Sayyidi Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad Salih ibn ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Rifai’ al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma was born in 1905 (1323).
He was a scholar known for his immense piety and devotion. He was the person who led The gatherings in praise of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. In fact his contemporaries and other righteous scholars acknowledged his piety and status in front of Allah.
One of the leading scholars of Quran and Tajwid, Shaykh Muhyi al-Din al-Kurdi Alayhi Rahma (d. 2009) used to say that whenever something serious happened he sought Allah’s help Through the rank and position Shaykh Ahmad al-Habbal held.
Shaykh Makki al-Kittani Alayhi Rahma who was the leading authority in the Maliki madhhab and the Leader of the ‘Ulama League of Syria had referred to Shaykh Ahmad as one of the abdaal more than forty years ago.
Shaykh Zakariya Naqshbandi Alayhi Rahma in Madinah was another person who acknowledged Shaykh Ahmad’s piety and virtue.
He narrated from his father Shaykh Salih al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma (died in 1380) who in turn narrated from Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id ibn ‘Umar al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma 1908 (1326).
Shaykh Ahmad also narrated from Shaykh Sa’d Allah al-Hariri Alayhi Rahma 1964 (1384) and Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani Alayhi Rahma 1935 (1354).
He heard a portion of al-Arba’in al-‘Ajluniyyah from Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad Salim al-Iskandarani 1943 Alayhi Rahma (1362). He is said to have been a close friend of Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani Alayhi Rahma. Shaykh Ahmad passed away on 27 January 2009 (1 Safar 1430).
Contrary to what some may think, Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma as not an illiterate person with a great affection for the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. He was a true zahid, one who truly knew Allah and a Sufi of the first category. He was granted permission in the Sufi order to guide people but instead he preferred to attach himself to the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam until he is said to have reached a state where he saw the Prophet while awake.
The reports of many righteous persons who saw the Prophet with Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma on his side in their dreams is countless.
He progressed in his spiritual rank until when he was in his seventies he was considered As one of the abdal, then the qutb of Sham and then possibly one of the four awtad. He inherited this honour from the qutb before him who was Shaykh ‘Arif ‘Uthman Alayhi Rahma and prior to him this position as held by Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani Alayhi Rahma.
Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma may be distinguished in this day and age from others due to his ‘ibada, Devotion, abstinence, love for the Prophet Muhammad, dhikr, humility and servitude of the people.
The question then is where did he acquire these characteristics from? What made The man?
In order to appreciate this illustrious personality we have to look at the factors which Contributed to his personality and his piety. This may be understood when we look at his Upbringing and his family.
His father, Shaykh Salih al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma (1294-1379=1877-1961)
He is the son of Shaykh Salih al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma who was a zahid and a devout scholar who Adhered to various acts of ‘ibada. He was particular on performing the Salat in congregation even during the Syrian Wars and is said to have performed Hajj thirty-forty times. He was very particular on what he consumed and therefore only ate from that which he had earned by his own hands.
Shaykh Salih Alayhi Rahma accompanied his uncle, Shaykh Sa’id al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma who was a senior Shafi’ scholar and a pivot of piety. There are many karamat (miracles) attributed to him about which people still speak of.
Shaykh Salih also accompanied Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Tarabulsi Alayhi Rahma (d.1339) who was a Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order. Shaykh Ahmad met Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzaq Alayhi Rahma Through his father’s company. Thus Shaykh Ahmad al-Habbal was also Naqshbandi in his Sufi Order but Rifa’ in his genealogy. His lineage links up to Shaykh Ahmad al-Rifai’ Alayhi Rahma
And then ultimately to the Prophet Muhammad. It is reported that Shaykh Salih Alayhi Rahma never Consumed food in a home other than his own and he adhered to the fasting on a Monday And a Thursday.
So Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma is a result of this pure environment. One filled with taqwa, dhikr,consumption of halal, jihad and mujahada. So Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma was successful because he accompanied those who were successful. In this way we observed that he too loved Performing Hajj and visiting the grave of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma’s first Hajj was with his father in 1909 (1330).
Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma was still only eleven years old and the journey was carried out on camels. The young boy on seeing the Ka’ba supplicated to Allah and asked Allah to grant him frequent visits to this blessed place.
Allah answered this supplication and Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma is said to have performed about 50 Hajj, the first his own obligation and the remainder on behalf of the Prophet Muhammad. Although the number visits that may have included ‘Umra total to about 80.
It has reported by reliable sources that Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma never missed the Fajr Salat in the Umawy Mosque for eighty years. In fact he arrived at the mosque one hour before Fajr to Complete his early morning litany (wird). This was known as wird al-sahr and one of the Most famous dhikr circles of this nature was that of the Bakriyya Order. Shaykh Sa’id al- Habbal Alayhi Rahma led these sessions and he was followed by Shaykh Rashid al-Jundali Alayhi Rahma (d.1355).
Shaykh Rashid Alayhi Rahma was succeeded by Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Alawi Alayhi Rahma who was succeeded by Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma. Many other illustrious scholars were connected to these dhikr sessions and they included Shaykh Ahmad al-Sawi Alayhi Rahma and Shaykh Ahmad al-Dardayr Alayhi Rahma.
Shaykh Rashid al-Jundali Alayhi Rahma was a pious and devout scholar who had studied under the Scholars of the Khatib family. One of his colleagues as a student was Shaykh ‘Abd al- Qadir al-Qassab Alayhi Rahma about whom Shaykh Amin Suwayd Alayhi Rahma said that he carried the banner of wilaya in Damascus for sixty years. Shaykh Ahmad accompanied Shaykh Rashid Alayhi Rahma and benefited from him. Shaykh Ahmad al-Harun Alayhi Rahma was also one of his students and Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Khatib Alayhi Rahma is one of those who received Ijaza from him.
Shaykh Salih al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma engaged himself in the recitation of the Quran and this is Something his son had inherited from him. He read the Quran under renown scholars who included Shaykh Muhammad Salim al-Halwani Alayhi Rahma and Shaykh Yahya al-Makkawi Alayhi Rahma. He adhered to the practice of five juz daily till the time prior to his illness when he devoted Himself completely to the Quran completing it once daily.
Shaykh Salih Alayhi Rahma had acquired these noble qualities from his illustrious family. His father was a righteous scholar and his paternal uncle was Shaykh Sa’id al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma who was the leading Shafi’ scholar in the Umayyad Mosque until his death in (1326). Shaykh Sa’id Alayhi Rahma was an authority in Tasawwuf and in the narration of Hadith. He narrated from Shaykh
‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad al-Kuzbari Alayhi Rahma (d. 1262) from whom he received Ijaza and he thus possessed a very high chain of transmission. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hay al-Kittani Alayhi Rahma visited two of his senior students in (1325) and received Ijaza from them with the chain of transmission through Shaykh al-Kuzbari. The last person to narrate from Shaykh al-Kuzbari Alayhi Rahma with a genuine and specific Ijaza is Shaykh Abu al-Yusr ‘Abidiin Alayhi Rahma.
Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani Alayhi Rahma (1267-1354=1851-1935)
Shaykh Ahmad was honoured to have been connected to the illustrious Hasani family Through suckling there. The Rifai’, al-‘Ani and Hasani families shared close ties. More so Since Shaykh Badr al-Din’s wife, Ruqayya, the daughter of Shaykh Muhyi al-Din al-‘Ani Alayhi Rahma Breast fed Shaykh Ahmad thus making Shaykh Badr al-Din his spiritual and foster father.
In fact Shaykh Sa’id al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma was a student of Shaykh Muhyi al-Din al-‘Ani. The ‘Ani Alayhi Rahma and Rifa’ Habbal families are related through the illustrious qutb Shaykh Ahmad al-Rifai’ Alayhi Rahma.
This afforded Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma the chance to derive maximum benefit from this Noble and pure household. As a young boy he frequented the house before Fajr and was Therefore influenced by the ways and habits of Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma. He remained closely attached to and in the company of Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma until he took ill and was taken to his son, Shaykh Taj al-Din’s home. Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma was among the few who were present at the time of Shaykh Badr al-Din’s demise. In fact, when Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma breathed his last, Shaykh Ahmad kissed his forehead and his feet. The time spent with Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma left an indelible impact on his life. He continued to remain devoted to the family and served Shaykh Badr al-Din’s children.
Through his attachment to Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma he was able to relate various anecdotes And useful aspects on the life of Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma. Amongst the incidents he related Was that one year, on the second day after ‘Iid, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim al-Rifai’ Alayhi Rahma Visited Him and he were asked about the reason for his absence from the lesson? Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim Alayhi Rahma said that everyone was busy celebrating ‘Iid. Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma replied and said that he has no ‘Iid other than ‘ilm (sacred knowledge).
If we were to ignore Shaykh Badr’s level of knowledge and his mastery in various Islamic sciences and instead focus on his spirituality, his abstinence and his love for the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam, we will realize how difficult it is to find an individual with all these Noble qualities. If we were for a moment to look at his piety and righteousness we will Observe immense love and veneration for the Prophet Muhammad and a person who Loved the recitation of the Quran. We will find various qualities which could each Produce true ‘men’. Many of the ‘Ulama regarded Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma as one of the Abdal and they attributed this to his love for sending salutations on the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. He was a man of few words. If the need arose for him to speak then it was to answer someone’s question and to do this he referred the questioner to the specific book wherein the answer could be found.
Shaykh Sharif al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma (1282-1362=1865-1943)
The other person who influenced Shaykh Ahmad was Shaykh Sharif al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma. It is Sufficient proof of his position and status to mention that the three largest funeral Processions in recent times were for Shaykh Badr al-Din Alayhi Rahma, Shaykh Sharif al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma and Shaykh ‘Ali al-Diqr Alayhi Rahma. Shaykh Ahmad accompanied and served Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma for about twelve years.
Shaykh Ahmad had accompanied him until shortly before his death. In fact Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma used to say that his eyes had not seen anyone like Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma. Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma was a person who resembled the illustrious tabi’in in his ways and his Character and his love for the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Shaykh Taj al-Din al-Hasani Alayhi Rahma said that one who saw Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma will enter Jannah.
He was very particular on following the Sunna and is said to have never missed the Opening takbir at the time of Salat. The obligatory Salat was always performed in Congregation and he never abandoned or neglected his daily litany. He was neat and Elegantly dressed. His face was illuminated and he as awe inspiring. His character was Like that of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam . Shaykh Ahmad acquired this attachment for the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam from Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma. When he spoke of the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam he only referred to him by prefixing the word (sayyid) and he never refused anyone who asked him for some need in the name of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam.
He was a reputable scholar and an authority in Tasawwuf. He was known for his active Participation in jihad. Many prominent scholars had benefited from him. Some of them Are:
• Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Khatib Alayhi Rahma (1307-1367)
• Shaykh Muhammad Bashir al-Khatib Alayhi Rahma (1328-1382)
• Shaykh ‘Arif ‘Uthman Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Muhammad Salim al-Bahrawi Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Murad Siwar Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh ‘Ali al-Diqr Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Ahmad al-Mu’damani Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Saeed al-Burhani Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Muhammad Taysir al-Kaywan Alayhi Rahma (1323-1383)
• Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yallas Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Makki al-Kittani Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Salah al-Za’im Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Salih al-Farfur Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Hasan Habannaka al-Maydani Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Sa’id al-Ahmar Alayhi Rahma
• Shaykh Ibrahim al-Sabbagh Alayhi Rahma
• His brother, Shaykh Ismail al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma
• His nephew, Shaykh Ibrahim al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma
Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma accompanied Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma in the mosque, at his home and during his dhikr sessions. Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma was the successor of Shaykh Muhammad al-Mubarak Alayhi Rahma (d.1330) and thus continued these sessions according to the Shadhli Order. He even accompanied him on Hajj and on his visit to Beirut. It was Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma who had introduced him to Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani Alayhi Rahma. Shaykh Ahmad served Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma on the journey to perform Hajj and numerous karamat have been recorded that have been verified and documented in the book titled; al-Rihla ila al-Madina by Shaykh Mahmud Yasin.
Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma remained faithful to his Shaykh and to his family and to this extent he Even behaved like a student in front of Shaykh Ibrahim al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma who as younger than him.
An example of his faithfulness to his shuyukh was that ever since Shaykh Yusuf al- Nabhani Alayhi Rahma passed away he used to complete the entire Quran in the month of Ramadan after which meals were served to the people. The reward of this was transferred to Shaykh Yusuf Alayhi Rahma.
Shaykh ‘Arif ‘Uthman Alayhi Rahma (1289-1385=1872-1965)
Shaykh ‘Arif Alayhi Rahma was the next person who influenced Shaykh Ahmad. Shaykh ‘Arif Alayhi Rahma was a person who had dedicated his life to the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. In addition he as fortunate to have studied under:
• Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani Alayhi Rahma. He made a vow that all his books be used to promote The illustrious sira of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam and to encourage them to love him.
• Shaykh Muhammad ibn Jafar al-Kittani Alayhi Rahma. He revived the love for the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam in the land of Sham. When the Prophet’s name was mentioned he trembled and the reverence for the Prophet as clearly visible on his face.
Shaykh Salim al-Hamami mentioned that whenever Shaykh ‘Arif Alayhi Rahma’s watch stopped Functioning he merely offered greetings and salutations on the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam and the watch worked.
Shaykh ‘Arif Alayhi Rahma is the person who initiated gatherings and sessions dedicated to offering Salutations on the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam every Monday. They used to recite 100 000 salutations on the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam after which they recited the ode (qasida) of Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani Alayhi Rahma and the Ode known as al-Muhammadiyya by Imam al-Busayri Alayhi Rahma. The reward was transferred to the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Thereafter they recited the story of the mawlid (blessed birth of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam ). Thereafter they all stood while repeating the great name (Allah, Allah) according to the Shadhli etiquette.
Some of the very righteous and devout scholars used to attend these gatherings. Among them were; Shaykh Muhammad al-Hashimi Alayhi Rahma , Shaykh Saeed al-Burhani Alayhi Rahma , Shaykh Yahya al-Sabbagh Alayhi Rahma, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Salahi Alayhi Rahma and Shaykh Muhammad Wafa al-Qassab Alayhi Rahma.
Shaykh ‘Arif Alayhi Rahma was succeeded by Shaykh Saeed al-Burhani Alayhi Rahma who in turn requested that none other but Shaykh Ahmad al-Habbal Alayhi Rahma succeed him.
Shaykh ‘Arif Uthman Alayhi Rahma also performed Hajj about thirty times. Shaykh Ahmad adhered to the teachings of his shuyukh and followed the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad in all aspects. He inherited this love, affection and attachment to the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam from his shuyukh whom he always spoke about and many times tears were seen rolling down his cheeks as he remembered them or even their families.
The ‘Ulama mention that the Moroccans attain high levels of spirituality (wilaya) by Exerting themselves in devotion (mujahada) while the scholars in the east attain this Level through serving their shuyukh (khidma). Shaykh Sharif Alayhi Rahma had two such persons; Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma served him in his household chores and Shaykh Sa’id al-Ahmar Alayhi Rahma served him in his business. Both of them were eventually regarded as Awliya Allah.
Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma was kind and compassionate to the poor and weak and he accepted their invitations. So we can safely say that the persons who had the greatest and most profound influence on him were; his father, Shaykh Salih Alayhi Rahma (1961); then the fact that he accompanied the illustrious and devout muhaddith, Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani Alayhi Rahma , the saintly scholar, Shaykh Sharif al-Yaqoubi Alayhi Rahma and Shaykh Sharif ‘Uthman Alayhi Rahma.
Shaykh Ahmad Alayhi Rahma was a true Prophetic heir in his attachment to the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. This is in addition to the fact that his genealogy linked him to Shaykh Ahmad al-Rifai’ Alayhi Rahma and ultimately to the Prophet Muhammad. This is supported by the various dreams seen about him herein people were informed that he was the Prophet’s representative in the land of Sham.
One of the reasons for having attained this position was because he accompanied people who had reached this level. He continued revering and honouring his Shaykh’s throughout his life. This is an explanation of what the Sufi’s say: “None will succeed except through the company of those who have succeeded.” Another important aspect is that he did not align himself to one particular group. Therefore the people of Syria all were part of his group and this was apparent in the thousands that emerged for his funeral.
Rare footage of Shaykh Ahmad Habbal Alayhi Rahma :
Memories Of what took place whilst Shaykh Ahmad Habbal Alayhi Rahma was on Hajj :
Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi talking about the life of Shaykh Ahmad Habbal Alayhi Rahma:
Shaykh Nazim Talking About Shaykh Abdul Wahab al-Salahi Shadhili Alayhi Rahma from Damascus :
Shaykh Nazim Talking about Shaykh Yahya al-Sabah Alayhi Rahma from Damascus :