Interview with Haji Abu Majid Muhammad Shahid Attari Madani
Member, Central Advisory Committee
Today we interview Maulana Haji Abu Majid Muhammad Shahid Attari Madani, an important member of Dawat-i-Islami’s Central Advisory Committee and the supervisor of the renowned Islamic research centre, Madinah al-’Ilmiyyah.
Mahrooz Attari (MA): Tell us about your family and where you are from.
Abu Majid Shahid Attari (SA): My family hail from Pipli, a small village in the Pind Dada Khan tehsil of Jhelum district, Punjab. Our ancestors have lived there for many years. It is said that our ancestors left Mandi Bahauddin and settled there. The village is located on a slope, nested between towering mountains on one side and lush fields on the other. I was born there on the 19th June 1974/Jumada al-Akhira, 1394 AH. When I was 5, my family moved to Lahore.
My late father was from a family of landowners but was naturally inclined to the religion. An elder of the Chishti spiritual order lived in the nearby town of Jalalpur Sharif. His name was Maulana Ghulam Haidar, and he was reverentially known as Gharib Nawaz. My father pledged his allegiance to and accompanied his grandson, Pir Fazl Shah.
MA: Tell us about your childhood.
SA: My father was my first guide and mentor. Ever since we opened our eyes, we have always seen our father fasting and praying. Mawlana Shafi’i رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْـه was the Imam and preacher of our local masjid. He was a student of the grand hadith scholar of Pakistan, Mawlana Sardar Ahmad Qadiri, and the Ghazali of our times, Sayyid Ahmad Saeed Kazmi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْهم. I learned the Quran from him and stayed in his company for a long time. He played a significant role in my upbringing.
MA: How did you become affiliated with Dawat-e-Islami?
SA: My late father was a government employee. He was on a governmental job in Saudi Arabia for three years. For 4 months, we stayed with him. During that time, we were blessed to perform Hajj and visit Madina al-Munawwara. The first religious environment I experienced was in my own home, and during this time, I also visited the sacred lands of Makka al-Mukarrama and Madina al-Munawwara. These experiences early were transformational. Later in life, I was blessed with the Madani environment of Dawat-e-Islami.
The Imam of our area, Mawlana Shafi’i, would often emphasise the need for dawah and serving Ahl al-Sunna. Thus, I developed this way of thinking from an early age. When I was young, I would invite and take my fellow students to pray in the masjid. I would also listen to the speeches of scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah, regarding love of the Messenger and its prerequisites. I kept a beard as soon as mine began to grow in, until via the invitation of an Islamic brother of Dawat-e-Islami, I joined the Madani environment.
MA: Which event of Dawat-e-Islami did you first see?
SA: I subscribed to a monthly Sunni magazine that was delivered to our house. Once, I was perusing it when I came across an article about the positive effects a Madani Qafilah travelling in India had on its participants. This was my first exposure to Dawat-e-Islami. I then saw their advertisements for a three-day annual gathering near Minar-e-Pakistan. In 1992, while I was in college, I attended a weekly gathering after being invited by an Islamic brother—I was deeply impressed.
MA: After joining the Madani environment in January 1992, what responsibilities did you have?
SA: My dear Islamic brother, Suhail Attari, would travel from Sadar, Lahore to Nishat Colony. He made me the supervisor of 5 masjids. In those days, I had the opportunity to deliver sessions 2 to 3 times a day. I began delivering them outdoors. In the early days, I started doing religious work in my area alone. Brother Abdullah Attari joined me and eventually, an environment was created. I did not receive any special response from my local masjid, but the administration and people who prayed at Bilal Masjid responded to and co-operated with, despite being situated further away. Eventually, many of the people at Bilal Masjid began to grow beards, leaving me in overwhelming surprise. When I left, the brothers of the area became supervisors.
MA: When did you first see the Ameer of Ahl Al-Sunnah?
SA: In 1992, he came to a neighbourhood in Lahore, and I first saw him then.
MA: How much mainstream education did you gain, and how did you move on to faith-based education?
SA: I studied for the first year of college, but my heart was not at peace there. My father understood this, and after consulting him, I enrolled into a religious seminary (dar al-uloom) to study the alim course (dars-i-nizami) in 1993.
MA: What changed in your daily life when you enrolled into the dar al-uloom?
SA: I would wear the Madani uniform in the dar al-uloom. Not only this, but arrangements were made for weekly gatherings and Madani work. I and other Islamic brothers initially carried out Madani work in the dar al-uloom, as it was situated in another city. Around two and a half years later, I was made responsible for the city.
MA: Generally, students think that they should focus exclusively on their studies. What are your thoughts on this?
SA: Moderation is the key. If a student gives ample time towards his studies whilst performing religious work, his studies will not be hampered. Rather, the blessings of serving Islam will work in his favour. I had no problems during my time in Lahore, as I had the full support of my family. I was living in a hostel during my studies at the dar al-uloom and sufficed with 300 rupees from my family for monthly expenses. So I did face some hardships. I had to pay the fares to travel to and from Madani Mashwarahs, but eventually, these tough times passed.
MA: Would you share with us a memorable event during these challenging times?
SA: In 1995, we held collective Itikaf in a masjid. This was the first Itikaf of Dawat-e-Islami in the city. On the night before Eid, I reached my home in Lahore after a difficult night-long journey. The weekly gathering was to take place three days later. New brothers who were present in the I’tikaf were going to attend this gathering, and I was personally responsible for overseeing it. After two or three days, I travelled back and took part in the gathering.
In the city, the markets usually closed at Isha time. When returning to attend the weekly gathering, I left home having eaten breakfast, but did not have lunch or dinner. My next meal was a simple tea and cake breakfast the following day. On Eid day, I received a letter informing me that an Islamic brother had fallen ill. After breakfast, I travelled from Sargodha to Pindi Bhattian, from there to Hafizabad and then beyond Kale Mandi to his village. It almost took the entire day to get there, and it was raining. My imamah and clothes were drenched. I reached his village at Asr time, only to find that he had gone to Faisalabad. I stayed at his house for some time, encouraging his brother and uncle to become disciples of the Ameer e Ahl e Sunnat. They asked me if I had met Ameer e Ahl e Sunnat, to which I replied by saying I had met the Ammer of Ahl Al-Sunnah, but I was longing to do so. When I slept that night, I saw the Ameer e Ahl e Sunnat in a dream. I was studying in the 3rd year of the alim course at the time. The Ameer e Ahl e Sunnat asked me what my intentions were after completing the alim course. I said I wanted to visit him, and totally submit myself to religious service under his guidance.
MA: Did you face any worries while studying?
SA: My grandmother passed away during my studies. As it was exam season, my father did not tell me of her demise. Later, two and a half years before I completed the course, my father passed away too. My older brother encouraged and comforted me a lot and took the responsibility for my expenses. Although he was not financially stable at the time, he supported me and never embarrassed me for relying on him. In a way, he practically took the role of a father in my life.
MA: How many siblings do you have?
SA: I have 3 brothers and a sister. The oldest is my brother Zahid, then me, then Ahmad Raza, and then my youngest brother, Hafiz Muhammad Naveed Raza Madani. Hafiz Naveed and I have completed the alim course, and Ahmad Raza has completed five years of it. Mawlana Naveed Raza Madani was a teacher and principal of the Jamiat al-Madina in Lahore Defence for about ten years. He was also a Rukn of the Majlis of Jamiat al-Madina for the Lahore division. Currently, he is the supervisor of Jamiat al-Madina Lahore division, a role he has held for about two years now.
MA: How many children do you have, and are they pursuing sacred knowledge too?
SA: I have three sons. My eldest son, Majid Raza Attari, has memorised 15 parts of the Quran. He has completed college and is currently doing tests for the first year of the alim course. My second son, Hamid Raza Attari, is halfway through the alim course at Jamiat al-Madina. My youngest son, Shaban Raza Attari, is studying in class 2 of Dar ul-Madina.
What did Maulana Haji Shahid do after completing the alim course? Which departments did he work in? How did he become a member of the Central Advisory Committee? Read about interesting matters like this in next month’s edition!