How was Al-Albaani chosen to teach at Medinah University?
Al-Huwaini: How were you chosen to teach at the Islamic University of Medinah? Because the norm is that one needs a doctorate to teach academic study [at university]?
Al-Albaani: This is the first time that I’ve been asked this question. What I recall now are two things. The first is that the university was new to university level teaching [only recently having been established], especially in Saudi, this is the first reason.
The second is the reputation of some of the books [that I authored] and the satisfaction of the people [i.e., scholars etc.,] with them, and [also], from what seems apparent to me, their appreciation of the books as they deserved to be appreciated–this is what caused them to send for me.
I didn’t ask and I wouldn’t ask–and I [have] Iived like this, and all praise is due to Allaah, not requesting any job, for since childhood I would earn my daily sustenance through the labour of my own hands and the sweat of my own forehead.
At this time a request came to me from Shaikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim who was then the Mufti of the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia, i.e.,the Mufti before Ibn Baaz], and he was the Principal of the university, asking me to agree to teach hadith sciences at Medinah University which would soon open its doors.
I took the counsel of some of my brothers there whose understanding and knowledge I trusted, so one of them said to me, “Try it for a year, if you enjoy teaching [there] you can carry on with them for as long as it’s written for you.” And the reality was that when I went there I found a truly wonderful climate, that was ready and willing to, firstly, accept the call and, secondly, the academic methodology which I was naturally predisposed to and continued upon.
How would Al-Albaani interact with his Students at
My story at the university, in my opinion, was something that happened rarely with someone who was a teacher of a subject there–for I was with the students as though I was one of them, and there are [different] situations which may make this reality clearer for you.
For example, when my class would finish and it was break time, the [normal] habit of the lecturers was to go to the staff room and sit there for the length of the break, drinking tea or coffee and talking about different things.
As for me, I would turn away from all of that, and would leave the lesson [heading to] to the courtyard and I would sit there on the sand–and the students who I had been teaching only a few minutes earlier would gather [around me], and students from all [other] years [too], because this sitting was in the open.
I would give them some guidance and advice and answer some questions. This was how I spent all of the years I taught at the university.
And I recall very well that someone who in university language was called an assistant professor, passed by me [while I was sitting outside] one day and said, “As-Salaamu alaikum.” So I replied, “Wa alaikum salaam.”
He then said, “You know, O Shaikh, the real lesson–this is it.”
Because the students were free [and open] in this sitting, as for the official lesson [in class], even though it is true that I was very liberal with them, yet even then there have to be limits and restrictions. This was a way that was unique to Al-Albaani from amongst all of the other teachers at the university.
There were other good results too, for example, when Al-Albaani would enter the university a few minutes before the lesson, the students would gather round the car, until it would be lost among them and couldn’t be seen, every one of them would try to beat his brother in order to direct a question to me. And when I would leave [at the end of the day], they would again compete to sit in the car with me in order to seize the opportunity.
This was my habit when coming or going–I would never stop anyone from sitting in my car, so it was always full of students, coming and going.
This situation produced an amazing and great deal of love in the hearts of the students for Al-Albaani, add to that the fact that something came to them which they had not heard before: a teacher of tafseer, fiqh, usool relating hadith to them which was relevant to their lessons so the [other] teachers themselves started to hear a new language, “O teacher, who narrated this hadith? Is its chain of narration authentic?”
And I remember an event that occurred very well, the teacher of usool, i.e., usool al-fiqh, quoted the hadith of Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, “O Muaadh! With what will you judge …” he brought this hadith to the students using it as a proof for qiyaas, this occurred in the lesson of our brother Abdur-Rahmaan Abdul-Khaaliq, he was in the third year, so he said to him, “O teacher, is this hadith authentic?” He replied, “Yes.” He said, “We heard Shaikh al-Albaani say that it is a munkar hadith.” I do not know what his answer was but he was not pleased with what this student had said.
After a few days this Shaikh, the teacher of usoolal-fiqh, came to my house and said to me, “It has reached me that you say that this hadith is munkar [i.e., not authentic]?” I replied, “Yes.” He said, “Have you written anything about this hadith?” I said, “Yes, in ‘Silsilah al-Ahadith ad-Da’eefah,’ in the second volume,” and it had not been printed in those days. He said, “Can I have a look at it?” So I showed it to him, and [in it] I had mentioned all of its paths of narration and had clarified its baseless defects.
Then lo and behold in another lesson [of his] he reconfirmed [what he had first said] to the students that the hadith was authentic and that Shaikh al-Albaani himself had brought different paths of narration for it which strengthened it–whereas those paths of narration did nothing except add invalidity to invalidity.
So situations like this, and this very uncommon display at the university where the students would gather around me stirred up the wrath of the teachers so they wrote directly to the Mufti, and Allaah knows best, or to the King, and made it seem to them that I was setting up a faction or group and that it was feared that I might do something.
The third year ended and so I returned to Damascus to spend the summer vacation there. In those days Shaikh Ibn Baaz, may Allaah reward him with good, was the Assistant Principal. A week or two before I returned to Medinah he wrote to me, and I remember very well that one of my children, Abdul-Lateef, had to complete one of his courses so I sent him ahead of me so that he could take his exam. And he was then shocked by the letter from Shaikh Ibn Baaz which stated that he [i.e., Ibn Baaz] had received a letter from the Mufti that there was no need to renew the contract with Shaikh al-Albaani this year.
For this reason my connection with the university ended, and Shaikh Ibn Baaz, may Allaah reward with him good, wrote a good word to me, saying, “The likes of you, whichever situation he is in, will fulfil what is obligatory upon him.”
In summary, I was requested to teach there, it seems as though this was because they were not strictly applying the rules of universities and because they needed a person whose knowledge and creed they could trust at one and the same time. So for this [reason] and that, they appointed me to teach …
Al-Imaam al-Albaani, Hayaatuhu, Da’watuhu, Juhooduhoo fee Khidmatis-Sunnah, of Muhammad Bayyoomi, pp. 30-33.