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Shaykh Hassan-Afandi al-Kahibi - a knower of the profane and the concealed

To be entitled to fully estimate the meaning of such an outstanding personality as Shaykh Hassan-Afandi al-Kahibi, one should first exceed the latter in his knowledge.

Due to our scarce knowledge in comparison to that of the Shaykh and thus our unworthiness to write about him, we can merely mention some facts from his life in our striving to please Allah and His Messenger. In this article the least thing we can do is to tell about the great teachers and masters who nourished the knowledge and the character of Hassan-Afandi, to describe his spiritual legacy and to cite what the theologians of the past and the present used to say about the Shaykh.

The revered Shaiyh Hassan-Afandi was born in 1853 in Kahib village of the present Shamilskiy district of Dagestan, in the family of a theologian Hajji-Muhammad who was a distinguished scholar, famous for his erudition, piety and commitment in practicing his religious knowledge. His father died during Hajj and was buried near our foremother Hava (Eve) having thus become a dweller of the sacred territory of Haram until the Day of the Last Judgment. The mother of Hassan-Afandi named Zuhaydat, had a reputation of a smart and a chaste woman. When Hassan was six years old, his mother sent him to study the Holy Quran. Due to his diligence he learned to read the Quran and began to master other religious subjects. He thoroughly studied the sciences of Islam as he had an outstanding memory and succeeded in learning by heart numerous books on Islamic subjects.  Each day at dawn Hassan-Afandi used to attend his classes, in order to use the rest of the day for earning money as shepherd, the profession of all prophets. At night he stayed awake reviewing his lessons. Soon he acquired such a broad knowledge that both common people and scholars asked him for his advice. He was so humble and modest that he got a nickname “al-Hilmi” (Arabic for “a meek one”). Hassan-Afandi was persecuted and exposed to repressions on behalf of the state authorities. In 1937 he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and sentenced to death. The place of his tomb remains unknown. A symbolic grave stone for his ziyarat is installed near the tomb of Sayfullah-Qadi. May Allah be please with him and bless his soul!

The first teacher of Hassan-Afandi was a renowned theologian and a shaykh of a tariqat Abdurrahman-Hajji from Asab village. After his death, Hassan Afandi’s teacher became Shuayb Afandi from Bagini, who also was a recognized theologian, a shaykh of the Naqshbandi tariqat and an author of excellent essays. Then Hassan Afandi was transferred under the patronage of a great son of Dagestan, a renowned scholar, a great teacher, an author of numerous essays on Islam and medicine, a multilingual scientist with command of more than fifteen languages, the mufti of the North Caucasus and a statesman Sayfullah-Qadi Bashlarov. Sayfullah Qadi had remained the mentor of Hassan Afandi until the latter reached the stage of spiritual perfection. He also presented his student with the precious garments of Ali bin Abu Talib, may Allah be pleased with him.

Sayfullah-Qadi was himself a student of the most renowned alims of Dagestan and ventured to Turkey and other countries to deepen his knowledge. In Bashkiria he happened to study under the guidance of a distinguished scholar and a Sufi Zaynullah Sharif Rasulev. Sayfullah-Qadi has received an ijaza (license or permission) to teach the Naqshbandi tariqat and other Islamic subjects including tafsir (Quran interpretation), fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), ahadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) etc. Since the era of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) the alims have passed on such licenses that enabled their holders to issue Sharia verdicts and to teach Islamic subjects. For, according to the saying of Sufyan as-Sawri, “Isnad (a chain of narrators who passed on the religious knowledge; a continuous isnad without missing links therefore is a guarantee of the safe knowledge transfer) - is a weapon of a believer; if a believer possesses no weapon - he cannot wage war.” Sayfullah has received his permission through such isnad-chain.

In one of his letters addressed to Hassan-Afandi, Sayfullah-Qadi writes: “I have studied the works of all theologians, but I could not find a person more creditable and commendable than you whom I could entrust the permission to guide and admonish people. So I am passing it in to you. Later Hassan-Afandi mentioned in his book al-Buruj al-mushayyada (Fortified Towers) the subject which he had been given permission to teach by his ijaza:

1. Ahadith. He got the permission to teach Muslims the main six collections of Ahadith. The ijaza has been issued through a flawless chain of scholars that could be followed back to the Imams-collectors of the Ahadith themselves.

2. Tafsir (exegesis of the Holy Quran).

3. Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).

4. Tawhid (the science of the oneness of God)

5. Performing various prayers.

6. The right to teach the book Dala’il al-khairat (The Signs of Good Works) - a compilation of prayers and laudations of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that used to be a reference and a handbook of many murids (disciples of a Sufi master) in Bashkiria, Tatarstan and Northern Caucasus. The book was published in Kazan. 

This practically means that Hassan-Afandi has been entitled to teach nearly all religious subjects through his masters Sayfullah-Qadi and Zaynullah-Sharif Rasulev.

In the same book, Hassan-Afandi cites a list of the books by renowned Muslim scholars which he had been entitled to teach through the chain of scholars. Let us name but a few of these authors: these are the Imams at-Tabarani, as-Suyuti, Abu Daud, Darakutni, at-Tirmizi, ash-Shafii, Abu Hanifa, Malik bin Anas, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, an-Nawawi, Muhyiddin bin Arabi, Abdulqadir Gilani, Ibrahim ad-Dusuqi, Abu Hassan ash-Shazili, Shihabuddin Suhrawardi, Ahmad al-Asqalani, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Ibn Hajar al-Haitami and many others, exceeding hundred persons. May God be pleased with all those distinguished scholars of Islam!  

In addition to all this, Hassan-Afandi was given a permission to teach the various tariqats.  Hassan-Afandi was thus a theologian, a Sufi, and a shaykh of the Naqshbandi, Shazili and Qadiri tariqats. He is an author of about twenty books expounding the basics of Sharia, Sufism, Islamic ethics and many other subjects. Nowadays the books of Hassan-Afandi are published in Syria and in Russia; thanks to these books, many scholars found their way to the teaching of tariqat.

A renowned shaykh of our days, Said Afandi al-Chirkawi speaks of Hassan-Afandi: “He had a wonderful gift to clarify the truth. His speech was sweet like honey and one could never get enough of learning from his pure knowledge. How eloquent and enjoyable his teaching was! The words of Hassan-Afandi were true, wise and deep. He never uttered a word without this word being based on the Holy Quran or Sunna. A righteous person will never deny the teaching of Hassan-Afandi. His brilliant essays are enough to prove that he was a spiritual successor of the Prophet and his heart was full of the divine knowledge.”

As for instance, his work Khulasat al-adab (Compendium of Ethics) was written following the recommendation of Hassan-Afandi’s spiritual master, in order to teach murids the ethics of Sufism, since it is impossible to comprehend the meaning of Islam without living by ethics.  The book was translated into Russian and published in Moscow. This book is highly estimated by the theologians both in the past and the present.

Shaykh Said-Afandi commented on this essay of Hassan-Afandi: “The book Khulasat al-adab is like a treasure trove filled with pearls collected from the bottom of the ocean of knowledge. He who reads this book shall enjoy the new knowledge. Hassan-Afandi is a renovator and a standard-bearer of Islam who attracted people like a magnet, to make them follow the path of the truth.

Another revered shaykh, Shuayb-Afandi, also speaks of this book: “Khulasat al-adab is a brilliant and a useful essay. Those who follow its advices shall achieve the main goal of a believer - the knowledge of God.  It is a duty of each murid to read this book and to practice it.”

The revered Shaykh Hassan-Afandi was indeed one of those servants of God who, according to the will of the Almighty, possessed the concealed knowledge. Some facts from Hassan-Afandi’s life make this clear. Hassan-Afandi finished his famous book al-Buruj al-mushayyada bi-n-nusus al-mu’ayyada (Fortified Towers of Trustworthy Texts) containing 350 pages and published in Syria, within the time period of two weeks only.  Another book of his, Talkhis al-ma’arif (Summary of Knowledge) he finished in one week only. This indicates that he was writing this book through ilham (the divine inspiration). There is no other explanation how else he could thoroughly elaborate this book and to provide all the necessary references just like in the case of his other essays in such a short period of time.

There are passages in the Holy Quran that point out that God bestows his beloved righteous servants and prophets with the knowledge of the concealed. For example, such is the story of the prophet Musa (Moses) and Hizri (Hidr). The story goes, that the prophet Hizri (peace be upon him) has committed things which Moses found unworthy and forbidden.  However later Moses found out that Hizri (peace be upon him) was bestowed with secret knowledge by Allah. Then he realized the righteousness of Hizri.  It is known that Moses (peace be upon him) was one of the greatest prophets. Though the prophet Hizri (peace be upon him) was not a prophet of the same high level as Moses. But the knowledge of the concealed revealed to him by God has exceeded the knowledge of the prophet Musa (peace be upon him).  

That is why, dear brothers and sisters, we should be cautious when we speak of such beloved servants of Allah as Shaykh Hassan-Afandi al-Kahibi. That is for this reason that such theologians and spiritual masters as Hassan Afandi are called in the religious literature zu-l-janahayn that is, “having double knowledge” (the worldly knowledge of the profane things and the secret knowledge of the concealed).

May Allah guide us on the path of the Truth! Amin!