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 Mesaj Başlığı: Interview with Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq Bewley
MesajGönderilme zamanı: 16.12.11, 13:21 #mesajın linki (?)
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Interview with Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq Bewley

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Malik: So Shaykh 'Abdalhaqq, we want to ask you some questions for the new television channel for 'Islam Hoy', which is an internet TV version of our newspaper about Islam in the Spanish language, so we do it with subtitles. We have just published the first of the books of the Shayk. The Book of Strangers, which is signed as Ian Dallas and we want to ask you about that time and around and about that writing and publication of that book. That is the general frame.

So, before you even knew anything about Islam, what was happeninig? can you give me some context of your social or personal life? Where were you in life? What was happening around you socially, if you can remember?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Well, they do say that if you can remember that time, you probably weren’t there! Maybe we better leave that one out!

Malik: Well, it’s subtle enough!

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Yes, well, the thing was that the mid to late sixties, when this was going on, was a time of flux particularly – I don’t know about other places – but in England and Britain it was a time of social change and flux which was almost unprecedented. Until that time, the social stratus in England had been very fixed, almost rigid, and at that time they were definitely breaking down in a way that hadn’t ever happened before. So there was a kind of mixing, a social mixing taking place that hadn’t happened before that. It had something to do with what had happened, I think, in the second World War and what had happened afterwards, and also with the rise of pop culture which was beginning to become very strong at that time.

Malik: So what were you doing, in a very straightforward way?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: There was a kind of upheaval going on which is in a way, funnily enough, quite similar to the upheaval that is happening now in Europe, here in Spain and Greece and so on, and in the so-called Arab Spring. There was a desire for change which was being expressed very vocally and strongly in quite a large section of society. There is a considerable difference, which actually has a bearing on what you are asking in terms of my personal experience, because there was a spiritual element to it which is not, I don’t think, visible now. There, it was a desire for change, people’s view of the world was changing and they expected a different kind of society to emerge from what was happening. Now it seems very much based on material considerations rather than these slightly more spiritual ones which were the driving force at that point. That is really the context. There was a tremendous flux going on which enabled things to happen which, until that time, had not been able to happen.

Malik: And you personally? Where were you ‘at’?

Shaykh ‘Abdulhaqq: I was living in London, and as part of the process of which I have been talking about, there was something organised in the winter of 1967-68 called the Circus Alpha Centauri which was organised by a group of young people in Chelsea, most of whom were living around ‘World’s End’ funnily enough in Chelsea. The event, a ‘happening’ they were called in those days, was arranged in Christmas time, in order to give underprivileged children a good time, in the Rounhouse. I remember there was a Christmas party and I cannot remember how many hundreds of children came from various places throughout London, and Jimi Hendrix was Father Christmas! There was also a big concert arranged. I remember Country Joe and the Fish were brought over from California for that event, which I think was the first time they had appeared outside California. So that kind of thing was going on. This group of people were, by the way of the time, from quite high aristocracy young people, down to anybody who turned up to this event – and that is actually what I was involved with at the time when I met Shaij ‘Abdalqadir.

Malik: You were also with Salvador Dali in Spain?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Ah yes, well that was slightly before. That was in the mid-sixties. It started in the mid-sixties, I think ‘65 or ‘66 and it was the first time I came to spain and we went to Cadaqués. I can’t remember how I got to go there, but anyway, there was Dali next door and the Frenchman who started the whole surrealist movement, I can’t remember his name, so I got involved during that time with a group around Dali – he had a group of young people around him from all over the world. I remember there was a German who I was very surprised to find painted most of Dali’s pictures! At that time, Dali would come and do a bit here and a bit there and say “That’s alright” and “That’s not alright” and paint ‘Dali’ somewhere! I can’t remember his name, the young German. So that was another aspect to what was happening at the same time.

Malik: What was it that attracted you?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: To what? I can’t remember, I just happened to be the place I ended up... it’s a lovely place, Cadaqués. I was with a friend and don’t remember how we found it. Somehow we ended up there and came back for two or three years.

Malik: Was interesting Dali?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Well, after I became Muslim, on my way back to England I ran out of money and stayed there because I had to wait somewhere to get some money, because in those days you were allowed very little money – £50 was all you were allowed to travel with. That was worth a lot more than now. So on my way back I stopped off there and stayed for a couple of months in 1968, and I remember at that time I had several one on one conversations with Dali. On one occasion we were speaking together and his eyes were popping and his moustache twiddling, and he said to me, “Rufus, what are you doing with these people? What are you doing with these people? Get on with your spiritual path!” So in a way I consider him to be one of my shaijs because I might have gone another way at that point but he sent me back. So it was an interesting encounter. But there were a lot of other things along with it which weren’t quite so interesting.

Malik: So when he said “these people” he meant him and his crowd?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: He meant him and his crowd around him who were completely hedonistic. I could recount some events that took place but I don’t think this is quite the time or place.

Malik: Then, on the other hand, Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib was making a du’a that was to do with, you know, what…

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Well that was some time before in the early ‘60s. I think the sister of the then King Hasan, she was going to be sent to Britain as Ambassador and Shakh Muhammad ibn al-Habib had this desire for spreading the Deen to Europe. It was an intention that he had and apparently he had been asking which country would be the best to target for the Deen, for Islam. He had been told that the British were people who had very good adab, very good manners, so he thought, “Well, that is part of the Sunna so maybe we should direct our attention towards them.” So apparently he sent a copy of the whole of the Sahih al-Bukhari to the King’s sister in order for her to take it to Britain with her when she went, with apparently a du’a and an intention that this should be a means of bringing Islam to Britain. Quite clearly that du’a was answered with the coming of Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir. Allahu ‘alim. One of the causes of what happened, what was going to happen, was that du’a and that strong intention of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah ta’ala, to bring to him someone who would be able to establish the Deen in Britain.

Malik: What attracted you to Morocco? What was your experience at that time?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: What attracted me to Morocco was Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir, because, throughout my life I had, I suppose, a sense of the Divine. Always at certain points I would be quite clear that God existed and it would be tangible in my experience that Allah was there. So at a certain point, I say around this time when this spiritual kind of searching was going on which was part of the social upheaval, I had found that this understanding that I had didn’t really fit into Christianity. I had tried to fit it into the Christian Church of England, but somehow the Church of England wasn’t quite big enough! Or quite able to bear it! I found out that my father had also been on a spiritual search at the time he died. I was only two years old when he died. But I discovered that he had been on a spiritual search which involved certain aspects of sufism, and so I went to try and find out about that. I found some papers he had left, funnily enough, a will that he had left in which he addressed these things and talked about them and this inspired me to go on this search. It took me to buying various books, and various things happened on the way which confirmed the validity of this search I was on to somehow satisfy this feeling of the Divine that I had. How could I make it grow? Where could I put it? It ended up in this group who were establishing the circus Alpha Centauri, which led to me one day in the World’s End walking in the street with one of the people involved called Roderick O’Conner, and coming towards us was a man striding up the middle of Blantyre Street where we were living. Roderick said to me, “You’ve got to meet this man. He’s someone you’ve got to meet. He’s just come back from Morocco.” So he introduced me, and it was Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir. On that very first occasion he said, “You must come and have tea with me. Tomorrow.” And we had tea and I remember we talked about Tawhid, the Unity of Allah, and I remember to this day that that’s what the conversation was and at the end of it he said, “Why don’t you come and live in this house? The basement is empty, you can stay there.” At that time I only had a house in the country but I was looking for somewhere else to live so I said, “Thank you very much. That will be good.” So I moved into Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir’s basement and as I’ve often said, I’ve been there ever since!

Malik: But at that time he wasn’t Shaij ‘Abdalqadir?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: No, at that time he was Ian Dallas.

Malik: He hadn’t become Muslim yet?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: I believe he had returned that day or the day before from the journey he took to Morocco during which he became Muslim. So I met him immediately on his return from becoming Muslim. He’d just at that moment returned when I met him.

Malik: Do you remember him introducing himself as ‘Abdalqadir or as Ian Dallas?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: I can’t remember, but I’m sure it would have been Ian Dallas at that point, almost certainly. Anyway, to answer your question about Morocco, he of course had been in Morocco when he became Muslim and he wanted to return in order to find the teaching Shaij which he desired for his own spiritual path. He knew there must be someone, he didn’t have any name, but he knew that what he was looking for must exist in Morocco. So about six months after this time I’m talking about, he invited me to go with him to Morocco, so my connection to Morocco is entirely through him. I drove down through Spain and he flew to Tangiers and we met up in Tangiers and some of that is described in the book you have just published.

Malik: So, let’s carry on with that. What happened from then on, in the reality?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Well, in the reality, on that journey we spent a few days in Tangiers and then drove to Fes which was where he had become Muslim. I at that point still wasn’t Muslim and we spent a few days there in Fes and during that time I decided to become Muslim. I remember one incident which took place which was romantic, but at the same time, meaningful in the event: we had the name and address of a French Professor who was teaching in Fes at the University who had become Muslim, and we met up with him and he took us on a kind of tour of Fes and we found ourselves above Fes looking down into the Madinah near to one of the walls. It was just about Maghrib time and there was a hillside behind us and down this hillside came a man driving a small flock of sheep and goats. This man stopped for a minute and spoke to the French professor who had very good Moroccan Arabic as he had been living there for ages. They had this conversation and then the man went on down into the Madinah with his small flock. I asked him, “What were you talking about?” and he said, “Well, among the things that happened was that I asked him where he had come from and where he was going and he quoted an ayat which is from the Qur’an which is “Innalillahi wa inna illahi raji’un” – ‘We come from Allah and we return to Him.’ And I thought, if that is in the daily discourse of a simple man like that, and if he knows that, then this is for me. This is what I want. This event was one of the things that really decided it for me to become Muslim. So I become Muslim at that time and Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir was very happy that it had happened. In no way had he really talked or tried to persuade me, it was just something that happened. From there we found that there was a teaching Shaykh who lived in Meknes. So we travelled to Meknes and found the zawiyya, went there and found that Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah ta’ala, was out on a journey to Casablanca to visit some of his followers, his Fuqara, so we went after him and all of that is much better described in The Book of Strangers, than I could do justice to in a few moments here. Basically that aspect of The Book of Strangers is a very clear and direct reportage of what happened during that journey we took ­– the way we met Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib and all of that was absolutely as it happened.

Malik: So people have to read the book!

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Yes, people have to read the book!

Malik: Do you remember how the Shaykh started thinking about this book, or taking notes? Did he tell you about it?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: No, I never spoke to him about it. He wrote it the following year after these events I am talking about, certainly no more than two years later. It is quite clear that it is about his search and the form it took and what he came from – the beginning of it is all about the society out of which he was trying to break free. It is really a really clear account of his own search. The editions which the book have gone through, three or four editions and not including the one you have done, have become a cult classic of spiritual search in America and many people have been brought to Islam by it because it is somehow archetypal and very relevant to this time because it is about this time and making Islam relevant to this time we are living in, and the Shaykh has spent his whole life doing that – showing how Islam is relevant to our own situation and how it is the only way through for people of spiritual aspiration.

Malik: This incident with the shepherd?

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Well I wouldn’t say he was a shepherd! He was a man with a few sheep and goats.

Malik: He was an amateur!

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Not an amateur, but this was a man who had these few sheep and goats to make them growing and sell off. I suppose he was a small-time shepherd, yes.

Malik: It illustrates so well a question I have that perhaps you could expand on: this difference in the language, you know, you came from a place where there was a very rigid, dialectical language which was perhaps breaking up at the time, and then you come and encounter what seems like a much more wholesome and poetic…

Shaykh ‘Abdalhaqq: Well, I think the society in which we have all been brought up and educated which was even stronger then, which was very much based on scientific materialism – I mean, that is the ethos which has formed the present world situation, and the European tradition has spent three or four hundred years removing the Divine from the equation so that step by step the understanding of the Divine has disappeared. My wife has been doing some genealogical research which includes looking at wills. Up into the 19th century, for instance, in legal language, you could not write a will without declaring Divine Will. So much comes from that religious understanding of existence that it even continued beyond its time in legal language, but all that was removed so that the idea of a true picture of existence which comes from understanding its essential unity had disappeared. This understanding of cause and effect comes down from Francis Bacon through Newton and into our own very materialist age of understanding that things only happen by cause and effect and that the cause truly brings into being the effect in the real sense, which is totally against the traditional understanding of the way things work. This was cut through by this man, by this simple statement that he made! I suddenly understood that this understanding of existence is not true, it is not the way things actually work. So yes, from that point of view, and certainly in the Morocco of that time, this traditional understanding of existence was still very much in place. I remember Sidi Illishi, one of the followers of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, after Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib had died, he came to me once and said, “I was once travelling with Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib in Algeria and at that time we didn’t have a car, we were travelling by bus, it was in the early 1940’s. The bus broke down and everyone got off the bus. Someone was saying, ‘Something’s got into the petrol tank’, others were saying, ‘this has happened’ and ‘that has happened’ and everyone had some reason why the bus wasn’t working. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib refused to get off the bus saying, “No, no, no. We’ll stay here. There’s no point in getting off the bus.” So sidi Illishi sat. Then he said to Sidi Illishi, “People think this bus works because petrol goes from the petrol tank into the engine and there is a spark…” and he described in a simple way the internal combustion process. Then he said, “Nothing makes this bus go but the power of Allah. Nothing makes this bus go but the power of Allah.” Now that understanding, given his understanding of the scientific principles involved, is what I am talking about. It is another way of looking at existence which has a different basis and cuts through modernism.

The extraordinary thing about Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir is that he was able, and… I think that the reason why – I have said this in other places – why Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib lived to such a great age, was in order to [meet] someone who had thought this thing through to the other side. The Book of Strangers is one way in which Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir expresses this. Another way is in his early book, The Way of Muhammad. He was able to think right through from this semi-ignorant understanding of existence which is expressed in Newtonian physics, through the scientific revolution which took place with quantum mechanics, to another understanding of the way things work. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib had been completely educated within the traditional picture. So he was not polluted by modernism. Then Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir had thought through the process so that he was able to come out the other side, so they have provided a bridge between the two worlds. This is one of the services Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir has provided, to take the traditional picture through modernism to a new understanding of Tawhid which comes out the other side. Of course, the philosopher Heidegger has been part of that process, but that’s another story.

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