“Shaykh”?

1193469970_hazoor mehr ali shah-old

قَالَتْ يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ أَأَلِدُ وَأَنَا عَجُوزٌ وَهَٰذَا بَعْلِي شَيْخًا

(Surah Hud: 72)

قَالُوا يَا أَيُّهَا الْعَزِيزُ إِنَّ لَهُ أَبًا شَيْخًا كَبِيرًا فَخُذْ أَحَدَنَا مَكَانَهُ

(Surah Yusuf: 78)

قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّىٰ يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ ۖ وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ 

(Surah Qasas: 23)

What do you think the word ‘shaykh’ means? Most likely you’re thinking that it is a learned person who has studied the deen, or something along those lines. But the actual literal meaning of the word is simply, ‘an old man‘. That is the sense in which it is used throughout the Qur’an, and if you click on the links to the translations of the ayat above you can see this for yourself.

So whenever I get a new group of students and one of them addresses me in that way for the first time, I always feign being offended by it and tell them not to call me shaykh – as despite me having a beard, I’m not all that old.  And although I do it in a joking manner, I do truly feel that there is a better and more honourable title to have… which is that of ‘Hafiz’. Some of them do listen and start to call me that instead, but most don’t. And I can’t blame them really. Because in our societies, the titles ‘Shaykh’ or ‘Moulana’ are commonplace and we are used to using them, but you hardly find anyone being addressed with the title of ‘Haafiz’. It’s almost as if we regard the former titles as being superior to the latter – and this I disagree with and it is something I feel we need to change.

This is because those who have been blessed to have completed their hifz are people who have been specifically chosen by Allah ta’ala Himself to receive that favour. Out of all the billions of people in the world, they have been singled out by Him to be the Bearers of His Book. That alone would be honour enough for them. But if we read and reflect on all of the many ahadith which speak of the virtues of the Bearers of the Qur’an, we would realise just how greatly they have been raised in status by our Lord. By virtue of memorising the Qur’an, one attains certain blessings and rewards that are not conferred on anyone else.

Being a Hafizul Qur’an is thus no small matter, which nowadays unfortunately seems to be the mindset that some people have. We have so many people becoming hafiz, and youngsters too at that, that we seem to now think of it as being no big deal. It’s as if we’ve lost the high regard and esteem that we ought to have of such people. Some of us would even hold in higher esteem those who study to become doctors or lawyers and so on, and would prefer that for our children rather than them learning hifz, which is indeed a sad state of affairs…

May Allah ta’ala grant us all to realise the true value of the People of the Qur’an, and may He grant us all the desire to aspire to be of them, ameen.

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