He is Abu Muhammad `Umar ibn Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn `Abdur-Rahman Al-Masri Ash-Shafi`ii Al-Khalwati. Born in the year 1360 AH in Al-Jamaaliyah in the governorate of Ad-Daqhaliyyah, he went completely blind at 10 months due to childhood diabetes.
He was enrolled in the madrasah, Ma`had un-Nur in the city of Tanta when he was only five years of age and he began his primary school education at Al-Azhar University. He completed the entire memorisation of the Qur’an in the narration of Hafs from `Asim when he reached 11 years of age.
After this, he moved on and went to Ma`had ul-Mansurat id-Dini and began his long term secondary education at Al-Azhar in the year 1388 and then not long after enrolled in the Foundations of Religion studies in Cairo at the main Al-Azhar campus.
He received his first ijazah while there with a rating of high and excellent in the section on the study of hadith as well as tafsir. This was in the year 1393.
One year before that, he had been made an imam and professor through the Endowments department. In the year 1396, he graduated from Al-Azhar and was immediately incarcerated briefly after an exchange.
The funeral parade of Gamal Abdel Nasser was passing by and upon being asked why he was not going he said, “It is due to the fact that Nasser was an unbeliever and died as such; it is not permissible to pray upon someone who died an apostate.”
He would soon be released and decided to head back and receive yet another degree (his second) in tafsir from the University of Religious Foundations in 1396 with a rating of very good. He also went on to take his degree in the subject of the Holy Months and their rulings (his third degree).
After this, he was given the position of adjunct professor and was also put in charge of delivering lessons in the central masjid of Fayyum where he courted controversy by discussing the state of society, government and the wickedness of the rulers.
He would be removed from his post and jailed for seven months but not long after be returned to his duties. Only this time, he was far from the people and the masses and under surveillance.
Fayyum would be the same place where not long before he had said on the mimbar in an announcement that it is not permissible to pray on or for Nasser or the other rulers of Egypt as they were apostates.
He would be jailed again in this same year of 1396 until 1397 for some 8 months in Al-Qal`ah prison in cell #24. Upon release he was transferred to a ma`had in Fayyum as senior teacher and then to a ma`had in Al-Minya.
In the year 1398, he received another degree after completing a lengthy study of tafsir and its relation to theology, making this a fourth degree. The Shaikh then moved to teaching propagation and guidance in Asyut in the year 1399 where he also studied for another degree (his fifth) and was then transferred as a teacher to assist in the University of Asyut in the topic of tafsir. This occurred between the years of 1400-1403.
In the year 1404, he was asked to go and teach in Arabia as Salafiyyah had wiped out most of the tafsir teachers and scholars in the pogroms leading up to the establishment of the Sa`udi empire.
Shaikh `Umar taught there but fell foul of the establishment when he declared that the rulers of the Arab states were unbelievers – including their king – and that their scholars protecting him were also unbelievers (this along with attacking Salafiyyah and terming it ‘Al-Wahhabiyyah’ – please see Al-Mithaq ul-`Amal il-Islami).
The establishment moved quickly, preventing him from propagation, teaching and speaking. He then decided to return to Egypt and his teaching in Asyut. After the assassination of Anwar As-Sadat (president of Egypt after Nasser), he was arrested on 10 counts of conspiracy, calling for the assassination of As-Sadat and other things.
After a long and drawn out trial, he was freed from prison. Shaikh `Umar `Abdur-Rahman made his way to Sudan and also Eritrea as a teacher. He held numerous teaching posts, took degrees and completed a number of books with different teachers.
When he left Egypt and settled in the United States, he had 11 degrees under his belt, which in the Western sense would equal 11 pHds. He started on the West Coast of the United States and spoke against the fratricidal gang war there and in Michigan that was annihilating Arabs.
He would be driven out of that community on account of racism (being from South Egypt makes you darker than other Arabs) and politics, which took him to New York’s Masjid Muhammad in Brooklyn after some time.
It was here that he delivered most of his 500 lectures that are difficult to find – except for connoisseurs – in all different subjects from beginning to advanced level studies.
He would later be accused of conspiring to detonate bombs in Rhyder trucks under the World Trade Center, destroy the Washington Monument and the Capital Building, United Nations, Federal Building, two tunnels in New York and kidnap the then Pope, John Paul II (all this while being blind as well).
Rather than be tried in the media, he took to the airwaves using a translator and explained his entire case in an interview that although grainy shows you that then up until the day he died, he always pled his innocence.
Shaikh `Umar `Abdur-Rahman died on 20 Jumada Al-Uwla 1438, after reaching 78 years of age. It is claimed he died of natural causes that stemmed from complications with his diabetes and blood pressure. The battle is now on to reclaim his body and his legacy. We will see how worthy a judge history…and researchers shall be. We shall see indeed.
Until next time
Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far Al-Hanbali