Inna lillah wa inna ilaihi rajeoon
So rare to find excellent Arabic translators. --J.
On The Passing of the Acclaimed Translator - Muhtar Holland
To God we belong and to Him we will return. I regret to inform you of the passing of our beloved brother, and acclaimed translator, Muhtar Holland. Many of you have been touched in some form or another by the works Muhtar has translated. From Imam Ghazali's "Duites of brotherhood" and "Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship" to the works of Shaykh Abdul Qadir al Jilani, Muhtar has connected us with the great luminaries of the past shaping our spiritual lives for years to come.
I have been blessed to have worked closely with Muhtar on his most recent translations " A Portrait of the Prophet" a translation of Imam Tirmidhi's Shama'il Al Muhammadiya, as well as his ongoing work of translating the Ihya of Imam Ghazali (three of four volumes had been completed by Muhtar at the time of his death), as well as "The everlasting Honor of the Family of Muhammad" by Shaykh Yusuf Nabhani. I found Muhtar to be a man who embodied the spirit of the works he translated. The first time I met him I was struck by something, I still have trouble putting it into words, but it was if the spiritual legacy of all those he came into contact with through his translations were greeting me at the door. I was moved to say the least. In the process of working on the "Portrait of the Prophet [Peace be upon him and his family]" I had asked Muhtar about his journey to Islam. He recounted an experience that left me awestruck. I'd like to leave all of you with his own words, I just ask that you please remember him in your prayers.Translators Forward to “A Portrait of the Prophet”
As for the special value and tremendous importance of this work by Imåm at-Tirmidhº, I could do nothing better than echo the words of the erudite scholars whose introductions are included in this translated edition. Let me simply repeat the statement: “The Book of the Virtues [Kitåb ash-Shamå’il] … is a book unique of its kind, unequaled in its arrangement and its comprehensiveness. No one has produced anything resembling it or comparable to it.” I trust that my English translation – in spite of its inevitable imperfections, for which I beg forgiveness – will convey the essential meanings of the original text.
In this foreword, I feel moved to share the following personal experiences, of which I have been vividly reminded while reading and translating this book:
During the 1950s and 1960s – in the course of my oriental studies at Balliol College, Oxford, and my lectureships at the University of Toronto, Canada, and the School of Oriental & African Studies, London – I was drawn ever closer to embracing Islam.
• In 1964, I spent five months in Cairo on study leave from S.O.A.S., specializing in Islamic Law at al-Azhar University. One day, I took a taxi to visit the district known as the City of the Dead. I remember how my driver became more like a companion-in-adventure as we then set off in quest of a destination that was completely off the usual tourist track. I wanted him to find the Mosque of Qa'it Bey, which he had only vaguely heard of. As recorded in my diary:
“Then we drove through weird streets of houses of the dead to the Mosque of Sultån Ahmad, then the Mosque of Sultån Ashraf, then into an ancient quarter through almost impassable muddy streets, till we finally discovered the Mosque of Qå'it Bey.
“A guide appeared and showed me the tomb of Qå'it Bey, his Qur'an-reading seat with its smell of sandalwood, and the alleged footprint of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (Allåh bless him and his family), encased in lead.
“This was one moment when I felt very close indeed to embracing Islam. The guide seemed to join me in feeling the quiet of that old, seldom-visited mosque, and we just stood there together for several minutes without a word being spoken. Then I turned to him and whispered: ‘Kabbir!’ I love the way you can pack so much meaning into a single Arabic word. ‘Kabbir’ means: "Proclaim the Supreme Greatness of the One Almighty God!’
“The guide seemed to take this as a perfectly normal request. He took a deep breath, raised his hands to the sides of his head, looked up and uttered: ‘Allaaahu Akbar!’ The sound reverberated in the space beneath the dome.
“The guide soon assumed I was really a Muslim. He introduced me to the Shaikhs sitting in a corner. Showers of blessings descended on my head.”
• When recalling the five years following the above experience, I recognize how it caused my inner footsteps to carry me steadily closer the outer profession of Islam. In 1969, I was struggling with many dreadful problems in my life. Then, one evening in London, I was in deep spiritual meditation, submitting my being completely to the Will of Almighty God. All of a sudden, I found myself as if in a barren desert. All my terrible problems assumed the form of a savage tribe, charging toward me with their weapons drawn and threatening to hack me to pieces. In near despair, I turned my head and saw a hill behind me. A figure then appeared on top of that hill, mounted on a camel. I knew for certain that he was the Prophet Muhammad (Allåh bless him and his family). He signaled with his sword above his head, and his Companions (may Allåh be well pleased them) came riding from behind the hill, brandishing their weapons and crying ‘Allåhu Akbar!’ My savage enemies all fled away in terror, and I felt completely safe and sound!
After that spiritual exercise, I described my experience to a Muslim brother, and told him that I had now decided to embrace Islam both inwardly and outwardly. Shortly thereafter, I visited a sympathetic Shaikh in Birmingham, England, and pronounced the testimony of faith [ash-shahåda] in his presence, declaring: “I bear witness that there is no god but Allåh, and I bear witness that Mu¥ammad is the Messenger of Allåh!”
May Allåh forgive the mistakes and failings of His servants.
May Allåh bless our Prophet Muhammad, his family and his Companions, and may He grant them peace.
Praise be to Allåh, the Lord of All the Worlds.