My Ustadh: Shaykh Yusuf Motala

I walked into the library of Darul Uloom. Orderly rows of Arabic books, handsomely bound in rich colours framed in arabesque and stamped in gold and silver surrounded me. I looked at the titles around me that ran boldly across the spines of all the volumes. I could see the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Tafsir of Tabari and Ibn Kathir’s al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah. 

I slowly walked forward and saw a crouched man before me, sitting cross-legged reading some penned notes on pieces of paper. He raised his head as I came forward, and replied to my nervous Assalamu ‘Alaykum. I sat myself down before him and conveyed Shaykh Asad Madani’s salam to him. A conspicuous smile lit his face and he replied, ‘Alayhi wa ‘Alaykas Salam‘. This was my first meeting with my ustadh, Shaykh Yusuf Motala, who departed this temporal abode on the 10th of Muharram this year.

Many years have gone by since that initial meeting in the spring of 1996. But yet his memory throughout my four years at Darul Uloom and the 20 years thereafter can never be evaded. He knew of my connections with Shaykh Asad Madani and would always ask me how my time was spent in India with him.

His love for the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was immense. His majalis were imbibed with ‘ishq. In his presence you could actually feel this love, permeating his body and soul

He instructed us to always keep ourselves busy doing something useful; benefiting ourselves and others.

He taught me the first 15 juzz of the Quran, and the whole of Bukhari’s Sahih. There were many instances during the course of these lessons that he would burst into tears. This was usually when the topic of the lesson was on some tragic event in the life of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

I had the privilege of accompanying him on Umrah in 1997. We spent 15 days in Makkah and 15 days in Medina, where we also did i’tikaf in Masjid Nabawi for the last ten days of Ramadan.

He would love reciting salutations on Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Every night at Darul Uloom we would recite the collection of forty salutations on the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The hadiths mention that two months prior to the Prophet’s demise, Allah bless him and give him peace, there was a scarcity of food in the prophetic household. The only thing that nourished them was dates and water. When we read this hadith in Bukhari, he told us all to go without any food except dates and water. Thus emulating the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, in his customary habits as well.

He advised us to read Shaykh Zakariyya’s Fazail-e- Sadaqat, and stated that it is the best book on zuhd (ascetism).

His final moments were breathed in Toronto, where he now rests. I recall a few lines of poetry that seem to capture my feelings at this time…

In the hour of death, after this life’s whim,

When the heart beats low, and the eyes grow dim,

And pain has exhausted every limb-

The lover of the Lord shall trust in Him.


When the last sigh is heaved, and the last tear shed,

And the coffin is waiting beside the bed,

And the widow and child forsake the dead-

The angel of the Lord shall lift this head.


I pray that Allah Most High grant him an auspicious life in the hereafter.




One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.