Luminous Nights

Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari did not sleep at night. He lived, of course, in his little room inside the Azhar masjid, and was the only person to do so. He would sleep only when he fell asleep, usually between dhuhr and asr every day. At night, he would circle the courtyard of the noble Azhar masjid with his alfiyya sibha, a tasbih made of a thousand beads. It was a rather large alfiyya and would drag on the floor behind him as he circled the courtyard. They say that he would recite 2,000 of the Salaat Azeemiyya every night.

When the time for examination came every year, the students of the Azhar would move into the masjid and would spend their days studying there and preparing for their exams. Thousands of students would spend their night and day in the Azhar for the examination period. Before they went to sleep, tens if not hundreds of students would tell Shaykh Salih exactly when they wanted to be woken up for tahajjud and nightly worship. Some at 2:30 am, some at 3:00 am, some later, etc. Somehow, the Shaykh seemed to know every single student and to remember what time they wanted to wake up. He would wake them all up at the time they requested. Many shaykhs and graduates of the Azhar have recounted to me their memories of how, when Fajr time came, Shaykh Salih would go around every room of the Azhar and hit the wooden partitions with his walking stick to wake everyone up for prayer. They would wake up to his booming voice, telling them that it was time for Fajr. The Shaykh was very tall, with a powerful build and a booming voice. The students would start to wake themselves up, scared, and say, “Shaykh Salih is here! Wake up! Wake up!” Many a graduate of the Azhar have recounted these memories with big smiles on their faces. The students also benefited from the fact that such a great scholar lived constantly within the Azhar walls. They would go to him for revision and he would explain to them what they found difficult. Different graduates recounted in their memories that the Shaykh seemed to always focus on the same exact materials that would appear on their exams, as if he knew!


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