Maulana Hassen Qasim Bhorat Saheb was born in Stanger, South Africa in 1938. His parents were immigrants from India, originally from the village of Nani Naroli in Gujarat. At the young age of 8 years old, he travelled to India with his elder brother, the late Maulana Mohamed Bhorat (d. 1998), to study deen formally. They completed their preliminary maktab studies at Jami’ah Falah-e-Darayn in Tadkeshwar, after which they proceeded to Jami’ah Hussainiyyah in Rander for ‘alimiyyah studies. In his final (dawrat al-hadith) year, Maulana had the opportunity to study Sahih al-Bukhari under Maulana Ahmadullah Randeri (rahmatullahi alaiyh).
After graduating, Maulana Hassen proceeded to Darul Uloom Deoband to benefit from the akabir there, upon the suggestion of his teachers. Before him, his brother, Maulana Mohamed had already gone to Deoband to complete his dawra year and spend time in the company of Hazrat Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani (rahmatullahi alaiyh); he also encouraged Maulana Hassen to come to Deoband.
Maulana Hassen repeated his dawra year in Darul Uloom Deoband, where he had the opportunity to study Sahih al-Bukhari a second time under Maulana Fakhruddin Ahmad Muradabadi (rahmatullahi alaiyh). After this, Maulana Hassen studied musalsalaat under Shaykh al-Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalwi (rahmatullahi alaiyh). All final year students at Darul Uloom Deoband were given this opportunity, and Maulana Hassen Saheb was able to obtain a sanad in hadith from Hazrat Shaykh in this manner.
Thereafter, he travelled to the khanqah of Hazrat Shaykh ‘Abdul Qadir Raipuri (rahmatullahi alaiyh) in Saharanpur. He initiated bay’ah to Hazrat Raipuri and remained at the khanqah for forty days. While there, he was also able to benefit from the company of Hazrat Shaykh, who would visit daily from 4:00 to 6:00 PM. Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Miyan al-Nadwi (rahmatullahi alaiyh) was also present at the time; both he and Maulana Hassen slept in the same room with Hazrat Raipuri and did Hazrat’s khidma together while at the khanqah. One can only imagine how Maulana Hassen Saheb impressed Hazrat Raipuri and what his maqam was––after forty days, before Maulana Hassen Saheb left, Hazrat Raipuri bestowed khilafah upon him!
Thereafter, Maulana Ali Miyan Saheb intended to go to Lahore to study tafsir under Maulana Ahmad Ali Lahori (rahmatullahi alaiyh) and Maulana Hassen Saheb decided to do the same; he spent three months in Lahore studying tafsir of the entire Qur’an. The mushaf from which he studied in Lahore remained with him till his death.
Having spent fourteen years in India seeking knowledge of deen, Maulana Hassen Saheb returned to South Africa in May of 1960. Initially, Maulana spent several years at the renowned Mia’s Farm madrasa (now called Waterval Islamic Institute), where he taught all levels of the ‘alimiyyah course; students from this madrasa would be sent to India to complete their final year of study (dawrat al-hadith). During his time at Mia’s Farm, Maulana designed a maktab syllabus with his colleagues, Mufti Sanjalvi, Maulana Abdul Kader Malekpuri, and Maulana Muhammad Mia––this syllabus has since been adopted by over 1,500 makatib in South Africa and across the globe.
Later, Maulana came to the town of Middelburg, where he remained for the rest of his days teaching in the local maktab.
Maulana Hassen Saheb had a few underlying health issues for the last year or so, that culminated in a massive heart attack in mid-January. He had been in the hospital for several weeks, but his health improved minimally and he was brought home on Tuesday. His health deteriorated on Thursday and he passed into the mercy of Allah around midnight, the blessed night of Jumu’ah. Maulana’s salat al-janazah and burial were conducted prior to salat al-jumu’ah on Friday, February 10th 2017 in Middelburg.
Maulana had not been speaking very much in the last few weeks and when he did, it was often difficult to understand. In his last moments, however, seeing his wife crying, he said to her in a clear voice, “My maternal grandparents (nana nani) have come, I’m going with them”. SubhanAllah! What a way to leave this world, that too on the night of Jumu’ah. May Allah bless us all with husn al-khatimah. Ameen!
Maulana’s beginnings in South Africa were humble and he struggled to make ends meet. There was a time where he would work continuously from 6 AM to midnight and, when he was a teacher at Mia’s Farm, he would travel by bicycle every day. But he remained dedicated to serving the deen of Allah and was accepted to do so till the end. It is said that the aalim rabbani, the aalim of the highest rank is he who teaches children at the maktab. Though this may seem like an insignificant occupation, we fail to recognize how important this duty is, i.e. teaching the new generation of Muslims to practice Islam, knowledge that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. And imagine how many generations of students Maulana would have taught!
Maulana was a person of exceptional taqwa and piety. For decades while he lived in Middelburg, he did not own a house, but rather chose to rent. Though he wished to build a house for himself and his family, he would have been unable to do so without bribing local officials. To save himself from this sin, he remained in a rented house till his death. Another example of his taqwa occurred during a recent controversy about proper certification of halal meat. Out of fear of eating haram, Maulana completely abstained from consuming meat for a time. Even if a meat or chicken dish were to be cooked at home, he would only eat the curry with bread (roti).
Maulana had an extremely friendly personality––he was very caring and concerned for all those connected to him and would make du’a daily for all his relatives and friends by name. He was very down-to-earth––he lived a simple life away from the spotlight and was not the type of person to be surrounded by khuddam. If anyone were to see him, they could easily mistake him for an ordinary elder of the community. Allah knows best what his true maqam was, we have truly lost a treasure from among us.
Maulana leaves behind his wife, who taught alongside him at the Middelburg maktab for decades and was his backbone throughout their married life, five sons and a daughter. May Allah fill Maulana Hassen Saheb’s qabr with nur, elevate his ranks in the hereafter, and bless his family, friends, and students with sabr. Maulana would often pray that Allah bless him with a place in jannat al-khuld and today we make that same du’a on his behalf. Ameen ya rabb!