Saturday 16 October 2021 \

 

Shaykh Said Afandi's interview for a satellite TV channel broadcasting to Arab states.

Shaykh of Naqshbandi and Shazali tariqas, honorable Said Afandi al-Chirkawi ad-Daghestani, Murhid Kamil. (center)

In September, 2007 guests from Moscow visited Shaykh Said Afandi (may Allah bless his soul). They asked the shaykh to give an interview for a film about Dagestani Muslims. The film was originally prepared in Arabic language for transmission by a satellite channel to Arab states; the aim of this project is to tell Muslims of the world about Islam in Russia. The shaykh agreed to give an interview, and although the questions and answers were oriented more to the Arabs, we think that it will also be interesting for our readers.

 

-Honorable shaykh, what are the main features of the Islamic revival in Daghestan?

Islam has a very ancient history in Daghestan. You probably also know about it, journalists and scientists know about it not less than me.

It was in the year 25 of the Islamic calendar that Islam began spreading in Dagestan. At that time Rabiah and Salman came here from Arabia with their people, and they laid the foundation of Islam in Derbent. And there they died as shahids; their tombs are situated in Derbent. Having established order in Derbent and having appointed a ruler, the Arabs went back, but people gradually started to depart from faith. And again it was necessary to send here a detachment of troops headed by Muslim. He had to suppress the apostates in Derbent twice. After him Abu Muslim ibn Abdurahman whose tomb (ziyarat) is situated in Dagestani village Khunzakh arrived here. Having set out on the military expedition, he spent some time in Istanbul. Then he went to Hindustan, prepared arms and troops and arrived here having considered and thought everything over very well. By that time the Arabs had thoroughly studied the situation in Daghestan. Having entered the territory of Dagestan, they conquered Tarki in the suburbs of Makhachkala and moved further to Kizlyar freeing all these lands of kufru. Then the Arabs undertook an expedition to mountainous Dagestan, to Khunzakh. Abu Muslim settled, lived and died there.

Many years after the death of Abu Muslim the faith in Daghestan became weaker again. Troubled times began. Then imam Ghazi Muhammad appeared, and after that everything was renewed. This is the history. So, the foundation of Islam in Daghestan was laid by those people who I have told you about; it remained unchanged to this day, and we stand on the same foundation now.

Religion was persecuted in the Soviet times; this was the state’s policy, but those who really wanted could observe religion secretly. For example, in the Soviet time muta'alims secretly studied here. They were taught in private houses or in underground rooms. I also studied in such a way. However, I was not a boy already; I started to study 'ilm at the age of 33. There lived two ulama named Hajiyav in Chirkey; I visited both of them and it benefited me very much.

They say that at those times religion was forbidden most of all, but even at such time no one hindered me. I freely went to take my classes and back; besides, I worked at the construction of the Hydro Power Plant because I had to feed my family. Even at that times Islam did not disappear here because the foundation of Islam did not disappear. The silsilah which reached us from Muhammad al-Bukhari, imam Rabbani, Khalid al-Baghdadi, survived up to now. And it was at that time, even in the years of cruel wars, even during the war with Germany tariqa continued to exist here. And it does exist today.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, we went to Hajj for the first time. As it was the first time, after performing the rituals of Hajj we were invited from Makkah to the king, having been shown great respect. Then we asked to drive us to Madinah for ziyarat having left all our things in Makkah, although such route was not stipulated, after the hajj everyone went to Madinah with their things, then to Jeddah and further. And we asked to leave our things in Makkah, intending to come back for them afterwards. The Saudis agreed to do it for us. This shows how respectfully the Arabs treated us. Having performed the hajj, we went to Madinah and performed ziyarat. Our miqat is known to be there. Having intended toperformthe umrah, we went back to Makkah. Having performed the hajj, all pilgrims went to Madinah, and we moved opposite to them,against the current. At one of the camps we happened to meet people who introduced themselves as Iraqi people. Of course, talking to us, they wondered why were we going to Makkah only now. Having learnt that we were from Russia, they were very surprised and asked: ‘Are you coming to hajj just now?’ They probably thought that the Russians were totally ignorant in terms of religion and that is why going to hajj only now, with a delay. We answered: ‘Alhamdulillah, we have performed both major and minor hajj, visited Madinah, performed ziyarat, and now we intend going back to Makkah to perform the umrah one more time.’ Then they were very surprised and called all their people to look at the Russians. They thought that we were ignorant fools, that there was absolutely no Islam in Daghestan and everyone lived in disbelief. So they were mistaken. Yes, during the Soviet period the law was strict, bad people also happen to be everywhere, but those who sincerely wanted had an opportunity to observe religion. And the number of these kind of people was not small.

Earlier there was no opportunity to go abroad, and we did not know what was going on there, but after the collapse of the Soviets we saw various Arab states. We have passed through Turkey and Syria, have been to Egypt. Having seen the world, we had the opportunity to compare, and I can say with confidence that there is no place where the religion can be observed more freely than here. I often tell this. Ask anyone, what is forbidden for us? Nothing is forbidden. At present 9 mosques function here in village Chirkey. In that old, flooded village there were only 7, and now 9 have been built, and no one forbids building them. As in every town, a big madrasah functions in Chirkey, and no one hinders us. Many Arab students study in Daghestan, and there are a lot of them in Moscow. They also see everything and know that nowhere is it possible to observe the religion so sincerely and freely as here in Daghestan.

Once we were in Turkey, it was before the war in Chechnya began. We wore our Islamic clothes, while their madrasah teachers who gave lessons wore European neckties. They said: ‘We are not permitted even to take off the neckties, and you wear your clothes freely’. Who forbids anything here? If you want, you can do business, study the 'ilm, perform the hajj. There is quite enough freedom, and all foreigners who arrive here also see it. Ask them and listen to what they will say.

- Then I have the following question. Honorable shaykh, could you tell us about your silsilah?

Our silsilah goes from Khalid al-Baghdadi to Ismail Kurdumeri, after him it splits in two branches, one branch of this tariqa continued through Muhammad Yaraghi and another through Mahmud Afandi from Almalo. The first branch stopped on Jamaluddin of Kazikumukh in the times of imam Shamil, and the second line reached us and we are its followers. And its foundation comes from Muhammad al-Bukhari, imam Rabbani and Khalid al-Baghdadi. It is their silsilah.

- Some people in Arab states for whom we are making the program consider or mistakenly think that there is little knowledge of Islam in Daghestan and it is necessary that one comes here, helps and teaches people how to believe in Allah sincerely.

We have four madhabs, and we should adhere to one of them. But we notice that in the very Arab states one does not give due consideration to it. But we do pay attention to this and we are shafi`its. There are practically no adherents of any other madhab except for the Shafi'i madhab in Caucasus; it is what we adhere to and read Shafi'i books ‘Minhaj’, ‘Mahali’. The writings of Ibn Qasim, Abu Shuja’, Ibn Hajar, Ramali are the main books which are read here. We live and work according to these books and rely on them.

- It would be good to acquaint the viewers who will watch our program with the fact that both the fiqh and the 'ilm have been developing in Daghestan to a very high degree and during many centuries except for, maybe, the communist rule; there were ulama and they also exist today. The traditions are so fine here that Daghestan has always in history been a great world centre of Islamic culture, and these traditions did not die, they survived and are developing today very actively. Could you comment on this? How can this knowledge be communicated to our viewers?

In the time of communism we also had ulama, no one found fault with them, but many things were not permitted to them, there were limitations. But they secretly taught muta'alims. And I also studied so, nothing hindered it. The Daghestanis follow the shafi'i madhab, study shafi'i books and act in accordance with the acquired knowledge; and there is sufficient number of ulama here, and outside interference is not necessary.

If it depended on me, I would not send any person to study abroad; one cannot find purerknowledge than that acquired here. I talked to a boy from Chirkey who had gone to Egypt to study. Having spent there about two years he gave up his studies and came back. I asked my compatriot: ‘So why did you come back?’ He answered: ‘I was lucky to know at least something about Islam before I went there; otherwise I would be completely lost’. This is an example which I witnessed myself. Also a young man came to me from Makhachkala; he was an Avar from a educated family, his parents were teachers. During the conversation he mentioned that he had studied in Jordan for either two or three years but he had not finished the studies and came back. I asked him: ‘So why did you come back if you had gone there seeking knowledge, why did you give up your studies?’ He answered me: ‘Even if there is not much knowledge here, but there people do not do amal(do not act) in accordance with their knowledge.’

It is said that the 'ilm is easy to read but it is difficult to do amal, the deeds, according to the acquired knowledge. What is the use of the 'ilm if one does not do amal? What is the use of knowledge if you do not follow it? We follow the knowledge, i.e. we are those who adhere to madhab. Our ancestors also adhered to madhab, and we also try to adhere to it as we can. I do not say that there are no major ulama in the Arab states. It is impossible that there are no ulama, but there is also nothing that would be a pity to miss.

- Honorable shaykh, what would you like to say, what would you like to address today to the Arab viewers who will watch this program?

It is said in the Qur'an: "Or is there for man whatever he wishes?”. Can everything that I wish be fulfilled? We want many things, and this is not a secret. We want unity to be among the Arabs, we want them to adhere to Islam, for we know what Islam was in the times of the Prophet (pbuh), how the four caliphs that were after the Prophet (pbuh) adhered to Islam. After them the caliphate became a kingdom, and it means that the religion started to become weaker and not pure, and since then violence and chaos have been continuing. For Allah says in hadith qudsi: “When one who knows Me disobeys Me, I empower over him one who does not know Me”.

The Arabs need unity, mutual understanding and brotherly relations, but if we do not follow Islam the efforts will be in vain. Wishes are not fulfilled only because we want it, but Allah can do so that His decision will coincide with our wish.

Before the war in Iraq one of the hajj routes passed through that country. Passing through Iraq for the first time, on the way back we stopped near a mosque where the ziyarat of imam Abu Hanifa was. Near it a local boy was selling books, and we came closer to him. The seller asked us where we were from. The boys answered that they were from Daghestan. He immediately asked if there was tariqa in Daghestan. ‘There is,’was the answer. “I am also a follower of tariqa’- the Iraqi boy said. Having heard it, I got interested and asked: ‘What tariqa do you follow?’ ‘The Naqshbandi,’he answered. I started asking in details, but how did he know the tariqa, he did not have even a drop of knowledge of the tariqa. I asked him if he knew about lata'ifs and in what places they were situated. ‘I do not understand what you are talking about,’ he answered me. This is their tariqa. Many people say that they follow it, but in fact it is false.

The same year as I returned from hajj, they started to bring me sheets of papers which had been distributed to those who were returning from hajj, allegedly with the tariqawird. One cannot trifle with tariqa in such ways, giving it on the road to anyone, to those who probably cannot even read this. There were also such people who said that on their way from Iraq they were given ijazah - the permission to teach tariqa, and I happened to see such people. How can one play with tariqa in such a way?

- And the last question. Some people consider that here, in local traditional Islam there are some things which can  be qualified as bid'ah. They say that this Islam is not pure, that adats have been introduced to it. What can you say on this subject?

Followers of tariqa are often blamed for innovations. But the tariqa is not an innovation; it is the foundation of Islam. Islam appeared with tariqa. As for bid'ah, we see manifestations of it, for instance, in Saudi Arabia.

How can one call the tariqa which comes from the Prophet (pbuh) himself an innovation? It cannot be new. Such slander on the tariqa comes from the people who introduce innovations themselves. I will give an example. Shariah can be compared to a body. Here are arms, shoulders, head, legs, i.e. the whole body is Shariah. But this body needs soul. It will be just the dead body without soul. And the soul also needs body. They should be together. Tariqa is the soul, Shariah is the body. When they are united, together they will form a man. This is it. A soulless body is a dead body. But the soul also needs body, they cannot do without each other. Nevertheless Shariah is possible without tariqa and tariqa is impossible without Shariah, because Shariah is salah, fasting, zakat. There can be no tariqa without this, and no one says that one should follow tariqa having given up everything else. As we have said, tariqa and Shariah are similar to a soul and a body, both elements are necessary for the advancement of religion.

Muslim countries are lagging behind today, because there is no ruh, spiritual life, and this is their weak point, and it is obvious. I am an ordinary man myself, but I love ulama, praise be to Allah. It is not a trifle that Allah gave me love for them. I am a person who loves them and strives to follow their way. But I am not a major alim myself; I also do not have 'ilm, maybe just a little. What can a person who began to study after the age of 30 be? But even then could not complete studies, stopped halfway.

This is why health and well-being of the Arabs, their unity is my aim and wish. Most of all they need unity. Imagine what will be if the Arabs gather and form one fist, for a punch with the fist is more powerful than that with the palm. But where can the power come from when they are so divided? May Allah grant them tawfiq to unite and understand each other, may He protect them, give health, and may everyone stay in happiness!

 

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