Habib Umar ibn Ahmad ibn Sumait (RA)

June 10, 2006

Habib Umar ibn Ahmad ibn Sumait, Shaykh of the Ba`alawi Order

By Habib Tauheed Qadiri 

The people of Yemen were at one time famous for their seafaring prowess. By means of their dhows, small lateen-rigged ships designed for speed and navigability, they were able to traverse most of the Indian Ocean from their homeport of Aden. Returning from India and points further east, they would stop in Oman to exchange spices, perfumes, medicines, and carpets for dates, pearls and incense. Following monsoon winds they plied the length and breadth of the mysterious Indian Ocean, trading in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and further south to South Africa. The Yemeni seafarers eventually established colonies along the African coast, in Mogadishu, Mombasa, Lamu, and Zanzibar, where they operated lucrative clove plantations. Wherever the seafaring Arabs of Yemen went, they brought with them one constant: love of Allah and His Prophet (s). Millions entered the faith of Islam at their call, for as the Prophet (s) said about these gentle people, "Faith is a Yemeni trait."

After migrating from Hadramaut to the Comoros Islands in the late 19th century, among those who settled on the sea-trek to Zanzibar were the parents of Habib Umar. His father was a highly respected judge and scholar in Zanzibar. Habib Umar studied Qur`an, hadith and the bases of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). A descendent of the great shaykh of Yemen Sayyid Abubakar Bin Aidarous, Al-Habib Umar became an erudite scholar and judge.

He was also a Sufi shaykh of the Ba-`Alawi tariqat. Well-versed in all of the four madhhabs (schools of Islamic thought), as chief qadi (judge) in Zanzibar he was often called to go overseas to settle disputes in Muslim lands due to his incredible insight and knowledge of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Thus he became the de facto Chief Justice of all Islamic East Africa.

During his young adulthood Habib Umar spent four years in seclusion on the island of Madagascar. Under the direction of his shaykh, he stayed in the wild hills of the island, building up his spiritual stamina and perfecting his character through a strict regimen of worship, fasting and remembrance of Allah. Many miracles are related about Habib Umar.

His Miracles (karamat)
It is related that at age 16 or so, Habib Umar's father would find him late at night studying Islamic texts under the light of a lamp. Worried for his health, his father one night told him, "I am ordering you to sleep at night and stop this late studying." So saying, he blew out his lamp. He stopped by his son's room some time later. Much to his astonishment, Habib Umar was still studying – with the lamp off. The source of his light: one raised finger glowing brightly in the dark. His father said to him, "I see I cannot stop you. That means your intentions are accepted, study as much as you like."

One day as he was teaching in his Qur`anic school he suddenly exclaimed, "Recite Fatiha for my student so-and-so who is drowning in the sea!" He began relating, "Now he is being lifted out of the water; now he is being pulled ashore to the beach; now he is at the beach, let's go and get him!" So they all went to the beach and there was the student laying on the sand.

Once Habib Umar used to sit in his favorite chair that had always been kept in a certain corner of the room. Suddenly he ordered his chair to be placed in a different position. He sat there and a flood of tears poured from his eyes. When his students inquired as to what happened, one of his close companions said "When they moved his chair to the other position the heavens were moving above him and he was perceiving that."

Shaykh Umar's calipha, Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad would always maintain rabita, the heart connection with his master. It was often seen that when Habib Umar stood up in one room, Habib Haddad would stand up in his room, out of respect (adab) for his shaykh, despite the intervening walls. Habib Ahmad Mashur would never go upstairs to the upper floor if his shaykh was downstairs.

One day Shaykh Umar Abdallah went to West Africa to meet with one of its great awliya. The shaykh asked Habib Umar Abdallah "Who is your shaykh?" Habib Umar took out the photo of his shaykh and showed it to that saint. In agitation the shaykh said, "Ya Allah ! This is the man I saw in my house several times and I wondered who he was."




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