My time spent with Sheikh Al-Albani (Rahimahullah) [By Sheikh Mahmoud Ridha Murad]

Posted on November 15, 2014

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I used to visit Saudi frequently. So I asked the Shaikh if he was going for Umrah so that I could adjust my itinerary to meet each other in Makkah. But he suggested that I visit him first. I was not able that year to stop in Amman. In fact it was only two or three years after when I managed to do so. He asked me to give him the date and time of my arrival. I did so and expected that he would send someone to the airport to receive me. This was honoring enough for me. I felt excited about the idea. I also gave the same information to his eminence, Sh. Muhammad Shaqrah.

I had never seen any picture of the Shaikh, so I could only imagine him as a dignified gray haired old man. Had I remembered that he was an Albanian, I would have probably envisaged a picture of his closer to reality.

I felt as if the flight took longer time than usual, and I wished the pilot would double the speed of the plane. When finally it landed, I felt like dashing through the passport point in the airport into the meeting hall. Alas! I had to wait for long before I reached that hall. There was Sh. Muhammad Shaqrah, whom I met for the first time, Ali Abdulhameed al-Halabi and another brother.

I thanked them for taking the trouble of coming to receive me, and I asked them about the Shaikh. Ali al-Halabi said: “The Shaikh is waiting for us.” The first thing came to my mind was that the Shaikh was waiting for us in his residence. All I said was, ‘Alhamdu lillah.’ Having expected my reaction, Shaikh Ali looked at me and said: “The Shaikh is waiting for us outside in his car, for he could not bear standing for a long period of time.” I looked at Ali back to make sure I heard him right. He looked at me as though he knew the effect of the surprise on me and said smiling. ‘Yes, he is outside.’ I was about to break in tears, but managed to control myself, and did not know what to say.

Soon as the Shaikh saw us coming out of the hall, he opened his car door to come towards us. But I rushed to him to save him the trouble of walking. I looked at his shiny face and green eyes, his white straight haired beard and mustaches, and opened my arms to hug him. My arms could not encircle him for he was large. He then asked the brothers with an air of command to put my luggage in his car, and they did so obediently.

The excitement of being driven by a scholar made it difficult for me to carry on a long conversation with him. I remembered he was asking me questions about my family, my activities in the Society, and other questions of that nature. When we finally reached his house, which was on top of a hill, I was amazed of how he maneuvered the car through the narrow driveway and then into the car park. I took out my luggage, and went up the stairs while he took a simple electric lift that he later on told me that he designed and built because it was difficult for him to mount the stairs.

His study door was opened, and I went inside to see that there were other students of the Shaikh waiting for us. Someone made the introductions. I was asked about the da’wah in N. America, and activities of the Salafis, and the other sects. I gave them a brief account because I was anxious to hear the comments of the Shaikh, and his answers to their questions. That was my main concern.

I spent about a week in the Shaikh‘s resident, which I consider as a condensed course in the science of hadeeth and fiqh. In deed it was a rare opportunity, at least for a person like me who at the time was living about 15,000. miles away from this renowned scholar.

Due to the fact that there was no mosque nearby, I would call the adthan for Fajr prayer, and he would lead the Salah then we would move into the library where the Shaikhbegan his work. Two hours later, the breakfast would be ready which we shared with two of the Shaikh‘s aides. He used to talk while eating or listen to what they had to say.

Then the Shaikh would return to the library to resume his work until around 10 o’clock when he retired to his family’s apartment. He would remain there until Dthuhr prayer followed by lunch and siesta.

After Asr prayer, the Shaikh stayed in the library and remained there until around midnight. That was the best part of the day. Some of his close students would come in and join us for the rest of the evening. Due to certain reasons that were beyond his will, the Shaikh‘s house was open only to his relatives and close students, not to visitors, let alone to public. They did not waste his time by idle talk or anything of that nature.. They would bring their questions concerning biographies of hadeeth narrators, their classifications and the hadeeth standards, and other issues on aqeedah or jurisprudence. He would answer them as if he was reading from a book.

There was another interesting period of that part of the day when the Shaikh began taking telephone calls and answering the questions of callers from all over the world. The phone never stopped ringing. As soon as one call was over, another would be waiting on line. We used to listen to the questions through a speakerphone. The topics varied widely.

He would give his answers according to the level of understanding of the caller. But he would not answer the question before he completely understood it, nor would he move from one point to another before he was sure that the caller understood the previous one. At times, he would repeat the point more than once without showing signs of frustration. He always used to ask the caller after answering his question whether he understood the answer.

One day the phone rang when the Shaikh was sitting in his library with some of his students. It was a female student of knowledge from Algeria, who used to call the Shaikhfrequently. She said to him: Shaikh, I saw a dream last night. The Shaikh did not usually care much about interpreting dreams. But since he knew who she was, he allowed her to report to him her dream. She said: ‘I saw the Prophet (saws) walking while there was an old man with white beard sitting on the side of the road. I asked the Prophet, may Allah exalt his mention, who that man was, and he said: This is Shaikh Nasirud-Deen al-Albani.” At that point, the Shaikh broke in tears, and so did his students. In the meantime, the caller kept asking: ‘Shaikh are you there? Are you there?’ The Shaikhhung up, and gave his student a short speech about that fact that no one should take things for granted, for no one knows where will he end up. Or words to that effect.

Once the telephone period was over, he would listen to the comments or inquiries of his students on one of his answers, or would ask him questions relevant to some issues that were raised by callers. All of the questions and answers along with the comments of his students were taped. But unfortunately, the Shaikh did not keep the original tapes, and that was why he could not retrieve them from the fellow who was taping his sessions.

Knowing the Shaikh‘s love of the Sunnah of the Prophet (saws), it was not surprising to know that he listened to his students’ funny incidents that occurred to them during the day. He himself would share with them an incident of his own. His Damascene dialect made his narrative more interesting.

Besides being a specialist in the science of hadeeth, the Shaikh, may Allah grant him mercy, also designed quite a few things in his home. One of them was the solar water-heater, which he showed me the next day of my arrival. He also designed an elevator for himself because it was difficult for him to climb up the stairs. He also devised a sundial that he placed on the roof of his house to show the exact prayer times, and other things.

There were other occasions that I really enjoyed. We used to receive invitations from his students for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast. He never refused any of them unless it was break fast, or when he was tied up with some important occupation. I enjoyed those occasions because they were attended by a large number of guests, which meant more questions and discussions.

One day we were invited for lunch by sh. Hassan al-Awaysheh. Among the guests was a young man who brought a message from Hikmatyar to Shaikh Naseruddeen al-Albani concerning the assassination of Shaikh Jamilur-Rahman, may Allah grant him mercy. The discussion was about the war in Afghanistan, and the assassination of Jamil Arrahman which was the topic of the hour. After the Shaikh opened the discussion and made his point, I asked his permission to share my views on the issue. The Shaikh looked at me in the face and noticed that I was irritated by Hikmatyar’s representative, and said: ‘In sha Allah.’ I waited long hoping that he would give me the chance to speak.

The time for Asr prayer was due, so we went to the masjid to perform Salah, and then we returned to our host’s house. When every one took his seat, the Shaikh looked at me and said, ‘I think you have something to say.’ I was just waiting for that moment, and did not hesitate to say: ‘Certainly.’

Having said what I had in my mind, I felt relieved. Later on, I realized that the Shaikhhad a valid reason for not giving me the chance to speak when first I asked his permission. He knew that the statements of the guest irritated me, and he wanted me to calm down before I uttered any word.

On the way home, I apologized to him for being unable to hide my emotion while making my point. Although he agreed that it was valid point, but he said: “As you know, it is hard for the ego to accept the truth. It is more so to accept it when it is presented in a sharp manner.” I looked at him while he was driving, and gave him a smile tinted with a sense of guilt. I was unable to utter a word in response. I said to myself if these were the only words of wisdom I learnt from this great scholar during my stay with him, they would have been more than sufficient for me to take home.

One evening Shaikh Muhammad Shaqrah, may Allah preserve him, invited us for dinner. That night I felt sorry for having forgotten to bring along my tape recorder. The Shaikh at that night was in a good mood. There were only few of his devoted students with us, when he talked about his suffering in his life, and how he had to leave his father’s residence with little amount of money and be on his own. His recollection moved him to tears, and we cried along with him. I hope some day I will be able to write about that part of the Shaikh‘s life which is not recorded in books.

Needless to say the duration of my visit flashed by when all of a sudden I realized that I had to pack for the return trip. The Shaikh insisted to take me to the airport, and I insisted that he should stay home. But he ignored my objection. Although I enjoyed his uninterrupted company for more than forty minutes, yet I felt guilty for taking him away from his work.

[By Sheikh Mahmoud Ridha Murad]

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