Bismillah-al-Rahman-al-Rahim  (In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful)

The Sufi Tradition in Toronto

by Siddiq Osman Noormuhammad

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The Sufi Tradition
Shariah and Tariqah in Toronto 
The First and the Foremost 
'Aabideen (Worshippers of Allah) 
Zikr of Allah Ta'ala
Azkaar and Awraad 
The Zikr by the Zakireen
Mawlid un-Nabi, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam 
Toronto Houses the Blessed Hair of the Beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam
Masajid and Madaris
The Visiting and Resident 'Ulama 
Da'wa And Other Activities 
Classics of Muslim Spirituality 
Hawl, Ziyara and 'Urs Shareef 

The Sufi Tradition

All praise is for Allah, Lord of the worlds Who has no partner in His Kingdom, the only One to be worshipped, The Creator, The Nourisher, The Sustainer, The First without a beginning, and the Last without end, Whose Nur pervades and is All-Pervading, Who created the Nur of Muhammad-e-'Arabi, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam from His own Nur and made him mercy for all the worlds, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him for ever and ever more, Aameen

The sufi tradition is a tradition of pure monotheism, taught, exemplified and lived by our beloved Holy Prophet Sayyidina wa Maulana Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam himself; the ahlul bayt (his blessed Household), his sahaba (noble companions) Radhy Allahu 'Anhum Ajma'een and the awliya (sufi saints), Rahmatullahi 'alaihim ajmaeen

To be in the sufi tradition is to attach oneself to a sufi shaikh (spiritual master). A sufi shaikh is someone who has adopted the sunnah (life-style) of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam in its totality. His suhbah (companionship) automatically develops love for Allah, The Glorified and The Exalted, and for Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, and purifies one's heart of evil and vice, as much as has been ordained by Allah. To have ta'alluq (association) with a sufi shaikh is to be on the spiritual path (tariqa), practicing tasawwuf (attempting to live according to sunnah both outwardly and inwardly, that is with sincerity and purity of heart) with the help of the dua (supplications) of our shaikh. If Allah so wills, this leads to spiritual progress and spiritual excellence (ihsan) after which Allah Ta'ala showers us with His 'inayah (special spiritual favours).

Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala has blessed Muslims with such mashayikh (spiritual masters) throughout history in all parts of the world. They have drawn people to themselves through their examplary life-styles and have spontaneously been identified as 'arifeen (knowers of spiritual realities and mysteries). One such spiritual luminary was Sayyidi wa Imami Muhyuddin Shaikh 'AbdulQadir Jilani Rahmatullahi 'alaih. Those associated with him are said to be in the Qadiriyyah tariqa, after him. Sayyidi wa Imami al-Faqih al-Muqaddam Muhammad ibn 'Ali BaAlawi Rahmatullahi 'alaih was another great qutb-ul-gauth (pillar of spiritual succour). Those associated with him are said to be in the 'Alawiyyah tariqa. These spiritual luminaries are as many as the stars in the firmament but some shine more distinctly than others, just as the north star does. 

Islam is alive as long as the sufi saints breathe. Most of them prefer to be anonymous unless Allah Ta'ala in His Hikmah (Wisdom) wills otherwise. Mungu awa weke: may Allah Ta'ala keep them for ever in His Rahmah (Mercy), Aameen

For anyone to claim to be a sufi (man of Allah) is really presumptuous. No one ever claims to be a sufi. The shaikh (pir-o-murshid in Urdu) is ever so humble to make any claim of any sort. But the sufi saint (man of Allah) is as evident as the broad daylight. Those who have ta'alluq (association) with a sufi saint are said to be in the sufi tradition. And it is in this sense alone that we talk about the activities of those associated with the sufi tradition in Toronto. 

Shariah and Tariqah in Toronto 

The sufis of Toronto are obviously in the Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah tradition -- that is, they follow Shari'ah (sacred Muslim law) according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, following any one of the four madhahib (schools of sacred Muslim law), codified by Imam ul A'zam Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi'i, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal Rahmatullahi 'alaihim ajma'een. They follow the Aqeeda (Muslim Creed) as given in the Qur'an Kareem and Hadith Shareef and as expounded by Imam Abu'l Hasan al-Ash'ari. They follow tariqah (sacred spiritual path leading to Allah Ta'ala) established by Gauth al A'zam Sayyidi wa Imami Shaikh 'Abdul Qadir Jilani, Sayyidi wa Imami al-Faqih al-Muqaddam Muhammad ibn 'Ali BaAlawi, Sayyid Ahmad Rifa'i Kabeer, Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti,, Imam Bahauddin Naqshbandi, and Hadrat Pir Nuruddin al-Jerrahi, may Allah Ta'ala continue to let us benefit from their baraka (blessings), Aameen. The respective tariqas are Qadiriyyah, 'Alawiyyah, Rifa'iyyah, Chishtiyyah, Naqshbandiyyah and Jerrahiyyah, these being the more well-established tariqas in Toronto so far. 

Muslims in other parts of the world will surely be very happy to learn that in a predominantly non-Muslim country such as Canada where neo-liberalism has almost destroyed Christianity, Muslims are exerting themselves to establish the sufi lifestyle of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam and his ashaab-us-Suffa, Radhy Allahu 'Anhum.

The First and the Foremost 

The first well-known sufi saint to bring baraka (blessings) to Canada was Maulana 'Abdul 'Aleem Siddiqui al-Qadiri Rahmatullahi 'alaih. He performed the opening ceremony of the first mosque to be built in Canada in Edmonton in 1939. He also visited Toronto, the largest metropolis in Canada, where he presented Islam as a gift to a largely non-Muslim gathering. A'la Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Rahmatullahi 'alaih had sent him from India to spread Islam across the world. This he did admirably, converting people to Islam and establishing the sufi tradition in such far-off places as Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, England and Kenya, to name only a few places. He passed away after performing Hajj and was laid to rest in Jannatul Baqi in Madinatul Munawwara. 

The first well-known sufi saint to be resident in Toronto, who built the foundations of the sufi tradition here, was Dr. Qadeer Baig Rahmatullahi 'alaih in the Chishtiyyah tariqah. He was a professor at the University of Toronto, established the sufi Study Circle and the Canadian Society of Muslims and campaigned to establish Muslim personal law in Canada and to remove bias against Islam and Muslims from school textbooks. He also raised funds to establish the Jami Mosque in 1967-68, the first masjid in Toronto of which he was the first Imam. He was the first Muslim to bring Canadians into the fold of Islam in any large measure, proving yet again that it is the sufi saints who throughout history have converted people to Islam across the world. He passed away in 1988, a Zindah Shah, may Allah Ta'ala raise his darajat (stature) even further, Aameen. Syed Mumtaz Ali sahib, his khalifa in the Chishtiyyah tariqah, continues his good work, Al Hamdu Lillah.

'Aabideen (Worshippers of Allah) 

Having established the first mosque in Canada in Edmonton as well as in Toronto, Canada's largest city, those in the sufi tradition have gone on to build other masajid and establish musalla (prayer places) and madaris (Muslim religious schools) in Toronto. These devotees never tire of worshipping Allah Ta'ala. Besides the five times daily prayers, they yearn to pray the sunnahs of tahajjud, ishraq, dhuhaa, awwabeen and taraweh as well as salatul Tasbeeh. They take the Qur'an Kareem, the Hadith Shareef and the Asma u'l Husna to heart and they make sure they avoid haram (the forbidden), earn halal and eat halal (the permissible), and keep themselves taahir (ritually pure) with wudhu (ablution) at all times. And among the hidden devotees are those who observe Sunnah fast on the ninth and tenth of Muharram (yaumul 'ashura); nisf Sha'ban (15th of Sha'ban); six days of Shawwal (after 'Eid); yaumul 'Arafah (9th Dhul Hijjah); every 13th, 14th and 15th of the month (following the Muslim calendar); and every Thursday and Monday, the day our beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam was born. 

Zikr of Allah Ta'ala

The tariqas are fraternities of zikr (remembrance) of Allah Ta'ala. In the Zikr congregation, there is khatm Qur'an (recitation of the whole Qur'an) or recitation of Surah Yaa Seen. 

This is followed by astaghfaar (begging forgiveness of Allah Ta'ala), Kalima Tayyibah (sincerely pure declaration), Tashahhud (Muslim testimony), Asma Allah ul Husna (Beautiful Names of Allah), and salawaat and salaam (invoking Allah's blessings and peace on the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). The most popular salawaat are As-Salaatu Ibrahimiyyah, Salaat ut Taaj, Salaat Tunjina and As-Salaat ut Taaziyyah

Dua (supplication) is an important part of the zikr. Many of the dua are from the Azkaar (Supplications) compiled by Imam an-Nawawi, Rahmatullahi 'alaih. These are the azkaar (invocations) that Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam himself taught his blessed household and companions, may Allah be pleased with them.

Munaajaat (hymns) are then recited, in praise of Allah Ta'ala and madeeh (eulogy) of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam

In most zikr groups, we have the recitation of the shajarah (family tree) of the shaikh linking him in lineage to our noble Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. The recital of Tawassul is popular as well. This invokes Allah with the mediation of our beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, all the anbiya (prophets), peace be upon them, the Ahl ul Bayt (the blessed Household of the blessed Prophet), the sahaba (his companions), and all the mashayikh (spiritual masters) in that tariqa

In most instances, the zikr session ends with Taazeem-e Qiyam, or standing ovation for the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, in which salaams on him composed by Imam as-Sayyid Ja'far ibn Hasan al-Barzanji, Imam 'Ali bin Muhammad al-Habshi, or Allama Ishqee (in Arabic), A'la Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan, or al-'Allamah Akbar Warithi (in Urdu), al-'Allamah Suleman Chelebi Effendi (in Turkish), or Shaikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Qadiri (in English), Rahmatullahi 'alaihim ajmaeen are recited. 

Food and refreshments are then served. This is called tabarruk in Arabic and nyaz in Urdu, and is prepared by the ladies in most instances, with befitting love, care, commitment and dedication to gain thawab (heavenly reward).

The Qadiriyyah, Chishtiyyah, Jerrahiyyah, 'Alawiyyah and Naqshbandiyyah recite zikr every Thursday or Friday night. The Qadiriyyah also recite zikr on the eleventh of each month of the Muslim calendar, especially the eleventh of Rabi-ul-Akhir, the day Shaikh 'Abdul Qadir Jilani Rahmatullahi 'alaih left his earthly existence. This is called Gyarween Shareef in Urdu (the blessed eleventh night). The ladies organise separate zikr sessions of their own as well.

The 'Alawiyyah carry with them two Muslim flags for major zikr sessions and other important occassions. This revives the sunnah of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam of showing the Muslim flag. One flag represents the 'Alawiyyah and the other the Qadiriyyah. These two flags have the seal of approval of Sayyidi wa Imami Shaikh 'AbdulQadir Jilani and Sayyidi wa Imami al-Habib Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha Al-Haddad, may Allah make us benefit from them, Aameen. By now, Muslims of Toronto are familiar with zikr sessions organised by the 'Alawiyyah that continue the whole night in Imdadul Islam Masjid and end with Salatul Tasbeeh and Salatul Fajr, Al Hamdu Lillah

Azkaar and Awraad 

The azkaar and awraad (regular voluntary invocations) most popular among the 'Alawiyyah are the Ratib and Wird al-Latif of Sayyidi wa Imami Maulana 'AbdAllah bin 'Alawi al-Haddad, the Ratib of Sayyidina Al-Habib 'Umar Bin 'Abdirrahman al-'Attas, and the Wasila of Sayyidina al-Habib Muhammad Bin Zain Bin Sumait, Rahmatullahi 'alaihim ajma'een. Qasida Burda of Imam al-Buseeri Rahmatullahi 'alaih, is recited every month in congregation. All these bring shafa'a (healing) and maghfira (forgiveness). Among the Qadiriyyah, the Tasbeehaat to cleanse your heart are Laa Ilaha Illallah, (None is worthy of worship except Allah), Illallah, and Allahu, and these are recited in halaqa of zikr (circle of zikr) a hundred times each, while the supplications and salawaat of Shaikh 'Abdul Qadir Jilani Rahmatullahi alaih in The Manaqib are also well-known. The Zikr among the Jerrahiyyah with simultaneous but different recitals by two or more reciters spiritually invigorates the Zakireen. ZikrPaase Anfaas (with abated breath) as well as Dua Jameelah are the hallmarks of the Naqshbandiyyah, while the most memorable dua (invocations) are recited among the Chishtiyyah in the Khatme Khawajagaan

The kutub (books) of salawaat (invoking blessings of Allah on the noble Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) that have gained the hearts of Muslims in Toronto are:

The mureedeen (spiritual seekers) and muhibbeen (loving disciples) walk in Toronto with the nur (spiritual light) of the love of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam

Sallu 'alan Nabi. 
Allahumma Salli wa Sallim 'alaih. 

The Zikr by the Zakireen

The Zakireen of Toronto hold a joint zikr session every year. This is held a week before the blessed month of Ramadhan to welcome it. The zikr groups that have participated are:
  • 'Alawiyyah
  • Bazme Chirage Chishti
  • Canadian Society of Muslims/

  • Society for Understanding the Finite and the Infinite (SUFI) 
  • Dar ul Qur'an
  • Jerrahi Sufi Order of Canada 
  • International Muslims Organisation
  • Madrasa-e-Tawheed
  • Islamische Ummah Gemein Schaf
  • Minhajul Qur'an
  • Muslims of the Americas
  • Qadiriyyah-Uwaisiyyah-Zaylaiyyah
  • Silsila-e 'Aliyyah Qadiriyyah
  • Spiritual Foundation
  • World Islamic Mission
All the zikr groups participate as equals but one of the groups is chosen to take the lead in organising it each year. The first such session was held in 1415 A.H/1995 C.E. The zikr groups that have taken the lead so far in organising it are:
  • 'Alawiyyah
  • Canadian Society of Muslims /

  • Society for Understanding the Finite and the Infinite (SUFI) 
  • Minhaj ul Qur'an
  • World Islamic Mission, and
  • Bazme Chirage Chishti.
The program starts with the recitation of Surah Yaa Seen Shareef. Each zikr group is then introduced and recites zikr for about 20 minutes. The program is brought to a close with Taazim-e Qiyaam (standing ovation) for the beloved of Allah, Muhammad Mustafa, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. The day-long program is spiritual nourishment to rejuvenate the ruh (spirit) so that it is ready to receive the barakah (spiritual blessings) of the month of Ramadhan. 

Mawlid un-Nabi, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam 

The first organisation in Toronto to establish halaqa of zikr as well as the celebrations of Maulid un-Nabi Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam on a continuous and systematic basis was the Canadian Society of Muslims. Since then, Maulid un-Nabi Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam is celebrated by more than a dozen masajid and organisations as well as in hundreds of homes in Toronto. This has now gained momentum and the first international Milad-un-Nabi Conference was organised by the World Islamic Mission in 1993 which draws 'ulama from across the world. This conference gave birth to the International Me'raj-un-Nabi Conference organised by the International Muslims Organisation in 1994 and the International Milad-un-Nabi Conference organised by the Naqshbandiyyah Foundation in Chicago, USA, in 1994. The baraka (blessing) is now spreading, Al Hamdu Lillah to all corners of Canada and the U.S.A. 

At such maulid celebrations, if you are lucky, you might get to hear madeeh (eulogy) in honour of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alahi wa Sallam composed by Hazrat Hassaan bin Thabit Radhy Allahu 'Anhu and Hazrat Ka'b ibn Zuhair Radhy Allahu 'Anhu, two of the sahabi (companions) of the Holy Prophet; or by luminaries such as Shaikh Sa'adi Shirazi, Allamah 'AbdulRahman Jami, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, Imam Buseeri, Maulana 'Abdallah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad, Imam 'Ali bin Muhammad al-Habshi, and A'la Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Rahmatullahi 'alaihim ajma'een

Indeed Muslims of Toronto have by now become so much familiar with the abyaat (couplets) of Hazrat Hassaan bin Thabit Radhy Allahu 'Anhu in praise of the beloved of Allah, Muhammad ur Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, that many of them know at least these couplets of his by heart. 

Wa ahsanu minka lam tara qattu 'aini
Wa ajmalu minka lam talidin nisaau

Khuliqta mubarra-an min kulli 'aybin
Ka-annaka qad khuliqta kamaa tashaau

I have never seen anyone better than you
Now did any woman give birth to anyone more beautiful than you

You have been created free from any faults
Just as you yourself wished to be created

Allahumma Salli wa Sallim wa Baarik 'alaih

Toronto Houses the Blessed Hair of the Beloved Prophet 
Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam

Would you believe it? Toronto houses the blessed hair of the beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam and the one who has the sharaf (honour) of having the cherished possession of this invaluable treasure is Haji Ahmad Valli Nathalia saheb. His shaikh, Maulana Sayed Kamruddin Qadiri has in his possession in India some blessed hair of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. To spread baraka (blessings) in the West, he decided, in consultation with other mashayikh, to give one of these blessed hair to Haji Ahmad saheb who brought it from Karanta, India to his home in Toronto in 1992. 

Since then, whenever he holds celebrations of Maulid un Nabi Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam in Rabi' ul Awwal, he invites all the devotees to catch a glimpse of that blessed hair. On this auspicious occassion, the case containing the hair is carried on his head with befitting love and reverence. And when the case is opened, Haji Saheb removes many veils of cloth, like so many veils in heaven befoe he reveals the actual case containing the hair. All this while, the muhibbeen (beloved disciples) recite salawaat and salaams on our beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. It is a spiritually enriching ceremony performed to perfection! 

Remember that the Ahl ul Bayt (the beloved Prophet's blessed household) and the sahaba (his blessed companions) would keep his hair that had been cut as an invaluable treasure to be passed on from generation to generation as priceless inheritance. We learn of this from the following hadith.

Narrated Ibn Sirin: I said to Abida, "I have some hair of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam which I got from Hazrat Anas, Radhy Allahu 'Anhu or from his family". Abida responded, "No doubt, if I had a single hair of that it would have been dearer to me than the whole world and whatever is in it". (Bukhari)
Some of this blessed hair has been preserved in Turkey as well. Of this, one hair has been brought to New York. From there, it is brought to the Turkish Mosque in Toronto for public view, at the end of the month of Ramadhan. That night, the mosque is packed to capacity. On such blessed occassions, the recitation of Maulid un Nabi is a must. This is from the kitab (book) composed by Al-'Allamah Suleman Chelebi Effendi Rahmatullahi 'alaih with hymns and eulogies in Turkish. The gathering is so emotionally filled and spiritually charged that you see tears roll down the eyes of the devout as they fulfil their life-long ambition to catch a glimpse of the blessed hair. As each person gets a chance to kiss the case containing the hair, the whole congregation recites this salaat in chorus.
Allahumma Salli 'alaa Sayyidina Muhammad-i-nin-Nabiyyi'l Ummiyyi
Wa 'alaa aalihi wa sahbihi wa Sallim

O Allah! Bestow blessings and peace on Sayyidina Muhammad, 
the Prophet not taught by any human
(but directly by You, O Allah),
as well as on his family and companions.

The baraka (blessings) of the hair of the Holy Prophet, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam in terms of the nur (spiritual light) it spreads for the Muslims of Canada in general and for those who get to view it in particular are immense, immediate and visible. May Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala give us the love of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam that will sustain us in this world as well as in the Hereafter, Aameen Yaa Rabbal 'Aalameen

Masajid and Madaris

As mentioned earlier, the mashayikh (spiritual masters) and mureedeen (spiritual seekers) were the pioneers in establishing the Jami Mosque in Toronto. Since then, more than a dozen masajid and madaris have been established in Metro-Toronto but for the sake of brevity, I will only touch on those in the rich and vibrant Muslim Turkish and Eastern European tradition. In this historic tradition, there are two Turkish mosques as well as the Albanian Mosque, the Croatian Mosque, the Bosnian Mosque and Masjid al-Husain. Some mosques are identified for ease of reference as Turkish mosques because Muslims of Turkish descent have taken the initiative in establishing them but the gathering is truly international as in most masajid in Toronto. 

Toronto is indeed a multicultural city where the majority are migrants from all over the world who have made Toronto their home and most of whose children have been born in Canada. You feel part of an international Muslim fraternity, those born in Canada, together with Muslim migrants from Turkey, the Arab countries, Pakistan, Albania, India, Bosnia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Guyana, Mauritius, ..... all worshipping Allah as one ummah (community) in Toronto. The Imams at these masajid wear the traditional jubba (cloak) as well as the amamah (turban). The walls are decked with beautiful frames containing the names that are engraved on the hearts of all Muslims: Allah (The Glorified and The Exalted), Sayyidina Muhammad Mustafa (Allah's blessings and peace be on him), Sayyidina Abubakr Siddiq, Sayyidina Umar Farooq, Sayyidina Uthman Dhun Nurain, Sayyidina Ali al-Murtadha, Sayyidatina Fatima, Sayyidina Imam Hasan and Sayyidina Imam Husain, Radhy Allahu 'Anhum. The mimbar (pulpit) is richly engraved with Muslim calligraphy while over the mihrab (prayer niche for the Imam) is the inscription from the Qur'an: 

Fa walli waj-haka shatral Masjidi'l Haram 
So turn your face towards the sacred mosque [Qur'an 2:144]. 
Women pray in a separate hall, all clad in the dignified traditional hijab. The melodious recitation of the azan sends a quiver through your heart. The salah (ritual prayer) is with full concentration. After the salah, the dua (invocation) is long and fervent. Tasbeeh (rosaries) with 100 beads are distributed to recite Sub'hanallah: Glory be to Allah (33 times), Alhamdulillah: All praise is for Allah (33 times), and Allahu Akbar: Allah is Great (34 times). After every congregational salah, and after every four raka'ah of Taraweh in the month of Ramadhan, there is congregational salawaat (invocation of blessings) on the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. And after the congregational dua, you can obtain audio casettes on the life-histories of the awliyaAllah like Ibrahim ibn Ad'ham and Bishr al-Hafi, may Allah be pleased with them. 

Many other masajid and musallas have been established in Toronto in the Ahl us Sunnah wal Jama'ah tradition among which are the Sunnatul Jamat Masjid, the Imdad ul Islam Masjid, the International Muslims Organisation Masjid, the Uthman Gauthi Masjid, Masjid Noorul Haram of the World Islamic Mission, as well as Islamic centres by Minhaj ul Qur'an, Dar ul Qur'an, Muslims of the Americas, and the Jerrahi Sufi Order of Canada, among others.

Salutations of all the Muslims are for the khuddam (voluntary caretakers) of these masajid for keeping them speck clean at all times.

Most of these organisations also run madaris (Muslim religious schools) and some students have already become Hafiz-e-Qur'an, those who know the whole Qur'an by heart, especially from Muslims of the Americas. Some students go to Dar ul 'Ulum overseas like the Hijaz University of the IMO in England to become 'alim. Madrasa tul Hidaya organises Qur'an recitation, Hadith recitation and Qasida recitation programs among students. These days, the students have been trained to organise and conduct Madrasa Day Programs and to recite the whole of the Maulid un Nabi together with the qasaid and the madeeh (eulogies) all by themselves, Alhamdu Lillah!

The Visiting and Resident 'Ulama 

Toronto has also been blessed by the visiting 'ulama-e-haqq (scholars of truth). Among the most senior of these or representatives of their tariqas are:
  • Imam Muhammad bin 'Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani (from Makkah);
  • Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani Siddiqui al-Qadiri and Maulana Nasrullah Khan al-Qadiri (from Pakistan);
  • Maulana Na'eem Ashraf al-Qadiri and Sayed Mehboob Ali Shah Chishti (from India);
  • Al-Marhum Maulana 'AbdulWahhab Siddiqi al-Naqshbandi, Rahmatullahi 'alaih and Shaikh Muhammad Abubakar BaShuaib (from U.K);
  • Shaikh Mustafa Yucel al-Naqshbandi (from Germany);
  • Shaikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti, and 
  • Shaikh Salisu Shaban al-Tijani (from Ghana).
Faiz and barakat (blessings) have also been received from the visits of various other 'ulama (whose names are given here in alphabetical order according to country of origin).

From India: 

  • Maulana Sayed Muhammad Madani Ashrafi, 
  • Maulana Sayed Kalim Ashrafi, 
  • Maulana Sayed Muhammad Hashmi Ashrafi, 
  • Maulana Sayed Muhammad Jilani Ashraf Kachchochavi, 
  • Maulana Sayed Kamruddin Qadiri, 
  • Khawaja Khushhal Shah, and 
  • Sayed Abul Hasan Ashrafi;
From Netherlands: 
  • Hafiz Shaheed Siddiqui;
From Pakistan: 
  • Prof. Shah Faridul Haq, 
  • Maulana Ahsan Ilahi, 
  • Dr. Tahirul Qadiri, 
  • Maulana Qari Ghulam Rasul, 
  • Maulana Sayed Muhammad Taher Shah; and 
  • Maulana Ahmad Siddiqui;
From Trinidad: 
  • Maulana Siddiq Nasir;
From U.K: 
  • Maulana Qamar uz Zaman Azmi, 
  • Maulana Qari Khadim Husain Chishti, 
  • Maulana Shahid Raza, 
  • Maulana Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi, 
  • Zainul Aqtab Siddiqi and 
  • Nurul Aqtab Siddiqi;
From U.S.A: 
  • Shaikh Muhammad al-Akili, 
  • Dr. Hasan ud-Deen Hashmi, 
  • Maulana Husain Rizvi, 
  • Maulana Ghulam Yasin Qadiri Rizvi;
From Yemen: 
  • Sayyid Jufri al-'Alawi. 
Muslims of Toronto have also benefited immensely from the visits of scholars from U.S.A whose hearts Allah Ta'ala has opened to Islam, scholars such as Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Shaikh Hamza Yousef.

Muslim women have also been overjoyed with the visits of Dr. Farida Ahmad, an illustrious 'alimah from Pakistan, the daughter of Maulana 'Abdul Aleem Siddiqi. MaashaaAllah!

These 'ulama have drunk deep at the fount of Tawheed (Oneness of Allah) and when they go to preach to non-Muslims, they warn against shirk (polytheism) and expound on the blessings of Islam and when they address Muslims, they talk of the love of Allah Ta'ala and the love of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. They command great love and respect, as do the sayyid saadaat (descendants of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), and all elders in general. 

The 'ulama and mashaayikh are hosted by various Muslim fraternities, organisations and mosques. They deliver a khutbah (talk), establish a halaqa (circle) of zikr and maulid, and mobilise the mureedeen and muhibbeen to greater juhd (exertion). They expound on sound 'aqida (creed), shari'a (sacred Muslim law), tariqa (spiritual path), and ma'rifa (gnosis), that is, all the spiritual realities of Islam, and many of them draw huge crowds, especially among University students who eagerly await them to hear about the Ihya' of Imam al-Ghazali Rahmatullahi 'alaih or the Qasida tul Burda of Imam al-Buseeri Rahmatullahi 'alaih. From whichever part of the world they come, their language is the same, the language of Tasawwuf, the language of the inner spiritual dimension of Islam. Muslims of Toronto feel they are an international fraternity of muhibbeen of the Holy Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, spiritually linked to him through the baraka (blessings) of their shaikh

This feeling of international brotherhood has been strengthened with increasing access to the internet which links sufi tariqas across the world in the world wide web. Zikr groups that have developed web-sites are: 

'Alawiyyah (Iqra Islamic Publications)

Canadian Society of Muslims

Jerrahi Sufi Order of Canada
which is affiliated with The Jerrahi Order of America

Minhaj ul Qur'an

The Sufi Study Circle of the University of Toronto

World Islamic Mission

Among the resident senior 'ulama, imams and mashayikh are (in alphabetical order according to country of origin): Imam Hafiz 'AbdulHaleem 'Aleem (from Afghanistan), Imam Haji Shameer Khan and Imam Muhammad Yusuf (from Guyana), Syed Mumtaz Ali saheb (from India), Shaikh Yousef Bakhour and Imam Yusuf Chebli (from Labanon), Imam 'Abdulshakur Dulloo (from Mauritius), Maulana Qazi Bashiruddin Farooqui (from Pakistan), Shaikh Umar al-Qadiri (from Somalia), Shaikh Ahmad Talal (from Syria), and Imam Muzaffar Kosar (from Turkey).

Recently, the Muslims of Toronto suffered a great loss when Shaikh Hamid Jabir, Imam of Tariq Masjid passed away after performing Hajj and was laid to rest in Jannatul Baqi in Madinatul Munawwah. He was Hafiz Qur'an and a shaikh with the 'Alawi background who used to recite Waseelatush Shafi and Tabaraka Dhul 'Ulaa after Taraweh prayers in the month of Ramadhan. May Allah Ta'ala raise his daraja (rank) in Jannah, Aameen

Da'wa And Other Activities 

Among the Qadriyyah are those in an organisation called the Muslims of the Americas who are also in the forefront in most of the activities mentioned, but they do more. They preach to the non-Muslims of Toronto as well as in prisons, bringing Canadians into the fold of Islam. They know the most effective way of presenting Islam as they themselves have been converted to Islam. These are brothers and sisters of African descent in the Qadiriyyah Tariqa who cry out in loving agony from the bottom of their hearts when the Holy Prophet's name is mentioned. Their daily wird (regular voluntary recital) is Qaseeda Ghauthiyya of Shaikh 'Abdul Qadir Jilani Rahmatullahi 'alaih

The Sufi Study Circle does da'wa work in the University of Toronto in a different setting. At these study sessions in a quiet study room in a campus building that houses the International Students Centre of the University, the beauty of the teachings of Islam is shown through readings from classics of Muslim spirituality, followed by a question and answer session, and dua. If Allah so wills, the hearts of the non-Muslims who attend are opened to the nur (spiritual light) of Islam. 

The Canadian Society of Muslims continues its struggle with the Government of Canada for the right of Muslims to be judged according to shari'ah (sacred Muslim law). In this respect, Canada lags behind other countries such as India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, to name a few, which have separate courts for Muslims, with Kadhis (Muslim judges) who administer Muslim personal law. However, after years of effort, now there is a glimmer of hope. The Government of Ontario has begun to implement mandatory mediation across the province. To take advantage of this facility, an entirely new Islamic service has been launched in Canada called the "Muslim Marriage, Mediation And Arbitration Service".

The Canadian Society of Muslims, the Sufi Study Circle of the University of Toronto, and the Society For The Study of the Finite and the Infinite (SUFI) have more recently introduced live qawwali in Toronto which is a first for the whole of North America. This preserves the tradition of Maulana Mu'inuddin Chishti Rahmatullahi 'alaih who introduced qawwali in India to bring Indians into the fold of Islam. It is done with adab (respect and proper etiquette) under the supervision of the shaikh who explains that the main aim of the qawwali is to develop a yearning to be a good Muslim. The qawwal do not receive remuneration, no funds are raised, no fame is sought, only the love of Allah.

Then we have a one-hour sehri program on Radio Pakistan in Toronto, which wakes up Muslims for Tahajjud and sehri at around 4:30 a.m. every day in the month of Ramadhan. Muslims hear the azan on radio, recitation of Qur'an, khutbah (sermon), and qaseedas and qawwalis, which rejuvenate them to greater 'ibadah (worship) in the month of Ramadhan. Since then, many similar programs have come up.

Not to be forgotten are the pioneering efforts of Nur-e-Islam Canada, the first to organise Muslim burial in a proper manner and have a separate burial place for Muslims in Toronto. This is another example which shows that the Ahl us-Sunnah lead and others follow. 

Another thing worthy of note is that those in the sufi tradition are truly united on the sunnah of sighting the moon: they start Ramadhan when the new moon is sighted and celebrate 'Eid on sighting the new moon. Al-Fateha!

All Muslim organisations are also active in raising funds for the rehabilitation of refugees in Canada and for the oppressed Muslims in Bosnia, Kashmir, India, Palestine and other places. Among various other charitable projects is help for the homeless. May Allah Ta'ala protect all the Muslims and may He put the nur (light) of Islam into the hearts of non-Muslims, Aameen Ya Rabbal 'Aalameen.

Classics of Muslim Spirituality 

The Qur'an Kareem, kutub (books) of Hadith Shareef and their translations have for long been generally available in Toronto. Now, the classics of Muslim spirituality written by mashayikh (spiritual masters) in the original as well as their translations, are gaining popularity, and are generally available in all Muslim bookstores. For the sake of brevity, I will mention just one classic each of some of the mashayikh to gain baraka (blessings).
Among the more ancient classics are: 
  • Hilyatul Awliya wa Tabaqaatul Asfiya (The Adornment of the Saints and the Ranks of the Spiritual Elite), of Imam Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani;
  • Al-Risala fi 'Ilm al-Tasawwuf (The Treatise About Knowledge Of The Sufi Lifestyle), of Imam Abu'l Qasim al-Qushayri;
  • Kashf al-Mahjub (The Unveiling of the Mystery), of Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh Ali al-Hujwiri;
  • Ihya' 'Ulum al-Deen (The Revival of the Religious Sciences), of Hujjatul Islam Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali; 
  • Ghunyat al-Talibeen (Wealth For Spiritual Seekers), of Gauth ul A'zam Muhyuddin Shaikh 'AbdulQadir Jilani,
  • Awarif al-Ma'arif (The Gifts of Gnosis), of Imam Shihabuddin Suhrawardi;
  • Azkaar (Supplications), of Muhyuddin Imam Yahya bin Sharaf an-Nawawi;
  • Hizb ul A'zam (The Great Supplication), of Hazrat Mulla 'Ali Al-Qaari;
  • Mathnawi (Rhyming Couplets), of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi;
  • Champay Dhee Bootee (The Jasmine Plant), of Sultan Bahu;
  • Maulid un Nabi Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, of Imam as-Sayyid Ja'far al-Barzanji
  • Risalatul Mu'awanah (The Book of Assistance), of Sayyidi wa Imami Maulana 'Abdallah bin 'Alawi al-Haddad;
may Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala be pleased with them all, Aameen.

Among some of the more recent classics are:

  • Simtud Durar  (A Necklace of Pearls), of Sayyidunal Imam 'Ali bin Muhammad al-Habshi;
  • Mukhul Ibadah (The Essence of Worship), anonymous;
  • Fuyudhaatur Rabbaniyyah (Overflowing Abundance From The Lord), of al-Haj Isma'il ibn As-Sayyid Muhammad Sa'eed al-Qadiri;
  • Hadaaiqi Bakhshish (Gardens of Gifts), of A'la Hazrat Imam Ahmad Raza Khan;
  • Jawhar un Nafees (Precious Jewellery) of Shaikh Uways ibn Muhammad;
  • Majmu'ah Mushtamilah (A Comprehensive Compilation), of Shaikh AbdulRahman bin Ahmad al-Zayla'iyy;
  • Daleelil 'Ibaad Ilaa Sabil ir Rashad (Proof For People On The Right Path), of Shaikh al-Haaj Sufi;
  • Irshad (Spiritual Guidance) of Shaikh Muzaffar Ozak al-Jerrahi;
  • Anwaar ul Muhammadiyyah (The Muhammadan Lights) of Imam Yusuf ibn Isma'il an-Nabhaani;
  • Zikr-e-Habib (The Remembrance of the Beloved Prophet, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), of Maulana 'Abdul 'Aleem Siddiqi;
  • Faizaane Sunnat (The Blessings of the Beloved Prophet's Lifestyle), of Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Attaar Qadiri;
  • The Most Beautiful Names, of Shaikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti;
  • Abwaab ul-Faraj (Doors of Comfort) of Imam Muhammad bin 'Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani;
  • Qutuf u'r Rabi' Fee Qasaid Mad'h Taahaa'sh Shafi' (The Harvest of Rabi' al-Awwal in the Eulogies of Taahaa The Intercessor), of Al-'Allamah Ustadh Muhammad Shareef Sa'eed al-Beidh;
  • Ad-Durrul Munaddad Fee Seerati Sayyidina Muhammad (A String of Pearls in the Life-History of Our Master Muhammad), of Shaikh Muhammad 'Abdallah Shaddad bin 'Umar Baa 'Umar;
  • Nahjul Burda Fee Mad'h Khairil Anaam (Following the Burda in Praising The Best of Mankind), of Shaikh Hasan Muhammad 'Abdallah Shaddad bin 'Umar Baa 'Umar; and
  • Miftah ul Jannah (The Key To Paradise), of Sayyidi wa Imami al-Habib Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha al-Haddad;
May Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala be pleased with them all and make us benefit from them, Aameen.

Of the classics just mentioned, the most widely read among both Muslims and non-Muslims in the U.S is the Mathnawi (Rhyming Couplets) of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, while the fastest selling book among the Muslims of U.K is Miftahul Jannah (The Key to Paradise) of Sayyidunal Imam al-Habib Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha al- Haddad, Naf'an Allahu Bih.

The University of Toronto library houses most of these and many more in almost one whole floor of stacks and stacks of books on Islam. When you reference these, you are convinced once and for all that since the time of Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, the sufi tradition in the Ahl us Sunnah wal Jama'ah has been the dominant tradition among Muslims. Various minor sects have come up as in all religions but they have been short-lived. The nur (spiritual light) generated by the love of the noble Prophet Muhammad-e-'Arabi Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam automaticallay hands the torch of Islam to the sufis and their disciples to carry, and to spread Islam in all the corners of the globe. 

As a result of the general availability of classics of Muslim spirituality, a spiritually-laden vocabulary is gaining ascendancy. Words and phrases like adab (spiritual courtesy and etiquette), mureed (spiritual seeker), muhibb (loving disciple), Huququllah (rights of Allah Ta'ala on us), huququl 'ibaad (the rights of servants of Allah on us), tazkiyatun nafs (purification of the ego/self), tasfiyatul qalb (cleansing of the heart), ikhlas (sincerity), ihsan (spiritual excellence), ilham (inspiration), fee Hubirrasul (for the love of the Holy Prophet), fana Fillah (annihilation of one's ego for the sake of Allah), 'ainil haqeeqa (the eye of the heart that sees spiritual realities), tazkiratul awliya (narrations about sufi saints), 'arifeen (knowers by direct illumination), siddiqeen (true saints), tawakkul (total reliance on Allah), Ridhallah (for the Pleasure of Allah), and husnul khatimah (felicitous end) are beginning to be understood and appreciated. 

Hawl, Ziyara and 'Urs Shareef 

Maulid un Nabi celebrations and annivarsary celebrations of Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon them) are well-known. More recently, the celebration of the 'Urs of the awliya (sufi saints) has gained momentum in Toronto. Muslims gather to celebrate the successful completion of the life of a waliyAllah (friend of Allah). Such a gathering is referred to as 'Urs among the Urdu speaking Muslims, and hawl or ziyara, among those who speak Arabic. Khatme Gauthiyya Shareef in honour of Muhyuddin Shaikh 'Abdul Qadir Jilani Rahmatullahi 'alaih is most popular. As well, among many such celebrations, we have the 'Urs Shareef (hawl/ziyara) of:
  • Hazrat Khwaja Uthman Harwani, Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, Hazrat Khwaja Sabir Kalyari, and Dr. Qadeer Baig, (by the Canadian Society of Muslims in conjunction with the Sufi Study Circle of the University of Toronto);
  • Khawaja 'Abdul Rahman Chohravi, Sayyid Ahmad Shah and Hazrat Tayyib Shah (by Silsila-e-'Aliyyah Qadiriyyah); 
  • A'la Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan and Maulana 'Abdul 'Aleem Siddiqi al-Qadiri (by the World Islamic Mission);
  • Maulana 'Abdul Wahab Siddiqi (by the International Muslims Organisation among the Naqshbandiyyah), and
  • Shaikh Uways bin Muhammad al-Barawi al-Qadiri, Shaikh al-Haaj Sufi, and Shaikh 'AbdulRahman az-Zayla'iyy (among the Qadiriyyah);
  • Al-Habib Maulana 'Abdallah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad, al-Habib Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha al-Haddad, and al-Habib Imam 'Ali bin Muhammad al-Habshi (by the 'Alawiyyah); 



    Naf'anAllahu bihim, Aameen. 
    May Allah, The Glorified and The Exalted make us benefit from them, Aameen.

At such gatherings of devotees, there is khatme Qur'an Kareem or recitation of Surah Yaa Seen, Zikr of Allah Ta'ala, recitation of qaseedas and a talk on the life history of the waliyAllah (friend of Allah). 

Al Hamdu Lillah, the sufi tradition in Toronto is in full flourish. The dua of Maulana 'Abdul 'Aleem Siddiqi Rahmatullahi 'alaih and the juhd (spiritual exertion) of Dr. Qadeer Baig Rahmatullahi 'alaih are bearing fruit. May Allah Ta'ala lead us all to strive more in His Path, may all the shayaateen be defeated and may only the love of Allah Ta'ala, of his Beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, of the Ahlul Bayt (his blessed Household), of the Sahaba (his companions) and of the awliya Allah (Friends of Allah) remain, Aameen, Yaa Rabbal Aalameen.

Toronto, 1416/1995
Updated, 1420/1999

Note: This article was first published in:

Newsletter, Canadian Society of Muslims, Toronto, 1995.
The Message, World Islamic Mission, Toronto, No. 6, Rabi' ul Awwal 1416/Aug 1995.
The Islamic Times, Raza Academy, Stockport, U.K, 1995.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Syed Mumtaz Ali saheb for many helpful comments.