Kassamali Chandoo (Maalim)
Tribute by Alhaj Hassan Ali M. Jaffer of Mombasa, Kenya
A teacher is known by the footprint left behind. This extraordinary footprint is sometimes in the mind. Rarely is it made on the soul. I had the privilege to know marhum Maalim Kassamali Chandoo. As a tribute to his memory, I wish to recall two incidents.
In 1997, while on a visit to Qom with my four grandchildren from the USA and Canada, we went over to see Maalim at his residence in Qom.When he learned that we had earlier been for Umra before coming to Iran, he asked the boys to explain what 'Saee' – running between Safa and Marva seven times - was about.The boys explained that it was in remembrance of Bibi Hajra as she ran around in search of water for her son Ismail that the ritual of 'Saee' has become an obligatory part of the Haj and Umra ritual.
The word 'Saee' in Arabic means to strive. "So what is so great about it?" asked Maalim. "As kids, have you never woken up your mothers in the middle of the night asking for water? And have not your mothers patiently got out of their beds to fetch water for you? Is it not natural for any mother to comfort her child? Confronted with a similar situation like that of Bibi Hajra, would not your mothers also gone through similar experience? What is the difference? Why has Allah immortalized only the act of the mother of Hazrat Ismail as part of the Hajj ritual?" As we stared at Maalim looking perplexed at this line of questioning, he proceeded to unravel the puzzle.'When Hazrat Ebrahim told Bibi Hajra that he had to go, leaving her and the baby Ismail in Mecca, as a mother, she naturally remonstrated. She asked Hazrat Ebrahim whether the decision to leave them alone in Mecca, a barren place with no vegetation, was his own or was it in response to the command from Allah.When told that he was following Allah's command, Bibi Hajra gracefully accepted the verdict, reposing full faith in Allah.
'It was in recognition to her trust in Allah in the spirit of tawakkal 'alallah and her graceful acceptance of the decision of Hazrat Ebrahim to depart from Mecca leaving them behind that her subsequent struggle in search of water has been immortalized as part of the Haj ritual.' Mallim Kassamali then went on to elaborate aspects of our belief in Tawhid and engaged the children in a healthy interactive discussion on a variety of subjects.
After about two hour sitting, when we started departing from the place, one of the boys whispered into my ears: "Bapa, can you ask him to come to New York and be our Madrassa teacher?" I conveyed the sentiments to Maalim. His response was: 'Al insanu yudabbiru, wallahu yuqaddiru' – Man proposes, Allah disposes.
Another incident I vividly recall was in June 1993 / Muharram 1413 A.H., when Mallim Kassamali was invited by the Mombasa Jamaat to deliver Majlis in English. He was allotted 20 minutes for his talk in English, followed by Majlis in Urdu by the local resident Alim. According to Sheikh Fazleabbas Datoo, then CEO of the Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya and now Resident Alim of Portsmouth Jamaat in Britain, Mallim Kassamali would come to Bilal Muslim Mission Office at day time. He would engage in conversation with local Bilal Muballighs and others coming from Bilal Centers in rural areas. He was keen to hear of their personal experiences in their field work.
As a Zanzibari, Maalim Kassamali was fluent in Kiswahili. With his characteristic warmth and motivating words of encouragement conveyed in classic Zanzibari style politeness, Maalim Kassamali became very popular with local workers. He also visited the Alibhai Panju Jaffery Primary School where he addressed students in a special assembly.
On Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. till 12 noon, he would conduct classes at the Bilal Assembly Hall for the Primary and Secondary class students. His theme for discussions with the students would be "lessons from Quran" - focusing on moral lessons and good manners.
As a teacher he believed in practicing what he taught. According to reports from Dar es Salaam, when he was teaching at the Al Muntazir School, he was often seen picking up pieces of paper and wrappings thrown around and depositing them in the litter bins. In the spirit of actions speak louder than words; he was thus imparting subtle lessons to students without uttering a word.
Word of caution
Someone from outside Mombasa wrote to my late father cautioning him about the beliefs of Mallim Kassamali. My father listened to all his English Majlis and wrote back to the erstwhile gentleman advising him that he found nothing objectionable in the beliefs and teachings of Mallim Kassamali since all through he espoused the understanding in Tawhid and the need for living a model life as a truly practicing Muslim. Reproduced below are notes of one of his Majlis in English targeting especially the younger generation which will help provide some flavour of his approach.
Before his departure from Mombasa after the twelve days of Muharram, my father invited Maalim Kassamali to settle in Mombasa and join the Bilal Muslim Mission team."To do what?" asked Maalim. "No fixed duty for you. Just to be part of the team. Meet visitors coming to Bilal Office. Help answer questions from students undertaking Islamic correspondence course. Visit Bilal Centers in the outlying area and interact with local people." My father felt that his basic humility and the husne akhlaq refinement with which he interacted with people would be an asset to the Mission for effective Tabligh work.
Here one is reminded of an historic anecdote when an individual approached Imam Jaffer Sadiq A.S., to ask: 'Who is a true Shia, a true muhib and follower of the Ahlul Bait?' The answer given by the Imam was unique. 'One,' responded the Imam, 'when he walks in the streets, his sworn enemy would point a finger at him and say: 'There goes a perfect gentleman with no fault whatsoever, except one. He is not one of us but he is a true Shia and follower of the Imam.'
As individuals the challenge for every believer is to strive to elevate to a level where one becomes the object of envy by others for his/her good conduct and noble characters.
Late Maalim Kassamali Chandoo epitomized such a noble soul. He left an indelible footprint on many souls he came across. May Allah in His mercy rest the departed soul in peace and place marhum in high abode in jaware Ahlul Bait A.S.
June, 1993. Muharram, 1413 A.H.
Notes for the 3rd night Majlis in English delivered by Maalim Kassamali Chandoo at Hyderi Imambara, Mombasa.
Notes for Muharram Majlis in English
To Follow the Example of Imam Hussein (as)
1. a) Coming out in the way of Allah (KHURUJ FI SABILILLAH): (FROM MADINA TO KERBALA).
- b) To recommend and encourage good actions, and to forbid and discourage bad actions, (Amrabil Maroof and Nahya anil Munkar).
- c) To remind people to obey the orders of Allah in the Hold Quran, and to follow the way of Life (Sunna) of Prophet Muhammed (saww) (To help them build confidence in the hereafter) (Kitabullah and Sunnatu Rasulillah).
We should all make Niyyat of coming out in the way of Allah. Even if we die on our beds, we shall be in the company of the martyrs (SHUHADAA)
2. a) To Pray in time – the first best action
- b) To be good to parents – the second best actions
- c) To make effort for the spread of Islam (JIHAD)
The significance of Muahrram Majlis is to prepare us for Jihad. It is a PETROL station where our car is serviced, filled with petrol, and ready to call people to Allah.
In Ziyarat Waaritha, we say to Imam Hussein (as): "You prayed in time, paid Zakat, recommended good actions, forbade bad actions, obeyed Allah and His messenger until the end of your Life"
SO we should do the same. Our success in this world, and the hereafter is in obeying the commandments of Allah (the Holy Quran and in following the way of life (SUNNA) of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his AHLUL BAYT (as)
The English people have a proverb: "ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS". If we ourselves pray in time, we are on the road of helping Imam Hussein (as). On the ASHURA DAY, the 10th of Muharram 61 AH, Imam Hussein is calling people to Islam.
I finished my secondary school in Zanzibar in 1957. I worked as a clerk in the Education Department in Zanzibar (during the British rule) until July 1960. In August, 1960, I was granted a U.S government scholarship and went to USA for studies. To say good-bye to me, the Education Department invited me to a tea-party. While drinking tea, a Sunni friend (an African, he was the Office Superintendent) whispered to me; "Mr Chandoo, don't forget your daily prayers when you are in USA" My mother gave me a small Quran in Arabic, and said to me: "Daily read the Holy Quran". So that Sunni friend was Helper of Imam Hussein, because he CALLED ME TO ISLAM. My mother was a helper of Imam Hussein, because she called me to Islam. I followed their advice.
My American room-mate in the dormitory (in Reed College, Portland, Oregon) became interested in Islam when he saw in me a particular pattern in my life. I was regular in my prayers, and I used to read 5 verses from the Holy Quran after my dawn prayers. (I read the five verses with English translation, which I bought from the college book-shop- a Mentol paper back: "THE MEANING OF THE GLORIOUS KORAN" by Mohamed Marmaduke Pickthall, an English man who converted to Islam and translated the Quran).
One day, this American student asked me a number of questions on Islam. I answered them. At the end, he said: "Kas, I wish I were a Muslim." Next morning, while reading my normal five verses, the second verse said: "It may be that the disbelievers will wish that they were Muslims.
(Ch.15. Verse No.2) (RUBAMA YAWADDU LLAZINA KAFARU LAW KAANU MUSLIMIN). I said to myself: "SADAQALLAH!!!
Allah has spoken the truth.
I studied in USA for six years, from 1960 to 1966. It was in USA, that I became fully convinced of the Universal truth of Islam and that all mankind must be called to "LA ILAHA ILLALLAH and MUHAMMADUN RASULULLAH".
And this is the help that Imam Hussein needs from us daily and wherever we are.
Every day is ASHURA and every land is KARBALA: KULLU YAWMIN AASHURA KULU ARZIN KARBALA.
I got my B.A degree in History in June 1964 (University of Minnesota). I returned to Zanzibar immediately to sever my own country by teaching. In September, 1964 I returned to USA with another Scholarship to do M.A in Education. On my way to New York, I had to change flight in Paris. It was noontime. I said my Noon and Afternoon prayers (ZUHR & ASR prayers) in one corner at the transit lounge). After my prayer, as I was relaxing on my seat, feeling happy and thankful to Allah for helping me to say my prayers, an English gentleman came to me and politely and gently asked me: "Excuse me, Sir, may I know what religion is that? By "that", he was definitely referring to my standing, sitting, bowing and prostrating in the prayer)!!
I said, "That is Islam."
Was not my praying in time at the airport, Help to Imam Hussein? Someone came to know something of ISLAM!!
My regular prayer and reading of the Quran during my six years of studies in USA helped me:
1) To get many wonderful blessings and meet many wonderful people, and
2) To keep away from sinful living, and
3) To be patient and steadfast during the storms and problems of life.
I used to make my own Christmas cards, by typing on them verses 16 to 34 of chapter 19 of the Holy Quran (Sura MARYAM, describing the birth of Jesus Christ). One Lady from Kansas (who had come to receive me at the Airport when I first arrived in Kansas to do USA orientation Program for new students in August 1960) wrote to me: "Thank you for your Christmas card. While reading the birth of Jesus as described in the Holy Quran, I could not help my eyes outflowing with tears".
During one Christmas vacation, an American family in Portland (Oregon) invited me to stay with them (they were Christian scientists). One morning, as I was reading the Holy Quran, my host wanted to hear a few verses. I read them, and he said: "Is this what the KORAN says? This is exactly what Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy says in her book......" and I saw, to my surprise, tears in his eyes. The Holy Quran says: When they listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you will see their eyes well up with tears because of the truth they recognize." (5:83)
We must get up early in the morning, at dawn for morning prayers and reading of the Holy Quran. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: "Poverty will never touch a Muslim who gets up at dawn for prayers. "RIZQ" (provisions, sustenance will run after him/her instead of he/she running after "RIZQ". And Allah will help him/her achieve what his or her heart desires." As an example, Prophet Adam (as) was dropped on earth alone and Lady Hawa was dropped at some other place. Suffering from deep sense of loneliness, he was looking for Lady Hawa. One morning, at dawn, after his prayers, he came down the hill, and there, at the base, he found Lady Hawa.
Also, Prophet Muhammed (saww) put great emphasis on praying in time at sun-set. He said: "Run towards MAGHRIB prayer, even before the sun sets, like a goat runs when it hears the roaring of a lion." He also said: "Don't delay your sun-set prayer to the point of darkness. You may be resurrected on the Day of Judgment with dark faces".
(LAA TUSAWWIDUL MAGHRIBA, FA YUSAWWIDULLAHU WUJUHAKUM YAWMAL QIYAMA). Also, the Prophet said: "If you pray MAGHRIB prayer in time, Allah will make fail the plans of your enemies against you". As an example, he said the enemies of Prophet Jesus Christ (as) planned to hand him on the cross. (The DEATH OF CURSED PERSON) instead of taking Jesus, the enemies took by mistake one from among the enemies and dragged him to the cross. At that time the sun was setting, while Prophet Jesus was somewhere else praying his MAGHRIB prayers.
Our enemies may be human beings, disease germs, soldiers of the Devil, psychological diseases like depression, etc. But they will never succeed to harm us, if we pray MAGHRIB prayer in time. So when we go driving, cycling, or walking in the afternoon, alone or with our family, let us enjoy the very healthy sunshine of the afternoon, but let us make sure we return before sun-set, for our prayers in time.