Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari (may Allah be pleased with him), though he was the Imam of the Noble Azhar Mosque, did not always lead the Friday Prayers. Very often the great Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali (may Allah have mercy on him) would lead the Prayers and give the Friday Khutba, and then Shaykh Salih would start his famous Friday Lesson after the Prayers, as he usually did. Shaykh al-Ghazali had a reformist and rationalistic approach to the religion, and on one Friday, he dedicated his khutba to this one topic: that scholars should no longer mention the chains of transmission of the hadith that they are quoting in their lessons or books. He argued that most people today did not know most of the names in the chains of transmission, let alone have the mental ability to analyze the chain. Therefore, he argued, a scholar should save time and simply say the hadith, and in which hadith collection it could be found, and whether he believed it to be authentic or not.
After the prayers, Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari stood up on his chair to begin his Friday Lesson as usual.
He would start every lesson with certain verses of the Qur’an and the following,
“[I teach you] Through a connected chain to the scholars of the noble Azhar and others, in Qur’anic recitations, Hadith, and Qur’anic exegesis, may Allah most high be pleased with them and benefit us and you by them and by their knowledge. Amen.”
This time, however, Shaykh Salih began reciting one of his chains of transmission, scholar by scholar, all the way until Imam al-Bukhari, and from him, all the way until the Follower who narrated it, and then the Companion, and then the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).
Among those attending the lesson was Shaykh Muhammad Ismail al-Nimr, a Shaykh from the Bayyumi Tariqa, who founded a branch and organization within that Tariqa called The Lovers of the Muhammadan Purity (Ahbab al-Safaa’ al-Muhammadi). This Shaykh was a man of spiritual unveiling, and this is what he said:
When the Shaykh began reciting his chain of transmission, every time he mentioned a scholar, the soul of this scholar would appear next to him! Scholar by scholar, came to join him, and each one shone with more light than the one mentioned before him, as the Shaykh was getting closer and closer to the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)! Finally the Shaykh reached the level of the Followers of the Followers, and then the Followers, and then the Companion, and each of them appeared with an even more powerful light than the one before. Finally he mentioned the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and suddenly the Messenger of Allah appeared with such a great force of light that I thought I was going to melt!
A note on Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali:
Shaykh Muhammad Khalid Thabit, son of Shaykh Khalid Muhammad Khalid, who authored Men Around the Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), wrote,
[My father] and Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali were very close friends, who showed the most wonderful example of close friendship, beautiful kindness, and sincere love for each other, despite the fact that they disagreed with each other on many issues and matters.
I have never seen my father (may Allah have mercy on him) become as happy as he did because of a phone call between himself and between Shaykh al-Ghazali (may Allah have mercy on him and on my father). It was a Friday morning, just a few days before the passing of my father, and the Shaykh had called to ask about the state of his companion. I carried the phone to my father in his bed, and he sat up and they spoke to each other as they usually did. Just as I was about to leave the room, however, I saw my father’s face light up with happiness, and he began to signal to me with his hand to stay where I am.
After he finished from speaking to his phone he said to me in a truly great state of joy: “Do you know what Shaykh al-Ghazali said to me? He said to me,
‘Forget the doctors, hospitals, and medicines. Instead I urge you to seek healing in the Burda of our master al-Busiri, for people use it to be cured. For our master Imam al-Busiri, when he was paralyzed in half of his body, composed this poem and used it as a means (tawassul) to seek being cured by Allah, and he was healed!'”
Those were exactly the words of the Shaykh as my father quoted him.
Such speech is not something that would have been uttered by the Shaykh, who throughout his life was rationalistic, and would never accept anything that was deemed heavy by the scale of his intellect!!
I wonder, if Allah had extended his life – and he passed only one week after my father – I wonder if he would have joined my father in knowing the virtue of Tasawwuf, and the love of its men and its heroes, and in attachment to its terminology and its tools.
Yes! My loved one’s spirit appeared to me and denied me my sleep.
For love ever obstructs pleasures with pain.
[Shaykh Muhammad Khalid Thabit, The Burda: A Historical Study]