Shaykh As‘ad Madani was the son of Shaykhul Islam Husain Ahmad Madani and was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad [Allah bless him and give him peace] through his grandson Husayn [Allah be well pleased with him]. He taught at Darul Uloom Deoband in his early years and was the President of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind.
I remember when I studied the Kitāb al-Shamāil of Tirmidhy. A compilation of hadiths about the habits and character of the Prophet [Allah bless him and give him peace]. It struck me greatly that every character and habit of the Prophet Muhammad [Allah bless him and give him peace] I saw as an embodiment in the Shaykh. His actions, habits, manners, gait, and his speech all resembled the Prophet [Allah bless him and give peace].
This was also the kernel of what he taught and also what he presented before us as a practical example; following the Sunnah and making plentiful dhikr. This was his way of tarbiyyah [training] less by instruction but more by example. His personage was so illuminating and awe inspiring that the prophetic hadith describing the friends of Allah, “they are whom when looked at; Allah is remembered” was observed first hand.
His whole life was spent in the service of Muslims and humanity at large. His altruism and vigilance in works right through his frail years put me to great shame at being so young and energetic and still not being able to do a fraction of what he did. Rising at 3am and spending the latter portion of the night in prayer and remembrance till fajr prayer is but one example of his industriousness.
His Ramadan is something that I witnessed closely and remember vividly. It was always a joyous month for him and he eagerly awaited it the entire year. He would always ask me when he would come on his annual dawah tour of U.K. about my plans and date of arrival at his home in Ramadan.
Towards the end of Sh‘abān he would begin to make preparation for spending the month in Deoband and detached himself from all other occupations. His disciples also flocked in hundreds to spend the holy month in his company. In Ramadan 2005 the number of those who entered the spiritual retreat [I’tikāf] in the last ten days reached over eighteen hundred.
At Deoband, he prayed his five daily prayers with the congregation at Masjid Rashīd. After ẓuhr he answered the questions and spiritual queries of his disciples. He would advise all with penetrating insight. If any disciple requested a private audience he arranged for this at his home after returning from the mosque.
Most of the day was spent in recitation of the Quran. His daily amount of recital in Ramadan equaled about ten juzz.
After ‘aṣr he listened to the recitation of his two sons who would read one and a quarter juzz each. The congregation of disciples would also gather around him and listen to their recitation.
At iftār zam-zam and fresh ripe dates from Madina were always placed on the mat for all to break the fast with. He first partook of the date and then drank the zam-zam.
Those who have experienced the breaking of fast with him know that one could feel immense barakah [grace]. He would at times make light-hearted comments and give out the dates himself to some of his disciples.
The sahabah [Companions] would narrate stories of the jahiliyyah [pre-Islamic era] and other issues, in the presence of the Prophet [Allah bless him and give him peace] he would smile at what they found amusing and everyone thought that the Prophet paid the most attention to him.
This was also what everyone in the Shaykh’s presence felt. I remember when at the zāwiya, where dinner was served to all the guests/disciples. I always had the privilege of eating in the same plate as him. This was the case throughout the years I spent Ramadan with him. If for any reason I happened to arrive late, he would not start eating until I arrived and would ask others where I was. This would always bring tears to my eyes as I did not see myself worthy of such generous nature.
He was always the last to finish the meal in order not to embarrass the guests who were slow eaters.
After two hour long tarāwīh prayers and a reading from Shaykh Gangohi’s book ‘Imdād al-Sulūk’ the congregation would commence group dhikr.
On the last day of Ramadan numbers in the final tarāwīh would reach thousands and the final two rak‘ahs would be very lengthy and the whole congregation would be crying ecstatically as the final verses of the Quran were being read.
I have not seen anyone perform salāh with the devotion that I have seen him praying. This is a fact that not only I attest to but others also attest the same. The sight of him praying would materialize the hadith of Jibrīl “that you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him” [Bukhari].
The last day of Ramadan was also when he would announce the names of those he granted ijāza to initiate others in the path. In the Ramadan of 2000 I was also granted ijāza, despite my shortcomings.
The great loss that my colleagues and I felt at his departure has left a void in our lives that I fear will never be filled. We have but his memories and his example of true emulation of the Prophet [Allah bless him and give him peace]. May Allah shower His mercy upon him.
Lord! Shield me from the world’s poor strife
And give these scenes thine everlasting life.