Following the International Islamic Unity Conference
Los Angeles, August 7, 1996
INTERVIEWER: Was the “Unity Conference” that was held in Los Angels 1996 successful?
SHAYKH NAZIM: al-Hamdulillah,[all praise be to God], it must be successful, it is a beginning. It was not an “official” conference, and for the most part I never liked official conferences because they always have other aims for the people who are preparing such conferences. They are showing something but intending something else. Officiality always takes away Ikhlas – sincerity. You cannot find Ikhlas in official meetings. But this conference was built only on respect, love and sincerity – we found enough enjoyment and contentment and more success to step upon to build unity among Muslims.
INT. Has unity ever been achieved among the Muslims?
SN. I remember in 1975 once there was an international Islamic Conference. Not a Unity Conference but an International Conference. It was in London, and it was supported by the Saudi Government. But since that time I do not remember any International Islamic conferences. Except this one that our humble and sincere brothers did their best to bring into existence. May Allah reward them.
INT. Let’s talk how real unity can be achieved?
SN. Even Prophets were not able to achieve such unity. Always, as long as shaytan is everywhere, through centuries of mankind, it has been difficult to achieve unity. But we are trying to take away the sultanate of shaytan and bring the kingdom of Heaven on Earth. At that time that sultanate will become harmless, and can then be controlled. But now that shaytanic sultanate is active from East to West and North to South. It can’t be controlled.
INT. Why do you think you will succeed where others failed?
SN. I praised my friends because they did it with their sincerity and nothing else. Ikhlas is making them successful, not money. Money will not save them. Governments will not save them. They must ask Allah Almighty’s support. Who is supported by money and governments will fail, and who trust their Lord Almighty’s help should be victorious.
INT. Beside Ikhlas and love, what else do you emphasize in your teachings?
SN. Respect. There must be respect. Without respecting each other, it is impossible to do anything. Allah Almighty ordered His servants to have respect among themselves. Respect brings good understanding. Good understanding brings love. Love brings everything.
INT. As others see you, perhaps they might say that your followers practically worship you.
SN. Those who say that are so foolish. They do not know what is worship and what is respect.
INT. So, you do not encourage your followers…?
SN. This is shaytanic teaching that they are propagating. We are Muslims. We say: La ma`buda illa Allah. That means no one is worthy of worship except Allah Almighty. But they are such square-headed people, and their heads are like footballs, empty! And what if someone respects a person that we have been ordered to respect?
Man lam yuwaqqir kabirana wa lam yarham saghirana fa laysa minna. [Whoever does not revere our elders or show mercy to our little ones is not one of us.]1 This is tawqir al-nas, giving honor to people, as it has been ordered: anzilu al-nasa manazilahum, “Give everyone their own station.”2 This is an order from the Shari`a, the Divine Law.
But those people want to put everyone on the same level, like communism. NO. Allah Almighty ordered: “Preserve one another’s honor”: wa la tansaw al-fadla baynakum (2:237). And He said: inna akramakum `indallahi atqakum [The most honorable of you in Allah’s sight are the most Godwary] (49:13). If we find someone that should be respected because of his taqwa, then we may respect him. We must not hold him as an ordinary person, no.
Those who criticize this are not following Madhabs [Islamic schools of law]. They are a Fifth Madhhab. We are following the Four madhhabs, and in our madhhabs kissing hands is Okay, but through their madhhab: no. They may kiss their women’s womb according to their madhhab, but not hands3. I must say this. It is not haram for them to do such a thing, but kissing the hand of a person is?! How can that be, when all the Sahaba were kissing the Prophet’s hand, and so many hadiths confirm it in their own printed books. They were kissing the Prophet’s hands and feet.
What happens if I kiss my mother’s hands and feet? Is this Haram [forbidden]? With which proof? They are saying this, only because they are trying to break the relationship between believers and their teachers. al `ulama’ warathatu al anbiya’. [Scholars of knowledge are the inheritors of Prophets.]4 We must give them our highest respect. I don’t like for a fifteen-year-old or a young person to come in and make this with his hand [handshake gesture] to a shaykh. What is this? That is the American style. No. We, too, have `urf [customs]. We have traditional adab, traditional manners coming from the Prophet, and we know that up to this day kissing hands is a gesture of respect, not worship.
If I kiss my mother’s feet, am I worshipping her? These people are given knowledge but no wisdom. Allah said:
yu’ti al-hikmata man yasha’, wa man utiya al-hikmata utiya khayran kathiran [He gives wisdom to whomever He will, and whoever is given wisdom, he has been given an immense goodness] (2:269). Allah Almighty never gave everyone wisdom. So many people, in American universities, are learning Islamic knowledge, but they are not mu’min [believers]. They haven’t been given wisdom. They are only reading books. Wisdom is the sum of knowledge. Without wisdom knowledge is DEAD.
INT. I agree, but in terms of the respect that we show, are we carrying it very far… to be perceived… you are perceived as interceding for your followers — making shafa`a — so that in Akhira [hereafter] you will be interceding on their behalf…
SN. Is it prohibited to make du`a? If I am asking for something on behalf of my brother bi zahr al-ghayb [in his absence], is it wrong? There are so many hadiths advising us to make such du`a for each other.5 It does not matter if it is going to be intercession. If I say: “Oh my Lord, give my brother a good life” or, if someone kisses my hand, if I say: “Allah bless you”. Is it haram? Is that intercession now? There is no need to call it intercession. Allahu fi awn al-`abd ma kana al-`abdu fi `awni akhihi [Allah helps His servant as long as the servant helps his brother].6 That means we must try to help each other in any way we can: by hand, by word, and by praying. What is wrong with that?
I may help someone who cannot help himself or herself. I might go to a Sultan to help him, and this is intercession, but this is in Shari`a. It is an honorable job because we are helping people who cannot help themselves. Therefore, it is in Shari`a, and Allah is ordering: wa ta`awanu `ala al-birri wa al-taqwa [Help one another in righteousness and piety} (5:2). It is a command that we must help each others for good things. How are they blaming me for making du`a for them and accusing me because of making intercession? Intercession should be only in the divine presence. If Allah gives me intercession, I may say for these people: Oh my Lord, those people are no-mind people, send them with the animals!
INT. Nevertheless, is this very clear to those who are following you? That you are not going to intercede on their behalf?…
SN. They are clear. They are not idiots, like those people. They are clever. They may teach them a lesson. My followers are Doctors and Professors. Those people may take lessons from my followers. My followers are not cheated ones. They are all Europeans and Americans. Let those people bring one of the Germans, or one of the English, or one of the Americans to Islam. Our people are all educated people, I cannot cheat them!
INT. Sometimes, in meetings, you are introduced as “the perfect one.” But people believe that there is only one perfect one, and that is the Prophet.
SN. But from him there are so many models coming…
INT. So do you say that that is a right introduction for a human being?
SN. Prophets are the first models. They are ma`sum — innocent. Others, all of them, are not going to be innocent, but through their mujahada [striving], by fighting with their nafs [ego], whoever will be able to control their nafs, that one will become a model to help the others how to control their ego. Because every evil comes from uncontrollable people. I am not saying that I am a perfect model of the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam [blessings and peace upon him]; but I am trying to step on his steps. I am not stepping after shaytan or evil — no.
INT. Then, if you were to tell your followers not to address you the perfect one, not to kiss your hands and feet — and they say that in meetings even women come and kiss your hands, and the Prophet would never allow that… I want your comments on that?
SN. No. They are always untrue people. They are always changing things from their real light. They are liars. They make iftira’ [fabrications] and backbiting, because they are hasud — jealous, envious people. I never say to my followers that I am “a perfect one.” But until they find a perfect one, I am only training them. I never said that I am a 100% perfect trainer but I am a good opportunity; while I am here, I only try to do my best with people. Like a doctor who is not a specialist, but still he must treat his patients. Should he say: I cannot touch you because I am not a specialist?
I never said to anyone: “I am a 100% perfect person and I am training you: Come and kiss my hands!” I am not so foolish as these people. They are thinking that I say to people come and kiss my hand!
INT. They say that it is a necessary part of your training…
SN. No, never. My training is written in my books and the associations I hold, but they are not reading my books because shaytans are so proud. Can they find it anywhere that I say: Kiss my hand, kiss my feet? But I may enter through a crowd and without doing anything, people are completely unable to remain seated, they will stand up. I am not saying to them to do it. It is something granted to me, from the greatness of Allah, called haybat — dignity. They can’t stop. When I pass, they stand up and rush to me. I am not telling them to.
Once I was in Madina praying, facing Qibla. As I was finishing, one of these people said to me: “O shaykh! Why did you bring all these people behind you!” I was surprised. My eyes were closed and I was making du`a without sound, only what I may hear. But I looked around and I saw 100 people behind me. I said “I am no one, I am an ordinary person, a visitor here. I do not know them. Why are you telling me this? Tell those people to go away!”
Prophets have a magnetic power called jazba [attraction]. That makes people run to that person. I have some of that which I received through our spiritual way. I am not an empty one, like those people. But they are hussad [enviers], just as there were so many hussad among the false people in front of the Prophet. It doesn’t matter. They can’t do anything.
What happens if my followers kiss my hand? The Prophet kissed the Stone, and all Sahaba kissed the Stone. All the Hujjaj [pilgrims] kiss the Stone, and the Ka`ba. It is not haram to kiss Ka`ba. Is the Ka`ba more honored than Man? No.
INT. But Ka`ba has a special place in their hearts.
SN. We have a special place also. We have been granted this specialness to be khalifatullah [Allah’s representatives]. Ka`ba is baytullah [Allah’s House], we are khalifatullah. Are we less honored than Ka`ba? Never. We have been honored. Angels asked for this honor but they were not given it. We have been granted it. How can you say no? One man was sitting with his back to the Ka`ba, and another said: What are you doing? He said: What? I am more than this Ka`ba in the Divine Presence. Ka`ba cannot do sajda [prostration], but I am making sajda. Ka`ba is built by Sayyidina Ibrahim, while I was created by Allah.
INT. Coming to your teachings themselves?
SN. I am teaching on two pillars. I am teaching them that you must try to be good servants for your Lord, because we were created for divinely service. Secondly, Allah almighty likes for each one to do his best for others. That is two pillars. My teaching, in summary, comes to these two points: to be good servants for Allah, and to be good to each other.
INT. Through this teaching, why is there so much emphasis on the external appearance, so that every follower of yours…
SN. Why are you asking such a question? What was wrong with the teachings of the Prophet to make the munafiqs [dissimulators, hypocrites] criticize the Prophet? Those people are from the same block, criticizing the same things. Munafiqs were always trying everything to harm the Prophet and make him unhappy, to harm him and his teachings. I am nothing in comparison, so how are they going to be happy with me when I teach my followers to be good servants and good to each other? They never like for my followers to be good servants for Allah. I am taking people out of Kufr [atheism, disbelief] and teaching them Kitab and Sunna, to say Shahada [testification of faith], to pray, to make dhikr [remembrance of Allah], to follow the Islamic way. I am blamed because I am bringing European people to Islam? Blame on them! Curse on them!
INT. That is because… My point was…
SN. I understand your point.
INT. I mean, it is due to the perception of a cult…
SN. They are hasud [envious]. It is hasad that makes them say such corruption and make such fitna [dissension]. They are servants of Shaytan and not followers of the Prophet. But, al-hamdulillah, we are not servants of shaytan, as long as we know that we are followers of the Prophet, SAWS., according to our doctrines that come from the Sahaba, the Ash`aris and the Maturidis, and the Four Madhhabs: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali. We are “controlled” [muqayyad] by the Four Madhhabs. We have enough proofs. We are not such qualified people as to take what is necessary from the Holy Qur’an and Holy Hadith. We must follow Imams. We must follow Shaykhs. We must follow teachers.
INT. But for the average person and those who criticize you, isn’t the Qur’an accessible to everyone in terms of reading and understanding? Why should anyone follow a Shaykh?
SN. How did they learn that? By themselves? Or did their mothers, their teachers teach them? Who gave them a doctor’s degree? A title? They go to universities and they receive titles, after which they are speaking. I also am given authority, from the Prophet up to this day to teach, without any interruption in succession.
INT. How do you explain that?
SN. Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim:
Siddiq [Abu Bakr]
Qassim [ibn Muhammad]
Tayfur [Abu Yazid al-Bistami]
Abul Hasan [al-Kharqani]
Abu `Ali [al-Farmadi]
Abul `Abbas [Khidr AS]
`Abdul Khaliq [al-Ghujdawani]
Muhammad Baba as-Samasi
Sayyid Amir al-Kulali
Khwaja Baha’uddin Naqshbandi
Darwish Muhammad [al-Bukhari]
Khwaja al-Amkanaki [al-Samarqandi]
Nur Muhammad [Badaywani]
Habibullah [Mazhar Jan-i-Janan]
`Abdullah [Ghulam `Ali]
Shaykh Khalid [al-Baghdadi]
Shaykh Isma`il [al-Narani]
Khas Muhammad [Shirwani]
Shaykh Muhammad Effendi al-Yaraghi
Sayyid Jamaluddin al-Ghumuqi al-Husayni
Abu Ahmad al-Sughuri
Abu Muhammad al-Madani
al-Sayyid Sharafuddin al-Daghestani
Sayyidi wa Mawlay Sultan al-awliya’ `Abdullah al-Daghestani
That is a chain through which I have been authorized. Let them bring their authority, out of which they are speaking of. They are trusting non-Muslims to make them say they are Doctors. I am never accepting that. In Islam there is only `Ulama (scholars of the Science) not doctors.
INT. Does that make the religion only for the `Ulama?
SN. Yes! al `ulama’ warathatu al anbiya’. [Scholars of knowledge are the inheritors of Prophets]. How are you saying? Is religion for juhala’ [ignoramuses]? Is the Din taken from ignorant people? No! we are not accepting. From this day on, we are going to fight them, and we will not let them propagate their false doctrines among Muslims. We have our doctrines.
INT. But when the Qur’an says it is “Hudan lil-nas” [Guidance for mankind], what does that mean? Is it restricting its message to just…?
SN. Do you understand what is “Nas”? “Nas” also means Europeans, Americans… they are Nas also! But “Huda”? “Huda” is from the Prophet to his inheritors. Are they inheritors or not? From whom are they taking their knowledge? From non-Muslims. We are not taking from non-Muslims. We are taking from Muslims. And we call our teachers Shaykhs. “Shaykh” and “Imam” means “teacher.” We are learning from them, and they teach us from the Qur’an and the Hadith. That is what we teach. We have been authorized.
INT. Coming back to your teachings, Mawlana. What is the teaching of Ahl Al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a?
SN. The Prophet said: the Jewish people are divided into 71 sects, Christians into 72 sects, and my Nation is going to be divided into 73 sects. He said: among the 73 sects only one will be on the right path, and the others will be changing and going wrong. They will be mistaken. The Companions asked: O Prophet, who are the right one? He said: Those who stand on my way and my Companions’ way are on the right path, and the others are on the wrong. Therefore we say that there must be wrong sects in our day also, but out of His divine justice, Allah Almighty is keeping, among so many wrong paths, one right path. Even if those who follow it are few, it doesn’t matter. We are saying that these are Ahl Al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a — the ones that keep the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallah allahu alayhi wa sallam, and following it. And today, those that are accepting the Four Madhhabs and accepting the doctrines of Islam according to the time of the Prophet, they are on the right path.
INT. So, you are saying about the madhhahib…
SN. They must be followed. They must be followed.
INT. But the Madhabs were not there at the time of the Prophet?
SN. I know. When I was first going to Hijaz, between Jeddah and Mecca there was no paved way. Now there are so many highways and motorcars. Before, there were only tracks for camels, but now is necessary to make the way wider and wider and wider. Similarly, because Islam is not only for Arabs that live in the deserts but an international Religion that was to spread through every kind of nations, and because nations have so many traditional customs, therefore the understanding of Islam was made wider and wider so that everyone may easily follow the way of Allah. That is the reason that we are in need of several madhabs as so many ways, and all of them are taking from the Holy Quran and the noble Hadith.
INT. So you mean that we need more Madhabs.
SN. No, four lines is enough. I don’t think that we need forty lines! There are not so many cars to necessitate more lanes. Four is enough.
INT. Where does your teaching fit in these four madhhabs?
SN. The Hanafi madhhab. But I am not objecting to whatever followers of other madhhabs do. All of them are going in the same direction. It is not as if one is coming and the other is going. All have the same aim, the same target, the same goal.
INT. But these madhhabs, or these great scholars, at that time, interpreted Islam in a certain way, but now, with the world changing, are those interpretations still applicable?
SN. Yes. Now you are saying something to which before you were objecting. Because the Four madhabs made it easy for people to act according to the holy commands of Allah Almighty and His Prophet; and now these people are saying they awant to take away the four Madhhabs and make it one way — the “Salafi” way. Salafi people — who are the Salafi? Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab? Is he Salafi? Is he the only one? What about the Four Imams, are they not the Salaf al-Salih [Pious Predecessors]? Who is going to be a witness against Imam al-A`zam [Abu Hanifa], Imam Shafi`i, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal? Who is going to speak against them? How are they finishing that, and they are asking to make one way only, the “Salafi” way?
They want to bring the whole Umma into the “Salafi” way, so that if we ask to go forward, they will say: HARAM; if we ask to go back, they will say KUFR; if we ask to go right they will say SHIRK; if we ask to go left, they will say BID`A. Now we can’t move anywhere. How are such people going to introduce Islam to whole nations? They are no-mind people.
INT. Do you believe that Ahl al-Kitab — Christians and Jews — will go to Hell in Judgment Day and that Allah will order only Muslims to enter Paradise?
SN. According to our beliefs, innama al-a`malu bi al-khawatim [Deeds are according to their conclusions].7 We are looking at the final point: is he going to have iman or not at that time? So many people among the Christians may reach the level of iman [belief] in their last breath. This is OK. So many people live as Muslims and die as kafir [unbelievers]. That is Islamic doctrine also: We do not pass judgment on any person that he is going to pass away from this world as a Muslim, or that he is going to be a kafir. No. It is not our doctrine or our belief to make the judgment. We are leaving the last decision to Ahkam al-Hakimin, Allah Almighty. In the same way we do not believe that these “Salafis” will continue on their way forever, because I see so many of them coming to me and saying: “We were wrong, and now we found the right way.”
INT. What is Islam and what is Iman [belief]?
SN. The meaning of Islam is peace, as everyone knows; but in the religious sense, Islam means to surrender to Allah Almighty. To surrender His commands; but also: to His will. That means: there is maqam al-`ubudiyya [station of serving] and there is maqam al-`abdiyya [station of being a servant]. `ubudiyya characterizes those who keep Allah’s commands: that is the `aabed
The `abd [worshipper] however, is he who is going to be happy with the will of Allah: never any objection to what happens to him or to others. He is always saying: “As you like, O my Lord.”
INT. So you become, in that process, `Abdullah.
SN. We are so, so far away from that! `Abdullah is the Prophet, SAWS. He is the only `Abdullah. You can’t say, for the Prophet, that he was `aabed, no. But he was as the verse says: subhan al-ladhi asra bi `abdihi [Glory to the One Who enraptured His servant] (17:1). Allah Almighty witnessed that he was a `abd. That is the highest point, for the Prophet. The Prophet reached the highest point of servanthood, but never attaining lordship: Lordship is only for Allah la sharika lah [without partner].
INT. What is iman?
SN. Iman is a contentment in our hearts for the existence of our Lord Almighty Allah, and His angels, and His holy Books, and His holy Prophets, and the Last Day, Paradise, Hell, and Judgment Day, and to believe also that everything is programmed and nothing is going to happen coincidentally.
INT. Is there a stage where a person can go beyond iman? ihsan [excellence], or whatever…
SN. At first we may tell a child: “Say: bismillah al-rahman al-rahim” and he will say: “bismillah al-rahman al-rahim.” Then we say: rabbi yassir wa la tu`assir, rabbi tammim bi al-khayr [My Lord! make it easy and not difficult; my Lord! perfect it with goodness]. Then we tell him: “Say: ALIF. BA. TA.” He repeats it and now he is learning the forms of the alphabet. But he does not really know that that is alif or ba or ta. When he reaches the understand of words then he will start understanding. But first he must say just as we tell him. Therefore: iman taqlidi [imitative faith] — to follow a person in imitating their belief is Okay. We say: amantu billahi wa mala’ikatihi, wa kutubihi wa rusulihi wa bil yawmil akhir wa bil qadari khayrihu wa sharrihi minallahi ta`ala wa al-ba`thi ba`da al-mawt. Ashhadu an la ilaha illah, ashhadu anna muhammadan `abduhu wa rasuluh8 SAWS. That is enough.
But when we are improving to reach the level of knowledge and iman `ilmi [conscious faith], faith by knowledge, then our level is rising. Then we are improving, so that something from the unseen world are coming into our field of vision. From ghayb [unseen] to shuhud [vision]: that is the prophets’ level, and after them it is their inheritors that should be granted the vision to see something from the unseen world. That is maqam al-ihsan [station of excellence]. Allahu a`lam.
INT. Can a person reach that higher and higher degree?
SN. Just as a person climbing up a minaret, does not see anything, but he is going higher and higher, until he reaches a point where he is going to see more. He is going to see so many things.
INT. So, through the practices that one follows, that one learns, one begins to travel from point A to point B…
SN. That is what we call suluk [wayfaring]. Suluk means beginning to travel from yourself to Allah. When you leave yourself, you are going to reach Allah. But when you take yourself, you are never going to reach to Allah.
INT. What is ma`rifa [gnosis]?
SN. That is ma`rifa. But we can’t say anything about ma`rifa until we are walking, travelling to reach ma`rifa. You may read news about ma`rifa, but it is not real ma`rifa. When we look and see, it is a different thing. I was visiting here and they took me to see the ocean. I had heard of it but now they took me to see it. I looked and I said: Subhan Allah! Ma a`zamu sha’nuhu, ma a`zamu mulkuh. Glory to Allah, how vast and great is His kingdom. I said: So that is Bahr al-muhit al-hadi — the Pacific Ocean. Now I have ma`rifat about that huge ocean.
INT. So you are saying that it is possible to reach the level of ma`rifa?
SN. It can be, it is possible if one is following the steps of Prophets. Every Prophet carries their Nation to ma`rifa. But you must follow really, with qadamu sidq [a foothold of sincerity].
INT. I see you are holding these (prayer-beads); why?
SN. Masbaha, This prevents me from being heedless…
INT. Heedless… ?
SN. … ghafil — always saying “Allah, Allah!” or saying: la ilaha illah allah [no god but Allah] to be dhakir ma` al-madhkur [remembering and staying with the One remembered] always. Or saying: allahumma salli `ala muhammadin wa `ala ali muhammadin wa sallim [O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad and the Family of Muhammad], or saying: astagfirullah, astagfirullah, astagfirullah [I ask forgiveness of Allah], tubtu ilayka ya rabb [I repent to you, O my Lord].
INT. How does one understand that word: Sufi, and Sufism?
SN. Sufism, if any ordinary person is asking for a higher school or university to learn about it, it is so difficult to give a good understanding to that person. But we may say that sufism, or tariqat [the path] is a way according to Qur’an al-Karim and Sunna to find a way to save servants from evil and devils and to give them control of themselves, so that whoever achieves control of themselves can move in any direction, particularly the direction of the Prophet and that of his Lord, Almighty Allah.
INT. As a last request, could I ask you for a small du`a for all the people in need…
SN. Allahumma ihdina bi fadlika fi man hadayt wa `afina fi man `afayt wa tawallana fi man tawallayt, wa barik lana fi ma a`tayt, wa qina wasrif `anna sharra ma qadayt, fa innaka taqdi wa la yuqda `alayk, wa innahu la yadhillu man walayt wa la ya`izzu man `adayt, tabarakta rabbana wa ta`alayt, fa laka al-hamdu `ala ma qadayt, nastaghfiruka allahumma wa natubu ilayk, wa sallallahu `ala al-nabi al-ummi wa `ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallam. Amin.
[O Allah, guide us by Your favor among those whom You have guided, and forgive us among those whom You have forgiven, and be our Protector among those whom You have protected, and bless us in all that You have given us, and save us and keep away from us any evil which You have decreed! Verily You decree and none decrees besides what You decree, and none is abased whom You befriend, and none holds power whom You oppose. Blessed are You, our Lord, and highly exalted! To You belongs all praise for what You have decreed. We seek Your forgiveness, O Allah, and we repent to You. And the blessings and peace of Allah be upon the Unlettered Prophet and upon his Family and Companions. Amin.]