Bismillah, wal hamdulilah, wa salaatu was salaamu ‘ala rasulila
Over a year and a half ago, on the 12th of Rabi’ al Awwal, 1427, April 10, 2006,the birthday of our beloved Prophet salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam, Sheikh Muhammad al Yaqoubi lost his first wife, the mother of his children, Umm Ibrahim (Ferizeh Rabbat), Allah yarhamuha, in a tragic car accident in Damascus. She was under 40 years old.
Now, over a year and a half later, on the first Friday of Dhul Hijjah 1428, Dec. 14, 2007, a sacred day within the sacred first ten nights (layaalin ‘ashr) of this sacred month, that our Lord, ta’ala swears by in surat al Fajr, Sheikh Muhammad has lost his second wife, Umm ul Huda (Mariam Obeid), Allah yarhamuha. She was around 30 years old. Many students of Sacred Knowledge had opportunities to get to know Sheikh Muhammad’s first wife, as she was healthy and had much barakah in her time. She was devoted to her family, to her work as a teacher and to students all over the world. Since she was in contact with many students, stories about her came pouring in upon the news of her death. Some did get to know Sheikh Muhammad’s second wife, but many did not, as it was less than three years ago that she married Sheikh Muhammad. She is the daughter of Ghassan Obeid of Damascus, a descendant of the Ansari companion of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam, Sayidna Anas ibn Malik, radia Allahu ‘anh, who was a noble servant of the Prophet and a great hadith scholar.
Mariam’s mother is a beautiful, righteous Spanish woman who together with her husband raised four daughters in the traditional Islamic milieu stoked with piety and love. Sheikh Muhammad actually knew Mariam’s father from years ago though he didn’t know of Mariam and did not meet her until after marrying her. Mariam’s father had attended Sheikh Muhammad’s father’s classes and later Sheikh Muhammad’s classes as well. He remembers the young Sheikh Muhammad, a little lad accompanying his father, crawling the carpet of Jami’ al Kuwaiti of Damascus.Being connected to a true scholar of Islam gives us Jannah on earth in many ways. One way is by giving us the best of friends as the circle of people that one is introduced into through a scholar tend to be the most loving, devoted people, all either striving for the sunnah or at least loving those who do. Upon finding a real Knower of Allah, one enters the gate of camaraderie and comfort while plodding along life’s path. We meet friends that had we looked the world over, on our own, we would have never found. I know I speak for many sisters throughout the world in feeling ineffably grateful to have been able to call both of Sheikh Muhammad’s wives, rahmat Allah ‘alyhuma, my friends.
I pray we can all reunite with them at the Prophet’s pool, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam. The entry of Dhul Hijjah usually brings with it a waterfall of memories of all of our relations all over the world. As one’s mind reflects on the confluence of a couple of million pilgrims of all colors becoming colorless in Mecca al Mukaramah, one feels connected to all their relations all over the world, as limbs of one body. The thought of the eclectic group of individuals that have entered my life via the circle of Sacred Knowledge, invariably places me before the prayer mat in submission to His glorious bounty. I hope it serves to soothe everyone to know that Mariam loved all seekers of knowledge dearly, particularly her husband’s students throughout the world. Her love was simple and pure with no strings nor flowery words attached, except the flower of supplication for us. I believe this is why she figured prominently in the dreams of many who knew her, her transparent love.
Mariam had been attending the famous Ma’hd al Fath of Damascus as a teen just before she was diagnosed with leukemia at the tender age of fourteen. She was then forced to disrupt her classes and was taken for treatment in various places both in Syria and in America. The family took her to Sheikh Sa’eed Ramadhan al Buti to make dua for her. After he and other scholars made du’a for her, her leukemia went into remission, masha Allah, leaving only the trace of a weakened immunity. She then married one of the doctors that had treated her but it was a cruel and unhappy marriage. Since no children were involved, Mariam filed for divorce but her husband refused to grant it. After a lengthy period of time spent in efforts to conclude this chapter in her life, in 2004, a mutual friend of the family asked Sheikh Muhammad to make dua for her divorce to be finalized. He was teaching a Deen Intensive in San Jose at the time. The next day, masha Allah, the judge granted her the divorce. After marrying Sheikh Muhammad, Mariam was proud to retell this story of his dua for her even before he knew her. She also saw a dream in which the Prophet salla Allah ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam, told her about her upcoming marriage to Sheikh Muhammad.
Later that year, during the hajj season, in fact, while Sheikh Muhammad was still in Mecca al Mukarramah, he was given strong signs to propose to Mariam and told a small group of us about her. Mariam’s father was overjoyed when he heard about Sheikh Muhammad’s mention of his daughter and drew up the contract for him to sign in March of 2005 in Damascus. Mariam was in the US at the time. She and Sheikh Muhammad finally met a couple of months after they were legally married, when he came to America in May of the same year. They honeymooned in California and then departed to the muslim world for an awliya tour, visiting Egypt and its great men and women of Allah, including Sheikh Abul Hassan al Shadhili, Sheikh Abul Abbas al Mursi, Sheikh Shafi’ and Imam Busairi, may Allah be pleased with them all. Mariam took ba’yah with her husband soon after marrying him and was keen on learning from him. She memorized Imam Busairi’s Burda al Shareef within a couple of months and followed up on whatever classes she could until she died.
They also went to the first Rihla to Mecca and Medina where Sheikh Muhammad taught the Shamael of Imam Tirmidhi, rahimahu Allah ta’ala. One of the fondest moments in Mariam’s life was standing in the Rawdah Mubarakah of the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam alone with Sheikh Muhammad that year in the middle of the night while no one else was in sight. Her next favorite moment occurred the following year’s Rihla to the Haramayn where she stood once again in this Piece of Paradise, this time with Sheikh Muhammad and his children, all alone, facing the Prophet and the world together. This scene was Mariam’s favorite as it depicts her favorite thing to do: Serve the family of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aallihi wa sallam. Mariam adored serving Sheikh Muhammad and would be upset if he went to get a glass of water himself rather than allowing her to get it for him. She was ecstatic when Sheikh Muhammad told her how happy his father would have been with her. Whenever she was
ill, Sheikh Muhammad loved to serve her and brought her meals in bed. Sheikh
Muhammad was known to miss his classes in the last couple of years only when Mariam was ill. He said that she never once uttered the word “No” to him. Nor did she ever argue or request anything though Sheikh Muhammad was known to bring her gifts which she would exclaim were exactly what she wanted. Mariam said these and many other miracles she observed from Sheikh Muhammad would fill a volume if she wrote about them.
As students we didn’t see Umm ul Huda as often as we saw Umm Ibrahim. To take her of her health Umm ul Huda needed adequate rest. Yet this did not deter her from getting up for night vigils, masha Allah. She intensified her daylight hours with hours of dhikr, ‘ibadah and doting on her newfound family, Sheikh Muhammad and his kids. Any woman wanting to learn the secrets of a successful marriage had only to look at Sayida Mariam for a few minutes to see how to be a graceful wife, Masha Allah. She had full command of her household which was struck by her subtlety. This was accomplished even while being the stepmother to three spirited young children all under ten, who were suddenly left without their loving, lavishing, utterly devoted mother. The tragic accident taking Umm Ibrahim’s life occurred just a year after Mariam was married to
Sheikh Muhammad. Since that time the children blossomed under her care, at first calling her” Khala Mariam” then “Mama Mariam” and recently, simply, “Mama.” Sheikh Muhammad had affectionately given Mariam the kunya, Umm ul Huda, soon after their marriage, just as his own kunya is Abul Huda, given to him by his father.
Some of the scholars have described her as akin to one of the salaf, not of our age but of a prior, pristine era. Sheikh Muhammad says that she was the peak of beauty, of righteousness, of kindness, of elegance, of love. She was the spring of his soul and the pearl of his heart. And Sheikh Muhammad was everything to Mariam and she loved him more than her own soul. Their love was simple and surreal at the same time.
For those of us who did have the honor of befriending Umm ul Huda, we know that she was the best example of sabrun jameelun beautiful patience. Though she was undoubtedly, off and on, in substantial pain if not effete from medications and a compromised immunity, none of us ever heard a word of complaint from her, about anything. Her aura taught to us what thousands of books cannot. It seemed that by just being beside her, one received by contagion some of this incredible knowledge of patience. Mariam was utterly devoted to Sheikh Muhammad and being his wife was the highlight of her life. I know this, not only from her, but from watching her. The last time I saw her was this past summer in Damascus. The last I spoke to her was a few weeks ago. A piece of delicate etiquette that I picked up from Umm ul Huda and applied to my own marital life (and recommend to other sisters) is a simple gesture of kissing my husband’s hand in the morning or upon leaving the house. This simple Arab custom, used to honor scholars and elders, sets a pace of love, respect and harmony in the house when initiated by a wife. I am reveling in astounding results from this gesture, particularly when practiced just after a tiff, it instantly erases any negative remarks or feelings, setting a tone of harmony.
Thus, hers was not a sad story, it was a remarkable story of joy and triumph after a life of struggle, for the best part of her life was the latter part, since becoming the wife of Sheikh Muhammad over two and a half years ago. Her story depicts the famous du’a, “O Allah make the best of my years the last, the best of my works, the final, and the best day the day I meet you.” In Umm ul Huda, we have witnessed the first two parts of the du’a, may Allah grant her the final part.
Sheikh Muhammad mentioned how Mariam was a true waliyah, beloved of Allah, who often dreamt of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam. Sheikh Muhammad had a dream in which our beloved Prophet salla Allahu ‘alyhi wa aalihi wa sallam announced Sayyida Mariam as one of the people of al Jannah. Masha Allah.
For Sheikh Muhammad’s first wife, Ferizeh Rabbat or Umm Ibrahim, as she herself described, the best part of her life was indeed the days she was living before we mourned her departure, may Allah grant her al Jannah without account. When I told my mother the news of Umm ul Huda passing, she remarked that both of Sheikh Muhammad’s wives were taken on austere days and how this insha Allah, fulfills the husn al khatima, good ending that we all pray for; she also reverentially insinuated that perhaps if she had a third daughter she would encourage her to marry sheikh Muhammad to attain such barakah. These words predictably triggered the memory of Saydna Uthman radia Allahu ‘anh, and his losing not only two wives but both of them being the daughters of the best of creation, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam.
Sheikh Muhammad said that he knew it wouldn’t be long before he would hear jokes about how “Sheikh Muhammad’s wives are doomed.” He said he has a retort for this remark, “Death only picks up the best and I have only picked up the best.” Indeed, only the good die young. Umm Ibrahim was larger than life and Umm ul Huda made life large. May Allah have mercy on them both. The closest to Allah are given the grandest of tests as the Prophet himself foretold, “The most difficult calamities befall the Prophets, then those like them, then those similar to them, and then on others according to their degree of righteousness.” Scholars describe how Allah’s sunnah is set into place already. Thus, the consequences of sins must befall on the earth. Yet, it is out of His Mercy that he doesn’t inflict the disobedient with the tough trials as they would be destroyed by their weight, these tests then, are placed upon the shoulders of His beloveds to bear. Sheikh Sa’eed Ramadhan al Buti upon visiting Sheikh Muhammad for condolence said, “I offer you not consolation but congratulation.” He and the other scholars of Damascus, inlcuding Sheikh Hassan al Hindi have said that the travails that Allah places for Sheikh Muhammad are a sign of his stature, insha Allah, as only a true lover disregards any blow that comes from the Beloved. Damascus has been witnessing Sheikh Muhammad endure the arrows of the Divine Decree with paradisaical patience. In fact this is the root meaning of the word, Sabr as Sheikh Abul Abbas al Mursi explained and Ibn Ata illah as Sikandari, rahimahuma Allah ta’laa, described in his Lataif al Minan. Asbar is the archer’s target and from it comes sabr. In the same book he also describes the stages of loving Allah. The first stage for the seeker is love for Allah and the final stage is love from Allah. The first stage requires effort and the final stage requires acquiescence.
Sheikh Muhammad delivered his scheduled class on Friday, the day of Mariam’s demise, as usual and only announced the death of his dear wife after he finished his lesson. His tribute to her before a crowd of two thousand left the assembly lachrymose. Sheikh Sa’eed and Sheikh Hassan will both soon write their tributes to Mariam which will be translated into English insha Allah.
May our Lord, ta'ala secure Jannat al 'ala for Mariam, reward her family for their loss, protect and elevate our sheikh and his family evermore, and allow us to inhale some of the aura of the dearly departed, as within her was an ocean of patience and pure love. Rahmatullah 'Alyha.
On these glorious days of Eid, as we chant our takbirat and send salutations on the Prophet, his family, his companions and the Ansar of his companions, let us remember one from them who lived up to her ancestors’ heritage.
Allahuma Salli ‘ala Sayyidna Muhammad, wa ‘ala aali Sayyidna Muhammad, wa wa ‘ala ashaabi sayyidna Muhammad, wa ‘ala Ansari Sayyidina Muhammad...
Eid Mubarak. May every year find you in good cheer,
Please join the campaign to recite one million Ya Sin al Sharif and 1000 khatama of the Quran al Kareem for Umm ul Huda, Allah yarhamuha. Insha Allah each one of us already recites Ya Sin every morning and the ‘ulema say that all fluent reciters should be doing one khatm per month. Thus we are looking for at least 1000 good men and women to pledge their month’s recitals to Umm ul Huda insha Allah. A final khatm will be held in Birmingham, U.K. on January 25, insha Allah. This will be the deadline to reach our goal.
Please submit your pledges to Sidi Haris Mahmood via a simple email with your name and the amount of your pledge, e.g., “Mudasser Hussain, 1 khatm, 100 Ya Sin.” If you have already made recitals that you want to be added to the count, please just mention the number in the subject heading. If you end up doing more just send another email. We ask that you keep the body of the email empty to save time: [email protected]
Asra Adiba found at deenport