Muhámmad Mujtar Medinilla
8th Seminar on Education
December 25th, 2015
Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim
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 tawhid) must 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.