Monday, July 20, 2009

In loving memory of Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad al-Battawi


Inna lillahi wa inna ilai hi raji'un.
Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad al-Battawi 'Abu Dhikri (1924 - 2009) had on 14 Rajab 1430 Hijri/8 July 2009 passed on to the realm of barzakh. May Allah honor his holy soul as He would a muqarabbin.

O son, I have not met Allahyarham Shaykh Ibrahim before. I have neither heard his lectures nor read his writings. I have only discovered him when I learned about his death. Our great elders have taught us to love the aleem ulamas especially sufi ulamas so we love them the moment we know them regardless of they being near or far, regardless of circumstances, regardless of they being dead or alive. They are in fact, living in our hearts.

Following are excepts from eulogies given by a select few who knew Shaykh Ibrahim well; taken from the website of The Shadhdhuli School - Green Mountain Branch - belonging to his tariqa khalifa in North America, Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee.

"Shaykh Ibrahim al-Battawi was a Shaykh of Shadhdhuli Battawi tariqa in Egypt. Upon the advice of his Shaykh, he started teaching Islam to foreigners. He fulfilled this duty in the course of his twenty five year tenure at Al-Azhar University, where his main focus was on teaching Islamic philosophy, specifically the Ihya 'Ulumu-d-Din of Imam al-Ghazali. His students came from all over the world. After attending Azhar classes they would go to the nearby zawiyah of the Shaykh, where he instructed them in the shari'ah-based tasawwuf, the Qur'an, sunnah and all other Islamic sciences. Shaykh Ibrahim was in his eighties, retired but continued teaching from the zawiyah on Azhar Street as well as from a new masjid and zawiyah he had constructed in the Heliopolis area of Misr Gadeed, on the desert outskirts of Cairo."

Ibrahim Hakim Al Shaghouri:
"Indeed - the Friends (awliya) of Allah, no fear is upon them, nor do they grieve" (Quran 10:62). It is with great heaviness that I am sharing this recent news that a few hours ago, this 14th day of the holy month of Rajab, our grand shaykh passed away into the Mercy and Pleasure of Allah Most High and His Loving Care, due to liver complications in the hospital...Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un! If a number of you have not heard of him, it is because he chose to live a life based on the principle of hiding and erasing himself to instead show a reflection of Allah's Attributes, and indeed anyone who came into contact with the gentle tranquility and effacing humility of his being knew that he was one of those that Allah chose to guard under His veils of jealousy. His entire life - from when he was conscious of his surroundings until his passing away at an age exceeding 80 years - was truly spent entirely for Allah. He was a man of gentle compassion, of piercing knowledge, of impeccable character, of deep contemplation, of generous hands to the point of being brave with his generosity, of genuine care and concern for those under his training and for the Muslims in general, fierce against falsehood and unbridled lust for the dunya, preferring the simple and elegant over the extravagant and vulgar, and one who was fully pleased and content with being with Allah.

His last words of teaching and advice to me was, "Realize that there is NO distance when it comes to the ruh (soul)"; when I told him I felt I had to physically be next to the graves of the righteous to feel their presence. He was a hafiz of the Qur'an, as well as numerous ahadith; he was a master in the fiqh of the Maliki and Shafi'i madhhabs; he was a master in the Arabic language, and admired universally for his unique ability to always choose the right exact word, and for his subtle supplications (du'a) to his Lord; as well as being a gifted trainer and uplifter of souls, shortening the way for them to be with Allah in a pure state. He loved orphans and said many times that no one can build a sound connection with Allah while ignoring the orphans; like the Prophet alayhi salat wa salam, he was always looking out for new opportunities to make du'a for someone; he preferred that people know Allah more than knowing him, because "Allah is greater and more everlasting" as the Qur'an says, and because of this, his whole being and demeanor was subtle and limpid. When he one time saw my large Moroccan style tasbih, he showed me his tiny unnoticeable tasbih. He never extended his feet, even when he sat alone, because he never felt himself absent from Allah's vision. He slept very little during the night, and regularly spent his nights reciting Qur'an and having intimate conversation with Allah, even into his old age. He will be missed for all of the above, as well as for many other deeper spiritual aspects of his being, spiritual aspects which even many Muslims would find confusing and distant, being unfortunately so tied up with the material world while being unfamiliar with the matters of the soul. I ask Allah to rest his graceful soul firmly on the carpet of His Presence and Nearness, and I also ask each of you to recite a Fatiha on his behalf, and feed an orphan in his name. Al-Fatiha!

Al-faqir as-Shadhuli:We are taught that no one truly knew the Prophet (‘alayhi salat wa salam) as he could be known, because they had not reached his rank - and that only one of his rank could truly know him. Yet, we are taught that those who knew him best were the Companions, Allah be well pleased with them. We are likewise reminded that no one knew the Companions as they truly were, for the same reason, but that the next generation knew them best.

How incredible it is, therefore, to speak of the teacher, the shaykh, the 'alim, the lover of Allah and His Prophet - for truly, we were not of his rank, in order to really know him. He was Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad al-Battawi Abu-Dhikri. His ancestors, from the sadah of the Prophet Muhammad, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, came to Egypt from the Maghreb in the time of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi. The intention behind their hijrah to Egypt was restore ‘ilm according to Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamma' in that land which had lost much of it, due to the rule of the Fatimids. He was a contemporary of Shaykh Abdal-Halim Mahmud, the great mujaddid of the 20th century in Egypt, and Shaykh al-Azhar. Shaykh Ibrahim was himself an Azhari, in a time when Azhar was not being assaulted by so many quarters. Like his Moroccan ancestors, he was a Maliki ‘alim, but he taught the works of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali for some 25 years in the Azhar, as Professor in the Department of Speculative Theology and Philosophy in the Azhar, and became fully acquainted with the madhhab of Imam al-Shafi'i. Like any scholar of worth in the Azhar, he also had familiarity with other madhhabs, particularly the Hanafi school. As an Azhari of the time, he was, of course, an adherent to the Ash'ari approach in speculative theology. These markers set him apart as a true adherent to the turath of Sunni Islam - and he never failed to be an example of that tradition.

But the way in which we knew him was not in this academic of fashions - but in his role as a shaykh in the tariqah of Imam Abu-l-Hasan al-Shadhuli. Verily, he may have taught the works of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, the Imam of the Sufis on the path of muraqabah, or ‘those who worship Allah even if they did not see Him, for they know He Sees them'. But that was for the external practice of Islam - for Shaykh Ibrahim al-Battawi, Allah be well pleased with him, was a man of jadhb, of ‘attraction', and followed inwardly the way of the Imam of the Sufis on the path of jadhb, of those who ‘worshipped Allah as though they saw Him'.

It was to this path Shaykh Ibrahim dedicated himself for most of his long life, in the service of his Lord. Shaykh Ibrahim was first a disciple of the great mujaddid of the Sufi ways in Egypt, Sidi Salama al-Radi - the shaykh of the Hamdiyyah-Shadhuliyyah tariqah. That noble shaykh was an inheritor of Imam Abu-l-Hasan al-Shadhuli. Most recognise the line as going through Sidi Abu-l-Abbas al-Mursi, who was Imam al-Shadhuli's sole successor, and then through Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari, the author of the famous ‘Hikam'.

Sidi Salama, may Allah be well pleased with him, named Shaykh Ibrahim as ‘Shaykh al-Effendi' and instructed him to take care of the non-Egyptian Muslims who came through Egypt. Shaykh Ibrahim was in his 20s at the time. So it came to pass that Shaykh Ibrahim became the shaykh of many Muslims from all corners of the earth, who had come to Egypt to study at the Azhar. He inherited the tariqah not only through Sidi Salama, but also from the noble Darqawi master, Shaykh Ahmad al-‘Alawi, who in some way or another is the shaykh of so many Sufi masters of the 20th century; the great inheritor of the Badawi way, Sidi Muhammad ibn al-Habib; and the great Sidi Ali Nur al-Din al-Yashruti, may Allah be well pleased with them all.

One should also keep in mind - Shaykh Ibrahim was a professor in what is well known to be the most difficult department at the Azhar. Shaykh Abdal Halim Mahmud, the great Shaykh al-Azhar and a contemporary of Shaykh Ibrahim, had graduated himself from that department. Every year, he would identify a few students who appeared to be attracted to certain principles, and would teach them privately at the small zawiyah that was housed a few minutes down from the Azhar mosque in Old Cairo. Here, he would focus on transmitting the knowledge of classical books of the Islamic canon in the traditional manner, where the student would recite, and he would clarify the meanings of the words as time went on. In that zawiyah, the hadrah might be held - although in recent years, that zawiyah became less common as a meeting place, as he focused on the second zawiyah in Heliopolis, which was also a mosque in one of the new suburbs of Cairo. There, he had also built a hostel for students, as well as a clinic for taking care of the sick; such was the model he followed when building mosques all around Cairo and further. His students were literally from all around the world. They did not come to him out of a note of his fame, for he stuck very strictly to the doctrine of transparency of the Shadhuliyyah - what a great Shaykh of that way described as ‘More glow... and less show.' And certainly, Shaykh Ibrahim was glowing. It was out of respect for this teaching in particular, that I shy away from personally identifying myself when speaking of this way - for truly the way is far more important than this incredibly imperfect example of an aspirant.

When one drank tea after attending his hadrah, which was always sublime, peaceful and somber, yet powerful and elegant, one could chat to Indonesians, Turks, Russians, Britons, Pakistanis, Americans, and those of other nations. It was in this way that his teachings reached Korea and Singapore, England and America. Not all of those who attended the hadrah would be his murids - they could be from other tariqahs, and his murids were also able to attend other tariqah's gatherings. Not that he had that many all at once - in fact, he usually had only a small number at any one time, whom he would focus upon. Once he was satisfied they had the tools to live as true conscious Muslims inwardly and outwardly in this world of temptation, he would permit himself to take on more students to focus upon, leaving the rest to work on their nafs with the tools he had provided them with.

He lived incredibly simply, but he was wealthy inside - and indeed, much of his external lack of wealth was due to the amount of money he constantly gave to his poorer students and others. He often gave the khutbah in the mosque of Sidi Ibn Ata'illah, his ancestral teacher in one of the lines that he inherited the Shadhuli tariqah from. He often visited the cities of Makkah and Madinah, for a long time doing it on a yearly basis.

He was always easy to access. I myself took many people to see him - men and women, young and old, and he was always generous with his time to meet people. He was stern when it came to infringements against the religion, but he was sweet with any person who came to see him. It was my pleasure and my honour to be able to hold his tea, or to help him in any way - for one could not help but see him as someone latif and sweet.

His way was simple. He called for attachment to the shari'ah, and abhorred any suggestion that success in tasawuf could be reached outside the realm of the shari'ah and the tradition of this religion of Islam. He reminded his students to pay attention to their dreams, which the Prophet himself, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, described as a part of prophecy. He turned their attention to the orisons of Imam Abu-l-Hasan al-Shadhuli, certain in the value of these collections of du'as and ayat from the Qur'an. He insisted they spend a portion of their day studying the disciplines of the shari'ah, and reading from the book of Allah.

And finally, clearly and without any doubt, he said that one of the conditions of his way was to guide people to the truth of Islam through love, and he emphasised ‘love' very strongly. He specifically warned against taking any price or profit in dunya for this work; this work is for Allah, and for Allah alone, with absolute sincerity.

Shaykh Ibrahim al-Battawi was taken from us in this world on the 14th of Rajab, 1430 Hijri, surrounded by his family in Cairo. We may never see the likes of him again, but as he reminded one of his students: ‘in the realm of the spirit (ruh), distance means nothing.'

Sidi Zayn al-Abdin:The Muslim ummah has lost an ocean of knowledge and spirituality. In him the streams of shar'iah, tariqa, ma' arifah and haqiqah had merged together to form an ocean of immense vastness. He was a great proponent of tasawwuf based on Sunni Islam which he believed was the heritage of the Prophet for the ummah. He was the embodiment of the Prophetic sunnah and akhlaq (comportment). He was a great scholar and teacher specializing in the teaching of Imam Ghazali's Ihya Uloom Id - Deen. He was a prolific author of many books and articles and an inspiring speaker.

For the scholars he was the ocean of knowledge for the people of ihsaan he was the pole of our time and for the ummah he was the replica of the Prophetic Seerah, full of love and mercy. On a personal level he was a fatherly figure who gave his love and blessings to me and my family and inspired me to work relentlessly for the promotion of a refreshing vision of Islam based on Islam, Iman and Ihsan. Today our hearts and souls are praying for him asking Allah (swt) to grant him the closest place to Himself in His abode of mercy and compassion and heal the hearts and souls of loved ones he left behind. Aameen! Allahumma Salli 'Ala Sayyidina Muhammadin Wa 'Ala Aali Sayyidina Muhammadin Wa Barik wa Sallim.

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