Situated in Durban, the financial capital of Natal province, the Darul Iftaa enjoys the privilege of being a retreat for thousands of Muslims. From being a training centre of iftaa to being a judiciary, the Darul Iftaa serves humanity globally.
Upon landing at Durban Airport, we were honoured with Hadhrat Mufti Ebrahim Desai Sahib (daamat barakatuhum) personally coming to receive and welcome us. Despite all the errands and work Hadhrat has, he still took out time and came with his small son to welcome us and take us to the Darul Iftaa. This really made me understand what humbleness is all about.
The first thought which processed and registered in the central cortex of my mind when sighting the Darul Iftaa was: I am in a 5 star hotel! True to the word, the Darul Iftaa is not the typical ‘Darul Uloom’. It is far beyond that. The facilities are impressive to say the least. It houses a reception, seating area, kitchen, 2 wudhu rooms, library, board room, dining hall, an en suite bedroom and 2 toilets. Each area has been designed to nurse their occupiers with the most comfort. The comfort and luxury is there to propel the student in excelling himself in the training of Iftaa. When all needs are taken care of, one can devote himself completely in search of knowledge.
The Darul Iftaa provides services and facilities to people from all walks of life. On a macro-level, it offers expert Shari’ah compliant banking and financial advice to major corporations and businesses. The Darul Iftaa draws and devises shariah compliant models and contracts for various companies. It helps in reconciling business and marital disputes. The objective of the Darul Iftaa is to facilitate healthy business and investment schemes into the current unhealthy and unwholesome global financial markets.
The Darul Iftaa publishes financial and spiritual magazines for the benefit of the ummah at large. The purpose is educational empowerment. A famous innovation of the Darul Iftaa is it’s daily emailing service known as BEEP’s (Business Educational Empowerment Project). The Darul Iftaa has a mailing list of thousands. On a daily basis, the Darul Iftaa sends out contemporary business related masa’il and other contemporary issues to its mailing list.
On a micro-level, it offers financial guidance and money managing advice. The Darul Iftaa helps draw up wills and provides estate distribution certificates. By means of the famous Askimam website, the students of the Darul Iftaa answer the questions of dozens of people daily. Approximately 123 countries use and pose questions on the Askimam website. The Askimam website receives upto 2000 hits daily.
The Darul Iftaa plays a three-dimensional role in my life; it is a madrasah, a khanqah and a home. I will explain each one in more detail.
The Darul Iftaa as a madrasah-student life at the Darul Iftaa
We wake up in the summer months approximately 4am as fajr is relatively earlier this time of the year. Fajr is performed in the local musjid, Musjid us Saliheen. This is the very same musjid Hadhrat Mufti Sahib (madda zilluhu) performs I’tikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan. After the fajr salaah, the students and the locals sit in the daily zikr majlis, which is spear-headed by Hadhrat.
After the zikr majlis, we are back at the Darul Iftaa. The students are free until 7am. Some opt to sleep, majority stay awake and engage in research and study. Every second is vital. Although Hadhrat Mufti sahib on seeing the tiredness on our faces encourages us to take a rest, the students try to emulate Hadhrat’s student days where he would sleep only 3-4 hours a day.
We have the kitchen at our disposal. A fully functioning kitchen! Between 5-7am, the kitchen usually has the most traffic. Some students fry their own eggs, others suffice on cereal, some make pancakes and others simply have a cup of tea! Those who are amateur cooks often burn their eggs!
By 7am, everyone is awake and engaged in studying. Each student has his own desk and space where he sits comfortably. The atmosphere is very mature and professional. Everyone is treated as an adult. The privilege a student entertains at the Darul Iftaa is like none other.
Although the Darul Iftaa is comparatively small, it has a total of 11 students: 7 in house and 4 commute. Hadhrat Mufti Sahib (daamat barakatuhum) has a vision to extend the Darul Iftaa in the near future. We make du’ā’ Allah Ta’ālā fufills the dream of Hadhrat. Amin.
At 8am, the formal hours of the Darul Iftaa commence with a one and a half hour session with Mufti Husain Kadodia Sahib (daamat barakatuhum). We are extremely fortunate to benefit from a scholar of his calibre. Mufti Husain Sahib has literally been to over 30 countries in search of knowledge. Such scholars are very rare to find walking on the surface of the Earth. He teaches a number of subjects and books. A salient feature of Mufti Husain Sahib’s class is the scholastic discussion which ensues as the lesson draws to an end. Just about any and every ancient and contemporary issue is debated and analysed in the discussion. The lesson usually ends at 10am.
At 10.30am, the students sit in the class of Hadhrat Mufti Ebrahim Sahib (hafizahullah). Hadhrat Mufti Sahib’s wealth of experience is manifest in these 45 minutes. The discussions, debates, reasoning, analogies, explanations, interpretations and analyses in these classes paint a picture of a class held in Baghdad or Kufa a thousand years ago. This period ends usually by 11.15am.
From 11.15am-12.15pm, students are usually engaged in their own research. Some are punching away at the keys of a laptop answering the questions they have received. Some are debating. One or two have a dozen books sprawled out in the library in search of one textual evidence for their answer. Others are engaged in researching, trying to fathom the question that has been asked. Every day, each student is given one question to answer. He has a deadline of 24 hours to complete the question. If one has not completed a question for whatever reason, one must report and explain why to Hadhrat Mufti Sahib. Usually, tackling contemporary issues and the research behind it requires many days. Hence, it is such questions which are backlogged.
Zuhr salaah is performed at 12.15pm, after which meals are served. Meals at the Darul Iftaa reminds me of the dishes of jannah daily! Really, the food is that good! Hadhrat Mufti Sahib’s dear family spend night and day in feeding the students. Allah Ta’ala reward Hadhrat’s family with happiness in this world and eternal bliss in the Hereafter. Ameen.
Unlike other institutes, every day the meal is different. There is no fixed menu. Desserts are a norm. Desserts in all shapes and sizes are happily digested by the students! I recall on numerous occasions, Hadhrat Mufti sahib walking into the Darul Iftaa unexpectedly out of meal times with some food or snack for the students. We are honestly provided with three course meals. Many of the dishes are such which we have never seen or heard of. The hadith regarding jannah is often quoted in the dining hall, “That which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and the thought of which has not transpired in any mind.” All this truly reflects Hadhrat Mufti Sahib’s and his dear family’s devotion and love for the students. For our comfort, they summon every strength within them.
The students usually rest after meals until 2pm. The day continues after 2pm with students engaged in their research.
At 3.30pm, the lecturing and teaching in Islamic Finance begins. This is the highlight of the day. Intellectual, ingenious and resourceful discussions take place on all contemporary financial matters. Books in the subjects are also used as a reference and a guide. The true understanding and experience of Hadhrat Mufti Sahib in dealing with the global financial industries is manifest in these lessons.
After class, from 4.30pm and onwards, the students are engaged in reading, researching and answering their allotted question. Every day, the students are obliged to read a minimum of 30 pages from Ahsan al-fatawa. After the completion of Ahsan al-fatawa, the students move on to study Fatawa Mahmudiyyah.
Like all universities and under-graduate/post-graduate courses, the students of the Darul Iftaa have been assigned with producing a thesis numbering at least 50 pages.
As dusk falls, the students are ever absorbed into their research and studies. When the clock strikes 12/12.30am, the majority of students are resting.
The Darul Iftaa is privileged with the constant flow of great Ulama from across the globe. The presence of such luminaries in the Darul Iftaa is surely a means of elevation for the organisation.
The Darul Iftaa empowers the students practically as well as theoretically. On a daily basis, the Darul Iftaa accommodates meetings with the banks, corporations, entrepreneurs, sole-proprietors, investors and financiers. Conglomerates and firms seek Shari’ah compliant regulation and mechanisms from Hadhrat Mufti Sahib (daamat fuyudhuhu). The students play an active role in these meetings and conferences. Any contract provided or model proposed is studied and examined by the students under the supervision of Hadhrat Mufti Sahib. This is another unique attribute of the Darul Iftaa.
The Darul Iftaa provides mediation and arbitration services for companies, business partnerships, deals and transactions. The students witness the cases and play an active role in reaching a verdict. This is another exclusive feature of the Darul Iftaa.
The Darul Iftaa further provides mediation and conciliation services for couples suffering marital discord and disputes. The number of marriages Hadhrat Mufti Sahib has kept intact is innumerable.
The focal point of the above is that for all these services, Hadhrat Mufti Sahib does not charge a cent! He could have a revenue of millions. Each case lasts for weeks, consuming hours upon hours besides the constant thinking and dua behind the scenes.
The Darul Iftaa as a khanqah (spiritual reformation centre)
The advances in the academics cannot overshadow the efforts in reforming the soul. The emphasis on tazkiyyah and tasawwuf is just as emphasised if not more than the academics.
Each student must perform zikr, the nawafil salaah of the day such as ishraaq, chasht, awwabeen and tahajjud. Every student must recite the Qur’an daily as well as the specific daily surahs like surah mulk, surah Yaseen and surah Waqi’ah. Each student has a notebook wherein he records his daily actions. This notebook is monitored and checked daily by Hadhrat Mufti Sahib.
Writing a fatwa is not just about typing, it is far greater than that. Tears on the musalla and dua are integrals of writing a fatwa. Hadhrat Mufti Sahib always encourages us to turn to Allah when answering a question. We are beginning to come to terms with the responsibility and the critical nature of issuing a fatwa.
Every night after the Esha salaah there is a small majlis wherein a student reads the malfoozaat of Hakeem al-Ummah (rahimahullah). Hadhrat Mufti Sahib explains and elaborates on the malfoozaat.
Hadhrat Mufti Sahib is always available for his students to discuss any issue. We can confide and consult Hadhrat anytime.
Every Thursday, Hadhrat Mufti Sahib has an islaahi majlis at Musjid us Saliheen. Many people attend with dozens listening via the receiver. The audios are uploaded to be heard globally.
The Darul Iftaa as a home
To call Darul Iftaa home is not an overstatement. What constitutes a place being called a home? A location where one feels comfort, love, security, peace and happiness. All these ingredients are found in high concentrations at the Darul Iftaa.
Hadhrat Mufti Sahib and his respected family do all they can to provide comfort for us. Whatever creates ease for us, Hadhrat will endeavour to provide. If any student is sick, Hadhrat Mufti Sahib personally looks after him. I remember when one student was ill, Hadhrat himself brought medicine for that student.
The love Hadhrat Mufti Sahib exhibits towards his students is also unique. He treats us and looks after as if we are his own. Hadhrat Mufti Sahib takes the students out from time to time to give them a break.
Being in the khidmah and studying under Hadhrat Mufti Sahib is one of the greatest blessings Allah Ta’ala has given us.
I make dua Allah Ta’ala grants Hadhrat Mufti Sahib and his dear family happiness in this world and eternal happiness in the hereafter. Ameen.