Pillars of Light Initiative
قَالَ مَالِكٌ لَيْسَ الْعِلْمُ بِكَثْرَةِ الرِّوَايَةِ إِنَّمَا الْعِلْمُ نُورٌ يَضَعَهُ اللَّهُ فِي الْقُلُوبِ
“Knowledge does not consist in narrating much. Knowledge is but a light which Allah places in the heart.” Imam Malik Ibn Anas رحمه الله
لَيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَنْتُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَالْمَلائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ
“It isn’t righteousness that you turn your faces towards the Qibla direction of the East and the West, rather righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free and who establishes the prayer and pays the obligatory charity; and those that fulfill their covenants when they convene, and the patient in distress and affliction and in the time of conflict. These are they who are truthful; and these are they who have Taqwa.” [Al Qur’an al Kareem]
In this blessed month of Ramadan, we have a tremendous opportunity to build our homes in the hereafter by supporting the illumination of sacred knowledge. Your generous contributions will afford you the opportunity to share in the reward of sacred knowledge that is learned, applied and shared with others. Don’t let this illuminated door of opportunity close before you are counted among those who will benefit by showing your support.
Mauritania Foundation is seeking $70,000 USD in Sadaqah during the month of Ramadan to assist in the costs of living and study (food, clothing, healthcare, school supplies…) for the students at Dar Us Salaam as well as Sadaqah for the poor and destitute in the surroundings areas and throughout Mauritania. It costs approximately $300 USD to pay for the costs of a single student per year. We are encouraging everyone that is able to donate $300 USD (cost of annual maintenance for a single student), however any charity you are able to give is welcomed and greatly appreciated. All donations are tax deductible.
Dar Us Salaam Mahdara
Dar Us Salaam Mahdara is a traditional Islamic school located in Kiffa, Mauritania, and founded in 2003 by Shaykh Salek bin Siddina—a great scholar from the region as well as one of the former visiting scholars at the previous Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California. Dar Us Salaam hosts approximately 150 students ranging in age and provides for their living expenses, including food, housing, clothing, and healthcare. Over the years, the Mahdaras of Mauritania have helped produce several influential teachers and students of knowledge teaching Islam in the West, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf—Zaytuna College, Shaykh Rami Nsour—Tayba Foundation, Shaykh Hamza Maqbul—Rayyan Institute, and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus—Al Maqasid.
In addition to teaching the Islamic sciences, including Aqeeda, Fiqh, Tafseer, Hadith, and Tassawuf, Dar Us Salaam serves as a center for humanitarian relief in the area. Among other things, it distributes sadaqah and Zakat, and conducts Udhiyya and Aqiqa ceremonies for surrounding villages. Dar Us Salaam also builds houses, irrigation systems, and wells. Its charity regularly reaches as far as Twemerat—the village and school of Shaykh Salek’s main teacher, Shaykh Murabit al Hajj, May Allah preserve him.
Biography of Shaykh Salek Bin Siddina
Shaykh Salek Bin Siddina
Shaykh Salek is from Mauritania, West Africa, a country known for producing some of the Muslim world’s most knowledgeable scholars.
He studied for over 17 years in the famous mountain region of Taganat, from numerous accomplished scholars including Murabit al-Hajj, one of the greatest scholars of our age. In addition to memorizing the entire Quran in two of its recitations, he has studied and mastered some of the most advanced texts in the disciplines of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Arabic grammar (nahu), doctrinal creed (aqida), Prophetic narration (hadith), and the study of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (seerah). From a family tracing its lineage back to the Prophet, peace be upon him, himself, he is respected and widely regarded amongst his peers as a scholar of the highest caliber.
He currently runs the Dar Us Salaam school in Mauritania teaching the Qur’an, Islamic law, and numerous other subjects to children and adults of all ages. Shaykh Salek is the founder and head of the Foundation for Mauritanian Relief and Development.
Shaykh Salek has resided in the Bay Area California since 2002 and was formerly a visiting scholar at Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California. Shaykh Salek has taught and trained many American students in the traditional Islamic Sciences including Shaykh Rami Nsour—founder of the Tayba Foundation—and Dr. Shadee Al Misree—Imam of New Brunswick Islamic Center (NBIC) and Founder of Safina Society.
First Initiative Success and Update
Last Ramadan Mauritania Foundation launched its first initiative which was our appeal for sponsorship of the students at Dar Us Salaam. Approximately $40,000 was raised to cover food, clothing, healthcare, and school supplies for the students. May Allah reward all of those that financially contributed to this successful effort and to those that also assisted by spreading the word. These funds were completely distributed to Dar us Salaam shortly after the close of the campaign. As a way of keeping our donors updated we’d like to share with you biographies of two of the many students at Dar us Salaam that directly benefited from these donations and rely on your continued support of the foundation.
This is Muhammad. He is 24 years of age and is also known as As’hala Masaleck by the students. His family resides in a city called Nema, which is a 600 kilometer (a 373 mile) drive from Dar Us Salaam. His village is known for their knowledge. Every village and every heritage are known for something. As I was told by one student, there are villages known for playing guitar, singing, and dancing. May Allah protect us, ameen.
I asked him, “Your village is known for knowledge and you travel 600 kilometers to Dar Us Salaam. Why?” He smiled and laughed and replied “What makes a student of knowledge is his detachment from his family and the hardship he goes through to seek knowledge. He then added, “I wanted to be far away from my family so that I am forced to stay and study.” Muhammad hasn’t been home to visit his family in 2 years.
A huge percentage of the students in Dar Us Salaam are named Muhammad. They usually tend to give the students nicknames as to not be confused by all of the Muhammads. Teachers and students alike will also call them by their name and then mention their heritage in order to pinpoint which Muhammad is being referred to. I find it quite interesting how the Mauritanians acquire nicknames and the unique history behind each one. I asked Muhammad how he got his nickname. He said “I used to study in Geru before arriving to Dar Us Salaam. I had already memorized a couple of lines from As’hala Masaleck (a high-level Maliki fiqh text).When I arrived to Dar Us Salaam, students saw me writing As’hala Masaleck on my lawh (wooden writing tablet) and one of them said “There are a lot of Muhammads here so we have to give you a nickname. Would you like to be called As’hala Masaleck or Muhammad Murga?” Murga is the name of the village where Muhammad’s family lives in Nema. Muhammad preferred to just be call Muhammad, but this request was rejected and the student began to call him As’hala Masaleck. The nickname spread like a wildfire.
Geru is a city that is 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Dar Us Salaam. As Shaykh Salek says, it used to be the Medina of knowledge until the death of scholars and the mass invasion of television and music . These two things ruined the city and it’s no longer a city of knowledge, but a city of business. There are still scholars alive in the city of Geru, but they have no control over the corruption that the city faces. Hamza Yusuf has a video where he speaks about his love for Geru and his sadness and grief for its change.
I asked Muhammad how he heard about Dar Us Salaam and he told me that while in Geru, he didn’t enjoy the atmosphere of the busy streets and the city feel to it. He asked people if there was a place around where he could study and find much benefit from and one of his friends referred him to Dar Us Salaam. And ever since then, he hasn’t left, Alhamdulillah. Muhammad is known as being the right-hand student of Shaykh Faqi (Shaykh Salek’s brother). If Shaykh Salek or Shaykh Faqi want something done, Muhammad is the go-to guy. One time guests from U.K who were traveling through Mauritania came to visit Shaykh Salek, but intended to only stay for about 10 minutes. In Mauritania, it is custom to slaughter a lamb for guests and have them stay for a couple of hours to eat and relax. Shaykh Salek told Muhammad to slaughter, skin, gut, and butcher a lamb in under 5 minutes. Muhammad said “Of course” and began the process. I’ve never seen an animal slaughtered and prepped that quickly; it was unbelievable.
Muhammad is highly respected and feared by the students. If the students don’t listen to him, they will have a very hard time with Shaykh Faqi and could potentially be kicked out of Dar Us Salaam. Shaykh Faqi runs Dar Us Salaam when Shaykh Salek is in America. He has an ijaza in Qur’an from Shaykh Salek and spent 6 years studying in Tuwamarat with Shaykh Murabit al Hajj and Shaykh Hadameen. He spent an additional 6 years studying with Shaykh Salek in Dar Us Salaam.
Muhammad can be very tough with the other students, but people who truly know him say he is the sweetest student they have ever met. I studied and stayed in the same room as Muhammad and I noticed that every student in his room are like his little brothers. He takes care of each and every one of them. He buys them tea, sweets, bread, and milk. When I see him with money, he instantly spends it to feed us. If any of the students in the room misses lunch or dinner, he makes sure they are fed. His schedule is probably the most extreme out of all of the students. I remember conversing with him about the righteous scholars and how they would spend hours and hours studying and never slept much. He said “Asadullah, I don’t like sleep. Last year, every weeknight I only slept for one hour.” I was looking at him like he was insane. How can someone possibly sleep for one hour 5 days out of the week? His aspirations are really high mashaAllah. To me, he has the highest aspirations of any student at Dar Us Salaam. He also works the hardest. May Allah grant him more, ameen.
His schedule depends on the season. During the summer, the weather gets so hot that no one can recite during the daylight hours in Ramadan. For the other seasons, he wakes up at 2am and memorizes his lessons. He reviews until 4am and then goes to his room to wake up his fellow roommates. He then begins to review what he had just memorized while making tea. There are a couple of students who he personally teaches so at this time, they come to him with their lessons and recite with him. He then goes and prays fajr, which is around 6am. After fajr, he goes to his room and recites some more until 8am.
Around 8am is when students grab their breakfast from Muhammad Lameen’s room. He relaxes a bit and makes another pot of tea for everyone. Muhammad eats his bread and begins reciting until he is ready to wash his lawh. Most students wash their lawh every morning and begin to write their new lessons, but with Muhammad, he doesn’t have a schedule when to wash his lawh. He does it whenever he has truly memorized it.
After all of that hard work, he takes a nap from 11am until 1-2pm. He then prays dhuhr and eats lunch with his fellow students. Once lunch is finished, he recites until ‘asr. Muhammad recites even more after ‘asr until 30 minutes before maghrib. At this time, he relaxes a bit and talks with his fellow roommates. After maghrib, he recites until ‘isha and then after ‘isha, it’s time for him to eat his dinner. He stays up until 11pm or midnight reciting.
His schedule is very busy. He is mainly reciting Qur’an. He memorized the whole Qur’an in Warsh and he has finished the text of Rasm. Right now, he is memorizing the whole Qur’an in Qaloon. I really don’t see any other student doing what he does, mashaAllah. May Allah grant him more.
Last year I wasn’t as close to Muhammad as I am to him now. I thank Allah for allowing me to be a companion of such a righteous student. I have a feeling that he will soon have his ijaza in Qur’an and be a very good teacher in sha Allah. Before attending Dar Us Salaam, he had already memorized Al Akhdari as well as Ibn Ashr. And while being here at Dar Us Salaam, he has memorized the Qur’an, Rasm, الحمله and المقرأ. If I had to choose one companion in the madrasa, I would choose him due to his love of studying. He encourages you to study harder. He is always ready to help and doesn’t turn down any questions from students, even if he’s busy with his own lesson.
This is Muhammad Lameen. He is 20 years of age and is a student who has been studying at Dar Us Salaam for 3 years. While at Dar Us Salaam, he has memorized 40 hizb of Qur’an, rasm, one volume of Khalil, and Al-Fiyah ibnu Malik. That’s not to mention he has also memorized the texts of Al Akhdari, Ibn Ashr and Al Sharnubi before arriving to Dar Us Salaam. His family resides in Nouakchott, Mauritania which is 600 kilometers (373 miles) from Kiffa.
If you ask anyone who has traveled to visit Dar Us Salaam, they will first mention how far and exhausting the car ride is to get to there. But of course there are different opinions between travelers on how long the travel is from Nouakchott to Kiffa. Some say nine hours and others will say twelve. The “Nascar” drivers of Mauritania will say it takes five hours. Though it might seem strange for a parent to leave their child to study at a school that is far away, it is a norm for parents in Mauritania. They may leave their children in a madrasa for years with only short home visits every Ramadan; even if it is an 18 hour drive. This is a very key aspect for the students to one day become great teachers and scholars.
I had many experiences where I witnessed the amazing character of Muhammad Lameen. He is known in Dar Us Salaam as “مدير” which literally means “director” in English. The students don’t refer to him as being the type of director that creates movies, but rather one who is a boss. He plays a very great role at Dar Us Salaam and his contributions and hard work are appreciated by students and peers alike. Every morning, students come to his room for their breakfast supplies and he distributes 3 cups of sugar (for tea) and French bread to them. As he distributes these supplies, you will see students in his room nonchalantly studying and making tea. After he finishes distributing breakfast to all of the students, he begins his studies.
Students come to him again around 12pm to pick up rice, beans, lamb, and oil in order to cook lunch for all of the students. There are about 20 rooms at Dar US Salaam and students in 17 of these rooms take turns cooking. It takes roughly 2 hours and 30min for the meal to be prepared and ready to eat.
After distributing supplies for food, Muhammad Lameen rests by taking a nap before dhuhr. He then wakes up to pray dhuhr and then goes to eat lunch with the students. After eating, he studies until ‘asr time. When ‘asr has been prayed, students come to him one last time to pick up food so they can prepare for dinner. They pick up macaroni, beans, and oil. Once this final food distribution is complete, he goes to Sheikh Saleck and reads his new lesson for the day. After his lesson, he is sometimes asked to complete a task for Sheikh Saleck such as watering plants, making tea, or cleaning the bathroom.
By the time he finishes, the adhan is called for maghrib. Post-maghrib is a time Muhammad relaxes and converses with fellow students until ‘isha prayer. After ‘isha, he goes to his room and eats his dinner. Most people would think that he goes to sleep after dinner, but he instead heads out to the desert by himself and takes his lawh (wooden tablet) and studies until 1am. Finally, he calls it a day.
If I were to use one word to describe “مدير” , that word would be humble. He does not go around bragging to people about all of the texts he has memorized. He also doesn’t put himself higher than any other student, but rather says “I am just like you, a student seeking knowledge.” I was shocked to hear how many advanced texts he has memorized and studied. I originally assumed he was similar to the average student at Dar Us Salaam, who memorizes Qur’an and Al Akhdari. His humility blew me away as it is rare to see such a great quality embedded in a 20 year old student. It is truly a great sign for the youth that there’s hope for them. May Allah grant us all complete tawfeeq and forgive us for all of our shortcomings.
Funds supporting Dar Us Salaam will be distributed by Shaykh Salek, who directly manages the operations and charitable initiatives.
How You Can Help
Please donate whatever you are able to but we are encouraging those that can afford it to donate a minimum of $300 USD to cover the costs of a single student for an entire year. By Allah’s permission you will receive a reward for whatever you donate. If you are unable to give Sadaqah then you can assist by spreading the word via social media and word of mouth.
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ طَلَبُ الْعِلْمِ فَرِيضَةٌ عَلَى كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ
[سنن ابن ماجه]
On the authority of Anas Ibn Malik the Messenger of Allah May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon him said: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.” [Sunan Ibn Maajah]
عن أبي مسعود رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم ” من دل على خير فله مثل أجر فاعله أخرجه” صحيح مسلم.
On the authority of Abi Masud May Allah be Pleased with him the Messenger of Allah May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon him said:
“Whoever directs (someone) to good will have the reward equal to the doer of that action.” [Sahih Muslim]