I recently met a Senior Shariah Scholar from KSA. During our discussion he asked me an interesting question: which one person influenced me the most to go abroad and seek religous knowledge when I was younger. Without any hesitation I mentioned a name to him.

I was born and raised in the UK. My father (الله يرحمه) passed away when I was 7. When I was 11, my mother decided to return with her children to Zimbabwe the country that she is from. I lived there from 1998 to 2006.

Moving to a new country is not easy and teenage years are filled with many temptations. It is easy to make wrong decisions that can impact your future. On top of that, being fatherless brings its own challenges.

Guidance is only from Allah. He places certain people in our lives at different times based on His ultimate wisdom. 

While I was in Zimbabwe, Mufti Ismail (who most of you know as Mufti Menk) returned from his studies abroad. I was attracted immediately to his personality. He was young, cheerful, spoke slang and was not the type of Imam in the Masaajid I was used to back then. 

He would always generously give me his time even though there was quite a big age gap between us. Many of us have no time or patience for the youth.

I will mention just a few of the many acts of kindness he showed towards me. One day he drove past me as I was walking home after Esha from the Masjid. I didn’t have my driving license yet, so my mother would drop me, and I would walk back hoping no one would see me. The very next day he asked if it was me that he had seen and when I told him that it was, as he knew my house wasn’t close and it was dark, he began taking me home from the masjid every day.

If he had to deliver a lecture or do some charity work, he would take me with him on long road trips to rural parts of Zimbabwe. These were the days before social media and even WhatsApp! 

At one point I wanted to drop out of school and go abroad to study Shariah. He sat me down and told me to finish, at least, my GCSEs and then go study. He stressed there is no contradiction between studying secular and Islamic studies. One should study both.

A group of 4/5 friends and I, would go to his house nearly every Friday night, where he and his brothers would warmly welcome us with tea and snacks and spend time just talking to us which kept us away from other activities.

You may not agree with everything he does, and you don’t have to. No one is immune from mistakes and criticism. However, a lot of the time people are guilty of going over the top.

Alhamdulillah, since I left Zimbabwe, I’ve been blessed and honoured to benefit from many Scholars from the Muslim world in a university setting, a traditional setting as well as a professional setting, but I will always have a soft spot for Mufti Menk as he had a significant impact on me during a formative period of my life and on what I went on to achieve with Allah’s blessings. I’m sure I am not the only one that was encouraged to go study abroad because of him. May Allah accept it from him. Ameen.

For those who read this post, I hope that it may act as a reminder for all of us to spend more time with our youth. In this age the youth are exposed to even more temptations than when we were young and you never know the impact your kindness can have on them.

The last time I met Mufti Menk was when I last visited Zimbabwe in 2008, before he was as popular as he is today. Qadr Allah, I bumped into him this week in Makkah for the first time in 15 years. I was very pleased to see him and was surprised that he immediately recognised me. We caught up for around an hour, during which I witnessed so many people coming to greet him, from pensioners to little kids, English speakers to non-English speakers.

Attached is the reference he wrote for me when I was applying to go study in 2006 and a picture we took this week in Makkah. May Allah accept his efforts and forgive him for any shortcomings. Ameen.

Abu Salih