February 13, 2008
Bismillah, wal hamdulilah, wa salaatu was salaamu ‘ala rasulila
Over a year and a half ago, on the 12th of Rabi’ al Awwal, 1427, April 10, 2006, the birthday of our beloved Prophet salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam, Sheikh Muhammad al Yaqoubi lost his first wife, the mother of his children, Umm Ibrahim(Ferizeh Rabbat), Allah yarhamuha, in a tragic car accident in Damascus. She was under 40 years old.
Now, over a year and a half later, on the first Friday of Dhul Hijjah 1428, Dec. 14, 2007,a sacred day within the sacred first ten nights (layaalin ‘ashr) of this sacred month, thatour Lord, ta’ala swears by in surat al Fajr, Sheikh Muhammad has lost his second wife,Umm ul Huda (Mariam Obeid), Allah yarhamuha.
She was around 30 years old.Many students of Sacred Knowledge had opportunities to get to know Sheikh Muhammad’s first wife, as she was healthy and had much barakah in her time. She was devoted to her family, to her work as a teacher and to students all over the world. Sinceshe was in contact with many students, stories about her came pouring in upon the newsof her death.Some did get to know Sheikh Muhammad’s second wife, but many did not, as it was lessthan three years ago that she married Sheikh Muhammad. She is the daughter of Ghassan Obeid of Damascus, a descendant of the Ansari companion of the Prophet, sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam, Sayidna Anas ibn Malik, radia Allahu ‘anh, who was anoble servant of the Prophet and a great hadith scholar.
Mariam’s mother is a beautiful,righteous Spanish woman who together with her husband raised four daughters in thetraditional Islamic milieu stoked with piety and love. Sheikh Muhammad actually knewMariam’s father from years ago though he didn’t know of Mariam and did not meet heruntil after marrying her. Mariam’s father had attended Sheikh Muhammad’s father’sclasses and later Sheikh Muhammad’s classes as well. He remembers the young SheikhMuhammad, a little lad accompanying his father, crawling the carpet of Jami’ al Kuwaitiof Damascus.Being connected to a true scholar of Islam gives us Jannah on earth in manyways. One way is by giving us the best of friends as the circle of people that one isintroduced into through a scholar tend to be the most loving, devoted people, alleither striving for the sunnah or at least loving those who do. Upon finding a realKnower of Allah, one enters the gate of camaraderie and comfort while ploddingalong life’s path. We meet friends that had we looked the world over, on our own,we would have never found. I know I speak for many sisters throughout theworld in feeling ineffably grateful to have been able to call both of SheikhMuhammad’s wives, rahmat Allah ‘alyhuma, my friends. I pray we can all reunitewith them at the Prophet’s pool, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam.
The entry of Dhul Hijjah usually brings with it a waterfall of memories of all ofour relations all over the world. As one’s mind reflects on the confluence of acouple of million pilgrims of all colors becoming colorless in Mecca alMukaramah, one feels connected to all their relations all over the world, as limbsof one body. The thought of the eclectic group of individuals that have enteredmy life via the circle of Sacred Knowledge, invariably places me before the prayermat in submission to His glorious bounty. I hope it serves to soothe everyone toknow that Mariam loved all seekers of knowledge dearly, particularly herhusband’s students throughout the world. Her love was simple and pure with nostrings nor flowery words attached, except the flower of supplication for us. Ibelieve this is why she figured prominently in the dreams of many who knew her,her transparent love.Mariam had been attending the famous Ma’hd al Fath of Damascus as a teen just beforeshe was diagnosed with leukemia at the tender age of fourteen. She was then forced todisrupt her classes and was taken for treatment in various places both in Syria and inAmerica. The family took her to Sheikh Sa’eed Ramadhan al Buti to make dua for her.After he and other scholars made du’a for her, her leukemia went into remission, mashaAllah, leaving only the trace of a weakened immunity.She then married one of the doctors that had treated her but it was a cruel and unhappymarriage. Since no children were involved, Mariam filed for divorce but her husbandrefused to grant it. After a lengthy period of time spent in efforts to conclude thischapter in her life, in 2004, a mutual friend of the family asked Sheikh Muhammad tomake dua for her divorce to be finalized. He was teaching a Deen Intensive in San Joseat the time. The next day, masha Allah, the judge granted her the divorce.
Aftermarrying Sheikh Muhammad, Mariam was proud to retell this story of his dua for hereven before he knew her. She also saw a dream in which the Prophet salla Allah ‘alayhiwa aalihi wa sallam, told her about her upcoming marriage to Sheikh Muhammad. Laterthat year, during the hajj season, in fact, while Sheikh Muhammad was still in Mecca al Mukarramah, he was given strong signs to propose to Mariam and told a small group ofus about her. Mariam’s father was overjoyed when he heard about Sheikh Muhammad’smention of his daughter and drew up the contract for him to sign in March of 2005 inDamascus. Mariam was in the US at the time. She and Sheikh Muhammad finally met acouple of months after they were legally married, when he came to America in May ofthe same year. They honeymooned in California and then departed to the muslim worldfor an awliya tour, visiting Egypt and its great men and women of Allah, includingSheikh Abul Hassan al Shadhili, Sheikh Abul Abbas al Mursi, Sheikh Shafi’ and ImamBusairi, may Allah be pleased with them all. Mariam took ba’yah with her husband soonafter marrying him and was keen on learning from him. She memorized Imam Busairi’sBurda al Shareef within a couple of months and followed up on whatever classes shecould until she died.They also went to the first Rihla to Mecca and Medina where Sheikh Muhammad taughtthe Shamael of Imam Tirmidhi, rahimahu Allah ta’ala. One of the fondest moments inMariam’s life was standing in the Rawdah Mubarakah of the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alayhiwa aalihi wa sallam alone with Sheikh Muhammad that year in the middle of the nightwhile no one else was in sight. Her next favorite moment occurred the following year’sRihla to the Haramayn where she stood once again in this Piece of Paradise, this time with Sheikh Muhammad and his children, all alone, facing the Prophet and the worldtogether.
This scene was Mariam’s favorite as it depicts her favorite thing to do: Servethe family of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aallihi wa sallam.Mariam adored serving Sheikh Muhammad and would be upset if he went to get a glassof water himself rather than allowing her to get it for him. She was ecstatic when SheikhMuhammad told her how happy his father would have been with her. Whenever she wasill, Sheikh Muhammad loved to serve her and brought her meals in bed. SheikhMuhammad was known to miss his classes in the last couple of years only when Mariamwas ill. He said that she never once uttered the word “No” to him. Nor did she everargue or request anything though Sheikh Muhammad was known to bring her giftswhich she would exclaim were exactly what she wanted. Mariam said these and manyother miracles she observed from Sheikh Muhammad would fill a volume if she wroteabout them.As students we didn’t see Umm ul Huda as often as we saw Umm Ibrahim. To take herof her health Umm ul Huda needed adequate rest. Yet this did not deter her fromgetting up for night vigils, masha Allah. She intensified her daylight hours with hours ofdhikr, ‘ibadah and doting on her newfound family, Sheikh Muhammad and his kids. Anywoman wanting to learn the secrets of a successful marriage had only to look at SayidaMariam for a few minutes to see how to be a graceful wife, Masha Allah.
She had full command of her household which was struck by her subtlety. This was accomplishedeven while being the stepmother to three spirited young children all under ten, whowere suddenly left without their loving, lavishing, utterly devoted mother. The tragicaccident taking Umm Ibrahim’s life occurred just a year after Mariam was married toSheikh Muhammad. Since that time the children blossomed under her care, at firstcalling her” Khala Mariam” then “Mama Mariam” and recently, simply, “Mama.”Sheikh Muhammad had affectionately given Mariam the kunya, Umm ul Huda, soonafter their marriage, just as his own kunya is Abul Huda, given to him by his father.Some of the scholars have described her as akin to one of the salaf, not of our age but ofa prior, pristine era. Sheikh Muhammad says that she was the peak of beauty, ofrighteousness, of kindness, of elegance, of love. She was the spring of his soul and thepearl of his heart. And Sheikh Muhammad was everything to Mariam and she loved himmore than her own soul. Their love was simple and surreal at the same time.For those of us who did have the honor of befriending Umm ul Huda, we knowthat she was the best example of sabrun jameelun beautiful patience.
Though she was undoubtedly, off and on, in substantial pain if not effete frommedications and a compromised immunity, none of us ever heard a word ofcomplaint from her, about anything. Her aura taught to us what thousands ofbooks cannot. It seemed that by just being beside her, one received by contagionsome of this incredible knowledge of patience.Mariam was utterly devoted to Sheikh Muhammad and being his wife was thehighlight of her life. I know this, not only from her, but from watching her. Thelast time I saw her was this past summer in Damascus. The last I spoke to her wasa few weeks ago. A piece of delicate etiquette that I picked up from Umm ul Hudaand applied to my own marital life (and recommend to other sisters) is a simplegesture of kissing my husband’s hand in the morning or upon leaving the house.This simple Arab custom, used to honor scholars and elders, sets a pace of love,respect and harmony in the house when initiated by a wife. I am reveling inastounding results from this gesture, particularly when practiced just after a tiff,it instantly erases any negative remarks or feelings, setting a tone of harmony.insha Allah.Thus, hers was not a sad story, it was a remarkable story of joy and triumph aftera life of struggle, for the best part of her life was the latter part, since becomingthe wife of Sheikh Muhammad over two and a half years ago. Her story depictsthe famous du’a, “O Allah make the best of my years the last, the best of myworks, the final, and the best day the day I meet you.” In Umm ul Huda, we havewitnessed the first two parts of the du’a, may Allah grant her the final part.Sheikh Muhammad mentioned how Mariam was a true waliyah, beloved of Allah,who often dreamt of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam. SheikhMuhammad had a dream in which our beloved Prophet salla Allahu ‘alyhi waaalihi wa sallam announced Sayyida Mariam as one of the people of al Jannah.Masha Allah.
For Sheikh Muhammad’s first wife, Ferizeh Rabbat or Umm Ibrahim, as she herself described, the best part of her life was indeed the days she was living before we mourned her departure, may Allah grant her al Jannah withoutaccount. When I told my mother the news of Umm ul Huda passing, sheremarked that both of Sheikh Muhammad’s wives were taken on austere daysand how this insha Allah, fulfills the husn al khatima, good ending that we allpray for; she also reverentially insinuated that perhaps if she had a thirddaughter she would encourage her to marry sheikh Muhammad to attain suchbarakah. These words predictably triggered the memory of Saydna Uthman radiaAllahu ‘anh, and his losing not only two wives but both of them being thedaughters of the best of creation, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam. SheikhMuhammad said that he knew it wouldn’t be long before he would hear jokesabout how “Sheikh Muhammad’s wives are doomed.” He said he has a retort forthis remark, “Death only picks up the best and I have only picked up the best.”Indeed, only the good die young.
Though we know Sheikh Muhammad loved both his wives, we also know eachlove is quite unique from the other. Polygamy does not eradicate the lover’sultimate desire for the one exact complementary soul. This should not surpriseus when we reflect that even amongst many monogamous marriages wherein loveexists, passion may not. Love is wondrous enough for the beauty within amarriage, in fact, if it is lacking, one can work on it and learn to love.Recognizing this could save much time for many, and save many a marriage.Individuals would be more apt to take everyone that crosses their path on thejourney of this world as wondrous gifts from their Lord. After all, we will nevermeet everyone in the world but those whom we do meet are selected for usespecially. The grass may or may not be greener elsewhere but it is not our grass.We can wait for the greenest grass in al Jannah, insha Allah. Not everyone willexperience an ethereal, penultimate love in this life. Thankfully this never detersour penchant for admiring and loving lovers who do posses it. The mere mentionof such a love renews our vigor vicariously, allowing us to bask in its beauty. Ourbeloved Prophet’s, salla Allahu ‘alyhi w aalihi wa sallam, love for his first wife, thelady Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, is the greatest love story of all time.The best testament to this is none other than Sayida Aisha, Radia Allahu ‘anha,herself the favorite amongst the latter wives. Noticing how the Prophet neverceased to send gifts to Sayyida Khadija’s friends, even years after she passedaway, Sayida Aisha remarked, “You act as if there is no one else in the worldexcept Khadija.” Sheikh Muhammad loved Umm Ibrahim but the love of his life,his soul mate, was Umm ul Huda. Umm Ibrahim was larger than life and Umm ulHuda made life large.
May Allah have mercy on them both.The closest to Allah are given the grandest of tests as the Prophet himselfforetold, “The most difficult calamities befall the Prophets, then those like them,then those similar to them, and then on others according to their degree ofrighteousness.” Scholars describe how Allah’s sunnah is set into place already.Thus, the consequences of sins must befall on the earth. Yet, it is out of His Mercythat he doesn’t inflict the disobedient with the tough trials as they would bedestroyed by their weight, these tests then, are placed upon the shoulders of Hisbeloveds to bear. Sheikh Sa’eed Ramadhan al Buti upon visiting SheikhMuhammad for condolence said, “I offer you not consolation but congratulation.”He and the other scholars of Damascus, inlcuding Sheikh Hassan al Hindi havesaid that the travails that Allah places for Sheikh Muhammad are a sign of hisstature, insha Allah, as only a true lover disregards any blow that comes from theBeloved. Damascus has been witnessing Sheikh Muhammad endure the arrowsof the Divine Decree with paradisaical patience. In fact this is the root meaningof the word, Sabr as Sheikh Abul Abbas al Mursi explained and Ibn Ata illah asSikandari, rahimahuma Allah ta’laa, described in his Lataif al Minan. Asbar isthe archer’s target and from it comes sabr. In the same book he also describesthe stages of loving Allah. The first stage for the seeker is love for Allah and thefinal stage is love from Allah. The first stage requires effort and the final stagerequires acquiescence.Sheikh Muhammad delivered his scheduled class on Friday, the day of Mariam’sdemise, as usual and only announced the death of his dear wife after he finishedhis lesson. His tribute to her before a crowd of two thousand left the assemblylachrymose. Sheikh Sa’eed and Sheikh Hassan will both soon write their tributesto Mariam which will be translated into English insha Allah.May our Lord, ta’ala secure Jannat al ‘ala for Mariam, reward her family for theirloss, protect and elevate our sheikh and his family evermore, and allow us toinhale some of the aura of the dearly departed, as within her was an ocean ofpatience and pure love. Rahmatullah ‘Alyha.
On these glorious days of Eid, as we chant our takbirat and send salutations onthe Prophet, his family, his companions and the Ansar of his companions, let usremember one from them who lived up to her ancestors’ heritage.Allahuma Salli ‘ala Sayyidna Muhammad, wa ‘ala aali Sayyidna Muhammad, wawa ‘ala ashaabi sayyidna Muhammad, wa ‘ala Ansari Sayyidina Muhammad…Eid Mubarak. May every year find you in good cheer,Asra AdibaP.S.As salamu ‘Alaykum,Please join the campaign to recite one million Ya Sin al Sharif and 1000 khatamaof the Quran al Kareem for Umm ul Huda, Allah yarhamuha. Insha Allah eachone of us already recites Ya Sin every morning and the ‘ulema say that all fluentreciters should be doing one khatm per month. Thus, we are looking for at least1000 good men and women to pledge their month’s recitals to Umm ul Hudainsha Allah. If one is not in the habit of reciting a juz a day, perhaps this willinstigate one to begin insha Allah. A final khatm will be held with SheikhMuhammad in attendance, insha Allah, in Birmingham, U.K. on January 25.This will be the deadline to reach our goal. The names of all participants will begiven to Sheikh Muhammad as we know he would like to make dua for all thosewho recited for his beloved.Please submit your pledges (whatever amount you intend to recite within thedeadline time) to Sidi Haris Mahmood via a simple email with your name and theamount of your pledge, e.g., “Zeshan Zafar, 1 khatm, 100 Ya Sin” in the subjectheading. If you have already made recitals that you want to be added to thecount, please just mention the amount in the subject heading. If you end updoing more just send another email. We ask that you keep the body of the emailempty to save time: firstname.lastname@example.org