Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley, on a recent visit to the Qadiriyya fuqara in Cape Town, South Africa, delivers an essential discourse that succinctly outlines Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi’s journey he took through the Deen of Islam.
Praise be to Allah who has guided us to this wonderful gathering and has brought me here once again to this wonderful city, this blessed place, made even more blessed now by the grave of our beloved Shaykh here in it.
I want, in very broad brush strokes, to go through the journey that our Shaykh, Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, rahimahullahu ta’ala, may Allah exalt his station, went through during his life, the journey through the Deen that he took.
From before I knew him, he had always been imbued by an intense desire for the Divine Presence, you might say passionate love for Allah. And this brought him first to Islam and then on his journey to his shaykh, Shaykh Muhammad Ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah ta’ala. This was all clearly recounted in the first book he wrote after becoming Muslim entitled ‘The Book of Strangers’. In it there is a place where the protagonist of the book, in other words Shaykh Abdalqadir himself, prostrated, gave himself up completely to his Lord, in a garden at night. That was the expression of this intense desire he had for the Divine Presence.
After he became Muslim this love for the Divined expanded into an equally intense, passionate love for the Messenger of Allah, salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, which found its expression in his second book ‘The Way of Muhammad’. And this love was overwhelming. I have been in gatherings like this, with the Shaykh talking about the Prophet, salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, and everyone there was in tears listening to what poured out from him. And this love he had for the Prophet, salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was truly real because the Prophet, salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam said on one occasion to someone who said that he loved him, “Watch out! Because poverty comes to the person who loves me quicker than a flood comes to the bottom of the mountain”. And the Shaykh experienced that. At one point during that period he lost everything. He had literally no more than the clothes he was standing in, radiallahu anhu.
This love of Allah and His Messenger which he was encompassed by and which flooded through him took him to his second Shaykh, Shaykh al-Fayturi to the culmination of his journey: his meeting with his Lord in the khalwa he undertook at Shaykh al-Fayturi’s hand. This all found its expression in his seminal text of Sufism ‘The Hundred Steps’ and constituted his journey to his Lord which was the first part of his journey in Islam.
When he came out of khalwa, emerged from that absolutely overwhelming experience, he asked advice from Shaykh al-Fayturi, who said to him, “Where is there to go after Mecca, except Madina.” And from this the Shaykh had the wonderful insight that was to influence the whole of the rest of his life. He saw that this tremendous experience, the realisation of the Divine Presence, had to have a strong container, otherwise, in the language of the Sufis, it would be like wine being poured out on the ground, disappearing without any benefit being gained. The wine had to have a cup. The haqiqa must be accompanied by the sharia. He understood from the words of Shaykh al-Fayturi that he had to rediscover the container for the knowledge he had gained, and that the container of that knowledge was to be found in Madina.
So the Shaykh went, in the meaning, to Madina and found there the purest expression of sharia in the Madhhab of the Actions of the People of Madina. And this, in turn, found expression in his seminal text “Root Islamic Education”, which underpinned everything that he did from then on. He found the container he was looking for in the Madhhab of Madina, the Madhhab of Umar, which was recorded by Imam Malik in his great text the Muwwata.
Having found that, having found the container he sought for the knowledge of Allah, it became necessary to implement it, to put in practice the sharia in that form. He did that firstly by giving his communities a political structure, a structure that would enable the sharia to be established in them. He dismantled the structure of tariqa, on which they had up to that time been based, and created in his communities a new political structure based on amirate, which has gone through from that time until the time we are in now. This was so that the sharia would be established within his communities through the existence of amirate.
Having created this political structure for his communities in order to establish sharia in them on a sound basis, he looked around at the Muslim world and saw a mess. Where was the sharia in the world? Where did it exist? Why were the Muslims in such a chaos? Why was the Deen not established anywhere? And he then had another truly tremendous insight. He saw that the enemies of Islam had not conquered the Deen by force of arms. They had conquered the Deen by driving a wedge between Salat and Zakat, by dividing the ibadat from the muamalat, by separating the political, social and economic aspects of Islam from its religious and spiritual elements, by building an unscalable wall between the mosque and the market. And so began his work of reestablishing, of joining together once more, zakat and salat.
Remember that salat and zakat are inseparable in the Quran, they are mentioned together more than 30 times. Salat and zakat cannot be split apart. The Muslims have overthrown by the enemies of Islam separating their ibadat from their muamalat, their acts of worship from their politics and economics. This has left the Muslims powerless and feeble in the world. So the Shaykh, may Allah be pleased with him, set about connecting these two elements together again, determined to restore the pivotal position of zakat at the heart of Islam, at the very centre of the Deen, to establish the market alongside the mosque, to restore economic justice amongst the Muslims, to reestablish proper business transactions amongst the Muslims, to reestablish the political reality of Islam once more. This tremendous aspiration found its expression politically in his books ‘Sultaniyya’ and ‘the Return of the Khalifate’, and economically in his works ‘The return of the Gold Dinar’ and the many other things he wrote and said on this matter. The purpose of all this was to restore the Deen to its rightful place, to give an understanding of it that would make it truly relevant to the time we are living in, to definitively reconnect the ibadat and the muamalat. This is the meaning of his unremitting insistence on the restoration of the pillar of Zakat.
His time here, his last twenty years in Cape Town, were when he definitively wove together these two things: the correct understanding of Islam in the context of world we live in and the inward reality of Islam which had to be contained by it. The inward reality of the Deen was expressed in his four great books based on his discourses to the fuqara in the various places where nights of dhikr were held so consistently throughout his time here: The Book of Tawhid, The Book of Amal, The Book of Hubb and The Book of Safar. In these texts we can find ALL that is necessary for this time of the inward reality of Islam. And then place of Islam in the world we live in, in the environment in which the Deen has to take its place in this time, was definitively set out in his four historical works: The Time of the Bedouin, The Interim is Mine, The Engines of the Broken World, and The Entire City. With these the whole thing was complete. He completed the whole picture for us. He found the ship of Islam, battered and damaged by 200 years of ruthless and relentless attack from the kuffar, and he took hold of it, he restored and repaired it, and he fitted it out, and strengthened it where it needed strengthening, in order that it would be able to withstand the storms and heavy seas of this time in which we live.
Do you understand what he did? He put the Deen back together again for the time in which we live, may Allah be pleased with him. And, of course, the basic framework of the Deen is unchanged. He put together the formulation of the Book and the Sunna needed for the time in which we live. Nothing different. Nothing changed. But relevant to the time. This framework of the Book and the Sunna, and the limits of Allah are unchanging. They are what first of all must be maintained and upheld by anyone who wants to take the Deen forward in this time. The Prophet, salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, said, “The halal is clear, and the haram is clear.” Indulgence in the haram will destroy the whole thing. Returning to the metaphor of the ship, people who indulge in the haram are people below the waterline smashing holes through the sides of the boat. They will sink the ship and destroy themselves and everyone else on board. Keeping to the halal, implementing the Deen of Allah ta’ala, on the other hand makes the whole thing sound and operational.
This is made crystal clear in the hadith we mentioned which ends, “In the body there is a piece of flesh, if it is sound and healthy the whole body is healthy, and if it is corrupt and rotten, the whole body is rotten. It is the heart.” The sound and healthy heart has two functions. The first is that it is the source and springboard of effective right action. If the heart is sound, if it is purified, right action inevitably comes from it and that right action will be effective, will change things. There is a saying that I have quoted many times: ‘A thousand words from an impure heart will not achieve a single thing. But one word from a sound heart, from a pure heart, will achieve a thousand things.’ And we have witnessed this happening from our Shaykh many times and it is a theme he dwells on in The Book of Amal. May Allah ta’ala give us success in purifying our hearts, and make us people of this effective right action, action that changes the world.
The other function of the heart is where we started. It is the reason we were created. It is the potential container of direct knowledge of Allah. There is tradition which has been quoted by the Muslims for many years in which Allah ta’ala says, “The whole universe cannot contain Me but the heart of my believing slave contains Me.” This is what it is all about. This is what our responsibility is: to create the conditions in which these hearts that know Allah can exist. May we be people who have such hearts. May we be a company who makes absolute use of what we have been given, who make every effort to use this ocean-going lifeboat, which our shaykh constructed and which he has left to us. May we be people who remain onboard of it and who bring into it many of the people of this time who are drowning in the devastating flood created by the usurious economic system of our time and people’s unbridled abandonment of the limits of Allah ta’ala which are everywhere apparent. We have been given this lifeboat which enables us to sail through it unscathed and which we can use to rescue many other people. May Allah ta’ala give us every success in doing that.