My story with Shaykh Taha Karaan [thread]:

A friendship that spans over 23 years now, I first met him when I was 20 years old over mIRC. Taha bhai was hardly 30 at the time & unknown to the world. I met him at a time when I was having a faith crisis and was looking for answers.
As I would find out in due course, he was a hidden gem that would shine one day for the world to take note. He didn’t see it back then or maybe was just humble like that, but I would often tell him that he is going to go on to become something big. People didn’t know he existed.
In the newly sprouting online world, he was known as “Abu Muhammad Al-Afriqui”. I still recall, circa 2000, I read one of Abu Muhammad’s articles and shared it with Taha bhai saying, “Wow, this Abu Muhammad guy is a genius!” He laughed and told me that it was him!
Soon, the online Arab da’wah/shuyukh would start noticing his work. He started rising through the ranks and became an expert in the Sunni theology as inter-sectarian debates started brewing in this new online world. But there was more to him than just this.
Less known was his mastery of the Hadith sciences, stellar knowledge of the Shafi’i Jurisprudence, and his encyclopedic knowledge on many contemporary and Islamic sciences. His contemporaries and colleagues could better relate that. To me, he was a brother and friend.
Someone with whom I have had a very different relationship to all the students who have studied under him over the years. Oddly, one of his students ended up becoming the Imam in my local masjid here in Ottawa. My frankness with him would amaze his students.
While they all treated him in the classical Aalim-Mu’allim style, I would treat him as a buddy. I tried never to get too frank with him in front of his students so that respect is maintained, but we joked about everything including our “tharak jokes”.
He has an amazing sense of humor, and is extremely witty. He also has a bizarrely sharp memory (I guess it comes with having memorized so many books). He has to hear me say something and recall it verbatim after 2 decades! So, to me, he is my safety net.
I turn to him every time I am lost or when the chips are down. What makes our bond special is that we have been friends since he was a nobody. Like I said, I used to talk him up when no onewas paying attention. But, boy, did Taha bhai stamp his authority all over Muslim academia!
And that’s why, I guess, we have continued to be friends. Having met a few times. I still recall how he went out of his way to be in Johannesburg when I was there on a business trip. Rented a car and drove all the way to see me and drive me around introducing me to ppl & places.
No one could understand who this guy was whom Shaykh Taha was driving around and who didn’t even look like a religious guy! Everyone was supposed to take me seriously because Taha bhai was hosting me! 😂 This was is in 2011. Earlier, we had met in Dubai.
Again, he went out of his way to stopover at Dubai and spent a few days at my place. He was on his way to Saudi (to attend a conference on Islamic finance) from Cape Town where he lives. Stopped over just to see me! On that trip I remember giving him an envelope with some money.
It was around AED 3000. Just a gift from a brother to a brother. He got to Saudi and gave the entire amount to a deserving family who were descendants of Rasulullah (SAW). Every single dirham. He excitedly called me and told me of my own contribution in this deed.
He was a man of giving, not taking. I had to convince him to keep that money. But he still gave it away. Similarly, when I was in South Africa with him, I was handing out whatever money I had to people who seemed like they needed it (mad inequality in that country).
Obviously I was trying to impress Taha bhai thinking to myself, “Look, I don’t look pious like you, but I am a Ghani wali, too” 🙄 What does Taha bhai do? He says, “You make me feel ashamed. How can I be left behind in goodness?” And starts matching my donations.
To the extent that to have to stop giving because I know he is a man of little means. I didn’t want him to go broke! But that is the man that he is. A man of giving; not taking. I will keep adding to this thread. Stay tuned.
As I read this thread I am breaking down in tears. I don’t want this story to end 😢
Apart from all the times that I have annoyed him with pestering questions, in all my years of friendship with him I recall only one time when he got annoyed me. To the extent that he stopped talking to me for 3 days. A group of scholars had started blasting a woman.
She was being blamed for some misunderstanding and some of these ‘learned’ men were taking her apart. I knew this woman as an acquaintance and was extremely rude to her once. News of this teacher Taha bhai. He was so annoyed with me that he blasted me and gave me an earful.
He stopped talking to me and told me he wants nothing to do with someone who takes pleasure in attacking a woman and takes part in believing a slander against her. Long story short, I went up to this lady and apologized. It’s only after I did this did Taha bhai forgive me.
I was 22 back then. But I had a massive takeaway from it to never take part in slander and distance myself from such men. That was the only time Taha bhai was angry with me. I am sure I may have angered/annoyed him many other times, but he has always been kind and let it go.
Excuse the typos as you spot them. I will keep adding to this thread. As you read, please make a small prayer for the Shaykh to recover.
Since my primary interaction with Shaykh Taha was to clarify my conflict with Hadith sciences (yes, I had a “anti-Hadith” streak to start with), I saw him as an Ahl-e-Hadith scholar. I would often speak with the assumption that he was Salafi/Ahl-e-Hadith. I myself was a Salafi.
Taha bhai saw that in me and never bothered ‘correcting’ me. He never asked me to consider the Ash’ari position on, e.g., the Siffat Khabariyyah (the ‘Limbs’ of Allah). He was fully aware that my opinion was of the literalist, Salafi hue. Yet, he never made an issue of it.
I only first doubted that he was a Salafi when I explicitly asked him about this issue. His explanation immediately hit me as that of the Ash’ari persuasion. Keep in mind I asked him these questions a good 5 years into our friendship. So he only explained the matter when I asked.
My eventual snapping out of Salafism was due not just to his influence, but that of Mufti Saeed Khan saheb. However, what I did realize from his demeanor and attitude with me in this matter was that Shaykh Taha didn’t force things upon people. Never poking holes in my beliefs.
He later told me that he saw my Salafi influence at the time as a phase and that I would eventually snap out of it. So, he had the wisdom to understand the struggles and puritanical dichotomy that most born-again Muslims experience. He gave me the space to mature out of it.
This act of his left such an impression on me that I then in-turn try not to force the issue with anyone else. I only try to answer when asked. Even when I see someone struggling. Because I realized through this modus operandi of his that ppl learn at their pace.
And that people will only listen and learn when they themselves are pushed to ask. Again, respect ppl’s space and understand that every human goes through these phases of spiritual ascent. This has helped me inculcate some of the amazing tolerance I saw in him.
And now I get confirmation that my friend, my mentor, and my brother has passed away. He was in his early 50s. Gone too soon. He always told me that he hopes to meet me in the Hereafter under the shade of Allah’s Arsh as per the following Hadith (Bukhari & Muslim).
We were planning to meet up shortly as he still had time remaining on his multiple-entry Canadian visit visa. Unfortunately, I will not see him again in the flesh. But now I will have to visit his grave site. A loss then I can never replace. A door of Rahmah permanent closed.
Goodbye, my friend. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon. May Allah’s Mercy embrace you. May Rasulullah (SAW) welcome you among his most choicest servants. I know you dearly wanted that. I now long to meet you again in the Afterlife.
Addendum: Shaykh Taha Karaan loved Spicy food. His favorite eat out place was Nando’s (anyone who knows him will know this). He would order the extra-hot chicken and eat it with more extra-hot sauce on top. He also loved Nando’s because it was founded in South Africa 🇿🇦
Lastly, I will close this thread with some snippets from a lecture of his in 2017. I can’t believe he is gone. May his students continue his own legacy.

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