INSIGHT: SAMER DAJANI
Samer Dajani is the author of the brilliant new publication, ‘Reassurance for the seeker- a biography and translation of Salih al-Ja’fari’s al-Fawa’id al-Ja’fariyya.
The book has left us feeling emotionally connected to the Prophet Alayhis Salatu Was-Salaam with the rich understanding of each Hadith which the shaykh has explained.
We have caught up with our friend Samer to ask him a few questions about his book.
AsalamuAlaykum wa Rahmatulahee wa Barakatahu Brother Samer,
Thank you for your time in answering the questions we are sure people would like to know before purchasing this great publication.
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. It’s my pleasure and honour.
Firstly, we would like to know what the essence of writing this book was.
This book has been a beautiful journey. It consisted first of translating the main work, a collection of 40 hadith chosen by the Imam of the Azhar Mosque, Shaykh Salih al-Ja’fari, and his commentary on these hadiths. Then my task was to write a biography of Shaykh Salih to introduce him to the English-speaking world. Then, as a bonus, I added a short treatise by Shaykh Salih’s own shaykh and spiritual guide, Ahmad ibn Idris. I called it Reassurance because I felt the main purpose of Shaykh Salih was to give reassurance and guidance to the reader, but I also believe that the reader will also find a lot of reassurance in the shaykh’s own biography and the amazing teachers he studied with.
What motivated you in writing this book?
When I read this book, I felt like it really clarified many things for me in such a simple way, it really helped me understand so many things in the religion that are difficult to grasp. For example, things to do with life in the grave and in the intermediary realm (the barzakh), and the life of the Prophets after their death, and how the reward of reciting the Qur’an and other good acts can be gifted to the souls of the deceased. Things like that finally made perfect sense and a whole clear picture could be made.
The book was also a source of inspiration on the path to gain the pleasure of Allah ta’ala and His nearness, and was full of gems of wisdom. After I read it, I was really excited about it and showed it to a scholar here in London who told me that I must translate it. He had also felt that it really explained things in such a great fashion, and so I started the work. I wasn’t worried about finding a publisher or what I was going to do after translating it, I just began working on it, and then everything fell into place easily after that, by the baraka of the book maybe. It was immediately accepted by Fons Vitae who are known for their great quality and high standards of publications.
Who do you feel you are targeting & what do you think the people will benefit from this publication?
I think this book is great for all Muslims. As the title suggests, the main audience that would seek out this book are those who want to draw near to Allah ta’ala and seek His pleasure, and they will find much inspiration, guidance, and wise counsel to assist them in their path. It will also give them, as the title that I chose suggests, a lot of reassurance on the methods of spiritual progress that the wise spiritual guides have emphasised since the beginning of Islam, and shows that they are nothing but the very practice and teachings of the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions and the great scholars of this Muslim ummah.
At the same time, I wish that all Muslims would read it, as I think in the modern age, a lot of the spirituality in Islam is now forgotten, and even seems strange to many Muslims. This book aims to bring back the spirit of Islam, its spirituality and light, and explain such things as the sweetness and reality of faith, spiritual experience, love of Allah ta’ala and His Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
Why did you specifically choose this spiritual shaykh to write about?
I think the importance of Shaykh Salih is in the beautiful spirit that characterised him, which I think is needed today in our Muslims communities. He had a soul that loved beauty, sincerity, and unity. All those who described him, saw him as a powerful roaring lion, and I was shocked when, while doing my research, so many people kept repeating the same description about him: ‘a king.’ At the same time, with all the power and awe that he exuded, he was pure love, emotion and gentleness, and they say tears always seemed to be just behind his eyes when he spoke, waiting to rush down his cheeks. He really cared for uniting this ummah, and disliked labels that divided it, and tried his best to explain the differences between the different schools and approaches to bridge the gaps and create understanding. Just as the knowledge that the shaykh imparts is very important, I think when people spend time with him through his writings, if they take away with them some of his spirit too, that might be even more important. This spirit seems like it would be a great source of healing for the individual who is touched by it, as well as the ummah as a whole. Furthermore, the shaykh is important as a scholar because he speaks with great authority as the imam of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious centre of learning.
How long did it take to conduct this publication and at any time did you face difficulties?
I first translated the book several years ago, but then re-wrote the translation all over again to make it flow much easier. I never found any difficulty and I kept finding things popping up out of nowhere to help me out along the way. It was really astonishing sometimes. There was one single line in the whole book, in the small treatise by Ibn Idris which I added, that really puzzled me and I could not understand it. One time I was looking at a random book on Amazon, and there was the option to view sample pages of the book, and on Amazon there is a button called ‘Surprise Me,’ which jumps to a completely random page of the book. I clicked the button, and I found myself staring at the answer and explanation of that one line! That led to a quote which I translated from yet another book, as a footnote explaining a very deep spiritual concept related to love of Allah ta’ala, and the saying of the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam): “My longing is for my Lord.” In short, the work was a pure blessing for me, and I felt like I was always aided and blessed while working on it, to find whatever I needed to serve this text.
We very much enjoyed reading your book and found it very enlightening. This is the first time a work from this shaykh has been translated; do you think you will be translating more work for your readers and community at large?
Yes I love translation and I’ve already started on other works. Shaykh Salih in particular is becoming very popular here in the UK for his poetry of love of the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), which is widely viewed and shared on YouTube. I’ve already been requested to translate one of his poems, which I’m working on at the moment, along with another short poem by him on the benefits of sending salawat. After that I’ll expand to translating whatever I feel there is a need for today in the ummah, inshaAllah.