Under a Truly “Maḥmūd” (Commendable) Shade
My Time With Mufti Ebrahim Desai (may Allāh have mercy on him) at Dārul Iftā’ Maḥmūdiyyah
The following is an article I wrote while studying at Dārul Iftā’ Maḥmūdiyyah. The purpose of the article was to pen down some of my memories of Mufti Ebrahim Desai (may Allāh have mercy on him) and to acquaint readers with his amazing personality. I had actually shown this article to Mufti Sahib and witnessed the joy and happiness on his face as he read it. He turned to me and smiled, with that blessed smile which every student of his will no doubt remember very clearly. He permitted me to publish the piece online. It was initially published at the time on IlmHub (run by Mufti Faisal al-Mahmudi). A number of amendments and additions have been made to the article since then.
Our First Meeting
I was fairly young when I first met Mufti Ebrahim Desai (may Allāh have mercy on him). He would frequently travel to the UK during the early 2000s and I was very fortunate to have met him in London during one of these visits. He was wearing a black turban with a white thobe. He also had a jet-black beard at the time. I was blessed with the privilege of accompanying him on his journey to Leicester; a journey during which I witnessed first-hand his gentle, soft and caring nature. At the time, I could not have even imagined that in just a mere few years I would be undertaking a journey to his home country (South Africa) to study at his feet.
ʿĀlimiyyah Post-Graduation Plans
As the years passed by and as I approached the final years of the ʿĀlimiyyah Course at Dārul ʿUlūm Leicester, I decided that after graduation I would undertake further studies and enroll into an Iftā’ programme (specialisation in Islamic jurisprudence and issuing legal verdicts). During my 5th year in the ʿĀlimiyyah Course I had traveled to East Africa to visit some relatives of mine and resolved to visit Dārul Iftā’ Maḥmūdiyyah in Durban, South Africa. After a somewhat arduous journey, I arrived at the Dārul Iftā’ and stayed there for a few days as a guest. When I met Mufti Ebrahim Desai on this occasion, our meeting was of a completely different nature. I was already acquainted with Mufti Ebrahim Desai; hence he took a much more informal and friendly approach in hosting me. As I expressed to him my desire to study at the Dārul Iftā’, he listened to me attentively, and then, with great care & affection, provided me with guidance and advice regarding how to ensure I was well-prepared to join the Iftā’ Course after graduating. For the benefit of the students of knowledge, some of the advices he gave me were as follows:
– To benefit from the Fiqh discussions within Fatḥ al-Mulhim;
– To read through the various fatāwā on askimam.org to get an understanding and feel for how to write fatāwā; and
– To continue reading Fatāwā Raḥīmiyyah (which I had previously mentioned I was reading at the time).
During this meeting of ours, he also gifted me a signed copy of “Al-Mahmood” (a compilation of his early fatāwā) which is no longer available in print.
By the time I had returned to England, my outlook on studying had changed. I was inspired by Mufti Sahib’s advices and hence had a clear plan in mind. I tried to make whatever preparations I could for my further studies post-graduation. As my final year drew to an end, I met with colleagues & teachers, sought their duʿās and began preparations for my journey to go and study in another continent.
Sitting At The Blessed Feet of Mufti Ebrahim Desai
After Ramadan 1436/2015, I travelled to South Africa. Mufti Sahib welcomed me and gave up much of his precious time to listen to my eager aspirations. The more I think back to these sittings, the more I am overwhelmed by the level of compassion and attentiveness he showed while listening to my recounting of insignificant happenings during my journey. He personally showed me to my accommodations and other arrangements. I was astounded at his extremely friendly and caring nature towards his students. Here was a world-renowned figure attending personally to the needs of his students.
As the days passed, I nestled into the Dārul Iftā’ premises and it became my home away from home. We were gifted a biography of Mufti Mahmūd Ḥasan Gangohī (may Allāh have mercy on him). As I read through the book, I began drawing striking similarities between Mufti Mahmūd Ḥasan Gangohī and Mufti Ebrahim Sahib. Mufti Ebrahim Sahib must have made rigorous mujāhadah (striving), moulding himself into the image of his Shaykh – emulating his nature and habits. A crucial lesson for us to take from this is: a person is not necessarily born excelling in good qualities, rather, often one has to subdue himself & his nafs to become truly selfless and spiritually cleansed. Mufti Sahib’s amazing qualities along with the homely accommodation of Dārul Iftā’ Maḥmudiyyah provided me a truly “Maḥmūd” (commendable) shade during my journey of knowledge. I am forever indebted to Mufti Ebrahim Sahib (may Allāh grant him the loftiest of abodes in Jannah).
Āpā (The Respected Wife of Mufti Ebrahim Desai)
Likewise I am indebted to Āpā who cared about us like we were her own children (while maintaining the laws of ḥijāb). She would go out of her way to prepare the most delicious meals that we students desired for nothing in return. On a few occasions when I was ill and also once whilst I was recovering from a dental surgery, Āpā would prepare special meals according to the advice provided to me by the doctor. She was very particular with regard to the needs of the students and would always enquire with Mufti Ebrahim Sahib regarding their health. May Allāh Taʿālā reward her immensely and grant her every success in both this life and the next. Āmīn.
A Day In My Life As A Dārul Iftā’ Student:
Our mornings would commence with Mufti Sahib’s voice echoing throughout the corridors, as he woke the students up for Fajr Ṣalāh. Yes, you did indeed read that correctly – the world-renowned “Mufti Ebrahim Desai” would take it upon himself to wake up the students; and he would become overjoyed if he discovered a student who was already awake. We would then prepare and leave for Fajr. I was very fortunate to have sat in Mufti Sahib’s car on most occasions alongside some of my classmates including Mufti Huzaifah Deedat and Mufti Imran Patel. Mufti Sahib’s car was always the first to leave for the Masjid. Uncle Rashid and Mufti Ismail would follow thereafter. Fajr would be performed a few minutes’ journey away at Masjid Ṣāliḥīn in Sherwood.
After Fajr Ṣalāh, we would sit in the Qur’ān Dars (lecture) delivered by Mawlana Ahmad Chouhan and then head to a room at the back of the Masjid for a dhikr Majlis (gathering) where everyone engaged in dhikr. Mufti Sahib would perform dhikr with great passion and enthusiasm and the listeners could feel his intense love for Allāh. We would then return to the Dārul Iftā’. During the drive back we would listen to Mufti Sahib reciting the morning Adhkār.
After returning to the Dārul Iftā’ we would have breakfast and then prepare for the day’s lessons. Mufti Sahib would check to make sure everyone is awake and then he would head off by himself or with his son to Madrasah Nuʿmāniyyah where he would teach Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and Tafsīr (explanation of the Qur’an).
Our first lesson of the day – on Uṣūl al-Iftā’ – would commence at 8:00am, under the tutelage of the erudite scholar Mufti Husain Kadodia (may Allāh preserve him), a vast ocean of knowledge. Students took immense benefit from these lessons. His lesson would formally end at 9:00am, however he would usually continue to impart priceless pearls of knowledge and wisdom until 9:30am. After a short break, we would have our next lesson on al-Ashbāh wa ‘l-Naẓā’ir with Mufti Ebrahim Sahib. The lesson would end at 11:30am, after which the students would engage themselves in muṭālaʿah (study) and writing fatāwā.
Some days Mufti Ebrahim Sahib would head out for a judicial sitting at the Jamiatul Ulama KZN where the head Mufti – Mufti Ismaeel Bassa – is a student of his. Mufti Sahib would take students from the Dārul Iftā’ with him to the Jamiat, as these sittings were extremely beneficial. They offered valuable insight into the practical implementation of the laws related to marital disputes, including – in the worst case scenarios – annulment of marriages. On his way back, for the students’ training, Mufti Sahib would often ask the students to share their thoughts on the case and how they think it should have been dealt with. He would allocate students the task of preparing a document on the case, highlighting the rulings and the implications thereof.
The congregation for Ẓuhr ṣalāh would take place at the Dārul Iftā’ at around 12:30pm, after which we would have lunch. The meals were often prepared by Āpā (Mufti Sahib’s respected wife). Lunch was followed by an afternoon siesta (qaylūlah). After a refreshing rest, we would rise from our beds and swiftly get ready before making our way downstairs, some with mugs of tea in our hands. Mufti Sahib would arrive shortly thereafter for the Islāmic finance lesson which was from 3:00-3:30pm. Mufti Ebrahim Sahib was a true master when it came to Islāmic finance. Even if one found the subject matter to be dry, he would remain glued attentively to the lesson because of Mufti Sahib’s gripping manner of teaching. He would break everything down in very simple terms, ensuring every student understands and is following as he goes along. Both of our teachers (Mufti Ebrahim Desai and Mufti Husain Kadodia) would interact with the students as they taught, rather than rendering a non-interactive, dry lecture. Once the finance lesson had ended, we would once again continue with our research and work until ʿAṣr.
The time between ʿAṣr and Maghrib was the daily break time for students. Some would drink tea, some would work out at the in-house gym, some would take the opportunity to just relax and others would study. We would often see Mufti Sahib sitting while checking over the students’ fatāwā.
Dinner was served after Maghrib Ṣalāh. Mufti Sahib believed in giving the students adequate time to read, research and prepare fatāwā. This meant the students were able to consult several books when researching a single mas’alah (issue). The library of the Dārul Iftā’ is extensive and more than adequate to serve its purpose. The books therein were carefully procured and organised by Mufti Husain Kadodia – an expert in Islāmic literature and manuscripts. Students would continue reading and researching until ʿIshā’. We always had the opportunity to approach Mufti Ebrahim Sahib to discuss any mas’alah. Students were also allowed to pray Maghrib Ṣalāh in the Masjid. Thus, at times we would walk to Mufti Husain’s house, and accompany him to and back from the Masjid, taking the opportunity to discuss the masā’il we were working on. I will forever cherish these moments.
ʿIshā’ would be performed at the Dārul Iftā’, after which, depending on Mufti Sahib’s schedule, he would either stay behind or would take the fatāwā home with him and complete the rest of the marking at home. Students would engage in muṭālaʿah and writing while some would use this time to call home to speak to family before retiring to bed.
This was the general schedule at the Dārul Iftā’. However, on Thursdays, Mufti Sahib held a majlis after the ʿIshā’ Ṣalāh in Masjid Ṣāliḥīn. We would thus head out to the Masjid after dinner. Mufti Sahib would deliver a short talk, followed by readings (individually) of Shaykh Zakariyyā al-Kandhelwī’s compilation of 40 ṣalawāt. After returning to the Dārul Iftā’, we would be greeted with cakes and desserts that would come from Mufti Sahib’s house; something each and every student would look forward to.
On Saturdays, permission was granted to the students for them to go shopping after lunch.
This is how our time at the Dārul Iftā’ was usually spent. Mufti Sahib did give us two holidays in the year. Some of us used one of these holidays to make a trip to Johannesburg, where we visited and stayed at Dārul ʿUlūm Azadville, Dārul ʿUlūm Zakariyya and Mufti Bhana’s institute in Benoni. Alḥamdulillāh we were blessed to meet many Mashāyikh and teachers at these institutes. Listing their names and virtues here would make this article extremely lengthy, hence I intend to compile a separate article mentioning the scholars I was fortunate to have met during my time in South Africa.
Some Noble Traits
Among the many noble traits and characteristics I observed in my beloved Ustādh, I will mention a few which stood out to me personally:
– He would go out of his way to make his students feel comfortable;
– He never rebuked a student when the student erred or made a mistake;
– He was extremely soft, gentle, affectionate and caring;
– He would never ridicule a student for not knowing a particular ruling or for any academic/intellectual shortcomings;
– Students were free to discuss and express academic differences with him. Mufti Sahib did not take academic disputes personally or to heart;
– His dedication to the Dārul Iftā’ was remarkable. He would spend most of his day at the Dārul Iftā’ and would say to his students: “I live for you and you live for me”;
– Not only did Mufti Sahib give due attention to each student but he would go above and beyond in this regard, ensuring no student would feel left out;
– Each and every student was made to feel as though it is he who shared the closest bond and relationship with Mufti Sahib;
– He was punctual with his daily maʿmūlāt (tilāwah, dhikr, nawāfil etc) and would emphasise this to the students and encourage them to be punctual with them too.
These are just a few of his exceptional traits and qualities which I observed during my stay with Mufti Sahib at the Dārul Iftā’.
Our Post-Iftā’ Graduation Meetings
After graduating and returning from South Africa, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet Mufti Sahib again on three separate occasions:
1. December 2017: in Makkah Mukarramah, outside his hotel. I was blessed to have sat in his company and greatly benefitted from his advice. This is also when I first met Mufti Abrar Mirza (from Chicago). Mufti Ebrahim Sahib had introduced the two of us to each other.
2. June 2019: in Leicester, UK. The shores of the UK were blessed with Mufti Sahib’s presence once again when he visited for a brief tour. The main reason for his journey was the Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī completion of Dārul ʿUlūm Leicester. I was truly honoured to have had the opportunity to host Mufti Sahib at my home for the first time during this visit – however it turned out that this was the one and only time I was able to do so. This had also been the first time since graduation that I was able to spend so much personal time with him, which included driving him to my home and back. His valuable advice benefitted many and his profound memory left the scholars simply astonished. It was actually also during this visit to the UK that he and Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat (may Allāh preserve him) met for the first time, despite them having longed to meet each other for a very long time.
3. January 2020: in al-Masjid al-Nabawī. This was my final meeting with Mufti Sahib. I tried my hardest to arrange a meeting, but was unable to do so until my very last day in Madīnah. He texted me asking to meet him at 3:30am in al-Masjid al-Nabawī. I recall remaining awake that night as I was afraid of missing the opportunity to meet him due to oversleeping. When the time arrived, I took a small gift for him with me; somehow managed to get it passed the security guards at the gates of al-Masjid al-Nabawī; and arrived at the spot where he had told me to meet him, where I found him engaged in dhikr. With him were his two sons (Muhammad and Ahmad), and Mufti Abdullah Sajid who at the time was a student at the Dārul Iftā’. We spoke for a while as we remained seated there. He then instructed me to engage in ʿIbādah (worship) while he immersed himself in Tahajjud prayers and Tilawāh (recitation of the Qur’ān). We spoke again after the congregational Fajr Ṣalāh and finally walked together up to the Masjid gates. Little did I know at the time, this would in fact be the last time I would ever shake his blessed hands or feel his warm embrace. I sent him a message as soon as I had arrived safely in the UK (at Heathrow airport). He replied back with some duʿās and also expressed his gratitude for the gift I had given him. I still recall the joy I felt when reading his message.
Despite these three occasions being the only times I was able to physically meet him since graduating, I made sure to keep in touch with him via WhatsApp. I would consult with him regularly and he would always grace me with duʿās and guidance, as well as a great deal of love and affection. I am unable to recall even a single instance where he spoke to me with anger.
Mufti Sahib Returns To His Lord
A few weeks ago Mufti Sahib had taken ill and was admitted into hospital. He passed away and returned to his Lord during the night of the first Friday of Dhu ‘l-Ḥijjah. I sincerely request that anyone who reads this takes a moment to make duʿā to Allāh specifically for Mufti Sahib and to also keep him in your duʿās regularly. Additionally please also make special duʿās for Āpā (Mufti Sahib’s respected wife) who has lost her father, mother and her husband in the span of just a few weeks.
May Allāh grant Mufti Sahib the loftiest of abodes in Jannah. May Allāh grant patience and forbearance to all those Mufti Sahib has left behind – allowing them to come to terms with such a tremendous loss, and also make them a continued source of benefit for him in the hereafter.
18 Rajab 1437/ 26 April 2016
Updated: 18 July 2021 / 7 Dhu ‘l-Ḥijjah 1442
 The book can be downloaded HERE
 A brief biography of Mufti Husain is being prepared and will be published later, in shā’ Allāh.