In the Valley of Saints: A Reflection on Quaid’s 70th Birthday
Hammad Mustafa al-Madani al-Qadri
Today marks seventy glorious years in the life of the individual of this century. It is remarkable to experience a lifetime in his shadow. My dearest grandfather – Quaid-i-Inqilab Huzur Sayyidi Shaykh-ul-Islam Professor Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri – is my inspiration and my light. I often ponder and marvel over why I have been given the opportunity to spend timeless moments in his company. I wonder whether the answer to this curious anomaly is reserved for a special moment in the future. Perhaps, Allah Almighty ﷻ has veiled certain secrets from us, for our own good.
Amongst many allegories, His Eminence often gives the example of the journey of a train passenger. Some people may be fascinated by the glamour of scenic landscapes throughout the adventure. Others may discover their view hidden behind the walls of an underpass, like the Eurotunnel. The traveller is – in both cases – advancing towards his or her destination.
Some people are awarded the picturesque view of mountains, lakes and valleys in the train ride of their life. These are the fantastic blessings of Allah Almighty ﷻ bestowed upon special people. In the case of others, Allah Almighty ﷻ showers his blessings and bounty equally, but the individual is protected from the whims of the ego and the wretched world. The Almighty veils their journey as a measure to prevent them from straying and falling prey for the glamour of this world.
From an early age, Shaykh-ul-Islam was bestowed magnificent scenes of divine beauty and nature. The magnitude of the journey and the infinite bounty of the destination was never veiled from him. The story of Shaykh-ul-Islam’s first visit to the sacred resting place of the Holy Prophet ﷺ is well known. His Eminence was rewarded with a vivid imagination of the blessings of the Beloved of Allah ﷻ. He was told at a very tender age what his ultimate responsibility was.
It often bewilders me how a young child spends his days in the tireless pursuit of knowledge and his nights in the remembrance of Allah Almighty ﷻ. One imagines that – with sincere dedication and unhindered determination to strive toward your ultimate goal – it is possible to make a routine out of this. However, I often marvel at the sight of my dearest grandfather – Shaykh-ul-Islam – sitting in a spiritual trance under a lamp studying books at 3 o’clock in the morning, and even until the dawn prayer. My dwelling used to be right next to Shaykh-ul-Islam’s study room in the lower floor of our home, and often late into the night, I used to wonder how it is possible for someone to begin studying in the morning and only rise from their study before the first call of Ṣalāt al-Fajr. What I realised as I grew up is that this is only possible through divine providence. The tireless desire to fulfill your duty to the Almighty ﷻ and the Holy Prophet ﷺ is reserved for only a selected few people in one given age; in one given era.
I have always preferred to never enquire or ask questions. Reflecting upon the ways of the spiritual mystics and the manners of their students, I always knew to ‘observe’ is right and to ‘ask’ is unsound. Some questions are meant to be answered and other questions are not even meant to be asked. The answers which are given are meant to be given and some answers are to remain in the vault of secrets.
One thing is for certain, whenever my curiosity ever got the better of me, Shaykh-ul-Islam would give me the answer anyways. It is a subtle characteristic of His Eminence to say exactly what is necessary and never a phrase more. The measure and calculation in his communication emits sanctity. It just happens to be so that you desire some reflection on any given matter and Shaykh-ul-Islam will respond before you even express curiosity. What is even more spectacular is the measure of knowing when not to say anything and let events take their due course. It seems that this contemporary age has forgotten what ‘restraint’ is in communication and expression. We seem to jump into any conversation, on any topic and in any circle. We have forgotten what it means to listen and contemplate in silence. Silence is often the best form of communication.
What is even more inviting in Shaykh-ul-Islam’s personality is his sense of humour and warmth. There never passes a day when he does not carry out a conversation with a lighter note and a reflection with humour. It is often said that a sign of a true leader is the remarkable ability to narrate stories. After all, what people desire most is a narrative for their lives; something to live for; something to drive through the dreary routine of day-to-day existence. There is always principle, virtue and morality in his humour and narration.
I recall His Eminence telling us about one of his best friend’s wedding. It was perhaps in the early 1970s that one of the friends from his close circle requested his presence in putting forward a marriage proposal. This friend came from the humblest of backgrounds and without the intercession and commendation from someone of Shaykh-ul-Islam’s stature, no one would have agreed to such a proposition. Shaykh-ul-Islam arrived at the family’s house along with his friend and rest of the close circle of friends. As he interceded, he explained to the father:
“Listen carefully and closely. I’m going to give you the truth, the entire truth and nothing but the truth. You need to listen to this and then make your decision with all honesty. Do not hesitate to act in your best interest.”
His Eminence left no stone unturned in describing his friend’s house, family and background. He told them that his friend is honest and a hardworking teacher at a college. However, his house has no walls; the walls of the four neighbours around surrounds the barrier. Additionally, the house has no door as it was swept aside in a recent flood. The potential groom’s uncles earn an honest living by selling ‘pakoras’ and there is only one room in the house allocated to the friend. At this moment, Shaykh-ul-Islam’s fellows were in a state of hysterics and laughter. They were simultaneously shocked as to the amount of transparency in Shaykh-ul-Islam’s portrayal of his friend. They were absolutely certain the host would excuse himself from the proposal after hearing the truth.
Shaykh-ul-Islam told the host that despite informing them about the friend’s entire background, he still vouches for the character and integrity of his friend. He encouraged the father to discuss this matter with the family and give them their honest answer. When the host returned after consulting with his family, he informed His Eminence and his friends that after speaking to the family, they have all agreed to accept this proposal. Shaykh-ul-Islam was shocked to hear this answer and repeatedly asked the host whether he understood that his friend had no walls, no door and of the humble origins he possesses. The host’s answer reveals an important gem deeply imbedded within Shaykh-ul-Islam’s character. He said:
“We recognise how simple your friend’s dwellings may be, but if he has such an honest and integrity-filled friend as yourself vouching for him, we are certain that this match is sufficient. For you have left no detail hidden from us, we are certain your reference is priceless.”
Shaykh-ul-Islam had embarked to help his friend, with the sincere intention of hiding no facts from the host – revealing all the details of his socio-economic background. The integrity of truth and the light of honesty shines bright and enlightens everyone and all situations. His Eminence is in his humour transparent and measured, and in his communication as pure as light. He committed entirely to the fulfilment of duty – whether to his own friend or his friend’s suitor.
There is no doubt that for someone to become the ‘man of this century’, a prolific author and inspiring leader, there are certain characteristics and traits that are inseparable from their persona. Shaykh-ul-Islam strives tirelessly – till this day – in intellectual endeavours for the sake of humanity and Muslims for generations to come. He is motivated by the sole purpose of the satisfaction and the illuminating smile of the Holy Prophet ﷺ.
There are only a few roses in a bouquet and only so many bouquets in a basket. We are honoured to have accompanied an entire garden in this brief journey of life. May Allah ﷻ, through the blessings of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, allow us to receive some fragrance from this orchard.