on to complete a rigorous, six-year Shari‘a program. He graduated from this program with authentic certifications (ijaza) in numerous Islamic disciplines, including Arabic, Islamic jurisprudence, and hadith (with particular emphasis on the six canonical collections of hadith (Sihah Sitta) and the Muwattas of Imam Malik and Imam Muhammad. His teachers at Darul Uloom Bury included Shaykh Yusuf Motala and other students of Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi.
Upon graduation, he traveled to South Africa, where he attended Madrasah Zakariyyah part-time to gain specialized training in answering legal questions (ifta’) under Mufti Rada al-Haq. While in South Africa, he also completed a Bachelor or Arts (with honors) in Islamic Studies at Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg, under the supervision of Professor Abdul Rahman I. Doi.
He then traveled to Syria, where he received a second certification in Qur’anic recitation and memorization, this time from Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Halabi, who possessed a short, unbroken chain of transmission (sanad) to the Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace). Additionally, he received a certification from Shaykh Adib Kallas after reading Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar and attending lectures on other classical texts of Islamic creed (‘aqida).
After his trip to Syria, he traveled to Saharanpur, India, where he received a formal authorization to issue legal rulings (fatawa), which required a close study of part or all of a number of classical jurisprudential texts, including, among others, Ibn Nujaym’s Al-Ashbah wa ’l-naza’ir and ‘Allama Haskafi’s Al-Durr al-mukhtar (along with its gloss, Radd al-muhtar, by ‘Allama Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami). During this time, Shaykh Abdur-Rahman also attended classes on the principles of hadith (usul al-hadith), studying ‘Allama Lakhnawi’s Al-Raf ‘ wa ’l-takmil fi ’l-jarh wa ’l-ta’dil and parts of Imam Suyuti’s Tadrib al-rawi.
Shaykh Abdur-Rahman attained additional certifications in hadith from such great scholars as Shaykh Muhaddith Habib al-Rahman al-A‘zami (through his student Shaykh Mufti Zayn al-‘Abidin), Shaykh Abu ’l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi, and Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Awwama. May Allah continue to bless those of his teachers who are still alive and have mercy on those who have passed on to the next.
To date, Shaykh Abdur-Rahman has authored the highly popular Fiqh al-Imam: Key Proofs in Hanafi Fiqh (1996) and co-authored Reflections of Pearls (1995). He also published Provisions for the Seekers (1996), a translation and commentary of the Arabic work Zad al-Talibin, a collection of short hadiths compiled by Mawlana ‘Ashiq Ilahi from ‘Allama Tibrizi’s Mishkat al-Masabih. This work has recently been revised and republished in an extended edition. His latest published work is Prayers for Forgiveness: Seeking Spiritual Enlightenment through Sincere Supplication (2004), a translation of Al-Istighfarat al-Munqidha min al-Nar, a collection of seventy prayers for forgiveness of Imam Hasan al-Basri. Additionally, Shaykh Abdur-Rahman has completed an unpublished translation of Imam Abu Hanifa’s Al-Fiqh al-Akbar, along with its commentary, written by ‘Allama Maghnisawi, with notes from Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s larger commentary (to be published soon).
He presently serves as Imam of a southern California masjid and continues to work on scholarly publications through White Thread Press. Some of his fatawa can be found at www.sunnipath.com and some of his lectures at www.zamzamacademy.com and www.al-rashad.com.
Blessings on the Prophet, his family, and his companions.