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Compass Newspaper Interview

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

15 June 2011 Jakarta, Indonesia

Q: I don’t have any knowledge about you and your tariqah.

A: I don’t also have any knowledge about tariqah!

Q: What are you doing here in Indonesia?

A: I am visiting friends. (laughter)

Q: Just visiting, or teaching Islamic values or anything?

A: Correct; we have a programme here for two weeks visiting friends, mosques, and giving some advice and lectures about the importance of modernity and how to comply with Islamic ways of discipline, and to obey the Prophet (s) and authority, as Allah says in Holy Qur’an, Ati`ullaha wa ati`u 'r-Rasoola wa ooli 'l-amri minkum, “Obey Allah, obey the Prophet, and obey those in authority among you.” (4:59)

Q: When did you first start giving suhbah lectures?

A: In 1995.

Q: What was your purpose at that time?

A: To establish a relationship, if people have questions to answer them, and to try to reach politicians and explain to them the reality and teaching of Islam so that they have an idea.

Q: At that time did you meet politicians here?

A: I think you didn’t do your homework very well. You have to come prepared next time! (laughter) I met almost all of them: Presidents Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono; Vice Presidents Hamzah Haz, Jusuf Kalla, and Boediono. We also met ministers and scholars.

Q: I heard that you did baya` for them?

A: Oh, he is prepared; you were tricking me. (laughter) For those who like to take `ijaza or become initiated, baya` is an initiation to develop their spiritual path. We do that.

Q: How do you do that?

A: You have to ask Shaykh Taher.

Q: Oh, okay. So it is not very difficult to be involved in your teaching?

A: No, it is open for everyone. Our teachings are not very strict; we are strict on ourselves, but on people we are very soft, and we show them the love of Islam and the way Islam presents this life, in order to avoid terrorism and radicalism. So we try to establish these teachings.

Q: You taught them about that?

A: Yes.

Q: After baya`, what do you expect from your students?

A: When they take baya` it means they will try their best to follow the teaching, and when they follow the teaching it breaks the blockage between their egos and their relationship with God. So they break the ego power in order to reach heavenly power.

Q: Are you one of the leaders of Naqshbandi Tariqah?

A: I am a student of the Naqshbandi Tariqah.

Q: Would you like to tell us what is Tariqat an-Naqshbandi?

A: I have been asked this question hundreds times and I don’t understand why people don’t understand what is Naqshbandi Tariqah when Indonesia has the most of naflat ul-`ulama, and most of them have Naqshbandi Tariqah! Shaykh Abu `Anom has millions of followers and they are following Naqshbandi Tariqah, so that question is amazing! Your education goes back to that school of thought, so (you understand) it is a school of technical practice that uplifts you and polishes your ego. What you must fulfill is in addition to compliance to Shari’ah. You have to study Shari`ah in order to understand fiqh, hadeeth, tafseer, relations with people of other faiths, what are the core beliefs, what is `ibadaat, how to pray, etc. So as long as you prepare yourself in that, now you also have to uplift yourself and perfect your character and behavior, which is Maqaam al-Ihsaan, “the Station of Moral Excellence.”

You begin with religion: it has three parts. The first part, as Prophet (s) answered Sayyidina Jibril (a), is Islam, which has five pillars, then Imaan, which has six pillars, and then Ihsaan, which is one pillar, as Allah said in Qur'an:

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِي

wa innaka la `ala khuluqin `azheem.

You are of the most exalted character. (al-Qalam, 68:4)

Prophet (s) taught his Sahaabah (r) the way of good character, which many people are avoiding. Besides our Islamic studies we have to study the Level of Excellence, which is to be a better citizen, a better person, a better leader or a better servant of Allah (swt). So that’s tariqah and there is nothing else.

Q: Yes. I can tell you what we hear and learn about Islam in this university is from Ahlu ‘l-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama`ah. There is no difference, I think.

A: I am Ahlu ‘l-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama`ah, I am Shafi’i Madhhab, inshaa-Allah I am a Muslim. Tariqah is to be a good Muslim, to be good citizen, to learn and to teach others because we are in the 21st century, where people’s minds are on the disco, how to make friends with women, or girls with boys. So we try to teach them the right way which is to read Qur’an, and after secular studies learn Shari`ah, good character, how to raise your children, don’t fight with your husband or your wife, be patient with each other. It is a general education on social issues, for everyone. Today mainly in mosques they are only teaching the five pillars of Islam: shahaadah, salaah, sawm, zaka`at, hajj. But there are six others, go and read the hadeeth of Prophet (s). No one is teaching Maqaam al-Ihsaan, The Station of Best Character, how to have good character and become a good citizen in the community and overall society. But now people are killing each other and the strong ones are trying to eat the poor, making them poorer, creating a wider divide between the rich and poor, which is not right. The rich have to extend their hand to the poor. Wherever you drive you see them on the side of the streets, selling a little bit of food, and they are happy with 50,000 profit a day, but they need help.

Q: So these activities, of course, destroy our image?

A: Already our image is destroyed, so it is not going to be further distorted; the image is distorted because Muslims are not following their holy book, the Holy Qur’an, and they are not following the way of the Prophet, therefore they are give Islam a bad image. Islam is perfect! Qur’an is Allah’s Constitution, hadeeth of Prophet is the Constitution of Muslims; this is our way and it is a perfect moon, so perfect that you cannot add more perfection to it! But they are giving a bad name and so Allah will judge them. We are trying to present a good picture of Islam and Muslims, that’s why we are going everywhere.

Q: But some terrorists are claiming to be real Muslims, following the right way of Qur’an and sunnah?

A: Since you called them ‘terrorists’ you are already condemning them; do you want me to add more on that? They are terrorists. As I told you, they want to have their own state. They are running after the chair, not after Allah (swt), as they want to sit on the chair of power. If they could move the president and sit in his place they would do it. In every country they are trying their best to sit on one of these chairs to establish their state and fight everyone. Ibn Ma`sood (r) said that Prophet (s) said, “You have to follow the majority of Muslims.” If the majority is Ahlu ‘s-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama`ah then we cannot make the minority a role model and say they are calling for the right way. Do we follow the minority or the majority?

Q: So what should do to improve the proper teaching of Islam in the world, now?

A: Proper teaching is what the habaaib are doing here, promoting praising of Prophet (s) and singing qaseedas, establishing that love in their hearts. The government has to help those people who are doing that. The TV stations should broadcast these kind of teachings, and the schools and universities have to teach Islamic moderation, and in this way they will overcome those terrorists, and they have to build on it. Politicians have their own worlds, they do their work and they go back home. (...) Islam tells us that whatever is good for the society we have to do it and whatever is doubtful, we have to leave it.

Q: Can you explain more about love, al-hubb?

A: Prophet (s) said, “People will be resurrected with whom they love.” So if we promote the love of Prophet, as al-habaa’ib are doing everywhere, in every community and in every ministry, I hope the president will issue a bill in the Parliament that everyone every week has to attend a habaa’ib event, to build the love of Prophet (s) in their hearts. Then you are following the hadith, “You will be resurrected with those whom you love,” and Allah will make them to move to the love of your role model, the Seal of Prophets (s). When you love your role model and move to that, then you will perfect your character.

It is crucial to reach out to poor people, as I am seeing millions of poor in this country and no one is taking care of them. I once said to the president to open a place where you can feed them.

Q: What did he say?

A: He said, “Yes, of course.” That was two years ago and he was very receptive.

Q: What do you think is the condition of Islam in Indonesia?

A: It is between two sides: one side is very good (practice of) Islam, and one side is more towards westernization. So the one which is good are promoting love of Prophet (s) and the prayers; the habaaib are promoting, and other organizations, pesentras and orphanages that have love of Islam, support the community, bring people in and teach them and support them. The other side whose belief is less are more affected by how to go to night clubs, how to make discos. You have this and you have that, but the majority are following the right way.

Q: Do you see a different “color” of Islam here in comparison with Islam in other countries?

A: Here I saw it is the best country, that we can say is a country to Prophet, his family, to Islam and to Muslims. I never saw a country like here, where every day there are groups in different mosques making qasa`id! They also do this in Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, somewhat in Syria, but less, some in Yemen ... but Indonesia is the best country I ever saw in my life for Islamic teaching.

Q: Why do you think we reached that level?

A: Because many of Prophet’s descendants, the Ahlul-Bayt (r), are living here and they kept the tradition and the barakah. Prophet’s (s) grandchildren moved here with the traders and Sufis and preserved that tradition for hundreds of years.

Q: You say that created a good impact for this country?

A: Of course, this is what kept this country strong, or else it would have collapsed into hundreds of states. It is the barakah of the Prophet (s) through his grandchildren, al-habaa’ib, who are keeping this country together. The ministers and politicians did not keep this country together; it is the presence of the grandchildren of the Prophet (s) who are everywhere here!

Q: Some politicians are saying that democracy and Islam can go together. What do you think of this?

A: Everyone is speaking about democracy as if it is coming from Heavens! It has good and bad. What is good, alhamdulillah it is good, but what is bad brings the lowest type of uneducated people with money into Parliament; they don’t know anything and they force their issues in Parliament. However, democracy in the good sense is like the time when Prophet (s) left dunya, when the Sahaabah (r) had to vote for their leaders. Abu Bakr (r) was supported by muhaajiroon, and Sayyidina `Ali (r) was supported by the Ahlul Bayt, and the Ansar were supporting someone else; there were three parties. So they sat together, discussed the situation and then voted. (...) It went to Sayyidina `Ali (r) but Mu`awiyya took it, and then (the system of leadership) became from father to son, then a monarchy, and we don’t object to a Muslim monarchy. I am giving you a sense that democracy was there from before; it is not something the west invented.

Q: I want to know your personal ikraam? What is your background?

A: It will be better if you take my CV! I studied chemistry, medicine, then I studied Islam with two grandshaykhs, in the way of spiritual ijaazah, not in the way of universities and so on. And with the support of our shuyookh, I travelled all around the world from North America to South America, throughout the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia, the Far East. I have met with prime ministers and other leaders.

Q: So you are the “traveller Sufi”?

A: I am a traveller in the Way of Allah (swt) that inshaa-Allah one day we will be travelling with Prophet (s) to Paradise.

Q: What do you do in other countries?

A: I meet people like you.

Q And then?

A: In non-Muslim countries we make events and people become Muslim. We went to Chile and met the thirty-three miners who were trapped, and thirteen of them took shahaadah! We went to Europe and many people accepted Islam in Spain, France.. We went through Africa to Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Egypt and all Arab countries, then to Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Now I am planning to visit India and in the Far East, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Q: Do you have many friends?

A: We have many friends and centers, and here in Indonesia there are around fifty Naqshbandi centers.

Q: And in the world?

A: I don’t know, perhaps there are a thousand centers?

Q: You live in America in the center of western culture, so how do you do?

A: The same: we started with one center and now we have 23 centers, we go to different centers and mosques, speak to the government, and we have our center in Washington, DC. We meet politicians there to give them advice and an idea about Islam.

Q: Did you find any difficulties?

A: On 9/11 we did a little bit, but after that it has been ok.

Q: And how did you come to the Naqshbandi Tariqah?

A: I started when I was five years old through my uncle, my parents and grandfather. Naqshbandi scholars came to our home; we listened and studied.

Q: In the United States this year there was a burning of al-Qur’an. What do you think about that incident in Florida?

A: When someone is crazy, do you go and face him? That preacher is crazy already, so why face him and make him famous? He burned the Qur’an in English; that is not the Qur’an (not Arabic)! Why are Muslims making a big issue of it, making him a hero in front of non-Muslims? Why do you want to make him famous? If you ignore him he will be suffering and locking himself in his own toilet. Such people, don’t give them importance; if you do they try to do more.

If I was responsible I would say don’t give him importance. How many times have they burned Holy Qur’an? When you have a Qur’an that is falling into pieces what do people do with it? They don’t want to throw it on the floor, so either you put it in the river or burn it. So if that majnoon says, “I want to burn the Qur’an,” who cares? If he wants to burn it, Allah will burn him in Hellfire! It is Allah’s Book! If he wants to do it, let him, Allah will punish him! That is better than making him a hero, and all the world calling him, Obama calling him, as if he became something, and his church membership is not more than fifty people. But Muslims want to make it a political issue, to make a name for themselves in America, and they also have this narrow mind.

Q: The last question, Sayyidee. You and many other `ulama have made taqwa for forty years but still there are many misunderstandings of Islam. Why?

A: Because Shaytan is after Muslims, and who is his the enemy? Adam (a), and his biggest enemy is Sayyidina Muhammad (s), because Allah gave Prophet Maqaam al-Mahmood. When Shaytan found that is going to him, he became Prophet’s biggest enemy, and he will fight Muslims as much as he can to the Day of Judgment. So don’t follow his way! Allah (swt) said, “We have revealed the dhikr.”

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَه ُُ لَحَافِظُونَ

Inna nahnu nazalnaa 'dh-dhikri wa inna lahu la-haafizhoon.

Verily, We sent down the dhikr and surely We will guard it (from corruption). (Al-Hijr, 15:9)

Allah is protecting His holy book and Islam!

Inna ad-deena `indallahi al-islam.

The religion before Allah is Islam. (al-Imran, 3:19)

Don’t think you are protecting it, Allah is protecting it so don’t think this is going to stop. But we face them, we show we are moderate, peaceful, loving people; that we have good characters and are good citizens.

Q: What do you hope about Muslim society in Indonesia in the future?

A: This is a good country and we cannot give them advice more than what they are doing. It is not rich, and there are those who are taking its treasures and gold out of the ground and keeping it for themselves. My suggestion is that the government has to look after those who are poor by building schools, providing education, hospitals, community centers, building them homes, looking after orphans, as it is their duty. The government is doing everything, also subsidizing agriculture, but everyone is putting in their pocket, but if you put that money as sadaqah for poor people, Allah will stretch your life and take away affliction. So my advice is to look after the poor.