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Obituary: The ‘Master of Books’ Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat

Innā lillāhi wa innā ilayhī rājiʿūn.

Islam21c would like to express condolences to the family, students and community of the scholar Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat who passed away yesterday, may Allāh have mercy on him. The following is an obituary of the Shaykh (rahimahullāh) written by Hafiz Yusuf Shabbir on the 11th of January 2018.

Obituary: The ardent bibliophile Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat (1380/1960 – 1439/2018)

“Muḥammad Dīdāt is ʿAllāmat al-Kutub (master of books), he has fallen ill, it is difficult to find such people, people will recognise his worth after he passes away.” (Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī)

“I saw Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī on three separate occasions in recent years kiss the forehead of Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat.” (Yusuf Shabbir)

It is with deep grief and regret we received the news this morning at 5am of the demise of our family friend and one of the world’s experts on books and manuscripts Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat whose knowledge and insight was acknowledged and commended by the likes of our teachers Muḥaddith al-ʿAṣr Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī (d. 1438/2017) and Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī (b. 1362/1943) among others. The passing away of such a gem and a very close family friend is a great loss. A brief overview of his life, based on the information available to me, and some memories are outlined for the benefit of readers.

Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat was born on Thursday 18 August 1960, which corresponds to 25 Ṣafar 1380, in Zambia. He completed the memorisation of the Qurʾān in India (as I understand) and thereafter graduated in Islamic studies from Darul Uloom Bury in 1982. His class colleagues include our respected teacher Mufti Sufi Muḥammad Ṭāhir Wādī (b. 1376/1957) who sat next to him. He studied Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī with Shaykh Islām al-Ḥaq (d. 1416/1996), Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim with Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad (b. 1376/1957), Sunan al-Tirmidhī with Shaykh Yūsuf Motālā (b. 1366/1946) and other books with other teachers. During his initial years in the UK, he resided in Hope Street in Dewsbury and also led Tarāwīḥ Ṣalāh there at a time when there were not many Ḥuffāẓ. He was a very a good Ḥāfiẓ of the Qurʾān and had a special attachment with it. Later, he moved to Preston.

A few years after his graduation, he was appointed as a librarian in Darul Uloom Bury, a role which he fulfilled diligently with full devotion and commitment until a few years ago when his health deteriorated significantly. During this period, he developed an enviable passion for books and acquired a wide range of published books and manuscripts for the library. It is worth noting that he developed this passion and acquired this expertise in the pre-internet age. Shaykh would visit libraries in different parts of the world and write letters to scholars and librarians making enquiries and obtaining books and manuscripts. During a visit to Darul Uloom Bury, the Head-Mufti of Darul Uloom Deoband Mufti Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān Khayrābādī (b. 1352/1933) commented that although the library in Darul Uloom Deoband has more books in terms of quantity, the Darul Uloom Bury library has more tanawwuʿ (variety). The late Qāḍī Mujāhid al-Islām Qāsmī (d. 1423/2002) commented during a visit, “This is the place to undertake some writing.”

Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat’s insight and knowledge of books was such that some of the world’s leading scholars showered praise on him. Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī (d. 1438/2017) would consult him and acknowledge his knowledge. Over the past few years, when visiting the UK, Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Ṣāhib would visit Mawlānā Muḥammad Deedat and encourage the management of Darul Uloom to maintain relations with him. In Shaʿbān 1438, on Shaykh’s final visit to the UK, I heard Shaykh remark, “Muḥammad Dīdāt is ʿAllāmat al-Kutub (master of books), he has fallen ill, it is difficult to find such people, people will recognise his worth after he passes away.” A true prediction indeed.

Another leading scholar Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat had an excellent and historic relationship with is Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī (b. 1362/1943). Both would communicate with each other via letters in the 80s and 90s. Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī makes reference to this in Dunyā Mare Āgey (p. 269). He writes, “Our very sincere friend Mawlānā Muḥammad Deedat Ṣāḥib, is the manager of the library of Darul Uloom Bury, who has for many years maintained an affectionate relationship with me. He has a special passion for books. Through his affection, he periodically sends me new books or copies of manuscripts. He sent [in this trip of mine to Oxford] with Mawlānā Ibrāhīm [Rājā] the handwritten excellent commentary of al-Maṣābīḥ by ʿAllāmāh Tūrībishtī [d. ca. 660/1261] which has not been published to date. This was a great bounty for me.” [The book has since been published.]

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to accompany Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī during his visits to the UK. I realised the extent of the relationship and the affection that existed between them, when I saw Mufti Ṣāḥib kiss Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat on his forehead, not once or twice, but thrice on separate occasions, twice at his residence in Preston and once at the house of my respected father Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad Ṣāḥib. My respected father reminded Mufti Mūhammad Taqī ʿUthmānī that on one occasion in the late 80s or early 90s, Mawlānā Muḥammad Deedat wrote to Muftī Ṣāḥib requesting him to travel less and instead focus on completing Takmilat Fatḥ al-Mulhim!

My respected father Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad had a very close relationship with Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat and his family from his days of studying at Darul Uloom Bury until his demise. He commented after his demise, “Mawlana Muhammad Deedat had a very close attachment with the Qurʾān. He would collect me from Blackburn for many years and drive me to Darul Uloom Bury. He would recite the Qurʾān on the way and this was his daily routine. I am indebted to him. Whenever I required a book or a reference, he would be my first point of call. He had a lot of Ṣabr (patience). Whenever I visited him over the past decade and asked about his health, he would say: al-Ḥamdulillāh. He would not complain. Sometimes I would think, he is in so much pain, yet he is content and simply praising Allah Almighty. His one taḥmīd is better than many years of worship.”

Despite being an ocean of knowledge, Shaykh Muḥammad was extremely humble, kind, affectionate, and humorous. I am also indebted to him. We would travel in his car to Darul Uloom Bury. Later, whilst studying the final years, he had granted me unlimited access to the library and I benefited a great deal. He would often find books for me and later as he fell ill, he would ask me regarding new books that were published. I recall, prior to this, in the year 2002, we visited Turkey and saw a manuscript of the commentary of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī by the Ḥanafī scholar ʿAllāmah ʿAjlūnī (d. 1162/1748), who ʿAllāmah Ibn ʿĀbidīn (d. 1252/1836) refers to as the Shāriḥ (commentator) of the Ṣaḥīḥ. When we mentioned this to Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat, he immediately extracted the details of this book from various sources. (As far as I am aware, this commentary has not been published to date).

In 1995, we travelled as a family to Turkey and Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat also accompanied us. When we arrived at the famous Sulaymaniyah library in Istanbul, the doors had closed. Shaykh Muḥammad had tears in his eyes and he cried. At this point, my father urged our Turkish friend to try his utmost best to secure access to the library. Eventually, we succeeded and we were able to see the large handwritten Qurʾān and other manuscripts. Likewise, in 1997, Shaykh Muḥammad accompanied us during our tour of India. There were also numerous other occasions when we would be together in ʿUmrah in Saudi Arabia. Shaykh Muḥammad would spend most of his days touring the libraries.

Shaykh Riyāḍ al-Ḥaq narrates that he travelled to Syria with Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat. Shaykh Muḥammad had prepared a list of books he wanted to acquire. They visited several bookshops but could not find the books. Eventually, they were advised to visit an elderly Christian who may be able to assist. When they arrived and presented the list, the Christian was amazed by the list and commented that the person who has prepared this list is an ʿAllāmah.

It was during my final year of studying in Darul Uloom Bury in 2005 or around this period that Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis). His health started to deteriorate albeit gradually. Nevertheless, he continued to provide his services to the library for the next few years, attending regularly and continuing to develop the library. Subsequently, he reduced his attendance, and since the past few years, he was unable to continue in his role. This did not stop him from his life long passion of books. Whenever we would visit him, he would ask about new publications, even in the recent two to three years when he was predominantly bedridden. In fact, my father relayed to us that a few days ago when he fell extremely ill, he mentioned to Shaykh that a new version of Mirʿāt has been published. My father asked him, whether he knew about the subject matter of the book? He immediately replied, it is the commentary of Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ. He said this at a time when his illness was such that he did not even recognise a son in law of his.

“Every soul has to taste death”, the Qurʾān reminds us repeatedly. I was in India last week visiting various charity projects when my father Mufti Shabbīr Ṣāḥib text me on Wednesday 3 January 2018 that he is in hospital with Shaykh Muḥammad because he is extremely ill. Shaykh stayed in hospital for a few days and upon my return I visited him a few times. My father spent many hours with him in hospital during the past week.  Yesterday, it was decided after consulting with the doctors, to bring Shaykh home as the doctors were unable to provide any further medication. Thus, Shaykh was brought home yesterday and in the early hours of the morning at approximately 4.45am, his soul left this world.

Shaykh Muḥammad’s Ghusl took place at Jamia Masjid Preston at approximately 10.30am and was attended by many scholars. The Janāzah Ṣalāh took place at Preston Cemetery at 2.15pm and was led by Shaykh Yūsuf Motālā Ṣāḥib. The recitation at the grave and duʿā was undertaken by Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad Ṣāḥib. Scholars had travelled from as far as Scotland and London to partake in the Ṣalāh. May Allah Almighty shower His infinite mercy on Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat and grant him an abode in Jannah. May Almighty Allah enable students and scholars to benefit from the seeds he sowed and reap the fruits of the library at Darul Uloom Bury. We pray to Allah to protect the institution and take it from strength to strength.

Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat leaves behind one son Mawlānā Ḥammād Deedat, four daughters, eleven grandchildren and his wife. I have personally observed the immense Khidmah the family undertook over the past decade and also prior to this. May Allah Almighty reward them and bless their progenies. Shaykh also leaves behind his father who is elderly. He attended Janāzah Ṣalāh.

Shaykh’s wife confirmed that in recent years, Shaykh was only given ZamZam water to drink. Our respected teacher Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī also spent the final years of his life only drinking ZamZam water.

The demise of this legendary bibliophile, unsung hero and hidden gem is a great loss for the Ummah. Students of knowledge and scholars will sense the loss all the more.

Many completions of the recitation of the Qurʾān have already taken place both locally and at Darul Uloom Blackburn and other places. Our respected teacher Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī would regularly stress that along with the physical acts of worship such as the recitation of the Qurʾān, it is of paramount importance to benefit the deceased through Ṣadaqah, as understood from the ḥadīths. Accordingly, upon the instruction of my father, we have decided to launch a Ṣadaqah Jariyah project which will entail the building of a Masjid and Madrasah in Malawi, details of which are available on this link. Contributions can also be sent to us directly or via any of the teachers of Darul Uloom Bury or Mawlānā Ḥammād.

We pray to Almighty Allah to enable the successful completion of this project and make it a means of reward and mercy for Shaykh Muḥammad Deedat.

Yusuf Shabbir

Source: Nawadir

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