“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.


“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.


“[…] 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.


“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)


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!