A Few Days in The Netherlands with Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

A Few Days in The Netherlands with Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful. All praise is for Allah, Lord of the worlds; and peace and blessings be upon our master, Muhammad, his family and Companions.

In January 2020, just prior to the Corona virus pandemic gripping the world (may Allah remove it from us, Āmīn), I visited the Netherlands (informally known as Holland) in the company of my cherished and beloved teacher Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him and grant him well-being). I had visited this neighbouring country three times previously – in fact, it had only been a few weeks since my last visit (in December 2019). Then, I was invited by the Islamic School, Madrasa al-Islah, to deliver a one-day workshop on Islamic parenting and upbringing children, as well as a few speeches. It was during this visit that we discussed the possibility of having Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) visit the Netherlands.

One of the great favours (ni’ma) of Allah Most High upon me, for which I am ever so grateful, is that He – despite my unworthiness – has granted me many opportunities to stay in the company of, and travel with, Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him). During the past few years, in particular, I have accompanied him on his travels to Denmark, UAE, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, Malta and Cyprus – as well as spending a considerable amount of time in his company during his UK visits. Moments spent in the company of such esteemed personalities often teach a person much more than months and years of studying. It is another thing, however, that I did not benefit from him as I ought to, due to my deficiency – may Allah forgive me, Āmīn.

Arrival into Amsterdam 

The respected Shaykh was scheduled to visit the UK in the early part of January 2020. I requested him, on behalf of Madrasa al-Islah, to spend a few days in the Netherlands en route to the UK. Al-Ḥamdu lillāh, he accepted the invitation. Accordingly, he arrived on the evening of Sunday 5th January (9 Jumādá al-ūlá, 1441) into Amsterdam airport from Karachi, via Dubai. I, along with my dear friend, Brother Rida ibn Sha’ban (of Slough, UK), had taken an earlier flight from London Heathrow and landed just in time to receive the Shaykh at the airport. Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami, the founder and principal of Madrasa al-Islah, was also present at the airport with some of his students and colleagues to receive the Shaykh.  

Dinner at the Residence of Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami (Lochem) 

Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) soon emerged from the arrival gate. It was once again a delight to greet and embrace him. We headed to our cars for an hour and half drive to Lochem (a small city in the Eastern part of the Netherlands) where Madrasa al-Islah is located. Dinner was organised at the residence of Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami, thus we headed straight there. 

Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami is of Moroccan origin and a well-respected scholar in the Netherlands. He spent much of his youth in the UK, memorizing the Qur’an and studying the various Islamic sciences, at the madrasa/markaz in Dewsbury (Yorkshire) and then Dār al-ʿUlūm in Bury. As such, he speaks English fluently and is also able to speak Urdu. He further studied Arabic, Maliki fiqh and other Islamic disciplines in Morocco and at Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Currently, he is engaged in the fields of da’wa and education, teaching traditional Islam to the masses with wisdom and good preaching. He manages a number of Islamic Schools for children (makātib) across the Netherlands, and is the founder and principal of Madrasa al-Islah for older students. May Allah accept his efforts and bless him with enabling grace to continue serving the Dīn, Āmīn.

Over dinner, which consisted of a variety of appetizing Moroccan dishes, I introduced Shaykh Sa’id, his madrasa, and other activities to our respected Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him). Despite a long journey from Karachi, he seemed relaxed and in a very jovial mood. A variety of light-hearted discussions took place. Our respected Shaykh mentioned that he has visited Morocco on a number of occasions, particularly in relation to Islamic finance and the establishment of Islamic banking in the country. I pointed out that he was once invited by the Shari’a faculty of the famous Al-Qarawiyyin University in Fez in relation to Islamic banking. A recording of his Arabic lecture is available on YouTube, wherein he commenced by saying, “I feel a sense of embarrassment delivering a lecture at this prestigious university, because I feel that even being a student at this university would have been an honour for me!”

The Shaykh also revealed that he visited the famous muhaddith of Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad Bu Khubza al-Hasani (who recently passed away on January 30, 2020, aged around 87 – may Allah have mercy upon him). He continued that he visited Shaykh Bu Khubza at his residence and that they had exchanged permissions (ijāzah) in narrating hadith, as far as he can remember. It is ironic that Shaykh Abu Khubza was alive at the time, and Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami added that he is very old and frail. Within a few weeks after this discussion, the sad news emerged from Morocco that he had passed away to the mercy of Allah Almighty.

Discussions continued around current world affairs, riba and Islamic banking. The respected Shaykh related from his father, the former Grand Mufti of Pakistan Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (may Allah have mercy on him), that he received a query from the UK in the late 1950s on whether it is permitted to consume the meat slaughtered by people of the book (ahl al-kitāb), even if it is not slaughtered according to the rules of Shari’a. He said, “At the time, many people gave a legal verdict (fatwa) that since halal meat was difficult to obtain in the UK due to the limited number of Muslims residing there, it is permitted to consume their meat. However, my father (may Allah have mercy on him) responded by saying that I do understand the need but if we give the fatwa today of the permissibility of consuming their meat (regardless of the manner of slaughter), the UK will never have halal meat! This was his foresight and deep understanding (tafaqquh). We now witness the abundance of halal meat restaurants in the UK and other European countries, Al-Ḥamdu lillāh. Had he not given this fatwa at the time, such restaurants would not have been present today.” (For a detailed discussion on consuming the meat slaughtered by the people of the book, please refer to my following answer: The Issue of Halal Meat).

The delightful session over dinner concluded with a delicious selection of fruits. The respected Shaykh made a comment that he normally consumes fruit with the skin, since it is more nutritious. He made a duʿā’ that may Allah grant us the fruits of paradise. We then headed to our hotel, located very close to the residence of Shaykh Sa’id, thus we reached within a few minutes and retired to bed for much needed sleep.

Monday 6th January

Monday commenced with Salat al-Fajr and then breakfast at the hotel. Prior to breakfast, I and my dear friend, brother Rida, decided to go for a brisk walk outside the hotel. The hotel was surrounded with woodlands and captivating natural scenery, hence the walk was indeed refreshing.

At Madrasa al-Islah (Lochem)

At 11am, we departed our hotel in the company of Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) and headed towards Madrasa al-Islah. My dear friend, Brother Qays Tach, a dentist by profession but also a student of knowledge and volunteer at the madrasa, drove us from the hotel to the madrasa – a short, ten minute drive. 

Madrasa al-Islah was established by Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami in 2000 in the remote area of Lochem (Eastern Netherlands). The madrasa building, with boarding facilities, was formerly a Christian scholars training centre. It was subsequently purchased and converted into an Islamic School (madrasa). Currently around 50 male and female students are studying various Islamic subjects such as Arabic, tafsir, hadith, fiqh, as well as memorisation of the Qur’an. The full time students board at the madrasa, whilst part time students return home after classes. 

As we arrived, Shaykh Sa’id and his fellow teachers, Ustadh Youssef Chahlal and Ustadh Muhammad Sadlan, received the Shaykh at the entrance. Some students had also come outside to greet our dear Shaykh. We were led inside the madrasa building and first sat in the guest room drinking Moroccan tea and meeting the teachers and staff. Some of the teachers and staff asked the respected Shaykh various fiqh questions, especially in relation to interest (riba), Islamic finance, working at a conventional bank and so forth. In relation to a question regarding defaulting in Islamic mortgage monthly instalments, he said that the client will undertake paying into a charity. This has explicitly been mentioned by the great Maliki jurist Imam Hattab in his work Tahrir al-Kalām fi Masa’il al-Iltizām. In relation to a question on participatory banks (al-bunūk al-tashārukiyya) – i.e. conventional banks that offer Shari’a-compliant products and services – the Shaykh stated that such banks are established from the wealth of its founders, and we assume their wealth is halal unless it is clearly established that the bank was founded on haram wealth. He added that such banks specify a part of their funds for Islamic finance, even though their primary function is to engage in conventional finance. As such, it is permitted to deal with them. Indeed, if the funds used for the Islamic finance department was solely from the haram and riba they generate, then it would not be permitted.

Shaykh Sa’id had invited the local Chief of Police, who gracefully accepted the invite and came to greet our respected Shaykh. Thereafter, the Shaykh was taken on a tour of the madrasa. We visited the classrooms, student dorms, library, which hosts a good collection of resource books in Arabic, and parts of the building under renovation. Thereafter, we headed towards the main prayer hall for Salat al-Zuhr. The students had all assembled in the prayer hall and, as we entered, they all greeted our respected Shaykh one-by-one, kissing him on his forehead and sometimes hand. It was easy to notice that they were elated in seeing and meeting Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him). 

After Zuhr, the teachers and students – both male, and female at the back of the hall – assembled, and the respected Shaykh delivered a short naṣīḥa in Arabic. He commenced by reciting the hadith musalsal bi ‘l-awwaliyya (the hadith traditionally taught as the first by each teacher to his student in a continuous chain) and granted all the teachers and students permission (ijāza) to relate the hadith from him, as well as granting the teachers a general permission in hadith. He stated that he received this hadith from various Shuyukh such as Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Mashat al-Maliki (d.1399/1979) in the sacred haram of Makka in 1963, Shaykh Muhammad Yasīn al-Fādāni (d. 1990) and Shaykh Abdullah Ahmad al-Nākhibi (d 1428/2007) who lived for over 110 years (may Allah have mercy on them all). The Shaykh then recited the hadith – also known as ḥadith al-raḥma (the hadith of mercy) – in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Those who are merciful [to others] are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Have mercy upon those who are on the earth; He Who is in the heavens shall have mercy on you” (Abū Dawūd).

Thereafter, he commenced his naṣīḥa in Arabic, with simultaneous translation in Dutch by Shaykh Sa’id, on the importance of seeking sacred knowledge and the qualities of a student (talib al-ilm). Below is the summary of his discourse:

1) Status of a Talib al-Ilm: Many people today have a desire to excel in worldly/secular sciences, because it may result in acquiring a high financial status or reputable career. However, those engaged in seeking sacred Islamic knowledge acquire far higher ranks. On the apparent, those with financial independence and worldly splendour appear favoured, whilst students of knowledge with simple lifestyles and attire appear insignificant. However, the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) awarded greater status and rank to tullab al-ilm, saying, “The best amongst of you is one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it” (Bukhari).

The reason is that the benefit of worldly sciences is restricted to this temporal life. One may obtain a master’s degree or PHD and then pass away, and the matter ends with death. On the other hand, Islamic and spiritual knowledge not only enhances this life but also the next life. If one seeks Islamic knowledge even for a year, and then passes away, he/she shall enter paradise, in shā Allah.

As such, one should not feel inferior when others look down upon you, or look at you strangely in the market and recreational places. This is a virtue. The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Islam began as something strange and will go back to being strange, so glad tidings to the strangers” (Ibn Majah). Therefore, you are more favoured and privileged than those with wealth and government leadership roles in the world.

2) Value Knowledge (ilm): It is important to realise the true value of sacred knowledge. Until one does not fully appreciate its value, one is unable to maximise benefit. A child playing with precious diamonds and jewels has no understanding of their true value, but a person with understanding of their actual value will properly benefit from them. Islamic knowledge that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) disseminated is far more precious than jewels. Once you begin to realize its true worth, you will put in more effort and work hard seeking it. 

3) It is necessary to work hard and exert effort in seeking sacred knowledge. Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) is reported to have said, “Knowledge (ilm) will not give you [even] a single portion of it, until you give it your all [entirety].” Imam Shafi’i (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “Knowledge is honour, it has no disgrace. It is gained through degrading oneself which has no respect.” It is important to be diligent and study at the feet of qualified teachers and respect and honour them. It is related from Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy on him) that he would never stretch his legs in the direction of his teacher’s house, due to the immense respect for his teacher.

This knowledge requires an intense desire to seek it (talab), as though one is thirsty. This desire and thirst must not end until the final moments of one’s life. The story of Imam Abu Yusuf (may Allah have mercy on him) is famous, wherein he was discussing an issue of ilm whilst lying on his bed during his illness of death. As such, one should endeavour to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With thirst, Allah opens up springs and fountains of knowledge for the seeker. Thus, strive and put in the effort, and then turn to Allah. Seek His help in acquiring knowledge, understanding it and being able to act upon. May Allah grant us tawfiq, Āmīn.

With the above words of wisdom, the session ended and we bid farewell to the teachers and students of Madrasa al-Islah. Some teachers continued asking the Shaykh questions until he reached his car. Lunch was once again arranged at the residence of Shaykh Sa’id, a few minutes’ drive from the madrasa. On route, I took the opportunity to show our respected Shaykh a sample of some translation work which I had done thus far on the chapter of trade and commerce from his Taqrir Tirmidhi. He glanced over some of the pages and expressed happiness and approval, Al-Ḥamdu lillāh. May Allah grant me the ability to complete it soon, Āmīn.

A couple of teachers from Madrasa al-Islah joined us for lunch, and once again a delicious Moroccan cuisine was on the menu. Some light-hearted discussions took place and, after lunch, Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami requested Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani to sign some of the latter’s authored works that Shaykh Sa’id owned. After lunch, we returned to our hotel for afternoon rest.

Addressing Ulama and Imams (Wageningen)

In the evening, a program was arranged for Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) to meet and address scholars (ulamā), imams and preachers (du’āt). We departed the hotel (in Lochem) at around 6pm for Wageningen – a historic town in the central part of the Netherlands. I took the opportunity during the journey to discuss different issues with the respected Shaykh and ask him various questions. He was in a relaxed and jovial mood and began reciting some of his Urdu poetry and explaining the difficult words to me. Some people may be unaware that he is also an accomplished poet and capable of making a career out of writing and composing poetry. However, Allah Most High selected him for more noble works Al-Ḥamdu lillāh. He informed me that the various poetry composed by him will soon be published in a book – which has now been released in Urdu, titled: Goshay e Tanha’i (In Solitude) – title perhaps chosen in view of his reflections and thoughts in solitude. 

We arrived in Wageningen just after 7pm local time. Many scholars, imams and advanced students of knowledge had arrived earlier and were anticipating the Shaykh’s arrival. They had travelled from different parts of the Netherlands, as well as from Germany and Belgium. The majority were originally from Morocco and other North African and Arab countries, whilst some also from the Subcontinent. It was a pleasure to meet Mawlana Adnan (of Belgium) and Brother Suhail Tanwir (of Denmark) here, both of whom I know well from previous acquaintance. As our dear and respected Shaykh entered the hall, the assembled scholars all stood up and rushed to greet him. It was obvious to see their love, respect and admiration for one of the greatest scholars in the world! 

The respected Shaykh was led onto the podium by Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami, the host for the night, and commenced proceedings for the evening. Thereafter, Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) delivered his speech in Arabic for approximately 30 minutes. After expressing his delight and happiness in meeting the scholars and imams of the Netherlands, he mentioned the following points:

1) He congratulated the scholars and imams saying that Allah Most High had chosen them to serve His Dīn, teach Islam and call people towards Him (da’wa) in such lands. “This is a great honour for you”, he said, “in that Allah Most High chose you to be imams and teachers of the current generation in these secular lands. People here are in great need of being taught Islam; may Allah accept your efforts in this regard.”

2) He added that such honour brings great responsibility unto one’s shoulders. The turban placed on the head of a graduating student, or the certificate (shahāda) given upon graduation, is not merely an honour. Rather, it is an indication of great responsibility. In these lands, especially, your main responsibility is to nurture the new generation, teach them Islam and bring them up as good and practicing Muslims. Otherwise, I fear they will lose their Islamic identity.

3) He emphasized the importance of establishing Islamic schools, wherein various worldly sciences are taught, but in an Islamic environment. He said that children study and spend much of their time in secular schools and in a non-Islamic environment, thus weekend Islamic madrasas are not sufficient. Safeguarding the Dīn of children should be your greatest concern. The jurists (fuqahā) have said that it is not permitted to live in non-Muslim countries, if one is unable to preserve the Dīn of one’s children. As such, he pleaded that a group is set up to establish such schools. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would always be concerned about others. We should have a burning desire inside our hearts in how to bring our younger generation up as righteous Muslims.

4) The final point made by the Shaykh was in relation to Muslim unity. He stressed the importance of avoiding polemical arguments in secondary matters such as moon sighting, prayer times and the like. He added that debating and fighting over such issues turn the younger generation away from Islam. Having a difference of opinion is not a problem; even the Companions disagreed. However, it should not prevent us from working together in issues that concern us all.  

A detailed Q & A session followed the speech, with questions raised on issues such as interest (riba), conventional and Islamic mortgages and halal meat. The respected Shaykh highlighted the severity of the sin of riba, stressing that conventional mortgages are not permitted. He suggested the establishment of house finance organizations, such as Guidance House Finance in the US, which can provide finance on the basis of Islamic principles.

On a question regarding Bitcoin, he explained that there is a difference between paper currency and Bitcoin. Paper currency is a legal tender and backed by the government, whilst there is nothing behind Bitcoin.  He added that the majority of scholars are of the opinion that it is not permitted to trade in Bitcoin. 

In relation to a question on Islamic banks charging its clients more than conventional banks, the Shaykh stated that at times they indeed charge more. However, this is because conventional banks’ charges fluctuate based on the rate of interest, whilst Islamic banks are not permitted to do that. They have to fix their monthly charges, taking into consideration the 20/25 years of payment. The total final amount, however, is very similar in both Islamic and conventional mortgages. The Shaykh did, however, show disapproval, to certain banks taking advantage of Muslim clients and charging extortionate amounts without a need. 

In relation to a question on whether customary practice (ūrf) changes Islamic rulings, he stated that ūrf can contribute in bringing about a change in certain rules, provided it does not contravene established Islamic rulings. He has discussed this issue in detail in his book, titled: Usūl al-Iftā wa Ādābuhū, which should be consulted in this regard. 

In relation to a question on animal stunning, the Shaykh said it is better for local scholars to discuss and provide a ruling, rather than him giving a fatwa.

The session ended with Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami introducing Ustadh Fatih to our respected Shaykh, adding that he is the publisher of the Dutch translation of Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani’s book on the issue of following a madhhab (taqlīd), titled: The Legal Status of Following a Madhab. The Dutch translation is titled: De Juridische ‬Status van Taqlid en het Volgen van een Madhhab.

A Unique Personal Experience

Dinner was arranged for all the attendees after the program. ʿIshā’ Prayer was already performed at the venue prior to our arrival. Thus, as some guests were greeting and talking to our respected Shaykh after his speech, he – whilst still on the podium – called me to join him for ʿIshā’, since we were yet to perform it. I quickly made my way to the podium, and to my utter surprize, he instructed me to lead the prayer. I felt extremely uncomfortable being the imam and leading the two of us in prayer, but in accordance with the famous statement of some early scholars “obeying an order is above observing manners” (al-amr fawq al-adab), I hesitantly moved forward and led the prayer. It was a challenging and unique personal experience for me, which I shall remember for the rest of my life.

A few weeks later, when I mentioned this incident to my dear friend, Mawlana Shakir Jhakura (academic assistant of our respected Shaykh), he asked, “What was going through your mind at the time?” Mawlana added that he also had this honour previously when our beloved Shaykh was unable to stand in prayer due to illness, saying that “it is not an easy task!” I responded by saying that the thought which had crossed my mind at the time was the hope (and fear) of my deficient prayer (salat) not negatively impacting the Shaykh’s salat. May Allah Most High overlook the deficient quality of my salat and forgive my shortcomings, Āmīn.

Dinner

After performing ʿIshā’, the Shaykh sat down for dinner with local scholars, and they continued asking questions and discussing various matters with him. Of particular mention is Shaykh Jalal al-Jihani, who, whilst sat right next to our respected Shaykh, engaged in some very fruitful discussions with him. Shaykh Jalal is of Libyan origin and a teacher/professor at the Islamic University of Rotterdam (which we visited the following day). He specialises in Maliki fiqh, Islamic Creed and other sciences. Our respected Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani was also impressed with Shaykh Jalal’s knowledge and extensive reading. Shaykh Jalal mentioned that he has studied Shaykh’s Arabic masterpiece work Fiqh al-Buyū’ and found it to be very beneficial, adding that he has compiled a few notes in relation to a few Maliki positions taken in the book and will soon send them over to the Shaykh. The evening ended with Shaykh Jalal and a few other scholars requesting Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani to sign their copies of Shaykh’s books. 

To Rotterdam

We departed the venue in the town of Wageningen and headed for Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second largest city and a major European port. We were scheduled to stay the next couple of nights here. Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami took the opportunity to ask our dear Shaykh various questions during the late night drive that lasted approximately 45 minutes. Of these was the Islamic ruling on stunning animals and the current situation in the Netherlands. Shaykh Sa’id explained that not stunning animals is legally allowed in the Netherlands, but some Muslims themselves are opposed to it – choosing to follow the fatwa that it is permitted. He added that mechanical slaughter is by and large deemed impermissible by the scholars of the Netherlands. Our respected Shaykh commented that stunning does not render the animal unlawful to consume [provided it is alive at the time of slaughter]. However, the method of stunning is at the least disliked (makruh) due to causing undue harm and suffering to the animal. He added that he has personally witnessed cows being stunned with a captive bolt pistol and saw how they suffered. On post-slaughter stunning, the Shaykh commented that it can be considered lighter than pre-slaughter stunning, but it should, nevertheless, be avoided. He cited Pakistan as an example, where animals are slaughtered on a large scale without stunning.

With the above productive discussion in the car, we arrived in Rotterdam and resorted to our hotel rooms for much needed sleep.

Tuesday 7th January

At the Islamic University (Rotterdam) 

On Tuesday morning, after Fajr prayers, breakfast and some rest, we departed the hotel at around 10am for our visit to the Islamic University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam (IUASR). The university was founded in 1997, as a result of initiatives taken by Muslims living in the Netherlands – especially Prof. Dr. Ahmad Akgunduz (of Turkish origin), who is its Rector and Chairman. The university is a private school in the sense that it is not state funded, and relies mostly on donations. However, it has state recognition and legal accreditation as an institute of Higher Education. The university offers two recognised degree programmes: Bachelor (B) in Islamic Theology and Master (M) in Islamic Spiritual Care (chaplaincy) – both accredited by the official accreditation organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders. In January 2019, the university began the application process for a PhD research programme accreditation. 

As we entered the university building, Dr. Ahmad Akgunduz (the Principal), Shaykh Jalal (a lecturer at the university whom we met on Monday evening) and other staff members were anticipating Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani’s arrival at the reception and welcomed him with ultimate warmth, love and respect. Whilst climbing the stairs on our way to the lecture hall, Dr. Ahmad Akgunduz asked me if I was the son of Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani. Before I could respond to him, our beloved Shaykh turned around and said in a firm tone, “na’am, ibni al-ruhi” (yes, he is my spiritual son). Hearing such words from his mouth, despite my unworthiness, made me feel speechless and it will indeed be one of the most cherished moments of my entire life. I took it as a good omen, and pray that Allah Most High forgive my shortcomings and enable me to better myself, Āmīn.

Dr. Ahmad led us all into the lecture hall and continued his discussion with our respected Shaykh. Dr. Ahmad is an expert researcher on the Ottoman Empire – its history, laws and education. He has authored several works in Turkish, Arabic and English, such as Islamic Public Law: documents on practice from the Ottoman archives, Ottoman History: misperceptions and truths, and Ottoman Harem: the male and female slavery in Islamic Law. Our respected Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) was very impressed and appreciative of Dr. Ahmad’s research and work on this topic – especially because the Shaykh has, for some time, been in search of material on the governance style of the Ottoman Empire and the laws and judicial system of that era. Dr. Ahmad gifted some of his important books to our respected Shaykh, which the latter received very gracefully. Dr. Ahmad added that he has benefitted a lot from the works of Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani and, thus, considers him as his teacher. 

Dr. Ahmad has commenced an extensive program of compiling all the judicial verdicts of the Ottoman Empire. He has, so far, published eleven volumes in Turkish. Our respected Shaykh requested for the work to be translated into Arabic and English, and offered financial support in this regard. Dr. Ahmad accepted the proposal. Shaykh Jalal promised to personally take on this task. May Allah Most High grant blessing and enable for this work to be completed with ease, Āmīn.

With all the teachers and students assembled in the lecture hall, Dr. Ahmad introduced Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him), saying that the Shaykh possesses many qualities, of which he would like to highlight two. First, a quality seldom found in contemporary scholars, is that he always adheres to the principles of the Qur’an, Sunna and traditional understanding of Ahl al-Sunna in his works. This is why, he added, we love him more than we love other contemporary scholars. Secondly, with the tawfīq of Allah, he has solved many difficult contemporary issues of finance, in accordance with the traditional four schools of Sunni Islamic law. 

Thereafter, upon the request of Dr. Ahmad, our respected Shaykh delivered a short speech in English. Below are the summarized points of his speech:

1) “I am extremely happy to be in your midst at this august university. I am even happier to receive such precious books written by Prof. Ahmad. Whenever I visited Turkey, I searched for material on the decisions of the Ottoman Empire judges. Since I am a student of Islamic law, I wanted to see how the judges of the Ottoman Empire implemented Islamic law in their day-to-day lives, because court judgments are the best way to understand how these laws were implemented. I found some archives, but unfortunately they were in Turkish. I was in search of something that could be translated into English or Arabic, so I could benefit. I am now extremely grateful to Prof. Ahmad for equipping me with these masterly works and treasures of knowledge.

I am in the process of codifying Islamic law and how it can be implemented in our ages and surroundings. I have commenced with the law of sale (fiqh al-buyu’) – at the end of my two volume work, I have codified the basic Islamic principles of sale. Currently, I am working on the principles of mortgage, guarantee, etc. I have a project to codify the entire Islamic financial law.

2) It is a great day of my life that I have visited you. I am amazed that such a university is established here in the Netherlands. I congratulate you and congratulate the students that they have such an opportunity to learn from people like Dr. Ahmad, and also Shaykh Jalal whom I met yesterday and benefitted from his knowledge Al-Ḥamdu lillāh.

3) I advise the students to increase in their learning, because seeking knowledge should be from the cradle to the grave. The quest for knowledge should continue till one’s last breath. Imam Abu Yusuf (may Allah have mercy on him) was engaged in discussing a matter of fiqh in the final moments of his life. Create this quest and thirst for knowledge in your hearts. Complacency is not the sign of a serious student.

4) I advise myself first, and all of you, that mere knowledge (ilm) is not sufficient without practice (amal). Knowledge must be translated into action. One must adhere to the obligatory acts (farā’id) and refrain from sins, and try to follow in the footsteps (sunna) of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in every aspect of life. Some orientalists possess much knowledge regarding Islam, but despite delving into the waters of knowledge, they do not even taste a drop of it, because they do not believe in the knowledge they have learnt. My late father, Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (may Allah have mercy on him), would say that if mere knowledge was sufficient, then Satan would have been superior to everyone, since he had knowledge, but it did not save him from the fire of hell. Ḥakīm al-Umma Shaykh Mawlana Ashraf ʿAli Thānawī (may Allah have mercy on him), a great jurist and sufi who wrote more than one thousand books, said, “Satan/Iblis was an ʿālim (knowledgeable), ʿārif (recognized Allah in that He is not overwhelmed by emotions), ʿābid (worshipper), but he was not a ʿāshiq (lover of Allah). Had he been a ʿāshiq, he would not have refused the command of Allah to bow before Sayyiduna Adam (peace be upon him). As such, the basic purpose of a Muslim student is to gain knowledge and then act in accordance with the knowledge.

A questions and answers session followed the speech. On being questioned, the respected Shaykh mentioned that his lectures on Sahih al-Bukhari have been transcribed and published in 12 volumes, and are in the process of being translated into Arabic. He added that he has worked on three hadith books: 1) Sahih Muslim (his Arabic commentary titled: Takmila Fath al-Mulhim), 2) Sahih al-Bukhari (his 12 volume In’ām al-Bāri) and 3) Sunan Tirmidhi (his published lectures, titled: Dars Tirmidhi and Taqrīr Tirmidhi). In relation to a question on how to balance between seeking knowledge/dīn and dunya, he said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) instructed us to maintain a balance. He (Allah bless him & give him peace) undertook employment, engaged in business and undertook agriculture (zirā’a). However, it did not hinder him from obeying the command of Allah and fulfilling his duties. A student asked how one can become a ʿāshiq. The Shaykh responded by saying, “Follow the sunna of the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), because Allah Most High says: ‘Say (O Prophet): ‘If you really love Allah, then follow me, and Allah shall love you and forgive you your sins’” (3: 31)

Dr. Ahmad then invited all the teachers and staff of the university to greet our respected Shaykh and introduce themselves. We sat in his office for a few minutes drinking tea and engaging in light hearted conversations. Thereafter, we took permission and departed the university to head back to the hotel. 

On the way, we undertook a small tour of the Western part of Rotterdam, on the banks of River Mass, and witnessed the Euromast observation tower from the exterior. A delightful lunch was taken at a restaurant located in the famous market hall (Markthal) of Rotterdam – a beautifully designed building comprising of shops, restaurants, apartments and underground 4-storey parking garage. Different types of fish dishes were on the menu, and our respected Shaykh commented that the fish was one of the finest he has ever tasted. After lunch, we returned to the hotel for afternoon rest.

Lecture on Islamic Finance (Honselersdijk)

Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani’s (may Allah protect him) English lecture on the topic of Islamic finance had been advertised for Tuesday evening at 7pm. The program was arranged in a large hall in Honselersdijk – a small town close to The Hague. We departed our hotel in Rotterdam around 6:30pm with Brother Qays Tach as our driver. Upon reaching the lecture hall, we were informed that the audience was more than expected, and thus the program had to be delayed slightly in order to accommodate all the attendees. 

After waiting for around 20/25 minutes in a side room and performing ʿIshā’ in congregation, we finally made our way to the main lecture hall. The hall was absolutely packed and, according to my estimation, a large crowd of over a thousand people (both male and female) were in attendance. The majority of the attendees were youth. They had travelled from all over the Netherlands, as well as other countries such as Belgium and Germany.

Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) first delivered a short speech in Urdu for the Urdu speaking community, in which he emphasized the importance and great Islamic responsibility of safeguarding the faith (iman) of one’s children. He mentioned two points in this regard: 1) Sending one’s children to Islamic Schools, and 2) Allocating and spending time with one’s children on a daily basis; for example, reading some Islamic material together as a family. He ended the short speech by advising that one should constantly supplicate Allah (duʿā’) and thank Him (shukr) for the blessings He has bestowed.

Thereafter, the respected Shaykh commenced his English lecture on Islamic finance. A video recording of the full lecture is available on YouTube, but nevertheless, below is the summary of the points discussed:

1) Islamic finance is important for Muslims, as well as humanity at large.

2) Islamic finance is important for Muslims because, as Muslims, we are duty-bound to obey every command of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Islam is a complete code of life that has also prescribed guidelines on trade and operating the economy. Of these, the prohibition of riba is a major command of Shari’a to the point that Allah wages war against those involved in riba. As such, a Muslim should adhere to this command, regardless of whether one understands the wisdom behind the prohibition or otherwise. Islam means submission, hence Islamic finance is important for Muslims because Muslims should adhere and submit to the dictates of Shari’a. Some people are unwilling to accept the prohibition of riba unless they understand the wisdom and logic behind it – this is not submission.

3) Interest (riba) was prohibited even by the bible. However, some later Christians differentiated between usury prohibited in the bible and interest in the current banking system. Others, including some Muslims, followed suit. However, this was rejected unanimously by Muslim scholars from around the world.

4) The reason why Islamic finance is important for the entire world and humanity at large is because interest, sale of debts, derivatives, etc. create a bubble economy and not a real economy, as seen in the financial crises of 2008. As such, humanity needs a new system that is based on a real economy. There is a big difference between sale and interest – sale creates assets and real economy, whilst interest does not create any real assets. 

5) Islamic finance is going to increase in shā Allah. The rate of Islamic finance growth is greater than the rate of conventional finance growth. Islamic finance is being practiced in around 90 countries, including many non-Muslim countries. There are many Islamic financial institutions in the US that are providing home financing on the basis of Islamic principles. Many economists are now in agreement that Islamic finance is much closer to creating a real economy, and in future it will be the most equitable system. 

An extensive questions and answers session followed the lecture, in which attendees posed a range of queries in relation to Islamic finance such as the prohibition of conventional mortgages even if to acquire one house, definition of riba, working at conventional banks and insurance companies, takaful,  car leasing and crypto currency. Finally, the respected Shaykh ended the conference with a duʿā’.

Whilst leaving the conference hall, hundreds of attendees encircled our respected Shaykh and greeted him with a lot of love and respect. Dinner was served in one of the rooms, and thereafter, we departed to leave for our hotel in Rotterdam. As we were leaving, a few brothers came to greet the Shaykh and mentioned disappointedly that they had travelled from Belgium but were delayed and hence missed the speech. The Shaykh comforted them and supplicated that Allah accept their journey and endeavour. We returned to the hotel and rested for the night.

Wednesday 8th January

It was our final day in the Netherlands, with an afternoon flight scheduled for London. After Fajr, breakfast and some rest, we departed the hotel around 10am with our luggage for the airport. Our hosts had planned a bit of sightseeing in The Hague en route to Amsterdam airport. May Allah reward and bless my dear brother, Qais Tach, for managing the Shaykh’s trip with utmost efficiency, diligence and putting much time behind it. Whilst departing the hotel, brother Qais brought his daughter of only a few months, named Israa, to the Shaykh for duʿā’ and tahnīk. The Shaykh performed tahnīk by chewing on a date and placing a small portion of it in the mouth of the baby. He also gifted some money for the baby, mā shā Allah.

Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami and I accompanied our respected Shaykh in one of the cars, with our driver brother Qais, whilst the Shaykh’s wife was escorted in another car by brother Qais’ wife. Many issues were discussed in the car on the way to The Hague. Upon being asked whether one should say “sayyiduna” before the name of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) whilst reciting the salawāt ibrāhimiyya in prayer, Shaykh al-Islām (may Allah protect him) responded by saying that he inclines towards the position of classical jurists (fuqahā), in that one should recite in accordance with what is mentioned in the text of the hadith (i.e. without including “sayyiduna”). However, he added that his personal practice is of saying it – revealing that he just cannot omit it!

Sightseeing in The Hague

After about an hour’s drive, we reached The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag) – a city on the western coast of the Netherlands on the North Sea and famous for housing the International Court of Justice. We strolled for a while near the sandy beach in Scheveningen, enjoying the blessing (ni’ma) of clean water and fresh air. Since it was winter, the beach area was virtually empty. We performed Ẓuhr in congregation on the beach, Al-Ḥamdu lillāh, and then decided to have lunch and coffee at one of the cafes near the beach. When the restaurant waiter gave us the bill, Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah protect him) insisted on paying, saying that it was his treat. The amount charged was not small, given the location we were at. 

Generosity is one of the special qualities of our respected Shaykh, which in fact is a Prophetic character-trait. I have personally witnessed his generosity on many occasions. His normal practice, during his visits to various countries, is that he usually gifts something to his hosts in different cities and locations – and his visits are extremely frequent. The children of his various hosts and associates are also usually given a monetary gift by him. May Allah bless him and grant us the ability to inculcate this quality within us, Āmīn.

After lunch, we headed towards Amsterdam airport and reached within an hour. The respected Shaykh thanked and bid farewell to his hosts – Shaykh Sa’id al-Muqaddami and his colleagues. My dear friend, brother Rida, and I accompanied the Shaykh and his family on the short KLM Airlines flight to London city airport. ʿAsr and Maghrib were performed at the airport after passing passport control and prior to boarding the plane. A very fruitful and beneficial three day tour of the Netherlands had sadly come to an end. 

On a personal level, these three days were some of the most memorable days of my life, Al-Ḥamdu lillāh. I am thankful to Allah Most High first and foremost for granting me this great blessing of staying in the company of my dear and beloved Shaykh. I am also thankful to our Shaykh for accepting the invite and allowing this insignificant being to accompany him and serve him. May Allah Almighty protect him, grant him well-being (a’fiya) and allow us to benefit from him. May Allah reward in abundance all those who helped and assisted in this beneficial trip to the Netherlands come to fruition, and make it a means of salvation in the Hereafter for us all, Āmīn. And the last of our prayers is: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

(Ps, in order to view the short documentary on our trip to The Netherlands, please click here).

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Leicester, UK
28/05/2020

Images from the Trip

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A Trip to the Land of Scholars and Saints

Launching Bookstore

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