This blog is undertaken by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks to reach out to the virtual Ummah, who have much to benefit and learn from his insights. He ruminates here, about the spirituality of Being, chronicles his memoirs with some of the illustrious Ulama he has spent his life learning from and contemplates critical issues facing the contemporary Muslim.
He started his professional career as a High School English teacher. Subsequent to that he departed for Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where he spent ten years specialising in Islamic Law (fiqh and usul al-fiqh) at Umm al-Qura University. Previous to this he spent a number of years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in South Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.
After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: Tasawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his Ph.D at the same.
Apart from fiqh and usul al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilization studies, inter-faith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He also has a specialized interest in the Maqasid al-Shari’ah (Objectives/Purposes of Islamic Law) and Fiqh al-Aqilliyat (The Fiqh of Minorities). He has lectured and presented papers in many countries; sharing platforms with his contemporaries, particularly of the Radical Middle Way. Shaykh Seraj has been ranked as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims consecutively in 2009, 2010 and 2011, in a study undertaken by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.
Amongst the many classical scholars who have influenced Shaykh Seraj, Imam Ghazali and Ibn Arabi stand out as having shaped his world-view most strikingly. He has translated works of Imam Ghazali, and summarized parts of the Ihya Ulum al-Din, most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.
Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee and a three-year stint as a lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Shari’ah Board, Hakim (Chief Arbitrator) of The Crescent Observer’s Society and a Lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the al-Zawiyah institute of which he is the Imam, for the past seventeen years, as the representative of the Ba’ Alawi Tariqa, handed down to him by his beloved Shaykh, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi al-Maliki.
Whilst the above reference some of the factual and chronological aspects of Shaykh Seraj’s life, it is difficult to express the impact he has had and continues to have on the lives of so many – that knowledge, which passes from heart to heart, can never be measured. His deep love for and commitment to the spiritual dimensions of Islam, as well as his expertise in its legal sphere have endeared him to and earned him the respect of people from all walks of life, especially his students, to whom he has taught much more than what is written in books.
I end, with this conversation between Rumi and Shams, which perhaps best captures what this blog is all about:
Shams was always a little crazy. He certainly was not in and of the world. Not like those around him.
I used to say, “Who could stand to be near you? Who can understand what you are talking about?”
“Though it appears I speak in riddles, of what I speak are pieces of life’s puzzle. But no one seems to have any interest. They would rather see life as a hardship or a great struggle.”
“Life is hard enough without your confusing banter, Shams.”
“Rumi, my words come from a place few could understand, much less inhabit. They come from the heart, not from the mind. They leap like dancers from the stage of my experience.”
“Do you never tire of attempting to change lives?”
“Rumi, do you tire of breathing, of eating?”
May ar-Rahman continue to bless our esteemed scholars and teachers, the spiritual heirs of the Ambiya and beacons of Purity, Light, Understanding and Love, who never exhaust in their endeavors to change hearts and minds.
Safiyyah Surtee, October 2010