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On kashf and knowledge - Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi ad-Daghestani

Speech by Murshid Kamil honorable Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi in the Chirkey Village Jum`ah Mosque, 2004

Prophet Musa (pbuh) is spiritually much higher than prophet Khidr (pbuh). He was given a great mission. He is one of the Ulul Azmi. Khidr (pbuh) had a lower level. What is then the meaning and the use of Qur’anic ayahs about the meeting of Musa and Khidr (pbuh)? Had this story been told by an alim, it could have been called doubtful, unproven. Even if it had been in the hadith of the Prophet(pbuh), skeptics might argue that it is made up, unreliable or weak. But in our case the story of Musa and Khidr (pbuh) is told by the Almighty Allah in the Holy Qur’an. Therefore its authenticity is beyond doubt. This story points to the existence of hidden knowledge (`ilm batin), which is the basis of Tariqa.

Imagine if now I start to fly in front of you, how I will grow in your eyes. But what use is my flying for you and myself? Neither the Qur’an nor a hadith says that a man becomes greater and more spirituality advanced if he flies like a bird, or floats like a fish. The story, we are speaking about, states just the opposite. Common people usually admire kashf (supernatural powers). But we assert, that kashf has no value. There are some shaykhs and awliya, who have kashf and there are those who do not. Kashf has no value before Allah. The most solid proof is the story of Musa and Khidr (pbuh).

When Musa (pbuh) was preaching before the Israelis, he was asked, “Who is the greatest scientist of our time?” Musa (pbuh) said, “I am.” Allah likes it when people are modest. He did not like Musa’s (pbuh) words and said to him, “O Musa, there is a man who knows what you do not. I imparted him knowledge straight from myself. Go and look at him.” Prophet Musa (pbuh) asked the Almighty if he could learn from this person the wonderful knowledge that He had given him. Allah showed him the path to prophet Khidr (pbuh) and Prophet Musa (pbuh) set out on the search of Khidr (pbuh), with prophet Yusha as his companion, who was a young man then.

Allah told them beforehand that a spring from the rocks will signalize, that Khidr (pbuh) lives nearby. Once they came to a spring and sat down to rest. It was actually the `Aynul-Hayat spring (living water). The travelers had a fish to eat with them. The fish suddenly came to life near the living water and escaped into the water. Prophet Musa (PBUH) was sleeping. When he woke up, the travelers moved on, but Yusha` said nothing to Musa (pbuh) about the fish.

After a long walk along the shore, exhausted, they sat down to rest, and then Musa (pbuh) said, “The road was long. We are tired. It would be good to eat the fish, we have got.” Then Yusha` told him what had happened to the fish at the spring. “It was the place we are looking for”, said Musa. “We should not have left, now we have to go back.” After they came back to the place, prophet Musa (pbuh) examined where fish could escape and found a sea island, where Khidr (pbuh) lived. So they found him. Then prophet Musa (pbuh) ordered Yusha to go back home, because he had left only his brother, Harun, (pbuh) with his people. “Help Harun until I get back,” said prophet Musa (pbuh). They parted, and Musa (pbuh) went to Khidr (pbuh). Khidr was praying at that time. After the salah, Khidr (pbuh) greeted the guest with the words, “Assalamu `Alaikum, o Musa, the son of Imran.” Musa (pbuh) answered the greeting and asked, “How do you know my name?The One Who sent you to me told me,” said Khidr (pbuh). Thus the two prophets met. They struck up a conversation.

At this time a bird flew nearby, made a circle in the air, sat on the beach, dipped a few times its beak into the water and flew away. It disappeared, then flew back and began to tweet something. Khidr (pbuh) asked Musa (pbuh), “Do you know what the bird says?” “No, I do not,” said Musa (pbuh). “It says you have no more knowledge, than the water I carry in my beak.”

Musa (pbuh) was very surprised at the deep knowledge of Khidr (pbuh), because this area was unknown to him.

Then both prophets set out. After a while they approached an old cemetery. They found skulls in the ground. Khidr (pbuh) counted seven skulls and said they had been seven brothers, calling each by name. It seems afterwards Khidr (pbuh) made a du`a to convince Musa that everything he saw was true. Then the skulls started talking to them. They began to speak about their past lives. Musa (pbuh) was surprised by what he saw. No wonder! He did not have this knowledge.

Then they went on and reached a port. There they began to search for a ship to continue their journey by sea. Signalizing from the shore, they asked the owner of one vessel to take them aboard his ship. He did, and probably for free. So it is said. And when they swam to the middle of the sea, Khidr (pbuh) took a tool and made a hole in the deck and the bottom of the ship.

I must say that before this Musa (pbuh) asked Khidr (pbuh) to teach him the amazing knowledge he had. But Khidr (pbuh) replied, “How can I you teach you that? I do not think you can manage it.” “Yes, I can,” Musa (pbuh) insisted. Then Khidr (pbuh) set a condition: “No matter what I do, you must keep silent.” “All right, I will,” Musa (pbuh) agreed. This was an agreement between them. But when Khidr (pbuh) made a hole in the ship in the sea, Musa (pbuh) exclaimed, “What are you doing, this is against the Shariah!” Moreover, the owners of ship turned out to be orphans, seven brothers, who chipped in to buy a completely new ship to work together. “This ship belongs to the orphans. Moreover, they have taken us on board for free, and you paid back evil for good,” said Musa (pbuh) in disapproval. Khidr (pbuh) said, “I warned you, you cannot keep silent.” Then Musa (pbuh) apologized and promised to be silent from that time on. Meanwhile nothing happened to the ship. Khidr (pbuh) stuffed the hole with something, a clothing, or fabric. In general, everything turned out fine. After he damaged the bottom of the vessel, they were approached by another ship owned by the ruler of the lands. The ruler’s officials stopped their ship, searched and checked it. They would have seized the ship, if not for the hole in the bottom. They returned to their ship and sailed away. It turned out that the ruler issued a decree to take away all new ships from the citizens. Anticipating this, Khidr (pbuh) made the hole, but Musa (pbuh), of course, could not have known about it.

So they crossed the sea, reached the shore and walked on. After some time they saw children playing, and then Khidr (pbuh) suddenly killed one of the boys. Here, of course, Musa (pbuh) again became indignant at killing an innocent child, and Khidr reminded him of his promise, “I knew you will not withstand.” Musa (pbuh) immediately apologized again. After a while they came to the village, where no one sheltered them. They were very hungry, and nobody wanted to host them. Meanwhile Khidr (pbuh) discovered a broken fence. He found rocks and clay, and completely repaired it. Then Musa (pbuh) broke his promise again and said that since no one sheltered and fed them, they could have asked money for the job to get some food. Then Khidr (PBUH) said, “Now it is time for us to part. You have broken the covenant three times.”

But before leaving, Khidr (pbuh) said, “Musa, when I damaged the ship, you were afraid that people would drown. But you forgot how your mother had put you, then an infant, into the basket and set it sail down the river and how you were protected by the Almighty. You also judged me for killing a child, but you forgot how you accidentally had killed an Egyptian in your youth. You disapproved that I had restored the wall for free. Yet you forgot how you had met the daughters of the Prophet Shu`ayb (pbuh) at the well with a herd of sheep and pushed away the heavy lid of the well to give them water. And all this was done for free, for the sake of Allah.”

When Musa (pbuh) saw, that Khidr (pbuh) knows all the events of his life, he was astonished even more. Afterwards, Musa (pbuh) and Khidr (pbuh) parted. This is a fact Allah Himself tells us in the Qur’an.

So why did the Almighty give us this story? He never gives us anything useless. This story has a deep educational meaning. Musa (pbuh) is one of the greatest prophets, called Ulul Azmi. Musa (pbuh) stands much higher, than prophet Khidr (pbuh). But Khidr (pbuh) turned out to know more. Musa (pbuh) even asked Allah’s permission to become a student of Khidr. Look how this great prophet seeks knowledge and how modest he is. So, if kashf  – the ability to perform miracles – was necessary, valuable and venerated, then Khidr must be greater than Musa (pbuh).

We can explain it with many examples from our life. To make it more clear, let us compare Ramazan Abdulatipov, who works in Moscow close to the president, and Magomed Tolboev, the authorized representative in Daghestan. Who is more informed of the situation in Daghestan? Of course, Tolboev. He is among his people. Now think, who of them is higher, I mean, who takes the highest position? Of course, Ramazan does. Obviously, he knows better the things going on in the Russian government, unlike Tolboev, who is in Dagestan all the time. The first of them, busy with the governmental work, pays no attention to the Daghestani life. He simply has no time for it. Tolboev is aware locally, but he does not know what is going on in the higher echelons. This is the example.

We know that Musa (pbuh) is a great prophet. He just had no time for the miracles Khidr (pbuh) could do. He was busy with the great teachings of Allah, and the important prophetic mission that the Almighty had entrusted him with – the spread of religion and calling people to the right path. This is the essence of the story, and it is pure truth.

Everything we have been talking about now is associated with tariqa. Since I teach tariqa, all this concerns me after all. I am here now and I teach tariqa, which is mystic science, secret knowledge.

During the Soviet times a certain story took place. You know how they say, that the dead are tortured in their graves. One communist man, when burying the dead, put a special device into the grave to listen to the tortures. But could he hear it? Of course, not, it is secret knowledge (batin), which can be neither heard nor seen. Allah simply does not allow us. This science is associated with Akhirat (the eternal world). Zahir, external knowledge, is parallel to it. Each Akhirat secret science has an external counterpart science.

The sermon, you have just heard, tells you, that a murid must have yaqin, certainty about getting barakah, Allah’s instructions, love according to the teachings of ustaz, etc. All this is true, and the examples are right in front of us. Thus, we see that this room is now lit by electricity. If it was dark, what would we do? We would have stumbled and fallen down. Or if we heard a sound, we would not know who is here, a snake, a dog or a person. If we need to tidy up a room, how can we do it in complete darkness? To clean up we need light, don’t we? And to produce light, we need a hydroelectric station or another source of energy. But a station is not enough. To put through a current here, we need poles and wires. When the poles and the wires are set, you need to connect them all together. Finally, the current is on, but we see that the lightbulbs in the room are different. Some of them give no light. Why? They all look identical, they are connected to the same line, but some do not glow. The reason is the faulty bulb – it burnt out.

The same way, when our hearts burn out and become corrupted, they cease to receive Faiz – the divine light of perceiving the truth. But that is not the fault of the Tariqa, it is our fault; we are to blame. After all, if electrical power is adjusted and the current flows, the main condition is the serviceable bulb. Whatever the current is, if the bulb is faulty, it will never give light. All the conditions are important but the main one is that the light bulb must be properly operating. Our hearts are the same. Just like a light bulb they burn out and become faulty for different reasons. The reasons are numerous, but in the end they are barred from the truth. For example, how many water taps [for ablution] do you have here? Probably, about twenty. Pipe water reaches each tap, but the amount of water to flow from the tap depends on the person who uses it. It does not flow if the tap is broken, or if a person fails to open it. Faiz radiates to everyone equally. Whether it reaches everyone, depends on the firmness of his beliefs or some other conditions.

A question from a guest:

- Once you talked about a man who used to hear the tasbih (glorification) of angels, but after entering tariqa, he stopped to hear it.


- Yes, it happened to Mahali from the village of Darada. He heard tasbih, and this is an extraordinary case. I will explain it with an example. For instance, if we sweep the floor in the mosque or some other room, is it enough to clean it once and for all? Of course, not. After all, the next day there will be as much dust, even if you clean daily, even if you do not litter. The same way we regularly clean our clothes; it is not enough to wash them once. Furthermore, if a school teacher can wash his outfit once a week, for a tractor driver it is clearly not enough.

Whatever state we may have achieved, it is not enough to purify the heart once. It must be constantly purified. This purity zeal is tariqa. All is for purifying. We are unlikely to achieve utter purity, but we must strive for this.

What happened to Mahali? At first he used to hear tasbih. Then it was gone. It is understandable, as it is not necessary to hear this. Many of you probably know what I am talking about, because I have often talked about it. For those who do not know, there is a lot to think about too. We often face this. So far I have only read it in books, but now it has become clear.

After creating our souls, Allah asked them, “Who are you and who am I?” - “You are our Lord, and we are Your servants, – was the reply. – We believe in You, aspire to You and love You.” Allah said, “If you love Me truly, and prefer Me to everything else, then nothing can distract you from Me.” They said, “Test us, we will not turn away from You.” These were our souls. The souls of believers, not kafirs, claimed that they loved Allah. And then Allah began showing them the world. Just like the rising sun gradually illuminates the land, He little by little unveiled all the beauty and pleasures of the world to them. Seeing this, almost all the souls forgot their Creator. They ran for worldly goods; all except one part. Just one-tenth of them were not distracted from Allah in their pursuit of the mundane. Then Allah asks these remaining, “Who are you and who am I?” They replied that they are servants who love Allah and only want His contentment. Allah says, “If you love Me, then nothing should distract you from Me.” They said” “Test us.” It was the remaining one-tenth. Then, just as in the first case, gradually, like a sunrise, Allah revealed to them the goods of Akhirat, Paradise and its delights. Seeing this, almost all of them ran for the Paradise pleasures. And again there was left only a tenth part of them. Imagine how little that is. Again, Allah asked the remaining souls, “Who are you and who am I?” - “We are Your servants who love only You.” - “If you love Me, nothing should distract you from Me”, said the Almighty. - “Test us”, they said. Those were the souls who for the sake of Allah refused to pursue the mundane, and were not distracted by the Paradise. Allah tested them in different ways: hunger, thirst. There were many different misfortunes. But they withstood everything and remained firm and strong. Then the Almighty said, “You are My true servants, who love Me.” They were the souls of the prophets and their spiritual disciples.

Please note that nine out of ten of the faithful pursued the mundane, nine tenths of the remaining group pursued Paradise. Only the small portion that remained is truly pure people.

As for the pursuit of Paradise, Allah says in Tawrat, “Would I not be worthy of worship if I did not create Paradise and Hell.” That is, Allah created Paradise as a reward for good deeds and Hell as a punishment for evil. But if He had not created these two places, wouldn’t He be worthy of worship? Do you understand that? There is no worship just for the sake of Paradise. For tariqa people it is equivalent to shirk. It is not kufru (disbelief), but this intention is not pure. The worship is not for the sake of Allah. Indeed, shirk can be big and small. Small shirk is a deed not for Allah’s sake, but, for example, for the sake of Paradise. In tariqa for-paradise-sake worshipers are called wage workers. If you pay them, they work. If you do not pay them, they do not. Tariqa requires a very pure intent in worshiping Allah.

The souls of other people did not recognize the Almighty even after hundreds of years spent in the torment of Hell. Only hunger forced them to come to senses. At first they did not recognize Allah, saying to Him, “You are You, and we are we.” They did not say to the Almighty, “You are our Lord.” Even after centuries of the torment in Hell, they were persistent. Only after hundreds of years of hunger, they acknowledged Allah, saying, “We are Your servants, and You are our Lord.” What we used to read, now becomes true. All this is happening before our eyes.

This man, Mahali from Darada, you recently asked about, is fiercely against Wahhabism. His son Ramazan now lives in the same village. Ramazan’s son and his friend from a neighboring village were once in the city of Kazan on business. When they were in a Kazan mosque for salah, they were approached by two bearded men. It turned out that they were from the Kudali village. Hearing that one of the men lived in Darada, the bearded men asked whether they knew Ramazan from Darada. (He was known for his anti-Wahhabi views). Ramazan’s son replied, “Yes, I do.” - “Then we want to ask you something. Ask Ramazan to wear a beard for a year and promote Wahhabism everywhere. We want him to renounce his former views and say that his criticism of the Wahhabis was fallacious. For this we will pay 50 thousand dollars and give a new truck.” These are the methods of the enemies of Islam. This is directly related to what I have been talking about. They take advantage of those who forget Allah in the pursuit of worldly riches.

Once a man from the village of Sivukh came to me. He said that the Wahhabis had come to their mosque and spent a night there. The second day they gathered all the young people and lured them by their tried and tested method. They promised a car to each of them. What else do the young need in our time? According to this man, all the villagers chased the Wahhabis out. Religion is not for sale!

Once Caliph `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) with his servant went to the mosque for salah. Before that he asked a man to look after the horse until the end of the salah. After the salah `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and his servant went out and found their horse where they had left it, but the man was gone as well as the bridle from the horse. It was obvious that the bridle had been stolen. Then `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) took out two dirhams, which he wanted to give this man for watching the horse, and gave them to his servant. He ordered the man to go to the market to buy a bridle with this money. When the servant returned from the market, he had the stolen bridle in his hands. “Where did you find it?” asked Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). “I found the thief at the market, he was selling the bridle for two dirhams,” replied the servant. Then `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Look at this person. He could have earned the same thing in a permissible way.” If `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) had given him the money, it would have been pure halal! What could have been earned in a permissible way, the man himself turned into haram. Because of our greed, we are in hurry to get what has already been destined by Allah. All this happens because the world has changed and a lot has become available.

Whoever was passing through Iraq en route to Hajj probably saw how poor the Iraqis are. If our people lived in the same poverty they would not have stayed as firm in their religion as the Iraqis. I do not believe in the strength of our people’s faith. If first they are showered with American dollars, and then abruptly become poor, I cannot vouch for the strength of their iman. Iraqis are steadfast, that is how their courage is manifested. Many our people in need have already turned away from Islam. A lot of wealthy people forgot Allah. We know that Iraq has a lot of hungry beggars. But beggars are everywhere, this is another thing. But as for the nation as a whole, the situation is different there.

Once we were in Baghdad, in the madrasah at the mosque of Abu Hanifa. His ziyarat is also there. We had money that we wanted to give to the madrasah as charity. We entered the madrasah, intending to distribute sadaqah among the students. At the entrance we were greeted by senior students. When I offered dollars to them, they refused to take the money. I told them, “You are muta’alims. Why do you refuse sadaqah? The hadith says, do not reject what is given.” Only then one of them accepted the money. The rest would not agree. They even flushed with fluster. After that, I talked to a teacher and I was about to leave. When we went out into the yard, I again offered the money to the students. I told them to spend it on the madrasah needs. Even then no one took it. Wallahi, none of them even touched the money! Eventually someone took me to the office and suggested to give the money there. I followed the advice and gave sadaqah to the office for madrasah needs. And when I saw the joy on the faces of these people, I thought I should have given them everything I had given out in other places. Three dollars per month is what their customs officers earn. Teaching professors are paid $ 12. These people are faithful to Islam. Nothing can happen to their faith. This is their courage.

In the army, I used to hear from Russians that Caucasians are short-tempered. I was surprised and could not understand what it means. During my hajj I discovered how patient Arabs are. I remembered that we are called ‘short-tempered’ and realized that this is true.

A Dargin once told me an interesting story, which he himself had witnessed. It happened two years ago upon his return from Hajj. On the road leading from Mecca to Medina, there were plenty of cars at a time. On the road there were two buses, both of them with Arabs. One of the drivers was repairing a car, and had tools on the ground near him. It turns out, that the driver of the second bus took the crowbar without permission. And when the owner needed the crowbar, he could not find it. He looked for it for a long time and got enraged at not finding it. The driver of the bus noticed this, ran up and said, “I took it, here is your crowbar.” But the driver of the first bus, furious, punched the other one with his fist. The punch was so strong, that the man fell down, though he was a heavily-built man. The one who had hit him was smaller.

The witnesses said, “We thought, he would hit him back badly...” The man was standing with his crowbar. The man who had fallen down got up, walked towards him and kissed the hand, that had hit him. Then the owner of the crowbar threw it on the ground and started sobbing loudly with shame.

Think about the behavior of these people. One of them hit the other in a fit of anger. It can happen to anyone. The other is also to blame because the Shariah forbids taking other people’s property without permission. Acknowledging his guilt, he kissed this man’s hand, although he could have attacked back. After he thus showed respect for the owner of the crowbar, the latter, in his turn, regretted his unworthy behavior, threw the crowbar and broke into tears. Now imagine how the situation would have developed if it had taken place in Daghestan. It takes several days to reconcile the two enemy groups fighting over a futile reason. It turns out that this is the meaning of the word “short-tempered”, used about us. May Allah lead us to the good!

One of the people in the mosque adds:

- Once on the Saudi border near the customs we saw three bags of flour, forgotten by the pilgrims. We asked the officers, “Why not use it? It will perish.” Customs officers said, “The owner of bags will take care of them.” The bags have been there for three years.

Shaykh Said Afandi (may Allah bless his soul) continues:

- Our second or third time on a pilgrimage, in a Mecca hotel, we were waiting for the departure. And then someone brought two big black bags. It is not surprising, because our people are used to taking whatever is unattended. We always do what we want. In the dining room our countrymen found the packages and asked the cook if they can take them. He said that he was not in charge, as it was not his property. You see, he knew the Shariah and feared Allah, while our people according to their habit took them. They might not have taken them if they knew they must not take other people’s property. We are used to taking everything unattended and do the same abroad. We do not know it is forbidden. I told them to return the bags to their place, otherwise it would be theft.

I remember back in Soviet times, we left two bags of salt at the road on the edge of the village and went to look for a lift back home. When we returned, we did not find our bags on the ground, they had been stolen. This is what we are. This is our iman and ignorance of the Shariah.