When Sheikh Muhammad `Abdullah, Ziya Ar-Rahman started off, if someone told him as a 20-year old new convert that one day he would be the dean of the faculty of the college of Hadith at Madinah Al-Munawwarah and hundreds of scholars would sit at his feet, he would have laughed. This is what happens when you have persistence and determination; when you don’t set any barriers and when you let Allah (Glory be to Him) take you as far as your determination allows you to go. Slowly but surely, this is exactly what happened with Dr. Ziyar Ar-Rahman.
One of the stories that affected many people was the story of the professor at the University of Madinah Al-Munawwarah, the most courageous teacher Sheikh Muhammad Ziya Ar-Rahman Al-A`azami. He was the dean of the College of Hadith Sciences in Saudi Arabia.
He and his Hindu Family
What was really impressive about the sheikh was that he was born into a Hindu family, and he was raised as a practicing, fervent and devoted Hindu and by the time he became Dean of the Faculty of Hadith at one of the top Islamic university. Hadith is one of the most advanced sciences of Islam.
When he was young he was taught to hate Muslims and he never had a Muslim friend. Brahmans weren’t supposed to touch someone who was not a Brahman. He was taught to separate and isolate himself from the people of other faiths and live only in his Brahman caste. He was accepted in university in India and was assigned to live with a Muslim roommate.
His Inclination to Islam
He didn’t know what to do between hatred, revulsion, and loathing. He decided to give him Da’wah and convert him to Hinduism and so he needed to study this man’s religion. He began reading the Glorious Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He was immensely fascinated by the life of the Prophet Muhammad and asked how he could find out more about him (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and was told to read the books of Hadith. This was in the 1950s in India. He asked: “What is Hadith?” They told him Hadith is what the Prophet Muhammad said. He asked for the books and they said they are all in Arabic. He asked where he could study Arabic and they told him that he needed to go abroad and study in university. His study brought him to the blessed shade of Islam and became able to study Arabic and Islamic sciences.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was told there was a university that had just opened in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah. He was told that he should apply there so that perhaps they would teach him Arabic and he could study Hadith. He applied as a new Muslim convert and was accepted amongst the first batches. He was the first Hindu convert to be accepted to Al-Madinah University.
At Al-Azhar University in Egypt
He was told about Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the oldest and the most famous Islamic university in the world.
He went to Al-Azhar in the 60s after getting his bachelor’s in Al-Madinah University. He became one of the first graduates of Al-Madinah to get a Master’s and Ph.D. from al-Azhar Ash-Sharif.
Sheikh and the Saudi Citizenship
He was such a well-known personality by that time that he was called to Al-Madinah University to become a professor. But for that he needed to be a Saudi citizen at that time, so the sheikh wrote a personal letter to the king and soon Sheikh Muhammad got the Saudi citizenship.
In 1973/74 they inaugurated the faculty of Hadith. He started as an assistant professor in the college of Hadith. Over the next twenty years, he raised his ranks from the senior ranking professor to the dean of the college.
His Family and Pagan Rituals
It is amazing how Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) took this man, who grew up bowing his head to the Hindu idols and giving offerings to the pagan gods but Allah the Almighty blessed him and guided him throughout his life to end up at one of the most prestigious positions in the entire Muslim world.
When he retired he was asked: “Sheikh, what is your project now?” He said, “For the last decade I have had something in my mind. Al-Hamdulillah now I have time to do it. I want to compile all of the Sahih Hadith ever written in one big volume.” He was asked: “Sheikh, all Hadith?” He said, “All Hadith!” and he had already done four to five thousand and he said he would double or triple this amount, as much as Allah (Glory be to Him) gives him life. And he is still doing this project of compiling upon the condition of Imam Al-Bukhari. it is noteworthy that Imam Al-Bukhari wanted to be brief and concise when he complied his book of Hadith; he never wanted to write an encyclopedia. The sheikh’s goal was that now we have all the books, let’s write an encyclopedia of all Sahih Ahadith upon the conditions of Al-Bukhari.
The Sheikh in his pas was a Hindu Brahmin then he left Hinduism after his serious study and when his insight, understanding and mind guided him to the right path, like many brothers in the world since the ancient times who studied Islam and decided to revert. The same happened in the Indian sub-continent when people knew Islam and its unique and humanistic message they got satisfied with it and accepted Islam by their own desire and freewill. There is neither Gharwapsi program in Islam nor donation of two lakhs or five lakhs for a convert. In Islam, Da`wah is based on the Command of Allah, good intention and sincerity. If you want to be a Muslim you should try to understand the true message of Islam and to be courageous.