By Kiran Shah
No words can ever express the grief I feel for the passing of Sheikh Mohammad Al Shareef. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I say that all the dreams that I have pursued, and the little success I have seen in this passing world are directly linked to what I learned from him over the last 10 years. I have been fortunate to be an alumnus of his Visionaire program consecutively. A course aptly named, as a visionary he truly was. The courses offered by Al Maghrib Institute, his brainchild, were not your average courses. By incorporating his religious and academic knowledge, coupled with his extensive reading habits, he brought to this world the unique success principles and teaching methodologies which changed the face of religious education. Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, Sheikh Yaser Birjas, Sheikh Navaid Aziz, Sheikh Abu Eesa and so many respected scholars bear witness to the dynamic and progressive vision of this man. He was never shy of thinking outside the box, and always encouraged the Ummah to be in sync with the demands of the changing world. His vision was big, his tawakkal even bigger; his vision of as-sabiqoon was translated into the legacy he left behind. May Allah grant him the highest place in Jannah. Ameen
My first interaction with Mohammed Al Shareef was in 2012, in the auditorium of the Islamic Affairs Building in Al Mamzar, Dubai. I was a student of Tafheem-e-Deen at that time, a course offered by AlHuda International – where I heard about the exclusive talk to be taken place by the visiting scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Al Shareef himself. My friends and I made a point to be there, curious as to what this Canadian teacher brings to the table. The lecture was nothing less of an epiphany, to be honest. Never before had I ever heard such a relevant khutbah on Time Management. the life coaching tools that he used 10 years back are essential in every Life Coach’s handbook today.
After the lecture, we stood up for salah, a prayer so beautiful it’s etched in my mind. The iqamah was given by Hisham Al Hadi (Ustazah Farhat Hashmi’s son) and the prayer was led by the sheikh himself, in a corridor behind the auditorium. His recitation had a captivating melody to it, echoing in the corridors it was ever more impactful.
A few days later, the announcement was made that Almaghrib is offering its first-ever double-weekend course in Dubai, an opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, I pleaded with my husband to take care of the kids, and I signed up for the course.
The course was called “Like a Shephard”, a seerah course narrated in Mohammed Al Shareef’s signature storytelling style. It was not your average seerah course: it was like a well-curated movie, with due attention given to every big and small person relevant in the time of the prophet (saw). Each story narrated had a lesson about leadership attached to it. Each story has a human aspect to it, humour, fear, grief, love friendship: Sheikh Mohammed knew how to utilize human emotions for a beautiful deliverance. We all cried when he spoke about the death of the Prophet (saw) a powerful and enchanting narration to say the least.
Over the years he has taught me many things, some intentional, others by example.
I would like to mention a few which impacted my life greatly.
1. Being Human:
Sheikh Mohammed Al Shareef, may Allah have his mercy upon him, never appeared to be overly religious or something he was not. He was a regular guy doing keto diets, trying to up his fitness game, and in love with a good life and good cars.
When he would talk about his struggles with fajr prayer, it came as a relief that even the learned people struggle with some of the basic ibadahs. People like me, who were not born in an overtly practicing household found it hard to do everything perfectly. Let’s be honest, it does get pretty overwhelming sometimes. He made it sound like its ok to fall, and the most important thing is to not give up (and as he would say) “Not lower our standards, rather raise our duas”
2. Thinking out of the box:
Sheikh Mohammed al Shareef made thinking out of the box seem so easy. He used to throw visualization exercises at us to get the best from our subconscious minds. Never before I have seen any religious teacher use Life Coaching, Neuro Linguistic Programming and Mind Sciences techniques. Because I was a Life Coach myself I could see how beautifully he would weave everything. Many examples that he gave came from his Business Administration background as well. Like the famous example of Ducks and Eagles. I loved that one. According to him, in an institution, apart from an average worker (Type B) there are Eagles(type A) and Ducks (type C). while the ducks quack away about what can not be done, eagles sore high and gets the job done. Ducks: problem-oriented, eagles: solution-oriented. Ducks yap and quack about how tough life is and eagles look for the best solution in the given circumstances.
Another phrase he used when things were going south was “Maybe it’s time to build a boat!”. When Nuh (a.s) prayed and tried to spread the word of Allah for 950 years, he didn’t give up, rather changed his strategy by Allah’s will. If your duas and efforts are not being answered, the Sheikh used to say, maybe it’s time to change the perspective and try something different, “Maybe it’s time to build a boat!”
3. The Ultimate Dua Formula:
2015 I took my first Visionaire, and then I forced my friends, my husband and my children to take this course too because it completely changed my life. Visionaire mostly took place in Ramadan, we would work on our duas in the first 2 ashras, and be ready with our dream duas before the last 10 nights of Ramadan. The strategy was to ask the dream duas every night of the last 10 nights of Ramadan for a higher chance of acceptance of dua and then for the next 6 months. Even after that if the dua doesn’t get accepted, then you “raise your duas, not lower your standards”.
The Ultimate Dua Formula goes something like this:
- You visualize and select 6 dream duas, duas which are slightly unrealistic and give you butterflies in your stomach.
- You make a digital vision board based on your dream duas, and display it where you can see it every day.
- You attach Allah’s perfect names to each dua
- And you assign a time every day to ask for these 6 duas. this time has to be one of the times in which duas are accepted. Which may be:
- Between azaan and iqamah
- In sujood
- After fard prayers
- In the time of rain
- While travelling
- Between zuhr and asr on Friday
- While opening a fast
I and a thousand people across the world benefitted from this ingenious method. It works and it brings you closer to Allah. It helps you grow in tashakkur and want to ask Allah for more. I even wrote about this in my book, a book which was only a dream dua a few years back.
When we finally dare to admit what our heart truly desires to ourselves first and then our Lord, and then make heart-felt conscious dua for it too, it’s like moving the hurdles out of the way one by one. You give yourself the permission to aim higher. As the Shiekh would say, “You don’t go to a King and ask for a penny”.
Sheikh Mohammad Al Shareef was only 47when he passed away, he died after maghrib on the night of Thursday and was buried on the blessed day of Friday. His last rights were performed by Shiekh Abu Eesa and he is quoted to have his legendary smile on his face. This man managed to scatter so much khair around this world, lead so many hajj and taught so many people. He taught the concepts of being an eagle by example, he spoke of excellence 2.0 and made sure his legacy was Excellence 2.0 too.
An example to be followed.
May you be amongst the company of the Prophets and the saliheen in Jannat ul Firdaus ya Sheikh, may the Prophet (saw) whose mention made your voice tremble gives his shifa’aa for you, may the Quran that made you cry raise your darajaat in Jannah as you recite it in your beautiful voice. And may we become your sadqa jariyah in the legacy that you left behind.