Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam Al-Ethiopee was one of the lesser known scholars of the Islamic world due to his humility and shunning of the public eye. It is a sad day for Muslims worldwide as this scholar, who served Islam throughout his life, has left this world.
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The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said “Allah will not take away knowledge by snatching it away from the people, rather He will take away knowledge by taking away the scholars until, when there is no scholar left, people will turn to ignorant leaders who will be asked questions and will issue fatwas without knowledge. They will go astray and lead others astray.”
Narrated by Bukhari (100) and Muslim (2673)
Who Was the Great Shaikh from Ethiopia?
He was a scholar in many sciences including Hadeeth, Fiqh, Usool ul Fiqh, Nahw, Sarf, Balagha and many other branches of knowledge.
He was Shaikh Al Allama Al Muhadith Al Faqeeh Muhammad bin Ali bin Adam bin Musa al Wallawi. Better known as Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam al-Ethiopee.
A surprising fact about his life is that he was discovered by the scholars when he applied to be a student at Dar-ul-Hadeeth University in Makkah.
My friend and teacher Shaikh Shoaib Ahmed Mirpuri joined Dar-ul-Hadeeth Khayriyah around the same time as Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam. He told me that for few months Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam studied as a student until Shaikh Muhammad Amin Hariri, also from Ethiopia, contacted the dean and teachers and told them that Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam is known as a scholar in Ethiopia. He requested that he be given an exam and taken out of ‘Thanawiyyah’ and placed into the more advanced years of ‘kulliya’.
Shaikh Salih bin Humayd, Shaikh Badruddin, Shaikh Salah al Arafat and Shaikh Suddais among other scholars then cross examined Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam, as they had received requests from other teachers who had stated that his questions are far too advanced for a student. The teachers had said that he would often know topics from questions which even they did not know.
When the scholars interviewed him and asked him questions to test his knowledge, they realised that they are in the presence of a multi-disciplinary scholar. In an amazing turn of events, they immediately hired him as a teacher where he had moments before been a student!
This is perhaps because of his commitment to studying, where he studied the six books of hadeeth, the books of Fiqh, Tafseer and Arabic grammar as well as many other sciences. In later life he has authored many books which I will detail below.
The Shaikh’s Journey of Knowledge
Born in 1945 in Ethiopia in the house of scholarship, he began memorising the Quran at his father’s hands but completed his memorisation under Shaikh Muhammad bin Qayh.
His journey in knowledge started by learning Fiqh, Usool ul Fiqh, and most of Sahih al Bukhari with his father. For three years he studied closely with Shaikh Muhammad bin Sa’ad bin Ali al-Daari, with whom he studied Usool ul Fiqh, Sahih al Bukhari, Sahih al Muslim and Arabic grammar.
He also studied under Shaikh Abdul Baasit bin Muhammad bin Hasan Al Ethiopee Al-Buwaranee al-Minaasee.
He memorised poetry such as “Alfiyyah ibn Maalik” and “Alfiyyah As-Suyootee”.
His learning of hadeeth was vast as he studied Sahih Muslim with Imam Nawawi’s explanation, Sunan Bayhaqi, the Tafseer of the Quran as well as many other books with Shaikh Muhammad bin Zayn bin Muhammad al Ethiopee al Daani.
He gained his main ijazah in all the chains of narration from Shaikh Muhammad bin Rafi bin Basri, with whom he studied Jami’ al-Tirmidhi, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Nisaee, Sunan Ibn Majah.
While in Makkah he was a teacher but this did not stop him seeking knowledge. He studied hadeeth under Shaikh WaseeUllah Abbas, despite Shaikh WaseeUllah being younger than him.
The great scholar of Yemen, Shaikh Muqbil bin Hadee Al-Wadee’ said about Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam’s explanation of Sunan Nisaee, that it “is written in the manner of Fath al-Baari by Hafidh Ibn Hajar. One has confidence in many of the Shaykh’s positions due to them being in agreement with the evidences. I advise the students of knowledge to be diligent in acquiring this tremendous work, for not every Muhaddith in this era has the ability to produce the likes of this explication”
Shaikh Abdul Muhsin al Abaad commented in Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam’s explanation of Sahih Muslim and said that no other book explains Sahih Muslim in as much depth and vastness as his explanation.
Shaikh Rabee bin Hadee al Madhkali said that Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam had “mastered every science” referring to him being an expert in hadeeth, tafseer, fiqh, grammar, poetry etc.
Shaikh Sulayman Ar-Ruhayli said “I met him and I found him to be a scholar from whom gushed forth knowledge and it was as if I were looking at Ath-Thurayya (Pleiades constellation) although he was on earth”
The Shaikh authored many books, many remain unpublished. He authored:
- Over 40 volume explanation of Sahih Muslim
- Multi volume explanation of Jami Tirmidhi
- Over 40 volume explanation of Sunan Nisaee (took 16 years to write)
- 4 volume explanation of just the introduction of Sunan Ibn Maajah
- Multi volume explanation of Sunan Ibn Maajah
- ‘Quratul Ayn’ which summarises the biographies of the narrators of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim
- Explanation of a poem by his teacher Shaikh al-Minaasee on Sarf
- Explanation of Imam Suyyuti’s poem on the sciences of hadeeth
- His own 1000 line poem on Aqeeah – with explanation
- His own 3000 line poem on Usool ul Fiqh – with explanation
- His own poem on narrators of hadeeth who are muddalis
The Shaikh was a mujtahid within his own right. Often commenting with proof on topics which left scholars and students in awe of his deductive reasoning.
Such an example was the definition of the word ‘Sunnah’. While it has long been established that the Prophet’s ﷺ clothing and hairstyle do not come under ‘Sunnah,’ meaning copying this action would not earn extra reward, Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam used evidence to prove the opposite.
He used the hadeeth of the three men who swore incorrect oaths of praying throughout the night forever, fasting every day of the year, never getting married, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said “Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my sunnah in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers).”
So the Shaikh concluded that if eating, marrying and sleeping are his (ﷺ) sunnah, then so are his clothing and hairstyle, meaning if someone copied this they would earn reward. As Shaikh Muqbil said about him “One has confidence in many of the Shaykh’s positions due to them being in agreement with the evidences.”
Teaching without limelight
The Shaikh taught in Dar-ul-Hadeeth al Khayriyyah in Makkah and in the evening taught in Masjid al Abrar and then in Masjid al Haram. He taught many books such as kitaab at-tawheed with fathul majeed and the six books of hadeeth. He busied himself with teaching and writing.
“The Ahlul Hadith are the people of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), Oh Allah make me from among the Ahlul Hadeeth”Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam al-Ethiopi
During lockdown I set up itiba.tv with a team of brothers under the guidance of Shaikh WaseeUllah Abbas. Many people have started benefitting from learning Islamic studies online.
In June I asked my friend and teacher Shaikh Muhammad al-Malki, who is a student of Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam Al-Ethiopee, whether it would somehow be possible to arrange a lesson online on itiba.tv with Shaikh Ethiopee, so the people of the world could benefit from such a great scholar.
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Shaikh Malki said this would be next to impossible as the Shaikh has stayed away from social media and out of public view, instead preferring to stay focussed on writing and teaching serious students of knowledge. Shaikh Malki told me that official channels and many organisations requested the Shaikh to teach on radio, TV and online but he refused.
Shaikh Malki explained that even he found it difficult to take even a minute of the Shaikh’s time because he strictly busied himself day and night with teaching and writing.
I also spoke to a friend, Shaikh Abu Sa’ad Muhammad, who attended Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam’s lessons in Masjid al Haram for around 17 months. He said that Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam would not allow anyone to follow him out of Masjid al Haram from fear of being recognised amongst the people. He would even take off his robe (which scholars wear over a thobe) so that no one in Masjid al Haram would recognise him.
No Time for Wasting
Shaikh Shoaib Ahmed Mirpuri was a student at Dar-ul Hadeeth Khayriyya when Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam was also a student and then became a teacher. He told me at length about his life. Shaikh Shoaib was his friend and kept contact with him in later life too. Shaikh Shoaib Ahmed is starting classes on itiba.tv from next week.
Shaikh Shoaib said that all the students would go out for a picnic with food or tea every few days and Shaikh Shoaib would drive the minibus. They would all push Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam to go and he would come with them only once a week, and even when he did go he would comment on how much time has been wasted in the activity, until he stopped going all together.
Shaikh Shoaib Ahmed said Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam’s lessons were among the largest in Masjid al Haram after Shaikh bin Baaz and Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen.
Shaikh Shoaib said that Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam made a dua in front of him that “The Ahlul Hadith are the people of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), Oh Allah make me from among the Ahlul Hadeeth”
For the last three years Shaikh Muhammad Ali Adam had been ill. He always read hadeeth out loudly during lessons himself but for the last three years his student Ali al Awlaki would read the hadeeth.
While the Shaikh was unwell in hospital before he died, despite never having relied on the government and remaining self-sufficient, the Saudi Arabian government voluntarily spared no expense in looking after him.
The Shaikh’s Janaza will take place in Masjid al Haram after Esha today and will be buried in Makkah.
I ask Allah to forgive any shortcomings of the Shaikh and admit him to Jannat-ul-Firdaws. I ask Allah to preserve the scholars of Islam and guide us all.
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