hopeless, helpless, useless,
worthless, good for nothing,
compared to nothing,
Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar






THE WORLD REMEMBERS THE UNIVERSAL MAN OF PEACE - IMAM HASSAN CISSE AT NEW YORK USA  14th–17th of MAY 2009



Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA)

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Life of a Contemporary African Saint
Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA)
By Nabeweya Malick

Last year, the Muslim Ummah and the African continent lost one of its most illustrious sons. The renowned Islamic scholar, Spiritual master and Wali of Allah Shaykh-al-Islam Imam Hassan Ali Cisse (RA), passed away before fajr on the 14th August 2008 in his native village of Medina-Kaolack, Senegal. His age was that of the Prophet (SAW), 63. This suited him well, after spending his life as a genuine representative of the Prophet (SAW) in our times. Shaykh Hassan's (RA) janazah salaah was attended by approximately 2 million people at the Mosque in which he was the Imam for 3 decades.

In honour of his life, the Divine guidance which he imparted, and the love for his Muhammadan character, millions of students also bade farewell to this noble servant of Allah (SWT) by performing janazah salaah in their respective Zawiyah's and Mosques around the world.

Shaykh Hassan (RA) was the son of Sidi Ali Cisse (RA) and Fatima Zahra Niasse; and grandson of the legendary Shaykh-al-Islam of Africa Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (RA), a man who spread the essence of Islam throughout West Africa. Following the death of his illustrious grandfather, Shaykh Hassan (RA) was chosen as the leader of the Tariqa Tijaniyyah which has a following of millions in more than 40 countries therefore unifying people of diverse cultures under the banner of Spiritual Islam.

Shaykh Hassan's (RA) childhood was blessed with being raised in a home of spiritual devotion and under the tutelage of his illustrious grandfather who was West Africa's most renowned scholar of the 20th century. He memorized the Qur'an at an early age and was educated in the traditional Sunni Islamic sciences such as Tafsir ul-Qur'an, Prophetic narrations (hadith), Maliki Fiqh, Arabic grammar and literature, poetry, logic, rhetoric and Sufism at the hands of his grandfather and a number of other West African ulama, such as Shaykh Ahmad Cham and his own father, Sidi Ali Cisse, in Medina Baye.

He also spent years studying in Mauritania and in Egypt, and obtained a B.A. in Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies from Cairo's Ain Shams University. Al-Azhar University recognized his credentials as an Islamic scholar of distinction with an “honorary degree”. He then obtained an M.A. in English from the University of London. Shaykh Hassan's (RA) pursuit for knowledge drove him to visit Mauritania, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Ghana where he received more than 600 scholarly authorizations, or ijazahs, from prominent Islamic scholars.

Shaykh Hassan's (RA) example is the life of a man who lived Islam and followed the Sunnah to its entirety. Millions of people regarded him as a living Friend of Allah (SWT) or Wali. Indeed, the spiritual experiences people have had with him are too many to be documented. Countless people accepted Islam at his hands throughout the Globe. Even more took the initiation in the Spiritual Path from him. Thousands of such disciples would be present in his spiritual company at any given time of the year.
      Nevertheless, he exerted as much effort on the physical needs of human beings as the spiritual enrichment and consciousness. His life and teachings were based on inner and outer purification of Muslims as well as playing a role in the development of humanity.
      His tasawwuf was not characterized by heedlessness and neglect but was based on real Islam, mastering the self (nafs) and ruling over it with Qur'an and Sunnah

Life of a Contemporary African Saint (continued)
HIV-Aids, poverty eradication, gender equity, and racial and religious discrimination throughout the African continent and beyond. These social efforts have been recognized by several international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International. He frequently participated in the annual United Nations conferences for the world-wide NGO community and was a frequently invited guest speaker at UNICEF and other UN-sponsored events. His role as an eminent Islamic scholar committed to the real needs of humanity has also occasioned his election as President of the Network of African Islamic Organizations for Population and Development.

The Shaykh (RA) has positively affected the lives of many in societies rife with ethnic and religious tensions, such as Nigeria, Mauritania, South Africa and the United States. Shaykh Hassan (RA) traveled to the United States in 1976, and has since worked tirelessly to promote goodwill and positive exchange between Americans and the international Muslim community, emphasizing the essential spirituality and etiquette of Islam to promote individual betterment and real brotherhood. These efforts have borne fruit through the founding of the African American Islamic Institute, a UN recognized non-governmental organization (NGO) which promotes education, health care, women's rights, and international exchange and dialogue between America and West Africa.

Shaykh Hassan (RA) was also the President of El-Hajj Ibrahim Niasse University in Dakar, Senegal; Special Advisor for Islamic Affairs for the Republic of Ghana; and Honorary Member of the Ulama League of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Few would disagree that he was the greatest spiritual luminary and Islamic leader of Africa in contemporary times.

Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA) leaves behind many well-educated children, millions of murids, and a living example of how Spiritual Islam can still be practiced fully in this Age of Materialism.

Reflections from Shaykh Baye
On his visit to our country late last year Shaykh Ibrahim Ehaibah (also known as Shaykh Baye, may Allah preserve and increase him) of Mauritania, Shaykh Hassan Cisse’s (RA) nephew and “official representative to South Africa”, shared some reflections on the life of Shaykh Hassan (RA). Shaykh Baye, in his usual humble manner, repeatedly expressed hesitation to speak on the life of Shaykh Hassan (RA). “I feel I am not valuable enough to speak about Shaykh” said this modest man. “If I speak a whole day about Shaykh Hassan I would feel like I hadn’t said anything!”
Nonetheless, the community was greatly enriched and grateful for the reflections that he shared. Below are excerpts of his valuable comments as related to Al Faydatul Tijani Gauteng Community.


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ON SHEIKH'S (RA) BIRTH
Shaykh Baye shared the story of Shaykh Hassan's (RA) birth as it was related to him from Shaykh Hassan's (RA) mother Yafatu. “His birth was a big Karama” Shaykh Baye said. Yafatu had lost 4 babies before through miscarriage or death in babyhood before the birth of Shaykh Hassan (RA). She was very sick when she became pregnant with Shaykh Hassan (RA). She went to her father—Shaykh Hassan's (RA) grandfather—Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) to make dua that she would have no more babies. Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) refused and told her that Allah had the power to give her a baby and good health. Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) rather gave Yafatu the Mubarak shoes of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which were in his possession to keep under her pillow for the safe delivery of Shaykh Hassan (RA), telling her that no one sleeping with those shoes under her pillow would lose a baby. Those shoes are still with YaFatu. Shaykh Hassan (RA) was born in an inner room of Shaykh Ibrahim (RA). The new baby was a Sharif through the line of Hassan ibn Fatima (RA).

ON SHAYKH’S (RA) ACCOMPLISHMENTS
“You measure the value of a life by what a person has done not by the number of years they lived.” Shaykh Baye noted. “Shaykh Hassan lived a LONG life because every day you find he had big openings and big victories.” Shaykh Baye said that Shaykh Hassan (RA) has never been "small" as he had openings from the time he was very young. He said that for most Walis the big openings only come at the end of their life and only for a few years but Shaykh Hassan (RA) had big openings for more than 30 years. Shaykh Baye stressed that anything one would try to recount of Shaykh Hassan's (RA) life would be small because “all of his life was big.”

PERSONAL MEMORIES OF SHAYKH (RA)
In 1983 Shaykh Baye memorized the Qur'an. On the occasion Shaykh Hassan (RA) asked a griot (historian/praise singer) to read his lineage back to the Prophet (SAW). He jokingly said to Shaykh Baye “You think you are the only Sharif?”
Shaykh Baye used to sit in a chair when in the presence of Shaykh Hassan (RA) and Shaykh Hassan (RA) never asked him to come down from the chair. One day, 1 or 2 months after memorizing the Quran, Shaykh Baye came down from the chair and sat on the floor. He felt something within himself that he cannot explain that made him submit. From that day Shaykh Hassan (RA) was his Shaykh. Shaykh Baye would ask permission from Shaykh Hassan (RA) for everything he wanted to do. “To stay with him was more beloved to me than to travel back to Mauritania. He never told me anything that I wasn't happy with,” says Shaykh Baye.

In 1992 Shaykh Baye made Tarbiyyah with Shaykh Hassan (RA). In the same year he made Ziyarah with Shaykh Hassan (RA) to Shaykh Tijani (RA) in Morocco. Shaykh Baye's favorite memory of Shaykh Hassan (RA) is sleeping in the same bed with him on this trip at Shaykh Hassan's request as there was only one bed in the room. Shaykh Baye was scared, but very grateful. “If I needed to use the bathroom (even for Wudu) I would use someone else's bathroom,” says Shaykh Baye with a laugh.

Reflections from Shaykh Baye (continued)
In 1994 when Shaykh Hassan (RA) was travelling he put Shaykh Baye in charge of his house for two months. Shaykh Hassan (RA) said to him “After Allah, I put my house in your hands” While guarding the house Shaykh Baye says he wasn't able to sleep due to the weight of the responsibility and would so stay awake and pray. “When Shaykh Hassan came back then I was able to sleep because the responsibility was lifted.”

Shaykh Baye remembered that on the great occasion of opening the clinic in Madina Baye, Senegal, Shaykh Hassan (RA) recounted that his father and grandfather were forced to travel outside of the country (to France and London) when they were sick so he built the clinic so that people wouldn't have to travel out of the country for treatment.
In 1998 Shaykh Baye met Shaykh Hassan (RA) in Mecca and made umrah with him.
Shaykh Baye said that if you were blessed to travel with Shaykh Hassan (RA), you knew you were trav-elling with a special man. He travelled only to do Allah's work and he could pay for his own stay anywhere, although Allah would often provide someone willing to pay the full expenses of Shaykh and all those travelling with him. When travelling, “Shaykh Hassan didn't return to anyone, only to Allah.”

ON KHIDMA (SERVICE) TO SHAYKH (RA)
Shaykh Baye said that Shaykh Hassan (RA) would say “Nobody will work for me except that Allah will give him blessing.” He recounted the story of a trip he made with Shaykh Hassan (RA) to Makkah along with Shaykh Hassan's (RA) son and others. On the trip, Shaykh Baye used to attend to all of Shaykh's (RA) needs. Shaykh Hassan (RA) rebuked his son saying that he had brought him on the trip to give him a chance to serve him as there were too many taalibes (students) around all the time competing for the chance at home, yet he wasn't utilizing that opportunity.
Even his mother's relationship with him was that of a taalib to a big Shaykh. She would even kneel down on the ground and guide the shoes onto Shaykh's (RA) feet. This is an especially big deal in Senegal where the mother's role with her children is akin to that of a queen.

SOME OF SHAYKH’S LIKES AND DISLIKES (RA)
Shaykh Hassan (RA) liked people to pray in the masjid, and he would give money as encouragement to do this. He was known to often single out an individual student and say “I didn't see you in the masjid today” with great accuracy despite the fact that the Masjid was always full of people.

One of the ways he used to encourage people to pray in jamaat was by promising to help anyone who read Fajr at the masjid for 40 consecutive days to travel to Mecca for Hajj. Shaykh Baye said the wisdom in this is knowing that after keeping a practice 40 days you will keep it forever.

Shaykh Hassan (RA) didn't like men to dress in red clothing as the Prophet (SAW) also disliked it. He liked truthfulness and sincerity and was prepared to cut ties with any dishonest person.
Shaykh Hassan (RA) loved to read Qur'an and he greatly respected the person who memorized the Qur'an. When by the Kabah, sometimes he would opt to read the Qur'an rather than making Tawwaf.

SOME OF SHAYKH’S ADVICES (RA)
Once a university student asked Shaykh (RA) to tell them “Something that will increase us in our Journey to Allah” He advised them to be in a state of wudhu at all times and to increase the reading of Salatul Faatihi all the time.
He often quoted the words of Imam Junaid: “All Tariqahs are closed except the one that follows the footsteps of the Prophet (SAW).”

Reflections from Shaykh Baye (continued)

He would also often quote the poems of Shaykh Ibrahim (RA). He especially liked to quote the lines “When the best of mankind moves, I follow behind him and if he stops for a day, there is no going further” and “When they ask me regarding my beloved and my Madhab my reply will be ... 'It is the messenger of Allah.'” (from the Diwan of Shaykh Ibrahim).
Shaykh Hassan (RA) used to advise that in front of the Mubarak graves of the Prophet (SAW), Shaykh Ahmed Tijani (RA), and Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) one should read Sirrul Ziyara.
Shaykh Hassan (RA) used to recount an incident that occurred when he was returning home from his studies in Cairo. Shaykh's father Sidi Ali (RA) was supposed to be leading Salaat but for some reason wasn't present. Shaykh Hassan (RA) had on a suit and felt hesitant to lead dressed in that way but Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) pushed him to the front noting that the outward doesn't matter as long as your inside is good.
Shaykh Baye said that in reality, “All of his life was teaching.” But he would often teach without talking; he would teach with action. “His moving was teaching, his staying was teaching.”
 

ON SHAYKH’S (RA) DEATH
Shaykh Baye remarked that when Allah wishes to take the lives of His beloveds, He sometimes takes their lives very suddenly without giving the people at large the chance to make dua to beg for the avoidance of their death, which duas He might otherwise grant. He further remarks that Allah uses any means that please Him to take the lives of any of His slaves (such as the use of poison in the case of Rasullullah [SAW] ), and therefore it should not matter what the cause of Shaykh's (RA) death was because there should be no humiliation attached to it.

When he was about to pass away, Shaykh (RA) continued with all of his activities just as though things were normal. He had no fear of death and he didn't sit still waiting for death. “I believe he knew he was going to die but he carried on as normal. We should try to do this,” Shaykh Baye said. Shaykh Baye also noted that before he left for his last trip, Shaykh Hassan (RA) left instructions of what should be done if he should pass away while on that trip.

Shaykh Hassan's (RA) mother, Yafatu also noticed that on his return from that trip there was a huge amount of Nur on his face.. Shaykh Baye said that when Yafatu heard of his passing she said that Allah did not ask anybody's permission to give Shaykh Hassan (RA) to us and hence he did not need anybody's permission to take him. She said that she simply thanked Allah for Shaykh Hassan.

At the end of his life, Shaykh Hassan (RA) spoke a lot about Salaat. On his last day, Shaykh (RA) read all of his prayers in jamaat and made all of his adhkaar.


SHAYKH (RA) AS A COMPLETE INHERITOR OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAW)
Shaykh Baye said that the many parallels between the lives of the Prophet (SAW) and Shaykh Hassan (RA) show that Shaykh Hassan (RA) was a complete inheritor of the Prophet. He noted that both died at the age of 63. He also mentioned that the mass shahadas which occurred in Chad and Camaroon at the hands of Shaykh Hassan (RA) happened toward the last part of Shaykh's life, just as mass reversions happened for the Prophet (SAW) toward the end of his life. Shaykh Baye mentioned that on the occasion of the mass shahadah in Chad when a king and around 800 people took Shahadah, Shaykh Hassan (RA) said “This is only 'Idha Jaa a nasr Ullahi wal-fath’ ” quoting from Surah An-Nasr (The Victory). At this, Shaykh Baye remembered the story of how Sayyidna Abu Bakr (RA) knew that the completion of Prophethood was drawing near when this Surah was revealed.
Shaykh Baye remembered that Shaykh Hassan (RA) would often say “I never go anywhere in this world without people knowing I am Muslim and Tijani. If people want to love or honour me for this, let them. If they want to hate me, let them.” Shaykh Baye concluded that “If you love to meet Allah, He will love to meet you. Let us try to keep this Ayat in front of us. And then you will not regret any seconds, any hours.”


Shaykh Hassan's (RA) Last Sermon

Originally an email message by an American disciple
(Printed with the permission of the author)

I have gathered here the gist of Shaykh Hassan's (RA) last public address the day before he passed away. The occasion was a funeral in Kaolack. The following summary was conveyed to us by Cheikh Jere Cisse, the intimate traveling companion of Shaykh Hassan (RA):
“A person in this life is like the traveler that stops under a tree to rest for a while before continuing on. The same Allah who took back to Himself the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Shaykh Ahmad Tijani and Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse will not leave anyone on the face of the earth. Allah's power is such that He can take whole communities at once, as in Indonesia with the Tsunami: entire towns and villages were wiped off the map. There was no one even to perform the janaza for them. For Allah to take only one person is a mercy. Whatever Allah takes, belongs to Him; whatever Allah leaves on the earth for a time, belongs to Him. I am leaving you with Allah. Shaykh Ibrahim once said to my father, Saydi Ali, I am leaving you in the pocket of the Prophet (SAW). And I say: I am leaving you in the pocket of Shaykh Ibrahim.”
Afterwards, we thanked Cheikh Jere for all the years he spent in service to our Shaykh (RA), traveling with him everywhere he went around the world. He said, really it was a privilege and an honor. Almost twenty years ago, Cheikh Jere continued, he was riding in the car with Shaykh Hassan (RA), with Cheikh Tijani Cisse in the front seat. Shaykh Hassan (RA) said, "You should be thankful to be helping me. My grandfather once prayed for me, and then told me, 'Go tell your mother and father I have just prayed for you a prayer that no one can stop the mission that is for you to complete.' So be thankful to be helping me in this mission, because whether you help me or not, this mission will be completed. Your helping me is not for my benefit, it is only because Allah has chosen to shower you with blessing and credit for good deeds. For when Allah asks of my mission, your names will be recorded among those who helped." He also mentioned a time when he and Shaykh Hassan (RA) were eating out of the same dish with a noble Sharif. One of the Shaykh's (RA) beloveds, Mahi Thiam, entered the room and Shaykh Hassan (RA) invited him to eat. Out of respect he declined, until Shaykh Hassan (RA) insisted, "Don't you know there are some people who have ijaza directly from the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), that if you eat with them you will go to Paradise?"
May Allah strengthen us all to continue the work. May He grant us the promise of the Prophet (SAW), "A man is with (in the afterlife) whom he loves."
Among the signs he gave of his near departure was one related by Nazir Tal, a direct descendent of al-Hajj Umar (RA) who met Shaykh Hassan (RA) when he returned from traveling one week before passing. Shaykh Hassan (RA) told Nazir, "I don't mind if I never see an airplane again." Nazir said, "But Shaykh, all your work is travelling all around the world, how can you avoid planes?" He just replied, "The last time Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) traveled, he was in Paris, and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) came to him in broad daylight. This last time, I traveled to Norway, Libya, Morocco, Ivory Coast and France. And when I was in Paris, I was alone in my room, and the Prophet (SAW) also entered to see me in broad daylight."
May Allah receive him with great pleasure, and may He be pleased with us on his account.


Cape Town Mourns

Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA)
By Faydah Tijaniyyah Organization (Cape) Correspondent

The passing away of Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA) sent shock waves throughout the Islamic and Sufi circles in Cape Town. There was a general feeling of sadness all over the town. Condolences were presented to various Muqaddams and Talibes from all quarters of the community.
Local radio stations also announced the passing away of Shaykh (RA). An SMS was sent out to inform all Talibes, and 5 khatms were made for Shaykh (RA) in the Gugulethu Zawiyah in the course of the same day. Some Talibes (e.g. Sidi Altaf, Sayyidah Aishatou, Sidi Ashraf, Sitti Fatimah and others) immediately flew to Medina-Baye and had the honor of seeing Shaykh's (RA) body and attending his Janazah on behalf of South Africa.
The Muslim Judicial Council also sent an official letter of condolences to Medina-Baye via the Faydah Organization. The Naqshbandi Order also issued a letter of condolence to the bereaved of Shaykh Hassan (RA). Leaders of the Somali Sufi community gave their condolences to Imam Fakhruddin and made a Khatm-ul-Qu'ran for Shaykh (RA). Murids of the Qadiri-Shadhili Order made a special Janazah Salah for Shaykh (RA) immediately after their weekly Dhikr gathering. In fact, Janazah Salahs were performed for Shaykh (RA) in various Mosques around the Cape.
The Faydah Tijaniyyah Organization organized a mass Janazah Salah for Shaykh (RA) at the Tijani Zawiyah in Gugulethu, at the same time as the main Salah in Medina-Baye. The Zawiyah was packed full with Talibes, Muqaddams and lovers of Shaykh (RA). Everyone was tearful. The Muqaddams asked Imam Fakhruddin Owaisi to lead the Salah, after which each Muqaddam made a special a Dua for the Ruh of Shaykh (RA). Among them were muqaddams: Abdallah, Kashif, Faldie, Waleed, Khalil, Ridwan Siddiq and Shaykh Bitay. The final Dua was made by Aunty Maraldiya* (Mama Tijani), mother of Sidi Anwar Bayat. Representatives of the Senegalese Kaolack, Tivaoaune, and Muridi-Touba Daira's also presented words of condolences, acknowledging Shaykh Hassan's (RA) immense services to Islam, Sufism and Humanity.
Thereafter Imam Fakhruddin addressed the Talibes with the same words that Sayyidna Abu-Bakr (RA) said to the Sahabah after the passing away of the Prophet (SAW): "Those of you who worshipped Muhammad (SAW) should know that Muhammad (SAW) has passed away, but those of you who worshipped Allah should know the Allah is forever Alive!". Imam Fakhruddin also stated that once when a murid asked Shaykh Ahmad Tijani (RA), "Can we visit other Awliya after your death?" He replied, "I don't die!". Imam Fakhruddin also stated that, "The passing away of Rasul-Allah (SAW), Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) and Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) did not stop the progress and growth of Islam and the Tariqah. Rather, their Companions continued their work and spread the Din and the Tijani Way to every corner of the World. We Talibes of Shaykh Hassan (RA) should continue his great mission and keep his memory and legacy alive. Indeed, he is Alive in Spirit and with us always. We should not disappoint him in his grave. United we stand and divided we fall. Allah is the Greatest."
The Muslim Views newspaper also carried a detailed article on the life and achievements of Shaykh (RA), by a female member of the Faydah Tijaniyyah body. It was accompanied by a lovely photo that was pouring with Divine light and Muhammadan Beauty.



  Witnessing A True Servant of Allah

An Unexpected meeting with Shaykh Hassan (RA)
By Ruqayyah Muhammad

From the time that I had taken the Tijani Tariqa as my Spiritual Path and taken Shakh Hassan Cisse (RA) as my Spiritual Guide in 2006 up until last year I had never had a chance to meet Shaykh (RA) and had only spoken briefly to him on the telephone—a rushed “Asalaamu Alaikum Shaykh! Please pray for us Shaykh!” before pushing the phone back into my husband Muhammad Milanzi's hands. But I had heard much about him.

I had heard of his vast knowledge and even vaster humility. His kind and generous nature. His impeccable character. The millions worldwide (from Senegal to South Africa, Morocco to Malaysia, Norway to New York) who called him their teacher. The way he was perpetually at work for Allah, constantly travelling and rarely sleeping in his determination to spread the message of Islam throughout the world. The countless individuals who reverted to Islam after an encounter with him, sometimes numbering in the hundreds(!) at one time. The way he was always available to his students from the loftiest king to the lowliest beggar. The way he never kept money long, constantly distributing vast sums to those coming to him for assistance to the point where those observing him quickly lost count of the amount of cash he passed out in a single day. His excellent and respected humanitarian work and organizations which placed particular emphasis on the development of Africa, cooperation between Africa and America, and the wellbeing of women and children.

I had spent a great deal of time with his nephew, Shaykh Ibrahim Ehaibah of Mauritania, who Shaykh Hassan(RA) has been sending to South Africa as his official representative during Ramadan for the past few years. Shaykh Baye mirrored all of the wonderful attributes I had heard about Shaykh Hassan (RA) most especially in knowledge, humility and extreme sacrifice for Allah, and I felt hugely blessed to sit at the feet of and learn from such a man, particularly one Shaykh Hassan (RA) deemed fit to call his representative.
But I had never met Shaykh Hassan(RA) and my heart longed to have this opportunity. I realized that though I had heard so much about him I still didn't really know what to expect.

In late July, I set out from South Africa planning to travel to my other home (the United States) for the wedding of a dear friend and to visit my family. It was a visit that was never meant to happen. I was flying standby to the United States via Dakar Senegal and the flight from Dakar was unusually full. For two and a half weeks I stayed in Senegal, going to the airport nearly every night from 10pm to 3am with my then-two year old daughter Amatur-Rahman in tow, hoping for a space to open. It never did
Many times I almost boarded the flight home to South Africa but something prevented me every time. My husband gave me a pep talk to give it one more try. They couldn't find my name on the list of passengers for the flight back to South Africa. I randomly met Muhammad Jibril Gadimang a friend of our family from South Africa (who has since become my brother-in-law) who was returning from a visit to Senegal at the time in the airport. He gave me contact information to arrange to stay at the house of Shaykh Hassan (RA) in Dakar (Shaykh [RA] himself was out of the country at the time) and left me with a large amount of Senegalese currency which remained from his trip (of which I was running quite low!).


My brother-in-law Faaiz Lekoloane sent me a joking email saying that I was being held captive in the house of Shaykh and the ransom was to meet him. I laughed through my tears.


Life in Senegal was not easy. My funds were low, I was separated from my luggage (which was sent to the USA), I was exhausted from all the late nights at the airport and gosh-darn-it I wasn't supposed to be there! Senegal was beautiful and kindness and generosity were all around me: from the American friend living in Senegal at whose house I stayed during the first week, to the students of all nationalities at the house of Shaykh Hassan (RA) where I stayed the second week, to all of the support and love I was getting from friends and family around the world. But still I was dissatisfied, petulant, ANGRY that this was happening to me.....why was this happening???

Witnessing a True Servant of Allah (continued)
And then it became clearer. Finally feeling I had reached my tipping point (two weeks of spending the night at an airport waiting for a space to open with a two year old can do strange things to even the most patient of people…which I certainly am not!) I asked my husband to consult with Shaykh Baye for advice on what to do next. Shaykh advised me to wait in Senegal for another two days, as maybe Shaykh Hassan (RA) would be coming to the country soon. If he didn't come, I should return to South Africa. In exactly two days, Shaykh Hassan (RA) arrived.

Beyond prayers and nightly thikr (remembrance of Allah), I only had two brief encounters with Shaykh Hassan (RA). One in which I expressed how glad I was to meet him and passed greetings to him from my family and community in South Africa (and Amatur-Rahman shyly but smilingly shook his hand). The second was in asking Shaykh (RA) for permission to return to South Africa during which he made a long (silent) prayer for us. Returning to South Africa, I was sincerely heart and soul-glad that I had met Shaykh Hassan (RA) but still not completely sure why things had to happen this way.

Though I knew in my heart that I had been greatly blessed both in the amazing experiences I had had in Senegal, and especially in meeting Shaykh Hassan (RA), the back of my mind was still troubled by lingering questions. I hadn't seen my family in a year and didn't know when I would have another opportunity to see them. Why? I was so happy to meet Shaykh (RA) but this was for such a brief time when I was feeling so out of sorts, surely another circumstance would have been better for a first meeting. Why? Shaykh (RA) was scheduled to travel to South Africa soon and I also hoped to visit Senegal with my husband in the near future, wouldn't that have been a more ideal situation? Why Allah, why?

A week after we returned to South Africa we got the news that Shaykh (RA) had returned to Allah. And I had my answer.
Christians have a saying that “God works in mysterious ways.” Muslims quote the Qur'an that “Allah is the best of planners.” I have lived this and I pray that I will be very slow to ask Allah WHY ever again. Not my will but Thine be done.

People tell me that I was meant to take something from Shaykh (RA) and ask me “what did Shaykh say to you?” But I feel that his words were not what I needed to take from him. Rather I am eternally grateful to have been a witness of the man himself. His grace and welcoming nature. The extreme nur (light) on his face that cannot be fully captured in photographs. His sacrifice and that of all those in service to him. The patience of his wife as she sat waiting for her chance to welcome him home as he made himself available to his students. The cell phones that were constantly pressed into his hand for calls from around the world that constantly streamed in, punctuating every conversation with commas and full stops, after which he would turn to you to continue your humble personal tale as if you were just as important as the dignitary he was just engaging on the phone. The gentle smile on his face as this extraordinarily busy man took the time to shake the hand of a child. The air of excitement, energy and triumph of his students welcoming him home as that which would greet a prince returning victorious from battle, only this prince had been fighting not for country, fame, or fortune, but for Allah. Only for Allah.

I am a better person for having witnessed his example and can say that I have truly seen what Service to Allah looks like in the living, breathing, ever-working, ever-worshipping flesh. I am grateful, eternally grateful, that I had the opportunity to meet this great man, this shining luminary, this humble servant.
He wasn't what I expected. He was more. He was so much more.

He Surely Lives

The day Shaykh died
The heavens cried
My heart with sorrow smiled
All seas of joy dried
As confusion boils inside
Where emptiness and pain collide
A darkness that the earth cannot hide
But he surely lives
In the palm of He who life gives
In eternal gardens where rivers flow
Where the Light of light doth sit
In the countenance of AR-RAHMAN
Side by side with his greatest Rahma (Nabi SAW)
In the companionship of wali-ul-Akbar (Sheikh Ahmed Tijani RA)
In conversation with saahib-ul-Faydah (Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse RA)
By Camillo Mubarak Zimba

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Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar's Website
Chicago, USA
admin@ahmedtijani.org
Sheikhul Islam  
Ibrahim Niass  
1900-1975