Every year, all over the world, muslims in the spiritual lineage of the great saint Imam Abdullah al-Haddad gather together to celebrate his life and remember his great wisdom. He is most fondly remembered in the parts of the world that have benefited from the dawah of the scholars and saints of Hadhramaut: Yemen, the Swahili Coast, the muslim parts of the Indian coast and the Malay Archipelago, the Nusantara. In the Nusantara, as elsewhere, the hadhrami da’is did not only preach, but stayed, intermarried and naturalized. All the major population centers of the archipelago have people who can trace their lineage back to Hadhramaut. Some have retained family titles like al-Haddad and al-Sagoff, while elsewhere, like in Kuching, the descendants carry an honorific as part of their given name, such as Wan.
And where their descendants have not reached, their knowledge and piety has. Blessed practices such as recitation of Mawlid Barzanji were propagated and encouraged by such people until it has saturated the religious experience of the region. An undeniable testimony to their influence is that the entirety of the Malay people follow shafi’i fiqh even though hanafi madhab was also represented in the region through Indian and maybe even Chinese sources during the Islamization of the region. [I have a pet theory that shafii fiqh had a major advantage spreading here due to shafii lenience on shellfish, an indispensable part of the local diet. But that is another story.]
This evening we gathered in the home of Tuan Haji Saleh at maghrib time. His living room had been cleared out and spread with carpets to accommodate us all, and a smoldering incense censer wafted perfumed smoke through the room. Following maghrib prayers, we recited Ya Sin, gifting its reward to the soul of Imam al-Haddad. The Ratib al-Haddad followed, a litany of supplications culled by the late Imam from the Quran and Hadith that is read daily by people across the region. After Isha’ prayers, Cikgu Asry read a Malay translation of a sermon given by the late Imam. Our ustaz then began to sing “Ya Tawwab”, a beautiful poem I had heard many times before. Little did I know it was originally composed by Imam Abdullah al-Haddad. Our guest of honor, Habib Sayyid Mustafa al-Haddad, a direct descendant of the Imam, then recited the Arabic couplets again and translated and explained them to our congregation in Malay. Finally, we concluded the evening by reciting from the Mawlid Barzanji and reciting salawat on Our Master the Seal of Messengers Muhammad, peace be upon him.
No gathering would be complete without a meal, particularly in Malaysia. We had worked up a good appetite by then and handily disposed of the lamb that had been slaughtered and cooked up that afternoon by a few of the brothers.
[I’ve sprinkled photos in here from previous gatherings this year – 12 Rabiul Awwal and 1 Shawwal. View all these photos and more of the Ba’alawi congregation in Kuching.]
I took a few short clips of the event:
Ya Tawwab, Tub Alayna
Sallallahu ala Muhammad