Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi – Leading Intellectual of Our Time

6th Annual Conference

Islam in Europe

A Celebration of the Main Mosque of Granada

Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi

Leading Intellectual of Our Time

By Abdullah Luongo

In 1968 I was living in Harvard Square in Cambridge Massachusetts where I had made friends with a student from Bard College, an elite liberal arts college nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of upper New York State, who, having taken a gap year, was in Cambridge working at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop. He and I would sit on the stoop of the book shop and read The Cantos of Ezra Pound. My friend was learning Chinese to help with the ideograms Pound used. I recall the last conversation we had where he said he thought Pound was the greatest poet of the 20th century but had gotten derailed by quacky economic theories. I had no response. Not then. It would be 25 years later that I would write a small book that took off from a quote by Hugh Kenner, in my view the greatest Poundian scholar, that ‘Pound’s ideas of money and credit were not extrinsic to the Cantos, but rather its warp and woof.’

That I came to write that modest contribution to the vast opus of extant Pound scholarship was, of course, the direct result of my being encouraged to undertake that endeavour by Shaykh Abdalqadir, and which began here, in Granada, while living in this beautiful city. The theme of usury, or usura, as Pound called it, only found its full clarification within the illuminating field that had been opened up by the extraordinary intellect of a man who was, first of all, the leading Muslim intellectual of his time and moreover a Shaykh of sufism. The identifying of this root cause of injustice, which we define as riba, an un-natural increase in the transaction, has been one of the paramount tasks of the Shaykh and an essential part of his ongoing diagnosis necessary for the full recovery of the Deen of Islam in our time. Out from that illuminated clearing made possible by Shaykh Abdalqadir emerged the groundbreaking exposition, extrapolated from the Madinian amal of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, into the 21st century, by the now famous scholarship of Umar Ibrahim Vadillo.

In speaking about Shaykh Abdalqadir today and his being the foremost intellectual of this time, I needed to connect to my own journey which began when I was as young man, [sitting on the stoop] and subsequently the importance of our honouring the highest aspirations of the young people amongst us. This passing on and transmitting of whatever it is of understanding Allah has favoured us with is a seminal element in Shaykh Abdalqadir’s teaching. The educating of our youth together with the dynamics of an ongoing dawa is the clear affirmation of Allah having honoured us with the highest Deen, and the only one acceptable to Him. Where ever this is taking place is where the authentic work of Shaykh Adbalqadir is happening.

I am reminded from our studies at Dallas Institute in Cape Town of Shakespeare’s Richard II, which we have just completed, and certain un-enviable words of Richard, held prisoner in Pomfret Castle awaiting his inevitable death where he says, “I have wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” Therefore, we take heed and use this time wisely. That we have gathered here to honour a man of knowledge is a most excellent use of our time and moreover an absolute delight, for the knowledge of this one man and what Allah has honoured him with is a means of guidance for Muslims all over the world.

It is the encounter itself that brings with it fresh growth and understanding. Henry James, the American novelist, said that consciousness is a shared experience and that when you enter into the place of knowing then the ones who did not see begin to see. The people of seeing take those who want to know and bring them to the place from where they look, as if to say, ‘look, look from here.’ This grasping of the event by being in the company of one who sees is an opening to the understanding that truly Allah is the Seeer. The scintillating insight through the detailed observations of the acute consciousness of Henry James, as it moves almost imperceptibly through his novels, is just one of the many profound delights that pour out continuously from being in the company of the Shaykh.

I began my preparation for coming here to Granada by re-reading The Shield of Achilleus, given as a talk in 1987 in Majorca by the Shaykh. His talk was precisely an unfolding, an opening up of a way of looking that enables us to see in a way that has always been before us, but has been obfuscated by layers of ignorance imprinted on us from our earliest childhood, then on through to the shock of puberty – devoid in modern society of any intrinsic meaning, of an understanding of our awakened sex, or an understanding of the world we find ourselves in. Young adults are adrift in a warped view of what they are told is reality and what life holds for them, who then attempt to obtain an education to prepare for a world that becomes their prison. It is more a need to de-code and be free of what one has already learned by an enforced patterning in order to begin a true education, a paideia, as known by the early Greeks, making ready the student to receive the shattering force of the ancient natural religion of Ibrahim. Remember, when Ibrahim, still a youth, who having smashed the idols of his society, save one rather large one, said, ‘That one did it -don’t blame me.’

It is then a way of being (what Heidegger called dasein), that embodies a way of looking at the world (weltanschauung) that Shaykh Abdalqadir is able to open for us. Importantly, the Shaykh is not a door or passage but a guide who indicates a way that we can take, as much as we are ready to take it, to reach for our highest possibility. As so much of what each one of us is has been determined, as our DNA is the encoded pattern from which the design of us emerges, one most essential element we carry forward for this heroic task is to desire it. Together with this desire the other key element is that we must have – from when we were in our early childhood – been loved. The one who desires freedom, here the Shaykh prefers the term freiheit, and to reach their highest possibility, has to have been loved, and then they, in turn, can love. What the Shaykh says about this in his Book of Hubb when he gives us an insight into the ayat of Qur’an where Allah says: Say, “If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive you for your wrong actions. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful” is, he instructs us, a key to one of Allah’s great secrets.

I refer again to the Shield of Achilleus. We all know the story of Achilles from Homer’s poem – actually a song, the Iliad. Achilles had a choice, which was, when taken, in fact his destiny, and that was (to quote from the Shaykh’s text) “either dying young in glory, or a long life surrounded by his family and his wealth on the land.” We know from the story that when Achilles refused to fight because of his being angry with Agamemnon it precipitated disaster for the Greeks. Now he was not at the gates of Troy for Greece, for a State or for anything other than for himself. Yes, the war was over Helen, but Achilles fought for Achilles. Therefore, when confronted with the situation he had to either challenge Hector or loose his honour, and he, of course, makes the famous decision to fight. What was then and still is at stake is whether there will be free men able to choose their highest possibility. What you realise is that that choice, which is against the bourgeois drive, is, at the same time, what (again quoting the Shaykh’s text) ‘defends the whole of natural existence’, for that picture of life – with a city at peace, another domain at war and fields of wheat, the grape vines, fine youths and fair maidens, is we learn the very design on the shield of Achilleus.

What Shaykh Abdalqadir is speaking of is not an erudite academic exercise, but an existential encounter with our self of the utmost exigency. The man must go out, not stay at home. His project can not be his family and his business to support it. He must have a higher project and it is that he establishes justice. D.H. Lawrence saw that that man, “with that spark in him” was the endangered specie, under threat by what he called the “money man”. The new economic man fears the censure of the other, and therefore the negative discourse begins: that his wife may complain, that the mother-in-law would berate him. It is not that he does not take care, but that he should not be enslaved under an imposed tyranny. The father-in-law may appear to be successful yet has long since faded from himself, as T.S. Elliot called them ‘the hollow men…the stuffed men.’ But society says you must be responsible – to the family, to the mother and what of the children and their needs! How can he go off and be so irresponsible? So what on earth is this business of the heroic?

We are in an age where everyone has been turned in an accountant, conscientiously going to work each day to count the money that not only is not really there, but is not real. And yet we are bound to it. The terrible thing is that if you stay back and make this thing you call ‘my family’ your project – then the first victims are nearly always the children. That whole pattern of ‘natural life’ that was the design of Achilles’ shield is protected precisely by not staying back.

With Achilles we remember his story – that he did die young in glory. We sing the song of Odysseus, who reached the shores of old age…….but not because he stayed at home.

This was the sunnah of the first community of the Rasul, sullalahu alaihi wa salem, and was held to wherever the Deen was strong. With the emergence of this kind of man, with the temerity to speak the truth, whose outward project is justice and whose inner being is illuminated, who Nietzsche called ‘a bridge to the overman’, will be the woman who desires him, and they together are what Shaykh Abdalqadir identifies as the ‘collaborative couple.’

I should like to attempt to present a picture to you as a landscape, if you permit me, which is built-up by means of overlaying composite images that you will have the task of keeping in mind. The effect, if successful, will be a contextual field of vision whereby you will see something in a way that you may not have previously. This original approach, what I would call an artistic approach, but artistic in way that Leonardo De Vinci and the Renaissance movement of his time was, as you all know, also highly scientific, is a determining feature to the ‘how’ of how Shaykh Abdalqadir shows something that in our seeing it can [can] make an opening in our grasping, by means of recognition, something that was not actually hidden but, nevertheless, not seen. I will take from a theme that has on numerous occasions been presented in Shaykh Abdalqadir’s writing, for example, in The Shield of Archilleus (which I have mentioned), in The Technique of the Coup de Banque, and The Time of The Bedouin, as well as other of his brilliant web site articles that have been available over these recent years. Not withstanding a recognisable complexity in this modus operandi, it is not at all complicated.

Just as we began with the age of the poets, in particular Homer and he being our means of access to the consciousness of the hero, we took Achilles, and could have ended with Alexander, we now look at the philosophers. We make a speedy ascent to Plato and focus on the underlying theme of The Republic and to a certain extent, The Symposium. These texts allow us to say that the fundamental ‘question of the philosophers’ was how and in what manner is society best set up and governed to assure the prosperity and harmony of its people. Needless to say, democracy was not on the top of Plato’s list, and Aristotle, often in disagreement with Plato’s assessments, also saw democracy as a digression, just as he said ‘monarchy could digress into tyranny and aristocracy into rule by an oligarchy’. Throughout the ages these men we call philosophers have grappled with this theme and other extenuating themes pertaining to ‘man’ as an object in their subject dominated sentences. In referring to this activity the Shaykh says that all of what Aristotle wrote took place in the realm between his ears and his tongue. The Shaykh adds that the truly great accomplishment of Aristotle was not his philosophy but Alexander, his pupil, and we do not know what he taught him but only what Alexander the Great did when he went out into the world and did it. The momentum of his heroic life propelled Greece on another 300 years after his death, until we track the destruction and end of Greek Civilization by the onslaught of a group of Jewish immigrants who came and settled in Greece with a new religion, Christianity.

We move now to the modern age where we have in the philosopher Hegel (1770-1831) an all-encompassing system of thinking where he says ‘everything is a manifestation of spirit’. One could say that there is no place left to go as everything has been invested with spiritual meaning. Precisely now there emerges someone the Shaykh describes as ‘like a character from a children’s story comes this wild figure Marx, and all he does, like a juggler, is turn the whole thing up-side-down’. He turns Hegel up-side-down. He says, “No,[everything is not spirit] everything is matter”. Marx called this ‘dialectical materialism.’ The Shaykh continues by saying, ‘And along comes another of these jugglers, Freud, and he [Freud] says, “The Christians are wrong, there is no soul, no higher spirit. What you thought was a higher spirit is an unconscious drive. It is not just an Unconscious, it is an unconscious drive.” Therefore, instead of a spirit that reigns, you have an energy which is driving, and you are not in the driver’s seat.’ The exposition of the Shaykh continues. ‘Then comes the third clown, a scientific Harpo Marx, and this is Einstein, and he declares a relativity of knowledge.’ [Everything is relative] The last life-line is cut. While Einstein’s ‘relativity theory’ has been packed away into the storage archives in favour of more accurate theorems, the damage is done and we are left with nothing other than his other major contribution to the human race, the atom bomb.

These three figures unleashed a plague that impacted on the modern age in a way far more devastating than any Medieval Black Plague ravaged the body of Europe. I would add one other name that appears in the mid 20th century, Jacque Derrida, who is the inheritor of the three, and whose philosophy has exerted an inordinate influence on the entire academic world. The Shaykh has referred to the outcome of the campaign of the three famous clowns as the deconstruction, or more appropriately he says, the destruction of a higher view of man and his ascent through self-knowledge to knowledge of the Devine. The father of the mid 20th century Deconstructionists is Jacques Derrida, whose main axiom is, “There is nothing beyond the text.” He then goes on to say that as words have no absolute meaning, that they [as signifiers] are open to an unlimited range of interpretations. To attempt to follow his train of thought is to descend into a dark quagmire without any hope of finding a way to the light of day. The brilliant Michel Foucault called Derrida an ‘obfuscating terrorist’ as his thinking is nothing less than ‘contradictory paradoxes’ that lead no where and when one states that they do not make sense, Derrida retorts that your not understanding him is that you are stupid, hence the ‘terrorist’ appellation by Foucault.

Against this background (in our landscape painting) the Shaykh brings out another view originating from the Greeks (which we began with) and is brought into the modern age by Wagner and Ibsen in the 19th century and Junger in the 20th. Ibsen’s plays Ghosts and The Doll House are works, as those of the first Greek tragedians were, that can bring about a disturbing yet liberating catharsis within bourgeois capitalist society. These three men open up a clearing in human consciousness that allows man to move out from his disasters, to an understanding of Being that can set him free from the dark prison within which he finds himself. We must hold all this and move now to the final chapter of the Time of the Bedioun. Here the Shaykh makes a concordance with Junger, the last of his generation and a great German intellectual, who said that he was himself ‘an end not a beginning,’ who is both able to embrace technique as the defining aspect of the modern world [this is unavoidable for all of us] while also drawing from the antecedents of the Homeric tradition, the heroic age. We would then call Junger a poet, in the classical sense, as was Homer.

The next step is to join Junger’s vision of the “clearing in the forest” towards which 21st century man must make his way, and this is not an idyllic place as you might imagine from the height of German Romanticism, but rather an inner condition, and connect it to the three stages outlined by Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century in his master work The Muqaddima. The first of those stages is what is defined as Bedouinism (this is clearly nothing to do with what we all understand as Nomadism) which, to quote from Shaykh Abdalqadir’s text, ‘implies a dynamic movement of men in contradistinction to a prior settled culture’. ‘The Bedou is outside the urban system.’ This is no less true where, the Shaykh relates, ‘he is in it’. After some time the numbers of such people increases and they begin to recognise one another and subsequently come together. This coming together is the most powerful force social man can experience. ‘It is kinship but not of blood.’ It transcends the family, a tribe or a nation. It is what Ibn Khaldun defined as Asabiyya, and it is the 2ed stage. In the best of modern translations this term is translated as ‘esprit de corps’ which is very close although still not complete in its understanding, as this (quoting the Shaykh) special ‘unifying bond of brotherhood …is more than that… as it has in it an added moral evaluation as in the term Futuwwa, chivalry, or nobility of character.’ This is the final 3ed stage. Conclusively, we can clearly hear him, O most excellent in character, sullahu alaihi wa salem, when he says: “I have not come but to perfect good character in men.”

What takes place in the final chapter of The Time of The Bedouin brings into play all the elements of a highly detailed and meticulously researched study that has taken the French Revolution as its epicentre, and then brings into focus with such startling celerity a full blown canvas of staggering proportions that one must go back to it again and again and reflect on its meanings. It is a masterpiece!

To conclude I have taken from the wisdom of The Hikam of Ibn Ata’illah where he says: “What a difference between one who proceeds from Allah his argumentation and the one who proceeds inferentially to Him! He who has Him as his starting point knows the Real (Haqq) as It is, and proves any matter by reference to the being of its Origin.” The intellectual perspicacity of Shaykh Dr Abdalqadir as-Sufi emanates from an inviolable knowledge of the absolute Oneness of Allah, a pure Tawhid. This is his teaching.

His intellect, something by which Allah has honoured him, is firmly bound, as in the Arabic word ‘akl for intellect, which derives from the root of the word for the cord which is used to hobble a camel and makes to stay. Therefore, the greatest intellect of this age is coiled in the green turban of the lovers and defenders of the Rasul, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and prostrates before the Majesty and Greatness of Allah. The intellectual argument of Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi is that he says, from the book of Allah, “Say: Allah! And leave them plunging in their games.” With this the kufar are confounded and driven to fury. Faced with the conundrums of this age, Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi draws his Alexandrian sword and standing before the Gordian Knot which the oracles say will be undone by the one who will be Lord of all Asia, he cuts it through! No argument! Allahu Akbar!

As salamu alaikum


Abdullah (Robert) Luongo


~ by The Murabit Blog on 11/29/2009.

2 Responses to “Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi – Leading Intellectual of Our Time”

  1. This quote is huge!!!!

    His intellect, something by which Allah has honoured him, is firmly bound, as in the Arabic word ‘akl for intellect, which derives from the root of the word for the cord which is used to hobble a camel and makes to stay. Therefore, the greatest intellect of this age is coiled in the green turban of the lovers and defenders of the Rasul, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and prostrates before the Majesty and Greatness of Allah. The intellectual argument of Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi is that he says, from the book of Allah, “Say: Allah! And leave them plunging in their games.” With this the kufar are confounded and driven to fury. Faced with the conundrums of this age, Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi draws his Alexandrian sword and standing before the Gordian Knot which the oracles say will be undone by the one who will be Lord of all Asia, he cuts it through! No argument! Allahu Akbar!

  2. Yes subhan Allah…

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