(Excerpts taken from: https://islamicportal.co.uk/obituary-shaykh-yusuf-motala/)
Birth and early life
Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Abū Sulaymān Yusuf ibn Sulayman ibn Qasim Motala was born on Monday 1 Muḥarram 1366 Hijrī, 25 November 1946, in his maternal grandfather’s home in Nani Naroli, Gujarat, India. His mother Aminah bint Muhammad ibn Ismail Desai hailed from a pious family, her father’s residence was frequented by scholars and saints. Following the demise of Ḥaḍrat’s father’s first wife, his father married Aminah and several years later Ḥaḍrat’s elder brother Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Motala Ṣāḥib (d. 1434/2012) was born. Ḥaḍrat was born thereafter. His father’s ancestral village is Varethi, 10km from Nani Naroli.
Ḥaḍrat’s father Sulayman had a spiritual connection with Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Gafūr Bengālī Muhājir Makkī. He engaged in the constant remembrance of Allah and this started to create jadhb (spiritual absorption) within him. Eventually, he decided to remain absorbed and intoxicated in Allah’s love and becomes oblivious of the world. He requested his wife Aminah to return to her parents’ home. A few days later, Ḥaḍrat was born in his maternal grandfather’s house. Ḥaḍrat’s mother re-married some eight years later and moved to South Africa, whilst Ḥaḍrat remained in the care of his maternal grandparents. Following their demise, his maternal aunt looked after him. It was here in Nani Naroli at Madrasah Taʿlīm al-Quran that he acquired his primary Islamic education and memorised the Quran.
Jamia Husayniyyah, Rander
In 1961 (1380 hijrī), Ḥaḍrat enrolled at the famous seminary in Gujarat, Jamia Husayniyyah, Rander, where he studied the ʿĀlim programme for the next five years. It was during this period that for the first time Ḥaḍrat had sight of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī (d. 1402/1982) at Surat Train Station, with whom he would later develop a very close relationship. Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī was on route to Hajj and stopped at the station for fifteen minutes.
Mazahir Uloom, Saharanpur
In 1966 (1385 hijrī), Ḥaḍrat decided to enrol at Mazahir Uloom in Saharanpur to complete the final two years of the ʿĀlim programme and benefit from the company of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī. For the next two years, Ḥaḍrat studied under various teachers outlined below and developed a strong bond with Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī. Such was the relationship that Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī decided to postpone handing over the responsibility of teaching Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī to his successor for a year, enabling Ḥaḍrat to study the Ṣaḥīḥ with him. Ḥaḍrat was among the youngest students and associates of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī and their relationship began towards the end of his life. Despite this, a strong bond was developed early on as reflected in this decision to postpone rescinding responsibility to teach the Ṣaḥīḥ. Ḥaḍrat is also a disciple of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī and was given ijāzah in taṣawwuf. He also served as his Imam and was known in Saharanpur as “Qārī Yusuf”.
Along with Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā, Ḥaḍrat’s second role model was Shaykh al-Islam Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī (d. 1377/1957) although he only met him once as a young child (see discourses section below). Ḥaḍrat was influenced by these two personalities the most. Whenever Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī’s son, Mawlānā Asʿad Madanī (d. 1427/2006) would visit the UK, Ḥaḍrat would host him, and following his demise a programme was organised at Darul Uloom Bury reflecting on his life and works.
I am not aware of Ḥaḍrat’s teachers in Jamia Husayniyyah, Rander with the exception of Mawlānā Shamsuddīn Afghānī Ṣāḥib (basā), whose style and anecdotes Ḥaḍrat would fondly recollect in our classes. Mawlānā Shamsuddīn Ṣāḥib is the author of an Arabic commentary of Sharḥ al-ʿAqāʾid al-Nasafiyyah, wherein he is extremely critical of Ḥāfiẓ Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751/1350), describing him as deviant. Mawlānā Manẓūr Aḥmad Nuʿmānī (d. 1417/1997) refuted him in this regard in his al-Furqān magazine, a copy of which I possess. Mawlānā Shamsuddīn Ṣāḥib also authored an Arabic commentary of Sunan al-Tirmidhī, a partial manuscript exists in the library of my respected father Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad (b. 1376/1957). I have benefited from this work and cited it in some of my Fatwas and books.
In Mazahir Uloom, Saharanpur, Ḥaḍrat studied under the following teachers:
- Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī (d. 1402/1982) taught him Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī in the final year.
- Mawlānā Asʿadullāh Rāmpūrī (d. 1399/1979) taught him Sharḥ Maʿānī al-Āthār in the final year. Mawlānā Asʿadullāh was a very intelligent and pious scholar. Our respected teacher Mawlānā Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī would regularly praise him and recollect his piety and discourses. He was a senior disciple of Mawlānā Ashraf ʿAlī Thānawī (d. 1362/1943) and taught in Mazahir Uloom for approximately 60 years (for his biography, refer to al-Yawāqīt al-Gāliyah, 2:39).
- Mufti Muẓaffar Ḥusayn (d. 1424/2003) taught him Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim & Sunan al-Tirmidhī in the final year. (Ḥaḍrat’s classmate Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Qādir Patnī has confirmed this).
- Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī (d. 1438/2017) taught him Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ in the penultimate year, and Sunan al-Nasāʾī, Sunan Abī Dāwūd and both Muwaṭṭaʾ in the final year.
- Mufti Yaḥyā Ṣāḥib (d. 1417/1996) taught him the third volume of Hidāyah in the penultimate year. He is the father of the current rector of Mazahir Uloom, Mawlānā Salman Ṣāḥib and served as the Head Mufti in Saharanpur for many years.
- Mawlānā ʿĀqil Ṣāḥib, the current Shaykh al-Ḥadīth of Mazahir Uloom taught him Tafsīr al-Jalālayn in the penultimate year.
Migration to the UK
After graduating in 1968 (1387), Ḥaḍrat travelled to the UK in June 1968 for marriage. Ḥaḍrat’s father in law the late Ḥājī Yaʿqub Sulaiman Limbādā of London sent the necessary paperwork for Ḥaḍrat’s visa and provided immense support on his arrival. Thereafter, for the next few years, Ḥaḍrat settled in Bolton and was appointed Imam of Zakariyya Jame Masjid. Ḥaḍrat would fondly share with us his recollections from this initial period wherein much sacrifices were given by our elders, the fruits of which we are reaping today.
A few months later in October 1968 (1388 hijrī), Ḥaḍrat joined a Tablighi Jamat convoy that was travelling to India to partake in an ijtimāʿ with a view of spending Ramaḍān in the company of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī. It was during this journey by road that an accident occurred in Iran, two people passed away and the others were injured. Ḥaḍrat also sustained an injury on his arms. A detailed account of this trip and the accident was recently published by a family member of Haji Ibrahim Isa, a co-traveller of Ḥaḍrat (This can be downloaded from this link).
Establishment of the 1st Islamic Seminary (Darul Uloom) in the UK
In 1973, Ḥaḍrat decided to purchase a hospital in Holcombe Hall, Ramsbottom, Bury to establish UK’s first Darul Uloom and Islamic seminary. The purchase was finalised with the advice and blessings of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī. Several years later in 1979 and 1981, he made two visits to this Darul Uloom. He had a lot of worry and concern for the Darul Uloom as evident from his published letters and also his two visits shortly before his demise despite his ill health and elderly age.
The Darul Uloom began with a few students. Among them was my respected father who studied here for a few years, studying most of his books one to one with Ḥaḍrat, Mawlānā Hāshim Ṣāḥib and Qārī Ismāʿīl Samnī, and thereafter travelled to Saharanpur in India for the final two years of the ʿĀlim programme and Iftāʾ.
Initially, the Darul Uloom was named Darul Uloom Khaliliyyah Rashidiyyah, this was subsequently changed to Darul Uloom al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah, and it is now more commonly known as Darul Uloom Bury. The beginnings of the project were humble. However, the first graduates of Darul Uloom Bury graduated in 1981 (1401 hijrī) and ever since the seminary has continued to produce graduates. This humble writer is also fortunate to have graduated from this institute in 2005.
Most scholars in the UK are direct or indirect students of Ḥaḍrat. Many students of Ḥaḍrat have established seminaries whilst many others are working in a range of fields including: Medicine, Accountancy, Chaplaincy, Charity, and other fields. Ḥaḍrat’s students reflect his legacy and contribution.
Since its inception, over a thousand students have graduated as scholars from Darul Uloom Bury and many more as Ḥuffāẓ. The vast majority of the graduates are proficient in English along with other languages. Ḥaḍrat encouraged students to pursue further education both in Islamic studies and other disciplines. Thus, some graduates travelled to India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt whilst others were encouraged to enrol at universities in the UK. This has resulted in a diverse range of graduates with expertise in different disciplines who are now contributing to and benefiting the Muslim community and the wider community in the UK and beyond.
As the first Darul Uloom in the Western World, the seminary attracted students from different parts of the world. Darul Uloom’s graduates include scholars from the following countries:
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Ḥaḍrat taught at Darul Uloom Bury since its inception in 1973. In the early years, there were only a few teachers and Ḥaḍrat taught many books. The first graduates of Darul Uloom Bury graduated in 1981 (1401 hijrī). For approximately eleven years during the 80s, Ḥaḍrat taught Sunan al-Tirmidhī along with other books. During this period, my respected father Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad taught Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim. In the early 90s, they switched with each other. Subsequently, in 1416 (1996) after the demise of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Islām al-Ḥaq, Ḥaḍrat started teaching Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and continued doing so until his demise. For several years in the middle including in 2004-5 when we studied with Ḥaḍrat, Ḥaḍrat only taught a portion of the Ṣaḥīḥ. However, I understand in recent years, the full Ṣaḥīḥ would be read in his presence. Ḥaḍrat also taught the translation of the Quran for many years. My colleague Mawlānā Ḥassān Qāzī of Preston recorded our lessons and eventually this resulted in the publication of Ḥaḍrat’s Urdu translation of the Quran.
In addition to this, Ḥaḍrat served as a spiritual guide for many thousands of people. For many decades, the Thursday evening (Friday night) spiritual majlis would attract several hundred people at Darul Uloom in Bury. Ḥaḍrat was very punctual on attending this majlis throughout his life.
Along with Darul Uloom Bury, Ḥaḍrat established several institutes. The list is as follows:
- Darul Uloom al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah, Bury (Boys Boarding)
- Madinatul Uloom al Islamiya, Kidderminster (Boys Boarding)
- Jamiatul Imam Muhammad Zakariya, Bradford (Girls Boarding)
- Markaz ul-Uloom, Blackburn (Boys Boarding and Girls daytime)
- Madrasa al-Imam Muhammad Zakariya, Bolton (Girls daytime)
- Imam Muhammad Zakariya School, Preston (Primary school)
- Madrasa Imam Muhammad Zakariya, Preston (Girls daytime)
- Azhar Academy, London (Girls school and daytime madrasah)
- Al Markazul Ilmi, Dewsbury, (Girls daytime)
- Mahad al-Shuhada Mosque and Madrasa, Preston (Girls daytime)
- Imam Muhammad Zakariya Masjid and Maktab, Dundee
Many other seminaries and institutes were established with Ḥaḍrat’s blessings and guidance.
Ḥaḍrat authored several works during his life, which include the following:
- Iṭāʿat Rasūl (Urdu) – one volume.
- Mashāyikh Ahmedabad (Urdu) – two volumes.
- Translation of the Quran (Urdu) entitled Aḍwāʾ al-Bayān fī Tarjumat al-Quran – one volume.
- Tafsīr of the Quran (Arabic) – This is partially printed and was the work Ḥaḍrat had been working on over the past few years until his demise.
- Maḥabbat Nāmey (Urdu) – Letters of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyya to Ḥaḍrat, printed in three volumes.
- ʿInāyat Nāmey (Urdu) – Letters of other scholars and luminaries to Ḥaḍrat, printed in one volume.
- Meyrey Bhai Jān Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Ṣāḥib Nawwar Allah Marqadah (Urdu) – one volume.
- Jāmiʿ al-Siyar (Urdu) – one volume.
- Jamāl Muḥammadī Dars Bukhārī key Āiney mey (Urdu) – three volumes.
- Jamāl Muḥammadī kī Jalwah Gāhey (Urdu) – two volumes.
- Jamāl Muḥammadī Jabal Nūr par (Urdu) – one volume.
- Buzurgow key Wiṣāl key Aḥwāl (Urdu) – one volume.
- Shām wa Hind key Awliyā ʿIẓām (Urdu) – one volume.
- Aimmah Arbaʿah awr Ṣūfiyā Kirām (Urdu) – one volume.
- Karāmāt wa Kamālāt Awliyā (Urdu) – two volumes.
- Ḥaḍrat Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Muhājir Madnī awr unkey Khulafāʾ Kirām (Urdu) – Three volume publication compiled by Mawlāna Yūsuf Ludyānwī and Ḥaḍrat.
- Makātīb Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Quṭb al-Aqṭāb Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Muhājir Madnī (Urdu) – one volume.
- Isnād Bukhārī Sharīf (Urdu) – A small booklet, with a foreword by Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī.
- Nūr Nubuwwat (Urdu) – a one volume book.
- Ṣalāt wa Salām ʿalā Sayyid al-Anām bi al-Asmāʾ al-Ilāhiyyah wa al-Alqāb al-Nabawiyyah (Arabic) – a small booklet.
- Maṣābīḥ al-Dujā (Arabic) – a small booklet.
- Maṣābīḥ al-Sabīl (Arabic) – a small booklet.
- Miṣbāḥ al-Ẓalām (Arabic) – a small booklet.
- Makātīb Yūsufī (Urdu) – a one volume book featuring the letters of Ḥaḍrat to Mawlāna Aḥmad ʿAlī Lūnat of Leicester.
- Al-Adʿiyah al-Qurāniyyah (Arabic) – a small booklet.
- Sarkār Dow ʿĀlam Ṣallallāhū ʿalayhi wa Sallam awr Māhey Ramaḍān (Urdu)
- Maqālat Yūsufī (Urdu) – an unpublished work of my colleague Shaykh Khalīl Aḥmad Kāzī featuring Ḥaḍrat’s articles and speeches, preceded with a biography in Urdu entitled Dhikr Yūsufī. This will be published on this website soon.
Many of the PDFs are available on the Inter Islam website and several publications have also been translated into English. The small booklets have also been published as a collection entitled Hadyah Ḥaramayn.
After migrating to the UK, Ḥaḍrat’s travels were centred around his mentor and teacher Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī. Thus, he travelled by road to India as mentioned above, and he also travelled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to remain in the company of his mentor.
After Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kāndhelwī’s demise, Ḥaḍrat would travel to South Africa to meet his mother. In 1996-97, he stayed for a prolonged period and also taught lessons there. He would also travel regularly to Saudi Arabia particularly in the month of Ramaḍān. In al-Masjid al-Nabawī, students and teachers of Darul Uloom Bury would perform Iʿtikāf. I also recall participating once or twice as a young child in the 90s. Until recently, Ḥaḍrat also had a permanent residence in the blessed city, reflecting his attachment with the city and love for our beloved Prophet ﷺ.
In addition, Ḥaḍrat would be invited from different countries for programmes. According to my knowledge, the countries Ḥaḍrat visited include (this does not include all the countries visited during the road journey to India):
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
In August 2019, Ḥaḍrat travelled to Canada with his family to deliver some speeches. On Sunday 25 August in the morning, Ḥaḍrat suffered a heart attack which caused injury to the brain. The news spread worldwide. The heart procedure was successful, however, Ḥaḍrat remained unconscious. Medical efforts continued. Allah Almighty had decreed otherwise. Ḥaḍrat passed away at 8.20pm Canada time, on Sunday 8 September 2019, this corresponds to 10 Muḥarram 1441 hijrī . Accordingly, Ḥaḍrat’s age was 75 and 72 according to the Islamic and solar calendars respectively.
The Janāzah Ṣalāh was performed after Ẓuhr Ṣalāh 1.35pm at Jame Masjid Mississauga (Coopers Avenue Mosque) in the outskirts of Toronto. Approximately, 3000 people performed Ṣalāh. Thereafter, Ḥaḍrat was buried in Glenview Memorial Gardens in the Paradise Garden section.
It is worth noting that Monday night had begun when Ḥaḍrat passed away. Our beloved Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ also passed away on a Monday. Ḥaḍrat possessed immense love for the Prophet ﷺ. According to Imam Bukhārī (d. 256/870), the most virtuous day to pass away is Monday because the leader of mankind ﷺ passed away on that day (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 1387).