On the 15th of Ramadan 1425 (29 October 2004), just before dawn, the shaykh of our shaykhs, the ustadh of the asatidha, the Muhaddith of the Haramayn al-Sharifayn, the Usuli of the time, the master of Tariqa ‘Ulama Makka, the murrabi, the trainer of souls, al-Shaykh al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ‘Alawi b. Abbas b. Abdal Aziz al-Maliki al-Makki, left this world (1944-2004). He was in a fasting state, and he passed away on a Friday, may Allah have mercy upon his soul, and benefit us from him. His funeral was one of the largest in modern times (video below) – Islamica Magazine published a short piece on him here.
Sayyid Muhammad, rahmatullah ‘alahi, was a Hasani descendant of the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, born to an Idrisi family of traditional Maliki scholars, who had long been teachers in the Ka’aba, though their common ancestor had come from Morocco centuries before. His father, Sayyid ‘Alawi, was a famed scholar of the Hijaz, who taught for some 30 years in and around the Ka’aba; his grandfather, who lived in the pre-Saudi era of the Hijaz, was Qadi of Makka and Imam of the Ka’aba. He held this post during the Ottoman period, then during the Hashemite era, and continued to hold it after the Saudis established their rule. Sayyid ‘Alawi’s name was unusual for an Idrisi sayyid – the name was given through a visit made by Sayyid ‘Alawi’s father, Sayyid ‘Abbas, to the great Hadrami scholar, Habib Ahmad b. Hasan al-Attas. Sayyid Abbas asked Habib Ahmad for his du’a for an offspring who would succeed him as the Maliki scholar of Makka – Habib Ahmad said that more than that, the offspring would be the most noted scholar in Makka. As it was done through the baraka of the sadah Bani ‘Alawi, the boy would be called ‘Alawi.
Sayyid ‘Alawi maintained a strong connection to the sadah Bani ‘Alawi, as did Sayyid Muhammad, his son, after him. Sayyid Muhammad had many young sadah of the Bani ‘Alawi among his students; one of his daughters married into the Aydarus clan of the Bani ‘Alawi; he celebrated the hawl of Habib Ahmad b. Hasan al-Attas at his home every year; many of the awrad of the Bai ‘Alawi were included in his own collection of invocation such as Shawariq al-Anwar; and from among his teachers included Habib ‘Abdal Qadir al-Saqqaf, Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad, and Habib Attas al-Habashi. The Sayyid also instructed his own students to seek the ijaza of these illuminaries, which they happily did, and received the baraka therein.
Of course, in addition to these teachers, Sayyid Muhammad learnt and received ijazat from the likes of Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Kutbi, Shaykh al-Mashhat, Shaykh Muhammad Nur Sayf, and Shaykh Sa’id Yamani in Makka; but also took from many from around the Muslim world, including the likes of the Ghumari brothers in Morocco, many of the sadah of the Bani ‘Alawi, including al-Habib Umar b. Sumayt, the great imam of Hadramawt, and the ‘ulama of Azhar in Egypt, including Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari, Shaykh Hasnayn Makhluf, Shaykh Abdal Halim Mahmud, and many others. He received his PhD at the age of 25 from the Azhar University, which was rare indeed; but his quest for knowledge was continuous, and took place around the world, to the point he had an extended volume published which only had the names of those who had given him ijazat and asānīd from so many ‘ulama globally, from Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Europe, and Asia. Over the course of his life, he obtained more than 200 ijazat from some of the greatest scholars of the age, from around the world, in various fields of the Islamic tradition – and thus, his own ijaza that he provided to his own students was as rare as red sulphur, linking them to so many. (Some more names are included in this biography provided by the Imam al-Ghazali institute.)
In 1970, at the young age of 23, he was appointed professor of Islamic studies at Umm-ul-Qurra university in Makkah; a year later, after the passing of his father, he was asked to fill his father’s position as a teacher in the Ka’aba, which he did. Eventually, he left these stations, after fanatic fatawa by Wahhabi scholars against him, who considered his very presence to be a threat to their ideology and authority. Yet, hundreds of thousands have benefited from his classes; some of which were given very publicly, over television channels; others were smaller, in the mosque; and others were smaller still, in his house on al-Maliki street in the Rusayfa district of Makka.
Our shaykhs were from among the last group; those who took from him as an ustadh, but who also took from him as a murabbi, a trainer of souls. From that capacity, I received the following narration from his son-in-law, who told me that the Sayyid said this in a hal (spiritual state):
أنا إدريسي ، شاذلي ، علوي ، إلى أن يأذن لي رسول الله بغير ذلك
“I am Idrīsī, Shādhulī, ‘Alawī; until the Messenger of God permits me by other than that.”
That was his main spiritual lineage; as for his intellectual lineage, he upheld the mainstream of Sunnism, and was opposed most harshly to any condemnation of Muslims as disbelievers or polytheists. But he was always generous to his opponents. Despite his being attacked so many times baselessly by Wahhabis and others, he rejected even listening to attacks of his opponents that were made inappropriately, insisting that, “they have their opinions and I have mine – what we oppose is the idea that everybody should have the same opinion. Islam is wide and opens its heart to a variety of opinions under the banner of Lailaha Illallah.”
May Allah have mercy upon the Sayyid; may Allah have mercy upon his khulafa’, including our shaykh, Sayyidi Shaykh Seraj; may Allah prolong the life of our beloved teacher, Shaykh Ahmad, in health and wellness; and may Allah allow us to benefit from the Prophetic teachings of all our teachers, amin. During the 15th of Ramadan, please do recite some Qur’an for the Sayyid, and make whatever du’a you might. For those who are interested, the Sayyid himself wrote a tract defending from the Sunna that one can donate the reward of such ‘ibada to the departed, masha’Allah (see here)!
[This was typical of the Sayyid: speaking on love of the Prophet, alayhi salat wa salam, using a wide variety of Islamic proofs, to elaborate upon it. In Abwab al-Farj, the Sayyid writes about the same subject (see here).]