Obituary of Shaykh Zakaria ibn 'Umar Bagharib (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib (q.s.) was my first shaykh and guide of the Path.  A long time ago, I gave the bay’ah, the re-enactment of Hudaibiyyah to the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order, the Keepers of the Golden Chain.  This was before my official conversion to Islam.

“The son of a wali, of the sons of awliya’,
The student of awliya’, of the students of awliya’,
The teacher of awliya’, of the teachers of awliya’.”

He was of a spiritual lineage that goes back to Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.), the First of the Khulafah ar-Rashidin, Mentioned in the Qur’an as “One of Two in the Cave”, the Affirmer of Muhammad (s.a.w.) after the Isra' wa al-Mi'raj.  His was a state of hal hidden, of a maqam secluded, and a darajat secret.  But to the Knowers, he was the Keeper of Secrets.  He was my beloved shaykh.  He was my light to the Light.

Allah (s.w.t.) has Blessed me in that I have studied at the feet of many, and I have taken from many more.  But whenever I fell from the Path, whenever I undertook a burden beyond what I could, whenever I became a swineherd dancing away from Haqq; it was Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) who brought me back to the fold.

According to Shaykh ‘Abd al-Maqsud al-Hasani (q.s.), his was the passing of a shahid.  According to Shaykh Adnan al-Qabbani, it was the passing of a wali.  To me, he was as my shaykh.  And whatever I have learned and practiced over the years, it is from him and may the barakah of these actions reach him.  I never shed more than two tears in public in all my life, until I carried his body.  He was my shaykh, and he will be greatly missed.

“We are Travellers of the Way.
And this world will pass away.
We are sleepers dreaming.
As time is streaming.

Until the Day of Standing,
Until the Call of Rising.
Where every soul will know its worth,
That we are nothing but earth.

And we are called not to the Garden,
Neither is the Fire a Burden.
We are called to the Presence,
A Return to the Essence.”

Shaykh Zakaria ibn ‘Umar Bagharib (q.s.), the authorised representative, wakil in Singapore, for Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani al-Qubrusi an-Naqshbandi (q.s.).  The following was prepared by Noor Mohamed and edited by Mohamed Nassir.

“O the brilliance of the moon!
Even shinier than that golden spoon!
Glad tidings!  O what a boon!
Whirling and dancing to the soul’s tune!

O that rare unique star!
Shaykh Nazhim’s Singapore car!
At times, strange and bizarre!
The best we have seen here so far!

O Lord!  Grant him good health and long-life,
And strengthen his will to survive,
We are bees in need of this hive!
A conduit of spiritual honey for life.

Laa ilaha illa Allah
Laa ilaha illa Allah
Laa ilaha illa Allah
Muhammadar Rasulullah

He was born as Zakaria ibn ‘Umar Bagharib (q.s.), on 19th March 1936, to an Arab family of twelve siblings, six boys and six girls, whose roots were from Tarim, Yemen, Hadramaut.  He was the youngest.

His late father, Shaykh ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdullah Bagharib (q.s.), served the community as imam of Khadijah Mosque, then called “Masjid Bagharib”, situated at Geylang Road, for 32 years.  Being a contemporary of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Salim al-‘Aththas (q.s.), Shaykh ‘Umar (q.s.) played a major role in the development of the famous Ba’alwie Mosque located at Lewis Road off Bukit Timah Road.

The family tree of Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) connects to a 5th generation Wali Quthb whose name is identical to that of Shaykh Zakaria’s (q.s.) late father, Shaykh ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdullah Bagharib (q.s.), Swahib al-Kanziyyah asw-Swiddiqiyyah al-Kubra’.  He had been Blessed by Allah (s.w.t.) with a spiritual maqam in the same level as that of Abu Bakr as-Swiddiq (r.a.), the first caliph of Islam.  This was related by Shaykh ‘Umar al-Khathib (q.s.) to Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib (q.s.).

Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) lived with his wife Ummi ‘Aishah bint ‘Umar Said Makarim, to whom he had been happily married for the past 51 years.  They are blessed with five children, four girls and a boy; Sabah, Shirin, - the eldest daughter, Gusti Sabah - the 2nd daughter, 3rd son - Omar, 4th daughter - Thuraiya and his youngest daughter - Aiman.

He had his early secular education in the Geylang, Telok Kurau and Kota Raja Schools in Singapore including four years of Islamic Education at the al-Khairiah Islamic School, Madrasah al-Khairiah al-Islamiah, which still exist today at 152, Still Road.

Later, he undertook 3 years of full-time study at The Sultan Idris Training College and thereafter, studied law at the University of Singapore from 1961 to 1965.  In 1966, he was offered a teaching job and served as lecturer at the Teachers’ Training College in Paterson Road.  Two of his students today are prominent figures in Singapore.  They are Yatiman Yusof, a former Member of Parliament; and Ma’arof Salleh, former President of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

He furthered his education at The Concordia University in Montreal, Canada from 1972 to 1976, where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, majoring in Accountancy and Business Administration.  He commenced his Masters Degree but had to end it prematurely because of extenuating circumstances.  For nineteen years, Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) also learnt intensively various Islamic sciences like Arabic language, Arabic grammar, taswawwuf, fiqh, hadits and tafsir under the tutelage of arguably the most eminent of Islamic scholars in Singapore, Shaykh ‘Umar al-Khathib (q.s.).

Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) taught the Islamic sciences at private centres and Darul Arqam, The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore and was among their most accomplished teachers.  Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) was fluent English, Malay, Arabic and French.

He travelled in 1990 and had the good fortune to meet the 40th Master of the Esteemed Naqshbandi Sufi Order, Shaykh Muhammad Nazhim Adil al-Haqqani al-Qubrusi (q.s.) in his hometown in Lefke, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  In 1994, he met Shaykh Nazhim’s (q.s.) deputy, Shaykh Hisham Qabbani in Kuala Lumpur, who informed Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) had given permission for him to pledge allegiance to the Prophet (s.a.w.) through Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.), and to be Shaykh Nazhim’s (q.s.) representative in Singapore.  Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) was overwhelmed with tears of joy upon hearing it.

Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) then commenced the regular Naqshbandi dzikr with a small group of people.  And the group steadily grew larger and larger.  Today there is a regular attendance of about 150 to 200 people for the Naqshbandi weekly dzikr.

Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib (q.s.) was fortunate to have been in contact with many holy personalities and saints since he was very young.  In 1942, a Sufi master, Mawlana ‘Abd al-‘Alim asw-Siddiq (q.s.), was in Singapore on a missionary visit.  Mawlana ‘Abd al-‘Alim asw-Siddiq (q.s.) appointed Shaykh Zakaria’s (q.s.) father, Shaykh ‘Umar Bagharib (q.s.) as his khalifah for the Qadiri thariqah.  Once at the age of six, Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) was in the presence of Mawlana ‘Abd al-‘Alim asw-Swiddiq (q.s.) and was personally spoon-fed by Mawlana ‘Abd al-‘Alim asw-Swiddiq (q.s.) with a local delicacy called ‘suji’ and along with his barakah or spiritual blessings.

Today, the Abdul Aleem Siddique Mosque stands at No. 90, Lorong K Telok Kurau, in memory of this sacred figure, who although had an Indian background, but was of Arab descent with a noble lineage directly to Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.).

The late founder of Singapore’s Ba’alwie Mosque, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Salim al-‘Aththas (q.s.) was very fond of the young Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) and used to affectionately call him, “Ya Afrit, ta’al, ta’al” meaning “O Afrit, come here.”

In the year 2004, during the month of Rajab, Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) was especially selected by Shaykh Hisham Qabbani, amongst twenty other Naqshbandi muridun to perform seclusion in Bogor, Cikreteg, located on a mountain.  There were many seclusion chambers there, specially built for khalwat, seclusion.

Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.), the only Singaporean, and nineteen other khalwatiyyun were scheduled to do seclusion for forty days.  They were all under the care and guidance of Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.).  The khalwatiyyun had to adhere strictly to the rules of seclusion, such as: to perform ghusl before each fardh swalah; to perform daily dzikr of the names of Allah (s.w.t.), in the hundreds of thousands, as prescribed; to recite daily the Dala’il al-Khayrat and thousands of swalawat; have food served daily in very small portions at the morning and evening only; and no interaction with anyone.

During one of the days during seclusion, as recalled by Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.), his ego was smashed, knocking him out for a few minutes.  After regaining consciousness, he then felt a collar round his neck being pulled.  As he looked up, he then saw Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  He could not see the face of the Prophet (s.a.w.) but he knew it was the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).  On the 20th day of seclusion, Shaykh Hisham arrived and he saw many colourful lights.  Due to the bond and affection with Shaykh Hisham, they both enjoyed each other’s presence.

During the last day of seclusion, a strange event occurred, in that, it was dry and there was no water supply.  Therefore, the khalwatiyyun were in a dilemma, contemplating the seclusion rule that a bath is compulsory before each obligatory prayer.  However, with the Will of Allah (s.w.t.), a heavy downpour ensued and it rained heavily, providing sufficient water supply once again.  The khalwatiyyun completed the whole forty-day seclusion process successfully, except for three individuals who could not complete the exercise.

Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib (q.s.) returned to Allah Almighty on Friday 25th September 2009 / 6th Shawwal, 1430 AH, at about 1000h.  At least a thousand people prayed at his funeral prayer, conducted at Sultan Mosque.  He was then buried at Singapore’s Muslim cemetery at Jalan Bahar.

Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib (q.s.) was an affable man, easily loved by anyone who meets him.  He had a good sense of humour, although he can be very serious especially in matters of the faith.  His personable character and charm has attracted many converts and born-Muslims to an appreciation of the beauty of Islam.

He had a fulfilling life that spanned an illustrious academic teaching career, interesting business endeavours, and a religious and spiritual teaching passion.  Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) will be deeply missed by hundreds of people, especially the followers and students of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

There are many stories I remember about my Shaykh.  I remember him telling us how when he was younger, he wanted to take bay’ah with Shaykh ‘Umar (q.s.).  Shaykh ‘Umar told him, “Ya Zakaria. This is too difficult for you.  Try something easier, like Naqshbandi.”  This foretold his future association.

Shaykh Ahmad ‘Arif told us that in 1996, he was in Tarim with Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.).  They were on the way to a mawlid when they were brought to the Madrasah Bagharib, where his forefathers taught Qur’an.  The Bagharib shuyukh are renowned for their knowledge of Qur’an, from recitation to exegesis to the depths of its secrets.  This was the place where Imam al-Haddad learned and memorised the Qur’an along with 5,000 others.  Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) was given the key to the gate and the title “Mu’alim at-Tarimi”.  They entered the old madrasah and Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.) led them as they recited Rathib al-Haddad.  The awliya’ were in attendance.  We were told, “You do not know the maqam of your shaykh.”

He was my wakil when I got engaged for the first time and my witness when I got married.  He was there when I gave my bay’ah and he was there when I retook my shahadah after I came back to Islam.  Truly, he was an ‘alim to be reckoned with.  Behind the smiles and laughter, he was a steely man.  I have seen him take on the Qadiani and the Salafi, the reformist and the fool.  He was fearless in the face of their heresies and unstinting in the defense of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the Diyn.  I know of no man who sang the mawlid with such love of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (q.s.) was the great-grand of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the greatest wali and scholar of his time.  Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (q.s.) took a promise with all the people under him at the entrance of his house.  They were his scribes, cooks, servants.  He made a pact that on the Day of Judgement, if any of them were late entering Jannah, the rest would wait for him.  And they would not enter the Gates until all of them were together.  “Come, let us pledge and promise that whoever among us will be Saved on the Day of Qiyamah, he will intercede on behalf of the others.”

The people who witnessed this asked, “O son of Rasulullah!  What need do you have for our intercession when your grandfather will be the intercessor for entire Creation?”

Imam Ja’far asw-Swadiq (r.a.) replied, “I feel ashamed of my deeds.  How can I look my grandfather in the face on the Day of Qiyamah?”

Shaykh Zakaria (q.s.), Shaykh Ahmad ‘Arif and some others made that same pledge.  That on the Day of Standing, they would wait until all of them were at the Gates before entering Paradise.  We never know who is the Dearest in the Eyes of Allah (s.w.t.).  And surely Allah (s.w.t.) does not deny his Lovers.  It is something very moving and very profound.  If one has seen even a glimpse of the Delights of the Garden, he would throw away everything in this world.  We are here for a short time only.  This is just the interval between wakefulness.  When we die, we will awaken. And Eternity beckons.  And with my Shaykh’s passing, this pledge was renewed amongst us.  And that is the hope for did not my Prophet (s.a.w.) say that surely, we will be Raised with the ones we love.


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