LastProphet continues this series of transcripts of interviews with scholars who taught in Konya during Rihla 2013. Ustadh (an Arabic respectful term for teacher) abdul-Hakim Murad needs little introduction - Professor T.J. Winters, better known as abdul-Hakim Murad, teaches Islamic studies at Cambridge University, and studied both at al-Azhar and with traditional scholars from the Yemen while living in Jeddah, before returning to England and also learning Turkish and Farsi. He continues to study the spiritual life of the early Ottoman world.
Ustadh abdul-Hakim Murad on Lessons for Muslims Today From the Sirah
Muslims have passed through direr tribulations in the past than those that they pass through today. As always, our inspiration is from the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet), who were able to look annihilation in the eye and still sleep well at night. They were confronted by violent tribes on all sides, the elites of Quraysh had sharpened their knives, ready to eliminate the fledgling religion, but Allah sent down his Sakinah (tranquility) upon their hearts so
that the Prophet of Allah was seen to smile more than anyone. So we should learn not to count the odds, that Allah is ghalibun ala amri, He is in charge over the entire universe. He is the Author, the Beginning and End of all things. The Sahaba’s serenity in the face of these overwhelming odds was the result of the internalization of all this, the effect of tawhid upon their hearts.
We need to measure ourselves against that, and to remember that the alternative, which was also present at that time, was the way of the munafiqin (the hypocrites) who thought that ‘every shout or loud noise was against them’, which is what we would nowadays call the state of paranoia. The hypocrites were setting their store by outward calculations, looking at the numbers that were ranged against them, looking at material factors such as wealth, such as suits of armor, such as riding beasts, and that was why they felt doubts in their hearts.
How do we cause the Sunnah to be a reminder of the inner character of the Prophet’s lifestyle?
The outward Sunnah is detailed in the books of fiqh, it is elaborate and requires some time to master and to practice, but it can be done largely irrespective of one’s inward state. One could even program an android to do everything that is detailed in the books of fiqh immaculately, but that would not be the Sunnah. The Sunnah is the coherence of the outward form with the inward reality, it is for the heart to prostrate as the forehead prostrates. It is the degree of ikhlas, in the Arabic sense of purification, removing from one’s intentions anything other than the desire to serve Allah, subhana wa ta’ala (Glorified and Exalted). The process of internalization of religion, to intuit the wisdom to which the outward points and to imbibe that wisdom into one’s soul. Similarly, inward wisdom necessarily manifests itself in outward righteousness once people have the right information. So Islam is a religion of complementarity. Unfortunately, in our times, religion has become a matter of imbalance. People are either excessively preoccupied with outward matters or obsessed with inward matters. So we have the phenomenon of fundamentalism on the one hand, and on the other hand, we have the phenomenon of alternative or ‘new age’ ‘spiritualities’ who think that they can have spiritual reality without any outward boundaries being maintained.
And this is why it is said that the Dajjal has only one eye. Because the Dajjal does not see in perspective.
Ottoman Literature and Tawhid
The holy Prophet said “inna shairul hikmah” (‘there is wisdom in poetry’), and amongst the Companions of the Prophet there was poets like Hassan ibn Thabit, and the reason for this is that human beings are swayed, particularly in their religious lives, by beauty and by speech. Revelation comes in the form of beautiful speech rather than a set of images, for instance, and so speech reaches more deeply into our being than other forms of cultural production. Allah says in Surah al-Rahman: ‘alamahul bayan’ (‘Allah taught him speech’), no other creation has speech at this level.
Ottoman Advice for Rulers From Sirah scholarship
One genre of Ottoman literature was the ‘mirrors for princes’ literature, which was a type of book, usually quite short, elegant in style, written by a scholar for a prince as a kind of manual for statecraft. Often in the Ottoman world these books were given titles such as ‘Nizam ul-Alam’ (the Order of the World) – Hasan al-Kafi was a well-known author of such works. Sometimes they were designed for family members, such as … there is a large tradition in Ottoman literature of writing books of nasihah or advice for various categories of human beings. Those written for rulers will quite often cite the practice of the Holy Prophet, but because of the inclusiveness of Islam, would draw valuable lessons to be drawn from the lives, achievements of failures, of ancient Persian kings or Byzantine rulers or any other episode of human history that they might find helpful to them.
Taking Lessons From the History of Konya
Konya can broaden the perspective of Muslims with an awareness of the unique profundity of life in 13th and 14th century Seljuk Konya would enable Muslims from the far-flung corners of the modern Islamic world, to enable them to discover new forms of fidelity to our shared Tradition.