Friday, 11 July 2008

Day 14 (Cont'd): Habib Ali

Photo Credit: Bushra Nazir.
(Note: This photo was taken on the very last day of the Dowra)

Habib Ali finally arrived today, and we had our very first class with him after 'isha.

Being here in Tarim and having such limited access to the sheikhs because I'm a woman has made me realize how lucky I was to have had such access to them in my normal life. The first time I really met Habib Ali was in Abu Dhabi in a small private setting, and I had the chance to sit with him and ask him questions face to face. It's embarrassing to admit, but my only question to him then was whether or not I could have highlights in my hair. Ok, so it's stupid and a complete waste of an opportunity but I was only 15 at the time.

But it's because Habib Ali didn't just tell me "what a stupid question to ask" and sat with me and spent half an hour of his time answering me that I decided this wasn't a sheikh just like every other one. True, he looked like every other sheikh I had disliked growing up—the turban clad heavily bearded men who only spewed vitriol about the hell fire and the heedlessness of today's youth, but he was very different.

"The first thing you notice about Habib Ali is his smile," begins this incredible article about him. (By the way, that article is a large reason why I decided to become a journalist).
And it's so true. He is a person who truly makes you feel that religion is not this humongous burden on our shoulders that we have to carry balanced on a plank over quicksand, but an honor that has been bestowed upon us. I always leave his lectures— which are always riveting and easy to follow—invigorated and optimistic. He has a certain aura around him and charisma that makes people want to listen to him. He is always so sincere and so enthusiastic about his mission-anyone else would have buckled under the huge responsibility he's undertaken.
Like all the habayeb, Habib Ali is:
"Firmly Sunni, Husayni in lineage, Shafi’i in fiqh, Ash’ari in Aqida and Ghazalian in behaviour."
(Quote is from a brother's wonderful account of his time in Tarim).

Habib Ali's lectures revolve around da'wa (how to invite people/ inform them about Islam) and again, I realized how lucky I was to be here. I mean, all these westerners are the ones who will benefit most from this Dowra, since they go back to their countries and actively implement all these teachings. Sometimes I wonder if I took the place of someone who was more deserving to be here, since in the end I'm just an Egyptian who will go back home to Egypt.

At the same time I think well, you never know where your path may lead.

Today's Quote: Speak to people in the language of the smile. Habib Ali

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