March 2009


Bismillahi’r-Rahmani’r-Rahim

Nahmaduhu wa nusalli ‘ala Rasulihil-Karim

THE CHALLENGES OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN MALAYSIA

BY

MUHAMMAD ‘UTHMAN EL-MUHAMMADY

Bi’awnika Ya Latif! Due to certain historical circumstances destiny has made it that Malaysia has been given the tremendous task of forging harmonious collective life among its inhabitants consisting of various religious and cultural groups, especially during the post-merdeka period. The citizens of the country consisting of representatives of such diverse civilizations as Muslims, predominantly Malays, Buddhists, predominantly Chinese, then Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and others, have to live with each other as neighbours. Compared to many societies with such multi-religious and multi-cultural nature, our country, due to the wisdom, tolerance and the spirit of giving –and take of its leaders, has emerged as a successful one. History has proved it clearly, in spite of comments to the contrary from certain quarters which would like to see it otherwise, for reasons known only to them.

There are challenges, of course, to improve upon the situation, so that that harmony will continue, and will improve, making the situation a better one, especially after September 11 with Islam being made the target of suspicion wherever there are Muslims. It is an unfortunate turn of events that a civilization which has been victimized a number of times in history with such devastations as the destruction of its civilization and “ethnic cleansing” of its adherents for a number of times with events in Spain and then the Crusades and recent events in modern times has now been stigmatized as “terrorist”, whereas others are not so stigmatized, in spite of terrorism having been perpetrated by some of its adherents.

Track record of a high degree tolerance of this civilization has been historically proven in the Muslim period in Spain, with Christians and Jews living in harmony with Muslims, with the Jews achieving their golden period, never achieved again thereafter, and non-Muslims living in harmony during the Ottoman period with the “millet” system, should give some lessons for people of the present times. The recent comments by the Secretary-general of the UN about the world organization and the acts of omission and commission of some countries should lead thoughtful and sincere people committed to ethics, morality and real human rights to reflect and do some introspective thinking before giving adverse comments about other nations. Recent events seem to suggest that humanity has not improved, if not to the contrary, in terms of practicing compassion and human brotherhood, in spite of all the rhetoric and talk about high-sounding noble values and aspirations.

Malaysia is a small country, and it has in its own way tried to put into practice the lesson of living in harmony and tolerance among such diverse cultural and religious groups as mentioned above. Of course there are so much more to be done, and by God’s Grace we hope to achieve much more in future. Those who would like to give adverse comments about our performance, we hope, will first set their own house in order, and then mention constructively, in the spirit of compassion among mankind, things which we should do to improve our situation. If this attitude is put into practice, the world would be a better place to live in. It is also in keeping with Christ’s “love thy neighbour…”, and the Prophet’s teaching about the brotherhood among the children of Adam and the creatures of God being figuratively “the family of God” (“iyal Allah”), and living according to the Tao in far eastern doctrine about the tao, of harmony with the way of heaven and earth, the harmony of the “yang” and “yin”. It is also in harmony with the disinterested action of the “Bhavadgita”.

There is the challenge of cool-headed dialogue among intellectuals and leaders of the cultural and religious groups, coming together, like the present one, with the idea of seeing the intellectual and spiritual contours of the various religions, so that the meeting points can be understood, not with the idea of blurring the real characteristics, the similarities and the differences, but with the idea of understanding where there are real differences, so that we respect the differences, and where there are similarities, so that we encourage the improvement in the similarities, for enhancing harmonious living. And this is done with intellectual seriousness and not with a false sense of superiority and disdain.

Then there is the necessity for respecting what can be called as “spiritual privacy” of the various collectivities; just as we have psychological privacy, privacy, in which we do not let out our secrets to people not relevant to it, the privacy of the body, in which we do not expose certain parts of the body, out of natural sense of modesty-barring aside people who already have lost this sense, for some reasons only known to them, the privacy of the bed-room in which we do not expose ourselves in that situation, barring aside other people who generate income from doing so, so there are spiritual aspects of privacy. The priest in the holy of holies has got to be alone there, cannot be disturbed in that spiritual privacy; the food in the Muslim yearly festival of sacrifice is of such a nature. This has got to be understood and respected, and this should not be construed as exclusive attitude as opposite of the inclusive attitude. Aspects of the Islamic sacred law fall into this category, and people who just have paper qualifications only, or know from personal readings only, should not comment adversely on these. Muslims are duty-bound not to do the same thing. The Qur’an teaches them not to vilify the objects of worship of others deemed not in harmony with the reality of the scheme of things from their perspective, for then they will vilify God worshipped by Muslims, and it becomes like they themselves are vilifying Allah. This serious attitude towards things deemed sacred should be inculcated; this is not about saying that things should be blurred so that people will think that things are all the same creating spiritual and intellectual confusion, creating more harm than good. This is about understanding things as they are and responding to them with spiritual and intellectual propriety.

There is the challenge of all the religions facing the phenomenon of cultural trivialization and gradual loss of cultural identity and values, and how they should unite to face this danger. What is meant here is the gradual loss of interest to understand the deeper implications of the teachings and practices of the religions, and concentrating on the paraphernalia, not attaching them to the inner core of the principles and values. And added to this there is the cultural trivialization and concentration on entertainment culture from foreign sources. The consequences are seen: for instance we see young people dying their hair yellow so that they look like some one who is an icon of the entertainment media; it is if they are ashamed of coming from their culture and looking in that way and with that colour. Then there are cases of elderly people in some cities committing suicide because they are no more cared by the young because the young would like them to abandon their houses and live in old folk’s homes; the world is a stage for the youthful; the elderly should be in old folk’s home. Respect and care for the elderly is disappearing. This is happening in the society. Some people mention that this is the influence of Hollywood culture. Only God knows. But this is a challenge which must be faced by all the religions and cultures, and they must face it together.

The various representatives of Asian cultures of the country have to face cultural domination of foreign cultural elements, and this will be cultural disaster for the rich heritage of diverse cultures of the country.

Then there is the consumerism culture: people are behaving as if they are worshipping the devil of a cult: a cult of buying things more than what they actually need just to be with the times as fashionable consumers. This is against all the teachings and values of the eastern cultures and civilizations. So some people say: the new cult is that the temple is the mega-mall, the rite is the shopping spree, the sacred things are the colour TV, the refrigerator, the air-conditioner, etc. The religions and cultures have to face this challenge together so that the principles and values are relevant and effective in moulding members of the society who are moral, disciplined, serious, respectful of others, hardworking, good, law-abiding citizens and patriotic. Other issues are side-issues when compared to this principal issues. Others from outside our country or culture should be heard in relation to our ultimate interests according to our philosophies, and not otherwise. Exceptions can be made in relation to universal issues agreed upon by all the nations as done by the UN. One example of things done by seeing our ultimate interest was the Malaysian economic step taken after the recent crisis in the region because of international manipulators of the currency.

The other aspects of the challenge are related to globalization; how global trends are making people more stressful; people are no more related to each other directly, hence their relationship is becoming more “faceless”, only communicating through gadgets, hand phones, etc., people are traveling more often, hence there is no more concept of neighbourhood and the traditional association, and stable relationship and respecting people because you “know” them really because you are living in the same neighbourhood, etc. People are becoming more and more rootless, more and more drawn into “the technological intoxicated zone”.

Then there is the challenge of post-modernism thinking which consists of the rejection of the grand narratives- the religions and the fundamental discourses, the rejection of absolute values and criteria about the truth and right and wrong, and the blurring of reality and the images. All these will lead to the withering away of the principles and values in the civilizations. There is the spreading of liberalism of the religions. This is emptying of the religions and civilizations from sacred and fundamental values, including family values. This has got to be faced squarely by all the religious traditions of the country. Other issues will appear as non-issues when seen in this fundamental philosophical perspective. This is the evil dragon which will swallow all and everybody. All have to get united to face this evil dragon.

The representatives of the various eastern civilizations in Malaysia have to be united in facing these challenges. The fundamental values about human relationships in the various traditions have got to be re-learned and their relevance seen in the present global perspective.

Then the country is also facing the global competition. The various religions have to help the leaders of the country to strengthen the survival of the identity and the economy of the country in the face of globalization onslaught, based on free and unbridled play of market forces; otherwise there will be another form of imperialism.

These are some of the challenges which the religious and cultural diversity of Malaysia has to face or is in fact facing now, and they must get united in forums and other ways so that such challenges are met with effectively. What is of utmost importance is the integrity of the various religions and cultures are preserved, the harmonious life continued, and improved upon, the cultural identity of the people is intact, the country is strengthened, its principles and values are realized, and differences are resolved through amicable discussions and consultations, without outside interference. With God’s grace the country and the people will survive well and with success in facing the global challenge.

Wallahu a’lam.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم

THE REALITY OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD[1]

BY:

MUHAMMAD ‘UTHMAN EL-MUHAMMADY[2]

Allah has sent us a messenger as a result of the prayer of Ibrahim –on him be peace- “O our Lord , sent unto them a messenger from among them who will rehearse unto them your signs and instruct them in the Book and Wisdom, and purify them; You are Exalted in Power Infinite in Wisdom” [3]As a result of this prayer answered by Allah, our Prophet was sent and there emerged in history the community of Muslims, called by Allah “You are the best of nation brought forth for mankind, you command to do good and you prohibit evil and you believe in Allah”[4].

Before anything else, we should remind ourselves of the unparalleled excellence of prophecy. Concerning the excellence of and necessity for prophecy in the life of mankind, ibn al-Qayyim has made an important observation. He says (in Miftah al-Sa’adah)[5]:

‘If it has not been for prophecy there would not have been in this world useful knowledge, righteous deeds, and goodness in the life of mankind, and there would not have been any foundation for government, and mankind would have been like animals, and ferocious beasts and harmful dogs, some of them at enmity with some others.

Therefore anything good in this world is a result of prophecy, and everything evil occurring in this world or whatever will happen are all as a result of the veiling of the results of prophecy and studies concerning it. Hence this world is like a body, and its soul is prophecy, without the soul the body will not have its support. Consequently, when there are no results of prophecy and its study in human life), the earth will have convulsions, the creatures therein will be destroyed, and there will be no support of life except with the influences of prophecy (and studies concerning it)”.

After keeping in mind the importance of prophecy, we come to the person of the Prophet himself. –peace and blessings be upon him. Concerning his attitude and position in relation to the believers , the Qur’an puts it clearly , among others in the verse is:

لَقَدْ جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللّهُ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ

Now hath come unto you an Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful.[6] But if they turn away, Say: “(Allah) sufficeth me: there is no god but He: On Him is my trust,- He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme!”[7]

This is as it were the ‘soul’ of the Prophet; and its impact in human life is such that, as experienced by sincere believers , when recited, the person will be in security and safety for the day unless, of course, if it is fated that he will meet his ‘ajal’.

As stated in ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ concerning this verse [8] Ja’far bin Abi Talib told al-Najashi , and Mughirah bin Shu’bah to the Persian Kisra, that Allah has sent unto them a messenger from among them, they knew his lineage, qualities, his activities , truthfulness and trushworthiness.Then in the traditions there are statements about him being born out of true marriage, continuously from the time of Adam until the time he was born to his parents; then him being sent with religion termed as ‘al-hanifiyyah al-samhah’ –true promordial religion characterized by easiness as to its practices and precepts; him being so anxious that good worldly and eternal benefits reach the believers .Such is his concern for humanity that there is nothing which will bring anyone to paradise and nothing which will cause anyone go to hell except he will explain these to them.[9]

Reality of the Prophet –peace and blessings be upon him – as a man is stated in the Qur’an in the verse [10]

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَى إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاء رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلاً صَالِحاً وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَداً

“Say , I am but a man (‘bashar’) like yourselves, but the revelation has come down to me , that your God is one God whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner.”

Concerning this verse we have in the commentary of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi rh that this means[11] :

Know that when Allah explains the perfection of Divine Speech, he asks Prophet Muhammad –peace and blessings be upon him – to follow the way of humility; so He asks him to say :’Say I am a man like you, it has been revealed to me …”, that is there is no distinguished quality separating between me and you all, the only thing is that revelation has been given to me that there is no god except Allah the one , the Self-Sufficient God, Besought by all .He is like a man like every body else ( a ‘bashar’; yet he is being revealed with the eternal truths of the Qur’anic revelation). That makes him stand far above us with his universal and exalted nature, worthy of being emulated. That is why , in the same order of meanings he is ‘the leader of mankind’ (sayyid walad Adam, and this is not self-praise’ (wa la fakhra).

Then concerning the exalted nature of the personality of the Prophet it is explained in the ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ (verse 4 of Surah al-Qalam ‘you are in exalted from of character’ ) that ‘you are in a great treligion’, namely Islam, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas. Atiyyah explains it to me ‘in a great spiritual propriety’ (‘adabin azim’); and then on the authority of Qatadah , that he has asked about the ethical nature of the Prophet s.a.w. and that Aishah replied that ‘his ethical nature is the Qur’an’ itself. The same explanation about the nature of the moral character of the Propeht s.a.w. being the Qur’an is given in the narration of Imam Ahmad.[12]

Concerning his moral and spiritual grandeur Allah has said that “You are (O Muhammad) on an exalted form of character”[13]And because of such a great moral nature worthy of emulation, for human salvation, Allah has mentioned his personality as the most excellent example to be followed. This is mentioned in the verse which means “ You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for everyone whose hope is in Allah and the last Day, and who engages much in the praise of God”.[14]

Concerning the moral stature of the Messenger s.a.w. there are numerious statements from the traditions of the Prophet s.a.w. Among these are the following:

On the authority of Anas rd he said that “The prophet s.a.w. was the best of man in terms of moral conduct (ahsana’n-nas khuluqan).[15]And on the authority of Safiyyah bint Huyay rd the mother of the believers she is reported to have said: I have not seen a person more excellent thnat the Messenger in terms of moral conduct”.[16] Then, on the authority of Aishah rd when she was askewd about the ethical nature she is reported to have said “His moral nature is the Qur’an”. (kana khuluquhu’l_Qur’an).[17]

There is also a narration on the authority of ‘Ata’ rd that he has said to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr to describe the Messenger of Allah –peace and blessings be upon him – in the ‘Taurat’ , then he said ‘Yes, by God, he is described in the ‘Taurat’ with the attributes like the ones in the Qur’an (namely) ‘O Prophet, Truly We have sent thee as a witness, a bringer of glad tidings and as a warner , and as a guide or guard (hirzan) for the unlettered people , You are My servant and My Messenger, I name you as the relier (on God) not rude and harsh to people) , nor shouting and yelling in the markets, nor returning evil for evil, but forgets and forgives , and Allah does take him to His Presence (take his life) until he has straightened the millat which has become twisted in nature, by teaching ‘there is no god but Allah’ and has opened with it the eyes which have become blind, and ears which have become deaf, and hearts which have become covered up (with ignorance and negligence).[18]

The Prophet s.a.w. was the most perfect of men in terms of nobility of nature and character, the molst subtle of natures, and the most just of temperament, the most easy in terms of relations with others.He is the seal of prophets and messengers , the leader of those in early and later times.He is reported to have said ( أنا سيد ولد أدم ولا فخر )I am the leader of the children of Adam and that is not a matter of personal pride. He is sent as a mercy to all the worlds as stated in the Qur’an “And We have not sent thee O Muhammad except as a mercy to all the worlds”.[19]

In the hadith he is mentioned as the one who will give the supreme intercesson to all creatures ‘al-shafa’ah al-‘uzama). This is to the effect: “On the authority of Abu Hurairah, the Prophet is reported to have said: ‘People will come to me (on the day of the universal accounting) and theu will say: O Muhammad you are the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, Allah has forgiven you the sins which have been done before and later , please intercede for us in the presence of God, do you not see (the suffering) in which we are in? So I would go and come under the Divine Throne, then I would fall down prostrate to my Lord Full of majesty, then Allah would open up for me words of praise and beautiful outpourings which has not been opened for anyone before me, then Allah would say, O Muhammad raise up your head, You just ask, then I will grant your wish, intercede, you will be granted intercession.[20]

He is also the owner of the Praised station (al-Maqam al-Mahmud). This is stated in the Qur’an ( عسى أن يبعثك ربك مقاما محمودا )[21]

In the tradition narrated by al-Bukhari it is stated on the authority of ibn ‘Umar rd that the Messenger s.a.w. is reported to have said:” On the Day of Judgment, mankind will come following their prophet saying O so and so please intercede, O so and so please intercede, until the matter of intercesson came to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. , that is the day in which Allah will raise him to the station of praise (al-maqam al-mahmud).[22]

It is stated in traditions that the Messenger would carry the Flag of Praise on the Day of Judgment. He is reported to have said :”On the day of Judgment, the Flag of Praise would be in my hands and that is not a matter of personal pride”.

His spiritual exaltation is indicated by the fact God has forgiven him his past and future ‘sins’.This is clear from the statement in the Qur’an :”Truly We have granted thee a manifest victory, so that God may forgive thee thy past errors and mistakes as well as those to follow and fulfill His favour to thee and guide thee to the Straight path”[23].

His exalted station can be understood from the fact that he will be the first for whom the gates of paradise would be opened. On the authority of Anas bin Malik rd that he said: The Messenger of Allah said: “I will come to the gate of Paradise on the Day of Judgment , then I will request it be opened. The angel guarding it will ask: Who are you? I will respond: I am Muhammad.The angel will reply: I have been ordered not to open this for anyone before you (I have to open it for you now)”.[24]

The traditions gathering all the narratives manifesting his spiritual grandeur and exaltation at the cosmic order can be seen in those covering the stupendous event of the Nocturnal Journey and the Ascension to the Divine Presence in less than one night. The traditions have been recorded in the commentary of ibn Kathir concerning the first verse of the Chapter Bani Isra’il.[25]

From the narrations there will emerge with the utmost clarity his position in relation to God Himself as his ‘beloved one’, in relation to the prophets and messengers of all epochs of history as ‘their leader’, in relation to the believers as his ‘ummah’ or community, giving them, in the day of Judgment intercession, his leading position in the life of the world and life in eternity. His cosmic grandeur will be clear in spite of his relatively ‘human’ image in earthly history. He has appeared , out of Divine Grace, as a mercy to all, giving guidance for their ultimate and earthly salvation.

In relation to his intensity of spiritual contemplation, it is clear that he is the person most devoted to this. On the authority of ‘Abdullah bin al-Shakhir rd that he stated :”I came to the Messenger of God s.a.w. while he was praying, in his breast there is something like droning sound of caldron boiling from (much) weeping”.[26]

Then there is the famous narration by al-Bukhari about him, on the authority of ‘Aishah rd, that the Messenger used to stand up for prayer in the darkness of night, until his feet swelled so much so that Aishah said to him: Why do you exert yourself in this way whereas Allah has forgiven you what is past and what is to happen. He replied “Should I not be a grateful servant?”.[27]

Then there is the famous remark by him in his saying “And the coolness of my eye is being found in prayer”[28] His love of spirituality is so intense that he is reported to have said: “For me to recite ‘Glory be to God’ and ‘all praise be to God”, and “there is no god but Allah” as well as “God is Most Great” is more loveable to me than anything on which the sun shines.[29]

His love of the remembrance is clear from his saying “The analogy of a person who performs the remembrance of his Lord and the one who does not do the remembrance is like one who is alive compared to the one who is dead”.[30]

And there is his saying : “There is no act from the son of Adam which is more effective in guarding him from the punishment of Allah (in Hell) than remembrance of Allah”.[31]

And concerning his habit of always making requests to God, and he is the one most given to this spiritual ‘habitus’ .The request made most by his is the one to the effect “O our Lord, please grant us goodness in this world and goodness in the hereafter and save us from the Fire”.[32]

Then there is the famous narration in relation to the coming down of the verses 190 and 191 of Surah Ali ‘Imran[33].

{ إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ ٱلسَّمَاوَاتِ وَٱلأَرْضِ وَٱخْتِلاَفِ ٱلْلَّيْلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لأُوْلِي ٱلأَلْبَابِ }

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi mentions that Ibn ‘Umar asked Aishah concerning the most amazing thing that she has observed concerning the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him. She wept and then said: Everything about him is amazing. One night he came close to me then said to me: o Aishah can you allow me to –night to perform my spiritual devotions to my Lord? I said: O Messenger of Allah, truly I desire to be close to you, and I like what you like, so I allow you [to do your devotions]. So he stood up and went to the water bag in the house and performed his ablutions without using the water excessively, then he stood up and prayed, recited from the Qur’an and started to weep, then he raised his hands and began to weep, until his tears fell onto the ground. Then Bilal came to do the call to prayer for the morning prayer; then he saw him weeping. He said; O Messenger of God, God has forgiven what has gone before and what is to come later (of you mistakes and sins) [So how can you weep so much].The Prophet said: Should I not be a servant who is grateful? Then he said (further) How can I not weep since in the night was sent down the verses (truly in the creation of the heavens and the earth there are signs for those who have mature intelligence, they are those who remember their Lord while standing , sitting down and while lying down on their sides, and they contemplate on the creation of the heavens and the earth and then say (out of realization): Truly, our Lord, You have not created all this in vain.[34] Woe to the ones who recite the verse but do not reflect concerning it.[35]

The Prophet –peace and blessings be upon him –has placed so much significance on the development of this aspects of tafakkur and contemplation in man .

And on the authority of Aishah rd his request to Allah mostly, before his demise is “O Lord, truly I seek refuge with You from the evil that I have done and the evil that I have not done”.[36]

Life full of remembrance, prayers, requests from God, contemplation of Him, doing all things and performing all obligations in His Name is the hall mark of the Prophetic life, outwardly and inwardly. It is this nature of the Prophet-with Divine Aid which has been the most decisive factor of his success in his life.

We can refresh our memory with the nature of the success of the Prophet by remembering the formula of real success in the Chapter of the Believers which consists of the following statements from the beginning[37]:

The Believers

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

[23:1]The believers must (eventually) win through,-
[23:2]Those who humble themselves in their prayers;
[23:3]Who avoid vain talk;
[23:4]Who are active in deeds of charity;
[23:5]Who abstain from sex,
[23:6]Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,
[23:7]But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;-
[23:8]Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants;
[23:9]And who (strictly) guard their prayers;-
[23:10]These will be the heirs,
[23:11]Who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever).

This set of verses mentions the same pattern : (intense faith manifested in) prayer, purity of morals, discipline in accordance with the sacred law, life lived in the vision realized in the intellect and the will.

The verses above indicate to the utmost the decisive importance of strong and pure faith, the manifestation of God-consciousness in the form of contemplative intellect successfully realized with humility in prayers, avoidance of vain things in life – not only the harmful and prohibited things- the payment of the poor-due, the purity of sex life , hence the preservation of family-values. Included into this scheme of values is the discipline in life in accordance with the sacred law, and the performance of governance and fulfillment of trusts and covenants. This spiritual and intellectual geometry is still of utmost importance and relevance until the present day, whatever the cultural and moral relativists would like to claim to the contrary.

The performance of spiritual devotions –out of pure and sincere faith- with the attending moral and collective discipline in life, the very substance of real success can be seen in another set of verses. These are:

[70:19]Truly man was created very impatient;-
[70:20]Fretful when evil touches him;
[70:21]And niggardly when good reaches him;-
[70:22]Not so those devoted to Prayer;-
[70:23]Those who remain steadfast to their prayer;
[70:24]And those in whose wealth is a recognised right.
[70:25]For the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking);
[70:26]And those who hold to the truth of the Day of Judgment;
[70:27]And those who fear the displeasure of their Lord,-
[70:28]For their Lord’s displeasure is the opposite of Peace and Tranquillity;-
[70:29]And those who guard their chastity,
[70:30]Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (then) they are not to be blamed,
[70:31]But those who trespass beyond this are transgressors;-
[70:32]And those who respect their trusts and covenants;
[70:33]And those who stand firm in their testimonies;
[70:34]And those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship;-
[70:35]Such will be the honoured ones in the Gardens (of Bliss).

Such life of devotional collectedness must necessarily menifest itself in compassion. That is why he was sent as a mercy to all the worlds.

His compassion to those who make mistakes is to such a degree that there is a narration about a young person requesting his permission to commit adultery and he gave a very persuasive and heart touching response. The narration is as follows: On the authority of Abu Umamah rd that he said: A young person came to the Prophet s.a.w and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah , please grant me permission to commit adultery, then the people cried out against him, saying no no. The Messenger said to him: Come near, and he went near him. The messenger said: Do you like to do that to your mother? He replied: No. By Allah, May Allah make me your ransom, and people do not like to do that to their mothers. Then he asked: Do you like to do that to your daughter? He replied: No by God, people do not like to do that to their daughters. The Messenger said: Do you like to do that to your sister? He replied: No, by God, may Allah make my your ransom, people all of them do not like to do that to their sisters…(finally) the Messenger placed his hand on the young man’s hand and prayed: O Allah, forgive him his sins, purify his heart, and guard his private parts ; and thereafter the youth did not like such acts( again)[38].

His love for the ummah is to such a degree that when God has granted him with the special request which will be granted without fail, he has delayed the request until the time for getting intercession for the members of his community. He is reported to have said:

– ( لكل نبي دعوة مستجابة ، فتعجل كل نبي دعوته ، وإني أختبأت دعوتي شفاعة لأمتي يوم القيامة ، فهي نائلة إن شاء الله من مات لا يشرك بالله شيئا ) [البخاري] ؛ ولذا قال تعالى عنه : {لقد جاءكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حريص عليكم بالمؤمنين رؤوف رحيم }

For every prophet there has been granted a request which will be granted without fail, and every prophet has made his request, as for myself I have delayed the request for getting intercession for my community on the last Day. It will, God willing, reach (and be effective) for anyone who has died (in my community) without associating anything with God.[39]

Because of this Allah has said[40] :

{لقد جاءكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حريص عليكم بالمؤمنين رؤوف رحيم }

Allah the Exalted has said :

( لقد كان لكم في رسول الله أسوة حسنة لمن كان يرجو الله واليوم الآخر وذكر الله كثيرا)

Truly you have in the Messenger of Allah a most beautiful pattern (of conduct) for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much and often.[41]

Allah has commanded us to obey the Messenger after our obedience to Him.

Allah has obliged the believers to obey the Messenger, follow his example of conduct , follow his life-wont, respect and revere him as well as to love him above loving our fathers, children, spouses, families, our business and wealth and belongings. Whoever does not follow such a path of life, Allah has stated His Warning. This is in the verse[42]:

)قُلْ إِنْ كَانَ ءابَاؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَاؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَالٌ اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَجِهَادٍ فِي سَبِيلِهِ فَتَرَبَّصُوا حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللَّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ وَاللَّهُ لا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ (

Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight – are dearer to you than God, or His Apostle, or the striving in His cause;- then wait until God brings about His decision: and God guides not the rebellious.

Allah has said:

)ومن يطع الله والرسول فأولئك مع الذين أنعم الله عليهم من النبيين والصديقين والشهداء والصالحين وحسن أولئك رفيقاً *ذلك الفضل من الله وكفى بالله عليما(ً

Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger , they are with those on whom Allah has granted them His boons consisting of the Prophets, the Sincere People of Truth, the Martyrs, and the Pious Ones; how beautiful is their fellowship; that is the boon from Allah and sufficient is Allah having Knowledge of this. [43]

He is reported to have said: truly the most beloved to me and the one closest to me in position on the day of judgment is the one who is best in conduct (ahasinuhum akhlaqan).

There are so many remarks by him about good conduct as a result of true faith and God-consciousness (that is the development of the contemplative intellect apart from the rational and analytical one).

The most perfect believer in the matter of faith is the man who id most excellent in conduct.

There is nothing more weighty on the Balance for the believer on the Day of Judgment other than good conduct .Allah hates the one who is shameless, impudent and loathsome in character.

He says : The most perfect believer in terms of faith is the one most excellent in character, and the best among you is the one with the best conduct to the members of his household.

These are some of the facets about the reality of the perfect man, the messenger, the leader of men, the leader of both worlds, the leader of the messengers and the prophets, our beloved prophet peace and blessings be upon him. We are supposed to pray for blessings, honour and peace upon him and his family as well as his companions and those who follow him. Allah says[44]:

(إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَمَلاَئِكَـتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِيِّ يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً)

God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.

When the Messenger of Allah was asked how shall the believers ‘bless’ him, he replied, you say:

اللهم صلِّ على محمد وعلى آل محمد كما صليت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم، وبارك على محمد وعلى آل محمد كما باركت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم إنك حميد مجيد “.

O Lord bless Prophet Muhammad and the family of Muhammad just as You have blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim, and bestow grace on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad just as You have bestowed grace on Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim, truly You are Worthy of all Praise Most Glorious.

Then there is the question why does he need our blessing seeing that Allah and the angles have already blessed him? Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi replies that [45] this is not because the Prophet needs this , otherwise there is no necessity for the blessings of the angels after getting the blessings of Allah. This blessing by us is for manifesting his greatness , just as Allah has obliged us to remember Him whereas He is not in need of it; it is for manifesting His Greatness on our behalf, as a Mercy from Him unto us, so that He will give us the rewards just as he has said: “Whoever bless me once Allah will bless him tenfold”. And Allah has not left the Prophet to be indebted, as it were, to the community , by reason of their blessings, so that He has rewarded them from him, with blessings for the ummah, in the statement (وَصَلّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلَوٰتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ)

Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them.[46] May Allah make us among those who bless the Prophet much and often together with the efforts we make to make the remembrance of Allah much and often. Amin.

In the ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’[47] it is stated that ‘salawat from Allah and the angels’ mean:  (وقال أبو عيسى الترمذي: وروي عن سفيان الثوري وغير واحد من أهل العلم، قالوا: صلاة الرب: الرحمة، وصلاة الملائكة: الاستغفار. )

That is according to al-Tirmidhi: narrated from Sufyan al-Thauri and not only one from among the men of knowledge: ‘salawat’ from God is ‘mercy’ (‘al-rahmah)’ from the angels : prayer for forgiveness.

Before concluding we can recollect what others have said about his historical phenomenon unsurpassed even to this day. This is from the observation of Lamartine, the historian . He states:

“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls. . . his forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was twofold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with words.

“Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”[48]

In conclusion the present writer would like to emphasize the importance of understanding the nature of our Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, apart from the usual attributes of truthfulness, trustworthiness, communicating the truth, and sagacity in the usual discourse, which must be understood, but also other all-embracing nature of his- of understanding this most amazing man in the whole of existence, nay, the most significant being in the total cosmic order. We should understand him with his Lord, as far as we are able, him with mankind, human civilization, the human soul, him and life in the world and eternity. There is also that aspect apart from this his primordial existence as the light, as the starting point for all cosmic manifestations, which the writer feels is beyond this short simple paper. Whatever it is, we must understand him, respect him, bless him, respect his name, together with other prophets of mankind, respect his family, the companions, respect the mention of his name by others, follow his normative sunnah as much as we can since it is an aspect of his universal norm, in our inner and outer life. May Allah bless us with this understanding ,wisdom as well as unshakable conviction about his perfection – whatever the moral and cultural relativists among the earthlings of the latter days say about this—and cultivate our life in true and firm faith, performing the spiritual devotions, with our prayers, dhikr, and contemplation, developing our contemplative as well rational intelligence together, with learning and others, in harmony, carrying out our ethical and moral life to the utmost of our ability, disciplining ourselves with the sacred law, and performing our family and professional as well as social duties excellently in our social environment of to-day. Let us go forward in cultivating this unshakable faith, this pure effective and empowering spirituality, developing and synergizing the contemplative and the rational aspects of our intelligence, possessing the moral caliber of the strong, the indomitable will for truth, the effective worker for the pleasure of Allah, showering light and coolness as well as services for the servants of Allah, irrespective of creeds, casts and ethnicities. Come, bretheren, let us be strong for the sake of Allah. Say Allah: then let them go on being drowned in their play and mirth. Amin ya Rabbal-alamin.,Wallahu a’lam.


[1] For presentation in an International Seminar on Spirituality organized by Abdul Aleem Siddiqui Mosque of Singapore, on the 1-3rdSeptember 2006.

[2] Currently the writer is Very Distinguished Academic Fellow of International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in International Islamic University Malaysia, Commissioner in SUHAKAM, and member of the Board of Directors Integrity Institute Malaysia and Member of Board of Trustees Yayasan Karyawan.

[3] Al-Baqarah.129.

[4] Ali ‘Imrah.110.

[5] Cited in ‘Tafsir ‘Ruh al-Ma’ani’ by al-Alusi’ vol.IX.p.100.

[6] Surah at-Taubah verses 128 Tr Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

[7] At-taubah verse 129.

[9] Related by al-Tabarani on the authority of Abu Dharr the Companion.

[10] Chapter of the Cave (18).110.

[12] ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ commentary on verse 4 chapter al-Qalam. See http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=7&tSoraNo=68&tAyahNo=4&tDisplay=yes&Page=4&Size=1

[13] Surah Nun.4.

[14] Al-Ahzaz.21.

[15] Muttafaq alaihi.

[16] Narrated by al-Tabarani in ‘al-Ausat’ with good isnad (isnad hasan).

[17] Narrated by Muslim in his ‘Sahih’.

[18] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[19] Surah al-Anbiya’.107.

[20] Muttafaq alaihi (Bukhari and Muslim).

[21] Surah Bani Isra’il.79.

[22] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[23] Surah al-Fath.1-2.

[24] Narraterd by Muslim.

[25]‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ vol. 3 verse 1 of Bani Isra’il, recording the traditions about the Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj.

[26] Narrated by Abu Daud.

[27] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[28] Wa ju’ilat qurrati ‘aini fis-salah.

[29] Narrated by Imam Muslim.

[30] Nartrated by al-Bukhari.

[31] Narrated by al-Tabarani with a hasan isnad.

[32] Muttafaq alaih (al-Bukhari and Muslim).

[33] For the significance of this narration and the meanings of the verses see ‘Tafsir Mafatih al-Ghaib’ by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi. See http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=4&tSoraNo=3&tAyahNo=190&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0

[34] Ali Imran verses 190-191.

[35] The present writer would like to observe here the significance of the fact that the two aspects of the human intelligence is combined in their operations in this extremely instructive verses. The dual functions are the contemplative power concerned with contemplating on God and religious verities and the rational and syllogistic power of getting conclusions in thought and knowledge as this increases with systematic experience , controlled observations and thought. Both functions should operate in the human intellect for man’s own salvation. The loss of this contemplative intellect – with prayers, acts of remembrance and others –typified by the famous sentence ‘You worship God as if you see him and if you do not see Him He sees you- has lead to so much disaster in man’s individual and collective life. To add to what has been said: This contemplative intellect is so empowering that the Qur’an states that the believer who has the power of patience, constancy and perseverance with the conditions, can have tenfold strength compared to those who oppose them. And this virtue is the result of the effective functioning of the contemplative intellect, apart from the rational and analytical one. Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi rh has alluded to the importance of this aspect of the intellect in his commentary of the verses and elsewhere.

[36] Narrated by al-Nasa’i.

[37] Chapter the Believers verses 1-11.

[38] Narrated by Imam Ahmad.

[39] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[40] Al-Taubah.129.

[41] Al-Ahzab.21.

[42] Al-Taubah.24.

[43] Al-Nisa’,69-70.

[44] Al-Ahzab.56.

[45] In ‘Tafsir al-Kabir’ concerning the verse. That is also ‘al-Tafsir al-Kabir’ by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi concerning this verse 33.verse 56. See http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=4&tSoraNo=33&tAyahNo=56&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0

[46] At-Taubah.103.

[48]Lamartine, HISTOIRE DE LA TURQUIE, Paris, 1854, Vol. II, pp. 276-277.

Shaykh Uways bin Muhammad al-Baraawe

By Muhammad Imran A. Karim

Introduction

East African Islamic revival owes much debt to the struggles of the Qadiri leader Shaykh Uways bin Muhammad al-Baraawi. From humble origins and modest upbringing, Shaykh Uways emerged as the most eminent hero of traditional Sufi Islam. A combination of exquisite poetry and active proselytizing garnered him huge influence.

From Barawe, he traveled to Baghdad, the hometown of Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, to the Hejaz, then to Zanzibar and finally met a tragic death at the hands of a rival Sufi brotherhood. His travels and preaching arrived at the perfect time to counter the colonial expansion, puritanical onslaught and encroaching Christian missionaries. This paper will discuss the heroic struggle of Shaykh Uways bin Muhammad al-Baraawe as a true martyr and savior of East African Islam.

His Life

In referring to his early life, the main sources of information come from two hagiographies written by his Khalifah Abdul-Rahman ‘Umar al-Qadiri, the Jawhar al-Nafis and Jala’ al-‘Aynayn. As translated by S. Samatar in Sheikh Uways bin Muhammad of Baraawe, Uways was ethnically a Black Tunni. He was born in 1847 in Baraawe on the Benaadir Coast. His father, al-Hajj Muhammad b. Bashir, was a minor religious official. Samatar perceived his family background as “well-to-do”, while Choi Ahmed termed it “less than noble”. Whether his family was actually rich, poor, educated or illiterate, the fact of the matter is that Shaykh Uways’s mind was more influenced by his teachers as follows.

Also known as Shehu Awesu in Swahili, Shaykh Uways obtained a simple elementary education in basic religious sciences and only later furthered his studies with eminent scholars. He studied the Qur’an, Qur’anic exegesis, syntax and grammar, legal principles and basic Sufism under the tutelage of one Shaykh Muhammad Tayini al-Shashi in his local vicinity. Apparently excelling in his studies and piety, he caught the attention of his teacher who then introduced him to the Qadiriyya doctrines and took the young student to the place of Qadiriyya’s origins, Baghdad, in approximately 1870.

This peripatetic journey was a turnaround in his spiritual search and religious credibility. He studied with the eminent Qadiri, Sayyid Mustafa b. Salman al-Jilani and later claimed to receive an ijaza from his teacher, thus boosting his reputation. Despite this, B. G. Martin described his training and education as “relatively provincial, mildly uninspired, and above all conservative and conventional.” He also made pilgrimages to Madinah and Makkah during this spell, which normally marks a spiritual milestone for Muslims. And truly so, his life took a drastic turnaround.

In 1883, he made his way back to his hometown for good, a very important journey in enhancing his reputation where he passed through the Hejaz, Yemen and northern Somalia. In northern Somalia, Choi Ahmed claimed through oral tradition that Shaykh Uways met the renowned Qadiri Shaykh Abdul Rahman az-Zayli’i near Qulunqul right before his death to be given complete control of the Qadiriyya in Somalia. On the other hand, S. Samatar claims that Shaykh Uways merely visited his tomb and received a symbolic ijaza to preach. However, both imply that Shaykh Uways successfully established himself as the successor to the much revered Shaykh al-Zayli’i.

As often the case, one’s rise to prominence will always be at the cost of others. Shaykh Uways brought huge reputation as he returned to his hometown of Baraawe. Elevated as a leader of the Qadiriyya in southern Somalia (which later became a sub-branch named after him, the Uwaysiyya), Shaykh Uways began missionary works throughout East Africa. His prominence was met with envy by the rival brotherhoods of Ahmadiya and Saalihiya (B. G. Martin), even his family members (S. Samatar). The intense clash for influence led Shaykh Uways to seek greener pastures, perhaps in emulation of the holy Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) hijra from Makkah to Madinah.

This decision made room for further proselytization that increased his influence. He moved inland and founded Beled al-Amin (translated by Samatar as “Town of Peace”) which flourished into an agricultural town. Bearing testimony of his mass appeal, Samatar mentions that “nomad and farmer flocked to his community, bringing with them gifts in vast amounts of livestock and farm produce”. Freed from external pressure, Shaykh Uways and his followers were able to devote time towards proselytizing the Qadariyya threatening the influence of the Shadhiliyya led by Sayyid Muhammad Maaruf from the Comoros Islands, the Salihiyya of Sayyid Muhammad Abdallah Hassan in northern Somalia and Christian missionaries from inland Ethiopia.

The struggle of Shaykh Uways against the Salihiyya was so intense that he was resolute to being a martyr (Martin). Moving north to curb the influence of radical nationalist and puritanical teachings of Salihiya neo-sufis, Shaykh Uways was tragically murdered by Salihiyya followers in 1909. His death was a shock to even Salihiyya adherents, where Choi Ahmed writes them feeling remorseful. The Sayyid, however, composed a poem to celebrate his brotherhood’s victory, although Choi Ahmed mentions a differing view of the Sayyid’s reaction from northerners.

The tragic ending of the Uwaysiyya leader was compounded with the death of all but one disciple who later carried on the Uwaysiyya legacy (Martin). This remaining disciple composed a moving qasida that eventually became a liturgy of the Uwaysiyya order. Uways’s house was later bought by Shaykh Sufi and turned into the main headquarters of the Uwaysiyya.

Doctrine and Works

In studying biographical portraits of Shaykh Uways, it seems clear that Shaykh Uways’s scholarly works are conservative and mostly concern spiritual upliftment through poetry and short pieces which Samatar describes as “pamphleteer par excellence”. In contrast to other great Sufi leaders of Africa, Shaykh Uways was not much concerned with visions and dreams as is normally the case amongst traditional Sufi leaders, nor changes in worship forms other than that of traditional Qadiri methods.  Choi Ahmed also noted that the Uwaysiyya’s qasidas end with the phrase La ilaha illa llah accompanied by moderate swaying and drums. This openness towards music and dance will of course attract criticism from the puritanical Salihiyya as will be later described.

A significant attribute of Shaykh Uways when reading his works was that he was completely bilingual in both Arabic and Somali as evident in his poetry and pamphlets (Samatar). His literary creativity was demonstrated in being one of the first to write Somali in Arabic script for his Somali poems. Besides theological and sufi matters, Shaykh Uways also participated in a war of words with his northern rival of the Salihiyya, Sayyid Muhammad Abdallah Hassan. In these poems, Shaykh Uways demonstrated his willingness to utilize harsh words of criticism towards his rival. An extensive literary analysis of the two figures by Samatar was concluded with the analogy “Sayyid was the Shakespeare of the Somalis, Sheikh Uways their Martin Luther.”

Influence

His influence pervades throughout East Africa, from islands surrounding Zanzibar to as far west as the Eastern Congo  and as far south as the Tanganyika(Choi Ahmed). His influence in Zanzibar was attributed to his close relationship with the Sultanate, two of whom he took as his Khalifah. This close relationship was established as a result of the Zanzibar Sultan’s encouragement. His widespread appeal is also attributed to the present circumstances of the Benaadir coast where foreign migration robbed local economic domination. The locals thought their calamity correlated with their lack of spiritual strength rather than external circumstances. Sufi orders then “provided a context for exploring these failings and proposing solutions by means of a renewed moral framework” (Reese). This phenomena elevates the status of wadaads (Choi Ahmed) where merchants subsidized activities of the wadaads (Reese). Due to the Qadiriyya’s popularity, of which Shaykh Uways led, his elevated status was most felt.

In terms of social class, the followers of Shaykh Uways ranged from the lowest slaves to the highest of the elites, the Zanzibar sultans who too became Uways’s Khalifas. He appealed to rural farmers as well as urban dancers, where a story quoted by Choi Ahmed states that enjoying his beautiful poetry overwhelmed the pleasure of dancing. In essence, his influence transcended clanship and social hierarchy. This can be traced back to his humble roots as a lowly Black Tunni, his pan-Islam philosophy which transcends cultural and tribal barriers, and openness towards rulers, such as the Ottomans and the Zanzibar sultans. Choi Ahmed sees Shaykh Uways’s organization as being more compatible economically, and openness towards African traditions. This, he conjectures, was learnt from the Baadheere Jihad.

It is important here to understand that Shaykh Uways’s heavy missionary work was not merely to gain personal influence but was linked to a broader objective of Islamic revivalism through links with pan-Islam movements in Ottoman Turkey (the father of his teacher, Salman b. Ali was a close associate of Sultan Abdul Hamid II according to Choi Ahmed) and the Zanzibar sultanate. However, his traditional Qadiri doctrines such as tawassul, karamat, Baraka and veneration of saints clashed with the puritanical Wahhabi-like Salihiya under Sayyid Muhammad Abdallah Hassan.

Rivalry

As aforementioned, Shaykh Uways from southern Somalia was caught in a hostile tussle for influence with the Salihiyya led by Sayyid Muhammad Abdallah Hassan in the north of Somalia that eventually led to his death in 1909. The encounter started by trading poetry lines to attack each other’s personality and beliefs, where Shaykh Uways (and various other contemporary poets) accused his rival as a womanizer, and Sayyid Muhammad replied with aplomb by accusing Uways of bidaah (innovation in matters of religion) (refer to translations of their poetry by Martin and Samatar).

Conclusion

As has been shown, Shaykh Uways is an exemplary figure of piety and holy struggle in emulation of the Prophet of Islam’s message. Coming from a Black Tunni ethnicity, he has shown that one does not need special lineage leading to the Prophet Muhammad, or of Hadrami descent to earn educational and scholarly privileges. Fully understanding the prevailing socio-economic circumstance, Shaykh Uways effectively proselytized to educate the East Africans, overcome clan barriers, and reformed his society in ways not achieved by a nationalist struggle like the prominent Sayyid Muhammad Abdallah Hassan.

References:

Choi Ahmed, Christine, 1993. God, Anti-Colonialism and Dance: Sheekh Uways and the Uwaysiyya, in : Gregory Maddox (ed.), Conquest and Resistance to Colonialism in Africa. New York: Garland Publishing, 145-67.

Martin, Bradford G., 1993. Shaykh Uways bin Muhammad al-Barawi, a Traditional Somali Sufi, in: G. M. Smith and Carl Ernst (eds.), Manifestations of Sainthood in Islam. Istanbul: ISIS, 225-37.

Reese, Scott S., 1999. Urban Woes and Pious Remedies: Sufism in Nineteenth-Century Benaadir (Somalia). Indiana University Press.

Samatar, Said S., 1992. Sheikh Uways Muhammad of Baraawe, 1847-1909. Mystic and Reformer in East Africa, in: Said S. Samatar (ed.), In the Shadows of Conquest. Islam in Colonial Northeast Africa. Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 48-74.