It is an amazing fact of life that sometimes, there are people whom you’ve never met, and probably will never meet who, nevertheless, by virtue of something that they did or said, have a big impact on your life by making you stop and think deeply about a certain aspect of life. Such was the case for me one day in July 2012 when my husband returned from a funeral. Although I had never heard of Sheikh Charfaoui by name I was aware of his story.
He was a wealthy man who lived here in Algiers and who bought a plot of land on the outskirts of the town of Rouiba. On this land he built a mosque named Omar ibn Khattab, or nicknamed Khandahar Mosque because it was situated right in the middle of wasteland that reminded one of Afghanistan. He also built a Quranic school with a boarding house attached to the mosque. Many students from all over Algeria came to stay here throughout the years, to live and study, food and board completely free, provided by this man. He used to go to the kitchens daily to check that they were being properly fed mashallah. Many times we drove by and saw all the white camis’ flapping on the washing lines on the terrace over the boarding school, This man was not a scholar and didn’t claim to be extremely knowledgeable in the deen and yet, his funeral prayer was led by Shaikh Ferkous and attended by Shaikh Lazar and other shuyouk as well as students. In fact his funeral totally closed the town of Rouiba – it was virtually impossible to get in or out with all the traffic.
When I think of the impact this man had on so many, and the sadaqa jariya (continuous charity that benefits the deceased long after they have died) that he has provided, I am reminded of the hadith:
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Envy is permitted only in two cases: Of a man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and of a man whom Allah gives knowledge, and he applies and teaches it.” [Bukhari]
And yes, I felt envy for this man who had made the best of use of his wealth. People place so much importance on creating a legacy to leave behind, something by which people will remember them. Yet, in the space of just a couple of generations people will not only have forgotten them but not know that they ever existed, and whatever legacy they left behind will have become useless, broken, or so familiar that nobody will notice it or even know of its original importance. Such is life. I loved my grandparents and have so many fond memories of them but none of my children or my nieces and nephews knew them, and once my generation has gone nobody will ever remember them. So why oh why do we place so much more importantance on what we leave behind, when what is truly important is what we bring to the grave with us – our deeds and sadaqa jariya. Every time someone prays in this mosque, or learns a hadith or an aya of the Qur’an, or any Islamic knowledge this man will receive a blessing for it inshallah. Now…that’s what I call a legacy.
But then we all have this opportunity to do the same with whatever little we have, as it’s not the size of the amount that we gift that is important but the intention behind it to please Allah.
I was not the only one inspired by his story – so too was my son who was 10 at the time and would have sold his mother if he thought he’d get anything for me! When I told him the story he immediately took some money from his savings and contributed it to a mosque that was being built in our area. Afterwards he was a little bit worried: ‘Mum, what if the money I gave goes to building the toilet or wudu areas, will I still get the reward for everyone who prays in that mosque?’, and I reassured him that it didn’t matter which part of the mosque his money went towards building, he would receive blessings every time people prayed in that mosque, and he was so happy. One evening some time later he came home and told me that there was someone begging outside the mosque and he gave him all that was in his pocket which was only a few dinars, and he wanted to know if Allah would be pleased with him. I told him that Allah would be pleased with him more than most, because he gave all he had.
Oh Allah have mercy on Shaikh Charfaoui, forgive him all his sins, make his grave wide and spacious and grant him Firdous. Oh and Allah…. Help me to stop wasting my time and make the most of the little time I have left on this earth by studying my deen, and doing good deeds for your pleasure, and preparing for my own time in the grave and my meeting with You.