Shaykh Seraj is an internationally recognized leading scholar of traditional Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa.
He started his professional career as a High School English teacher. Subsequent to that he departed for Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where he spent ten years specialising in Islamic Law (fiqh and usul al-fiqh) at Umm al-Qura University. Previous to this he spent a number of years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in South Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80′s and early 90′s.
After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: Tasawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his Ph.D at the same.
Apart from fiqh and usul al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilization studies, inter-faith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He also has a specialized interest in the Maqasid al-Shari’ah (Objectives/Purposes of Islamic Law) and Fiqh al-Aqilliyat (The Fiqh of Minorities). He has lectured and presented papers in many countries; sharing platforms with his contemporaries, particularly of the Radical Middle Way. Shaykh Seraj has been ranked as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims consecutively in 2009 and 2010, in a study undertaken by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.
Amongst the many classical scholars who have influenced Shaykh Seraj, Imam Ghazali and Ibn Arabi stand out as having shaped his world-view most strikingly. He has translated works of Imam Ghazali, and summarized parts of the Ihya Ulum al-Din, most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.
Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee and a three-year stint as a lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Shari’ah Board, Hakim (Chief Arbitrator) of The Crescent Observer’s Society and a Lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the al-Zawiyah institute of which he is the Imam, for the past seventeen years, as the representative of the Ba’ Alawi Tariqa, handed down to him by his beloved Shaykh, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi al-Maliki.
Whilst the above reference some of the factual and chronological aspects of Shaykh Seraj’s life, it is difficult to express the impact he has had and continues to have on the lives of so many – that knowledge, which passes from heart to heart, can never be measured. His deep love for and commitment to the spiritual dimensions of Islam, as well as his expertise in its legal sphere have endeared him to and earned him the respect of people from all walks of life, especially his students, to whom he has taught much more than what is written in books.
He is currently Resident Sheikh at the Azzawia Institute in Cape Town, and is the Dean of the Student Body at the Madina Institute.