There is a book entitled, Imaam al-Albaani, His Life, His Call, and His Efforts in the Service of the Sunnah by Muhammad Bayyoomi. In it he has transcribed five cassette recordings of questions that were put to Shaikh al-Albaani concerning his life. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was a bit too tempting not to go for translating this even though we finished the other ‘Shaikh’s Life in his Own Words.’ Bi idhnillaah wa
tawfeeqihi, I’ll try to post some translations from this book here along with the other ongoing project, Taking Graves as Mosques. Here’s the first post.
Translated by Ahmed Abu Turaab
His Birth and Migration
Al-Huwaini: O Shaikh, what is your date of birth?
Al-Albaani: I do not have in my possession that which can be relied upon as regards the date except what is known as a birth certificate, or ID or the passport–in it the year 1914ce is recorded.
Al-Huwaini: Were you born in Damascus or Albania?
Al-Albaani: I was born in Ashkodera [Shkodër] which in those days was the capital of Albania, [then] in the days of that revolutionary Ahmed Zogu the capital was moved to Tirana. I was born in Ashkodera, Albania.
Al-Huwaini: The story of your entry into Damascus, Syria with your father, was it because of some persecution, for example, or something else?
Al-Albaani: It was not because of any persecution but in al-Jawndhar there was the control of that Ahmed Zogu, [who was intent] on ruling the country. For no sooner had he settled into position than he started to impose European legislative laws on the populace. So he started to make things difficult on those women wearing the hijab, and made it obligatory for the police and the army to wear the hat–the thing which forebode evil in the opinion of my father, may Allaah have mercy on him. For this reason he decided to migrate with his family [in the general direction of] Syria, and Damascus specifically, because he had read many hadiths concerning the excellence of Syria in general and Damascus in particular. Even though it is known, or we came to know later, that the hadiths regarding the merits of Syria range from being authentic, hasan, weak and fabricated–but the general idea is true and had taken hold of him, may Allaah have mercy on him, and for this reason he decided to migrate when he came to that opinion . This was the reason for the migration, so there was no immediate pressure [which made us leave].
Al-Huwaini: How old were you when you migrated?
Al-Albaani: What I recall is that when I settled in Damascus I was nine years old.
Learning Arabic as a Child
Al-Huwaini: Did you speak Arabic at the time?
Al-Albaani: I never knew anything from the Arabic language, in fact I never even knew any of the letters of the Arabic alphabet since there was not much attention on the part of my father, may Allaah have mercy on him, to teach us [that], despite the fact that he was the Imaam of a mosque, and even the Shaikh of a madrassah.
When we came to Damascus, we didn’t know anything about reading or writing and as they say here in Syria, “We couldn’t tell the difference between the letter alif and the naftiyyah [even though both are straight].” The naftiyyah is a long stick which the Shaikh in the madrassah would reach out with and use if he wanted to hit the last boy who [was sitting at the end and] was playing around.
The madrassah there was a private one owned by a charitable organisation called the Charitable Relief Organisation and it was there that I started my education. And naturally, because I was mixing with the students there, my acquisition of the Arabic language or to be exact, the Syrian dialect, was stronger than those who were not students at the madrassah. And I remember well that, apparently, because I was older than the other elementary students in the madrassah I completed the first and second years in one year, and so [at the end] I obtained my elementary certificate in four years. And it seems as though Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, had instilled in me a natural love for the Arabic language. And it was this love that was the real reason, after the Grace of Allaah, that I was [a] distinguished [student] and that I surpassed my Syrian classmates in the Arabic language and such.
I also remember very well that when the grammar teacher would write a sentence or a line of poetry on the slate and would ask the students to grammatically parse the syntax [i’raab] of a sentence or line of poetry–the last person he would ask would be al-Albaani. In those days I was known as ‘al-Arnaa’oot.’ As for the word ‘al-Albaani’ then [I started to use it] when I graduated from the madrassah and began to author. For the word ‘al-Arnaa’oot’ is similar to the term ‘Arab,’ in that just as the Arabs are divided into tribes, there being among them the Egyptian, the Syrian, the Hijaazi … and so on, then in the same way the ‘al-Arnaa’oot’ are also divided into Albanians, Serbians from Yugoslavia, Bosniaks [Bosnians]. Thus, the words ‘al-Arnaa’oot’ and al-Albaani have generalities and specifics in meaning–al-Albaani is more specific than [the general term] al-Arnaa’oot.
So the grammar teacher would make me the very last student he would ask when all other students had failed to parse the sentence, he would call me [saying], “Yes, O Arnaa’oot, what do you say?” And I would hit the target with one word [or sentence] and so he would then start to shame the Syrians because of me saying, “Isn’t it a shame on you? This is an Arnaa’ootee [i.e, you are Arab speakers and he isn’t].”
So this was from Allaah’s Grace upon me.”
Al-Imaam al-Albaani, Hayaatuhu, Da’watuhu, Juhooduhoo fee Khidmatis-Sunnah, of Muhammad Bayyoomi, pp. 7-9.