Precious Extracts is a collection of excerpts, translated by Shaykh Seraj from the works of his revered and beloved Shaykh al-Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi al-Maliki (ra), as well as reminiscences of their time together, containing gems of wisdom, for the discerning heart and mind.
It would be impossible to recollect, in its entirety, the biography of Sayyid Muhammad in a few paragraphs. The immensity of his life and its far-reaching impact are like the ripples which form when a stone is dropped on still water, ever-expanding and perpetually resonating.
Sayyid Muhammad was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) through Imam Hasan (ra). He was a Hijazi scholar of Tafseer, Hadith, Fiqh,`Aqeedah, and Seerah. He was a most highly acclaimed and respected scholar in Makkah, born to a family of traditional Maliki scholars of ancestral residence in the Holy City. He was educated by his eminent father from childhood and was authorised to teach every book he studied with him. He also learnt at the feet of prominent scholars of Makkah such as Shaykh Say-yid Ameen Kutbi, Shaykh Hassan Masshat, Shaykh Muhammad Nur Sayf, Shaykh Saeed Yamani and many others.
At the age of 25 he received his Phd from from the esteemed Al Azhar university of Egypt. His thesis – on Hadith – was rated excellent and highly praised by the‘ulama there at the time such as Imam Abu Zahra. During his never-ending quest for knowledge he traveled extensively to North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and the Indo-Pak sub-continent to gather Hadith, collect manuscripts, visit scholars, saints and benefit from their wisdom.
Apart from the ‘ulama of the Hijaz he had “Sanad” or “‘Ijazah” (lineage of authority to teach and guide) in the theological and spiritual sciences from eminent savants all over the Islamic world. The great Da’ee and Imam of Yemen, Imam Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad , Shaykh Hasnayn Makhluf the great Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh al Ghimari of Morrocco , Shaykh Diauddin Qadiri of Madinah and numerous others have given him their ‘ijazah.
In 1970 he was appointed professor of Islamic studies at the Umm-ul-Qurra university in Makkah. In 1971, after his father’s death, the scholars of Makkah asked him to accept his father’s position as a teacher in the Holy Mosque, which he did. Hundreds of students have learnt at his feet and have become savants of Islamic knowledge and spirituality in their countries, and consist of some of the worlds renowned scholars today. He also gave classes at his home and mosque in Makkah, where Shaykh Seraj spent many years studying at his feet, receiving ‘ijazah from him. He visited South Africa – having inherited a spiritual community in the heart of Cape Town, now represented by the al-Zawiyah mosque, in Walmer Estate.
Sayyid Muhammad spoke out vociferously against all forms of extremism, and was continuously under threat of being banned. The Sayyid followed and advocated the mainstream majority tradition of Islam, the hallmark of which is tolerance, moderation and unity in diversity. He was a proponent of Shar’iah based Sufism, of which he himself was a great spiritual master, linked to many spiritual orders, particularly the Ba’Alawi Tariqa. Sayyid Muhammad authored close to 100 works, of which his views are exemplified in his most famous work Mafahim Yajib an Tusahhah (Concepts that Should be Rectified), which has been translated into English.
Shaykh Seraj, on receiving the news of Sayyid Muhammad’s passing, during the month of Ramadan, overcome by the great loss of his beloved teacher, spiritual guide and intellectual mentor – whom he often refers to as the “Nelson Mandela” of the Muslim world – was devastated, and still feels today, the loss of his absence. One of his students wrote on the day of Sayyid Muhammad’s funeral, ”Makkah is crying for him, Arabia is crying for him, the entire Islamic world is crying for him, may Allah grant him the highest Jannah next to his beloved grandfather, Sayyidina Rasulullah(saw)”.
It is the hope of Shaykh Seraj that this page resonates an echo of his immense Love and deep esteem for Sayyid Muhammad (ra), through making known to the English-speaking world, some of his Precious Extracts.