Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A reminder from a brother

Recently, the Malaysian Society here in cardiff held a Malaysian Night and it was called Festival of Diversity and as usual it is filled with....performances...which in whatever ways..doesn't bring any benefit to anybody...other than enjoyment...and a good laugh. The article I have here is an article forwarded by somebody here in cardiff...stating his view on the whole thing and I find it very interesting and beneficial too...



In recent month, I travelled to the island of Cyprus, known as Kubrus in Arabic, the burial place of Umm Haram, the Prophet s.a.w. maternal aunt. For 300 hundred years it was a united island under the rule of the Ottoman Caliphate but it is now divided between the Turkish North and the Greek South following a disastrous fighting along the religious and racial lines in the 1960s.

As a Malaysian, I enjoyed the liberty to move freely between the two sides and had taken the opportunity to visit the dwelling of a certain syeikh in Lefke, North Cyprus. Though I had known him for several years through his many followers, this is going to be my first eye-to-eye contact with the Grand Syeikh himself. The plan to pay him a visit at his own retreat had been in place as early as 2001 but was put off because of the advice to 'prepare' myself first. It was only after my journey to Syria in the summer of 2003, having visited the tomb of the late Syeikh Abdullah Faiz ad-Daghestani (the teacher of the Grand Syeikh) and the retreat in the cave on Jabal Qasyoun, that the necessary green-light was finally given.

From the world's last divided capital (Berlin was united under the Unification Treaty in 1990), Lefkosa, I took the local bus to Lefke. The trip was only under two hours and as the bus trundled through the Mesaria plain towards the western slope of the Troodos mountain range, I passed through small vilages with intriguing names like Mevlevi. Many still have the village churches standing, though now functioning as mosques, as the stark reminder of their past, eventful history.

Lefke is situated in the most fertile area of Cyprus, once regarded as the world's major citrus basket, and until today many visitors to this area will be impressed by the many groves they see along the road. There is now a small, low-profile international university in Lefke, though the intake usually comes from Turkey proper or the former Soviet bloc countries. The small European community in Lefke is drawn here due to its somewhat secluded yet beautiful location, and to the fame of the Grand Syeikh who have students coming from all over the world: US, UK, Malaysia, you name it.

Following the direction given by some locals, I soon found myself on a village path with tall grasses on both sides. An old man with the unmistakable green turban of the Grand Syeikh's Order was walking in front of me, carrying a walking stick as is the sunnah and humming some zikr. Then a family with two children, adorned with all the traditional Turkish regalia and the order's green turban, walked past us, the children's faces beaming with lights so bright even though it was mid-summer's noon. With faces that sweet that I could have eaten them alive!

After a bend, the Grand Syeikh's retreat suddenly was there in front of me. It was so humble and simple, nothing to signal to the owner's fame that has attracted streams of followers and religious students here. Certainly this is not like the glorious palaces of certain rulers or the impressive mansions of certain men of stardom. I experienced some sort of deja vu for a while for indeed I have seen a dwelling like this before of my late teacher in Malaysia, and earlier this year (2003), at the retreat of Syeikh Umar al-Mathnawi in the Chellah necropolis of Rabat in Morocco. If people can be downgraded to be classified to genus and species, then this Grand Syeikh is indeed of the same species of all the syuyukh I have met before.

The Grand Syeikh was a chemical engineer graduate from the Istanbul University, but his family had always been religious and has a lineage tracing back to the Grand Master Maulana Jalaludin ar-Rumi of Konya. He had completed his primary Islamic studies from scholars among his own families and then went to study at the foot of the Erzurumi master, Syeikh Sulaiman Erzurumi. Following the order from Syeikh Sulaiman, he then travelled down to Syria where he was instructed by Syeikh Abdullah Faiz ad-Daghestani for several years, involving months of intense spiritual training at Jabal Qasyoun and preaching the people of ash-Shams and Kubrus, travelling all this while on foot, (subhanallah!).

As I entered the building, I heard that he was teaching in English, so I knew that he was having some international audiences. That was a double bonus for me, because I came half-expected to have the honour of meeting the man let alone to drink some from this great fountain of knowledge. All Praises be to Allah alone.

The Grand Syeikh was sitting inside the mihrab with his foot stretched on the floor, and there was no way that he could have seen me coming in. But he said something which would later on astonished everyone. Not wanting to disrupt the majlis, I quietly pushed the door to the prayer hall opened, but it gave a small squeaky sound. At that point the Grand Syeikh suddenly stopped speaking and said 'Yes, ******* (my name!)' It could have been a coincidence or something, but thinking of that just make me wonder in amazement - how could he have known my name?.

As I sat down, trying to compose myself, he suddenly said, (the content of which I have shortened and edited for the sake of space and clarity), 'And know I want to say something about technology. We see know that everyone now in the world craves this technology. But technology is also Allah's creature, so why do we cling so much to His creature and neglect our hope to Him alone?...In medicine, now we have this technology where we can put materials, steels, into human heart. (I think he was referring to the valve replacement, pacemaker operation, coronary stenting and angioplasty etc here). (I am not against technology per se)

But Islam told us not to tied our heart to the worldly materials..., but reflect upon this technology....The materials is not anymore spiritually inside the heart, but now it is physically inside the heart!

...So everything has a time limit. Since there is a time limit, why are we fighting for this dunya that is going to die also. Why are human beings, for what cause? Everything is ending... So what are you running after? Running after “ad-dunya al-jeefatun,” “the corpse of this dunya.” “Ad-dunya raasu kullu khatiyya.” – “this world is the head of every sin.” Dunya is a dry corpse. Like dogs biting on a dead corpse and eating or like cats. We must learn from the ibrah (example) the Prophet (s) showed us. “In kuntum tuhibbun Allaha, fa-tabi`uni yuhbibkumullah.” – “If you would love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you.” [3:31]

Allah says, “Follow me.” It means follow the Prophet (s). Then Allah loves you.
What did Allah ask the Prophet (s) in Isra and Mi`raj? He asked, “Ya Ahmad, Ya Muhammad, if you love to be the best (or most pious) of human beings,” - “in ahbabta an yakun awr`a an-naas fazhad fid-dunya warghab fil akhirah” That word is directed to the Prophet (s), so what about us? He said, “fazhad fid-dunya” - "leave the dunya behind you.” "Warghab fil akhira.” – “And seek the next life.” The hadith continues, “Fa qaala Muhammad ‘Ya ilahee, wa kayfa azhad fid-dunya?’ Fa qaala ‘fakhudh min ad-dunya bi-qadri ash-sharaab wat-t`am wal-libaas.’”

Allah swt said to the Prophet (s), “Take from dunya only your necessity of eating, drinking and clothes.” “Wa la tatakhidh li-ghadin.” “And don’t keep anything in your home for tomorrow.” That means that, “If you keep for tomorrow you are not fearing Allah correctly.” “Wa duma ala dhikree.” “And keep on My zikr. - Keep remembering Me.”
“Faqala ya rabbu kayfa adumu `ala dhikrika. Faqala –bi khalwati `an in-naas.”"

For me, this sudden change of direction in his speech that day was striking in that he seemed to actually address the content towards me, with all that references to the medical technology stuff.

And then almost to then end, the Grand Syeikh joked, 'So why do you have to take the plane to come here? Fly if you can; there have been people who can fly without aeroplane. (Do what they do) So you can fly too." (I am certain he was referring to certain people who had been given the karamah to fly bi-iznillah).

I was not rushing to get to the Grand Syeikh as he was leaving the prayer place. My past experience taught me that there is no point pushing people around. Allah has promises that 'Allah is with those who shows patience', so I waited patiently near the door and alhamdulillah, without having to push anyone, I managed not only to shake hands but also to hug him and kiss his forehead. There was a split second when I thought that I should have kiss his feet too, that feet that have carry him to meet so many great people, but I was a bit shy to do that, something now I regret not doing.

The Grand Syeikh then tried to guess from which area of Malaysia I came from, 'Is it Kuala Lumpur or Kuala Kangsar?' It was of no big surprise to me because one of his students is the son of the Sultan of Perak. But still, he could have said Ipoh instead of KK, .

The time spent at this great man's place was very memorable. I met his students, the Italians, the Dutchs, the Pakistanis, the Chechen, the Turks (of course!), and most surprisingly one of Indonesian origin! The Grand Syeikh himself gave me 'something' as present and also a book about Love, and the followers eagerly showered their hospitality with their newly-found Malaysian brother. Then it was made known to me that I was not the first Malaysian to reach here. Somebody else made it before and had left some Malaysian gold dinars as souvenirs. How I wished I had fully prepared and brought something too!

The atmosphere at the humble settlement that December was indeed like an impromptu festival of diversity. People of different races, of different Spiritual Orders, of different lingo and of different professions, all came together to reflect upon their goal of creation, to quench their thirst from the well of istighfar, and to gain benefit from the company and love of the salihin as the Prophet s.a.w. always reminded us, "Wa mahabbatik li Ahlis-Sunnah" ( (Turn) your love to loving the People of Sunnah).

There was no dancing to the insane musical tones, but there was body movements following the rhythm of zikr and the shuddering thought of one's past sins. There was no forbidden mixing of different sexes but contentment of hearts that this is a festival of submission to Allah's Words. There was no intoxication except intoxication in His Words and the acute awareness of His Presence, the Omnipresence Lord. There was not a thought of indulging oneself in worldly pursuits bereft of God's blessing, but rather a healthy aspiration to the acceptance of 'amal by the only Rabb.

The festival of diversity ultimately is only a name that can be used to suit the hearts of tongue twister or master of words. The content is what really matters, and what governs the content is the intellectual direction and philosophical thought behind such event, as the Arabic proverb aptly puts it:

Al-jahilu yatlubu l-mala, wa-l 'aqilu yatlubu l-kamala.

[As the ignorant seeks filthy wealth, the enlightened seeks perfection of faith.]


And all guidance comes from Allah,

Your poor brother in Islam.


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