Shaykh Ahmed Saad Al-Azhari (2018)
Shaykh Ahmed Muhammad Saad Ash-Shafi’ie Al-Azhari Al-Hasani was born into a family of scholars whose lineage goes back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم through his grandson Al-Hasan ibn Ali (radia Allahu anhu) in the northern Egyptian governorate of Monofiyyah, in the Nile Delta. Shaykh Ahmed Saad completed the memorisation of the Holy Qur’an at the age of ten at the hands of his father and studied basic Arabic and Islamic sciences with a focus on the sciences of Arabic language (‘Ulum Al-‘Arabiyyah) before enrolling into Al-Azhar system of schools where he studied from 1988 to 2004 graduating with a B.A. Honours in Islamic Studies in English. Shaykh Ahmed has travelled extensively to teach and spread the knowledge of the Islamic tradition across the world.
Shaykh Ahmed Saad studied traditional Islamic sciences at the hands of senior scholars and specialists in Egypt, the most notable of whom is his late father Shaykh Muhammad Saad and the Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gom’ah. He memorised Riyad As-Salihin of Imam An-Nawawi at the age of 15 and Al-alfiyyah of Ibn Malik at the age of 13 and has committed to memory thousands of lines of poetry and prose. He has memorised texts on mantiq (logic), tajwid, aqidah, morphology, rhetoric and many other sciences.
Shaykh Ahmed Saad holds one of the highest chains in qira’at (in Qur’anic recitation) among his peers. There are 29 people between the Blessed Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Amongst the Shuyukh of Shaykh Ahmed Saad in Qira’at are: Shaykh Dr. Ayman Suwaid of Damascus, Shaykh Ali An-Nahhas, Shaykh Shibl Matar, Shaykh Abdel-Basit Hashim, Shaykh Abdel-Fattah Madkour (the last living student of Shaykh Ali Ad-Dabba’ and a colleague of Shaykh Al-Husari) of Egypt.
Shaykh Ahmed Saad has also obtained Ijazahs (permission to teach) in the books of hadith, the musalsalat, Shafi’ie Fiqh and books of Tafsir, Tasawwuf, Shama’il and biographies from various Shuyukh. Some of his main teachers are: the Grand Mufti of Egypt Imam Shaykh Ali Gom’ah, Shaykh Ahmed Ali As-Surti (India), Shaykh Yahya Al-Mulla (Al-Ahsa), Shaykh Muhammad Abdel-Ba’ith Al-Kittani (Alexandria), Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz (Yemen), Shaykh Muhammad Sadiq Al-Alawi, Shaykh Yahya Al-Ghawthani (Madinah), Habib Muhammad Sa’ied Al-Beidh, Shaykh Muhammad Qasim Al-Washali, Shaykh Subhi As-Samurra’ie (Iraq), Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Al-Kittani (Morocco) Shaykh Ahmed Sharif Al-Manbiji (Syria), Dr. Abdel-Fattah Al-Bizm (Mufti of Damascus) and Habib Abu Bakr al-Mashur.
Shaykh Ahmed Saad loves poetry and writes it frequently mainly in Arabic and sometimes in English. Shaykh Saad is the founder and director of the UK-based Al-Ihsan Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. He is currently living in the UK and travels internationally.
Shaykh Ramzy Ajem (2018)
Shaykh Ramzy Ajem is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Risalah Foundation in Toronto, Canada. He is the visionary behind the Masjid Vaughan initiative and currently serves as its Project Chairman.Shaykh Ramzy began is classical training in the Islamic sacred sciences in the early 1990’s with the scholars of Damascus. He then moved to Morocco to continue his studies at the ancient seminary of Tanalat. He also studied at the prestigious university of the Qarawiyyin in Fez.Shaykh Ramzy teaches regularly at Risalah Foundation and has been instrumental in countering violent extremism through his grassroots approach in presenting authentic traditional Islam.Shaykh Ramzy has over a decade of experience in developing and teaching Islamic curricula for a western audience.
Maulana Siddiq Ahmad Nasir (2016-2018)
Maulana Siddiq attended the Aleemiyah Institute of Islamic Studies in Karachi, Pakistan. In addition to completing the Al Ijaazah Al Aliyah curriculum.he also earned an M.A in Philosophy, an LLb (law degree) as well as a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Karachi. Since completing his studies he has served as a scholar and missionary in the propagation of Islam.
Maulana Siddiq served for a period as Shaykh ul Islam of Trinidad and Tobago. He is currently the founder and Scholar in Residence of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah Institute headquartered in Jama Masjid, San Fernando, Trinidad. He has held numerous positions in Pakistan, Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, New York and New Jersey. In addition, he has written several papers on Islam and contemporary issues and presented these in various media channels, universities and forums across the world.
Maulana Siddiq spent his early years at Bairds Private School then on a scholarship left to attend Queens College [in Georgetown, Guyana]. He concurrently attended Islamic classes at the Queenstown Madrasa under the tutelage of the late Ustad Bertie. His grandfather, Moulvi Nasir, was one of the popular Imams at the Vreed En Hoop Mosque for many years.
Shaykh Walead Mohammed Mosaad (2016-17)
Shaykh Walead Mohammed Mosaad was born in New York City in 1972 and grew up in New York and central New Jersey. He obtained a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers College of Engineering in 1994. At Rutgers, he was active in the Islamic Society of Rutgers University for which he served as president.
After graduating, he worked as a communications and network engineer in New Jersey and later in New York City. In the summer of 1997 he left for the Middle East to study Arabic and Islamic sciences. After studying some of the Arabic sciences with a scholar from Dar Al-‘Ulum in Cairo, he enrolled in Mahad Al-Fatah in Damascus.
Shaykh Walead went on to complete a degree in Arabic Language and Literature from Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He has also studied the Islamic Sciences, including Qur’anic exegesis, marriage and divorce law, law of transactions, hadith methodology and commentary, juristic methodology, and spiritual sciences with notable scholars such as Shaykh Bakri Al-Tarabishi a Qur’anic scholar with the highest Qur’an ijaza in the world, Ustadh Ali Hamidullah, one of the foremost Arabic grammarians, Shaykh Kurayyim Rajih, the Grand Shaykh of Quran reciters in Damascus, Shaykh Ahmad Taha Rayyan, the foremost Maliki Shaykh in al-Azhar, and Shaykh Ali Gom’ah, the Grand Mufti of Egypt. He has recently completed his PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK.
Additionally, he has been given written authorization, or ijaza by Shaykh Ali Gom’ah to transmit and teach the sacred sciences. He also received written authorization to teach Qur’anic recitation with the highest chain of authorization to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, from Shaykh Bakri al-Tarabishi of Damascus.
From 2005 to 2011 he worked with the Tabah Foundation in Abu Dhabi as its Cultural and Education Projects manager, where he developed educational initiatives to address the needs of new Muslims, as well as initiatives to foster cross-cultural and interfaith understanding. Most notably, he was a key member of the delegation to Denmark following the cartoon crisis, where along with other scholars, he engaged in dialogue with the people of Denmark and the Muslim minority of Denmark. He also oversees da’wah projects in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
He has lectured on various topics of interest, including Muslims as minorities, interfaith understanding, and the importance of purification and spirituality in addressing the human condition. He has taught or lectured in the US, Canada, Trinidad, Guyana, the UK, France, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya, India, Bahrain, Jordan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE. Shaykh Walead has been an instructor at several Deen Intensive Programs. Upon returning to America, he taught at an Islamic school, served as a Muslim chaplain at Rutgers, and was an associate Imam at Dallas Central Mosque in Richardson, TX. He currently serves as the Resident Scholar of Sakina Collective, a non-profit educational institution based in Allentown, PA whose mission is to develop inspire and engage Muslims dedicated to the love and advancement of the Prophetic values and ideals.
Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (2017)
Shaykh Yahya is recognized as one of the leading Muslim scholars in the West. Shaykh Yahya has spent the best part of two decades studying at some of the most prestigious learning Institutions in the Muslim and Western world. Having embraced Islam at the age of 19 in Santa Clara, California, he immediately began his study of the Islamic sciences with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and visiting Mauritanian scholars, such as Shaykh Khatri Ould Bayba, and Shaykh Abd Allah Ould Ahmadna. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Mauritania to pursue a full-time course of study where he was able to learn from one of Mauritania’s greatest scholars, Murabit al-Hajj. Following an interim period of study in Damascus, Syria, Shaykh Yahya went on to spend the best part of seven years in Tarim, in the Hadramawt Valley of Yemen. There, he studied at the reputable school, Dar al-Mustafa, with the renowned scholars Habib Umar bin Hafiz and Habib Ali al-Jifri. Since then, Shaykh Yahya became one of the official translators of Habib Umar and Habib Ali at various international speaking engagements, including the Common Word Conference held at Yale University in 2008. Upon returning to the US, Shaykh Yahya served as a full-time instructor at Zaytuna College. He holds a B.A in Near Eastern Studies from the UC Berkeley, an M.A in Islamic Studies from the Graduate Theological Union, and is currently reading for a PhD in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Cambridge, England, in collaboration with Dr. Timothy Winter (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad). He is the Founding Director of al-Maqasid which is based in Allentown, PA. USA.
Shaykh Hamdi Ben Aissa (2017)
Shaykh Hamdi Ben Aissa studied Islamic Sciences in a traditional milieu in Tunisia with his Father, a Zaytuna University-trained scholar, and later with Habib Umar bin Al-Hafidh in one of the spiritual capitals of Islam that is Tarim, Yemen. Habib Umar is Shaykh Hamdi’s Guide. Upon granting Shaykh Hamdi his degrees in Islamic knowledge, Habib Umar asked Shaykh Hamdi to serve the communities in Ottawa. In addition to teaching, Shaykh Hamdi serves as a chaplain in Montreal-area institutions. He also makes himself available for spiritual counseling, mentorship, and advice whenever needed.
Sidi Nader Khan (2017)
Nader Mohammed Khan is a Canadian Muslim singer & social activist. He is the Programs Director of ReliefWorks (www.Relief-Works.org), a unique initiative that promotes local relief efforts through Islamic music, arts, and inspiration.
His first album was produced under ReliefWorks and was released in North America in December of 2008, and in the UK and Australia in November 2009. More information about his albums, performances, and upcoming projects can be found at www.NaderKhan.com.
Nader attended the University of Toronto (UTSC) and graduated at the turn of the century with a degree in Management and Economics. Throughout his time at university and also upon graduating, he remained actively engaged with the Muslim community on and off campus through various endeavours including running the campus Muslim Students’ Association, making a memorable cameo appearance in a popular children’s educational video series, teaching basic Islamic Studies and Qur’an Recitation to teenagers at summer camps, singing backup and lead vocals in studio recordings and staged concerts, and conducting orientation workshops and seminars for first year university students.
Nader has performed live with various artists such as Aashiq Al- Rasul, Native Deen, Halal Meat, and Dawud Wharnsby-Ali, the Singapore Haqqani Ensemble and Al-Firdaus Ensemble of Spain. He is widely-traveled and has spent time with people from a broad variety of cultures and traditions throughout his life. This is reflected in his work through the fusion of various genres, and the blending of many different styles, tunes, rhythms and modes.
Nader lives in the east end of the glorious city of Toronto. He sings in English, Arabic, Urdu, and some Farsi.
Nazim Baksh (Facilitator)
Nazim Baksh serves as the main coordinator of this retreat. After immigrating to Canada from his native Guyana in his late teens, Nazim completed his B.A. Hons. in political science and philosophy at York University in Toronto and then went on to complete a Master’s degree in journalism at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. Nazim is a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Toronto where he has worked for the last 26 years and has won many prestigious awards in his field including the Massey Journalism Fellowship in 2007. He has been a contributing writer with Q-News International (UK) and Islamica Magazine (Amman, Jordan). He was named one of the World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims (media category) three years in a row according to the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan. He has traveled extensively, producing documentaries and news stories from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Israel and the West Bank, Sudan, Mauritania and many other regions of the world. He was recently in Brussels, Belgium on assignment during the security lockdown of the country following the 2015 terror attacks in Paris. Despite the demands on his professional life, for the last three decades Sidi Nazim has championed many grass-roots religious initiatives in North American and Europe aimed at disseminating a normative approach to Islam such as the Rihla and Deen Intensive programs under the direction of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.