Haz Sheikh Zakariyya's historic visit to Stanger in 1981 will be remembered not only by the people of Stanger, but also the thousands of visitors from the country and abroad.
Twenty one years have passed since the Ramadan of 1402-1981. That unique Ramadan will forever remain a memorable Ramadan for South Africa. For it was in that Ramadan, that a great saint of the century, Hazrat Shaikh Zakariyya (R) and hundreds of other pious persons visited our country.
This great saint was flooded with invitations from dozens of cities all over the world to be their guest for Ramadan, but from all of these invitations, Allah Ta'ala destined for him to accept the invitation of a small town in the North Coast of Natal, the town of Stanger. It was an unparalleled honour for the Muslims of Stanger to be blessed with this opportunity. This singular event emblazoned the name of Stanger on the map of the spiritual world forever.
Hazrat Shaikh Zakariyya (R) and his entourage of saintly people spent the entire duration of Ramadan in I'itikaaf at the Jami Masjid of Stanger. In fact, his stay in Stanger was close to 40 days. Close to 500 senior Ulama and other pious people from various parts of the world spent this month in his august company. A rigorous daily spiritual program used to take place and the entire Masjid was filled with spiritual effulgence and grace. Only those who spent some time in this environment, truly understand the electric atmosphere that prevailed. It is beyond description.
The people of Stanger were afforded a golden opportunity to be in the service of Hazrat Shaikh and his pious guests. Many grabbed this opportunity with two hands and worked tirelessly to serve best these honourable guests. The grand finale was when this great man of Allah departed the town, all those who served him and his guests were granted a special audience with him, where he blessed them with immense Duas. To appreciate the magnitude of this event, it would be important to understand this personality and his mission.
Who was Shaikh Zakariyya (R)? It can be stated without fear of contradiction that Shaikh Zakariyya was among the greatest of saints in the century. He hailed from a family of spiritual masters and saints. Besides the men, even his mother, grandmother and other ladies in his family were very saintly persons. Brought up in this pious environment, he grew up in the lap of saintly people. From his childhood, he displayed signs of greatness and piety. All the saints of the time showed deep love and affection for him. He was continuously blessed by their Duas.
After completing his formal education, he began to serve Islam in earnest. His sterling services to Islam, spanning more than half a century, are acclaimed by all scholars. His love for studying and teaching Hadith was such, that he was given the title of "Shaikhul-Hadith". He was also a prolific author whose works gained such acceptance due to his intense sincerity that after the Holy Qur'an, his books are the most read in the world today. His works have been translated into several languages. Such was the lofty spiritual status he reached, that he was blessed with the title of "Qutbul-Aqtaab" – "The Saint of all Saints". Such was his acceptance in the world that hundreds of thousands of people loved him and benefited from his company. He was a centerpiece of attraction, receiving hundreds of visitors daily from all parts of the world. Such was his burning and ardent love for Rasul-Paak (sallallahu-alayhi-wasallam) that he emigrated permanently to Madinah Shareef towards the latter part of his life (about 15-16 years). Subsequently he passed on in this blessed city and rests in the graveyard of Jannatul-Baqi alongside his spiritual mentor and guide, Hazrat Maulana Khalil Ahmed (R).
After having settled in Madinah Shareef, it was his desire not to go anywhere but to die in this blessed city. He was old and frail and had served the Deen for decades. However, Allah Ta'ala desired to take great work of Deen from him and despite his old age, ill health and infirmities, he was directed to visit different parts of the world to establish the gatherings of Zikr so that people could become connected to Allah Ta'ala and they could become spiritually cleansed and elevated. In this connection he traveled to several countries of the world such as Pakistan, UK, Zambia, Reunion and South Africa. His visit to Stanger, South Africa in the Ramadan of 1402-1981 was for this very purpose.
It was his heart-felt desire that the gatherings of Zikr must become established everywhere so that people could move away from crass materialism towards spiritual rejuvenation. Not only did Hazrat Shaikh consider this practice to be extremely beneficial for the general public, but he also considered it important for the Madaris and for the Tablighi-Jamaats. This matter has been covered in captivating detail by the senior Khalifah of Hazrat Shaikh, Sufi Iqbal Muhajir-Madani in his work Majalis-Zikr-aur-Hazrat-Shaikh. It is worthwhile reading this work, especially about the famous dream wherein Rasulullah (sallallahu-alayhi-wasallam) gave certain instructions to Hazrat Shaikh, after which he concentrated his full attention on this aspect (of Zikr-Majalis and Khanqahs).
In the very last stages of his life, when a new Islamic century was dawning, Hazrat Shaikh applied all his energy and strength towards enlivening this branch of Islam. Despite his infirmity, old age and being unaccustomed to travelling all his life, he undertook long and arduous journeys for the sake of this great mission. Untold sacrifices were made in this direction. The result and outcome of this effort was a new spiritual life that infused the Ummah.
So consumed was he by the passion to accomplish this great mission, he wrote in one letter to Shaikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (R) thus: "It is my firm conviction that the remedy for all evils is the Zikr of Allah. For this very aim I am wandering from country to country, because the Khanqahs have become extinct all over the world." May Allah perpetuate the spiritual legacy of this great man for centuries. Aameen.
(Mufti Zubair Bayat)