The Loyalty of the Pupils
Regarding her pupils and their relationship with her, she remarked: "I remember each one of them: some I certified in one way of recitation, and others – and they are few and far between – I have conferred licenses in all ten styles. All of these accreditations are stamped with my own seal that I always keep with me and hand it to no one, no matter how much I trust him [or her]." She added: "Some of them are busy and no longer come to me. But, most of them either call or pay me a visit and inquire about my affairs from time to time."
She would proudly recall from among them some now-famous memorizers and reciters of the Quran and preachers. One of them even won second place in the international competition annually held in Saudi Arabia, for those who have committed the Holy Quran to memory. The most famous of her students is the physician, Ahmad Nu‘aina‘, who had recited the Quran in front of her and been accredited by her. Additionally, there are countless recitation specialist and teachers in the Alexandria Institute for Quran Recitations, who, when granting recitation licenses, have the honor of her name in the chain [of reciters] that goes back generations directly culminating with the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
The Wives are Jealous of the Sheikhah!
Perhaps one of the funniest anecdotes related by Umm As-Sa‘d was how the wives of some of her students felt jealous of her, fearing she would take their husbands from them, particularly because they would talk about her [at length and] with much pride. This caused many of the men to bring their wives along to the lessons, to assure them their fear was baseless, for she was a blind old lady.
She recounted: "Some men were initially hesitant in coming to recite the Quran to me, and others stayed away, because I am a woman. However, Sheikh Muhammad Ismaa‘eel, one of the most renowned preachers in Alexandria, released an edict permitting this, when he came to know of my age. He even sent members of his family to me to learn to recite the Quran."
The Day of Khatmah - Ceremony of Celebration and Gifts
The happiest days of Umm As-Sa‘d were those of Khatmah (completion of recitation of the Quran), when she would issue a license to a student of hers. Although she had lived that day over three hundred times, as a keepsake, she would retain a photocopy of each certification she had conferred. The last, [we saw], was awarded to a woman who was licensed in reciting according to the style of Qaaloon on the authority of Naafi‘.
On the day of the Khatmah, a banquet, or [sometimes] a tea party would be held, in which the licensee would present a gift to Umm As-Sa’d; sometimes, it was a garment, a ring or gold jewelry, according to each one’s financial ability. But, to her, the most beautiful present was an all-expenses-paid trip for Hajj and ‘Umrah (major and minor pilgrimage), and yearlong accommodation in Makkah, gifted to her by some of her pupils.
The best reward for her during this journey was that she “reviewed her memorization of the Holy Quran, and gave out licenses in different ways of recitation to tens of Quran students from almost all Islamic states, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Chad and Afghanistan. [..] Yet, the dearest accreditation for [her] had been the one [she] awarded a Saudi female student of no more than seventeen years of age."
The Surprise: I got married, may my Sheikhah forgive me!!
You may be taken aback if you had asked her about the closest of her pupils to her, for her answer was: her husband Sheikh Muhammad Fareed Nu‘maan, who was, before he passed away five years ago, the most famous reciter of the Quran on the Rradio of Alexandria. He was the first to be granted a license from Umm As-Sa‘d.
Regarding the story of her marriage, she said: "I failed to fulfill my promise to my teacher, Sheikhah Nafeesah, to not marry. [My husband] recited the Quran to me in different styles; [..] I felt comfortable with him; he was blind like me and memorized the entire Holy Quran at an early age. I continued to teach him for five years, and when he concluded [learning] all ten modes of recitation and was licensed in them, he asked for my hand in marriage and I accepted."
Their marriage lasted for forty years during which she had no children. She commented on that once, saying: "Praise be to Allah; I feel that He always chooses the best for me. Perhaps if I had had children, they would have distracted me from the Quran and possibly even made me forget it."
Undoubtedly, the Sheikhah was like a stream that gave of itself and incessantly flowed with the Quran and other virtues.
Umm As-Sa‘d, may Allah have mercy upon her, died at dawn on the sixteenth day of Ramadan, 1427 A.H., corresponding to 9/10/2006, at the age of eighty-one. Her funeral procession was from the Mosque of Ibn Khaldoon, in the Bahari area of Alexandria.