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A Moment for the Hearts

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Murabit View Drop Down
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    Posted: 03 April 2006 at 6:30am
A Moment for the Hearts

The American Tour of Sayyid Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri

By Mustafa Shaheed Davis

We have always been taught that it only takes one man to accomplish great things, to change the way we think, and to change the way we live. Of course we don’t give it much thought today because so few of us believe in miracles anymore. We have become a world that depends on scientific reasoning to such an extent that if something cannot be scientifically verified, then it must not exist. Well, there is no scientific explanation for what happened in America during late August and early September, but it was very real and those who took part in it and experienced it do not need any further elucidation from science. They do not need an expert panel to explain to them what happened. They know the experience was real, simply because they felt it in their hearts. They felt it like one feels the warmth of the sun’s rays on a spring day. Only this light shines brighter and with more warmth than the sun could ever generate it is the radiance of the progeny of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is the integral that takes people from darkness to light. And like the sun, we could not exist without it.

It was out of the deserts of Southern Yemen, from the remote valley of Hadramauwt, and from the hidden, majestic city of Tarim, that this light, a man by the name of Habib ‘Ali Zain al-Abadeen Al-Jifri, a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), came to North America on a three week voyage. And on this short sojourn, Habib ‘Ali deeply impacted the lives of all those he came in contact with.

Habib ‘Ali represents an unbroken chain of scholars and saints dating from the present time, all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. His linage is as pure as they get, stretching back over 1400 years of pure Prophetic blood from mother and father from the 21st century to Sayyidna Hussein, the son of Fatima, the Daughter of the Prophet (pbuh). Habib ‘Ali has dedicated nearly his entire life to study and worship under the guidance of great scholars and saints. He is, himself, a scholar of the highest caliber and a master of the sciences of the heart.

If we were to write, in an attempt to explicate the impact that Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri had on every individual that he came in contact with on his tour in America, we would need several volumes simply to expound on the basics. If we were to explain in a particularized account, his daily activities, we would need a series of essays just to brush the surface. We can only provide glimpses of the man, sketches of his attributes, and laconic descriptions of his reality. At the risk of sounding cleverly fatuous, the truth remains that there is nothing that we could write that would do justice to the man we attempt to describe. In brief we can say about Habib ‘Ali that those who saw him were in immediate awe from his radiance. Those who met him fell in love. And those who knew him were torn apart when he had to leave.

In describing how he had been impacted by Habib ‘Ali, one man confessed after briefly meeting him, “He cured in me something that I have been trying to cure for years.” In another scene, an elderly man turned to one of Habib ‘Ali’s companions, with tears flowing from his eyes, it was a sight that those traveling with Habib had become accustomed to. This man had just experienced a private moment with Habib ‘Ali and was overcome with emotion. He grabbed Habib’s companion in a tight embrace and then wept silently and whispered in his ear, “Thank you, thank you so very much. You don’t know what you’ve done for me by giving me this opportunity to speak to the Habib.” He then wept more intensely and his body slightly quivered. “It’s been a long time since I have seen light in a human being like the light that he carries with him. He has changed my life.”

Earlier that day a young Muslim woman arranged to have Habib ‘Ali meet her father. She explained that her father had been in an apathetic religious state and had hoped that Habib could help restore in him some of the ardency that he once embodied. As she watched her elderly father weep from a distance, she smiled and knew she had gotten her wish.

The Arrival

We went to greet Habib ‘Ali at the airport it was September 11th, exactly one year after the tragic events that transpired on our homeland. Airport security was on alert. Many exits and entrances were blocked off in order to help facilitate security measures. We pulled the colossal fifteen-passenger van up to the curb in front of the baggage claim. Security immediately hastened over to inform us that under no circumstances were we to leave the van and that we had exactly two minutes before we would be forced to move. People were on edge. We were dressed in the traditional Muslim attire, which only added to the discomfort of both travelers and airport security.

Habib ‘Ali walked gracefully into the arrival hall. His crew, which was carrying a seemingly endless supply of camera gear, audio/video equipment, brief cases and luggage, closely followed him. The sight was striking. People gaped as they walked by. Others stopped and stared. He was dressed in a lambent white robe and draping cloak. An elaborate golden shawl poised over his right shoulder. A layered turban, flawlessly wrapped in the traditional Yemeni fashion, decorated his head like a king’s crown. He held a dark cane in his right hand that swayed back and forth in rhythmic time as he glided across the floor. We greeted him and his crew with warm salutations of peace. Habib ‘Ali smiled and took the time to make the acquaintance of each individual. Airport security merely looked on, never once stopping us for questioning. And as we exited the terminal, a police officer looked at Habib ‘Ali, smiled briefly, and bowed his head quickly in an expression of assent. The situation dumbfounded us. People, who glanced at us either nodded with anxious approval or immediately looked away, like one looks away from an angry father. Under normal circumstances, considering the significance of his date of arrival, we would have been subject to harassment from airport personnel. But as we would later learn being with Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri was to be far from what our past experiences would classify as normal.

A Lesson to be Learned

The large fifteen-passenger van pulled up to the curb and a crowd of Muslim men of mixed ages and nationalities quickly rushed over to get their chance to greet Habib ‘Ali and hopefully a chance to kiss his blessed hand. Many of the brothers were dressed in long, draping white cloaks and brisk white turbans, in honor of the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and in honor of the blessed man before them. They waited with heads bowed in humility for Habib ‘Ali to descend from the vehicle. It was close to mid-day on this beautiful San Diego afternoon. The setting was breathtaking, even for the native Californians who had been to this very site many times before. The cliffs sat high above the clear blue Pacific Ocean and the seagulls soared loftily above singing as if they too were greeting this descendent of the final Messenger (pbuh). Prodigious, bleach white cumulus clouds hung perfectly still on the brilliant blue canopy of the pacific sky. There was a delicate breeze that seemed to immediately cool the sun’s rays, creating an atmosphere where virtually no temperature existed at all. It was if this entire scene had been created only for the arrival of this regal man. Those foreign to California zealously snapped photos and filmed the scene so they could capture the moment and share it with those they left behind.

After Habib ‘Ali got out of the vehicle and greeted all those present with his usual smile and candor, a brother approached and said that there was a problem with the area of the beach that they had reserved for the day. Two women had apparently registered previously with the city to have the location on this specific day for a wedding reception. However, one of the brothers called the parks and recreation department earlier and was told that this particular location was on a first come, first serve basis. After a lengthy debate with the women and a few calls to the city, it became clear that we had the right to remain in the area and the city said they would enforce it if need be. When Habib ‘Ali was informed of the reason for the delay, he stated very acutely that we should have surrendered the location to the ladies without argument. He continued to explain that our presence at the beach was da’wah and that as Muslims we should always be the most generous of people. Of course we had not thought of it in this manner, especially since many of the brothers had been there almost seven hours setting up. Nonetheless, when Habib ‘Ali spoke with such Prophetic wisdom, we all complied without delay and began contentedly moving to another area further down the beach.

The new area was quite some distance away and Habib ‘Ali was advised by one of his companions to get back in the van so he could be driven to the new area. He declined with a grin and said, “It will be a nice walk.” During the short paseo down the beach, he once again gave us a lesson in life. As we passed the two ladies who had claimed the rights to our resting spot, he explained that the remembrance of Allah and the sincerity of intention that the brothers had in setting up that very location earlier, could very well be a means for the guidance of those two women. As we walked further down the beach, passing many people along the way, Habib ‘Ali illustrated the beautiful picture that Allah had painted for us. He explained that what had happened today had happened for a reason and that it was all the plan of Allah. He went on to explain that Allah used us to show those two ladies the beauty of Islam and the generosity of the Muslims. Then Allah made us walk a long distance, while dressed in the Prophetic traditional manner, so the rest of the people on the beach that day could witness the beauty, majesty, and dignity of the Muslims. When we finally arrived to the new location, Habib ‘Ali smiled and said, “And after all of that, Allah gave us an even more beautiful place to gather at. Thus does Allah reward those with sincere intentions.” By the blessings of this noble man, a simple excursion to the beach became a lesson to be learned and a memory that will remain with those who were present for years to come.

The Experience

Habib ‘Ali lectured to many crowds in several major American universities. During a lecture at San Diego State University, Habib ‘Ali dazzled his audience with a brilliant dissertation on the true meanings of Jihad in traditional Islam. “Jihad is something that the entire world needs, and it is something that Islam offers!” he exclaimed intrepidly after having explained the traditional Islamic position concerning the controversial term. If a madman rushed into a room carrying a loaded weapon threatening to kill all the members of the household, “Would you say it would be an evil or a heroic action if a police officer killed him before he could kill his victims?” A show of hands alluded to the fact that the audience agreed it would be heroic. Habib ‘Ali explained that this is what Jihad is. It is raising the sword to take the swords out of the hands of madmen. The audience of both Muslims and non-Muslims applauded in unison. People crowded the doorways in attempt to meet Habib ‘Ali as he exited the building. A young student was overheard saying, “I’m amazed that he took the time to speak with me for almost five minutes when he had all of those people waiting to see him.”

A Santa Clara University religious studies professor went on stage after Habib ‘Ali’s lecture to a sold out auditorium of 600 people. The audience was a mix of Muslim and non-Muslims, students and professors, men and women. The professor shook Habib ‘Ali’s hand and said, “If we could only get you to teach here at the university, much of the ignorance about your religion would get cleared up.”

Habib ‘Ali explained to his audiences that the neoteric enemy of the world is not Islam. The adversary that plagues us today is simply ignorance. Ignorance is like a relentless virus that afflicts the minds of its victims until it suffocates them from reality. Habib ‘Ali explained with such efficacy that it is not terrorism that we should fear, rather, we should fear living lives in vain, under false pretences, following only our own caprices and whims. If we truly want to rid the world of its evil, then we must first remove the wickedness from our own selves. And there is nothing more wicked than benightedness.
Habib ‘Ali’s audiences would applaud in approval and appreciation for his deep insight and candor. He shed light on an enigma that most people do not reflect on in this age of post-modernism and so-called progress. He resuscitated a suffocated concept of the past; that all human beings are responsible for their own actions. The concept that if we want to change the world, we must first start with ourselves.

Immediately after one of his university lectures, Habib ‘Ali went to a room back stage to meet with some people privately. Among these people were the non-Muslim parents of one of Habib ‘Ali’s students. The student converted to Islam 6 years previous and his search for truth landed him in Tarim, the city from whence Habib ‘Ali came, seeking sacred knowledge and a higher meaning to life. He invited his Christian mother and father to the lecture and they were greatly affected by Habib ‘Ali’s speech. They had not fully understood why their son had gone off into the deserts of Yemen shortly after he had embraced Islam, especially considering the political climate and continual conflict in the Middle East. They sat down on a couch across from Habib ‘Ali. He greeted them with his usual smile and told them that he was delighted to have the chance to meet them.

He began expounding on the beauties of Islam and illustrated to them the similarities that Christianity with it. He told them that Muslims believe in all of the Prophets, from Adam, Moses, Jesus, all the way to Muhammad. He then asked them if hey had seen positive or negative changes in their son after he converted to Islam. They both acknowledged that all of the changes had been for the better. He asked them if they noticed that he treats them better now after following the teachings of Islam. They both agreed that this too, was true. After expounding on the virtues of Islam and the character of the Muslims he told them, “I can see that the faith of Islam is strong in your hearts. The American people believe in Islam, they just don’t recognize it yet.” He advised them to further study Islam, to read the Qur’an and to examine the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

When they left the room, they left as changed people with a new view of Islam and Muslims. Their son called them a few days later to say goodbye before he returned back to Yemen. His mother informed him that he had interrupted her praying while his father was busy reading an English translation of the meanings of the Qur’an. He rejoiced as he pictured his mother and father, for the first time, willingly dedicating their time to the study of Islam. He had tried for years to invoke in them what Habib ‘Ali accomplished in one sitting.


Habib ‘Ali did not have much time for rest during his trip to America. It was suggested to him at one interval of his journey that he should take some time to relax and give his body some much-needed rest. He answered back post-haste, “We have rested our entire lives.” He was lecturing back-to-back and traveling from city to city, getting much of his sleep on the road, in the van or on the plane. At one point Habib ‘Ali literally collapsed from fatigue. When he found out that some of his companions were going to cancel his next event so that he could take some time to recuperate, he instructed them to just call and tell them that he would be a few minutes late. He laid down for about 15 minutes then sat up abruptly and said that we needed to be on our way so that the people were not kept waiting for him. And this is how he spent his entire journey.

The time had come for Habib ‘Ali to depart. He had spent 23 days on an American tour. He met many people and lectured in many places. And every step of the way people were calling for his fight information so that they could meet him at the airport and get one last glimpse of him before his farewell.

We rushed to get the bags checked in. We were running late, and with all of the added security check points since September 11th, we were concerned that we might miss our flight, especially since we had an entourage of Muslims accompanying us wearing long gowns and turbans, the perfect red flag for overzealous airport security. Habib ‘Ali took rest on a nearby bench. Several of the brothers followed suit and sat next to him. Because there were so many of us present to see him off, many had to find a place on the floor surrounding him. It became a half circle that extended nearly across the entire walkway. Habib ‘Ali prayed for all of us. Even a non-Muslim passer-by stopped for a prayer. She told us that she knew that Habib ‘Ali was a religious man and she never missed an opportunity to receive blessings from those people who are close to God. The time had come for Habib ‘Ali to move to his gate for departure and a few more airport workers, men and women, gathered nearby to catch a glimpse of the man that we were all sitting before. Habib ‘Ali stood, smiled and then began what seemed like an endless journey to his terminal.

The group followed closely behind, like children behind their parents in a department store, stumbling over their own feet trying to get one last chance to be close to Habib ‘Ali. When he reached the gate he turned to the group to say goodbye. He hugged all that were present making each one feel that they were the most important person there. Grown men wept. Some feared they’d never get the chance to see him again. Others felt as though a part of their soul was leaving them behind. And still others knew for certain that some of the best days of their lives had come to an end. We stood in complete silence as he walked away from us towards the gate. One of the brothers began reciting the call to prayer (adhaan) as the tradition calls for and Habib ‘Ali turned with a lambent smile of approval that seemed to illuminate the entire hall. We watched, bemusedly, as he disappeared into the crowd, like the sun behind the clouds on a dark winter day. As quickly as he had come, he was now gone.

He came to us in a time of need. He laughed with us, cried with us, and changed the hearts of men. He brought with him the secret of the progeny of our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) and miraculously, like the rising sun, he brought us all out of the darkness and into light.
"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.", Beloved, sallallahu alyhi wa-sallam.
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rami View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rami Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 April 2006 at 1:39am
Bi ismillahir rahmanir raheem

jazak allah khair for posting this, i felt the same way about him when i first read Jesus Christ and his Beloved Mother a few years ago although i hadnt payed atention to who the author was at the time, just that who ever wrote that piece had a deep understanding of the deen and exceptional adab as he treated both saydinah Isa and Maryam [hs] with utmost respect.

Edited by rami
Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote peacemaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 April 2006 at 11:05am

Assalamu Alaikum!

Jazak Allah Khair brother for posting this.

I liked this one the most:

"He came to us in a time of need. He laughed with us, cried with us, and changed the hearts of men. He brought with him the secret of the progeny of our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) and miraculously, like the rising sun, he brought us all out of the darkness and into light."


Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?
Qur'an 55:13
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