Shaikh Taika Ahmad ‘Abd al-Qadir
February 2, 2010
The philanthropic scholar and saint, Taikā Aḥmad ‘Abd al-Qādir (affectionately known as Shaikh Nāyagam), was born in the morning of Fri 27 Safar 1309 (2 Oct 1891) in the city of Kilakarai (Tamilnadu, India) to the zealous missionary and knower of Allāh, Ṣāḥib al-Jalwah Shāh al-Ḥamīd ibn Sayyid Muḥammad and the pious Sitti Khadījah Umma, Allāh be well pleased with them.
His Youth & Education
He grew up till the age of 7 under the watchful gaze of his beloved grandmother, Kunanggudi Umma. Those early years were also spent in the loving company of his paternal grandfather, the erudite scholar, savant and widely considered reviver of the era (Mujaddid), Imām al-‘Arūs Sayyid Muḥammad ibn Aḥ̣mad Lebbai, Allāh be well pleased with them.
After the passing away of his revered grandfather, he received his early religious education from two notables viz. his esteemed father, and his paternal uncle, the venerated ascetic and knower of Allāh, Ṣāḥib al-Khalwah Sayyid ‘Abd al-Qādir, Allāh be well pleased with them. During this period, he also memorized the whole Qur’ān within a short span of time.
Following this phase, he continued seeking sacred knowledge at the renowned institute in Vellore, Madrasat al-Bāqiyāt al-Ṣāliḥāt, under the auspices of the distinguished scholar, A’la Haḍrat Shāh ‘Abd al-Waḥḥāb. A’la Haḍrat had a special place in his heart for his young student for two reasons:
- He was the great-grandson of his father’s teacher.
A’la Haḍrat’s father, Āttūr Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Qādir, was a student of Kilakarai Taikā Ṣāḥib ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Qāhirī, and had graduated from his Madrasa.
- His ability in studies was exceptional.
The normal practice for students in the Vellore Madrasa was to read 3 lessons a day. But he would read 6 lessons with ease.
After graduating from the Vellore Madrasa, he went to the institute in Podakkudi, Madrasat al-Nūriyyah, where he acquainted with another scholar of repute, Haḍrat ‘Abd al-Karīm.
His Marriage & Children
At the age of 19, he married his cousin, Maryam ‘Ā’isha Umma (d. 1961). She was learned in matters of religion and possessed a sharp intellect. They had been betrothed since young. At the betrothal ceremony, he agreed to the eventual wedding subject to certain conditions being met by his prospective bride:
- Her nose should not be pierced
- Her ears should not have more than 1 piercing each (as it was the practice of the women then to have multiple holes to ornament one’s ears with fancy jewellery)
On his wedding night, he famously ripped the karisal mani, a type of necklace worn by married Muslim woman in the South of India, that adorned his wife’s neck. When he was queried later on about the seemingly harsh action, he replied with a rhetoric question, “What place does a Karisal Mani have in an Islamic wedding?”
The couple had 3 children viz. Aḥmad Mustafā, Taikā Shu’aib, and Sitti Āliya Umma.
His Career & Contributions
He spent a short period of time working in the business incorporated by his late grandfather, Imām al-‘Arūs. The world of business did not appeal to him. He left and returned to the Madrasa instituted by his late great-grandfather, Kilakarai Taikā Ṣāḥib, where he imparted sacred knowledge and introduced new methods of teaching.
From his youth to his last breadth, his life was spent in the field of education. He was:
- Professor of Arabic,
- Principal of a College,
- President of the Teacher’s Union,
- Patron of institutes and associations in India and Sri Lanka,
- Teacher of the Qur’ān to children, and
- Educator of Islamic knowledge – jurisprudence (Fiqh), prophetic way (Sunnah) and languages (Arwi and Arabic) – to adults (both born Muslims and converts to Islam).
He performed all of these roles without any stipend. Rather, being a descendent of the bosom friend of the Paragon of creation (Allāh bless him and give him peace) and first Caliph of Islam, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (Allāh be pleased with him), he used to spend his own money in the cause of Islam.
He was unique amongst the religious scholars of the region for his understanding of the importance of the English language. He was instrumental in acquiring government accreditation for many Arabic Colleges and Madrasas, and was actively involved in the setting up of many schools in the South of India. In his last days, there were more than 300 Madrasas under his guidance within just the Rāmanāthapuram District in the state of Tamilnadu, India.
He inaugurated the “Uswatun Ḥasanah” association in Kilakarai through which he managed many mosques in the region. It is worth noting that the religious edicts (Fatāwa) which he pronounced over five decades have stood the test of time without being challenged.
His Character Traits & Mannerisms
Whenever he received unusual gifts or came into contact with unique items, he enjoyed showing it to others with the intention of educating them and to bring a smile to their faces.
Once, a friend from Colombo sent a batch of the pungent-smelling custard-like spiked-fruit, durian. As the fruit was not native to his land, he gathered the people and shared the fruit with them.
On another occasion, to explain the grip of a monitor lizard, which people in the village had never seen before, he had someone catch one from the wild and brought for display, and released it again!
He was extremely sharp, quick witted, and sensitive to people’s feelings. A man asked him one day, “Is today a good day?” He replied, “Did you pray the Fajr prayer this morning?” The man replied in the positive. He then said, “That being the case, know that all days in which the obligation of prayer is discharged, are indeed good days!”
Once, a man had his tea-stall open for business during the day in the month of Ramaḍān. The people of the town were incensed by this act. After calming them, he went to the tea-stall, sat on a chair next to it, and starting reading the Qur’ān. Nobody dared to patronize the stall whilst he was there. The man realized his folly and shut the stall. The following day, he sent a letter to the tea-stall holder with Rs. 15 and a note saying, “This is compensation for your loss yesterday.”
His Spiritual Legacy
Amongst the pivotal role that he performed was being the Spiritual Guide (Murshid) to seeking aspirants (Murīdīn) of the ‘Arūsī-Qādirī Ṭarīqa. He received the Sufi cloak from his venerated father, Ṣāḥib al-Jalwah.
He had disciples in the thousands who were spread across South and South-East Asia. A significant number of converts entered the Sufi path at his hands. Many of his disciples and deputies (Khulafā) were older than him in age and experience.
He was of medium height and build. He had a fair complexion and radiant countenance. His beard was thick and long. He possessed a piercing sight, sweet mouth, and a prayerful tongue that displayed his deep knowledge and illuminated wisdom.
Even when he left his house for the adjoined Madrasa, he would look his regal best; he would don his cap and turban, wear a white top and thin-lined sarong, rub kohl in his eyes, apply perfume on his being, wear his glasses and watch, and carry prayer beads and a walking stick.
He would greet everyone with a genuine smile and enquire about their welfare with sincerity. His external disposition was a reflection of his inner beauty.
He left the shackles of the worldly prison and met his Lord in pure wedded bliss in the morning of Sat 13 Safar 1369 (14 Feb 1976) after the dawn (Fajr) prayers. He was 87 years old.
The following day, in the presence of a huge crowd of family, friends and disciples, his funeral (Janāza) prayer was led by his younger son, Taikā Shu’aib. He was then laid to rest at the ‘Arūsiyyah Taikā – in the company of his spiritual forefathers.
May Allāh be well pleased with Shaikh Nāyagam Taikā Aḥmad ‘Abd al-Qādir and us, sanctify his secret and ours, and illuminate his resting abode and ours. Āmīn!