Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim
By Zara Nargis
Several of the `Alawī Imams were given good tidings of the coming of Shaykh Abū Bakr; Fakhr al-Wujūd. Shaykh `Abdullāh, the youngest son of Shaykh `Abd al-Rahmān al-Saqqāf, was one day wondering how he could ever reach the station and prominence of his two brothers, `Umar al-Mihdār and Abū Bakr al-Sakrān. His father read his thoughts and said to him: “That prominence will be in your progeny.” Amongst this blessed progeny was Shaykh Abū Bakr bin Sālim and all his blessed progeny. Shaykh Abū Bakr was born in Tarīm in 919 (1513). His father took him to the Imam of Tarīm at the time, Shaykh Shihāb al-Din, Ahmad bin `Abd al-Rahmān, complaining that his son was having difficulty in memorising the Qur’ān. The Shaykh said to his father: “Leave him and do not burden him. He will devote himself to it of his own accord and he will have a great affair.” It was as the Shaykh said: Shaykh Abū Bakr devoted himself to the Qur’ān and memorised it in around four months. Then he applied himself to learning the inner and outer sciences.
In his youth, he lived in the village of al-Lisk, East of Tarīm, and he would walk several miles by night to Tarīm to pray in its mosques and visit its graves. He would fill up the tanks used for ablutions in the mosques and fill up troughs for animals to drink before returning to pray the Fajr prayer in al-Lisk. He later moved to Tarīm but decided while still in his mid-twenties to move to the village of `Aynāt in the search of territory where he could spread the call to Allah and His Messenger (endless peace and blessings be upon him). He built a mosque and house there and began teaching and giving spiritual instruction. His fame spread and students started coming from different parts of Yemen and as far afield as India and North Africa. As a result, a new town grew up distinct from the old village of `Aynāt.
He had a great concern, like his predecessors, for the visit of the Prophet Hūd. It was Shaykh Abū Bakr who first established the great annual visit in Sha`bān, it being previously arranged according to the date harvest. In his old age he would be carried to the visit and when he was asked to compile a work on the merits of the visit, he said that the fact that he was still making the effort to visit in his old age was sufficient proof of its merit.
Shaykh Abū Bakr was immensely generous. He would supervise the affairs of his famous kitchen and distribute food with his own hands. He would bake a thousand loaves of bread for the poor every day – five hundred for lunch and five hundred for dinner. This was not including food prepared for his numerous guests. A poor dishevelled woman once came to give a small amount of food to the Shaykh. His servant turned her away saying: “Caravans are bringing goods to the Shaykh from far off places and he is not in need of what you have brought.” The Shaykh, however, was listening and he welcomed the woman, graciously accepted her offering and gave her a big reward in exchange. He then chastised his servant, saying: “The one who does not show gratitude for small things will not show gratitude for great things. The one who does not show gratitude to people does not show gratitude to Allah.”
He would fast the three hottest months of the year and for the last fifteen years consumed nothing but milk and coffee. The Shaykh loved coffee and there are numerous stories regarding his preference of it. He never left praying the eight rak`āt of the Duhā prayer and the eleven rak`āt of the Witr prayer, even while travelling. He was also never seen leaning on anything, nor was he comfortably seated, but he was solely in the position of one who is reciting tashahhud during his prayer.
He also composed a number of litanies and prayers upon the Prophet (endless peace and blessings be upon him), the most famous of which is Salāt al-Tāj (the Prayer of the Crown) which is widely read in the Indian Subcontinent.
A year before his death, Shaykh Abū Bakr led the visit to the Prophet Hūd and thousands crowded around him, almost fighting to kiss and touch him. When he saw this, he wept profusely and repeated Allah’s words: He is but a slave upon whom We have bestowed Our blessings. (Al-Zukhruf, 42:59)
Shaykh Abū Bakr finally breathed his last in Dhū’l-Ḥijjah 992 (1583). He said during his life that he would place secrets in the sand dune in which he is buried, and its blessed sand has been used time and again for healing purposes.
It suffices to say that Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim was chosen due to what he said and thus what came about from the visits to his abode of rest:
أَوَمَا عَلِمْتَ بِأَنَّنَا أَهْلُ الوَفَا
ومُحِبُّنَا مَا زَالَ تَحْتَ لِوَانَا
نَحْنُ الكِرَامُ فَمَنْ أَتَانَا قَاصِدَا
نَالَ السَّعَادَةَ عِنْدَمَا يَلْقَانَا
“Do you not know that we are people of honour, and that the one who loves us will always be under our banner?
We are generous people so whoever comes to us seeking will attain felicity when he meets us.”
References and Further Reading
Imams of the Valley – Amin Buxton
A Blessed Valley Volume One – Mostafa al-Badawi
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