Comment: On The Passing of Shaykh Shukri Lahafi

Imam Zaid Shakir wrote a beautiful short piece on Shaykh Shukri:

The Muslim world has lost one of its giants with the passing of Shaykh Shukri Lahafi. Despite his stature, it is likely that anyone reading these words who is not from Syria has ever heard of Shaykh Shukri. Before I arrived in Syria, in 1994, to begin my studies there, I too did not know who he was.

Upon arriving in Damascus, Shaykh Shukri was one of the first scholars I met. Our most generous host, Abu Munir Sha’ar, had arranged callig[r]aphy lessons with the Shaykh. A motley gang of Americans made our way through the streets of Damascus to the Shaykh’s apartment for an introduction. Upon arriving at the building housing the Shaykh’s home, we descended down a tight stairwell into a dimly lit, cramped basement apartment. This was the Shaykh’s humble abode.

Only Musa Furber proved to be a consistent student of the Shaykh. I had become involved with other pursuits, although I would visit from time to time. I would also see the Shaykh at every public dhikr and the accompanying lessons that I was able to attend. The Shaykh had a very distinct way of arriving at the various masjids where the Dhikrs would occur. Specifically, on a rugged, Chinese-made black bicycle. He usually had a couple of children on the crossbar and two or three more on the makeshift backseat.

As the attendees filtered into the venue, Shaykh Shukri, with the hint of a smile teasing his lips, would serve water. He was the waterman. This beautiful practice, like his home, like everything about him, spoke volumes about his humility. What exactly is humility? Some define it as assuming a station lower than that one could rightfully claim. By this definition, Shaykh Shukri was truly humble. Why? Because he could claim being a leading scholar in Damascus. He could claim that he was a renowned callig[r]apher. He could claim being a master of the ten canonical readings of the Qur’an. We could add to the list of the things he could rightfully claim, however, he renounced all claims. He was the waterman.

When the great master, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Shaghuri, became too ill to continue commenting on the various texts read at the public dhikrs, that task fell upon my teacher, Shaykh Mustafa Tur[k]mani. One day Shaykh Mustafa was unable to make it to the dhikr, and hence, the lesson. The attendees, knowing Shaykh Shukri’s scholarly attainment, asked him to comment on the text. The Shaykh read the text, verbatim, not adding a single word of his own commentary, and then quietly closed the book. His respectful reverence, despite his qualifications, would not allow him to speak in the place of Shaykh Mustafa.

Upon the passing of Shaykh Mustafa, the leadership of the Shadhuli Tariqa in Damascus was assumed Shaykh Shukri. Now, a last, he spoke, and he guided the faithful with wisdom, courage and vision from that time until his demise yesterday.

I write these words with tears welling in my eyes as I remember this humble servant and as I reflect on how blessed I am to have had the honor of sitting in his home, eating his food, been served by his hand, listening to his silence, and benefiting from his state as well as his very parsimonious speech. May Allah grant him the highest ranks of Paradise and may He bless us to elevate ourselves to begin to carry even a small fraction of the load Shaykh Shukri has entrusted to us.

“There is no one who humbles himself for Allah’s sake, except Allah elevates him.” Prophetic Hadith

Imam Zaid Shakir

A few personal comments on where he says that

“[o]nly Musa Furber proved to be a consistent student of the Shaykh”

One morning Abu Munir said that Shaykh Shukri wanted to teach one of us. I spent four or five years studying calligraphy with him. My lesson was usually after a Turkish gentleman who was learning the ten canonical recitations. His plain-looking apartment was in reality a beauty school: beautifying the recitation and calligraphy of the Quran, and beautifying the character of its reciters and calligraphers.

A few years into studying with him, Imam Zaid asked me to bring my copy books to a student gathering and to say a few words about it. One of the attendees commented that his calligraphy was way better than mine and suggested that I quit wasting time with [Shaykh Shukri] “the old man who pours water” and devote it instead to something important. Imam Zaid chuckled for a moment and answered, “It’s an excuse to sit with Shaykh Shukri and learn from him.”

At the ma’had we had an instructor for ruka’i calligraphy. He asked who I was studying from. When I told him Shaykh Shukri he refused to interfere and switched me to another style.

After one morning lesson at Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani’s class, he commented about how Shaykh Abderrahman and others had said that if anyone could be thought to be one of the Abdal, it would be Shaykh Shukri. After a pause to reflect, he continued, “Ay, wallah!” (“Affirmative, by Allah!”).