Verily we are for God and to Him we return.
Shaykh Usama Canon has returned to his Lord. He was a man who inspired many. A rare example of somebody who sacrificed his life to be in the service of others. Before he was suddenly diagnosed with ALS in 2017 he was known as an inspirational, eloquent, well dressed person who was able to translate Islam, not from Arabic into English, but from the tradition into relevance today.
Many people will consider his establishing of the Taleef Collective in the US as his biggest achievement, however let me tell you this… he established much more than that. He would travel frequently and build people across the world. Many of whom, including myself, have taken the path of love and service and Shaykh Usama has been an important part of that supporting, guiding and helping me and countless others along the way.
In regards to leadership he gave me golden advice, which continues to help me to this day: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” and in regards to dealing with people he taught me: “Welcome everyone, except the aggressor.”
I don’t really speak about these things much, but Shaykh Usama and I share the same main teacher, a Shaykh who isn’t very well known. He is the one who insisted that Shaykh Usama and I were brothers and that’s how Shaykh Usama has always treated me, as a younger brother. Losing him feels very painful indeed, we were close.
We’ve spent time together in al-Madinah, California, Morocco and travelled all around the UK when he used to visit. He was a man of remembrance and the name of Allah was often on his tongue. Just before lockdown, I was with him in his home in Fes and sought his advice on the best way to deal with people who were spreading false rumours about me and constantly attacking my work, which was something he had also faced.
He made some eye gestures into his computer (which is how he has communicated for the last few years of his life) and when his sentence had finished, the loud speaker, in a robot voice said: “Say Allah! and leave them to play in their folly” This quote from the Qur’an now means so much more to me whenever I hear it.
Many people will be devastated at the news of his passing, even though we’ve had a few years to prepare for it. My heartfelt prayers go to his loved ones, especially his mother who he loved to the moon and back, his wife and children who will now be able to continue up the path of sainthood, his close relatives in the US and the Alaoui family who he married into in Morocco, and all his loved ones and students across the world. May Allah make your reward great and make you firm upon patience.
And as for Shaykh Usama, he described his illness in which his physical strength was slowly taken away from him as “a gift”. He was prepared to die. I know he will be ecstatic to receive his reward in the next life and especially having the company of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, about whom his heart would melt whenever he ﷺ was mentioned.
May he receive mercy and forgiveness from his Lord and be admitted to the best of places in the best of company.