We had the opportunity of catching up with Shaykh Razak Al-Masri when he was in Penang for Mawlid Akbar organized by the Kapitan Keling Mosque Committee and Majlis Ta'alim Ahbabbunnabi in January 2015.
It was a pleasant meeting but unfortunately the audio recording of the interview didn't turn out good because we were not well prepared for the ad-hoc appointment. Still, I encourage you to take a listen to what Shaykh Razak has to say. I am not sure if we'll ever get to prepare the English subtitles, therefore, for the benefit of our English speaking viewers, below is a summary of the interview.
Shaykh Razak began with making a remark in Arabic, before speaking in the Malay language. He said his command of the Malay language was not very good but he would try anyway. He introduced himself as a person who hails from a country which is loved by Allah. Allah mentions Mesir/Egypt five times in the Quran. It's a place well known for the prophets and awliya. It is a place where great personalities such as Shaykh Abul Hassan as-Shadhili, Saidatina Zainab and Nafisah are associated with. The Nile river is in Egypt and so is the famed Al-Azhar University. The shaykh loves his country, certainly. So we asked him, what made him decide to migrate to Malaysia then.
Shaykh Razak said, everyone must make a hijrah. We would all eventually hijrah (migrate) to the barzakh. People move from one place to another. Our migration to the abode of barzakh is mandatory. His hijrah to Malaysia 19 years ago was due to several reasons. His guru encouraged him to do so. Malaysia was chosen because it's a country that seemed to be "close" to the sahabah. He arrived in Malaysia in 1996 and had the impression that Muslims here were emulating the companions of the Prophet salallah alaihi wasalam. He first went to Kelantan [a state in northeast Peninsular Malaysia] and then Negeri Sembilan [closer to KL] where he worked as teacher under the state's religious authority.
Shaykh Razak prayed so that Malaysia will remain peaceful and prosperous. Not just blessed with food and having a good place to live in but also prosperous from the spiritual aspects, and that people would continue to love one another.
There are many countries/nations who are rich but their people are deprived of peace because mahabbah (affection) is absent from their hearts. They have lost the sunnah of the Prophet which requires us to keep good relations among ourselves and tolerate with each other. Mahabbah is like a mirror, he said. If we smile at the mirror, it will smile back at us. If we love Malaysians or any Muslims anywhere else, we would not be having negative thoughts, thinking that [as an immigrant] we are hated. Mahabbah will eliminate all hatreds. His guru in Egypt says, if a person has a speck of mahhabah in the heart, for Allah, the Prophet and the Muslims, that mahabbah could raise him up from the lowest rung to the highest position. We must love our fellow brothers and sisters in faith, and love the non-Muslims too so that one day they might be granted hidayah. He said, he loved Muslims in Malaysia because we have a culture and lifestyle that mirrors the sahabah and he was referring to the majority of the people he met. This is our homeland which we must protect and preserve.
When asked about his school Maahad Tahfiz Darul Masri, he said he felt it's timely that he put aside some time from his profession and do something for akhirah. He could have waited for people to offer a land or a building but that might not happen so he would have wasted plenty of time waiting. He therefore decided to buy a small house as waqaf for a tahfiz school. The students are mostly from Malaysia and a handful are from Cambodia and Pattani/Thailand. The teachers are from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The focus is to produce hafizul Quran who are not mere memorizers but one who understands the tafsir and the secrets of Quran, for that reason, Asrari Quran is one of the subjects which the students must master. Quoting a hadith of the Prophet salallah alaihi wasalam, Shaykh Razak said the Quran may be interpreted 700,000 times and yet there will still be secrets to discover. Chemistry, numbers are all from the Quran. People think that iron is a metal buried in the earth but the Quran in Surah Al-Hadid revealed a long time ago that it falls from the sky - "And we sent down iron which is Mighty War" - "Wa anzalna al hadida...." It would have been easier if we had studied the Quran.
There is a large number of hafiz in Malaysia. In Egypt, majority of the people especially Al-Azhar graduates have memorized the Quran but they are not called Al Hafiz. A hafiz in Egypt is one who not only memorizes the Quran but also hadith, at least 100,000 hadith. They are passionate about memorizing hadith. Let's ask ourselves how many hadith have we memorized? How many hadith do we know? The more hadith we know, the more information we will have about the Prophet salallah alaihi wasalam. That is the thermometer [or yardstick] with which we could gauge our relationship with the Prophet and that reflects our maqam in the eyes of Allah and Rasul.
Maahaf Tahfiz Darul Masri now have three branches, two near KL, in Gombak and Ulu Langat and one in Sabah (East Malaysia). Shaykh Usamah Al-Azhari is one of the Egyptian ulama who encourages Shaykh Razak in his maahad activities. Shaykh Usamah visited the school before and gave ijazah for the maahad tahfiz, ijazah on imamah (turban) and hadith. The Mufti of Egypt had also visited Maahad Tahfiz Darul Masri and everyone praised Shaykh Razak's initiatives as it could serve as a bridge between ajam (non Arabs) and Arabs. Shaykh Razak hopes Maahad Tahfiz Darul Masri will produce professionals who would use the Quran as their main source of reference.
Shaykh Razak who has learned the Malay language from Malay version of the Quran tafsir and translation, found that some of the words used in the Malay translation were not accurate. As his mastery of the Malay language improves, he realizes this is so. It's not entirely wrong he said, but it could be better. If better words have been chosen in the Malay translation of the Quran, it would reveal the sweetness or zauk of the sacred texts. That is why, he thinks it's important to have an Arab who understands the Malay language. One example is the word nasr in Surah An-Nasr - "Izaja anasrullah hi wal fath...." Nasr in the ayat has been translated as pertolongan or help. Even the English translation by Yusuf Ali translates it as help. But nasr according to Shaykh Razak actually means victory.
Shakyh Razak had been granted permission from the late Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi Al Maliki and his son Sayyid Ahmad Al Maliki to translate several Arabic books including Kitab At Targhib Wal Tarhib into Malay, which is now 90% complete. The kitab contains a summary of ahadith which enjoins us to do good and forbid the wrongs.
We then asked Shayk Razak to tell us about Majlis Taalim Darul Masri which is held on Thursday evenings. He said the objective of the majlis taalim is to instill love of Prophet salallah alaihi wasalam and the awliya. As narrated in the hadith, Allah would return the ruh of Prophet to reply to those who send him salutations. When the ruh of Prophet and the awliya is present at a place where their names are mentioned, the place would be blessed and filled with light. There will be peace and tranquility. Even if we can't see it with the physical eyes, due to hijab on account of our sins, we can at least see/feel it in the heart. But if a person cannot even feel it in the heart, then he/she should make more istighfar.
Shaykh Razak advised us to understand sunnah from a bigger perspective. It is good to have a cat as a pet but as its owner, we must be careful not to violate the rights of our neighbors. We cannot be keeping cats in a room if there are people who might be affected by it. We cannot be following just one sunnah and forget the other sunnah which are equally important. If we truly love Rasulallah and wish to follow his sunnah, we must be forgiving, we should not reveal people's faults. The Prophet says: "If you love me, be good to your relatives." In order to be close to the Prophet in akhirah all we have to do is make salawat to him and keep a good relationship with people. Shaykh Razak quoted two hadith on this matter.
Sunnah of the Prophet is not limited to following his dressing, eating or drinking habits and his outward lifestyle, sunnah also encompasses emulating his heart. We should also get up in the middle of the night and pray for our neighbors, for example. If we do this then we have a better chance of reliving the times of sahabah.
Shaykh Razak said we should be happy if people mention our father's name. And as a Muslim we should be happy if people mention the Prophet's name because we all share the same kalimah tawhid - la ilaha illallah Muhammad Rasulallah. We should rejoice at seeing people organize so many mawlid events. As a person who has love and connection with Allah and the Prophet, we must be happy as if they are mentioning our father's name and glorifying him. Even if the way the majlis is organized has some small flaws and faults, we should still be happy because we should be glorifying the Prophet who is the one and only person who would help us in akhirah. Husbands and wives are not going to bother about each other, mothers will not care about their children because each and everyone would be in trouble, sweating, hungry and naked. And there we will have Rasulallah as our one and only savior. Therefore, if we have but a small atom of love for the Prophet, we should not be upset about people organizing mawlid to honor the Prophet. We should not harbour hatred towards them and label them as kufur, syirik or bidaah. Instead, we should be proud that people remember and mention the Prophet because he is like our father.
Shaykh Razak Al-Masri has been guest speakers at Mawlid events in Penang for many years now, so we asked him what he thinks of the Muslims of Penang.
He regards Penangites as people who are close with the sunnah of the Prophet. He has visited many places in Penang e.g. Ayer Hitam, Batu Uban, Masjid Shaykh Yusof, Kapitan Keling, among others. Penang was among the earliest state to embrace Islam. Some of the mosques are more than 200 years old. Islam came to Penang a long time ago. Penang is home to many ulama and mashaikh.
Shaykh Razak then related a story of Sayyid Muhammad Al-Habshi who was well liked by Penang Governor in the old days because he would feed and look after the criminals. He would pray for their well being. So Penang Governor gave Sayyid Muhammad Al-Habshi a piece of land and insisted that he remains in the island to help reduce crime rate and preserve peace among the community. On the contrary, said Shaykh Razak, there are some Muslims nowadays who make a bad du'a for other Muslims.
If we have mahabbah (love) for Rasulallah, our home will be prosperous. The Shaykh commended the Penangites for having a liking for mawlid. He applauds the state's Mufti, Sahhibus Samahah Datuk Dr Wan Salim who gives full support on mawlid events. The more mawlid we do, the closer the society will become. We will be united on the basis of love and obedience to the Prophet. If we keep a distant from the Prophet, the community too will become aloof from one another. That is why we are sometimes faced with bala' (calamities). We must hold on to the true teachings of the Prophet, we must love the Prophet, love ahlul bayt, love mawlid, make more salawat and improve our relationships so that our house, our state, our country will be more peaceful, safe and prosperous, and calamities are kept at bay. InshaAllah.
Credit: Al Falah TV