Pir Muhammad Karam Shah: Scholar & Saint

My wonderful teacher Hazrat Pir Muhammad Karam Shah was revered and followed by students and followers, why? Because his words were backed by his character, his conduct and his concern for others. In short, the Shaykh earned the right to speak. Getting people to listen to calls for insight. What you say truly helps somebody, you form a connection. He was an admired figure in Pakistan and had a remarkable teaching career.

A voracious reader and an intellectually curious man, he became an expert in a remarkable number of areas, he was known for:

  • Setting up one of the largest Seminary to train Scholars
  • Setting up a Publishing House – Zia ul Quran
  • Serving in the Supreme court as Islamic Jurist
  • President of the moon sighting committee of Pakistan

People felt a sense of connection when the Shaykh preached or spoke and shared his wisdom. Here’s how this applies to you. When you love people, work hard, study, develop and share your expertise in each area, they will learn to respect and listen to you and when it comes to listening, you don’t get what you demand, you get what you earn.

I first encountered this amazing scholar in 1972, through his monthly magazine ‘Zia e Haram’. I used to read it avidly from cover to cover, dreamt of meeting the Shaykh one day. Eventually, I did meet him at the Sunni conference in 1978 in Birmingham, I was the host. After that, I became his student-absentee. However, from September 1991 to July 1992, I got the privilege of sitting at the master’s feet. He inspired me and thousands of others like me.

What made him great? What are the habits of a successful religious leader?

Another reason why people listened to the Shaykh was his credibility. Credibility doesn’t come from knowledge alone; it comes from results. When people want to succeed, they seek advice from those who have accomplished something. When you’re successful, there will always be those who want to listen to you and if you have a proven track record in an area where they want to succeed, your credibility goes through the roof. So, what does it take to be a success? Many different things. Here are a few outstanding traits of the Shaykh that made him stand tall:

1) Habits

Everybody wants to succeed, but few are willing to pay the price. You don’t determine your future; you determine your habits and your habits determine your future. The secret lies in your daily routine. To succeed you must make a habit of doing what those who are unsuccessful don’t do. Ask those who lived near the Shaykh and they’ll tell you how hard he worked, regimented like a soldier on the battlefield. This was his Mujahada.

2) Opportunity

A successful person makes hay from the grass that grows under the other people’s feet. The Shaykh looked for opportunities, he believed that a missed opportunity is a lost opportunity which you would never get again, so grab it now! He didn’t restrict his efforts to the well-known genres of Dawah work; teaching, preaching and making disciples. He thought laterally, out-of-the-box so started innovative projects. A new kind of Darse Nizami, unthinkable in conservative Pakistan. But he was courageous and willing to take risks for what he believed. He knew success requires aspiration, intuition but lots of perspiration.

3) Persistence

Success means getting back up each time you fall. The Shaykh was gifted intellectually, his commentary of the Quran has the hallmarks of a great literary master and a scholar of Islam steeped in the Sciences of Quran. When a group of narrow-minded traditionalists attacked his tafsir Zia Ul Quran, he remained steadfast. He knew that without tenacity he would not be able to defeat the backwards-looking people. The Shaykh used to say to us “the secret of my success that led me to my accomplishment was my love of the Prophet and my tenacity”.

4) Reliance on Allah

The Shaykh like his predecessors of the Chishti Sufi order firmly believed that the Will of Allah prevails, as lovers of the Divine we serve Him then the Divine assistance rushes to our aid. He would quote the Quran “O beloved, tell them I don’t seek any reward from you, my reward lies with my Lord.”