Saturday, 9 February 2008

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais

The days in Jeddah are rolling one over the other. It is like a book with one page printed on multiple pages. The same chapter repeating every day. Days start with normal sunrise and ends with sunset. Nothing is special except one has the peaceful life and self freedom without disturbing others. But things differ sometimes when I visit to Makah which is just an hour drive from here. The Masjidul Haram and the Ka’ba which is a black cubical structure located at the center of the grand Mosque is the core of it. Each time one sees it, send chills to the heart and veins even if one has seen it thousands of time. Something that makes your heart feels by looking at which is never the very same that you see in a pictures or in TVs.

Yesterday I was sitting in the Mataf or the central open area of Masjidul Haram, there is nothing more beautiful than spending sometimes there and watching the circling of the Ka’ba going on peacefully all the time. Different nationals and different colors. All circle and chant and name their One Lord.

I just then thought about writing what I know about some of its amazing personalities who has been serving their for long time. One of this is the Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais is the great Imam of the great grand mosque in Makkah. Everyone loves his beautiful sweet voice. Muslims stand as one when he recites the Holy Quran and there is no second opinion about his voice.

The Sheikh was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Sudais comes from the Anza clan. He had memorized the Quran by the age of 12.
Growing up in Riyadh, Al-Sudais studied at the Al Muthana Bin Harith Elementary School, and afterwards the Riyadh Scientific Institution from which he graduated in 1979 with a grade of excellent.
He obtained a degree in Sharia from Riyadh University in 1983, and became an IFK (Islamic Fundamental Knowledge) lecturer after the conclusion of his study. He obtained his Master's in Islamic fundamentals from the Sharia College of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in 1987 and received his Ph.D. in Islamic Sharia from Umm al-Qura University in 1995 while working there as an assistant professor after serving at Riyadh University.

It was in the summer days of 1989 I first got to this special place. The climate of Makkah is very hot in summer. I remember the pains of broken lips and skins in the severe heat. Though it burns the skins but it chills the heart. That’s the specialty of Makkah. The rocky mountains increasing the heat during the day times.

My father used to take us each day for the dawn prayer to the grand mosque which was only 5 or ten minutes drive. We lived at a place called ‘Azeeziya’ which is 3KM from outskirts of ‘Haram’ where my father was also working as an Engineer in a construction company. The place was nearest to ‘Muna’ where the piligrims camp during the Hajj days. The Masjidul Haram is really empty in the off-seasons. But the circling of Ka’aba never stops. It stops for few minutes only for a deed that is more important than it. That is the obligatory prayers.

Days went on; one day we came to hear of a voice so much differant from others. It was the best of recitation that I ever heard. This day, Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais was reciting Sura’Al-Rahman for the Dawn Prayer. In those days his voice was sweeter and clearer. Our whole family lovedthe voice very much but did not know the name of the Imam who recited it. We started calling this Sheikh as ‘Our Imam’ because he was really ours. I loved it that much. As one walks through the old buildings and pathways on the outskirts of Masjidul Haram, we here the audio of Al-Sudais reciting. One day my father bought for me a cassette. CD’s were at that time not in the market. Sony was just testing it in its labs. Now my Imate alone can save thousands of Audio cassette in a micro-chip. The world has progressed a lot. Of course Makkah also have anymore old buildings today. Makkah is so much developed like any other metro cities. One can hardly recognize the old places now.

Again days went on, my father joined me and my brother for learning the Holy Quran within the Masjidul Haram. It was always a beautiful scene in the evening. Thousands of Little kids learning and reciting Holy Quran under many teachers separated 25 to 30 students under one Ustaz. The students of were of mix culture and nations, Arabs, Turkeys, Egyptians, Afghans, Pakistanis and Africans so on. It is all mix of color and nations. The thing I want to tell is that we were all trying our best to imitate Abdul Rahman Sudais for our recitations. He was the best for many of us. But how can a parrot though it is beautiful sing like a nightingale. How can the best voice of Hazrath Dawood (David)(PBUH) when he recited Zabor (Psalms) the mountains and birds sang and praised Allah along with him be equal with someone’s voice. Abdul Rahman Sudais was special in his voice.

Again days passed on. Every day I see this Sheikh coming for Asar prayer from Azeeziya driving his car. He had an old Chevrolet at that time which he drives and parks outside of Al-Jiyad gate. As he was a lecturer at Ummul Qura university, he comes hurriedly speeding for the Asar prayer. So it happened that one day I really got him in front of me. ‘Come on man’ I got the very ‘Sheikh in my hands. He was getting out of the gate after prayer and I gave him my little hands for a shake. He took my hands and said ‘Masha-Allah, walad salam’ in Arabic, meaning 'Masha'Allah a little boy giving salam to me. Then my brother and little sister took also the chance. His hand was really a spongy and very cool. I could have better kissed it.

Again after few years our family shifted from Holy Makkah to its nearest city Jeddah. There me and my brother used to attend after Magrib prayers to revise the memorized parts of Holy Quran to a Sheikh. That mosque was called Masjid Abu Hanifa. One day after Maghrib I saw Abdul Rahman Sudais going out of this mosque. In fact he was praying behing my Ustaz. When I told him, he said let's wait for Isha prayer. If we are lucky we will have Sudais lead the Isha prayer. But he was never seen later.

Then years passed on, I spend much of my time for further studies in India and I am back here again. Whenever I spend time in the Haram, all memories of my childhood pass through me. Those springs of life which never can be attained back but can remember and will last in dreams. The days and years passed on, Abdul Rahman Sudais’s voice is same as it was. But I think he was little sweeter and clearer those days. Of course he is getting older as everyone is. He joint Masjidul Haram at the age of 22 and now he is almost 46 years old. His voice is same but his heart I understand has gone softer and softer. He hardly can withstand the power of the Holy Quran when he recites. Even if he doesn’t want to cry, he frequently bursts into tears. How can the words that speak high above the tongs of a mortal man and can split asunder a mountain not soften the hearts that reflect. Now Abdul Rahman Sudais recites and listeners cry from behind. I tell my eyes to stop crying still it keeps weeping and the heart to stop sobbing still it hurts from his voice. For his voice I know comes from beneath his heart and the words that come out from heart will enter the hearts. It is never the same that we listen from Audio cassettes once we hear the voice directly in a prayer.

The best moments Masjidul Haram is the day of ‘Khatm’ in Ramazan. The 29th day, when the last para of Holy Quran is recited and Imam supplicates a lot. Masjidul Haram on this day is more filled than ever. Million and Millions. I hardly got a seat before Magrib prayer in the Mataf’ the open area. I know if I only getup even for a moment left or right, my place will be gone. Normally one Imam recites half the Para and another Imam the rest. This year Abdul Rahman sudais did not come after the first part was over and many of us was just disappointed. But atlast the Sheikh did come for ‘witr’ Prayer to complete and make the completion ‘Dua’. He was particularly called for the completion and the long ‘Dua’.

In 2005 Al-Sudais was named by the Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA) Organizing Committee as its 9th annual "Islamic Personality Of the Year" in recognition for his devotion to the Quran and Islam. When accepting his award in Dubai, he said: "The message of Islam and Muslims is modesty, fairness, security, stability, sympathy, harmony and kindness." That was his message to the Muslims and the world all times. May Allah protect the rightScholars of this Umma who has come to spread the peaceful message of Islam , - Amen.