Shafi Kassam aka “Shafi Tailor”
“Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
The one older uncle you see in Madinah Masjid that cares for everyone and everyone cares for him; The most selfless man you’ll meet in your life. This interview wasn’t like our normal interviews because Shafi Uncle never talks about the good actions he has done for people, which is solely between him and his creator. If you ever go to Madinah Masjid and you see someone in the front whose face is just full of radiance that is him. Shafi Uncle is a man who only wants good for everyone whether he knows them or not. He’ll go out of his way to talk to you whether you are 15 years old or 80, he’ll talk to you with nothing but pure humility. Shafi Uncle is the literal definition of a hidden gem, he is the glue in his community that holds them together. We couldn’t get many personal stories out of him so this post will not do him the justice he deserves. I remember when we were younger if we’d see Shafi Uncle coming towards us we’d think “run he’s gonna take us to the masjid ” but as we get older we realize that Shafi Uncle was only doing that out of the goodness of his heart. Now, we are eager to meet him, he especially tells us that just by hearing his words we realize that he is one of Allah SWT special servants. The amount of concern that Shafi Uncle has for the whole Muslim ummah (nation) is unmatched. Shafi Uncle’s life is simple. He leaves all his affairs to Allah SWT and is not worried about what will happen in the future, because he knows whatever Allah SWT has decreed is going to happen and nothing will change that. Shafi Uncle lives his life keeping in mind that the keys to success are The Holy Qur’an and The Sunnah of our beloved messenger SAW. His main purpose in life for the past 50 years has been to instill this in the hearts of all the believers.
This story is written by the grandson of Shafi Uncle:
My grandpa came to Canada in 1972, at the age of 20 with very little money and faced a lot of struggles. He said, “it was the toughest time of my life but I always maintained hope in Allah SWT.” They lived in one bedroom with five people barely being able to afford rent and not having much left for food. There was a time where he only had 25 cents in his pocket and was only getting paid $25-$30 a week. It was tough when rent was due, one of his roommates was finding it very difficult and wanted to go back but my grandpa is selfless as he decided to help him by giving him almost half his paycheck. He used to walk from Pape and Queen to Jones and Danforth every day in the middle of winter with holes in his shoes to make a few dollars working at a tailoring shop. My grandpa once told us about how he received the job at the tailor shop. He was there one day with the manager and the managers’ wife walked in and my grandpa kept his gaze down and did not look at her. The manager was amazed as he never came across anyone more respectful in his life. Alhumdulilah began working there and a few years down the line the owner decided to give his business to my grandpa and he is forever grateful. Even though he had nothing he worked really hard so that he could sponsor his whole family here. One person who is near and dear to my nana (grandpa) was his brother marhoom Gulam Kassam. They had a really strong bond. He always talks about how they always worked together in the tailor shop and they even lived together for a really long time when Gulam uncle first came to Canada. He had this to say about his late brother “The bond with my brother was so great that I can’t remember even a single time in my life that I ever fought or even had an argument with my brother.” May Allah SWT forgive his shortcomings and elevate his status. Ameen.
A few years later he was introduced to going in jamaat and went for 3 days, from that day on he devoted his life to calling people towards the oneness of Allah. No matter what happened and how difficult times were he always made sure to go in the path of Allah. As he always says “my success has come through praying my salah and going in the path of Allah.”
He also played a big part in the purchase and development of Madina Masjid. Originally, they started off at Gerrard Ave, moved to Chatam Ave, then to the top of the famous “Madinah Halal Pizza”, and then finally the community decided to build Madinah Masjid. It was a Jamaat who came from India with an Amir by the name of Kazi Saab who pushed the community members at the time to take the leap and buy the property. He gave a $20 donation and told them to buy the Church which was on sale, they all were surprised at what he saying but they listened. It was difficult at first because there was a deposit of $25,000 which was needed to be paid a there was a concern and brothers even offered to sell their house if it meant that a masjid was going to be built. “But Alhumdulilah, they put their belief in Allah, and within a year, Allah paid off the masjid.” My grandpa made it a point to thank Moulana Khalil R.A because his belief in Allah was so strong that it inspired others to have that same belief. After that Madinah Masjid started to establish and the Ijtima was moved from Jame Masjid (First Masjid in Toronto) and became a regular occurrence at Madinah Masjid. Madinah Masjid has gone on to become a foundation for many other Masjids in the GTA.
In 2011, when we went in the path of Allah to India it was a 15-hour flight, and somehow he figured out the time for salah and the direction of qibla and gave azan loudly inside the plane and prayed salah loudly with jamaat. No matter where he is or what the situation is like he always finds a way to pray his salah. That is where his success comes from. There was also a time when there was a jamaat that went to Yukon Territories and they passed away in an accident إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ. One of the brothers did not have family here so my grandpa gave a grave that he had in Pickering (Pine Ridge Cemetery) so he could be buried there. Being selfless is going out of your way to do a kind act for others and that is exactly the kind of person my grandfather is. He instilled in us at a young age the importance and the rewards of helping people in need and we are thankful to him for teaching us many lessons such as this one.
My grandfather is one of my biggest inspirations, His care for others over himself is unbelievable not only towards his own family but for all people. I remember a time when someone stole a few things from the store and we were all so angry, all my grandpa said was may Allah SWT show him the right path. Everyone makes mistakes, no matter what problems I have I know I can always talk to him and he will give me great advice. But most of the time when I do talk to him about any problems he always tells me “beta don’t worry everything is from Allah. Pray to Allah and he will help you.” I pray that Allah SWT gives us the patience and qualities like my nana (grandpa).
The reason we chose Shafi Uncle to be on this list is because of his complete trust in Allah SWT and how he lives his life according to the Sunnah of our beloved Messenger SAW. He always emphasizes the work of Dawah and Tabligh (calling towards Allah SWT, and spreading the message of Islam), he mentions that this is the work of all the messengers that have been sent to this world, and since no more messengers will come after our beloved messenger Muhammad SAW. It is our responsibility as the best nation that will ever walk the face of this earth, to spread this message. MashaAllah, Shafi Uncle devoted almost his whole life to this with pure sincerity just because he is worried about his Muslim brothers and sisters, he wants them to have success in this world and the hereafter. May Allah ﷻ accept all of Shafi uncles sacrifices for deen, gives us all the opportunity to take a lesson from his life, give us the ability to completely hand over our affairs to Allah ﷻ, and give us the ability to live our lives according to the sunnah of our beloved messenger