From Yemen, to Sylhet, to Whitechapel – The Story of Shah Jalal Al-Din (RA) Shaykh Habib Ali Al-Jifri (Hafizahullah)
There are many narrations regarding the story of Shah Jalal. Some say that he was of Turkish origin and others say that he was of Yemeni origin. There is very little that is actually documented about Shah Jalal but the following is the story that was described in the event organised by Radical Middle Way on 08 May 2008.
Shaykh Habib Ali mentioned that Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din was a man of great stature. He was a scholar and a saint and a da’ee of Allah. He came from a scholarly family and was a scholar himself. He had sanad’s (chains of transmission) in all three fields of Islamic Knowledge namely:
1. Sanad of Riwaya in the Transmission of Hadith and Knowledge all the way back to the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him).
2. Sand in the meanings and understandings of Hadith and Knowledge going all back to the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him).
3. Sanad in Tasawwuf and Ihsan (purification) going all back to the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him).
The Shaykh stressed the importance of this Sanad because this is what connects our sacred knowledge to the teachings of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him)
He travelled from his place of origin (whether it be Turkey or Yemen, Shaykh Habib Ali preferred Yemen and said that is the stronger opinion) all the way to Sylhet in order to promote the word of Allah and bring people to the deen. On his journey he met and sat with the scholars of the lands that he passed by and he paused in modern day India for a while to sit with contemporary saints such as Shaykh Muin Al-Din Chishti and Nizam Al-Din Awliya.
Shaykh Habib Ali then paused to mention some lessons that can be learnt from this:
1. One lesson is that the heart of the people of Allah are attached to those that have a connection with Allah and therefore they desire to sit with them and learn from them. Good companionship with people of Taqwa is something that we should all seek and we should look to sit at gathering of the men of Taqwa.
2. Although Shah Jalal Al-Din was a saint himself, he did not see himself as bigger or better than his contemporaries. He sat with them to learn from them showing that seeking knowledge and ma’rifa is an everlasting task that can never end.
3. The third lesson is that taking council (Shura) from the local scholars is very important especially if you have come from a foreign land. The local scholars can tell you a lot about the environment that you are going into, the culture of the people, their characteristics and temperaments etc. This is a very important lesson for those scholars that are coming from the east to give da’wah in the west is that they need to sit with the local Ulama and learn about the local conditions before beginning their work here.
So, having taken the council of these local saints, Maulana Shah Jala Al-Din proceeded to Sylhet. He had with him 360 disciples. They entered Sylhet and began their Da’wah.
[The shaykh said that there is another narration which said that there was a war before Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din entered Sylhet, but the shaykh preferred and believed the other version which says that the war took place after Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din entered Sylhet and started his Da’wah.]
The Da’wah of Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din and his disciples converted many of the local population to Islam. The population at the time was hindu and so was the governor of the area. The governor was made aware of the spread of the da’wah of Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din and he became worried and therefore called Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din to his court.
Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din entered the court of the governor and invited him to accept Islam. The governor refused and wanted to do away with Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din. He told his guards to get their weapons out to shoot Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din. Seeing this display of might, Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din reminded himself that Allah was the one deserving of all might, and he uttered the Phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’.
At this utterance the palace of governor shook and fell to pieces and the governor was defeated.
Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din and his disciples continued to spread the da’wah until the entire nation because Muslim. Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din encouraged his followers to marry the local women and to have children and they did this.
At this point, Shaykh Habib Ali, paused again to mention a very important lesson that is to be learnt. That is that if these disciples of Maulana Shah Jalal Al-Din were bad men, the women of the locality would not have married them and nor would they have converted to the faith. The reason Islam appealed to the women was because of the treatment of women in Islam and also because these men were good people and good husbands following the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
He asked the audience how many of us treat our women the way we are supposed to with gentleness and kindness and mercy and love? He talked about the love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for his family and his treatment of his wives and encouraged us all to emulate him (peace be upon him) in this.
Shaykh Habib Ali then went onto mention three modes of giving Da’wah:
1. Da’wah with the tongue with beautifully preaching that appeals to the listener.
2. Da’wah through ones good actions and good character.
3. Da’wah through ones ‘Haal’ (state) with Allah (SWT).
All three are needed in order for one to be an effective Da’ee. [However in this day and age, we see the last one being ignored by many people, and maybe this is one reason why so many Da’ees fail in bringing people back to the deen.]
The Shaykh then said that it was due to the above three qualities that the da’wah of Mawlana Shah Jalal Al-Din was so successful. Mawlana Shah Jalal Al-Din with his 360 or so disciples converted an entire nation to Islam, and it is because of his work that the Bangladeshi’s are Muslim today. We owe him a great debt. And just as he has converted the entire nation of Bangladesh to Islam, we should follow in his footsteps and aim to bring this Da’wah to the people of the UK.
Mawlana Shah Jalal Al-Din after having completed his mission and having converted the majority of the country to Islam, he receded to a cave and lived the remainder of his life from there. This was due to his immense desire to be alone with the lord and to be away from any worldly distractions. People continued to flock to him everyday to learn from him and to benefit from his knowledge and tasawwuf.
Shaykh Habib Ali concluded his talk by mentioning his 3 night stay at the mosque and mausoleum of Mawlana Shah Jalal Al-Din in Sylhet. He spent 3 nights praying in the masjid and interacting with the locals and the visitors. He spent time at the grave and reflected on the accomplishments of Mawlana Shah Jalal Al-Din and made prayers for him.
At his point, Shaykh Habib Ali, mentioned the benefits of visiting graves as the following:
1. The grave reminds you of death and the hereafter.
2. Visiting the graves of the pious allows us to build a spiritual connection with those in the next world, and allows us to develop love and companionship with the deceased.
3. The graves of the righteous are gardens of paradise and therefore one is standing close to a place full of blessings and mercy. Being in that place allows one to share in this mercy and blessing that is descending continuously on the grave.
The Shaykh made a quick note on Tawassul saying that there is an ikhtilaf on the issue and that those opposed to it should not bother those that do practise it as it is an issue of ikhtilaf and one is not allowed to condemn the opinion of the other as it is a valid difference of opinion.
He said that if Allah (SWT) wanted, He (SWT) could have made all the evidences of the Qur’an and Sunnah decisive and unambiguous (Qat’i). But instead, out of His (SWT) Divine Mercy, allowed there to be room for differences so that valid difference of opinion can be accommodated.
The Shaykh then ended the talk with a Dua.
May Allah (SWT) bless and preserve Shaykh Habib Ali.
Please note that these notes are totally mine and are not a transcript and may not reflect the exact words of the shaykh.