In Honor of as-Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki


In Honor of as-Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki

In Honor of

As-Sayyid Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani

 `Allamah of al-Hijaz

A personal tribute

by Shafiq Morton

When the news broke that the Prophet Muhammad (s) had died from a fever in Madinah, there was great disbelief amongst the Companions. Sayyidina `Umar, who was about to depart for Syria, initially refused to believe that the Nabi (s) had passed on. Indeed, grief can take on many forms: denial, anger, despair and, of course, devastation. The Angel of death is an unpredictable being. Our shock at the suddenness of death, the biggest certainty after birth, is a part of the human condition. Perhaps it’s because our first instinct is survival and our second the comforts of this world. We have a job, we have a home, we have children, we have a life and we want to go on. In short, we don’t want to leave! But on Friday the 14th of Ramadan, the leaf fell from the tree of Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki and the Angel of death came to collect one of the modern era’s greatest scholars. Sayyid Muhammad happens to be my Grand-Shaikh, and when the news of his demise began to filter through to Cape Town on that Jumu’ah morning, I simply couldn’t believe what I’d heard. It was impossible! When the truth began to dawn upon me I was devastated. Losing a Shaikh, the fountainhead of your knowledge and the guardian of your soul, is like losing a parent. I am the lowest of murids, yet as I write this at an unearthly hour, my heart is flooded with the larger than life figure that was Sayyid Muhammad. Generous, loving and wise – the very epitome of his illustrious Prophetic forefather – Sayyid Muhammad was kind to me when he didn’t know me, and generous when he didn’t have to be. The names of his great Makkan Shaikhs pass before my eyes, yet I can’t bring myself to write them down. They were the authorities of their time, and they all blessed Sayyid Muhammad’s genius with the totality of their barakah. And in turn, it’s his barakah that I want to cling to. The titles of his books (over a hundred) swim in my consciousness. Mafahim Yajibu an-Tusahah (Concepts which need Rectification) shines like a beacon. Here was a man who challenged his compatriots, the Salafi-Wahhabis, and disproved their doctrines by using their sources. For this intellectual daring Sayyid Muhammad was reviled by the house of Najd and called a “deviant”. He was banned from teaching in the Haram. His books were prohibited and his professorship at Umm ul-Qura terminated. He was arrested and his passport confiscated. Yet through it all, Sayyid Muhammad did not show any bitterness. He never used his intellect in anger, but channelled it into empowering others with `ilm and tasawwuf. When the Salafi-Wahhabis banished him, he wrote even more books and created his own Zawiyyah which became the “United Nations” of the `ulama. Eventually, uproar in the Muslim world forced the Salafi-Wahhabis to stop silencing the Maliki madhhab’s most famous contemporary scholar. Some even began to patronise him, others hated him even more. Their jealousy was driven by the fact that Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki was more than their match. Almost single-handedly, he took Sunni Islam out of the hands of the neo-Kharijite Salafi-Wahhabis and placed it back in the hands of the majority. Through his many towering works, he injected much-needed confidence into the debate when the ignorance and self-ijtihad of the pseudo-traditionalists were beginning to poison mainstream Islam. I could go on and on.

Sayyid Muhammad achieved many things in his sixty brief years with us. His life was certainly not just about fighting Wahhabis. It was his ability to see the good that so touched the heart. As the dawn hours descend, I struggle for words. The memory of Sayyid Muhammad keeps on filling up the room. It’s almost as if he’s looking over my shoulder, stick in one hand, black tasbih in the other, his smiling, luminescent face framed by a green turban. I know I’m selfish, but I can only come to terms with his loss by reflecting on what he meant to me. This is because Sayyid Muhammad would shower me, an absolute nobody, with gifts whenever I’d go to see him. Of course, it wasn’t favouritism – far from it – it was the Sunnah. As someone who came into Islam, Sayyid Muhammad cared as deeply as the Prophet (s) did about those who embraced the Deen. But it is the nature of his gifts that are so meaningful, and at the same time, so typical of who Sayyid Muhammad was. I look at them now with absolute amazement. Together they have come to symbolise something incredibly powerful, for through his gifts he has given me the world. He must be chuckling in the barzakh as I stub my toe on the truth! I remember a piece of the kiswah in an envelope. As I look at its dark black strands I realise that this cloth stands for direction, for the Qiblah that must be in my heart. I page through the perfumed Qur’an. Here is al-Furqan, the Criterion that I must carry through life. I recall the Moroccan thawb and the fez in the cupboard, here are garments of Protection I must wear. On my desk is his famous “green book” of du’ahs, the Shawariq ul-Anwar (the Effulgent Lamps) which is the Means. In my drawer is the gold pen he gave me, a tool of Empowerment far sharper than the sword. I am stunned by his wisdom.

An e-mail comes in from Saudi Arabia. Fakhruddin Owaisi al-Madani describes the janazah of Sayyid Muhammad in moving detail. It was so big that the procession stretched from the Haram to the Jannat ul-Ma’la graveyard. [It is said that over 300,000 attended the funeral prayers.] “Makkah is crying for him, Arabia is crying for him…the entire Islamic world is crying for him,” writes Fakhruddin, “may Allah grant him (Sayyid Muhammad) the highest Jannah next to his beloved grandfather, Sayyidina Rasulullah (s)”. As I swallow back the tears, all I can say is “Ameen!”  

حدثنا هارون بن اسحاق الهمداني، أخبرنا عبدة بن سليمان عن هشام بن عروة، عن أبيه، عن عبد اللّه بن عمرو بن العاص قال: قال رسول اللّه صلى اللّه عليه وسلم: إن اللّه لا يقبض العلم انتزاعا ينتزعه من الناس ولكن يقبض العلم بقبض العلماء، حتى إذا لم يترك عالما اتخذ الناس رؤوسا جهالا فسئلوا فأفتوا بغير علم فضلوا وأضلوا . (رواه البخاري في كتاب العلْم و مسلْم)

`Abd Allāh bin `Amr Ibn al-`Ās (r) related that the Prophet (s) said:

Allāh will not take knowledge from the hearts of the scholars but he takes the scholars (they die). There will be no more scholars to take their place so people will take extremely ignorant leaders. They will be asked questions and will give fatwas (legal rulings) without knowledge. They are misguided and they misguide others.[1]

As-Sayyidi Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki with his esteemed Shaykh, al-Sayyid al-Habib Abd-al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (still alive in Jeddah).


It is reported that the Janazah of as-Sayyid was attended by 300,000.

As-Sayyid’s only book translated into English:

Book 1 of As-Sunnah Foundation of America’s Islamic Doctrine Series

[1] Sahīh Bukhārī 1:33, Kitāb al-`ilm. Sahīh Muslim #157, Kitāb al-`ilm: Inna Allāha la yaqbidu al-`ilma intizā`an yantazi`uhu min al-`ibād wa lākin yaqbid ul-`ilma bi qabd il-`ulamā hatta idhā lam yabqā `aliman itakhada an-nāsu ru’ūsan juhālan fa su’ilu fa aftaw bi ghayri `ilmin fa dallu wa adallu.