When the Community Educates

Before giving my talk I wanted to say a few words about the magisterial presentation which Mohammed Mujtar gave us yesterday. As we know education has been one of the principal concerns of our Shaykh, Shaykh Abdalqadir – may Allah prolong his life – throughout his life. And I think that Sidi Mohammed Mujtar has probably absorbed and understood that teaching that the Shaij has given, particularly regarding the education of children, more than anyone else in the community. And yesterday he laid out for us comprehensively this understanding, which he has gained over these years. It is easy in these occasions to say “Oh yes, a wonderful paper!” And it might be possible to put it in a printed form in Islam Hoy or in some other paper. Or place it on a nice high shelf. But what I say about that talk yesterday is, that it’s a working paper!
I think that it should be studied paragraph by paragraph. It is intensely practical and totally possible to implement. I think that it should be studied, paragraph by paragraph, with a group of men and a group of women, particularly those who have children who need to be educated now, looking at it and studying it. Every part of it that can be put into practice should be put into practice. All of the things he talked about are not something that are miles over there, they are all something, which is possible to implement now. Otherwise what’s the use with what our Shaykh has been teaching if we don’t act by it?

Also I would like to say, before I start my talk, that Shaykh Ahmed has preempted me in almost everything that I was going to say. But I say it in slightly different way, so inshaAllah the message will be repeated in a different form.

The theme of this gathering “When the community educates” is, as it were, a double-edged sword: it involves the community becoming educated and the community educating others; although my contention is that both of these in fact amount to exactly the same thing. As we all know, Allah ta’ala tells us that He has only created us in order for us to worship Him and, as Abdallah ibn al-Abbas, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, and many of the great commentators of the Qur’an who followed him, said the word “worship” in this context means “know”; in other words the only reason we have been brought into existence is to come to know Allah ta’ala, our Lord and Creator. This means that our lives in this world can, in fact, be viewed as an education process, whose purpose is simply to gain more and more knowledge of the Divine Reality which is both our original source and final destination. This is made explicit by Ibn ‘Ashir in the beginning of al-Murshid al-Mu’in when he says: “The first duty of every responsible person capable of thought is to know Allah and the Messengers by the attributes set out in the ayats.” So a major part of human life involves engaging in this learning process and it must be undertaken if we want to properly fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

The attributes referred to by Ibn ‘Ashir in his great teaching poem are, of course, those derived from the Qur’an and specified by Imam al-‘Ashari as the basis of his system of ‘aqida which we adhere to. It is always worth repeating them since they are the bedrock on which our belief is based and they are: wujud – absolute existence, qidam – eternal preexistence, baqa – endless everlastingness, ghina – absolute wealth, mukhalafa’l-hawadith – differentiation from all created beings, and wahdaniyya of dhat, sifat and af’al – absolute unity of essence, attributes and actions. These attributes apply to the Divine Essence alone and are not shared by any creature. Alongside them are seven further attributes: ‘ilm – knowledge, qudra – power, irada – will, hayat – power, sam’a – hearing, basar – sight, and kalam – speech. These Divine attributes are necessary for the bringing into existence of created beings and are lent by Allah to those of His creatures He wills as He sees fit. As Ibn ‘Ashir makes clear all of us are required to thoroughly learn and understand these attributes and, as Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib made clear on many occasions, if we do so we will be free from any danger of shirk, of associating something else with the Divine Reality, at least in an open way, and thus be safe from committing that one action which is unforgivable, which removes us from any hope of aiming Allah’s mercy.

But the fact is that this intellectual grasp of tawhid, while it is clearly essential, is only a comparatively small part of what is involved in truly understanding the Divine Unity. Shaykh Abdalqadir has often mentioned to us the famous maxim of our deen “la tawhid biduni’r-rasul” – there is no tawhid without the Messenger. The first and obvious meaning of this is, of course, that were it not for our beloved Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, we would have no access to knowing about Allah’s unity at all. It is the very heart of the Message he brought from his Lord to mankind. Without him there would have been no possibility of our saying la ilaha illa’llah: no Messenger, no Message. But it goes much further than that. Sayyidatna Aisha, radiya’llahu ‘anha, told us that his character was the Qur’an, that he truly embodied Allah’s Message, and Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib says in the Diwan that he, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is the highest manifestation of Allah’s Names and the secret of His Attributes. In other words his understanding of the Divine Unity extended beyond any kind of verbal expression or merely intellectual grasp into the realm of actual experience, of active, existential demonstration. This is made explicitly clear in his words, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa salllam. “I was only sent to perfect noble qualities of character.”

In the whole of human history there has been no greater educator, no greater teacher, than the Prophet Muhammad, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He gave all his Companions a complete and comprehensive education. He taught none of them how to read or write. He taught none of them how to count or calculate. What he taught them was Allah’s deen and, in particular, tawhid, the pure knowledge of the Divine Unity on which the deen is based and which is its goal and purpose. He did this by word, by demonstration and by direct transmission. Allah ta’ala says about this in His Book: “For this We sent a Messenger to you from among you to recite Our Signs to you and purify you and teach you the Book and Wisdom and teach you things you did not know before.” And what did this perfect education process produce? “The best nation ever to be produced before mankind…” who: “… enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and believe in Allah.” In other words, a group of people who embodied in the completest possible way what it really is to be a human being. They fulfilled to a greater extent than any other human community the purpose for which they were created: the worship of Allah. They were people who knew Allah better than any other group of people before or since. The important point is that this knowledge was not so much in what they said, although there were among them those who could express it with great eloquence, it was rather in what they were, in what they did; they were shot through with it, it shone through in the way they behaved – both among themselves and towards other people.

It may well be that they did not even realise this themselves – it was something that had become a natural part of them – but it was something that was immediately apparent to other people when they came into their company. Allah’s guidance of them at the hand of His Messenger, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and by means of the circumstances and situations they were confronted with, transformed them; they were not the same as other people. Whereas the gaze of most people was confined exclusively to the things of this world, they were people whose eyes really were on what lies beyond it. They truly did not want what other people wanted. It was this that made other people both love and fear them. It communicated itself to others in a direct way and above all it was this that, by Allah, enabled them to dominate the greater part of the known world in a single lifetime and brought the greater part of its population into Allah’s deen, so that their descendants have remained Muslim down to the present day. I am not, by saying this, intending to exalt the first community into being a kind of unattainable ideal, I am simply saying that the true education of any Muslim community necessarily involves the radical inward transformation, which is exemplified by them in the highest possible way.

A true story illustrating this, which is particularly pertinent to us, is one you will probably have heard before but which, nevertheless, I think bears repeating in the present context. A couple of years ago Shaykh Ali and I were driving from Touroug to Tinjdad accompanied by Sidi Muhammad, the son of Sidi Muhammad bel Qurshi. As we approached Mellab, which is about half way between the two places, Sidi Muhammad pointed out a simple tomb standing on a hill just behind the village and then proceeded to tell us the story of the wali buried within it. In his youth he had been a brutal thug who had terrorised the whole region with his lawless behaviour. One day, when he was about to engage on some particularly nefarious enterprise, he decided to have something to eat before setting out. So he sat down in a local eatery and shouted at the owner to bring him a bowl of harira and be quick about it. The cauldron of that day’s batch of harira was just on the point of being ready and not wanting, because of his violent reputation, to keep his customer waiting a moment longer than necessary, brought a bowl of boiling hot soup to him immediately. Being in a hurry he lifted the bowl straight to his lips and, scalding them, roared out to the owner of the place to come straight away. Shaking, the poor man came and stood in front of him. The man got up, pulled open the cook’s jellaba at the neck, poured the scalding soup down his bare chest, and stormed out.

Some time later this same violent individual, on a journey to Fez, met with some of the fuqara of Sidi Ahmad al-Badawi, the khalifa and successor in our line of Moulay al-‘Arabi ad-Darqaw. They persuaded him to come and meet the shaykh. His heart was moved by the encounter, he entered the tariqa, and ended up spending a considerable time in the shaykh’s zawiyya in Fez, learning the deen and deepening his knowledge of Allah. Eventually the time came for him to return to Tafilalet and before he left he went for a final meeting with his shaykh. He asked Shaykh Ahmad what he could do to atone for his previous criminal behaviour and he was told that he should pay back anything he had stolen and requite anyone he had harmed in whatever way he could. On his return to the desert, remembering what he had done with the boiling soup, he went once more to the soup kitchen and ordered another bowl of piping hot harira. Nervously the owner asked him if he really wanted it hot. “As hot as possible,” came the reply. So the cook once more brought him the soup straight from the bubbling pot and presented it to him. The man immediately rose to his feet and, opening his own jellaba at the neck, asked the restaurant owner to pour it down his bare chest. He did not do that but instead ran out to the main square of the village and called on the inhabitants to gather round. “People of Mellab,” he called out in a loud voice, “You should all take the hand of Sidi Ahmad al-Badawi. He has turned a venomous snake into a harmless frog.”

The reason the incident in this story holds such significance for us is that, had it not taken place, we would not be sitting here today. Following it many of the people of Tafilalet did indeed enter the tariqa and because of that Shaykh Ahmad al-Badawi sent his khalifa, Sidi Muhammad Larbi, to plant “sweet dates” there. He established his great zawiyya at Gawz near Rashidiyya and from him came first Shaykh Larbi al- Huwari in Tinjdad, then Shaykh Sidi Muhammad b. ‘Ali in Marrakesh, then Shaykh Sidi Muhammad b. Al-Habib in Fez and Meknes and then Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir as-Sufi in a large number of places, including, of course, here in Granada.

This was not, however, why I included the story in my talk today. I did so because it clearly illustrates the true nature of the authentic education process of Islam I referred to earlier and, in particular, what happens when knowledge of Allah’s unity is absorbed into the being and becomes expressed in terms of action and behaviour. Shaykh Ibn ‘Ata’illah says in his Hikam: “No action arising from a heart free of this world is insignificant; no action arising from a heart desiring this world is fruitful.” Because of the real education this wali of Mellab received at the hands of his shaykh in Fez and the internalisation of the knowledge of tawhid that is an essential part of it, his comparatively insignificant action on his return to the desert had huge repercussions which are still making themselves felt in the present time.

This is why nearly every derse given by Shaykh Muhammad b. al-Habib warned those present of the dangers of hidden shirk, of a knowledge of tawhid that was confined to the intellect and did not extend into everyday experience, that did not see the Provider in the provision or the true Benefitter in the benefit received. There is no doubt that Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib was one of the last bastions of that pure unadulterated traditional transmission of Islam that had been going on uninterruptedly for twelve hundred years since the time of the first community. In other words he was entirely untainted by the modernist worldview that has proved so corrosive to a true understanding of tawhid and that has now pervaded every aspect of education, including that of virtually every Muslim.

His successor, our own shaykh, Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, may Allah prolong his life and restore him to robust good health, was, on the other hand, educated entirely within the modernist ethos and yet, using the sword of his enlightened intellect and his awakened heart, managed to cut himself free from its imprisoning straitjacket and reopened the way to an authentic understanding of tawhid in the present time. In my talk “Root Islamic Re-education” at last year’s gathering I tried to indicate how his highlighting of the work of the physicist, Heisenberg, and the philosopher, Heidegger, mapped out an escape route from the dead end maze of the Newtonian/Cartesian view of existence that for more than two hundred years has fraudulently held almost the whole human race in its thrall and, by its dogmatic insistence on the laws of cause and effect, made it virtually impossible for people to gain a true understanding of the Divine Unity. But how much more he has done to clear a path for the authentic expression of Allah’s deen in the present age.

In his seminal text Root Islamic Education he showed how centuries of sterile accretion have left the Muslims bogged down in a stultifying mire of paralysing detail that makes any forward momentum for the deen almost impossible to achieve. His remedy: to go forward into the future by returning to what in a felicitous phrase he calls the “brute wisdom” of the timeless, primal model of Madinan Islam in its first manifestation. His tireless efforts to expose the venomous, corrupting nature of the usurious economic system that now has the whole world in its unrelenting grip and his insistence on the restoration and correct implementation of the pillar of zakat and the minting of gold and silver coinage as a way to combat it have borne fruit in many ways. His work to decipher the political deception and psychological underpinnings of today’s world is unprecedented and unmatched.

When I met him in Cape Town after this year’s moussem he spent twenty minutes recapping the themes contained in his latest book, “The Entire City”. He talked of the Massacre of the Huguenots, Greek and Roman mythology, the assassination of Julius Caesar, the complete inadequacy of the Freudian thesis, but all of these things as having a direct relevance to the future of Islam in the here and now. In a way this new book is a summing up of many themes he has discussed in previous works but what must be understood is that none of it is an arid academic exercise. It is all directed to one and only one purpose: opening the way for the correct understanding and implementation of Allah’s deen in this time.

He has almost single-handedly blasted a way through the smothering miasma of modernism, hacked a path through the clinging, almost impenetrable undergrowth of scientific materialism, to create a clearing in which Islam may once more find a truly authentic expression. He has dragged Islam, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first Century. I say “kicking and screaming” because so many of the Muslims have failed to see that their approach to the deen is entirely inapplicable and irrelevant to the present time. Indeed many ‘ulama do not seem to realise that, notwithstanding their addiction to smartphones and social media, they are still trying to live in a world that actually ceased to exist two hundred years ago.

To some extent it might be said that, in our dealings with our shaykh, we have been a little like the Bani Isra’il when they said to Sayyidina Musa: “So you and your Lord go and fight. We will stay sitting here.” I say “to some extent” because the fact that we are sitting here today makes it clear that all of us have managed to cling on to his coat tails and follow him on the tremendous trail he has blazed. We may not always understand exactly what he is getting at, in fact our heads may be left spinning by some of the things he says, but all of us here are, alhamdulillah, aboard the ship he captains and, will, provided we stay on board, be brought safely to land. Also there is a kind of understanding that penetrates directly to the shaykh’s intention and I know from experience that many of you have that and have reached, in any case, the place he wants us to be.

A word of warning: recent events have made it clear in a way that was perhaps not the case before, that our beloved shaykh will not be with us for ever, although may Allah postpone for many years yet to come the day he leaves us. The teaching he has given us over these years is irreplaceable, inestimably precious and essential if we want to see Allah’s deen properly established in ourselves and the world around us. He has had to fight continually against all the odds to bring it to us and we are going to have to fight tooth and nail to take it on, preserve it, and pass it on. It will require us to constantly swim against the flow, to row against the current, and that will mean unremitting hard work. He has never allowed us to take things at face value and has unceasingly decoded the world for us and to some extent taught us how to do the same. Continuing to do this will demand constant effort and often put us in an uncomfortable position, even vis a vis other Muslims.

So I warn myself and you against being tempted to take on a more simplistic view of the world, against beginning to see things in a more superficial way, against any voices that might suggest that Shaykh Abdalqadir’s view of things is over complicated, or that some of the things he wrote or talked about were not really that relevant or important. This could unfortunately happen all too easily and before we knew it much of our shaykh’s teaching could be swept under the carpet or placed to one side as an interesting irrelevance. Before we knew it we might find ourselves going with the flow alongside so many others, Muslims and non-muslims, hurtling unheedingly towards the black hole of nihilistic oblivion that is the unconscious destination of so many in our time. We need to cling for dear life, if necessary with our fingernails, to the teaching he has given us and do everything we can to keep it safe and pass it on to everyone we can.

And this brings me back to where I started. What Shaykh Abdalqadir has essentially done is restate for us the basic teachings of Allah’s deen in the way that is needed and appropriate for the present age. As all his rightly guided predecessors have done, he has called us to a pure understanding of the Book and Sunna within the context of the time in which he lives and alhamdulillah by Allah’s generosity we have responded to that call. At the heart of that teaching lie the three great classical texts: the Quran, the Muwatta, and the Shifa. This is, of course, more than sufficient for an in depth understanding of the deen but, following the example of a few of those who came before him, whenever he has seen the need for the elucidation of a specific issue springing out of situation faced by the community at a particular moment, he has written a book or article of explanation and guidance, showing us how the matter relates to Islam and how we should act to incorporate it into our practice of our deen. This has been our outward education.

As for our inward education, that internalisation of tawhid I referred to earlier, we have all witnessed generation after generation, whom our shaykh has taken in hand, and none of us has emerged unaltered. We have been refined and ennobled by our contact with him in ways we sometimes fail to realise ourselves. Because of our familiarity with one another we tend to take all this for granted. But it is the very “gold” that Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib talked about us having, the quality that when other people see it they want it for themselves. And how many times have I heard people say after visiting one of our communities, “I wish we had what you’ve got.” This is the real da’wa and in essence it is nothing other than embodied tawhid, a faint reflection of the Names and Attributes of Allah shining through more or less purified hearts, the result of a true Islamic education. For this reason Shaykh Abdalqadir has singled out two elements that he considers absolutely essential for the future of Islam in this age: ‘asabiyya and futuwwa. What he means by ‘asabiyya is a group of men and women bound indissolubly together by no other bond than their love for Allah and His Messenger and what he means by futuwwa is that nobility of character that the Messenger of Allah came to perfect and that is at once the hallmark of true humanness and a pale reflection of the Divine Reality Itself.

The Relation Between the Recovery of Tawhid in the Educational Process and the Social Model

Muhámmad Mujtar Medinilla

8th Seminar on Education

Granada

December 25th, 2015

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamu alaikum.

By the permission of our authority and the teachers here present:

After the seven previous years of this annual Seminar on Education in Granada, in which we have tackled all the prime aspects related to the issue of education and our educational projects, we are focusing once again, with a new emphasis and a deeper attention, at this 8th seminar, on the community as the vital educational factor.

We assume that there is a close relation between the growth of a Muslim community and the establishment of an educational model that stems from and includes a true understanding of tawhid.

Shaykh Abdalqadir says in The Book of Tawhid (Madinah Press, 2006, p. 107): “It is only in the last one hundred and fifty years that this whole understanding collapsed. The interesting thing is that the understanding of this highest aspect of the Deen went along with that thing which sustained the whole of the Deen throughout the whole of society, which is the Amr of Shari’ah. When the Amr was removed by which the Shari’ah was imposed, then the understanding of Tawhid went. These things are not disconnected.”

Therefore, the recovery of the traditional way of instruction, based on a firm and pure tawhid, is tied to the establishment of the Islamic form of governance par excellence: emirate. Our intention for this gathering is to reflect, to deepen in that necessary and, in fact, unavoidable connection. Our aim is to come out of this with a step forward towards the consolidation of that model in our communities, taking full awareness of the essential role the social model plays in the education and training of its people, the enormous importance of its diverse elements being neatly defined and in proper order: the amir, his council, the imam, the family… thus establishing the most adequate connection between the authority of the community and the educational projects located in that territory, including those projects of international nature that require, as much or even more than others, the firm seat and the backup of a local community.

Sidi Parvez Asad Shaykh said in our annual seminar of two years ago: “By establishing such communities across Europe (…) we really begin the task ahead.” Dynamic communities, in constant expansion, interconnected between them at all the levels: political, commercial, human and in knowledge. Local communities that will serve to provide an understanding of the Deen of Islam among the Europeans and that are bound to play an important role both at the nationally and at the continental scope.

During the coming three days our distinguished guest speakers –to whom we dearly thank for their presence among us and their effort- will take on, in depth and from diverse perspectives, the educational dimension of our social model, the civic role and the political role of the Muslim communities in Europe and our position in all of it.

As for me, I will try to address, barely touching the shore of a profound theme, the Relation between the recovery of tawhid in the educational process, and the social model, from the perspective of the education of the younger ones, who -with their behaviour, their attitude towards the world, their life expectations- indicate to us clearly, the degree of the teaching they have received, which is the degree of understanding and the level of transmission of tawhid in their society; for that is the heart of the matter: the acceptance of the Unity and the Power of Allah that takes place when the community educates.

I will only make reference to some aspects of what I have learned from Shaykh Abdalqadir. These indications of the Shaykh have been present in our school along its entire history until today, with our present school, as well as in the history of our community in Granada, manifested in numerous occasions, and mentioning some of them may be of use to our community at this particular moment.

Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley said, rightly to the point, in his closing discourse of the last year’s Seminar on Education: “this core differentiating factor (referring to tawhidmust lie at the heart of any educational venture we embark upon,” and: “it is absolutely essential that this be explicitly or implicitly conveyed by some means in the way that everything is taught in every educational institution we establish.”

At the beginning of that same discourse he related the process of the first school in Norwich, the first schooling experience, pioneer of our communities, that attempted to unite the three dimensions: pedagogic, political and social. The aim was to put in motion a set of actions and spaces that would counterweight the dominant ethos in all possible ways. That was a time when the whole community was united, conscious of the importance of the education of the children. The main motif was the understanding of “lakum dinukum wa liya din” (To you your din, to us our din).

Years later, in the early nineties, that ayat continued to be the motif that inspired Shaykh Abdalqadir to promote a school in Granada, and all of us agreed to set it in motion. At that stage there was here, as in Norwich, unity in the community, in the tariqa, in the authority, in the Amir, in the majority of the families and we were well aware that the fundamental aspects: social, political and pedagogic, all were part of one and the same struggle, one same endeavour.

Not only were we aware of the need to have educational and teaching institutions for a true transmission of tawhid to the younger ones, but we were also fully aware that such a thing would be impossible unless that transmission was also taking place, in its essence, in the community, starting by the cellular nucleus of social life: the family.

Let’s remember again the words of Shaykh Abdalqadir from “The Interim is Mine” (Budgate Press, 2010, p. 20), where it is said that “personal education is, by definition, also social”. Thus: “Not just an educational group but a social nexus is required to fashion humans of quality.”

In the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist and professor of the University of Chicago: “The most satisfactory way to realize the self is by means of creating a more complex social system: a good society (…) the ancient wisdom contained in the African proverb ‘to educate a child, the whole tribe is needed’ has been forgotten. Instead, education has been delegated to schools modelled according to the methods of mass production, the efficiency of which was proven in the factories”. (The Evolving Self: Psychology for the Third Millenium).

However, our educational model is meticulous, concerned with detail… As stated by Rais Abu Bakr Rieger in an article published in the January edition of ISLAM HOY, entitled “The Politics of knowledge”: “The basic teaching of the centuries of Muslim history has been based on scrupulosity”. Education happens with every little detail, with every gesture, full of adab, from an old person, from a companion, from your wife. That was understood by our dear shaykh and that is what he transmitted to us, for example, in “The Book of Strangers”. He arrived to Morocco looking for answers, the great answers, but to his astonishment he was finding them along the way, he was finding indications, in spite of his initial resistance, from people that will meet him on his way, in the market place, in the streets, from old people, from his teacher, Shaykh Mohammed Ibn Al Habib himself, through apparently insignificant, small gestures, day-to-day acts, signs.

A whole society, the entire unity of a community, as we were saying, is required for a small gesture to become an instruction. This was what attracted us to the Deen of Islam in the first place: the care, the adab with which everything was done. And this must be recovered among us today; we must abandon our fear of correcting behaviour and conduct in the children with the utmost courtesy, for example at the table, in the garden, in the street. Because –if they do not pay heed to us in this time and age- it is because that elementary practice, which is so basic in our Deen, has been abandoned time ago as a general custom.

Children must learn to be aware of others, when an adult arrives they must be aware of him and act accordingly: lowering their voices, leaving space free for the adult to seat, offer him to serve him in whatever he may require, and so on. Shaykh Abdalqadir says in his book “Commentaries” (Madinah Press, 2012, p. 223-224): “All that awareness of the other is what adab is. It is making room for someone (…) The proper adab begins with the child. (…) The mother is the university of the child.”

The teaching that has been passed on to us is based on acquiring a comprehension of tawhid “which”, in words of Shaykh Abdalqadir, “also has in it this adab without which there is no path to this understanding.” (The Book of Tawhid, Madinah Press, 2006, p. 148)

This is not an intellectual matter; if it doesn’t manifest in behaviour there is no tawhid. But this applies as much to the young people as it does to the ‘ulama. “The confirmation that they are people of knowledge is that they impart justice.” These words of Shaykh Abdalqadir are based in the ayats recited a short while ago by Hafidh Bashir.

Allah bears witness that there is no god but Him, as do the angels and the people of knowledge, upholding justice.

There is no god but Him, the Almighty, the All-Wise.”

(Surat of The Family of ‘Imran, 3:18)

In the classrooms of Europe is where the most fundamental battle is been played out” wrote just a few days ago the filmmaker, writer and journalist David Trueba in EL PAIS, in the aftermath of the events of Paris, in a commentary under the title: “Fatalism”. It is clear that the battle is going to be played out in the battlefields of education, particularly in the school. And I am not talking, obviously, about a battle between Islam and the West, as the media, the dominant powers and the ignorant are trying to make the general population believe. I refer rather to a war that is already more than two hundred years old between the possibility of a civilised world and barbarism. Not the bloody barbarism, inacceptable, of terror manufactured by those lunatics that call themselves Muslims while with every step they take they do nothing but harm to the Muslims; rather the barbarism of a system that no longer knows what life is all about, that is destroying the planet and human being himself, while at the same time pretending to make us believe that we are free and that we live in the best of all possible worlds.

The problem is that, even when an author like the one we have just mentioned, an intellectual concerned with the mercantilist drift that affects education, who is fully aware of the fact that eliminating from the syllabus all subjects that don’t have a practical use to the financial markets leaves us vulnerable and helpless against what he calls “the tragedy of living”; and while he even speaks about liberating the youth from “the hijacking of alienating and brutalising business” –as he describes them- and about restoring in Europe the struggle for knowledge and the intellectual challenge that will allow them to answer existential questions, in spite of all of this, he can only consider one tool: reason.

We encounter now the same predicament met by Goethe and Schiller during their lifetime: the overcoming of the duality between intellect and soul, of the broken man and of the broken hearts. Both ways are open in front of us: the path of the young Werther and the path of the young Wilhelm: the path of nihilism and desperation (suicide) or the path of Bildung, that is, the path of the complete education that leads to a fulfilled and joyful life.

What exactly does that indication, which we were given by our shaykh, mean for us: that we should be careful about not breaking the child’s heart?

There is no way anyone can pretend that by sending their children every morning to the state school, with the distorted world picture they are transmitting, where science, the scientific point of view, is always trying to displace man from its central position, from its high position in creation; an educational system that has at its core the belief that power resides with anything and anywhere, except with Allah; and then by bringing your children to Qur’an classes in the evening to the mosque, you will be building in those children a correct and genuine understanding of tawhid.

If that is the case, then you will have to work hard to change that situation. You will have to undergo a profound task of clarification, of discernment with your children, and you will have to fight in order to modify that reality the sooner the better. A woman told me recently, as if aspiring to change this state of things was something impossible, a fantasy of dreamers: “…but don’t you see that this is the reality!” My answer was: “You are right, but the whole affair is precisely to change that reality.” It might be okay that you have to temporarily go through that, but you must not conform to it. Because if you allow to lower your level, then, one may enter in the dangerous terrain of justification, in which case the problem is not so much one of lack of coherence with your own principles but more a matter of weakening. That is exactly what this type of situation generates: weakness.

I am aware that these words may produce uneasiness. But I am trying to follow the method of Goethe, which is in no way alien to our own Muslim tradition, that is: starting from the reality in which we find ourselves, from the departing point of our circumstances we strive to elevate ourselves. Which is not at all the same as trying to render the ideal to the reality, a method that usually only highlights our incoherencies and inconsistencies, and ends up with easy but empty words. I refuse to look away and to believe that by avoiding the challenging issues we will end up more united and in peace. Let’s not use reality as a wall that we cannot trespass because, if we do, that will become a wonderful ideal, but one that never happens.

Whenever the issue of education is brought forward some people feel, and they express it out loud and clearly, that it is better “not to stir the pot”, but that is exactly what needs to be done, even if it touches a sensitive zone, even if it hits home. It must hit home and it must touch the sensitive zone! Because at present education of the younger ones, those that need a more delicate care and need to be more protected, is disastrous, with a clear predominance of State Education that represents in all its aspects not only the opposite, but moreover the fiercest enemy of an educational process with tawhid.

Each community knows “where the shoe pinches”. As for Granada, this issue, the education of our children, has turned to be an element of division rather than one of union… After establishing the Mosque, it was clear that the large majority of us, starting with Shaykh Abdalqadir himself, who in 2006 insisted once again that we should create our own school, it was clear for all of us that this was to be the next step, that once the mosque was established there had to be teaching: teaching at the mosque and in our circles and in the school for the young ones. But we are not people that cover up or hide things, we are the people that face what needs to be tackled and unveil what needs attention. In my opinion, I am convinced that it will be very difficult for us as a community to take on any task of importance unless and until we are capable of solving and giving answers to this issue.

It may seem that the State offers some “security”, but your security is in the hands of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. As Shaykh Abdalqadir explains in “The Book of Tawhid” (Madinah Press, 2006, p. 44-45): “You must realise that the kafirun do not know what is going on. They do not understand the process. The Muslims who have taken knowledge from the Book of Allah and from the Sunna of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, they know that Allah is the Creator of everything and He is the Guardian over everything, then He is the Guardian over you and you will move in a confidence that what you will do is that which will best secure your safety.”

And again, as Shaykh Abdalhaqq indicated in the discourse of last year’s Seminar, already mentioned: tawhid is not something that can be left to classes on aqida.” And I take this opportunity to remind us all of the indication given by Shaykh Abdalqadir in his advice “The responsibility of the Fuqara” (Commentaries, Madinah Press, 2012, p. 327), specifically addressed to the communities of Granada and Cape Town, about the importance of teaching children Al-Murshid al-Mu’in, of Ibn ‘Ashir.

Shaykh Abdalqadir has taught us that the false teaching of tawhid propagated during the last century is a result of the terrible situation in which the Muslims find themselves. That is, a tawhid with tanzih (exaltation of Allah over and above all that can be associated with Him), but deprived of tasbih, His presence, openly proclaimed in His Book, sunhanahu wa ta ‘ala. (The Book of Tawhid, Madinah Press, 2006, p. 79)

Why then, when death reaches his throat and you are at that moment looking on – and We are nearer him than you but you cannot see”

(Sura Al Waqi’ah, The Ocurrence 56:83-85)

Allah is always present absolutely in our actions.

Allah knows what is in your hearts”.

(Sura Al Ahzab, The Confederates 33:51).

He knows what he heart contains”

(Sura Al Hadid, Iron 57:6)

That presence, that perception of Allah’s nearness, it not something passive but rather active, that encourages action, impels you towards the transformation of your life, to have high aims, that is what must take root in the heart of our children, the children of the Muslims. Allahu ma’y, Allahu nadirun ‘alay, Allahu shahidun ‘alay”, “Allah is with me, Allah is looking at me, Allah is the witness of my actions.” That knowledge, that impression, contained in the wird of Sahl at-Tustari, which is the path to the highest tawhid, that is what we must transmit, with love, with tenderness, to our children.

Shaykh Abdalqadir told us in the old zawiyyah of San Gregorio Alto, here in the Albaicin, that intimacy with Allah starts with your underwear… because you can do your salat with your interior cloths dirty and nobody will notice, but Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows. This is not a matter of obsession, on the contrary, it is a matter of learning without compulsion, neither internal nor external. To the children this idea was amusing, but they love it when I tell them, and they understand it perfectly. My experience in school is that children recognise naturally, instinctively, all that Allah says about Himself. They were born hunafa’, in fitra. As narrated in the hadith that we all know: “Every child is born in fitra, and it is their parents that make him into a Jew, a Christian or a fire worshipper.” (Sahih Muslim)

Speaking to children about Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, is the most important thing in their education and must be transmitted from their tender earliest years. And this is connected very particularly to the mother, with her physical contact, her voice and specially her glance, her “entire” glance addressed to her child. Shaykh Abdalqadir says in his “Commentaries” (Madinah Press, 2012, p. 224) that in that “look” rests “the beginning of the education of the nafs that is to make the child a whole human being”. So that the germ of iman, the seed of trust in Allah, that begins with trust in the mother, in the parents, will be the foundation of a person’s trust, his security, in the world.

This is why our entire educational task, including the pedagogical dimension, rests on the preservation of that natural state of recognition, of remembrance that Allah is your Creator, One, with nothing associated to Him, in order to preserve that original condition and to protect their hearts from being broken, or divided. Or to mend them in case they have been damaged (because when a fracture takes place, a division between the inward and the outward of their developing personality – which is the most common thing to happen in the world in which we live- that causes then in the child a disconnection from reality) so that this youthfulness, this spontaneity, this original state, fata, may manifest itself and with it enabling them to accede to the highest qualities of futuwwa. Because futuwwa, which represents the highest aspects of nobility, something perfectly accessible to every Muslim, is not an arbitrary election, a capricious one, for someone who just wants to “improve his mark”, rather it is a culmination of the fundamental issue in the Deen, “an active and demonstrable declaration”, in words of Shaykh Abdalqadir, “of Allah’s Unity and that nothing can be compared to Him.” (The Book of Amal, Madinah Press, 2008, p. 96)

We have to begin building our own children with great patience” said the shaykh also, long time ago in Weimar, in 1995. And he added: “the young man has to be built stone by stone until he becomes a wall in front of the haram and a protection for the halal. Step by step, one after the other. This is how the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, built Madinah (…) You cannot make your children love Islam, they have to see the love between the Muslims, and that can only be understood by people that place their obligations and their dhikr above anything else in the world.” (First discourse of Weimar).

***

I would like to point now to some aspects related to the education of the younger ones, that I deem we must keep very much in mind, because they can be of great benefit, particularly in the present time.

The first thing I am going to point to is the need for differentiation. As Shaykh Abdalqadir says: “(…) the reality of this world is in fact that it is a reflective reality of what comes after it.” (Commentaries, Madinah Press, 2012, p. 374) It is for that reason that it is so important to transmit to our children the need to be different from others. Because there are two groups, the people of the Right and the people of the Left, and we are not the same! The great difference is that the believers recognise their Lord, while the kuffar have negated Allah.

We, the human beings, like the jinn, have been created to worship Allah. And it is tawhid that allows us to understand Allah. That is our only reason of pride and the pride that the younger ones must feel. And that is why it is so important to work on developing the courage because by it your vital attitude does not conform to the dominant ideology, based on a mistaken sense of tolerance interpreted as “everything goes” or “everything can be valid”. However, that courage, while it can and it must be cultivated as one of the fundamental aspects of the upbringing of a person, is only possible if your understanding of tawhidis well established upon solid foundations.

While the striving of the system’s approach to education is “to be happy”, happy all the time by means of an unnatural overprotection and a denial of the reality of life, our teaching is based on the knowledge of how existence works, knowing –as Shaykh Abdalqadir points out- that, “If you do not have this knowledge of Tawhid, you do not know what life is about. You can only cause trouble and havoc.” (The Book of Tawhid, Madinah Press, 2006, p. 98) Finally, they cannot attain happiness in their mature age because they were not taught, they were not transmitted, that, what was truly important, was to become men and women of truth, conscious of their high place in creation and aware of the mercy of their Creator.

In reality what suits the system better, in particular in Spain, are those classes of “Islamic religion” offered in state schools, and much demanded all over the country, in that way they keep the Muslims content with this “teaching of their religion” inside a circle whose values and interpretation of existence have nothing to do with tawhid and, in fact, is frontally opposed to the Deen of Islam.

They teach that the most important thing is peace; they are even ready to admit that, “in despite of everything”, Islam means “peace”… They make the children draw doves of peace and even celebrate it, preaching them a belief that the system itself is fully dedicated to deny all the time in the real world, transmitting them de facto, as a result, that the school is not linked to reality, it is just, in the best of cases, an ceaseless repository of “believers” in humanist idealism, the only acceptable, decent way, to be in this world, but the announced end of which is scepticism; in other words, just a means to bear fear.

The growth of the young Muslim, along the great three natural stages, is based on a spiral development, expanding in ever larger concentric circles, in a natural process of gradual socialising, from the home, passing by the parents, the brothers, the uncles and aunties, the grandparents, the relatives, the neighbours,… the local community, to the universal, always with the same centre, the pure meaning of tawhid. Growth is not linear and progressive, being small in the beginning and high at the end, but rather the early years are the most important and it is then that the bulk of your future identity as an adult will be shaped. In this way tawhid is being protected, in its essence, in the first years, becoming consolidated with the intervention of the other human faculties along the successive stages of growth.

In the first stage, up to seven years of age, the mother is the madrasa, the mother is the school. I am not going to go deeper into this at this point. Rather I would just like to indicate that here lays one of the greatest problems of our time. I remember a text about Heidegger where he expressed his indignation at the “storage places” for children and for the old people built in Germany, to “get them out of the way”. He insisted that “as much as children must be brought up in the environment of the family and not in children’s nurseries, so must the elderly remain at home because their life is worth of veneration and their experience deserves to be of profit for the young.” (Heinrich Wiegand Petzet: Encounters and Dialogues with Martin Heidegger, 1929-1976) If that was the case in his time, today we have reached the top of this error with regards to these two key stages of life.

Allow me to provide a fact: the third strategic objective of the European Union for the year 2020 in education is that at least 95% of children between 4 and 6 years of age should be schooled in early childhood education. As for Spain the 100% was already achieved in 2011. On the other hand, Finland, regarded as the number one worldwide reference in education, only has, in that age group, a percentage of 45%. And by the way, while the school hours in Spain are 875 in primary school, in Finland they are only 608. Besides, children in Finland are not legally obliged to go to school until they are 7.

According to José Antonio Marina, “star” Spanish educationalist, who is presently completing the edition of the White Book of Education in Spain commissioned by the government, says, referring to the Finnish educational model: “… that late schooling stems from a pedagogical approach that understands that introducing children earlier into formal education is counterproductive. (…) We are overstepping the lines with our insistence in a very premature education that causes overload to the children.”

As Shaykh Abdalqadir said in his lecture “Iman and Education”: “Playschool is an excuse. It does not have very strong intellectual foundations.” Already in classical Greece, “Plato understood that it didn’t make sense to expect children to grasp abstract ideas until they had learned how to control their bodies in athletic exercise, until they had learned order by the rhythm of music and other forms of sensory harmony.” (Csikszentmihalyi: The Evolving Self, p. 274)

The recovery of the natural wisdom of children’s upbringing is an inescapable task but, for it to be possible, woman has to recover the lost knowledge about her own nature.

The processes of development are being forced: in their sphincters; in the socialising process, by the current obsession for integrating children in groups before their proper maturity period. The obsession that they should express themselves, while the right thing to do at that age is rather the imitation of the classical models. The obsession for breaking everything apart, while the right thing to do is for the child to perceive the whole phenomenon. The obsession for qualifying with numbers from very early age, while the right thing to do would be to start, very carefully, at the earliest only from the third cycle of primary education and onwards.

During school age there is no tawhid, just because you are working with all aspects of the person and you think you are practicing holistic education. This is all very well, and it is also our aim, but that is not the in-depth substance of the matter. For it could well be that where others only perceive deficiencies, right here, and even with very meagre resources, integrity is being transmitted, a nucleus is being forged, a core of discernment, a true comprehension of tawhid, and a heart capable of understanding.

Naturally this real matter has nothing to do with filling the whole time of children with extra-curricular activities. We will assist them better if we allow them time to digest what they do, time for playing, even to have moments of being bored, a serene rhythm, without stress. Walking with one of the parents, talking, contemplating the landscape – these are moments of priceless value.

The other point to be aware of is protecting children from the streets. Shaykh Abdalqadir already warned us in the discourse “The Responsibility of the Fuqara”. (Commentaries, Madinah Press, 2012, p. 327) We must protect them from what is out there, the culture of the streets.

Cleanness is, furthermore, the germ of discernment since early age, from the time when they have to differentiate between food and excrement, and that is the foundation of any society and the path to nobility.

Another important facet of education is to address in the child the correct time-space orientation. In his discourse at the conclusion of our last annual Seminar on Education, Shaykh Abdalhaqq presented, after highlighting the importance of the recovery of a true understanding of tawhid, and directly related to it, the way how we understand time and space.

Last Wednesday night we celebrated the Maulid at the Mosque and yesterday morning the children, all those children who wished to attend, celebrated the Maulid of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in our present school. This holds a great importance: it is necessary to consolidate the celebrations, not subject to the solar cycle of time nor to any other reference, the occasions of joy and the commemorations which are high points in the life of the Muslims: the two Eids, the day of Ashura’, with gifts for the children, the Maulid. Those days have to be their time references.

We have seen Muslim children celebrating Halloween and other harvest festivals. Shaykh Abdalqadir told me on one occasion, when he observed that during the Christmas season many children were absent from class at our school La Maestranza, and that was due to the fact that their grandparents and their extended families were living in the same city: “Children must visit their grandparents as often as they can, but never, never, during these days because Christmas is loaded with an excessive emotional charge.”

These days (Christmas) provide us a good opportunity to speak to children about Allah, subhanahu wa ta ala, who “did not beget and was not begotten, and there is nothing equal to him”, from Surat Al Ikhlas, who was not “born” astaghfirullah! on Christmas night. To speak to them about the meanings of Surat Al Fatiha: “Guide us on the straight path, not the at of those who deserve anger, and not that of those who have gone astray”… It is wonderful opportunity as the dates of the Maulid and Christmas have coincided, to speak to them about the life of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to strengthen in them love for him, while we also speak to them about ‘Isa, alayhi salam, and all that is mentioned about him and about his mother in the Qur’an.

And don’t worry if they seem fanaticised, “tender little fanatics”, because that is how children take things. There is no matter for concern in that, as Shaykh Abdalqadir points out: “Later on they will be tempered by age”. But you cannot leave them in the lukewarm zone, undecided, in-between, without strength in the their belief, because you would be destroying them.

Shaykh Abdalhaqq brought in his discourse the ayat from the Qur’an: “Those who are firmly rooted on earth”. And my question is: where are our young ones rooting firmly? If our streets do not allow any more for a transmission and correct social interaction, within natural moral limits, then it is imperative to find spaces for the younger ones: outings to the mountain, camps, get-togethers, sports, theatre, excursions to the city… etc., in order to encourage higher levels of social relations, in which voluntarily, different persons from the community, of various age groups, might contribute to transmit something beneficial by doing what they best know how to do.

Children must be acquainted with the landscape, trod the paths, ascend to the mountains, learn the names of the trees, the plants and the animals of their environment, they must put their roots deep in the earth. They must know the earths’ processes, and the atmosphere, the change of seasons (not merely as themes from a textbook) and they must be able to recognise it in the description of the Qur’an. The ability to read existence is our educational purpose. Because that well lead us to tawhid, to the proclamation of the Unity of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The respect towards creation, towards all things in the world, the clean air, the plants, the animals, this respect is based upon taking on the responsibility of being Khalifs of Allah on earth, upon the recognition that sovereignty belongs to Allah. Not upon rationalism, nor critical analysis, exploring the world as if it was your property and you could do with it whatever you please.

Some thinkers are pointing that we are heading towards a great collision, the collision of all sciences in one single science: biotechnology. It is like a crash, with a foreseeable traumatic result, chaotic, the opposite way to unification of diversity of scientific knowledge towards one single course.

It is an anthropological matter; it is the way of “being” in the world. It is not something rational. It is about how do we experience existence, life. Children must know from close distance the rearing of animals, the growth of plants, and they must be aware of how they reach us in order to be our nourishment and our clothing, and how they are coming towards us since many years. All of that is of the utmost importance, the correct understanding of creation and the function of the elements that make up the cosmos. The consciousness of Who makes all of that happen, of Who is in reality the One who makes the seed germinate.

This rooting, the roots holding firm, can only be entirely realised with a language that is completely integrated in this discovery, because this is the tool to realisation. Being extremely careful with language, the good word, is essential at this point. In our experience in school we have been able to observe that this matter is one of the most difficult ones for children because it requires a lot of courage to maintain in the streets a proper Spanish language. As Shaykh Abdalqadir once told us: “Spanish a beautiful language, but it requires courage to speak it correctly, because the consonants are strong.”

Other aspects, and at this stage -I am basically just enumerating- I don’t want to tire you too much, are the need to work with children in their self-control, restraint and patience, (all of which have as a result something very important: hope).

It is paradoxical that a system as the one we suffer, a system ever more and more focused on neuroscience, on the brain, on the head, should be at the same time so emotional: that exacerbated emotion, unbalanced and unrestrained that we observe at every moment! They touch their heads, they play with their emotions but they do not occupy themselves to care for their hearts. On the other hand, our system, centred on the heart as the vital organ of the Muslim, that functions as a magnet, implies furqan, i.e. the capacity for discernment and the mastery of oneself.

Shaykh Abdalqadir says: “This is an age where perhaps the worst thing about modern main is his inability to have Sabr because everything is in order to try to get things done now, and to be impatient.” (Commentaries, Madinah Press, 2012, p. 318) Children have to learn to wait, to have patience… if they learn this they will know when they have to act. And they must also realize that all learning, all knowledge, requires time, it is not immediate and instant like in current technological gadgets.

Let us take full advantage and benefit from the second stage of growth. School age is the best age in life to accept norms, to follow a model, to learn the basic rules of living with others, the adab required for each situation. This is the best period to instil in them understanding of self-discipline and respect to authority.

Those parents that have been occupied, with all their effort and as far as their circumstances have allowed them, making their children live fully the stage of the “mother as school” and after that, in the schooling period, providing them the best upbringing they have been able to give, in particular with respect to the election of their teachers, those parents will find, if Allah wills, the best foundation in place for the commencement of the third stage of growth, when they will undertake the crucial journey of discovery of the father, by the young man, and the discovery of the mother, by the young woman, in their respective moments, which are different, of puberty. If their identities have been well formed and their sexual differentiation has emerged clearly (separated schools for boys and girls in primary) they will have the necessary support for, first, the rise of sexual awakening, and later, the building of full masculinity and femininity and their entry in adult life. Separation at this stage is of prime importance. As Shaykh Abdalqadir has reiterated in numerous occasions: “Separation brings union.”

When we had our fiesta de la capea (amateur bullfighting with young bulls) in the bullfighting ring a few months ago, we were all happy because of the prevailing joy and we all had a very good time. I don’t mean to raise a “but”, I will however point to something that happened that day, so that we make use of it in our reflection. The group of boys started, in the right place, a bit apart from the general group, an activity that was planned only for the males: their wrestling competition. Later on a group of girls joined in and they also participated. Little by little the place filled up with men and women around that spot. One could say that it became the apex of enthusiasm that afternoon. And we all enjoyed it. I could observe, however, how the special effect that this activity has for the boy was becoming distorted. The energy of the male adolescents that entered in competition later was a fight completely conditioned by the glance of the girls. The masculine values could not manifest themselves anymore, in the way they would have if the young men had remained among themselves. And again the fact that girls want to join the boys in their activity repeated itself. I am not saying that girls cannot fight between them, I don’t know if that is the best for them. What I do know is that they usually do not find their own space, where they can express themselves openly and fully, in the company of women, just among themselves.

It is important today to find those spaces for the boys, and for the girls. It is very important! Masculinity and femininity represent for us an inescapable task, going against the dominant current of the society in general, because the dominant model is completely the opposite. We are in need of men and women who are working on themselves, who are deepening this aspect, and who desire ardently to take on the challenge presented in “The Collaborative Couple” of Shaykh Abdalqadir, a challenge that remains there, pending, in front of us, since 1990, the date when he delivered this paper at the University of Malaysia.

Our young need the guidance of men and women who merit admiration, models to imitate, determined to participate in building the next generation to help them becoming better than ourselves. As Shaykh Abdalqadir says: “No by means of reproaching, but by giving; no with criticism, but confirming them, and giving them.” (First discourse of Weimar, 1995). And: “You see, the most you can do is produce men and women of quality. You need the yeast, and when you have the yeast you have to put it in the bread. It has been the same in every age and every place. The people of knowledge raise up everything around them, by calling things by their proper names, not by ideology.” (An Interview with Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, Madina Press Melbourne, 2013, p. 18)

Our link today is in education. We cannot avoid this responsibility. We have to pre-occupy and occupy ourselves with the education of our children, and we have to try again and again. We may not allow division to reign among us, on the contrary we must transform whatever might be a cause of dissent into a bond that will unite us and bring about brotherhood among us, by mutual assistance. Everything I have been talking about, and other things we had no time to cover, form the basis that can favour and enable our young men and women to establish a true tawhid in their lives. But in order for that to happen a unified action is required of all of us, starting from the authority of the Amir, the teaching and clarification of our Imam Khatib, our homes, the families, and each one contributing with what he knows to do best.

This energy, more than anything else, is paideia. And we must activate it, re-activate it among us, because this force, this dynamic process of on-going improvement is the signal indicating that we are sustained by a true tawhid.

This is my proposal this morning: Let’s do it together! And let’s do it for our children and for the children of all of the Muslims.

But for this to happen we must elevate our aspirations, something often repeated by Shaykh Ahmed Bermejo, and get rid of that view, short-sighted and stingy as it is, that reduces all our efforts and projects and suggests to content ourselves with whatever we can put together by gathering just the loose change we can get out of our pockets… We cannot limit ourselves in that way. That is the easy position. The difficult thing, and that to which our shaykh is calling us to all the time: to raise high, to be grateful to our Creator, unearthing from within ourselves the enormous gifts with which He has honoured us, to build, to establish in this time and place, projects that will reach beyond ourselves. Projects that require means and a lot of effort, to relate ourselves with the rest of the Ummah, and the recovery of institutions, such as the waqf. Our fundraising effort is one of the most honourable efforts among us today. Those men that go on a journey, leaving their families behind during long weeks, deserve our understanding and the due recognition, merited by those who work fisabilillah.

I insist on what I said in this same place in August last year, even if you might consider it excessive: we are at the beginning of a process of Bildung, a conscious determination to improve, in each one of our men and women, as well as a community.

Bildung is a term that we can perfectly relate to the Greek paideia: It is related to education, but an education that goes much wider and deeper than what we usually identify with “education”. Bildung means an education, a learning process, which is not controlled by the state.

Bildung, like paideia, bring us to the point of taking the road of complete upbringing, “refinement, cleansing and ennobling”, in the words of Sidi Ahmad Gross. Bilden means “to shape or to create oneself”. One could say that our yearning, our endeavour, is modelling ourselves following the model of the Messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

This is happening among us, at least at the level of a small nucleus. The library of Amir Malik continues to grow with essential works. It is very important that the example proliferates and that we establish a circle of people that participate in this aspiration, because it is needed; in this process of learning it is important to receive stimuli and to create a warm atmosphere where the learning process can thrive and where one can feel the encouragement of the others. Without this nothing can be built. The first ones to benefit will be the young ones, inshaAllah. Because they have to discover who they are, in what world are they living and where are they going. The families must understand that a good upbringing of their children goes beyond the school. The parents, in the same way as they are imams of salat in their houses, must also become the cultural reference for their children.

Shaykh Abdalqadir is, in this as in many other things, our best example: he continues, in spite of illness and age, studying, working intellectually… it is hard for us to catch up with him in his last book “The Entire City”. His level is very high. He is calling us to prepare, to go forward, to exert our capacities to the utmost.

In that last work, The Entire City, Shaykh Abdalqadir, referring to asabiyya, says that it “is that circle of men and women bounded not by blood or station, but by a shared quality of life which demands pure worship of the Lord of the Universe, an on-going competition among its members in generosity, support, nurture, learning and mutual concern. Ibn Khaldun said that such a circle would always triumph over its enemies but added that if such a group were bonded in worship of the Divine they would have the great triumph”. (The Entire City. A Commentary on Three Texts, Orhan Books 2015, p. 307-308)

During the last Annual Seminar on Education, and as a response to the message that Shaykh Abdalqadir sent us, inviting us to unite in groups of asabiyya, immediately a group of ten men, young men, most of them married and with children, stepped forward ready to do it. That determination has an enormous power. The last sentence of The Entire City is: “Essential are a few Companions for company in the dark.” (The Entire City. A Commentary on Three Texts, Orhan Books 2015, p. 310) I hope that group of young men re-establish their commitment, that gentlemen’s agreement. But they must be clear about one thing: their high aim will not go ahead with success if they don’t involve their families in it.

In his “Commentaries” Shaykh Abdalqadir says: “(…) it is the failure to understand the true Tawhid that puts the Muslim people off the Path and that is disaster. So if disaster befalls a Muslim people it is because they have lost the true teaching of Tawhid. If they have the true teaching of Tawhid, as in all the great moments of Muslim history, it is because there has always been at the heart of that community a body of ‘Arifin who recognise this and who teach it to the common people.” (Madinah Press, 2012, p. 299)

Two elements have characterised and distinguished our communities along its history: education of our young and da’wah. And both aspects are closely connected. Because, how could we be occupied with a dynamic and continuous da’wah if we are not firmly resolute to pass on that same da’wah to our young generations? Between both spheres there is such a close relationship that they reinforce each other. Both represent the manifestation that we are passing on the teaching that we have received, and they represent two fundamental elements of the teaching of our shaykh. Quoting Hajj Abdullah Luongo, rahimahu-llah:“Were ever this is taking place is where the authentic work of Shaykh Abdalqadir is happening.” (Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir As Sufi – Leading Intellectual of Our Time, 3rd paragraph, in: Robert Luongo’s blog, June 16th, 2009)

Thanks to everyone!

Oh Allah! grant good health and long life to our beloved shaykh, Shaykh Abdalqadir As Sufi!

Oh Allah! make this encounter a means for this community to unite strongly in the highest of projects: the upbringing of its youth -strong, free, joyful- and may the call to Allah reach all those who are awaiting the arrival of this noble Deen to their lives! Amin.

Oh Allah! Give increase to all our communities across the world and to all the sincere Muslim men and Muslim women in the Ummah! Amin.

A community will achieve the position its members are prepared to aspire

Shaykh Ahmed Bermejo

Granada, December 26th, 2015

As-salaam Alaykum:

First of all I would like to express gratitude to those who have been responsible for this conference and for their invaluable work at all levels: in organising, in logistics and particularly in their intellectual effort. Their effort has been towards the acquisition of useful knowledge, a knowledge that will assist us in our lives, a knowledge from which we can obtain what can be implemented in our lives and that will lead us to change or improve what needs to change in our lives.

I will try to deliver my small contribution, hoping that it might be of use to all and trusting in Allah that He makes it easy for me to transmit some useful knowledge, which is the aim and purpose of this conference.

When I started reflecting about how to address the topic of this talk, the first thing that came to my mind was the celebration of the anniversary of this Mosque in 2012. I don’t know if you remember, that was the year of the so-called revolutions in many Arab countries, branded in the media as the “Arab spring”. At that time the word “revolution” was much used, so that when we were making preparations for the events we decided to make the main theme of the gathering precisely that: revolution. We decided, in addition, to choose a striking title that will appeal to the masses, like one of those movies that, when you read or hear the name of the film you say to yourself: “I got to see this, whatever it takes.” We opted for: “Islam: la auténtica revolución”, something that in English sounded even better: “Islam: the Real Revolution”.

That was to be the general heading for the whole event. Then we had planned four talks dealing with: civic education, economy, authority and governance, and, at last, there was one talk assigned to Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley, who is with us today, entitled: “Inner Revolution, Outward Revolution.” No need to mention: of the four this last one was the most important talk for all of us.

And so it was that we sent copy of the programme to Shaykh Abdalqadir, scanned via email, in order that he could revise it and give his ‘go ahead’. We were proud and convinced we had hit the nail right on the head with our choice of theme and title, convinced that that was exactly what the moment demanded, saying to ourselves: “this year’s conference is going to be a big success.” A few days later we received an email. In it there was only one attachment, a PDF document, named “GranadaMosque.pdf”.

We opened it and we saw the same document we had sent to Shaykh Abdalqadir but now it had his corrections and notes, or should I say, he had crossed out our whole text. To begin with he crossed out the general title and instead of “Islam: The Real Revolution”, he wrote: “Islam Rediscovered”, which we translated to Spanish as “Redescubrir Islam”.

That was the first blow. Then there were other minor notations and when we arrived to the last talk, “Inner revolution, outward revolution”, that theme title that had made us feel so proud of ourselves. Here we received the straight punch that left us knocked out, down on the canvas. We could see strokes by a strong hand, made with decision; I could almost dare to say with irritation and vehemence, and which effectively struck through all of our text about that talk. At the bottom of the page the Shaykh had written down five words by his own hand: Jama’atKhidma, Speaking-well, Hospitality, Giving.

With those five words the Shaykh had given us the keys to the teaching we needed for that, which we were calling the “inner revolution”, one that will have resulting consequences in the outward. It was as if he was telling us: The core of the matter is creating groups, serving others, speaking well of people, opening the doors of our houses and giving out with generosity, that is what the matter is all about. And all of these things are, in fact, some of the characteristic signs of futuwwa.

We passed on this message to Shaykh Abdalhaqq and with only those five words, he understood perfectly the message and delivered a brilliant paper that he entitled: “The Science of Behaviour”. In his talk he advised the means to the inner transformation, or “revolution”, by which we can affect in a positive way the society in which we live and the community of which we are a part.

At the beginning of his talk Shaykh Abdalhaqq quoted two ayaats from the Noble Qur’an and one hadith of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. The first ayat was that one where Allah, glory be to Him, describes his Prophet, saying to him: “Indeed you are truly vast in character” (surat Al Qalam 68, ayat 4)

In the second ayat Allah tells His Messenger to tell his companions and, by extension, his entire Ummah, the following: “Say, ‘If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and will forgive you for your wrong actions.” (Surat Ali Imran, 3 ayat 31). As for the hadith, well-known to all of us, it was the famous saying of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, “I have been sent to perfect good behaviour, or “I was only sent to perfect the noble qualities of character”.

At the end of the introduction to his talk, Shaykh Abdalhaqq concluded by saying: “You are what you do”. In other words, the behaviour of the person determines who and what he is, and it is his actions that shape his life and his destiny, socially and individually.

Therefore, on those bases I want to say something to you today. I will use as my ingredients the five words of Shaykh Abdalqadir, the message described by those five words, and the beginning of the paper of Shaykh Abdalhaqq. Let’s see “what basket we will be able to make with those wickers” [allusion to a Spanish proverb]

You are what you do”. One might think that this refers to the individual, that I am what I do, but that is not the way to understand it, because what I do is also social, it affects others, what you do has an effect on the people around you. As we all know, a community of people is made up of individuals and if the individuals of that community only do one thing, the community only does that thing. If the members of the community only reach up to here, the community only reaches up to here. If on the other hand, the members of the community are capable of reaching that much further, then the whole community will reach that far. Hence the title of this talk: “A community will achieve the position its members are prepared to aspire”. Or, in other words: “A community will reach as far as its members are prepared to reach”.

Now, having understood that, I would like to go back in time, to ancient Greece, the place where two often repeated words in this seminar have its origin: nomos and paideia. I remember that in one of the previous years the theme of this Seminar was precisely “A New Nomos, A Renewed Paideia”. We are talking about classical Greece, the home of Aristotle and Plato, the cradle of our civilization. That was a community, illustrated graphically in the poster of this year’s event, which had the ability of educating.

I would like to introduce, in addition to the two terms already mentioned, nomos and paideia, a new term. It is again a word from ancient Greece, one that indicates one of the necessary foundations to perfect the paideia, or, if you prefer, a needed element if we want to renew the paideia. That word is aretéAreté is a Greek word that has its roots in the comparative form of the adjective agathós, “good”, which, in turn, comes from the root aga, “the best” and is based on the inseparable prefix “ari-“, that points towards an idea of excellence, from where the term aristós is derived (aristós being the superlative of “select or distinguished”, that was used in plural to denominate the nobility, or the aristocracy, in other words: the elite).

If we were to translate areté by a single word, perhaps we would say: “excellence”. On the other hand, if we try to translate from Arabic the word ihsan by just one word, perhaps that word would be “excellence”. Is this a coincidence? No, I can assure you it is not a coincidence.

I dare to say that the areté of the Greeks is in Western culture the closest thing to Ihsan, as we understand it: as that series of noble qualities we must embody as individuals, in order to be able to raise the level of our communities. If we want to define it with a different word, we could perfectly use the word futuwwa.

With the passing of time the original meaning of areté in classical Greece was somehow lost and, at the beginning of the Roman era, its meaning become associated exclusively to war and warriors, related to the glory achieved in the battlefields. But in its original context areté consisted mainly in the cultivation and implementation of three qualities: andreia (‘courage’), sofrosine (‘common-sense, moderation’) y dicaiosine (‘justice’). Whoever possessed these three qualities would hold fast to them and would practice them in all situations of life, with the near and the stranger, individually and collectively. Doing this made what they called a “citizen”, a beneficial and distinguished citizen. To us, when someone possesses those qualities, we say he is a person on the path of excellence, on the way of purification of his ego.

Plato, in his Republic, goes a bit further, and adds a fourth quality, prudence. At that point these four qualities become the four noble qualities known as the “four cardinal virtues”. Plato explains them in the following manner:

  • Justice (the fundamental virtue) – the virtue which opens access to knowledge of oneself. Plato describes justice as the virtue that founds and preserves the other virtues because only the one who understands justice can attain the other three; when someone possesses all four virtues, justice will keep them all united in him. It is as saying that justice is the backbone of all other qualities.

  • Prudence – the virtue that implies acting with fairness, adequately and cautiously, communicating with others by means of clear, literal, careful and appropriate language, that is, respecting the feelings, the life and the liberties of others.

  • Strength – to overcome fear, while avoiding temerity. Strength ensures firmness in the face of difficulties and steadfastness in pursuit of goodness, to the point of accepting the sacrifice of one’s own life for a just cause.

  • Temperance – the moral virtue that moderates the seducing drives of pleasures and procures balance in the use of created and shared properties. It guarantees the mastery of the will over and above the instincts and keeps desires within the limits of honesty. A tempered person directs his appetites towards goodness, adheres himself to a healthy discretion and does not let himself to be dragged along by “following the passion of his appetites or of his heart.”

Note at this point how Plato gives us the way to acquire these qualities, how to attain them in our lives. It is as if he would give us the keys to enter through a door. In brief this is what he says: Prudence is derived from the exercise of reason; strength comes from the acting out of emotions or of the spirit; temperance is achieved by the control the will exerts over the desires and appetites of the self, and justice is the result of all of these, since justice is the state in which every element of the mind is in line with the rest. And all of them are under the rule of one organ in the body, which, if it is sound and healthy, the rest of the body will be healthy, and if it becomes corrupt, the rest of the body will be corrupt. That organ is the heart.

While listening to this I am sure someone might say: “But you are talking about futuwwa!”, someone else might say: “But you are actually describing the qualities of tasawwuf!”, and a third one could say: “What you are describing coincides exactly with the characteristics of asabiyya!” (that term to which we will refer later, being so important in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqqaddima). It may be that someone even thinks: “But all of this, about which you are talking, is the mission for which the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, was sent!” which, as we have mentioned before was: “perfecting and completing the noble qualities of character and behaviour”.

And the truth of the mater is, yes, whoever sees that is right, it is all connected. Ancient Greece reached to the level that it reached, attained that apex of civilisation, because its citizens had adopted and embodied those qualities, or, expressed in their own terminology, that areté which we have seen earlier.

In the early period of the first Muslim community, in the time of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, and his companions, they achieved what they achieved, and Islam spread swiftly, faster than wildfire, because they acquired and embodied those qualities, or, in our own terminology, that futuwwa,which we have mentioned before.

In the era of Al-Andalus, they reached where they reached and they attained that pinnacle of civilisation because they were people who adopted and embodied among themselves those qualities, or, if we prefer to say it in their own terminology, that asabiyya.

How then does a community of people, how does a society attain its highest realisation, its zenith in all fields of society? Or, in other words, when does a community arrive to that high level at which it becomes capable of educating? The answer is: when its members are prepared to take on in their own lives the noble qualities, when they are ready to change themselves by acquiring and steeping themselves in the qualities of areté, the characteristics of futuwwa and the makarim al akhlaq – the virtuous aspects of character and behaviour.

At this point I am sure that many of you will have remembered the ayat from the Noble Qur’an, one that has been quoted many times at this very stage in this same gathering in the 8 years that we have been holding these seminars on education. The ayat number eleven of the Surat of Thunder. Allah, glory belongs to Him, says: “Allah never changes a people’s state until they change what is in themselves.”

This ayat contains the key to understand what we are saying and the ayat is applicable in both senses, both to goodness and to evil, both for the improvement of a people as for the deterioration of a people, and in consequence of a community. What I really want to say is that the way in which we behave has a direct repercussion, whether positive or negative, in who we are, in what happens to us and in what kind of community we live in. This is an essential aspect of how Allah has arranged existence and because of that it is so vital for us to understand this.

Let’s look for a moment to how individual behaviour can affect negatively the community. Let’s have a look to the direct relation that exists between various types of evil behaviour and the harmful consequences, both social and political, which come as a result. The harmful consequences of evil behaviour are well expressed in the following hadith, transmitted in the Muwwata: “Yahya informed me, from Malik, from Yahya ibn Said, that he had heard Abdullah ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, say: “Never does fraud appear among a people but that terror takes root in their hearts; never does fornication become widespread but that death becomes plentiful among them; never does a people give short in the measurement and the weight but that their provision becomes throttled; never does a people judge without truth but that shedding of blood becomes prevalent among them; never does a people betray their trusts but that Allah gives their enemies supremacy above them.”

These words are a clear example of what we are trying to get to today. They refer to the devaluation, which affects a community whose members forget good behaviour and adopt a bad one. In other words, when a people stops behaving upright, that community is doomed to fail, they forget goodness and, because of their own actions, they take themselves and the whole community to utter loss. When shame is lost, there are no limits left. This was expressed by the Messenger of Allahsallallahu alaihi wa sallam, when he said: “Part of what people have learned from the words of the earlier prophets is: if you don’t have shame, then do what you like.”

But what happens in the opposite case? What happens when the members of a community steep themselves in futuwwa? If they embody areté, if they take on those five things which Shaykh Abdalqadir wrote for us? That community flourishes and reaches the highest peaks, both inwardly and outwardly.

Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that a man came to the Prophet asking him for hospitality. He, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, sent someone to his wives requesting to prepare something or to send him something to eat. They said: “We only have water”. So the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, asked: “Who would give this man hospitality?” One of the men of the Ansar replied: “I will.” And he took him to his house and told his wife: “Let’s honour the guest of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.” She said: “We only have a bit of food for our children. The only thing we have in the house is the dinner for the children.” The man said to his wife: “Cook the food, light the lamp on and put the children to sleep.” The woman did as he told her: she cooked the meal, lit the lamp and put the children to sleep. Later, when the moment arrived to serve supper, they sat at the table. All of a sudden the host stood up as if he was going to arrange the lamp and instead he put it off, so that in darkness the hosts could not be seen, when they only pretended to eat. They would bring their hand to the plate but did not take any food, leaving all to the guest. And thus they went to bed hungry. The next morning the man went to see the Messenger of Allah and he, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, said: “Allah was smiling last night as He was looking at you and your family”. And then Allah descended the revelation: “(…) and [they] prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people whoa are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful.” (59:9)

Thus the shahaba achieved what they achieved. This event is a very clear sample of how, when a people is able to take on and immerse themselves in the qualities of futuwwa, that is the cause why everything flourishes around them and they compete with one another in good actions. For, what could a people not achieve, what goal or aim would resist itself to a community whose members are prepared to give generously to a stranger, although they themselves are in dire straits?

Let us now face to the term used by Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimah, already mentioned in this talk. I mean asabiyya. The truth is that the most widespread meaning of the word is: “that family clan, or that force that resides in family ties, which, when present, make a family strong and therefore allows it to hold power and rule”. It is often understood as “solidarity”, and there are people who use the word to imply “nationalism”, but the truth is that all of those understandings –while I am not denying that the term may encompass them- do not assemble the complete meaning. Perhaps the definitions that come closer to what we intend to say are the ones by De Slane, in his translation to the French language, who renders asabiyya as “esprit de corps” and in turn Franz Rosenthal translates it to English as “group feeling”, and Juan Feres to the Spanish language as “espíritu de coligación”.

I prefer to see this term from the perspective and focus its meaning has for a community, that is, a group of people, who share the same beliefs, who embody the same behaviour, having high qualities and embarking together on the same ship in order to reach their common aims and to fulfil their aspirations and expectations.

In this respect, the definition that best suits the meaning I have just expressed, is the one given by Edward William Lane in his splendid “An Arabic-English Lexicon”, which explains it as the: “…quality of an individual who is possessing ‘Asabiyyah which refers

to the action of ones in helping his people or his group against any aggressive action, the quality of a person who is angry for the sake of his group and protecting them, the action of ones who invites others to help his group, to combine or league with them in facing thosewho act hostility towards them whether they are wrongdoers or wronged, the action of an individual who associate with others or of him who protects others or 

partisanship and a strong association with holds numbers of person closely bound based on the same interest and opinion…”

This is how I see asabiyya, the unification around beliefs, and the links generated when a group of people are struggling for the sake of one and the same goal, when they are committed to their group, defending it. They defend its unity, they defend what they believe and they fight to establish it. Then the bonds and ties that are developed among those people are stronger, I would dare to say, than those of blood and family, because at the core of that bond are shared goals and, in our case, above all is the bond of the love of Allah. When a group of people struggles united for the sake of what they truly believe, there can be very little resistance being able to oppose that force. They are like a huge wave, a tsunami, in the way of which nothing can resist.

This is made clear by Ibn Khaldun himself when he says in Chapter 8 of Book 2: “True kinship consists of that union of the souls that upholds the blood ties and compels men to solidarity; if that virtue is excluded then kinship is nothing but a thing that can be done without, an imaginary value deprived of any reality. In order to be useful it ought to interlace the affections and unite the spirits. If that union is manifest, it stimulates the souls towards that tie of sympathy and affinity that is in its nature.” What these words mean is that a common cause, whether political or religious, common goals that unify the spirits and the minds, prevail over and above the mere ties of blood.

The meaning of asabbiya is now clear, or rather the angle from where we want to look at it in our lecture today. However, someone may ask: What is the use of asabiyya? Ibn Khaldun himself replies to that in Chapter 13 of Book 2. He says: “Wherever a respectable and feared asabiyya exists, made up by elements of a clear-cut and impregnable strain, there, the most advantageous and definite position of lineage is obtained, whose vigorous fruits yield successful results.”

At this point, knowing what asabiyya is all about, and how it can help us, the only question left to us is: “How do we acquire or attain asabiyya?” And again the answer is to be found in the Muqaddimah, in the chapter 20 of the Book 2, entitled: “Without virtues power is never acquired”. I strongly recommend all of you to read this chapter. In it says Ibn Khaldun: “We have mentioned that glory and strength, in order for them to be real, must be based upon a necessary foundation: asabiyya, along with the noble qualities that, by way of complementing, will serve to endorse its perfection. Now, since sovereignty is the aim of asabiyya, it is also the aim of its complements. Without those complementary qualities (the noble features of character), asabiyya would be like a maimed body, or like a person that presents himself in public completely naked.”

It is clear now, we have reached the climax of this talk and we have understood the meaning of the title of this discourse. Without those complementary qualities, without nobility of character and behaviour, without makarim al akhlaqfutuwwa, without aretéasabiyya is of no use, is a maimed body, it is like someone appearing in front of the public completely naked. This takes us to be beginning of this talk, or rather it takes us to the beginning of Shaykh Abdalhaqq’s discourse here in 2012: “I was only sent to perfect the noble qualities of character” or I have been sent to perfect good behaviour.

If you prefer we can return to the five words written by Shaykh Abdalqadir: Jama’atkhidma, speaking well, hospitality, giving.

We already know the theory, it is known by all of us, we have heard it many times and are aware of its principal elements. The light has reached us, the message has been transmitted to us. Now what do we do with it? What do we do with that light?

The matter is in our hands. We will reach as far as we want to, or rather, as far as we are prepared to reach, since we cannot and must not expect that others will do it for us. It is us who must do it. What that entails is that it is us who, in the first place and before anyone else, must immerse ourselves in that light and take on those qualities, which we mentioned earlier. We have to look at ourselves with sincerity and ask ourselves: what changes do we have to make if we want to transmit this light and enlighten others with it? What must be done so that Allah will change our state and all that surrounds us?

Remember the ayat we recited earlier: “Allah never changes a people’s state until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) I am going to dare to paraphrase the ayat, please allow me this act of boldness. I say:

Truly Allah does not give to a group of people futuwwa until they take upon themselves futuwwa; truly Allah does not give to a group of people asabiyya until they have embodied in themselves its complementary qualities, i.e. the noble qualities of character and behaviour; truly a community does not attain areté until its members have fully adopted the qualities of areté.

The matter depends on us, it is in our hands. If we want, we will reach to the highest of the high. If we want, we will take this community to the most elevated place. If we want, we will reach what the Messenger of Allahsallallahu alaihi wa sallam, and his sahaba reached. They were luminous lamps in the midst of darkness; they illuminated themselves with a light that spread out and illuminated everything around them.

“Twenty-three and nothing done for immortality!”

Our European heritage brought to life by Islam

Ahmad Gross

Granada, 25th of august 2014

Dear participants!

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to speak to you today. But rather than speaking I do look forward to listening to you in order to get to know you. My talk will take about 30 minutes. After that we’ll have a discussion, inshaAllah. Today we have come together to get to know each other. We got a magnificent piece of land for our school. As everywhere in Europe, Granada also has a whole generation of Muslim children and youths without a proper education. Now we need a group of Muslim teachers in order to create a school of excellence, worthy of its name. I assume the persons who have come together here constitute already a great variety of contrasts, of interests, capacities, talents and opinions, which will easily lead us to different perspectives and evaluations… This variety is the wealth and reach of this initial group of our school. As human beings we are full of shortcomings. We complement one another. I remember that years ago we were praying in a group of about 20 men, among them Shaykh Abdalqadir. The atmosphere was somehow charged and intense. Suddenly our Imam stopped reciting, he had obviously forgotten an ayat and stood paralyzed… until someone from our lines helped him out. After the prayer Shaykh Abdalqadir only commented: “We are a self-correcting community.”

Since I have come to Granada in October 2011 I have been part of the team, which is responsible for the financing of the construction of our school and its future maintenance through a Waqf, which we have to establish. I also gave some classes of mythology to the children in our mothers’ school. With respect to the great theme of financing our school I only want to remind us on something simple but deep: The things of life happen by necessity. Once you have a team of teachers and parents who urgently demand a school, then the necessary finance will come, inshaAllah. What happens here today, among us, has precedence to what happens when we visit a possible donor, when we present him our school project and he ponders about how he may help us! It is Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir’s key definition of what is money: “Money follows energy!” It is not the other way round. In other words: the ball is always, always in our field.

Perhaps you wonder why Sidi Mohammed and myself have chosen these authors mentioned in today’s programme. Apart from personal reasons – they were important in my life – I do believe – and that is more important than my personal story – that these men see the situation of our world clearer than many others. Our Diwan teaches us that Allah ta’ala made “Muhammad, the source and secrets of existent beings“, salallahu alaihi wa sallam. If we are able to recognize this secret, part of his light in the great people of Europe, we may perhaps help the Europeans to discover this secret. Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir reminds us that we have to understand the age we live in, our epoch, in order to be safe from its dangers and thus have a meaningful life. I also think these authors may prepare their readers for the discovery of Islam, since they not only entertain the reader but also direct him towards the centre of his life: towards his own destiny.

Through them Allah ta’ala led me to the greatest man of our time, the man who inspires and guides this school: Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi; and through him He brought me to Islam, the Deen al Haqq, which has taught me how we may live happily in an epoch full of unhappiness… Therefore I feel an enormous thankfulness. Thankfulness gives joy. And joy leads us to action.

Whoever thinks that these six authors represent too small a selection, may read the two introductions of the ‘Collected Works’ of Ian Dallas, which can also be found in the internet (www.iandallas.org/pages/biography). There one may find many more authors of the occidental heritage of 2500 years, beginning with Homer. If we were to put together a list of the great thinkers of the Iberian peninsula, from Seneca to Ibn Rushd, Ibn Al-Arabi and Ibn Hazm, until Ortega y Gasset, we would have enough material to found whole universities… May Allah always give us the capacity to distinguish which knowledge is useful and when we have to apply it!

School. Teachers. We all have our memories about our schooldays and the teachers we had until now. When I made my German Abitur, which would be the A levels in the UK, I had become impatient and couldn’t wait to get to the university, which had only adults and real masters in their field! But right after enrolling at university a time full of disappointments began. I hardly found a teacher who inspired me, from whom I wanted to learn anything. Unhappy and confused I left the university after a year in order to begin the beautiful craft of becoming a dental technician, which I did for three years.

My intellectual interests however and those authors who kept me busy, drove me back to university again and again, while I continued with learning the craft of dental technology. Outside of the university I joined the private reading circle of a university lecturer, which he offered in his home. Within the university he was a maverick; but for me he was the most interesting teacher, which I met at university, a real master. It is strange to note that I found my teacher only after I had already abandoned my formal academic career. He had once personally studied with Heidegger and apart from his classes he gave at university, he offered these reading circles at his home. There only three or four students attended. We did not come for academic titles but for knowledge itself. It was there where I first consciously met a Muslim. That man, Umar Kohl, at the time had been a student of Shaykh Abdalqadir. We got to know each other and after some time he took me to Shaykh Abdalqadir… I had lost my academic career, but I had found the happiness of my life.

Whoever spends some time in the company of Shaykh Abdalqadir may learn within a short amount of time a lot of things. For example: the difference between books and a living teacher, the difference between sheer quantity of information, which is a burden on us, and the quality of a knowledge, which helps to change and improve yourself. You recognize the importance of your state while you observe the world, since the world is our mirror. You learn what the world is – dunya – and what man is. What purpose we have in life. You learn about the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. And you learn Who is Allah. At some point you realize that you actually met with the great master of the highest of all sciences, the science of the purification and transformation of the heart: Tasawwuf. The world, oneself opens up and changes.

Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir gives us the priceless gift to understand and put in order the whole occidental heritage, all thinking from Homer until today and thus making it fruitful for our present and for our future. I assume he has seen “the complete picture” and therefore knows where to place each piece. Whoever has met Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir knows that the highest task consists in protecting, purifying and transmitting to the children and youths the best, the talent, which Allah has bestowed upon us, for a while – and each one of us has been given something different, something unique. This is our task and this is our reward as teachers.

It is impossible to present adequately six of the greatest writers of modern era and their meaning for our school, but since I don’t want to exclude anyone of them, I will be very brief, rather homeopathic. And I don’t even say a word about the universal language of music! Nothing about Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Wagner!

So let us start with these six authors in a chronological order.

Goethe (1749-1832)

-Self-education as aim of life

Goethe’s Faust wants to understand the innermost workings of nature / creation

-Overcoming dualism, witness unity

-with Goethe modern era Europe turns to Islam

As all great and universal spirits Goethe is a world.

It is amazing to see the many facets Goethe had: greatest German poet, minister, scientist, theorist of art, director of a theatre. When I got excited talking about the ingenious German poet Hölderlin, Shaykh Abdalqadir always disagreed and insisted that his contemporary Goethe was much more important. In fact Goethe was one of those few poets who were able to surpass the platonic-christian dualism, dominant in Europe since of 2000 years, that dualism between art and life, ideal and reality, theory and practice, church and king etc. Goethe lived like a king and always looked for the great vision of the unity of existence. While many poets ended isolated and even mad, Goethe educated himself and his readers and came out of his crises still wiser and more profound. He read the Qur’an and developed a great admiration for the Prophet Muhammad, sallalahu alaihi wa sallam. The things he said and published led Shaykh Dr. Abdaqadir to declare Goethe in a Fatwa in 1995 to being a Muslim.

For Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir Goethe’s “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship” was a decisive book in his life. Wilhelm begins the journey of his adult life as an actor and ends it as part of a honourable society called “society of the tower”, which wants to improve society. Reading this book first of all forces the reader to breathe slower, since it is written in long, beautiful sentences. It takes its readers on the journey of Wilhelm’s life and at the end of the book we close the book amazed and happy. Wilhelm’s education, the state of his society and our destiny are the themes of this book. Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir’s “Book of Strangers” could perhaps be seen as his version of “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship”.

60 years after Goethe’s death (1883-1897) Rudolf Steiner published the scientific writings of Goethe. He recognized Goethe’s method of understanding, being an alternative to the materialist and mechanical nature of today’s dominant science.

The physicist and nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) ends his discourse entitled „Goethe’s view of nature and the technical-scientific World“ (Weimar, 1967) saying:

„(…) the dangers [have] become as menacing, as Goethe has foreseen it. We think for example on man loosing his soul, on the increasing depersonalisation of work, on the absurdity of modern weaponry or on the flight into delirium, which has taken the form of a political movement. The devil is a mighty lord. But the luminous space, which Goethe was able to perceive everywhere throughout nature, has also become visible in modern science, where it informs the world about its great and unified order. Still today we will be able to learn from Goethe that we may not let all organs atrophy in favour of using only the single organ of rational analysis; it will rather depend on us to grasp reality with all organs that have been given to us (…)“

Shaykh Abdalqadir has repeatedly quoted a sentence of Goethe: „Nature is not a system.“

In his „Faust, Part Two“ (1st act, Emperor’s Court) Goethe vividly describes how Mephisto / Shaytan helps out the bankrupt emperor by inventing paper money. Goethe wrote this in the age of the French Revolution, when indeed paper money came into the world in great quantities, 100 years before Hilaire Belloc and Ezra Pound – both being adamant critics of paper money – and 200 years before the world-wide financial crisis of today.

Goethe is a world indeed.

Three quotes of Goethe:

„It is doubt, which turns a good thing into a bad one.“ – Iphigenia in Tauris, Act 5, Scene 3, Iphigenia

„It is only the moment, which decides about the life of man and (about) his entire destiny.“, Hermann and Dorothea, V, 57

„If we take people only as they are, we make them worse; but if we treat them as if they were what they should be, then we take them to where they are capable of reaching to.“ (Theresa quoting Natalie)

Does this phrase from “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship” not contain an entire pedagogy?

Recommended books:

1. “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship” (1795/1796)

2. Johann Peter Eckermann: „Conversations with Goethe in the last years of his life“ (1836-1848)

Reading the famous memoirs of Goethe’s friend Eckermann one is being taken into Goethe’s presence, almost seeing and hearing him! Nietzsche called these conversations „the best German book“! (Nietzsche: Human, All Too Human II, The Wanderer and his Shadow, no. 109)

Schiller (1759-1805)

-fought tyranny

-loved freedom

-wanted the improvement of man through asthetical education by

-the power of joy

Goethe wanted to understand the world. Schiller wanted to change it. In his youth he attended a ferocious military academy and eventually had to flee from his duchy to another one in order to live his vocation of being a writer. He hated social injustice and despotism and wanted to change society. Schiller realized that the power to achieve this change can be found in joy. In a text on his website (“Jack White, a medicine for Egypt”, 14. Januar 2013) Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir calls Schiller a “Champion of freedom and at war with tyranny”. His works call for joy and in turn give joy. “(…) knowing that without it the energy of independence could not emerge (…) Schiller (…) knew that Joy was the dynamic source of life itself – from which all activity comes – freedom being its result. (…).”

To really understand what he means by that you might want to listen (for example in internet) to the last 10 minutes, the famous 4th movement, of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony where the choir suddenly bursts into singing parts of Schiller’s „Ode to Joy“. (Make sure to have handkerchiefs ready!)

Schiller is the poet of joy, the poet of the fight for freedom. Years ago when we lived in Goethe and Schiller’s city of Weimar, Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir commented on the old question, which one of the two friends would be greater, that he thought the work of Schiller would be more important for our situation today… Goethe looks for the vision of unity. Schiller wants the liberation from injustice.

Famous quotes from Schiller’s plays and his theoretical writings, which are typical for him:

„Twenty-three years and nothing done for immortality!“ – Don Carlos II, 2 / Don Carlos

„Art is a daughter of freedom.“ – On the Aesthetic Education of Man. Second Letter

„I fear nothing – nothing – except the limits of your love.“ – Intrigue and Love I, 4 / Ferdinand

„The Universe is a Thought of God.“ – Philosophical Letters: Theosophy of Julius, The World and the thinking being

“(The) building of a truly political freedom (is the) most perfect of all artworks.“ – On the Aesthetic Education of Man. Second Letter

„The majority? What is the majority? Majority is the nonsense, // Sense is only to be found with few.“ – Demetrius / Duke Sapieha (Demetrius, 1805)

“Tell him, not to forget the dreams of his youth, when he has become a man.“ – Marquis von Posa to the Queen (Drama: Don Carlos, 1787)

“Man grows with his greater aims.“ – Wallenstein’s Camp, Prologue

“It is the spirit that builds itself the body.“ – Wallenstein’s Death, III,13 / Wallenstein

“And if you don’t risk your life // Never will you be given life.“ – Wallenstein’s Camp, 11 / Choir

Our pupils should get to know Schiller’s works. Along with Shakespeare they should also rehearse the plays of Schiller, because they are great theatre, because Schiller trusts that man is able to do great things, to be a hero, because Schiller saw life as a challenge, which one had to confront. In a time of global injustice he asks the entire world: Where is your freedom?

„Twenty-three years and nothing done for immortality!“

Recommended book: Don Carlos (1787/1788)

Nietzsche (1844-1900)

-Liberation from the prison of Christianity

-diagnosis of the illness of our time (nihilism)

-indication towards Islam

I don’t read a lot. But Nietzsche is the only author whose books I read completely in my early twenties. Since I did not have a living teacher at the time Nietzsche’s freeing the reader from Christian morals, his warning about modern nihilism and his search for real teachers was my life-boat. He ordered the chaos in my head, inspired me and imbued me with the strength to continue my search for a teacher.

The German poet Gottfried Benn (1889-1956) said about Nietzsche:

“Virtually everything my generation discussed, inwardly dissected, we may say: suffered – we may also say: talked to death – all that had already declared, exhausted itself and found its definitive formulation in Nietzsche, everything else was exegesis. His dangerous, stormy ways, his restless diction, his refutation to allow himself any idyll and general ground, his establishment of the psychology of drives, of the constitutional as motive, ’physiology as affect’, the whole psychoanalysis, the whole existentialism, all this is his feat. (…) [Nietzsche is] the greatest radiant phenomenon of the occidential history of mind.“

(Benn: Nietzsche – 50 years after, lecture 1950)

Nietzsche became professor of Classical Philology in Basel with only 23 years. He was able to recognize modern education as being decadent, since he knew inside out what Europe since the old Greeks had understood what real education once had been and because Nietzsche was an excellent teacher himself. At the end of his life he began to recognize the fascination of Islam, as did Goethe and Rilke.

Quote:

“History deals almost exclusively with (…) bad people, who later have been declared to be good.” – The Dawn, aphorism 20

“No winner believes in coicidence.” – The Gay Science, aphorism 258

„Thoughts which come on doves’ feet, direct the world.“ – Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 2nd part, The quietest hour

Recommended book:

Beyond Good and Evil, 1886

Rilke (1875-1926)

Search and Praise of Allah

Rilke is a poet. He opens the eyes of his readers because he sees with his heart. Traveling to Andalusia, Egypt and Tunis he began to learn about Islam. Whoever wants to know more about it can read my text „Rilke and Islam“ (so far it exists in German and French), which is a collection of his writings, letters and remarks about Allah, Islam, religion. Rilke imbues his readers with confidence and assures them that they are not alone.

Quote:

“[…] Religion is something tremendously simple, ingenious. It is not knowledge, no content of feeling […], it is not an obligation und not a renunciation: but in the perfect vastness of space it is: a direction of the heart. […] That the Arab at certain times turns towards the East and prostrates – that is religion. It almost isn’t ’faith’. It doesn’t have an opposite. It is a natural being moved within a Dasein (existence), through which three times a day the wind of God is passing gently, within which we should at least be: flexible. […]“

(Letter to Ilse Blumenthal-Weiß, 28.12.1921)

Recommended book:

-Letters to a Young Poet (1902-1908)

Heidegger (1889-1976)

-what is man?

-what is technology?

-what is Being?

I won’t say much about Heidegger. Just read the brillant lecture of Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley (Root Islamic Re-Education), he held here in Granada in january 2014.

Apart from Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir and Shaykh Abdalhaqq also Rais Abu Bakr, Shaykh Umar Vadillo and Hajj Ibrahim Lawson have studied Heidegger in order to find meaning for us in his thinking.

Heidegger deepened Goethe’s warning regarding the dangers of machines to a great extent. Simplifying things I dare to put his central message in a single sentence: Since Plato Europe only looked towards all that exists (in German: Seiendes) – which for us is: creation – and in doing so it forgot about the source of all that exists: Being (German: das Sein) – which for us is: Allah. Heidegger is one of the great thinkers, who appear in Europe one or two in a thousand years.

Quote:

“Being is what is emptiest and at the same time it is abundance, out of which all beings – known and experienced, or unknown and yet to be experienced – are endowed each with the essential form of its own individual being.

Being is most universal, encountered in every being, and is therefore most common: it has lost every distinction or never possessed any. At the same time Being is most singular, whose uniqueness cannot be attained by any being whatsoever. Over and against every being that might stand out, there is always another just like it; that is another being, no matter how varied their forms may be. But Being itself has no counterpart.

Being reveals itself to us in a variety of oppositions that cannot be coincidental, since even a mere listing of them points to their inner connection. Being is both utterly void and most abundant, most universal and most unique, most intelligible and most resistant to every concept, most in use and yet to come, most reliable and most abysial, most forgotten and most remembering, most said most impossible to express.”

Recommended books: The Field Road, What is Metaphysics?

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998)

Freedom of the Individual in Divine Order

Reading Ernst Jünger and personally seeing him (in 1989 during the ceremony of awarding him his first honorary doctorate at the university of Bilbao in 1989) has been a tremendous encouragment for me. The books of this soldier of two world wars and witness of a century transmits courage and serenity to their readers.

In his ’biography’ (www.iandallas.org) speaks about ’my friend Ernst Jünger’. Among other things Shaykh Abdalqadir says about him:

“Jünger completed for me a whole mosaic of understanding. Heidegger, Jünger and Belloc were all sustained by a unified view that demanded recognition of the Divine, a civic order, and most vitally of all, a realisation that governance had to be embodied in a single person (…)”

Jünger is a great inspiration for the formation of leaders!

Quote: “The world is wonderful as a whole.“

Recomended books:

Late Revenge — Three ways to school (1998)

The Forest Passage (1951)

Conclusion:

The heritage of the occident is a dead desert if we don’t water it with the water of our Deen.

For our children and youths these six authors offer different models of a human being:

Goethe, the king

Schiller, the fighter

Nietzsche, the dancer

Rilke, the faqir

Heidegger, the thinker

Jünger, the traveller

Our school will be open to the whole Umma of Islam, inshaAllah. But since it is situated in Europe, inspired and led by European Muslims, its students have to know the best of the occident’s heritage in order to bring back the Deen to this land, inshaAllah.

Dallas College and Lady Aisha College cater for young men and women (16+). Now we have to close the huge and decisive gap of primary and secondary education (7-18).

Reading about schools and schooling perhaps we have come across the wonderful quote of George Bernard Shaw: „The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.” This sentence is a warning to us.

But maybe some of you have been present when in 2013 Khalid Vadillo and 2014 Zoraya Vadillo told us here, during our annual Seminars on Education in january. Perhaps those who have been present do remember the pride, the thankfulness, the glowing in their eyes when the said ’my school’.

I finish with Ortega y Gasset, who said: “Living means to decide constantly what we are going to be.”

Thank you for your kind attention!