When I first became interested in Islam, I was overwhelmed by the information that I needed to learn. I had friends who were telling me all the things I needed to memorise; the Arabic terms and verses which I had to recite. There was an expectation on everyone's part that I should be better than them; I should practice more than them; I should know more than them. It was all too much for me. Information was being fed to me as to what I should wear or should not wear, what I should eat and should not eat. The whole issue was complicated by the fact that there was slight difference of opinion between the scholars and each friend of mine was at pains to drag me to their reasoning. In the midst of this, another revert brought me to Imam Hafiz Fateh Muhammad.
When I came to see Hafiz, he calmed my worries and reassured me that living under the shade of God's mercy, being a Muslim, was a process that required hard work and endurance. He reminded me of the saying of the Prophet that the religion is ease and that if you take one step to Allah, He comes ten steps towards you. He asked me to learn about my new faith step by step and not be overwhelmed by it all. As Allah had accepted me into his chosen faith, I could only come closer to Him by learning more about this faith. Since then whenever I had a particular dilemma, I came to Hafiz sahib for his spiritual and practical advice and sometimes I brought other reverts with me. He never made us feel intimidated by his knowledge
He was truly a man of people. He would often remind those close to him of the saying of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) 'the best amongst you is the one most beneficial to them'. He was sincerely interested in providing religious advice in a practical form. People of all backgrounds; Muslims, non-Muslims, young, old, men and women would come to him regarding private and personal matters of love and life, family and faith. Despite the fact that these meetings with people affected his routine of doing set remembrance of Allah and recitation of the Glorious Quran and his studies and writing, he always gave time to the people who came to him and listened to their heartache. Â He never judged people and would not talk behind their backs about their private and personal matters. Instead he guided with compassion and always tried to make the religion easy to practice.
Another key characteristic of Hafiz sahib's personality was his altruistic, selfless and self-sacrificing personality. He did not want people to praise him for how close he was to Allah or recognize how high his status was in terms of spirituality or how much insight/farasah of a believer he had, rather he wanted people to turn to Allah and develop those characteristics in themselves. He wanted to empower others rather than hold all the power to himself. That is the reason that with his practical advice, he would always ask people to either recite a particular surah or verse of the Noble Quran or some other zikr. It was his quality of serving His Lord by helping people that people not only from all over the UK but even from outside the UK would call him and discuss their matters with him. He knew a lot of people in Europe and the US who would invite him to visit their countries but he always declined saying that with the time that he had, he was even unable to serve people locally.
Most reverts to Islam are usually so disillusioned with the world and its attractions that they want to run away from the ordinary life and perhaps try to create a new world for themselves. However, Hafiz sahib always motivated reverts to not isolate themselves from the world. Muslims must live in the world but not let the world live in their hearts so much that they forget the Creator of the world. We often spoke about the challenges of our times and the difficulty of balancing student life, professional life with spiritual life. He once said that he went through the same emotions during the early days of him teaching English Literature in a College and in order to create emotions conducive for nurturing the soul, he increased his portion of daily recitation of the Holy Quran.