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Shaikh al-Albaani’s Life | Questions and Answers … 8


The Story of the Lost Paper

Al-Huwaini asked the Shaikh about the Story of the Lost Paper?

Al-Albaani: The reality is that I got an ailment in my eyes, when I would look at a white wall it would be as though I could see flies moving. When I took myself to the optician he said, “This is what we call the flying fly,” and this was an expression he used referring to a very fine blood vessel which had deteriorated and from which an extremely fine drop of blood had come out onto the eye–and that was what I could see coming and going.

The doctor asked me, “What work do you do?”

I told him, “I’m a watch repairer.”

He said, “This is due to exhausting [yourself].”

I explained my situation to him, that I was a watch repairer and that I would [also] research a lot, so he asked me to take a six month break. I went back to my shop and started to sit there: not doing anything, not in my job, nor reading or researching.

A week or two passed by and boredom started to set in, so I started to entice myself and justify to myself using many different reasons [as to what I could do]. Then an idea came to mind which was that there were a group of different treatises in the Dhaahiriyyah Library, one of which was The Dispraise of Idle Amusement [Dhamm al-Malaahi] by Ibn Abid-Dunyaa, so I thought to myself that I could ask the transcribers there to copy out this manuscript, and that by the time they finish copying, I, maybe, would have gathered up and regained some of the health of my eyes and the rest [they required].

So I went to the Dhaahiriyyah Library and requested the copyist transcribe the treatise, and so he started. When he got half way through he came to me saying that there was a gap in the manuscript, that there was something lacking.  I went to the library and had a look at the manuscript and there was indeed something missing, so I told him, “Carry on as you are doing … and Allaah creates that which you do not know.” He finished copying out the manuscript, and it was as they say … my unconscious mind was working day and night [trying to figure out] where this missing part could be. So I hypothesised that when [all the different individual] manuscript treatises were gathered together to be put into this volume, maybe a page or two from this [particular] treatise fell out and were then later added to a different volume [of manuscript treatises].

And so there would be no path [to find it] except by searching through the collection present in the Dhaahiriyyah Library.

The manuscripts in the Dhaahiriyyah Library were arranged according to subject as is the general [classification] system [used in libraries] … except that there were about one hundred and fifty volumes entitled Majaamee [collections], and it was a befitting title, because every volume contained a number of [different] books, differing in the way they had been arranged and in their classification and topic, for this reason they had been put under the title majaamee [collections].

So I said to myself that I would start with these majaamee, and so I did.

One of the things which made the search easier was that just as these volumes differed in their topics and authors they also differed in the type of paper [they were written on]. So you would find some large [pieces] and some small, some white and others gray, and at times [you would find some that were] blue, and so on. All of this made the way to search easier for me, so I started with the first volume, then the second and third, I don’t remember exactly. Then all of a sudden I came across the title of the book [that I was looking for, The Dispraise of Idle Amusement]—and by Allaah, it is an important book—but it was the second part that I found, if it had been the first the matter would have been over. So when I would find the second or third parts I would leave them and carry on, after [going through] a number of volumes I came across the first part of one of those [other] treatises [that I had come across in earlier volumes], so I lamented myself and was regretful, saying, “Would that I had written down the title and number [showing exactly where I had found] the second part and this first part.” I learnt a lesson and began to record anything that interested me, even if it was not complete.

And you will note here that I was [initially] doing one thing when I began to do something else: I was searching for the lost paper whereas now I had started to record the titles of what can be regarded as treasures, even if they [i.e., the manuscripts] were incomplete. What is important is that I finished going through the one hundred and fifty volumes but I did not come across the lost paper in the volumes [of the books of] hadith, but I left with huge benefit in terms of knowledge. So I said to myself, “You must complete this journey you are upon and that search for the lost paper.”

The number of volumes of hadith books with us in the Dhaahiriyyah Library are more than five hundred so I began to search, and here the search for the lost paper was much easier, because the majaamee were small in size as for the [books of] hadith they were bigger, and the lost paper was small [so it would be easier to find], but [in reality] I had [now] entered into searching for something different, which was the acquisition of the important topics from these priceless books.

So I started to take down the titles, even if the book was a large volume, recording it on my scratch paper—and I finished going through five hundred volumes without coming across the lost paper.

And as they say here in Syria, “Without [giving you] a long biography …” i.e., in short I went through every single manuscript in the Dhaahiriyyah Library, and I was hoping that it might be in [the section of books on] such and such topics, maybe, since it was a mistake that had occurred in a volume [somewhere in the library], so I started to look through the books of biographies [seerah], the books of history, literature, books on Sufism, i.e., every branch of knowledge that had manuscripts [I looked through]. And Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, facilitated this search for me, [whereas it would] normally not have been easy except for someone officially employed [by the library] and specially assigned to the task.

He facilitated it to such an extent that I would put a ladder up to the treasures, because there were shelves there that were high and could not be reached by hand, so I would stand on the ladder. The shelf was about a metre in width, I would take a book from here [i.e., this end] and finish there [at the other end], all while I was on the ladder. When I would find something precious I would come down and record it, and then continue on my journey. In this way I went through the entire library without finding the lost paper. But I felt that it was I who was the winner: I gained hundreds of names and book titles from those priceless works. In the end, I knew that they had something that was called ‘Disht’, and that was a term for stacked up papers which no one [ever] went to or stretched their hands toward. So I said to the specialist librarian—and he was someone whom Allaah had facilitated to help me in my knowledge-based matters and was someone who would respond positively to me—“O Abu Mahdi! Where can the ‘disht’ [collections] be found?” So he showed me the two or three collections. So I started to search through these jumbled up papers and did not find anything, but I did find treasures: among them [the fact that] with us in the Dhaahiriyyah Library are two copies of the Musnad of ash-Shihaab of al-Qudaa’ee, both of which had parts missing. One of these copies was the eastern one and the other the western copy. The script in the western copy was very beautiful and had been given careful attention by some of the preservers of hadith [huffaadh], the people of hadith, and written next to many of these hadiths if not all were [things like: a] weak [hadith], [a] fabricated [hadith] and so on, but the first fascicle of it was missing. All of a sudden, while going through this disht I was taken aback to find the missing part of the western copy [of the Musnad of ash-Shihaab], and with that a priceless manuscript was completed. So I took it with great delight and exhilaration and went to the manager responsible for the manuscripts and said to him, “This part is from the disht and this is the book which you have written down with you in the index as being from an unknown source, its author is unknown and nor is it known what the book is about. [Now] here is the book and this is the author …” but he paid no attention to that, because he, as they say here in Syria, “Everyone sings about his own Layla …” [i.e., each to his own]: this research was of importance to me but not him. Then days and years went by and our brother Abdul-Majid as-Salafi printed the book from this self-same manuscript. And so that you know the [differing] nature of people … the Musnad of ash-Shihaab by al-Qudaa’ee was published by the printers in which Shu’ayb [al-Arnaa’oot] worked, i.e., Mu’assasah ar-Risaalah and on this manuscript for history I had written, “Drawn out from the disht collection by Naasir,” [i.e., Al-Albaani himself] I only wrote ‘Naasir,’ but what did he do? He put a piece of paper on it and covered this fact and now you can find a copy of this main title page from this book in the manuscript copy of the Musnad of ash-Shihaab which our brother Hamdi checked but this knowledge-based reality is wiped out [i.e., that Shaikh al-Albaani was the one who found it after all that hard work]. What makes him do that? You know the answer.

The point is that these are the priceless things that I gained through this research, in the end I gave up hope of finding the lost paper, but I never regretted it, since what I acquired was more than I could have imagined. What is important is that later I went back to the names that I had written down of those works and their authors and so wrote them out again on cards, arranging them in order of the names of the authors, listing every work that the author had written.

Then after I finished listing the names of the authors I arranged the works in alphabetical order, and from that came the index of the chosen manuscripts from the Dhaahiriyyah Library.

Then the final stage came and it was the blessed fruition of that initial effort: I started to read these manuscripts, extracting the hadith benefits from them with their chains of narration [something] which I have with me now, and it is what helps to provide me with [what I need] for my knowledge-based projects in about forty volumes, in it are the hadiths which I took from these manuscripts with their chains of narrations, arranged in alphabetical order to make them easier to refer back to. So this is a summary of the story of the lost paper.

Al-Imaam al-Albaani, Hayaatuhu, Da’watuhu, Juhooduhoo fee Khidmatis-Sunnah, of Muhammad Bayyoomi, pp. 22-26.

Here is the other version of the same story translated in an earlier post:

Shaikh al-Albaani’s Life | Questions and Answers … 3

Learning from his Father

Al-Huwaini: I asked Shaikh Shu’aib al-Arnaa’oot about some things and then he ended up saying, “I used to go to Shaikh Nooh (i.e., Shaikh al-Albaani’s father) but Shaikh Naasir would not be present at our sittings.”

Al-Albaani: I never used to attend those lessons which he is referring to. But we used to have a private lesson with my father with two other Arnaa’ooti youths one of whose names was Abdur-Raheem Zainul-Aabideen and he is still alive, the other has passed away and we used to read Al-Qadoori in hanafi fiqh to him, likewise we read Al-Maraah in morphology to him and we finished reciting the Quraan to him.

So this does not mean that we did not read to him, for I would not attend at the time he was attending just as the opposite [conclusion] is not binding–for he never used to attend these particular lessons of ours with my father, [but this does not mean] that he never sat with my father, this is not binding.

Al-Albaani Leaving the Hanafi Madhhab to Study Hadith
and the time he was too poor to buy a Book

Al-Huwaini: There is a matter here which draws one’s attention: how did you turn to hadith and such, bearing in mind that some of what you have said and what Shaikh Shu’aib said [shows] that your father was a Hanafi, he would revere the Hanafi school of thought greatly?

Al-Albaani: That is from the blessings of Allaah. But as for the reason then it is as is said, “When Allaah intends a matter He facilitates the means for it.” So I truly was living in an atmosphere of bigoted Hanafism. My father, especially among the Arnaa’oots, was regarded as the most knowledgeable of them in Hanafi fiqh, he was the one they would recourse and refer back to.

When I finished elementary school and studied as I have previously detailed with some of the Shaikhs, I would have a very great desire to want to read as a hobby. But reading [those things]–as would seem to one looking in on it–that contained no benefit, indeed which could even have an adverse effect. But later on the effect of this reading became clear in my language for it had strengthened my oral skills. What is peculiar is that I was infatuated with reading modern day fiction works which were known as hiwaayaat [leisure reading/books that are read as a hobby], especially the stories of the American thief famous as Arsene Lupin. So I was truly infatuated with reading this type of story and narrative.

Then I found myself moving to the second stage which perhaps was better than the first, and it was studying Arabic stories, even though [most of them] were fiction. So for example I read A Thousand Arabian Nights, I read the story of Antar ibn Shaddaad, the story of Salaah ad-Deen al-Ayyoobi, a story of resoluteness and valiant champions, and so on. I was extremely captivated by such types of perusal and reading, and then from the perfectness of Allaah’s Plan and His Kindness to me was that when I changed my profession and accompanied my father I came across a lot of free time.

We would split the time [we’d sit] in the shop. So he would go [to it] in the morning and I would go with him [and he would stay there] until he prayed dhuhr, then after he had prayed it he would go home to relax and I would remain in the shop until he returned [which would be] after asr. We were both workers and sometimes I would come across a lot of spare time, there would be hours and I would not [have to] repair any watches, so I would ask his permission to go out … and to where? This was also from Allaah’s granting of success to me [that] I would go to the Amawi masjid and would give the people some general lessons, and I was influenced as regards ideology: some of it was correct, in what became apparent to me later, and some of it was incorrect.

That which was incorrect was connected to two points: blind following and Sufism. Then in this free time during which I would leave my father’s shop, Allaah ordained [that I meet] an Egyptian man who would buy books left by people who had passed away and then [sell them and] put them on display in front of a shop of his [which was] in the direction of the western door of the Amawi mosque. So I would pass by the stack of books which he would pile up outside his small shop, turning over the pages, and I would find whatever I wanted from those narrations, and I would loan the book from him for some money, read it and then return it and so on.

One day I found some issues of the magazine ‘Al-Mannar’ with him, and I remember very well that I read a chapter in it by as-Sayyid Rashid Rida, may Allaah have mercy upon him, speaking about the merits of al-Ghazaali’s book Al-Ihyaa and he [also] criticised it from some angles, likes its Sufism, for example, and the weak and baseless hadiths that were in it. In this regard he mentioned that Abul-Fadl Zainul-Aabidin al-Iraaqi had a book which he authored about Al-Ihyaa in which he checked its hadiths, distinguishing between its authentic and weak ones and he called it, Al-Mughni an Hamlil-Asfaar fil-Asfaar fee Takhrij maa fil-Ihyaa minal-Akhbaar.

So I began to greatly yearn for this book, I went to the market asking after it like someone infatuated and madly in love [aashiq] [saying], “Where is this book?” Until I found it with one of them and it was in four volumes, the print of al-Baabi al-Halabi, on soft, yellow paper.

But I was poor like my father and could not afford to buy a book such as it, so I came to an agreement with its owner that I would loan it from him, I don’t recall now [whether it was] for a year or less or more, so I did, I took the book and was almost about to fly out of joy. I went to the shop and I would take advantage of the time when my father was away so I could be alone with my book.  I made a plan to copy it out and so I started to do so. I bought some paper and got a ‘mistarah’–and this refers to cardboard that had parallel lines on it.

Al-Imaam al-Albaani, Hayaatuhu, Da’watuhu, Juhooduhoo fee Khidmatis-Sunnah, of Muhammad Bayyoomi, pp. 10-12.

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